A joke for hard times

So, in Geometry we hit the ground running with a Geogebra lab which I was pretty excited about. The kids have to make some different polygons, and I get to try to “break” them with the move tool. So, an isosceles triangle should stay isosceles even though we stretch and drag it around. This requires building it in one of several different ways (using a line of symmetry, or fixing two points to a circle to preserve a common distance, etc) which kids have to be creative to find. If you haven’t played around with Geogebra yet, this is a great way to get going with it. One of my goals is to have my students proficient and comfortable with the program, starting in the geometry year, and this lesson was supposed to serve that goal whle helping kids get prepared for the upcoming test on vocabulary, polygon classification, etc.

I teach two sections of Geometry and they meet on alternating days. Monday, the lab went pretty darn great. I did a launch using the classroom projector, and we headed out. In the computer lab, kids were engaged, there was a good mix of sharing and independent work, several kids had breakthroughs, and the lesson differentiated itself fairly well. I was happy. One item on the list is a triangle with a segment from each vertex to the midpoint of the opposite side. We had sketched this during the bellwork and wondered whether those segments always had to meet in a single point. Opinions differed. Now they were seeing that the medians always did meet, no matter how they morphed the triangle. I intended this as a setup for introducing inductive and deductive reasoning, and it seemed to be working. We had a a little discussion about how you can really know something. Joy!

Tuesday was a whole different story. The class is a little larger and has a lot more attitude. Still, I felt ready, emboldened by my success on the day before. Well. First off, I got a glitchy launch of GGB in the classroom, it kept freezing, and I had to relaunch twice. Kids were like, “um, this is lame.” I soldiered on. We got through it and headed to the lab.

Things didn’t exactly soar. Several kids were way not into it, and let everyone know. The toughest thing about this group is the intelligent, high status kids with shitty attitudes. One of them, H., was clearly feeling way too cool for this. She has the potential to be a great math student but has already let me know all she cares about is the grade. Finally I got them going and most kids were making progress.

We get pretty far along and I notice several kids have made the triangle with medians. I get a discussion going about how they always seem to meet in one point, no matter how the triangle changes. “So we can see how that always seems true, but is that the same as knowing that it’s true? As we go forward we will gain the tools to prove that it’s true, which is the same as understanding why it is true.” Pretty nice lead-in to reasoning and proof, right? Lockhart-esque, even? Wrong. Says A-student H.: “Things just are. I don’t really care why.” General agreement from her peers in 5th block Geometry.

Which brings me to my joke.

Jesus was out walking when he came upon a man crying. “What is wrong, my son?” “Once I was a great violinist, Lord. But last week I crushed my hand, and now I am unable to play.” And Jesus laid his hand upon the man, and Lo, he was healed and able to make music once again.

Later Jesus came upon a woman who sat crying. “What is wrong, my child?” “Once I was a painter, Lord, but now I am blind and all art is lost to me.” And Jesus laid his hand upon the woman, and Lo, she was healed and went on to paint once again.

Still later Jesus came upon yet another man who was crying. “What is the matter, my son?” “Lord, I am a high school math teacher.” And Lo, Jesus sat down and wept with him.

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We are all born into this world, and at some point we will die and that will be that. In the meantime, let’s enjoy our minds and the wonderful and ridiculous things we can do with them. I don’t know about you, but I’m here to have FUN.
-Paul Lockhart

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

-Yogi Berra


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