Three weeks ago I wrote about turning my math class into a game. By then the game had already begun, and now the game’s about to wrap up–our final boss battle is on Monday.
Yesterday, however, I gave my students a survey to get feedback on the game, mainly to see if it had been effective and, if so, if I should continue the game into second semester. It required a lot of planning to make it happen, and with semester 2 starting on Tuesday, it’ll take a lot of energy today and tomorrow to get prepared for the game to continue.
So I’m writing this post for three reasons. First, I want to share what I’ve done so other educators can learn from an unofficial case study. Second, I want to process my students’ feedback. And third, I want to brainstorm and plan how to keep it going.
I’ve always been told that everybody, eventually, will encounter math almost too hard to overcome. For some this happens in high school. Others in college. Others in their doctoral studies. But it happens for everybody.
Hell. It even happened to me. First year of grad school.
But through all this time, even when I got there myself, no one ever told me what to do about it. And sure as hell no one told me how to help my students who hit that well themselves.
Or how to help them when they hit that wall as early as third grade.
I have a confession to make: I didn’t study for my algebraic topology midterm because I couldn’t stop playing Pokemon.
The truth is, for the last eighteen years (and I’m turning 27, so that’s two-thirds of my life), Pokemon has been one of the few constants from year to year: Pokemon was there when I played with my friends in Hebrew school; Pokemon was there when my parents my separated and I went back and forth between my parents houses while my mom was at school; and Pokemon was there when I began college myself and needed something, or anything, to pass the time when I wasn’t studying.
And Pokemon was also there when I should’ve been studying last week. In fact, Pokemon–in its many iterations–has been keeping me from homework for a long time.
I figured I’d update you all on my progress sooner than this–but I’m not surprised why I’m only here now. I haven’t written anything today. (Please ignore for the moment I’m an afternoon-evening-night kind of writer, so it’s not late enough in the day for this to be atypical yet.) And yesterday? My smallest wordcount all month. Yes, I was riding a night of no sleep, I had work and a workshop and they both overlapped, and I was preoccupied by math and hexaflexagons all day, but I wrote fewer pages than I had on any other day all month.
Some days ago, amid all this hubbub over Chick-Fil-A, I came across a short but sweet post written by blogger Gwynn Compton asking, “What helps you write?” I thought it would make for a brilliant distraction form my typical Tuesday talks–because, without any inspiration to write, there’s no amount of writing advice that’ll help your words shine.
So with a great letter of thanks to Gwynn, here’s what helps me write–a few items that may in turn help you to write, too.
For me it began by accident. I wasn’t ever much of a strong reader in my youth. In fact I had struggled to read for most of my time remembering how to do it. It never came naturally. I supposed books and I would never be such great friends.
What changed was a challenge. My library had a summer reading contest (for although I don’t find myself to be incredibly competitive, when it comes down to it, I find many of my motivations have been incredibly competitive in nature), and if you read a certain number of pages, you received a certain number of points, and if you received a certain number of points, you received a prize.
So I read. Small books, children’s books, ones much less than I could have and should have been reading at the time. But I read them. And then, right before the end, I had a tally of all my pages–and they wanted a book’s title. But I hadn’t written any down.
G is also for gays, great, goodness, good-will, and God, but as we all probably know, all of those are–can you guess it?–givens. (Did you see what I did there?) I could easily speak of all of these, and I’ve already spoken of the first and perhaps the second and third as well, and good-will is easily covered and God is a topic always burning with new ground to cover (better question: did you see what I did there?), but today, I’d rather speak of something more important and more pertinent than any one of these: Gophers.
One thing I like about this new PostADay blog that WordPress has is that, when I feel like I should post a new post, but can’t really think of anything to write, they’ve got the solution already. So today (or really it was a few days ago, but that’s not the point), they said to talk about why you started blogging. I don’t think I’ve spoken about it before necessarily, but it’s a good topic. After all, I’m still sort of celebrating a year of blogging, so it fits, doesn’t it?
Maybe I’m a writer and it’s just how we think. Maybe I’m a minority and it’s how we survive. Or maybe it’s the weather and just how we stay alive. But whatever the reason, whatever the cause, I feel like fighting.
It might seem an odd expression for me to say, so normally fond of peace as I am, but sometimes it takes a fighting soul to shove others into action. Sometimes we call this violence or aggression. But sometimes we call it passion and–
1.3 Antigonus, of Sokho, received the tradition from Shimon Ha-Tzaddik. This was a favorite teaching of his:
Do not be like servants who serve their masters expecting to receive a reward; be rather like servants who serve their masters unconditionally, with no thought of reward. Also, let the fear of God determine your actions.
This is a teaching I’ve heard before, and it is a teaching I’ve often considered. (That I’ve probably only read this actual teaching one or two times is here besides the point; it’s the lesson that matters, to me, and it’s the lesson I’m considering.) With that said, I almost feel as if I’ve exhausted my commentary before I’ve even begun.
Life’s like that sometimes, isn’t it? You just feel tired before you even wake up. You feel exhausted simply by considering the work you’ve still got to do.
And, suddenly, hark, I am stricken! Not with pain or anguish (or stress or exhaustion, both of which are present but presently set aside), but with inspiration, a new angle, another way to perceive. Life is like that sometimes—and I feel, too often sometimes feels like always—and it’s to that monotony I think we, or at least I, can best apply this teaching.