Puzzles and Praises

Geometry is the bane of most high-school girls' existence, so I have to work hard to make it fun.  Last year I had a flash of brilliance and brought in Tangoes, the fun visual puzzle that requires you to think spatially and has the built-in reward of being fun to complete.  This year I actually remembered how to solve most of the puzzles and had ready a few little strategy points (place the big triangles first!) that would help the students.  I did one as an example, passed out sets of paper pieces and puzzles, and set them free.

Some worked in pairs; others were happier on their own.  As they finished, I placed a little sticker on the puzzle they had completed (there were a dozen on one sheet of paper.)  I had grossly underestimated the power of tiny colored stickers over teenage girls.  Squeals erupted every time.  I was constantly rushing to answer a breathless call of "Mrs. Lowe!  STICKER!"  And they really did make the students feel successful.  "I have ten stickers!" "I have eight!  How did you get ten?!"  "This is awesome!"

"You're awesome," I responded to the last remark.  She grinned and ducked her head, embarrassed but grateful for the praise.  I wondered suddenly why I didn't say things like this more often -- it seems as though so much of my job is negative, and it was such an encouragement to me to be able to praise them so freely and truthfully.  I know I say it a lot, but a positive comment is such a gift.

Ninety minutes flew by.  I passed out another sheet of puzzles for homework.  No one complained.  It was a great day.