The Wave


The class that challenged me the most yesterday is the one that made me smile the most today.

A snippet from their class…Yes I asked quest I ns, but so did they!

We collected data doing “The Wave.”  We talked about what we noticed.  Then I asked, who would want data like this and how would they use it?


Student:  Maybe someone who wanted to know how long it would take all the people at a ballgame to do the wave.

So we guessed how long it would take 882 students.  And discussed different ways to make a prediction based on the data.

They decided to calculate each trial’s rate, then average them.  

Another student asked, how much space would it take for everyone to line up? 

I don’t know. How could we figure that out?

Student: Let’s see how much space we take up.

20 ft for 9 students. (Yes, that’s how small my class was today).

What made me smile…
Group 2:  K got an answer of 24 feet.  A: K, I disagree because if 20 feet is for 9 people, 24 isn’t much larger and that’s way too small for 882 people.  So they reworked.

Group 3: J: I got 1960 ft.  I asked the others, how’d J get this?  And they explained it to me.

Group 1: 16 miles.  (Huh?)


And they shared their work. (20)(9)=180 (882)=79860 feet. 
S: I don’t understand where 180 came from?

C: can you explain why you multiplied 20 and 9?

A: what if you tried dividing those numbers and see if that works?

I loved how A suggested to his team that they split 882 students into groups of 9 and each group gets 20 feet.

This may be too elementary for some folks reading.  But the fact that a class of students who despise math, who “can’t do math” did their math just fine.

They not only explained their reasoning but respectfully asked questions to critque the thinking of others.

I want them to experience success.  I want them to know I value their thinking.  I want them to learn. I want to challenge them. I want them to smile when they enter my classroom. 

Yes, the class that challenged me most yesterday made me smile today.


4 responses »

  1. Pam, I really enjoy reading your blog. I’ve worked with elementary, middle, and high school students and what you’ve just chronicled is so true for all levels. Your students actually proved to themselves that they can do matthematics and regardless of what grade we teach, this is the message we should instill in our students. Math makes sense. Our job is to facilitate that sense making! Can’t wait to see what your students do next. Will they find been more mathematics in this problem?

    • Thanks for your encouraging words! We ended class with scatter plots of the data and it was easy for them to see the ‘outlier.’ They graphed an EQ using their average rate, then tossed out the outlier and averaged again to see how it actually pulled the direction of the line. I look forward to supporting them in good discussions.

  2. I have a bridging class that is getting hard to get to think beyond anything remotely surface level!! Needs your tools and ideas!! What class is this?

    • It’s an Algebra 1, repeats. They even said today, it’s better because its not numbers out of a book, it’s “our data.” We’ll collect data everyday if that’s what it tales!

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