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Sugar Packets

I have been Struggling with my 7th grade Pre- Algebra class a lot since I was handed it in October.  It did not help that I was gone for 3 weeks.  I have them 7th hour.  I am the only teacher of 7th grade boys that hour that is a content class (ie. all but my 26 boys have PE, art, computers, or some other elective 7th hour)  I have 6 poor girls that are stuck in this class of smelly boys.  I feel bad for them really.  There is a reason that 7th grade boys do not have a core class 7th hour.  THEY ARE CRAY-CRAY!!!!

The boys are all very sweet, but they are also very loud, hyper, and some are also very rude.  I have to PATHOLOGICAL liars.  I will watch them throw things (my things: pencils, crayons, erasers, paper balls, pen caps, glue sticks, legos, scissors.  Really what ever they can get their little hands on.), then lie when I call them out.  "ON ME!  I didn't throw ANYTHING!"  It is getting old.  I have one kid that I swear is EDDIE HASKEL, but African American.

Anyway.  I have done a lot of redesigning of that class.  I can not teach it in a way that one would think a pre-algebra class should be taught.  I use VERY LITTLE direct instruction.  I can't.  If I turn my back to write on the board for 4 seconds crayons are snapped into 50 pieces and tossed about the room. Last week on Wednesday I had my student TA in y 4th hour put 200 pencils in my pencil drawer.  When I had a girl in 2nd hour ask to borrow a pencil today, I said, "Well, yea, just go into the box."  She looked at me like I was crazy and said there are not any pencils in the box.

WHAT!!!  200 pencils are gone in a week.  Really?

I have resorted to using videos of other people teaching concepts, then I interject my thoughts every now and then.  It is like one-teach-one-assist but the teacher is a video on YouTube, Mathalicious, MathSnacks or somewhere else, and I am the assistant.  It makes me very sad.  

I have tried kicking kids out, I have tried calling home, I have tried video taping, I have tried upping the ante in accountability, I have time outs, I have tried changing seats, I have tried removing distractions, I have tried "Teach Like A Champion" strategies, I have tried interventions, I have tried"take-a-breaks," I have tried behavior monitor slips.

Other teachers have walked into my room and walked out saying, "nope...that's doin too much!" Even the principal is impressed that I do not want to stab my eyeballs out every day (I do, but I do not tell her that.)

This issue continues to persist.  I have come to the reality that I am lucky if I can "teach" for 15 minutes of my 49 minutes I have with them.  So If I am going to only have 15 minutes, I better make them good.

I love DAN MEYER.  

I have loved him since my first experience in Middle School.  HE is the one that made me decide to get a middle level license and not a pre-primary (although I am starting to regret that decision.).  If you do not know who he is, you should check him out.  He is pretty phenomenal of a guy and thinks that learning math should be more hands on and less listening to lecture.

Perfect for my class in theory.

I had first heard of him in my Middle Level Math Methods class.  My professor gave me an assignment where I needed to find a blog and research more about that blog and the blogger.  I had never heard of him but I chose Dan Meyer.  

He did some pretty amazing stuff. And had been doing it since 2006.  Where was he when my math teachers were getting ideas?  Any way. Back in 2011 I was in MR. Surgenor's (PBIS COACH now!!!) 8th grade boys math class and I did THIS LESSON.  I did the whole darn thing, the boys LOVED it.  They were blown away by the fact that they did the math, HARD math, and did not even know they were doing algebra.  Some boys went home and figured out Dixie Cups, some boys tried to even measure with cereal bowls!  Posters were made, lives were changed!

So here I am 2014.  With my own class of boys. We are currently working on a unit about ratios and proportions. I do not know why I did not think about Dan Meyer before this last week.  Honestly, this girl was the one that was CRAY CRAY for not thinking of it earlier. This time the lesson was this:

It is simple.  It is real life.  It is awesome.

It starts like this..

Show students this video:

Ask them some questions.... Like what would you need to solve the question on your own?
Then show them what they need! (Sorry I am not putting to much of the lesson in my blog as I did not write it.  It is a pretty wick exploration though, and I urge you to do it.)
Let them work some math out.
Show them the answer.
Watch as they freak out that they got the right answer (and used proportions to do it!)
Then show them some REAL beverages.
Let them freak out over the RedBull.

Tell them to rank the beverages from most to least amount of sugar.
Watch as they write that the juice contains the least amount and the RedBull contains the most.
Hand students beverages.

Watch the magic begin.

My students did really well with this.  And what I mean by that is, I had three marvelous days of problem solving, collaborative work, not a single glue stick thrown, real math happening!

I had the students make posters afterwards with bar graphs of the amount of sugar packets in each beverage.  I left it open.  The graphing I have not explicitly taught yet so I was not really concerned with accuracy on that part as we will be focusing on data collection and display next month.  Some of their posters show incorrect data, but the crazy thing is...even though their graphs are wrong, their "math" is right!  Every group, every student!


Here are my 6 posters. (I had 4 students in In School Suspension so that might have helped!)  You can totally see the groups that had girls in them :)

This group came in on day 2 so they did not do all of the beverages.

This group did a GREAT job.  I was very impressed with their ability to work together and be as successful as they were.   They are kids that normally do not work will with one another.

This group has three of my lowest students in it!!!!

This was one of my mostly girls croup.  Can you tell?

This group has 3 of my biggest mischief makers in it, all four of the boys are also ELL level 2 students.  I am not judging their spelling, or backwards axis', the sloppy penmanship, inaccurate bar graphs or even the fact that they solved the problems without "setting up" proportions.  What I am judging is all of that math, and right answers on the little boxes.  

This group sort of cracked me up.  I am not really sure what they were going for in the graphs but they put the packets in green and the grams of sugar in red...But I know that they have a few of them wrong.  Again.  Point is...math is done right!

All in all I was really impressed with them, and Dan Meyer.

I did make a packet.  I would like to disclaimer with this that I made the packet before I fully understood the 3Act Math principle.  But what ever.  Use my packet if you want to!  It goes along with the lesson.

Here is my packet.
Here is the PDF of the drinks my students used.

Thanks again Dan,
Your biggest fan,


  1. First off - I hope this dawns the age of these kids starting to work harder for you, and for them to stop giving you so much grief!!
    Secondly, thank you so much for sharing this! I hadn't heard of this guy before now, but have just spent the past 2 hours trolling through his blog picking up heaps of awesome ideas for working with my top maths group!! I wasn't sure exactly how I was going to extend them this year, but now have plenty of ideas. Thanks so much.
    Learning to be awesome

    1. Isn't he great!?!?!?! Do make sure you check out his 3Act math.

      Here is the spreadsheet that he created that has everything listed by Common Core Standards. Personally I do not know anything about Common Core because our district only uses it for ELA. Math we use our own which they feel is more challenging.

      Yes. It is more challenging for me to find amazing things to do with my kids because I have no idea what the rest of the WORLD is doing.



  2. That group sounds just like one I had last year. I had the same frustrations you're facing now. The thing that helped me most was when my school started a one-on-one mentoring program with our problem students, allowing them to build positive relationships and work toward individual rewards. It didn't cure my problems, but it was a HUGE help.

    1. That sounds like a wonderful idea. I do not even get to PLC with anyone for this class because I have one class of it and three 6th grade classes, so I PLC with the 6th grade team.

      At least it is my 7th hour so I don't have a sour taste in my mouth all day. AND I can just threaten them with missing their bus and having to sit in detention till the after-school buses come to get behavior better.

      Maybe I will video tape it and post it so everyone can see...

  3. This sounds like such a fun lesson! I am so glad that they got involved for you on this one! Their graphs look great! You can tell they were working hard! What an awesome way to get them to work for you! I would have loved that lesson if I were a middle schooler ;)


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