The first day of school I present my class with a challenging math problem. All the students know we are creating an original opera, but know little else about the process they will experience during the year. So, I let them know we must start working immediately, give them the date of the opera premiere and ask them to determine the number of working days we have until the premiere. I hand them a school calendar and they get to work. No other direction is given. They understand that we need this information in order to plan for instruction and create a production schedule.
The room is abuzz with collaborative chatter as they implement their own strategies to determine a solution. At one point, someone realizes that we cannot count Saturdays and Sundays as workdays. All others who are busily calculating and including weekends, appreciate the correction and adapt their strategies accordingly. Then, another student notices holidays and professional days for teachers on the calendar and announces this to the class. With a sigh and a groan, those who are unaware of these non-working days, change course once again. On Wednesday afternoon, after persevering three days in search of the answer, four students are ready to reveal their solutions. I ask them to share with one another to see if they have the same answer. They present four different numbers. The word discrepancy makes its debut. On a quest for accuracy, these students, all except one, work side by side to determine their mistakes. Isiah is adamant that his answer is correct and refuses to discuss his work with the others. I gently let him know that he has yet to find the correct number of working days until the opera. I walk away and allow him to process this exchange. At the end of the math session, I ask Isiah what he learned during the day. He states, “I learned that I am not always right.”
Isiah taught us a very powerful lesson on the fourth day of school, one that will encourage us to take risks, make mistakes and learn from our mistakes. With 144.5 working days until the opera, we will all benefit greatly from this lesson.