A combination of the holiday break, conference travel, and illness meant I went almost six weeks without a visit to Landon Middle School. I finally made it back in the classroom on February 2nd. Of course, February is almost over now, and I have yet to blog! In the spirit of catching up, I’m just going to talk about a whole month here.

My first day back was pretty low-key. I’m not sure if Teresa has managed to perfect the seating charts or if the kids are just in that third quarter grind, but everyone seems more subdued. Of course, maybe nothing has changed and I’ve just gotten used to 8th grade antics… it’s hard to say.

On the 9th, we gave them a whirlwind lesson on scientific notation in one day. Trading off midway through the block, Teresa taught them how to convert to and from standard form numbers, and I taught them how to add, subtract, multiply, divide, and exponentiate them. Frankly, I was amazed we made it through all of that (with time to spare even). Of course, the most often-asked question was: “why do we do this?”; which I tried to answer with anecdotes about really large numbers in computer science. In the end, I think they came around to the idea.

The state assessments are coming up, so we are now in review mode. I was surprised how many struggled to solve equations (a topic we spent considerable time on this fall). Then again, use it or lose it, and I’m guessing they didn’t solve too many equations over break. 😉

A curious problem arises with the seventh graders. In our third block, we have half a dozen gifted 7th graders who have moved up so they can take algebra in 8th grade next year. Unfortunately, they still have to take the 7th grade math assessment, which includes a number of topics that they haven’t seen this year. I had the opportunity to give them a crash course of some of these problems, which was fun. Most of these problems are special cases of something more general that we taught them this year, so they caught on quickly.

It’s fun to reflect on the student’s progress this year. Several students have noticeably improved since this fall; in some cases by several grade levels. One review activity involved the students pairing up to quiz each other with flash cards. If someone doesn’t immediately know the answer, the other student is supposed to ask leading questions to help them out. Asking good leading questions or giving good hints without giving away the answer is hard, and I was impressed with some of the conversations I overheard.