Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quotes of the Week [QOTW]

Have your students said something that completely moved you?
Was it insightful?
Was it relative?
Was it an epiphany?
Was it a proclamation?
Ok, let's not get carried away.

I hope you know what I'm talking about. Those comments become even more powerful when students see you acknowledge them and they didn't even think you were paying attention. I'm talking about those insightful things students say while they're collaborating with their peers, discussing solutions, or completing tasks. They blurt out something that catches you off guard (in a good way). The first semester has come to a close and I'm reflecting on student quotes. Quotes of the week: QOTW.

My students have said some great stuff and I was lucky enough to start telling myself to capture it on our front whiteboard. Why are there so many opportunities to hear what they say? Because we do a lot of group work and collaboration so they're bound to say something sensational. It's not about me. It's about them. They don't think I'm listening, but I am.

There's a section now carved out on my whiteboard for student quotes. It happened out of happenstance. This wasn't planned. I didn't find this idea somewhere on the wild internet (although it'd be cool if someone started a site for student quotes). A couple of students said something toward the beginning of the year and I wrote it on the board to share with all my classes throughout the day. They went nuts. Students were quoting the quote. I snapped a picture of it to make room for the next big quote and away we went. I'd like to share some of my favorites with you as I shared them with my students today.

"There has to be an easier way!" This is the one that started it all! In response to solving a weekly PS (Lucky 7’s) given to me by Fawn Nguyen, a group of students was filling their pages with numbers as they worked through exponential rules. Shawn continued the pattern for a long time on his paper, badly wanting to figure out the nth term in the pattern, lifted his head and let out this gem. The rest is history.

"Do it really neat so no one writes any bad stuff." After getting our new whiteboards and whiteboarding for a few days, students walked the room dishing out some harsh criticism to each other and their work. After addressing this criticism with them, students realized the importance of keeping their work clean, organized, and neat. Before beginning their task, Will verbalized his desire to be neat as to motivate his group. Good idea!

"We're actually learning." Yes, girls we’re actually learning. That’s because you’re actually thinking on your own while exploring math and not being told some procedure to regurgitate back to me. This was the result of my geometry class exploring parallel and perpendicular lines in a coordinate plane. These two girls were struggling for a day or two without any intervention from me and on the third day they had their shining moment. 

"That's upsetting me!" A quote is only as good as the context that goes with it. If you look at this quote, it could be your typical math student after doing the typical math question, resulting in typical frustration. However, Elle was working with her group on my Transversals, Tape, and Stickies task where they were given limited clues and had to identify twelve angles created by three intersecting lines. The bell rang and as she was heading back to her desk, let this one rip. She wanted resolution and was upset she didn't complete her task before leaving for the day. She came in the following day and conquered it with her group! Tenacious!

"Is that the opposite of PEMDAS?" In solving equations using inverse operations, James asks if the procedure is basically the opposite of PEMDAS (order of operations). Why, yes James it is. This was an "a-ha" moment for him. I couldn’t let this one escape.

"I plugged mine in. It worked! It's ALIVE!" You know those stories where someone says, "You had to be there." This is one of those stories. Elijah was checking his answer to an algebraic equation. Sure he could've just got a number for his answer and stopped, but he didn't. This is Elijah plugging in and verifying that his answer is the only solution. His excitement that the solution worked is hard to capture with an EXPO marker, but he took on the persona of a mad scientist, a la Frankenstein. I didn't write it on the board, but his "It's ALIVE!" was followed by "MWOOHAHAHA!" I love it!

"That doesn't make any sense." Another quote that could be any math student at any time. We've all been there. We've all heard this before, but what's the story here? Sierra said this after doing her calculations for our Stacking Cups task. She received some weird number of cups to stack as tall as Mr. Stadel. She immediately points out to her group that it doesn't make any sense. I love how students might be getting numbers, but they're checking those numbers for reasonableness before applying them. Back to the drawing board she went.

"We're demanding more information." The classic case of eating your own words. This past week we were exploring both Fawn Nguyen's and Dan Meyer's infamous Graphing Stories. All my classes began asking for more information as we progressed through Dan's videos. I continually praised them for demanding more information. We were working on the MARS lesson "Interpreting Distance-Time Graphs" I stole from Fawn and the students wanted more information as they wrote a story for Tom. I repeatedly refused any help by saying, "no" or "be creative" or "use the information on the page." Sean quickly replied, "But, Mr. Stadel we're demanding more information." You got me Sean! He practically jumped out of his seat when he saw me writing his quote on the board. FUN, right?

Expect a blooper's reel when doing this. you'll have the clowns that want to force something or think they're saying something sensational. That's my George. "I like colors." I don't think so George. You can stop now.

I can't make this up. I'm not paying my students to say this stuff. It's not contrived. It's natural. It's authentic. This board reminds my students that I'm listening. The more I can capture these and write these up, I believe the safer it is for my students to take risks, share their thoughts, and explore math. It's all them, but remember every quote has a story. So keep listening!



  1. You know I love this, Andrew! Sometimes so much good stuff is said during a lesson that I know it's a lesson for me to write a post about. My geometry kids probably vote that the most memorable quote has been one from Maia: "We suck at math." Maia said this after learning her group did not fare well in the Dan Meyer's Best Equilateral task. This was very funny to the kids apparently because Maia is also known for saying "We're extremely good" all.the.time!! Fun stuff, for sure. And I really appreciate the mentions here, Mr. Stadel!

    1. Thanks for checking in Fawn. Gotta love students like Maia.

  2. This is brilliant stuff. What better way to inspire students than showing off their thoughts and quotes? Andrew, i'm reserving some space on my white board for the quote of the week.
    Thanks for sharing.

    1. Awesome! Glad to hear! Thanks for checking in! Let me know how it goes.