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The Mouse King: Of Mice and Math

Posted by on in Blended Learning
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What would you do if you found six mice in your home? How would you react? How many do you think would be in your home if you found six? Just six? More than six? How about 72. That's right, 72.

The other week I was at Home Depot waiting in the holiday lines to check out, when I overheard (okay, I was eavesdropping) an interesting but disturbing, yet mathematical conversation. It just so happened that the clerk behind the counter had a pest problem, and the man who was in front of me checking out was the owner of a local pest removal company (I knew this from his sweatshirt and hat that advertised his business). The clerk said he found six mice in his home. Unfortunately, the clerk was in for some additional bad news, besides the six mice he recently found at his home, as the local pest removal owner told him that for every one mouse you see there are 12, and for every rat you see there are nine. 

As soon as I heard this, I couldn't wait to get back to school the next day and tell my 6th grade math class the great news. Yes, this was great news, because we were just talking about rates and unit rates in math class, so it fit perfectly. Then I realized, that instead of waiting until the next day, I could bring this lesson to life that night. I quickly got out my smartphone and posted the discussion I overheard and the following question into Google Classroom using the Google Classroom app. "How many mice did the clerk have at his house? Tell me your thinking, along with your answer."

Some students actually answered a non-homework, non-assigned question that night on their own without any prompting by me or their parents. Some students actually answered a non-homework, non-assigned question that night on their own without any prompting by me or their parents (thought I needed to add that sentence twice in case you thought there was a typo). The students were simply online somewhere and checked out our Google Classroom on their own and chose to respond. Think those or any other students would do the same for a worksheet question? Highly doubtful. For the rest of the class, I told them my story the next day in school, and then posed the mice question to them. They couldn't wait to get on Google Classroom and post their answer. The responses I that I got after school that day were so enjoyable to read. Many of my students' responses started or ended with, "Eww," or "Ewwwww," or "Oh my gosh. That guy has a whole colony in his house." But they all found the relevance in their learning and it meant enough to them to find the answer out to the scenario without me telling them to do so. 

This mice idea got me to think about where I should be focusing my efforts for my students, and no, not more eavesdropping. So here is what I came up with. 

Focal Points

Blended Learning:

The mice sceneario illustrates my purpose of blended learning. To me, blended learning's purpose is to allow students to find meaning, relevance, and themselves in their learning in a way that fits their time in school, not ours, and their future in life. That is where a LMS (learning management system) like Google Classroom can make learning learning anytime, anywere for students and teachers. If teachers can effectively recognize and model that learning can be done anytime, anywhere then our students will see the relevance and meaning in their learning and understand how they can learn anytime, anywhere.   

Face to Face Time:

Blended learning's benefits are more than using a device to connect learners. It is also about that face to face time in class that is so valuable to the learning experience for our students. Those students that did not answer the mice question the night it was posted, still found meaning and relevance in the question the next day as I told them the story of what happened. Google's most recent Education on Air theme was, "It takes a teacher," and that is so true to help bridge that connection between content and learning. Blended learning or any online learning without that personal connection lacks meaning, which results in very little learning.   

Four C's:

Creativity, collaboration, communincation, and critical thinking allow students to take ownership of the work they are producing. I think about the work my six-year-old daughter brings home from kindergarten. She doesn't want to keep the worksheets she completed in class, but rather she wants to keep the work she produced. The work that has the 4C's in it. That is what she is proud of that and wants to display around the house. Those are the things her mother and I will keep and cherish well past kindergarten. If we focus on the 4C's it is easy to see the students engage in their love of learning and the pride they take in displaying their learning.

Five E's:

Engage, explore, explain, elaborate, express. By focusing on the 5 E's, teachers can better plan and prepare more relevant and student-centered lesssons. While it does take time and work to plan, it makes your students, your classroom, and you come alive. The time it takes won't feel like the hours of grading worksheets only to see the students immediately throw them out or stuff it in the black hole folder upon return. The 5 E's allow the teacher to step into a role of a faciliator much easier, and it is during that time you can see and hear the thinking and learning taking place by your students.  

By focusing on blended learning, face to face time, the 4 C's and the 5 E's, we will be seeing mice everywhere we go (metaphorically speaking of course). Just watch out for the Mouse King. Happy holidays! 

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William Madden holds a B.S. in Elementary Education and a Master's in Educational Leadership. His professional backgrounds includes over 16 years in education as an intermediate school teacher, an elementary school principal, instructional technology coach, and Google for Education Certified Trainer. In addition, his experience includes online course design, technology integration, ELA and mathematics curriculum mapping, being on his school's technology and building improvment committees, and conducting professional development. He blogs to reflect on his practice, share with others, and to continue to grow and learn as an educator to meet the needs of today's students. 

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Guest Friday, 22 March 2019