Due to the No Child Left Behind Initiative (NCLB) and the increased pressure on teachers and the educational system to make sure that students aren't being "left behind," and due to the liquor, marahoochie, cocaine, and other drugs ingested into the leaders of our country during their youth that led to such a ridiculous bill, I am required to teach the Pythagorean Theorem to seventh graders. No problem, but they haven't been taught square roots yet.
So I'm doing it. Teaching the Pythagorean Theorem to seventh graders in the hope they'll get that one question correct on the New Mexico Standards Based Assessment that was developed as a requirement to satisfy federal guidelines for NCLB.
This week in class I was having some success, and all was going well. Then as I so often do, I made a speech, one of those cute little speeches that either confuse kids or warp their brains. I finished up the sixth period math class with this speech, "How many of you have parents that almost always ask you, 'What did you learn today in school?' " (Many hands went up.) "Well, when they ask you that today, you can say, 'Today I learned to calculate the length of the hypoteneuse of a right triangle using the Pythagorean Theorem.' Sounds good, doesn't it? That will not only impress them, it may cure them of ever asking that question again, because many of your parents won't know what you're talking about. They learned the Pythagorean Theorem many years ago, but most of them have long forgotten it. So when you go home tonight and your parents ask you, 'What did you learn in school today?' you can reply, 'I learned how to calculate the length of the hypoteneuese of a right triangle using the Pythagorean Theorem.' That ought to shut 'em up."
At this point, the bell rang. Perfect timing. I was in The Zone. As Max left the classroom, he said, "Mr. W., ask me what I learned today in school. I want to practice for my parents."
"Ok Max, What did you learn in school today?"
Max set himself, focused his mind, and then said, "I learned the hypotnus and right triangle of the Pythagaremus Theory."
"That's close, Max, but it's all wrong. You need to say, 'I learned how to cal-cue-late the length of the hy-pot-ten-noose of a right triangle using the Puh-thag-o-ree-an Thear-um."
Max lowers his head, closes his eyes, and then says, "I learned how to cal-cue-late the length of the hy-pot-ten-noose of a right triangle using the Puh-thag-o-re-an Thear-um. I learned how to calculate the length of the hypoteneuse of a right triangle using the Pythagorean Theorem. I learned how........." and I watched him walk out of the classroom mumbling that sentence over and over again.
I don't think his motivation to memorize that was based on his need to communicate what he learned. I think he is, to quote his too talkative teacher, tryin' "...to shut 'em up."