Say No to Yes!

My integrated math 1 students were simulating a one-and-one situation earlier this week.  From their IMP book, they were asked to explore Terry and her 60% success rate at the free throw line as it applies to a one-and-one.  Anyone not familiar with what a one-and-one is?  Good!  I wasn’t either…at first.  And I have a 16-year-old obsessed with all things basketball.  He happened to be plugged in and doing homework at the time I was planning for this lesson, so I didn’t want to bother him with my menial question. Instead, I do what other curious homo sapiens do:  I Googled it. And here it is in a nutshell: when a team has been fouled 7 times in a half, the other team gets the opportunity for foul shot at the free throw line. If the player misses, the one-and-one is over and regular play resumes. If the player makes the shot, he or she can shoot again. There is a total of up to 2 points to be earned in a one-and-one. My students were tasked with finding Terry’s theoretical probability of earning each of the 3 possible point values: 0, 1, or 2. This, of course, would be easy enough if she had a 50% success rate…but she has a 60% success rate. To help them in their quest, they were to make an area model of their theoretical probabilities. The discussions I heard as I roamed the room were fan-tas-tic!!! Of course, as I walked around, I initially encountered bewildered looks and blank stares. Hopelessness was looming, and to their further despair, I refused to give them the answer and end their misery. I have learned (through much trial and error) that the best way to help my students learn is to help them as little as possible. I like to call this, “Say no to yes!” I heard many a grunt and exclamation of frustration from around the room as students asked me, “Am I right?” Or “Is this the right answer?” and I would either shrug or reply non-chalantly, “Ok.” Oh the angst! It was palpable! I LOVED every second of it, especially when I got in response, “Argh! Mrs. McCoy!!!! I HATE it when you do that!” I had to stop myself many times from giggling in glee. They had no idea how many synapses they grew that day! Then a beautiful thing started to happen–like popcorn beginning to pop in the bag, students began shouting in joy, “OHHH! I get it!” And they would hurriedly rush to explain it to their peers before their revelations were lost. It was the single most joyous teaching moment of my career.

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3 thoughts on “Say No to Yes!

  1. b says:

    This is what I remember from when I was in school (when we walked up-hill both ways, etc etc), being excited about something. and too often I struggle to generate this in my classrooms. I wish I could carve out more time to do these things.

    • Finding time is always tough. I go through a lot of “self-talk” to make myself slow down and let the kids discover for themselves. Hope you’re able to find a way to do this for your students too!

  2. Sounds like a great lesson. I might try it next time probability comes up. Basketball isn’t as big this side of the atlantic but it gives rise to such a nifty little maths problem I think I will try it anyway. Thanks for sharing!

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