Finding a Direction-Making lessons that fill my bucket during a pandemic

After leaving our first Face to Face meeting last weekend, I took some time to sit down and really reflect on all the 'How Might We's' that I got to consider during our discussions, and I wanted to think about what was really important to me when teaching in this new world. What was really important to me when considering pandemic pedagogy for grades 7-12?

After going through a few bouts of imposter syndrome, and considering what would fill my bucket in a time when it feels like everything is exhausting, I reached a conclusion.

What really fills my bucket every day, is the mess that I can make in my class. I can throw messy, difficult and hands-on problems to my students that they need to solve using Science and Math. We get to break things, and build them again, we get to seek out problems and try to solve them. That's what fills my bucket, and I'm not sure about you, but with current safety protocols and changes to how we teach, I don't feel like I'm able to do that as much this year.

To that end I have decided on a direction. My goal this year is to gather resources that will allow me to still make my messy classroom whether it be virtual, hyflex or in class but distanced. I am going to find these resources, review them and share them out with all of you. I want to take some of the pressure off other teachers who feel like the day itself was too much and they can't think of what to do next. My goal is to show you things that you can use that will helpfully fill your bucket in class.

I'm going to start with a program I tweeted about earlier this week- Polypad by Mathgion

One of the first things I noticed this year was that I could not use any of the math manipulatives I love to show certain concepts in math. To that end I found Polypad, it's an online platform that allows students to mess around with all the different tools I normally have in class.

The general layout looks like this. You will have a list of manipulatives to choose from on the left and a general blank work space that you can place your tools in and manipulate them. You can see me messing around with fraction bars here.

From there you can also try out different things like tangrams, or even visual representations of algebraic concepts. Overall I found the program very easy to use and I firmly believe students from grade 7-12 will find this easy as well.

They can use this to show patterns, to compare fractions, or even represent the multiplication or differences between x and x^2 and other algebra concepts. They even have cool things like Penrose tiles which I am not entirely familiar with yet but may be interesting to others!

This was useful to me for number talks where I could ask students to consider things like finding fractions between 1/2 and 1/3 or explaining why dividing fractions results in a bigger number.

My hope is that his will be helpful to anyone else struggling to let kids mess around with different things in math and that they will still be able to have some trickier, messy math discussions and show their thinking!

Please let me know if this was helpful for you in the comments and if you looked through this and it resonated. Please also comment if you were thinking of anything in your STEM class you might want to know more about and I will be happy to post about it!

I hope you all have a lovely long weekend and I hope you can take some time to fill your bucket!

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3 thoughts on “Finding a Direction-Making lessons that fill my bucket during a pandemic

  1. Hi Robin,
    I absolutely love the message here: zero in on what you love about the job, what fills your bucket and then find a way to do it in our new normal- this is innovation! It's also a very simple reminder for other educators who may be feeling overwhelmed or stuck in all the new protocols and wondering ... where do I begin? I know I have felt that this fall. Thank you for this post, and though I am not a math-inclined educator, I am really looking forward to seeing how your shift still allows things to get messy!

  2. Robin - I LOVE Polypad! Thank you for introducing it to us. I set up a Unit/Topic on Google Classroom for my students called "Challenge and Extension Resources" and put Polypad in there... my students LOVE it! In the past week I have seen them regularly playing around with it. Thought I would share this too... it's a link for Google Slides where students can play Tic Tac Toe and Connect 4 with each other online.

    1. Post author

      Thank you so much for this I love it! And I'm so glad you liked it and that it has helped!
      I'm definitely going to share this jamboard out with my students. Anything to bring a smile to their faces!


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