This week I finally finished my lesson on the principles of Graphic Design with the grade 7/8s. They turned in some really cool stuff, and I could tell that they were excited about the posters they made! For the students that finished early I had a follow-up assignment. The students that finished early were mostly the ones who rushed through the project, and because of that I wasn’t sure they fully grasped the four principles. So for the extra assignment I made up a a sheet which had a section for each principle. They went through magazines and found examples of each and pasted them into a collage. I also gave them the option to write their name in ways that represented the principles. In heinsight I think it would have been beneficial to have every student do this before moving onto the bigger project. I think it would have helped to solidify their understanding of the principles a little bit better and made the students be a little more intentional about how they designed their posters. Their posters were still quite effective in representing the four principles but I think a lot of that was due to sheer instinct, since this class seems to have a high level of artistically inclined students.

In the afternoon my co-op let me have the mental math period. A majority of the students lack basic multiplication skills, so my co-op has been working hard to get them up to grade level. I decided to do something that would be helpful in that goal and introduced a strategy called “friendly numbers”. This is the mental process by which we essentially substitute hard numbers for easy ones. For example 12×10 is much easier to solve than 12×9, so the strategy is designed to get kids to modify equations and simply add or subtract the variable as needed. I started with a few examples which included the whole class. I then passed out a worksheet I made with 19 questions. 7 were questions like 35+7+7 is equal to 7x___. Then next 7 were 9×6 is equal to 9×5+_____. The final 5 were just regular multiplication questions where they would be able to use the strategy on their own. Each answer had a corresponding letter that they would use to solve the secret message at the bottom.

I did a good job explaining it and my co-op noted that I seemed to have a good understanding as to when I was losing students and needed to try something new and was good at gauging weather or not they were getting it. I had to called the class back a few times to do more examples, but by the end of the period most of the class had grasped the concept. The one critique my co-op gave me was that I explained the worksheet before I handed it out, when I should have explained it after the students had their own to look at. If I had done it that way, it may have helped cut down on some of the confusion when the students got their worksheet.

Instruction can be a tricky thing, and I think math is perhaps the most difficult subject when it comes to instruction. Math is hard for a lot of students and it’s so easy to lose kids along the way if the instruction isn’t engaging. It needs to be succinct yet I also can’t make any assumptions about levels of common sense. There’s a lot of things about numeracy that I have big and complex understandings because I have an expansive frame of reference from which to understand it due to my life experiences. These students don’t hav that yet. Frame of reference is everything, and we need to be careful to deliver content in a way that builds that frame of reference.

You can view the N6.2 Mental Math Friendly Numbers lesson plan, and assignment sheet here.

Your principles of graphic design sounds like a great lesson – teaching practical applications of the arts is great and it sounds like your students had a good time with it. Good on you for doing a math lesson- I like math but I am nervous to teach it because like as you say math is hard for some students and it will be easy for them to not follow.