Today’s Sunday Funday topic is Icebreakers. I guess Icebreakers are typically activities that allow participants to get to know each other — so I’m not sure if this really counts as an Icebreaker, but it’s what I did the first day of school last year to introduce myself to my students and to learn more about them. I think I heard about Me, by the Numbers in a Global Math meeting last summer, but I’m not sure who presented it. Maybe it was from someone’s blog. I need to keep better records of who I’m stealing from!
I started with a Keynote of numbers that would let students know a little about me. I included my favorite number (42 – the answer to everything!) and then a countdown from 10 to 1. I hesitated to use my favorite number as one of “my” numbers because that when students use their favorite numbers as one of their numbers it typically doesn’t tell much about them unless they have a reason it’s their favorite number and/or elaborate on their choice. But I had to include it because 42 is a number they’ll hear a lot this year, because when students ask me the answer to a question, my answer is almost always 42 or a variation of 42 (e.g. 4.2 miles, $42,000, 420 unicorns). It’s my way of saying I’m not going to give them the answer!
After I going through my Keynote, I asked students to come up with 5-10 numbers (any numbers — they didn’t have to be in a countdown format) that would help me get to know them. In the school where I taught last year, students had MacBook laptops that they could use for this assignment, so it was easy for them to include a picture of themselves on their Me, by the Numbers page. They printed their pages and I kept them to read and to quiz myself on names and faces.
I had to keep reminding students to choose numbers that would really tell me something about themselves. This was a lot harder for students to understand than I anticipated. I got a lot of numbers like 1 – the number of pets I have and 3 – how many meals I eat every day. But I also got some really great responses, such as 1 – is the number of parents I live with. My parents are divorced and I live with my mom and my sister. And 26 – the number of times I’ve been to Disney World. (I should have anticipated the fact that she’d miss a week of school to make that 27 times!) Another one I loved, in hindsight, is 10,000,000,000,000 – is a lot of doughnuts. At first that one seemed like a really random, unhelpful number to share. But as I got to know that student I realized it was a great example of his off-the-wall personality.
This year I’ve changed school districts and I’ll be teaching students who don’t have laptops. After teaching with the laptops for 5 years, it’s going to be a challenge to adapt my lessons to the lack of technology access. Of course students can list their numbers on paper, but having that picture was really helpful for me to learn students’ names. Most of my students will have access to computers at home, but I guess I’m about to find out how well they do with assignments that require technology!
Do you have suggestions for how to increase student-to-student interaction for this activity?