"What SHOULD I think?" broke my heart

My heart broke a little this week. As a warm up to our unit on radicals in vertex form in my Algebra 2 classes, I put a See Think Wonder half sheet in our warm up basket. Students know to take a warm up sheet from the basket when they come in. Things get a little nutty if I ever forget to place the warm ups in the basket. 

In my Consumer Math class I've been giving thinking warm ups - pictures, memes, cartoons, and quotes that I've been collecting from all over the internet. But in Algebra 2, the link between what a kid thinks about Bob Marley's views of money and a parabola isn't as strong. So I give more mathy warm ups in Algebra 2.

Scaffolded Math and Science

On the board was a graph of a radical function with its equation. Here is the accompanying warm up sheet I used as a handout.

visible thinking

How See Think Wonder works:

See (1-2 minutes) Students write just about what they see for 1 to 2 minutes. the first time I did a STW I gave 4 minutes just for See. This forced a boredom that could only result in becoming super familiar with the sheet and what was on the board. I did this the very first time my students saw a nonlinear graph and its equation (Absolute Value). 

"I see a graph that is sort of straight but not completely. I see an equation at the bottom of the page."

Think (1-2 minutes) As you no doubt guessed, this column on the half sheet is reserved for what the student thinks. This is the column that broke my heart this week.

"I think there is a link between the vertex and the numbers in the equation."

Wonder (1-2 minutes) This column is where students ask their questions after identifying what they know they don't know. 

"I wonder what that long division symbol thing is above the x + 1."

"What am I supposed to think?"
This is where my heart smashed in a million pieces all over the floor. Normally things don't shock me. As original as every kid is, patterns develop over the years and things get more and more predictable. I never would have predicted Andrea's reaction to the half-sheet's Think column. As other students were writing something in their Think columns, Andrea had her head half on her desk, half on her extended arm. 

"Andrea, what do you think?" I asked quietly, pointing to her empty column.

"What am I supposed to think?" was her response.

There was no sarcasm or anger in her voice. She was not being a defiant teenager. Andrea was really, truly asking me what she should think. 

What I think.
I'm not 100% sure what to think. Is Andrea so overwhelmed by school that she is only interested in getting things done? Is she so disinvested that her sense of wonder and connection to the material is completely nonexistent?  Why doesn't she care? Wait, I take that back. Andrea does care. She does her homework and stays on task in class. So why does a kid who cares have no thoughts? Why could she not come up with even one small thing to write in her Think column? Why did she not allow herself to think? Why did she want ME to tell her what to think?

I don't know what to think.

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