I have one of those wax warmers in my classroom, and a drawer full of scented wax cubes. We have a new scent every week, and my room “smelling so good” is one of the quirky things my students like and remember about my class. I should be earning some sort of commission on all the wax warmer sales that are a direct result of my classroom atmosphere… but I digress. The reason I’m bringing this up is because the names of the wax cube scents are always so… fancy.
Sure, the cube smells like a “dryer sheet”, but it’s called “Faded Denim“.
It’s a stretch to say a cube of wax smells like “pumpkin”. Even so, it’s called “Enchanted Pumpkin Valley“.
Sometimes, it’s all how you name it. It’s all how you frame it. And… it’s about whether that naming and framing gets student buy-in… beyond buying wax warmers… I’m talking about buying into the math now.
Today, for example, we explored patterns between squaring stuff and taking square roots, and attempted to describe and define what a “perfect square” is, and what a “square root” is. After messing around with numbers, drawing squares, writing ideas in our own words, and even using calculators a bit, I gave students a Desmos Card Sort to try.
How I Do Desmos Card Sorts Lately:
(1) Students join the activity using the code, and I set a timer for a specific number of minutes (depending on the task). During this time, the teacher dashboard is projected on my smart board, but there is no feedback. Students have to silently and individually comprehend and begin the task.
(2) After the minutes have passed, I reveal the feedback screen from the teacher dashboard, so students can see lots of “red” and “green”. The catch is, all students must remain anonymous at first (thank you Desmos for making this so novel and fun with your famous list of mathy names).
(3) I scroll through this feedback screen and circulate as students are working, talking in teams, and making changes to their card sorts. All the while, they’re looking back and forth from their screens to the smart board, to figure out which card sort is theirs, and whether or not the changes they’re making in real time result in more “green” or “red”.
(4) At this point they are beyond desperate for feedback. They are begging me to reveal their actual names. I promise to do this only after I’ve received my first “expert”. I’m looking for the first student whose stacks are entirely green. This increases the energy and the collaboration in the room, because everyone. wants. to. know. which. stack. is. their. own.
(5) When the first “expert” emerges, it’s a celebration! We find out who that expert is, and everyone else’s names are revealed next to their stacks too. The “expert” is immediately “up for hire”. That means students who just found out they have a boatload of red cards can request that the “expert” come to help them.
(6) From here, it becomes a beautiful blur. Students continue to earn “expert” status and become “up for hire”, popping out of their seats to help a bud. At one point today, every struggling student had a proud one-on-one expert tutor, and I just stood there, scrolling through the teacher dashboard, with a silly grin on my face.
It’s all how you name it. It’s all how you frame it.
P.S. Images captured thanks to my iPhone’s time-lapse feature.