Thursday, November 9, 2017

First Day with Advanced Second Grade Math Students

"Yes, my grandma lives close to 110."

The teacher brought four boys to the hall. "Hi, Walter. These are your students … I'll let them introduce themselves."

"I'm Walker."

"Did you say, 'Walter?'," I asked, incredulous.

"No; Walker." I must have looked at him quizzically, as he spelled it.
"W … a … l … k … e … r."

"Oh, I get it," I said. "Your name is that of the Gospel writer!" I said to Luke. "I have a good friend with your name, Eric."

Isaac was the fourth; I didn't have anything to relate to his name, but it was unusual and I knew I would not forget it. The teacher returned to his class, leaving me with four bundles of nervous energy to deal with all alone.

"You all have an assignment in your math workbook that the teacher gave you, right?" I asked.


We were outside the classroom, in an inside corner of a library, next to stacks of books. "We have four tables," I said, pointing, "let's each of you go to one of them and work on your assignment. If you need help, ask. I'll check your work and when everyone is done we can get on with the other work. OK?"

They quickly dispersed to their tables; apparently it was OK. A peaceful moment followed.

Soon one had a question; his hand went up and he looked over to me. I hurried to his seat. One of the problems involved the number 421. They had to know where the hundreds place was, the tens and the units. "I am almost certain I didn't know these kinds of things when I was in second grade!" When I answered his question he gave a look that said, "Oh, of course … I knew that!"

He finished first, I checked his work which was all good. By the time I was finished, two others had finished as well; they waited patiently ( or not ) for me to come check. A quick scan, minor error corrections, and three of the four boys were done. I checked with the fourth; he was nearly done, finished in front of me and gave me the work to check. The math was all good, we fixed a couple of minor spelling errors and we were ready for the advanced work.

We gathered around one of the tables, I pulled out my Continental Math League ( CML ) material, pulled out the other four packages of the same material, and handed them out. "These will be yours," I said. "Put your name on the front." The clock on the wall read 9:00 or so; I had them until 9:15. "Not much time left," I thought.

"I want you to know I am excited to be here with you, to do this work with you. I am enjoying being here. I also want you to know I was scared to death as I drove to the school this morning. Afraid I'd screw up, do something wrong." While they seemed amazed I might have been nervous, it seemed important for them to know.

"Let's look at the first problem," I said. There were two additions: thirty-two plus twenty-seven and forty-one plus twelve. The question: how much must we add to the smaller answer to make it equal to the larger answer? All the boys were adding the two sets of numbers together before I could pose the question. That was forgivable … the two sets of numbers begged to be added. We soon had the answer. Six.

Second problem: Betty was driving her car and noting the miles on the odometer. Attempting to relate this to their lives, I said, "So, that might be like driving down the road from the school here to Highway 110, right?"

"Yes, my grandma lives close to 110," Luke said.

"So, she lives down at Dodd road and 110?"

"Yes, she does."

"This problem is like driving from the school to Luke's grandma's and then almost back, right?"

"We need the boys back in class … ," the teacher, breaking my reverie.

"Oh, OK, sure, of course." Then, turning to the boys, "Give me your books, get your workbooks. You need to return to the classroom."

The teacher was kind, but firm. "You're working under the clock," he said, pointing. "They can tell time." I learned it's my task to get them back to class promptly. "Thanks for coming in … we'll see you next … oh, no, we won't see you next week."

"MEA week?" I figured out loud.

"Yes, Thursday and Friday; school is out Wednesday for teachers' meetings. We'll see you in two weeks."

Already feeling emotional attachment, I waved goodbye, saying, "I enjoyed being here and working with you. I'll see you in a couple weeks." I virtually floated down the hall, so glad was I to have decided to give this a try.

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