One aspect of my teaching that I have embraced to the point of psychosis this last couple of years is finding ways to bring bizarre, weird, interesting and unusual things from our world into my classroom. I recently read a quote via the soft skills conference about creating a positive classroom atmosphere that said "The biggest thing is that I find ways to give kids space to be weird".
Couldn't agree more. What started as a random idea or two occasionally dropped into lessons has become an insane, unquenchable thirst for ridiculous amounts of trivia. Basically, every lesson question f on the starter tends to be something not at all tied to maths. The kids are encouraged to bring a mathematical understanding to it, but they are not required to. This is aimed at a 5 minute class discussion that can go basically where the students want it to.
(It has in no way affected our ability to cover the scheme of work...)
So I'm going to spend some time this month sharing a couple of "f questions" that my kids have used this year.
F Question#1: The McFarthest Spot
f) What, in the USA, is the McFarthest Spot?
(the place furthest from a McDonalds)
If you live in America's lower 48 states, you are never more than 145 miles from a McDs by car.
(There is a great counter to this in a map showing the distribution of McDs in Australia)
So. What did the class do with this?
"what's it like in England sir?" (I did not know. This is good, they seem to believe i know everything... I remind them several times that i am not smarter than them, just more experienced. They guesed somewhere in Devon from looking at a map would be the farthest)
"Mr G___ said that the cost of a big mac tells you how poor a country is..." (apparently this is true, and the big mac index was something i learned about that day)
"Once i went to McDonalds and ordered a chicken tikka masala just to mess with them" (this kid rocks. When asked what he did when they told him that they didn't serve CTM, he said he looked, debated for about 2 minutes, then asked for a Chicken Bhuna. Legend.)
"so how far is it then?" (this confused me, and i was about to do that teacher thing where you can't think of anything to do but repeat what you had previously said but slightly slower and louder... Until another kid pointed out that he meant in terms of time.)
"Is that further than from here to london?" (Google maps tells us that it is not, but it is not much less. This brought genuine 'oohs' from the class, who can't imagine being a capital city apart from the golden arches)
Something maths brought in (but only when the kids asked for it - i guess in some ways this would be WCYDWT-lite) but a positive start to the lesson which made me laugh at least twice.