Do the Math.

Posted on May 28, 2009Filed Under Grading papers, math, Research Papers, Teaching | 6 Comments

There was a comment over at (how’s that for cross-promotion?) about how the commenter had just finished The Outsiders for the 75th time, and watched the movie at least as many times. Twenty five years times 3x each year. Several thoughts ran through my mind as I read the post.

One: Yessss. Another veteran keeping the flame alive.

Two: Only three times each year? But many of you are at them thar newfangled charter schools and such-like, and this person probably also has a period of advanced martial arts and one of calculus, and has to serve lunch and coach soccer.

Three: 25 years? This person must’ve seen the move when it came out. And it’s just as cheesy today. I think I showed it one year, back in the day. Remember; look for SE Hinton as the nurse nagging Dally. And Tom Cruise and Patrick Swayze and the Karate Kid.

Four: 25 years? And the book is just as vital as it was then. I’ll still be teaching it 20 years hence.

Five: I just did this math with the kids back in October. “Whoa, you really know this book, don’t you?” Duh. For me, it’s 15 years of reading it aloud in class  X 5 times per year + 4 or 5 times reading it as a youth = 80 times.

That’s why I tell the kids: we only read books I like.

This math thing is something the kids (and many others) do not get. Some of us at the secondary level have to multiply everything by 100-150.

“Have you finished our essays yet?” This is the next day after collecting them.

“How long would you like me to spend on each one? You wrote about 600 words each. How about 5 minutes?”

“What? We spent a week and a half on those!”

“OK. Six. I have 140 of you this year. What’s six times 140?”

Pause. Wait for puzzled looks, random numbers, sincerely wrong guesses, and finally…

“Yes, 840 minutes. Now divide 840 by 60. I’ll wait.”

Repeat the above. (Oh, their poor math teachers.)

“Yes, 14 hours. Do you really think I had a spare 14 hours last night? Ummm, I have a life. Plus I like to actually sleep and eat.”

(There’s no way I spend 6 minutes on a 600 word essay. Three, four tops.)

The classic seventh grade response to all this is always, “Why don’t you just give us all A’s? It’d be a lot easier for you.”

“Quiet, you.”

So now their research papers are due tomorrow.

“How about 10 minutes per paper on this one? That makes the math easy.”

It still takes longer than you think for them to multiply 10 and 140.

“Now 1400 divided by 60? I’ll save you the trouble. It’s almost 24 hours. If I collect your papers tomorrow, and spend 2 hours a day doing nothing but reading your papers, I will just finish them in time for the last day of school. Remember, I do actually have a life. SO. If you ask me or bug me about your paper between now and the last day of school, when I give them back, I will put yours at the bottom of the pile and make you come back in September to find out what you got. Got it?”

I always have a couple of factors working in my favor. One is that it never happens that ALL of them turn in papers. I’m estimating at least 10 this year don’t even give me a token encyclopedia paper. There are also at least 10-15 who turn it in early, allowing me to get a head start.

And of course, I don’t really spend 10 minutes on each paper. If you still do, we need to talk.


6 Responses to “Do the Math.”

  1. Sara on May 28th, 2009 6:54 pm

    I average 180 students a year. I soooo understand what you’re talking about. They seem surprised when I explain that grading their assignments isn’t the center of my universe. Go figure.

  2. mrC on May 28th, 2009 7:56 pm

    OMG! 180! As it is, it takes me a month to remember all their names. In fact, that’s another “math fact” I remind them of: “You only have to learn 6 of us, I have to learn 140-150 of you.” As incentive for myself, I tell the kids I will give them a dollar if I mess up their name after Halloween. I’d go broke with those kind of numbers. I’ve only had to pay once, and it was on a technicality; I forgot that a girl had requested that I pronounce her name AHna instead of (gasp) ANna. The class made me pay.

  3. Mrs. M~ on May 29th, 2009 8:34 am

    I did the math–scary! 18 years of teaching multiplied by The Outsiders 6 times per day. Add in six very odd years where we had to rotate teams, so I taught it 12 times per year. I do not read it aloud, so I have not read it 154 times, but I have seen or been in the presence of the movie that many times. And I plan to keep going, so that says a lot for the novel . . .

  4. mrC on June 1st, 2009 8:21 pm

    You don’t read any of it out loud? Oh my…I love reading chapters three and four especially. Granted, I don’t read the last part of ch.9 or chapter 10 (too choked up), but I love doling the book out to them in pieces. It’s how I hook them at the beginning of the year. You’re right that all this proves how well the novel holds up.

  5. Ted on August 12th, 2009 1:04 pm

    I taught the Outsiders and read it aloud six times in one year, and that was enough. Repeated readings show the heavy hands of the editors, who took a rough script from a teenage girl and sanitized it for mass distribution. The book was obviously written without a plan, as S.E. Hinton has confessed in interviews, and it shows. And as a teenage girl, S.E. Hinton writes all her male characters as teenage girls.

    So glad I never, ever have to read this “novel” again.

  6. mrC on August 12th, 2009 2:06 pm

    Ouch. You also have to remember the audience it was written for. And they love it. And most (pre)teenage boys could benefit from seeing things through a teenage girl’s eyes. Nobody sees the inconsistencies and “heavy handedness” more that I do, but that’s another reason to do it live. You can show the kids how these things work. It’s also another reason we don’t watch the movie. It highlights the cheese.

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