Saturday, March 24, 2012

New Kids, Old Tricks

There's something about blowing my kids' minds that makes me feel pretty awesome.

What makes me feel even more awesome (if possible)? Finding out that my kids are teaching each other my tricks and lessons outside of class time. That's a special feeling. Warm and gooey.

At a transfer high school, such as the one I teach at, the skill levels of students vary significantly. A student with fifth grade math skills could be sitting directly right next to a student with eleventh grade math skills in my Algebra class. With that kind of variety, it's very important I provide some side-challenges to the students bored out of their minds with my class, particularly those who passed the NY State Regents Examinations and just need the class credit to move on.

So last week as a side-challenge, I brought a calculator over to Jamie, a new student sitting in the front row and said, "Okay, once you finish the problems on the board, figure out how I did this." I showed her the calculator below, with "2 + 2 = 4" calculated on the screen.

I took the calculator back, typed in a few more things, and then showed this to her:

"Whoa, that's crazy! How'd you do that?!" She asked, stunned.

"Figure it out." I moved on to help students who were struggling with the material on the board. I knew Jamie put her head down when she got bored with the material (she's a smart girl), but this type of behavior is an indirect distraction to others. Plus, it just doesn't look good to have a kid with her or her head down in the middle of a lesson. With my differentiation (more like distraction) strategy in place, I was able to spend a significant amount of time pushing kids through the lesson.

Eventually, once we went through the problems as a class, I came back to Jamie to see if she had figured it out. She hadn't. I showed her the trick and she smiled.

A few days later during another class, a different student called me over and said, "Yo Mista, I heard you know how to do this crazy calculator trick. Show me! The other kids wouldn't, I feel mad stupid!"

"What do you mean the other kids wouldn't? When did this happen?" I asked.

"Yesterday when we was goin' on the college field trip, Jamie had her calculator with her on the bus and she showed me '2 + 2 = go fuck yourself.' I couldn't figure out how she did it! She told me you showed her! You gotta show me!"

"Wait. You guys were showing each other calculator tricks on the bus ride?" What a terrific way to end a great week: inner-city kids geeking out on calculators on a bus ride.

For readers who didn't grow up using a Ti-83 or Ti-84 graphing calculator, you might be wondering, how did I do the calculator trick? Well, it's simple really. You can write messages on these things (which everyone knows), so obviously there's a space key to add spaces between words. Type whatever equation you want (e.g. "2 + 2"), and then keep pressing space until you reach the end of the next line. Then type in a number (or phrase) that would make absolutely no sense. Ta da!


Anonymous said...

silly rabbit, tricks are for kids!

Yo Mista said...

@ Anonymous:

Ahsan said...

2+2=go fuck yourself. Gold.

Yo Mista said...

@ Ahsan:
That equation changed my life.