Do Beans Go Well With y = 3x + 2?

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Monday morning one of my algebra students responded to my “Hey! How was your weekend?” with a big smile and said,”We had some posole yesterday that was bomb.” They still say “bomb.” It just so happened that I had had some posole (a Mexican stew with pork and hominy) last weekend as well so we spent a couple of minutes sharing our mutual love of Sunday morning posole. We both like it red with the works which includes cabbage, radish, a little onion, oregano and extra chile. We both understood, of course, that you can’t have posole every Sunday. Other Sundays you have to have menudo (similar to posole but with tripe instead of pork) or chorizo with eggs.

There’s a lot to be said for shared taste in food between students and teacher. In fact, some of the most pleasant conversations in my classes involve food with everyone drooling over our best sushi experiences or debating which joint makes the best pizza. Mind you, we still get algebra done with a blitz of eye-rolling, exasperated sighs, and philosophically oriented questions like “Why can’t we watch a movie?” when I have to call them away from the sushi tray in their minds and back to the problems in front of them. But we have no problem returning to our classroom version of the Food Network when things get slow.

Herein lies the seed of an idea that I would have thought silly before I began to understand the power of social media for marketing. These days the A B C’s of personal branding and marketing include Facebook and Twitter to the point that you can be considered almost a ghost if you don’t have a strong presence in such social media. These platforms have now become an object of study for me as marketing tools for bloggers and small, online businesses. But as a “teacher-preneur” (strange hybrid creature that I am) I ponder using the power of social media to market subject matter to students. There is a running debate about using social media in the classroom or as an ancillary to instruction outside the classroom. However, I haven’t seen much in the way of actual experimental use of social media in  our high school district to help determine its effectiveness. There’s no reason not to give it a try as a carefully applied strategy.

Because social media in marketing is a means to humanize a product or service and make positive associations with the product or service, can it not also be used in this fashion to make positive associations with subject matter in an algebra class? I honestly don’t know the answer to that question and as far as I know neither do my colleagues. So here’s the idea: Create a Facebook page for my algebra classes that will pair food and algebra by interspersing videos of me showing how to prepare some of my favorite dishes and learning how to prepare others, with video or whiteboard mini algebra lessons. Watching the cooking will be for fun. Watching the mini lessons and doing a few problems will yield extra credit.  Might the page need more novelty to keep teenagers interested? Absolutely. I’ll have to throw in an acoustic version of ‘Back in Black’ or the sweater song – ‘Undone’ – by Weezer. Kids can’t get enough of watching their teachers make fools of themselves such as me playing mediocre guitar versions of classic and alternative rock tunes.

I’ve decided to call the Facebook page “Algebra in the Pan.” My first recipe for Mr. Lopez’ Algebra in the Pan Facebook page will be – are you ready? Mr. Lopez’ pinto beans!  They’re actually very good if I say so myself. Then I’ll show them some quick tips on graphing a line using an equation in slope-intercept form. Beans and algebra – ‘smells like teen spirit.’

Any advice or brilliant ideas will be warmly received. Feel free to chime in.

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