Week 5 – Mind Blowing Math, Class Fines, and Chatty Cathy’s

Week 5 – Mind Blowing Math, Class Fines, and Chatty Cathy’s

We’ve come to the end of week 5.  It’s actually Friday morning but it’s a staff development day.  I really enjoy staff development days.  You don’t have to be ‘on.’  You just show up and try to engage yourself in the discussion.  It’s coming at the end of a fairly good week.


In Pre-Algebra, we started exploring exponents.  We delved into powers of 1, 0, and negative exponents.  Power of 1 was easy enough; 31 = 3.  Seems just like multiplication.  30 though…is actualy 1.  3-1 is…1/3…whaaaaat?  Without going too much into it, HERE’S a video of someone explaining why it works; consider it your 2 minute math lesson of the day 🙂

I also started a class Instagram and got a video of some of the students having an ‘aha’ moment and figuring out the reasoning behind some of these exponent laws (seen on the right here).  Probably the best part of the week.

We watched a Vi Hart video where she basically broke down all of math to just +1’s.  It’s pretty fascinating.  “I think my mind just blew up a little bit” was one student’s comment.  She talks a bit fast in the video; students actually asked if we could watch it again at half speed.  I highly recommend you take a look, especially  if you don’t consider yourself a ‘math person’ 🙂


It was our first official ‘Fine Day’ in classroom economy.  Students have been receiving different fines for being unprepared, having missing work, being off task, etc.  My fine officers will write out the tickets on one day, and then pass them out the next.  Students log into their online bank account and I’ve set up an account called ‘Fine Payment’ that they transfer the money to.  They then check in with the fine officer to show that they paid it.  Sounds easy enough.  Went pretty well with my Pre-Algebra class of 7th and 8th graders (half of which had me last year and knew the system).  It was quite a chaotic disaster for my 6th grade class.  I told them they were to pay their fine before they went on their 5 minute break.  Half of them had forgotten their account passwords, then half ended up accidentally transferring their fine money to another student and not the ‘Fine Payment’ account, and then the two fine officers weren’t communicating about who had paid their fine and who hadn’t.  It was kind of to be expected since it was their first time (and some of them are coming out of screen-free Montessori schools), but it was definitely the most chaotic it had been all year in there.  I think for next year I’ll model a bit more slowly and make sure they have their passwords written down.  (For more on developing a classroom economy, check out myclassroomeconomy.org).


Got frustrated with one of my classes this week due to the chattiness and off task behavior.  It was party my fault (poor lesson design).  I had three questions they were supposed to write answers for on a post it and put on the board.  I also had them write their answer in their journals to refer back to (not redundant at all).  Normally they answer questions in their journal, and I have them share with a IMG_0910neighbor once most people are done.  They do a pretty good job of just being patient and waiting for others if they finish when doing that.  I guess there was something about getting up and putting your post it on the wall and then coming back to your seat and not really having anything to do that sparked the off-task conversations.  I asked them to stay silent while others finished (which again, they normally do), and they were quiet for a moment but then just started talking again.

I thought how I should have either waited for them to bring their post it up or had them have something to do when they finished.  I’m pretty good at masking my frustration; I’ve found I have more success with redirection when I’m calm and direct and not speaking out of emotion.  It makes the time I actually am frustrated carry a bit more weight.  Either way, I usually end up getting a headache at the end of a more stressful / frenetic sort of day (the kind where it hurts to have your eyes open) and it was one of the first one I had gotten this year.


I like to read fiction before bed but Sara usually ends up going to sleep before I do and is sensitive to light.  I was using my end table lamp which is a mild yellow light, but still filled the room a bit.  I ended up buying a reading light on Amazon only to realize it was practically like a flood light; it seemed brighter than the flashlight on my iPhone.  Perhaps having ‘MIGHTY BRIGHT’ in the name should of tipped me off.  Anyone have any experience with a dimmer reading light that attaches to your book?

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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One Comment

  • I do love using patterns to do a few things in mathematics: expinent laws, addition/subtraction of integers, multiplication of integers (sure there are more but can’t think of them on the spot). The nice thing here is yoy can give the lead over to the students in these cases provided the lesson is set up nicely and let them extend patterns on their own.
    In regard to Vi Hart’s video, I actually use her views on logarithms to teach logarithms. Its more challenging at first, but students love it when it clicks. Much easier to work with fractional powers then!

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