Entry 23 – Trust Me, This Will Make Future Problems Easier

Entry 23 – Trust Me, This Will Make Future Problems Easier

Let’s just do a general reflection on what went well and what didn’t this week.


So we had a quiz on solving 1-step equations last week.  They didn’t do super.  It’s hard to help them make the shift from doing problems they can do in their head (x + 5 = 12) to actually solving algebraically by doing the same thing to both sides of the equation.  We went over the algebraic properties of equality this year beforehand for the first time.  I really just gave them definitions and examples like if I have 12 = 12 and then add 5 to both sides (12 + 5 = 12 + 5), the resulting expressions are still equal to each other (17 = 17).  I showed them examples of scales and having to keep them balanced by doing the same thing to both sides.  Each time I made them write down what they were doing to each side of the equation, they responded with ‘but that just makes it so much more confusing!

It was hard because in the first example of x + 5 = 12, when I ask them, ‘how do you know it’s 7’ they would say ‘well I just thought of what I would have to add to 5 to get 12’ and they rarely said ‘I subtracted 5 from 12.’  Had they said the latter, it would be easier to move into the conversation of subtracting 5 from both sides.  I kept telling students ‘trust me, we’re doing it so when we get to problems that we can’t do in our head, we’re able to use these strategies.’  Then we get to something like 12.3 = 4.7x and they proclaim IMPOSSIBLE!  I will likely do an in-class reassessment since most students didn’t do very well.

The math exhibition research is going OK.  I have them working in a Google Doc that looks like this to help them keep track of their research and notes.  Trying to find time to work on it each week but it’s hard when it doesn’t really tie in with the current content.  Feels like some random thing we’re doing.


So we’re into dividing fractions.  Just like last year I taught them the common denominator method then dividing the numerators before I taught them the ‘multiply by the inverse’ method.  It’s hard to explain why the inverse method works when we haven’t worked with integers yet.  If they knew about integers, we could talk about turning a subtraction problem like 5 -2 into an addition problem like 5 + (-2); when you do the opposite operation, you have to find the inverse of the second number.  But alas, I tried explaining that to them even though we hadn’t talked about integers yet and they were appropriately confused.  The common denominator method makes sense to them but it just takes so long.

I started with dividing proper fractions and then went into dividing mixed numbers.  I didn’t even both trying to really explain how one could keep them as mixed numbers and divide, I just told them ‘convert to improper then turn it into a multiplication problem.’  I feel like fractions are taking a long time but really it’s just been a little over a month which is appropriate.  Fraction work is really at the heart of a lot of this course since we’ll be getting into ratios next and then percents and a lot of times it just comes back to working with fractions.


This is the first semester that I haven’t been building my own robots alongside the students.  It’s a bigger class and I’ve got a lot of more energetic 6th graders in it than normal so I feel I need to be more around and about with the students.  A pro from this is that there aren’t students who are atrociously behind that I’m unaware of (this has happened before because they wouldn’t ask for help and I wasn’t checking in often).  A con is that since I’m more readily available to help, they are tending to reach out to me before trying to solve the problem on their own.  I’m still saying ‘try googling such & such’ and then checking back in with them but I find myself walking more students step-by-step through some of the processes.  I’m also a little more bored in class.  Often they’re all just working away and don’t need help and I’m just walking around.  Maybe in some of the later projects I’ll start building.


Things have been going fairly well outside of school.  My voiceover business is doing well and I’m starting to work with more high-end clients.  I recently reached the 1,000 subscriber milestone on YouTube as well.  I’ve started up a new workout program called Critical Bench and it’s the first change I’ve made to my workout program in almost 3 years.  It’s been refreshing and a nice change of pace.  Additionally, I have been invited by one of the pastors of my church to be part of a group of guys learning how to write and deliver a sermon with the possibility of actually giving a sermon to our church later in the year.  We had our first meeting last week and I’m stoked about it.  I like the craft of public speaking and enjoy breaking down theology and scripture so it’s a good fit.  Also, Sara is finally finished up with a couple of her more brutal rotations.  She was working 2 weeks of night shifts and then 2 weeks of 7am-7pm shifts so she was pretty exhausted and I barely saw her.  She’s starting up a more humane rotation this week so we’ll be able to start hanging out some more in the evenings and start running together again.

That’s all for this week 🙂

By Thom H Gibson

I help middle school STEM teachers create meaningful & memorable experiences for their students. Teacher, podcaster, YouTuber. Two-time teacher of the year

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