Last week was a rough week for Mr. Briggs. Between parent-teacher conferences, school board meetings, and the after-school program that I run, I don’t think that I ever got home earlier than 8pm. Thankfully, it was a short week. Thursday was the last day before a three-day weekend. And the 6th
grade had nearly a third of its students gone that day for a cross-country ski competition organized by our indestructible (and, sadly, retiring) gym teacher.
I managed to get all of my skiers to watch the recording of their math lesson either at school or on YouTube the night before and arranged for them to take their weekly language and spelling test on the bus. This still left me with 11 students and an afternoon to plan for.
That was when I was struck with the kind of inspiration that can only hit a teacher at 9:45 am, knowing full well that he only has 35 minutes of prep to make it happen. I remembered a recipe that I had found for baking cakes in coffee cups in the microwave. This would be a fantastic idea for an afternoon activity! But how to make it educational? There had to be a way that I could convince the powers that be that this had educational—and not just culinary—merit. Then the second wave of inspiration hit me like a right hook: percents and decimals! The subject we had been working on for the last two weeks in math. Finding how many calories and grams of fat were in 1/8 of the cakes would be the perfect excuse/lesson plan!
I passed this onto my fellow sixth grade teacher who was at a similar loss for an afternoon activity and told him what the plan was. His answer: Let’s do it. So there I was, five minutes after having thought it up, running to the local grocery store for eggs and cake mix. By the time I came back, Scott, in his typical over-achieving fashion, had not only made a PowerPoint presentation complete with an introduction revolving around how Mr. Briggs and Mr. Schiller were both in danger of being tossed out by their wives (his story, not mine) for gaining too much weight, but also worksheets for each of the students complete with a breakdown of the cakes’ nutritional information.
After a little paper work, we started popping cakes out of the microwave we had liberated from the staff room and shaking them out of coffee cups with a satisfying jiggle, like cranberry sauce from a can. And because of math we did, I know that each cake had 501 calories (for those of you worried, most of the kids only finished half of a cake).