I also wanted to archive the random ideas I gathered from the Klingons, before they got lost in the ether:
- Keep a physical toolbox somewhere in the room. And when kids are stuck, make a dramatic point of walking to the toolbox, taking it out, and loudly plopping it on the desk. “What tools are in our toolbox?”
- Bring a construction helmet to class. When you need to get things settled and move on, put it on. “This is a work zone, people, a work zone.”
- Play “Math Taboo” where you have kids evidence their understanding of concepts. Have notecards with things like “Coordinate plane” and have them try to explain to their team what it is, but without using other words on the card, like “x-axis” “y-axis” “graph” etc.
- Ask a lot of what if questions. So, if you are in geometry and have covered that triangles have 180 degrees, ask: “What if we didn’t have a triangle, but a quadrilateral or pentagon? Would this still work? How many degrees do those have?” (This is very much under Polya’s art of problem solving philosophy.)
- On the top of every homework page, students need to write a list of problems they had difficulty with and circle it. If they didn’t have any difficulties, they can write the null set and circle that. On that vein, don’t put up the solutions to the homework problems that weren’t from the book (or the even ones from the book) until 2 minutes into class. Students need to be talking with their partner and comparing answers and asking questions first. Then halfway through “homework check time” project answers. (This is only for classes where you check homework.)
- Have practice tests (call them “scrimmage quizzes”) before tests, asking students to solve problems to assess their own understanding. But do NOT make them exactly like the summative assessment. They need to learn how to do problems without having the numbers be slightly changed. But make sure they cover the same ideas / understandings.
- When you’re in a zany mood, use phonetic punctuation (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lF4qii8S3gw). You know, just for fun.
- Have the class, at the start of the year, come up with a collective list of classroom norms. Make sure to refer back to that list throughout the year, and enforce it. These norms should be enacted each and every day. And students have ownership on them. (Add to the norms too, when need be.) Frame the norms positively. Also, collectively make a list of attitudes shared by good math students (e.g. tenacity, willingness to ask questions, etc.) and refer to those.
- Change language. Don’t call problems “problems” but “challenges.” Don’t call tests “tests” but “celebrations of learning.” Don’t write the number of points off, write the number of points earned.
- When students are asked to show their work to the class, don’t tell them to “show their work” or “show their solution.” Tell them to “teach the problem.”
- If a student shows up late, say to them “I’m so glad you’re here. Thanks for joining. We value your thoughts.”
- Keep a stack of postcards/little notes in your desk drawer. If a teacher does something really nice, or well, write a short note to the teacher telling “I appreciate…” and leave it in their mailbox.
Throw in other things below, if you want!