# Words (and images) to avoid in the middle school classroom

When I taught middle school, I sometimes worried that they taught me more than I taught them. Middle schoolers are masters of the double entendre and they love nothing more than twisting their teachers’ innocent words and drawings in perverse ways.

I leave the following list to your imagination. How might a middle school teacher have meant to use the following words and images, and how might a student take deviant pleasure in hearing and seeing them used?

### Final warning

The following is completely immature and inappropriate. Yet each example comes directly from my own middle school classroom. Middle school teachers, back me up on this, please!

### words

Balls

Period

Score

Pull out (especially if what we are pulling out is balls)

In a Connected Math probability unit, there is a problem involving blue and orange blocks. Students are trying to list out all the ways two orange blocks and two blue blocks can be put into two containers. Students typically abbreviate orange with O and blue with B. This all goes well until they put all four blocks in one container and list them out: blue, orange, orange, blue.

The formula for area, A, of a square as a function of its side length, s, is A=s*s

### 12 responses to “Words (and images) to avoid in the middle school classroom”

1. Christopher

These in by email:

page 69 (or any problem whose answer is 69)

And

Do it (especially if two people are doing it together)

2. Inadvertent use of a problem or solution leading to the number 420 is trouble for some kids. Beware — not as bad as 69, but still bad.

Depending on the class, too much use of “stretching” and “shrinking”…

Nice cylinder!

3. classprof

Thanks for this – gave me a laugh with my coffee this morning đź™‚

I once saw a principal talk to an elementary school assembly about the fact that someone had been stealing the computer mice’s balls. He eventually gave up trying to get a sensible answer from students.

4. Alex Otto

Sometimes when we’re working with combining like terms I use real life examples when talking about variables. For example, for 1N+2N=3N, I might ask if I have one nickel and you have two nickels, how many nickels do we have together? Inevitably when I ask, “What’s something that starts with ‘n’?” my students come up with “nuts.” Luckily I have been teaching middle school long enough to know not to ask, “If I have one nut and you have two nuts, how many nuts do we have all together?”

5. Shawn Towle

I try never to use “p” as a variable…..because when you have “2p” you are in trouble.

6. It’s pretty hard to avoid the first picture in calculus class…

• Christopher

Good point, Sue. But in Calculus, we can usually count on our students to behave like adults. A few snickers perhaps, but no complete loss of classroom decorum.

7. Phil

I needed an extra example one day in algebra, and just changed a few numbers around. Unfortunately my final result was c=3. I’ve not made the same mistake again.

8. Christopher