The Noisy Math Class

Kids like to be noisy, and teachers like to make them quiet.  Line up in rows.  Sit down with your hands on your desk.  Five point check.  No talking in the halls.  Stay in a straight line.  Show me how you listen.  I could go on.

***Aside Rant: Where else in society is it an expectation to start at attention in rows and wait to be given orders?    I can think of one.  So, why do we make it an expectation in school?*** 

I like a noisy classroom.  I like incessant chatter like the drone of a million cicadas (I love the sound of Cicadas in Japan, get outside the cities and it is an amazing wonder).  I have been thinking a lot about listening and sound (great TED Talk), and the impact it has on our lives.  With that in mind, I came up with this lesson today;


We did a mental math activity today.  I had the students walking around the room practicing how to show their thinking.  Instead of doing it in a notebook (a messy one!) we did with words.

Teacher:  Question one; what is three hundred and twenty five plus one hundred and twelve?

Response: Three hundred plus one hundred equals four hundred and twenty five plus ten equals thirty five plus two equals thirty seven, so therefore the answer is four hundred plus thirty seven, which equals four hundred and thirty seven!

The students would all yell out their thinking at the same time.  Each one would be doing it differently, but that is the point.  After we have our cacophony of math yelling, we would pair off and share our strategy with somebody else.  Next, the two would have a math debate about which strategy was more efficient.  Then, we get the next question and start the whole process again, but this time pairing off with a new partner.

I took a quick recording with my iPad, and here is what it sounded like;

Cacophony of Math

Sounds like music to me.



  1. Loved listening to your cacophony of math--they were thinking, responding. Hope you'll share more "Math Talk" in the days to come. Would like to hear a math discussion that you lead--that's something I'm exploring with greater depth.


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