2017-18 Math Holidays

I know a lot of us math educators have a love/hate relationship with celebrating Pi Day.  I am one of them. The biggest Minnesota #MTBoS bloggers actually have a hate/hate relationship with it.  Don’t believe me, here is some evidence:  ( click the first one/link to see Christopher Danielson taunting Megan Schmidt with Annie Perkins piping in.)

Theses tweets are just 3 I could find quickly.  I know there are dozens if not hundreds more.  Living in the same state as the, I sometimes feel like I need to be a closeted math holiday celebrator.  I must admit that if Pi Day looks like Christopher’s daughters pictured assignment, we should all stop celebrating the day now. That said, I do think there is a place for Pi Day and other math celebrations in the math classroom.

I have found that acting like a bigger math nerd than I actually am goes a long ways in managing behavior in my classroom and giving my students space to be nerds themselves.  Instead of my students mocking me for being old or weird or anything else, I put my math nerd identity on like a suit and embrace it.  I give students something to mock me for – loving math.  I exude it from my pores during the school day.  Even teacher peers in other subjects believe that all I do is think/talk about math 24/7.

Now I do love math.  I see math everywhere.  I like making sense out of the numbers and patterns I see.  That said, I do not engage in math nearly as much of my day as my students think I do.  In fact in the last 24 hours I’ve been thinking and engaging around discourse about the horrendous hate and racism in Charlottesville this weekend.  It seems way more important to be thinking and acting on this than math right now.   I will bring this lens to my classroom in a couple of weeks, but in addition I will be strapping on my invisible math nerd superhero clothing and play the part of the math loving weirdo for my students.  One way to do this (there are many), is to get excited about numbers where ever I see them.

When students ask me how old I am, I tell them that last year I was in my prime and next year I will be a square.  In a little more than a month I will have a birthday and I will tell them I am seven squared or that I am a perfect square or draw them a picture of a square array of 49 boxes.

I love math, so I show my students pictures of my niece and nephew.  I do not want any of them to grow up – not because they are so darn cute right now, but because their ages are currently consecutive digits in the Fibonacci Sequence. 

I also celebrate made-up math holidays.  Some are more well known than others (Pi Day) and some are found in apps that let you know the “Today is the national ______________holiday” of the day.  (Math Storytelling Day and World Math Day).  Some days are so I can start class by saying “today is a little bit ODD”.  Some of the days do not show up in the calendar every year.  This coming school year we have a couple of fun holidays – we have a Pythagorean Triple day (8.15.17), Golden Ratio Day and will be able to celebrate phi!

I will spend Pythagorean Triple Day in northern Minnesota leading a day long PD with amazing math teachers.  I made this poster to give them to post in their classrooms.  

You can change this WORD-DOC as you like here: Mathematical Holidays  or print this PDF: Mathematical Holidays

I use the math holidays to teach some math that I may not be actually teaching in my pacing guide at that current moment.  We experience the math.  I wanted to post this blog post today, before Pythagorean Triple day, so I don’t have time to add all the resources I wanted to yet.  I will add ideas of how I celebrate each day as each day gets closer.

Don’t feel guilty about celebrating math holidays by those who mock them on twitter.  What I do ask is that you do a really great job teaching concepts over skills.  I don’t want to meet another student or adult and the only thing they can tell me about ‘pi’ is that it is 3.14.   If these are your students, then do something about it.  More resources soon.  If I don’t see you before next Tuesday, Happy Pythagorean Triple Day!  I will be asking those I am with to figure out when the next Pythagorean Triple day will be.  Do you know?

Do you have a math holiday I missed?  Send me your ideas at saravdw@gmail.com or tweet me @saravdwerf.





Resources for Math Holidays – more to come…..


The Magic of Fibonacci Numbers

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Sara VanDerWerf

I am Sara Van Der Werf, a 24-year mathematics teacher in Minneapolis Public Schools. I have taught math in grades 7-12 as well as spent several years leading mathematics at the district office. I currently teach Advanced Algebra at South High School and I'm also the current President of the Minnesota Council of Teachers of Mathematics (MCTM). I am passionate about encouraging and connecting with mathematics teachers. I'd love to connect via twitter.  Join the community.  Tweet me @saravdwerf.

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