Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Here's a Lesson Hook

I'm teaching a mini-unit on conversions between units right now in my Algebra classes. This means converting between U.S. units, metric units and conversions between both systems. For example:

  1. Mount Everest is 29,028 feet tall, which makes it the tallest mountain in the world. How many miles tall is this? How many inches?
  2. For death penalty cases by lethal injection in the United States, criminals are given 5 grams of sodium thiopental. How much is this in kilograms?
  3. If you're speeding down the highway in the Dominican Republican at 100 km/hr, how fast are you going in mi/hr? Compare this speed to New York State's highway speed limit of 65 mi/hr.
In my limited experience, this seems to be a topic students tend to enjoy and remain interested in because it's more relevant than other topics. Today, I planned on introducing the metric system to my students, who for the most part have never thoroughly learned the system due to this country's obsession with the old system. I choose to blame this lack of conversion on the NFL for basing the entire game off yards.

After I made some general announcements, I pressed next on my wireless clicker to move forward to the next slide, creatively titled, "The Metric System." The slide was blank for now: I use custom animations. In my mind, I wondered, "how the hell do I present this shit again and make sure they stay focused?"

See here's the thing. Today was a rainy day, and in our country's education system, that means most students in inner-city schools consider this a holiday. Can you imagine? This is such a great deal. I guess I missed the Groupon on that one.

So I'm standing in front of the class with a meter stick over my shoulder, and I begin to ask:
"So does anyone know what the Met..."
Holy shit! An idea. So simple. So easy. How could I have missed this? Should I say it? Eh, fuck it, I'll say it. I decide to rephrase my question:
"... So when someone wants to buy or sell drugs, what unit of measurement does this person use?"
Okay, that was quite a gamble, I admit. But this is a transfer school, and if you can't be real, you won't last. As expected, I hear:
"GRAMS!"
 "Yo, you gotta weigh that shit and them weighing machines only tell you in grams, so you gotta convert too. Shit is complicated, I seen it done."
"My n****, when you buy that shit, you gotta come home and weigh it too so you know you ain't gettin' ripped off!"
TMI? Maybe. But this was one hell of a hook. And they actually stayed focused the entire time.

6 comments:

Ahsan said...

Please report to the principal's office.

Yo Mista said...

Haha, funny thing is, during one of my Algebra periods today, my principal and assistant principal walked in for a brief informal classroom observation about two minutes after I asked the drug question. Wonder what they'd say...

Oh, and as always, thanks for the Twitter-bump.

MissEmmm said...

What do you want me to tell the kids when you're gone?

Admin also missed the conversation in my class about getting rich off of worm poop.

Anonymous said...

I love your sense of humor

Michelle Hannah said...

metrics are lame... we won't need to measure things once the apocalypse happens

Yo Mista said...

@ Anonymous:
Thanks!

@ Michelle:
You would say that...