I had a terrible day with my two 8th grade classes on Wednesday. They came back from a 4 day weekend in a very distracted mood, while I came back all fired up to start work on factoring quadratic expressions. I finished the day probably as frustrated with them as they with me.
That evening I came home complaining about how the day went. I needed to vent and let go of the frustration. This morning I came to school determined not to repeat two difficult days. I decided to let go of factoring for this week. Across my Twitter feed I saw some mention of NCTM Illuminations and an activity sheet for the Winter Olympics. While I haven't been following the Games much, I have been hearing my students talking about them. I looked over the activity sheet and saw that the problems were of high quality and not only taught something about the sport, but also led students through a mini math investigation along the way.
I thought, "What the heck."
I copied the sheets and gave them my students with explicit instructions to work on the problems, choose one they like, make a nice looking poster so that at the end we could make a school wide visual presentation.
It was remarkable to watch them work through the problems. Some struggled with the math, but most came to a deeper understanding, as evidenced not only by their questions but also by their product.
Here are some examples: