Dear Claire,

Wow, that last post came out much darker than the week felt. There was plenty of good stuff, even some times where I was laughing out loud while students were learning. One of the highlights from Week Two was:

Back to School Night

I found your old Powerpoint from last year and, since it was all from the syllabus, made some new slides instead.

Families in attendance were asked to guess what these numbers meant. After a short musical cue to stand and talk to those around them, I took guesses, celebrating each person who volunteered a guess.


Since the students haven’t met you yet, they were on equal footing with their families, trying to guess how these numbers could be related. I asked, “Why?” for each suggestion and there were some beauties:

  • 74 couldn’t be your birth year; you’re not nearly old enough.
  • Any of those besides the first one could be number of years teaching, except that middle one.
  • Is the second one your shoe size? Is Mrs. Verti, like, really tall?


“Hours of sleep last night” led us nicely into pictures of you and Vicky, plus pictures of my kids. Students were pleased to see what you look like, since their only evidence of you so far has been what I tell them (all good things, of course).


(It occurs to me, I should have asked you first before ripping your Facebook profile picture. Sorry about that.)

After that, I gave them the code to sign up for Remind updates, a QR code for the school website, and then we did some actual math.


“Students might be familiar with this method; we’ve done a few of these. Everyone, when you hear the song, you will choose a corner. Stand in the corner for your choice; which one of these shapes doesn’t belong with the other three?”

The parents stood uncertainly and, en masse, chose letter C, moving to the corner by the door.

The song ended, and I asked, “Okay, herd. Why did you choose C?”

They chuckled awkwardly until someone said, “It’s curvy.”

That person got two claps, then we turned to the lone two or three people who chose E. “It’s the only vowel.” Two claps.

I stood. “Can I tell you what some kindergarteners said? In a Kinder class, the students said, ‘If it rains, H is the only one that will fill up with water.’ Isn’t that adorable?

They all chuckled.

“Tess’s dad, you asked something right when the song started that I want to mention. You asked Tess, ‘What’s the right answer?’ That’s a natural question for many of us. Years ago, when we were in math class, it was focused on who could get the right answer the fastest in the fewest amount of tries.”

Several nods around the room, a deep voice in the back says, “Yep.”

“It’s possible that some of your students have come home and said, ‘Math is weird this year.’ That’s a natural feeling, too; the class is less focused on the right answer and more focused on the why, a question you heard me ask several times this evening. You can ask that question at home all the time, just get your students talking.”

Claire, it’s possible that students will be more comfortable under your more-advanced tutelage, and I’m hoping they’ll at least be interested in explaining their reasoning.

~Matt “Math Class is Weird This Year” Vaudrey