Visualizations and Math That Makes Students Smile

Context: I play a game with my students where they try and catch me making a mistake, either in a problem I give them or a problem I’m modeling. The classes compete against each other, and every few weeks the class that gets the most gets a tasty prize. It’s a fun game, and I hope it’s done something to normalize error among my students.

Anyway, after school on Wednesdays we work with a local group of volunteer tutors to give a bunch of our students extra support in math. As we were wrapping up today, a student pointed to the clock on the wall, and said “Mr. Kane, there’s a mistake in your clock. The 6 doesn’t actually make 6.”

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And we were off. I showed them how to evaluate the combination, and they asked me about “the weird E for the 2”. Naturally, I dug up a visual from this post at Visualizing Math

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And we went on about more of the math on the clock. But most importantly, students were smiling and eager to learn something about math. And it wasn’t relevant to their lives, or really aligned with their interests at all. What is it that made that question interesting to these students? And how can I bottle that and bring it to class tomorrow?

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