Per Sam’s post, I’m responding to the second prompt:
- What is one thing that happens in your classroom that makes it distinctly yours? It can be something you do that is unique in your school… It can be something more amorphous… However you want to interpret the question! Whatever!
I have two activities that I reuse every year for enrichment: 1) the Soma cube and 2) SET. They are two things that my students come to associate with being in my classroom and the students are eager for both challenges.
1) When I was in college, the delightful Professor Dana Johnson introduced us (the math-ed undergrads) to the Soma cube. She instructed us on how to build each piece and we glued them together and labeled the sides during one class period. Whenever my students finish an assignment early, they race to be the first person to get the cube. Some students figure out a way to put it together in minutes; others take several attempts to figure it out. My pieces are labeled by number so that the students can write up their solutions. With over 200 ways to put it together, I encourage multiple solutions from those who are quick to figure out one method. Putting the cube together is one way for students to earn achievement stickers, which is a monthly competition between the classes (the winning class gets cookies).
2) SET is my go-to game when there are a few minutes left in class. Once I introduce it to my students, usually within the first week of school starting, they’ll start asking me if they can play the pattern game. The great thing about using the New York Times’ puzzles is that they change daily and there are four levels ready to go. I just project the game onto the Smart board and call students up when they see a SET. Like with the Soma cube, each level of SET is worth an achievement sticker for the class. This is one of those great activities that generates discussions on what makes a SET and why a certain combination didn’t work. We discuss the mistakes and sometimes I’ll give a hint if they’re close to finishing a level but short on time. It’s a great way to keep the class from descending into chaos when there’s a couple of minutes left.
Both of these activities are important for various math skills (spatial reasoning, pattern recognition), but I think they’re special in my classroom because the kids remember them year-to-year. For the students who I have more than once, they immediately gravitate to one or both upon returning. Even students who come to visit like to try their hands at the cube before they leave. I like the activities because they remind everyone that it’s okay to make mistakes, because we learn from them, and that it’s important to persevere.