One of my favourite lessons to do with my grade 9 applied students is the Fast Clapper! I first saw it on Nathan Kraft’s virtual filing cabinet! My main goal here was to solve proportions through algebra.

We started class like this:

ME: Hey guys get ready…..I want you to clap as fast as you can……Ready…..Set……..GO!

Class: They clapped. Some students gave it their all….some not so much.

ME: Ok….That’s enough. Now let’s make a competition out of this! I want you to clap as fast as you can for 10 seconds….count how many claps you make! …Ready —– GO!

Class: This time all of them gave it their all!!

ME (after 1o seconds): STOP! Great job! Quick, write down how many claps you made in those 10 seconds. Who thinks they had the most.

James: I did….I had 37 claps

Josh: Nope, I’ve got that beat……48 claps.

Shylynn: I did 56

Class: Whoa!!

ME: OK….now find how many claps you made in 1 second!

They did this pretty easily and we went around the room again….still seeing Shylynn with the highest!

ME: Great job…..now watch this guy….

Hayden: Wow!!! that guy can clap

ME: I know….Let’s watch again. This time watch the video and try to see something you didn’t before.

We watched a few times. Each time students would notice something different. We noticed:

- He closes his eyes
- The record is 721 claps per minute — “I wonder if he’ll beat the record”
- He clapped 58 or 60 times in the video
- The video only showed the first few seconds

ME: Let’s take the suggestion to discover if he beats the record. Who thinks he’ll beat the record? Who thinks he’ll tie the record? Who thinks he won’t beat the record?

We took a vote and recorded it.

ME: In order to see if he beats the record we’ll need some of that info from the video…..but we better be exact. Why?

Janice: If we’re off by a clap in the first few seconds….it could be huge after a minute.

ME: Ok, let’s be exact.

Jake: We could pause the video on the last moment to see.

Judy: He claps 63 times in 4.6 seconds.

ME: OK….go for it. Work together to see if he beats the record.

They got going and I needed to work with a few groups to discuss how to get started. “IF you could find how many claps in 1 second how could that help?”

After some time I stopped them and showed some students’ solutions

We then showed the rest of the minute!

We moved into re-solving the problem using ratios and proportions. I went through slides to show how to set up the proportion and how to solve it with algebra.

I’m a strong believer in letting the students struggle and persevere through problems. I want them to use their prior knowledge to solve the problem in any way they can, any way that makes sense to them. I can see their understanding when they have to explain their thinking to me and the class. After they solve the problem in their way…..I take what they have done use it to explain the “math teacher” way.

Today one of my grade 10 academic students was solving a problem and I could see some good thinking on the page….but he also wrote: I don’t know how to start this. I asked him right there why he wrote that when he had almost a full answer on his page. He said “I know that’s not the way you want me to solve it!” I jumped on that quick and said….”I want you to solve problems that make sense to YOU. Just show me your thinking” He went on to solve the problem with in a great way.

We need to build our students confidence up. We need to promote and value their solutions instead of forcing our solutions on them.

So, back to Fast Clapper: I used their solutions to help explain why the math teacher way also makes sense. Here is a silent version of the slides I used.

We moved on from here to solve Dan Meyer’s Sugar Packets problem and the Smart Car Smash to practice solving proportions with algebra.

And then used a Knowledgehook gameshow to practice some more…go ahead, give it a shot.