First Day of School

My Colleagues in Fresno and Central Unified are starting school today – congratulations!

It’s now been two years since I have worked for a school district and three since I was in the classroom. My last ‘first day of school’ was 2013 – 4 years ago!

I usually tried to go straight to something that would set the tone for the school year – do some math! Often I started with the four 4’s game – where you can rearrange using exactly four four’s(or 8 or 6, etc) in any sequence in order to get different numbers with order of operations – exponents are excused from the 4 requirement to make it more interesting.


0: (4-4)*(4-4)

1: (4+4)/(4+4)

2: (4*4)/(4+4)

3: (4+4+4)/4

4: (4*4) / (4^1 * 4^0)

5: ((4*4)+4 )/ 4


Usually in high school kids started off confused but one thing I might do was show multiple ways to make 1 to get them started, and have it on posters around the room. Once one group got it others would go and ask how they did, which would spurn new ideas. I’d say only work on a number for 2 minutes and the goal was to get to 10 in the class period. Then I’d say for homework try to get 10 more number of any number. Often kids would come back with up to 100 almost filled in and really excited to be working on math in an open ended context.

My first year teaching I was watching my car wiper blades clean the windshield during a rain and figured that would be an interesting task, so bought several different windshield blades from Autozone across the street from McLane and brought them to class. It’s no understatement that being exposed to Dan Meyer and #MTBOS in 2011 or so while at the same time moving to a new grade level in middle school was revolutionary to my teaching. Moving to a new grade gave me a new reason to dive into the content and think of creative ways to teach it because there was no, “we’ve always done it this way.” I even used to write my own three act tasks which often weren’t that great or adapted ideas from memories of previous tasks.

So as school starts up, focus on relationships with your students. Focus on engaging them with rich content/low floor high ceiling math tasks. Affirm their struggles and point them towards a growth mindset. Don’t give pointless assignments. Use testing as a means to improvement.

Be inspired by your students.

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