Mullets and Chocolate Milk

When I was a student teacher, one of my and my associate teacher’s favourite lessons that we did in our Grade 9 applied (MFM1P) class was the mullet ratio lesson. Quick recap: students learn the index of a ratio by determining who has the best mullet among hockey players, celebrities, and even students in our class and in the school. Some of the students actually had mullets and were happy to be part of the lesson. Students had many ideas about what makes the best mullet (“how long it is in the back”, “how much longer it is in the back than front”, “how greasy it is”). The idea that we were leading into is that the best mullet is one with the highest ratio of party:business (as the saying goes, a mullet is a hairstyle with “business in the front, party in the back”). Hence, the index of a ratio: one number that you can use to compare ratios.

The students loved it! It was something they could relate to since most of them were from rural areas where mullets and country music were very popular. Even the students who were normally completely un-engaged were excited. I couldn’t wait until I had my own class so I could teach it again.

Fast-forward one year: I’m teaching Grade 7 math at an all-girls private school in the suburbs of the Greater Toronto Area. We are starting rates and ratios – my favourite topic! I was excited to break out the mullets again when I realized something: these city girls are not going to be interested in learning about mullets. Some of them might not even know what a mullet is. I needed a different approach. That’s when I came up with the chocolate milk lesson.

We started off with a quick review of the previous day’s material:

ratios1

And then I posed the question:

ratios2

We talked about whose chocolate milk is more chocolatey and how you can tell.  Some students tried to guess. Some used similar reasoning to my Grade 9s with the mullet ratios: Sasha’s* has less milk, Kate’s has more chocolate powder. Some found equivalent ratios. I led into the idea of the ratio of chocolate powder to milk in each drink. We found the index of the ratio and determined that Sasha has the higher ratio, and therefore her drink was more chocolatey. We did some practice comparing other chocolate milk ratios:

ratios3

In that class we only ever talked about ratios in terms of chocolate milk. On the test, I decided to throw in a thinking question to check if my students really understood the concept. Instead of chocolate milk, I asked student whose drink was more lemony. Almost all of them were able to make the transition to thinking about the index of a ratio in a different context.

Sarah and Mia are making lemonade.

Sarah uses 3 scoops of lemonade mix and 8 cups of water. Mia uses 5 scoops of lemonade mix and 11 cups of water.
a) [K/U – 1 mark] What is Sarah’s ratio of lemonade mix to water?

b) [K/U – 1 mark] What is Mia’s ratio of lemonade mix to water?

c) [T – 3 marks] Whose lemonade is more lemony? Explain how you know. Show all of your work.

Take away: it’s all about context. Put math into a context that students can relate to and can understand. This will vary depending on the culture and background of your students.

Another example: when I was teaching data management, I included this communication question which I got from an assessment at the school where I was a student teacher:

The price of bread and the price of canola oil both increase sharply after a long period of no rain in the prairies.

Explain the type of causal relationship that most likely exists between the 2 variables. Assume that the first variable is the independent variable, and the second variable is the dependent variable.

When my students got to this section of the test, I got so many questions from students about what canola oil was made of! I didn’t even consider that my suburban students might not make the connection that students who grew up on or around farmland wouldn’t think twice about.

 

*Names changed.

 

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Hello, World!

Hello world, and welcome to my blog! Here’s a bit about me, my teaching background and the purpose of this blog.

My Education

I am a teacher living in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) in Ontario. I spent 5 years living in Kingston, Ontario, where I attended Queen’s University. During my undergraduate degree, I discovered my passion for teaching and learning, and continued to complete my Bachelor of Education. During my time at Queen’s, I was a teaching assistant for undergraduate computer science and math courses for three years, and I couldn’t wait to have my own classroom. I was also involved in intramural team sports and leading orientation week, including being the chair of the first ever orientation week for the incoming class of teacher candidates during my last year of school.

A Brief History of My Teaching Journey

During my B.Ed, I did my student teaching at a medium-sized school (~750 students). It was the only high school in its area, catering to the students in all of the nearby rural and suburban subdivisions. Some of my students lived in houses in the suburbs while others grew up learning how to drive a tractor and living on a farm.

After completing my B.Ed, I returned to the GTA. Since then, I’ve taught both computer science and math in a few different places. All were very good, very different experiences, which you will see come up in my blog posts. I am currently getting ready to teach computer science again in the fall.

Purpose

As a first-time blogger, I want to write a blog that I myself would want to read. This is not a blog about me learning how to teach (“learning students’ names is hard”, “classroom management is hard”, “report cards are stressful”, etc), nor is it an online resume for self-promotion, nor is it a blog about funny and cute things that happen in my classroom (while these may come up once in a while, this is not the purpose of my blog). As a new teacher teaching courses for the first time, the kind of blog I want to read is one with lessons and ideas directly connected to Ontario curriculum that I can use in my classroom to teach students critical thinking. I am a teacher looking to make my students curious about learning. Therefore, this is a blog about how I make my students curious.

My Mentors

I have a variety of mentor teachers, a few I’ve met in person, most I haven’t, whose blogs I refer to frequently when planning my lessons and assessments. I give them full credit for the ideas I’ve used and modified to fit the needs of my own classroom. Some of my posts will refer to lessons I’ve used made by other teachers – these posts are not meant to take credit for their work, but to highlight things I did differently or to point out what an awesome lesson they created. The #MTBoS community on Twitter has been a huge help for me. The way I see it, I could keep my ideas to myself and take all the credit… or I could share my ideas, and our students will all benefit from my ideas. I choose to benefit our students.

Why All My Posts are during the Summer

I feel like someone at some point is going to wonder why all of my posts are happening during the summer when there is no school and no students. The honest answer is that, as a new teacher, I haven’t had any free time since I started my career. None. Teaching all my courses for the first time is a lot of work. So expect to see an influx of posts during the summer about all of the lessons that I’ve done in the past couple of years. While it would definitely have been better to blog right away so that I can write in more detail about what I did and what I would have done differently, this is what I have time for right now. Hopefully as I gain more experience, I will have more time to blog during the school year.

Feedback is always welcome. Hope you enjoy!