Algebra, Worms, and an Open Mind

- Empathy, Kindness, & Learning in a Connected World - 

I have to start with being totally honest - the most incredible learning opportunity that I am about to describe occurred out of sheer coincidence and an open mind. It was not pre-planned or anticipated (quite the opposite in fact).

Colliding Facts:
- On Twitter a few weeks ago I came across a math video for teaching students about collecting like terms in algebra that was rather 'on point' (as my students would say) by an Aussie educator named  @JoelBSperanza. We have watched a few of his instructional videos since, as his manner of getting at the big mathematical ideas resonates with us (plus he has an awesome accent)! 

- After a hectic lunch hour helping with a popcorn fundraiser, I realized I had not added the math extension problem for the afternoon on our slide deck (or even selected it for that matter). I chose the problem in haste based on the fact it required an organized solution, linked with patterning, and was about worms and I thought the title "Worm Problem" sounded pretty neat (get it - Word Problem?). Out of pure necessity I tweeted a picture of the question as our class twitter feed appears on our D2L space (embedded widget). No time to type it out. So as I supported some students with other areas of focus (consolidated practice around volume and surface area), others worked away on our "Worm Problem". 

So where do these two facts collide? When students were sharing their solutions, one group wondered if there might be a way to solve it algebraically. The thinking began (I knew it was not linear so this would be a difficult feet). Then students asked in jest, "maybe the video guy can help us?!" GENIUS! 

So right away I went to the computer and tweeted @JoelBSperanza (super pumped that the students even considered the possibility of using social media - even if they were kidding at first -  and the fact that they cared so much). 

What happened next was, in my opinion, edu-magic!


Yes ... Joel took the time to not only reply to us, but also create a 10 minute video explaining the problem, validating students' current solutions, and extending the learning to algebra. I was in total awe last night with the realization that this kind educator took the time to chat with me about my class, and prepare this video for us - just because he can and he cares. What a lesson in the possibilities of social media to connect and empower.

I could hardly sleep last night thinking about having the video up for the students in the morning. The look on their faces was priceless! What a way to start a day!


So what are the lessons here?

- Social media has the ability to make the world a more connected place. Modelling this for students is vital.
- As an educator, you don't need to know all the answers (how possibly could you?). It's about opening up the walls of the classroom and connecting (social media extends this to a much larger community). You just have to be willing to embrace a little of the unknown and throw caution to the wind sometimes!
-  There are remarkable people out there (like my new friend @JoelBSperanza) who are willing to go the extra mile for the sake of student learning. That is something to be treasured and celebrated.


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