Beats, graphs and linear equations

I just spent almost the entire day at the McClymonds high school campus shadowing Sunshine Parker, one of three students to be featured in an upcoming installment of the Andy Kwok/MyFirst Year project.

I can interview policy experts and administrators all I want, but for me, there is no substitute for spending time, over time, with a group of kids and teachers.

graph.jpgToday in algebra class, for example, I saw how Michael Raines managed to get most of his class (including two kids who showed up late and burst into the room, practically wrestling one another) focused on cracking a logic puzzle and graphing equations — which, I might add, are not especially simple or obviously relevant.

Remember this? y= -2x + 4

To convey the concept of a pattern that repeats itself, over and over, Raines had one kid make a beat with his fists, and then asked others to copy it. He got almost every one of them to answer a question or come up to the board, and a few were still furiously working to finish the graphs when the bell rang. Not all of them have mastered it yet, but they seemed to enjoy the challenge.

“This is complicated, but easy,” said one of the boys (who came late and without a pencil).

It was a great refresher course for me, too. I mean, “rise over run?” I probably hadn’t heard that one since 1995.

image from Misterteacher’s Web site at flickr.com/creativecommons

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.