Holy crap! Something cool happened in our math class today. I'm using Jo Boaler's "Week of Inspirational Maths" work. If you haven't checked out her site you really must. The lessons, videos, and activities/tasks are perfect for building a culture in the classroom where a one for all and all for one mindset is the rule and where students embrace struggle and don't get bogged down by their mistakes but, instead, learn from them.
Anyway I was using a paper folding activity with my students. They were working with square pieces of origami paper. The directions were to fold the paper in such a way that the portion showing is a square and is exactly 1/4 the size of the original square. Most kids folded their squares in half and then in half again. The focus of the lesson was to teach kids to reason and to be convincing. After completing the task one student in each pair needed to work with his or her partner to convince him or her that a square was shown and that the square was exactly 1/4 the original. The second student acted as the skeptic and had to repeatedly ask follow up questions until the first student had proven him or herself.
I only have 22 students this year and felt like I was doing a decent job circulating around the room while kids were at work. I was a little disappointed in myself because toward the end of the lesson, I noticed a kid who had constructed a "basket" out of his square and he was actually fixing to use his glue stick to glue the sides in place. I couldn't believe that I hadn't caught this off-task behavior sooner. This kid had wasted away the whole math class!
At some point later in day I was sharing my failure with my colleagues. We we had a little chuckle when I told told them he was about to glue the whole thing together when I finally noticed him. One colleague suggested that maybe the kid's solution worked. I dismissed this with little thought as I didn't think she was serious and the idea of the solution working just seemed preposterous. This kid had just been playing around. I was back in my classrom prepping for the afternoon when my eyes fell upon this child's work. I couldn't believe what I saw once I opened up my eyes and really LOOKED at his work. It was a valid solution!
From the outside looking in, there was nothing about the way that I treated this child today that left the impression that I didn't take the attempt seriously. I didn't reprimand him. I didn't verbally discount his work. The truth of the matter is, I didn't take the attempt seriously. Tomorrow, this kiddo gets the floor. This attempt is going front and center. I'll ask the kids in our room what they notice about it and what they wonder. This kid *legit* thinks outside the box. His work was AMAZING. He didn't give the simple solution. His solution was exquisite because it was full of creativity while still being mathematically accurate. The thing that REALLY blows me away now that I've had a chance to think about it is that this child was doing something very different than every kid sitting around him. He couldn't care less that his work didn't look like anyone else's work. I want to be more like him.
Goal: Think out of the box more and celebrate kids who do too!