It began with one student. I noticed pretty early in the semester that grade 9 math was old hat for him and that he needed a challenge, so we started to meet once a week or so to talk math and work on some interesting problems. (During our first meeting, we proved that the square root of 2 is irrational.)
Then, he brought a friend. Who eventually brought two more friends. (If you’ve been doing the math, you might expect 8 students at our next meeting; alas, there were only 5. But wait, that’s five students who want to do math outside of math class!) We did a few problems, but mostly spent time discussing the idea of doing independent projects that the students would present to the class on the last day before Christmas break.
Today was the first session that really felt math club-y: I ordered some pizza, gave the students the Crossing the Bridge problem (thanks, Sadie!) and some white boards, then set them loose.
Before I began my internship, I thought that the experience would provide me with answers… fortunately or unfortunately, as I near the end, I find that I am left with even more questions than when I started. How do you cultivate an environment where mathematical risk-taking – and making mistakes – is encouraged and valued? What is the value of homework? What constitutes a truly rich task? What is the difference between a 78% and a 79%? Random or mixed-ability groups? How long can I continue to function without coffee and a full night’s sleep?