#MTBoS12Days Tried and True Strategies

Another post for the Yule Blog Challege!

Strategy #1: Rebekah Paterson had a great post yesterday about creating a space where students feel safe to ask questions. This led to a twitter conversation that reminded me I haven’t blogged this strategy (I guess because it doesn’t seem like a “strategy” to me?). I think I shall name it…

Creeper Teacher

Equipment Needed:
Timer. You could use your phone (BORING) or you could use a timer cube (AWESOME)


Something to sit on. You could use a stool (BORING), rolling chair (FUN, but may not work depending on classroom aisle size), or a creeper stool (AWESOME)

Strategy: On review or practice days, I creep on up to each group, set a timer for maybe 3 minutes and ask if there are any questions (I’ll be using some of Rebekah’s better phrases next time!). The first time around, when they are just starting, if they don’t have any questions, I’ll move on the next group. But after that, I stay the entire time. Students that don’t have questions in the first 30 seconds all of a sudden have some after 1 minute. I can also use that time to look over their work and see if there’s anything they don’t know they don’t know. 😉  It’s also great to limit teacher-hogs (I’ll finish a question if the timer goes off, but no new ones!). I also use the same strategy when I have 5 students wanting help on 8 different topics in a 30 minute study hall.

Strategy #2: Seriously you are the worst teacher ever.

Equipment Needed: Timer (see above)

Strategy: Students are not allowed to use a timer for the first 15-20 minutes of a test. I actually got this strategy from another teacher and I resisted it for a long, long, long time because I am THE WORST at arithmetic. Like, “they let you teach math?” bad. But I’ve grown to really like this strategy because (a) it makes them decide if they should wait until calculator time to do a problem (i.e. “is it a tool I need” versus “everything is a nail when you have a hammer”), (b) makes them less likely to reach for a calculator during class and (c) they still have a safety net of using the calculator when the timer goes off. Warning: the students HATE this with the force of 1,000 suns. But usually most of them come around, and a couple even thank me at the end of the year for making them less calculator-dependent.  (Note: In PreAP Precal, I sometimes do split up calc/non-calc into separate sheets, or just have all non-calc)

So maybe next semester you’ll try to be a creeper teacher or seriously the worst teacher ever!

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6 comments on “#MTBoS12Days Tried and True Strategies

  1. I love your limiting the calculator strategy and LOVED your warning!! (the students HATE this with the force of 1,000 suns.) PreCalc I generally say “no calc” on all OR do a no calc and calc part. I sometimes feel bad about that in PreCalc because there are some kids who do the work without a calculator but then use a checking strategy on their calculator which is really cool. But there are those few who don’t study and use the calculator to try to figure out the answer which I hate. Making it “no calc” thwarts that type of behavior.

    • Ugh, I don’t know what’s worse…students that can’t do anything with their calculator or those that can do everything! I think the best comment I heard this year was when I was giving out a trig quiz and said, “remember, no calculator at all!” and a few kids grumbled, but another kid said, “uh, why would you even NEED one at all for this stuff?” I silently cheered (out loud). 🙂

  2. Good stuff Meg! Adding both of these to my New Year’s Resolutions.

    • Thanks! Hope they help out! 🙂

  3. Your calculator strategy for quizzes/tests is the best! I’ve avoided calculators with my general classes (mainly because the content we focused on for 1/3 of the semester included non-calculator exams), so the students in those classes only use calculators when they are absolutely annoyed with a problem (like finding 7.5% of 235). In contrast, you would need a crowbar to pry the calculators from the hands of the students in my honors class. Even after 3 units without calculators (integers and rational number operations), almost every student in this class reverted to calculators for even the easiest of problems once I allowed the tools. Your strategy helps students realize proper use of a calculator instead of the tool becoming a crutch. I plan to use it immediately!

    • Hope it works for you and the students don’t hate you too much for it. 🙂

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