Amplifying Minds

Learning and Growing Together

Shaking Hands

So in the post, First Day Plans, I was brainstorming possible ideas for the first day of an advanced math class.  I want it to be fun for the kids, to be active, to include mathematical thinking and to allow my collaborating teacher and I to observe their problem solving and collaborative skills.

Here’s what we came up with:

The Do Now:

Please open your journal and respond briefly to the question, “What is math?”  Share what you think.  (We’ll be doing this throughout the year so your definition will change and grow and as you do.)


1. Pick a number from 1-3. Write it on the last page of your journal for accountability.

2.  Without talking or giving away your number, you will go around the room shaking hands with your classmates.  Each time you shake a person’s hand, you shake their hand the number of times to match the number you chose.  If you chose 3, for example, you shake their hand three times.  If they chose 1, they will shake your hand once.

3. You can sort yourselves into three groups if you pay attention and find like handshakers.  That is your job today.  Once you think you have your full group, shake hands with your group members once more to check.  Once you have done that, raise the correct number of fingers as a final check.  Move groups if you need to do so.

4.  Class discussion: We’ll look at the groups and talk about their sizes and see what patterns or relationships we can infer. (We’re anticipating the term probability to come up and we’ll be ready to talk theoretical or empirical if necessary.)

5.  Then, we’ll count off in each group, A, B C.  When that is done, we’ll have smaller groups  to work the next problem.

6.  Small group work:  If every person in this room shakes every other person’s hands, how many handshakes will that be total?  (We will not specifically address whether the adults count or not, but simply refer the kids back to the question. Our intent is to observe the small groups and see who includes what, how thorough they are,  how they organize their work, if they understand the problem and have strategies to attack it, who disengages, who steps up as a leader, who can be a follower or leader, etc.)  We, the collaborating teachers, will simply be observing during this time.

7.  Whole class reflection time: We’ll share strategies, examples of work, and answers and ask them to think about whether this was a good problem to work or not.  The last five minutes will be responding on a Today’s Meet to share what they think of the problem and what their work/behavior told us about them.

8. We’ll pull the work they do Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week together on Friday by asking them to help make a problem solving rubric against which we’ll look at our work this year.

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