Crossing the Snake River

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Students will be able to communicate and experiment in an effort to solve a critical thinking problem.

Big Idea

Establish a classroom atmosphere of perseverance and communication.

Warm up and Partner Introduction

10 minutes

Today I  introduce both warm ups and partners.  As students walk into the classroom, I hand them a warm up to complete.  Once it seems like most of the students are finishing up, I have them pause so I can discuss my partner policy.  Right now, they are placed into partners alphabetically.  Each unit (or as needed), I switch the partners. I have included a student grouping video about my grouping philosophy.  As I have been shifting to the Common Core, particularly emphasizing the Math Practices, I decided to use this partner formation to assist me in getting students talking about math. 

The short video explains how I use the beginning portion of my classroom routine to give students an opportunity to work on Math Practice 3.  The students each receive a copy of the Warm Up Rubric and practice critiquing each other's warm up based on that rubric*. Please watch the short video describing today's warm up. 

For the first week of each new partnership, I  present a question that partners need to answer to each other.  This will help them get comfortable talking to each other since they will be doing that a lot. 

Today's question is:  Tell your partner about the most interesting thing you did over summer break.  

*NOTE: the rubric is one I use throughout the year so I want students to become familiar with it. For these first days' questions there is no "work" to be shown.

Course Expectations Part 1

8 minutes

I spread out my class expectations over several days since for students it can be pretty mind numbing when done all at once and some aspects of the expectations are easier for students to understand in context of when they come up. For example, I will discuss my quiz policy at the time they take their first quiz.  For this first day I will give students the course syllabus to frame the year we will spend together.  I also give them a letter home to parents requesting that the syllabus be signed and returned for a grade.  Opening the lines of communication with parents give my students an additional checkpoint to help them keep on top of their work in my class.  I expect students to keep their syllabus in their folder the entire year. 

Today, we are also going to discuss my class expectations, materials, electronics policy, and food/drink policy.  Please see my Algebra 2 Syllabus for more information.

Interpreting Algebraic Expressions Pre-Assessment

10 minutes

The lesson launch is a Pre-Assessment for my lesson on interpreting algebraic expressions  from the Math Assessment Project (MAP)*.

The students spend 10 minutes working on the pre-assessment.  The MAP includes a beautiful scaffolding questions to ask students based on the mistakes from the pre-assessment. This pre-assessment is handed back to the students on the final day of the activity. 

 *external resource link: Math Assessment Project (MAP)

Crossing the Snake River

20 minutes

The remainder of the day is spent on a critical thinking/partnering activity.  The goal of this activity is to build a classroom culture of striving and communicating about your thinking.  Each pair will receive a copy of the Activity as well as a Manipulatives baggy filled with a "boat" and 5 different colored pairs of man/dog pictures.  

This activity highlights Math Practice 1 and Math Practice 3.  I introduce this problem  by reading it out loud and clarifying any questions, particularly ensuring that they understand that dogs CANNOT be near another person without their owner.  This includes being on the same side of the shore while the person is in the boat and the stranger dog is on the shore.

As the students work on the problem in pairs, I walk around listening to the communication that takes place.  This is the time I start building the expectation that I am not going to hand them the answer.  I ask them to explain their thinking and guide them to discover their own issues.  I am a firm believer in lots of positive feedback.  Particularly in the beginning of the year, this helps to build student confidence in their own abilities.

The solution is located here.  The answer from Mrs. T is the correct solution.  My problem is based on a problem from the text Problem Solving Strategies: Crossing the River with Dogs.   

Exit Ticket

2 minutes

My goal for these beginning of the year exit tickets is to get students thinking about their big picture goals for the year.  Today they are to answer: "Why are you taking Algebra 2?"


1 minutes

The homework assignment is to write a paragraph describing their process and as far as they got on their solution for the Crossing the Snake River problem (Math Practice 3).  It is important for the students to understand that although they may work together as partners, they are personally responsible for all learning that takes place.