(My thoughts with a question at the end)

I am a first-year coach with a very young team of 5th graders.  Earlier in
this listserv there was some conversation about coaches who do not feel that
they are ready for the competition.

We have a week until our day at JMU, and I can definitely say that ateam and
bteam from Thomas Harrison Middle School will be bringing up the rear.  It
will be quite amazing if our group is able to complete one task on the
table, and have any sort of powerpoint with a linear thought process.  We
have not completed any of the requirements on the rubric for our research.

HOWEVER, as coaches we are looking at the process rather than the end
result. Learning has happened on the part of both the students and the
coaches (for example, some of our students are learning that it is not a
good idea to completely dismantle the robot a week before the competition).
On the whole, it is a good example of how this particular group of 5th
graders has some significant growing to do in the thought-process and
maturity departments.

As coaches, we have done significant scaffolding for them to try to break
down the problem into smaller chunks, but we will just call our students
'creative thinkers' rather than linear or result-oriented thinkers.

But this is OK, because we have made progress, even though very little of it
will appear on Saturday.  We are trusting that this will be a learning
experience for this very young team.  At this point they don't even realize
what they don't know.  Seeing other teams will be a good opportunity for
them to realize their potential for the future.

If we work together a few times in the spring to go back and solve a few of
this year's tasks, and then get an earlier start next fall, we may be more
in the middle of the pack next year (I'm thinking optimistically).

This is to assure all of you that are feeling worried--it's OK.

Question:  will there be an opportunity for my teams to watch other groups'
research presentations?  I think they never really got a full understanding
of what we were going for on the research end of things.  Seeing a
successful group could be helpful for them.

Mr. Brian Nussbaum
Mathematics Teacher
Thomas Harrison Middle School

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