I am getting better, but I keep stressing to my students and others, that this is 10 weeks of practice. I am still getting about 5-10 minutes of practice twice
a day. I did take it to our state teachers’ conference and it was interesting in who took interest. It was generally the younger teachers (and student helpers) and the very experienced teachers. It seemed like the younger teachers were convinced they could ride it and very experienced teachers were interested in the mental part of it.
Week 10 Video – Much smoother and can go around corners. Still requires a lot of concentration.
I do not have a video for the 8th week. It would pretty much look like week 6, except I can now go a bit farther. On Thursday I was able to make one and a half laps around the math wing without putting my feet down. That would be about 500 feet with 6 corners. After one and a half laps I noticed a centipede on the floor and completely lost my concentration. It is the little things that distract me and then my mind reverts back to what it has done for the last 50 years (turn into the fall). Many people still don’t realize that it is not learning to turn correctly that is the challenge, but unlearning what my mind has been doing for a long time. To actually turn a corner was not a big challenge for me, as much as the panic and losing concentration as it was happening.
I am still riding it 2-3 times per day and try to go two laps around the math wing. After two laps my mind seems really taxed and it is hard to concentrate any longer. When I have tried a third lap, it was a disaster. Later in the day I can try again with some success.
How does that relate to students that really have to struggle with math? With 60 minute periods a struggling student must really need stamina to make it to the end of class. This has reminded me to change up activities more often during the class period. I have always noticed that when we do an activity too long, students get off task. I assumed that it was because they were bored, but maybe the struggling students can no longer concentrate on that concept.
Learning is hard!
After six weeks of learning how to ride a Backwards Brain Bicycle, I am able to go about 100 feet without putting my feet down to catch myself. It is not pretty and definitely not smooth. I have decided my definition of being successful riding the bike, would be to ride it without “thinking” about steering for balance. At this point I am definitely having to think hard about turning into the fall, “in the opposite direction”. I want my brain to take over the balancing. I am having to really concentrate to steer to balance. If I get distracted, I revert back to what I have done on a bike for the past 50 years, and need to catch myself with my feet.
I am going a bit faster, which helps with the balance. As I go faster I feel strange not wearing a helmet, so I am going to start wearing a helmet. I don’t want to send the wrong message about safety.
One of my goals of this project is to actively study the learning process. I don’t know if this is the same thing, but my observation of other people is much more intriguing. Many students are convinced that it is going to be easy to ride the bike before they try. Some try a very short amount of time and want to walk way. Some try for a longer time and before they leave they promise to come back. I teach Algebra 1 to 9th grade students and Honors Algebra 2 to 9th-11th grade students. Interestly, lots of Algebra 1 students have tried and continue to try to ride the bike. Very few Honors Algebra 2 have tried to ride the bike. At this point, I am of the belief that people that are not used to failing don’t want to try things that their chance of success is low. Most of the Honors Algebra 2 students are also much more reserved and don’t want to “look bad” in front of their peers. I do not want to generalize this situation too much, but I do see huge differences in how the high academic achievers react differently than other students. Along the same lines, the Algebra 1 students that don’t give up in class, are more likely to try riding the bike (and try other things).
I would like more teachers to ride the bike and will make that one of my goals. I am taking my bike to our state teacher conference in three weeks and will courage people to try it. It is not on the agenda anywhere, but we have a great group of math teachers in Montana and I am sure it will get lots of interest.
Week 6 Video – I am getting better, but it really takes concentration and it doesn’t look smooth, yet.
I have been learning to ride a backwards brain bicycle now for 4 weeks. I try to ride it two laps (about 400 feet per lap) in the morning before school, again at noon and sometimes after school. At this time it is mentally exhausting to make it the two laps. I am also out of breath after about 100 feet. Someone pointed out to me that I was holding my breath the entire time, but I didn’t notice. Now that I try to breath, it has been a little easier to concentrate on balancing.
I have the bike parked just outside my classroom door, so that many students see it daily. The comments have been very amazing and lots of students are very encouraging in my struggle. I also allow any students that wish to try it, ride when the halls are not crowed. That usually happens early morning or after school.
I think students are afraid that others might see them fail, but they are really very curious. I have not gotten many teachers to spend much time on it, YET. One of my next goals is to get more teachers to experience the struggle of learning.
I had parent Open House this week and quickly explained what I was doing with the bike. There was a real high interest about the bike and how the learning was progressing. I think they understood why I was learning to ride the backwards brain bike.
I am gaining each day/week and will continue to update videos on my progress. The odd thing is that some days are worse than the day before, and that is discouraging. BOY THAT SOUNDS FAMILIAR. I am trying to relate the discouraging days to a reason why. I suspect that it has something to do with the rest I had the night before or maybe the time of day. I have noticed the past several years that when I don’t stay hydrated I don’t think as clearly, and that may be affecting me on the bike. How can I use this information with my students?
I really understand the learning process better since this journey began!
Update: Both bikes developed cracks on the welding, so we had to redo the welds. On the blue bike we welded (brazed) the full length of the metal plates (thanks Fred!). On the green/black bike we welded additional metal straps (thanks Kirk!). For those of you thinking of making a backwards brain bicycle, here is a picture of the new green/black bike weld. This is four 1/8 inch straps bent to fit and welded to the bike.
Another journey begins. The idea of a backwards bike intrigued me since I saw one on @smartereveryday. Then when I saw @saravdwerf tweet about her experience, I became driven. I describe it to non-believers that it is like the movie “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”. I can’t explain all the reasons but I am drawn to do this. I did see Sara and Morgan Fierst @MsFierst present their journey at TMC16.
My daughter @jwbrackney teaches math as well, and wanted to do the same thing. We are taking these to our schools and will use them throughout the year to demonstrate perseverance and to experience re-wiring our brains. We hope to work on this daily and journal the learning experience. We already have colleagues in both buildings excited about this.
This is just the beginning but I want to get this blogged while I remember the details.
So the first challenge was to find four bikes, two that we would use as the main parts and two that we just need the front shafts….
The second challenge was much more difficult, to find four gears. After weeks of searching on the Internet (mainly because I wanted to get them cheap), decided that we could bore the center to the necessary size and didn’t need the exact center bore. I found some on Amazon for about $9.00 each. I had to buy them at two different times to find them at that price. The prices change daily, today they are $42.00, I am sure the price will continue to fluctuate.
Boston Gear NB32-5/8 Spur Gear, 14.5 Pressure Angle, Steel, Inch, 16 Pitch, 0.625″ Bore, 2.125″ OD, 0.500″ Face Width, 32 Teeth
Then to find someone that could weld everything for us. My brother-in-law, had the necessary tools and skills to do this for us. He actually brazed them instead of welding which works much better on this type of metal.
We still need to get them all cleaned up and painted. Jennifer’s bike is the purple one and she wants to paint it her school colors. My bike is green with a black front fork and I decided to just paint the new pieces black, for now.
Here they are cleaned up and painted.
Backwards Brain Bicycle
- Demonstrate perseverance
- Learn to learn
- Demonstrate the struggle
- Develop new brain connectors
- Add some excitement in education
- Cure Alzheimer’s ???
It is that time of the summer when I start to think about changes I want to make in my classroom and class procedures. I am attending a #desmos conference and #tmc16 in a few days. That will be a great environment to generate ideas. I am also be attending these with colleagues that give me the incentive and desire to take me out of my comfort zone. My comfort zone includes doing the same things that I have done in the past. When I am taken out of my comfort zone, great things happen.
So off to Minneapolis Minnesota for the rejuvenation that I need and the ideas that will make the next school year the best year yet.
My school year ended on Friday and as I sit here Sunday night (when my teaching week usually begins) I am reflecting on my year.
I has been an interesting year. My “year” began last July at TMC15. I say that it started at TMC15 because that has shaped many of the things that I did this year. I was completely rejuvenated with TMC and the ideas generated there.
- Twitter – What a wonder community and generator of ideas. So much food for thought and so many ideas, many of which I used in my classroom.
- Desmos – I have always been a big fan of Desmos and attending TMC sessions last summer and having Eli Luberoff come to Montana to speak at our MCTM annual conference in October was amazing. I presented workshops on using Desmos in the classroom at the last three MCTM annual conferences and it is constantly changing for the better. This year Desmos Activity Builder was a great addition to my classroom
- New textbook – This maybe wasn’t such a positive thing. I wanted to give the textbook a good shot, so I tried to use it the way the author intended. Then I spent a lot of time creating things to keep the students interested and energized. Now I know that I have some work to do to readjust for next year.
- I tried Standards Based Grading (actually Objective Based Grading) and was pleased with it, but I need to refine my system.
- I used Google Classroom several times this year and discovered its potential.
- I did not give enough positive feedback to my students. This is a goal mine every year and I think I slipped a bit this year.
OK…to make improvements for next year.
- I am attending TMC16 and MCubed (Montana version of TMC) this summer. I am co-presenting “5 Practices” at TMC and Desmos at MCubed. I am looking forward to getting more great ideas from both of them.
- My colleagues and I will work this summer to put a better plan together to create thinkers and to make math more interesting and pertinent.
- My daughter (also a math teacher) and I are going to build two “backward bicycles” to use in our respective schools. Thanks to Destin at and Sara . We really need to teach our students about learning and perseverance.
More ideas to follow…