Challenging day today helping a dear friend struggling with her National Board portfolio entries. The evidence is there and she is definitely the right caliber, but it's that writing style that is so difficult.

Listening to her describe how her students come to understand how the surface area of rectangles and circles are then related to finding the surface area of cylinders is amazing. I __know I'm in the presence of someone who is gifted in teaching 12 years olds mathematics.__ I was lucky enough to tape her teaching the lesson and I watched her prode these kids along...mind you they're good. Good because she's been training them all year long.

I use the word training because they act more like a finely tuned sports team than a classroom of math kids. If you keep that picture in your mind's eye, you'll know what this classroom sounds like and acts like. Each group of 3 or 4 students works to perfect their technique by talking it through and really staying the course until they get it. Reminds me of a basketball team practicing layups...they just keep running up there laying the ball on the backboard time after time until it drops through consistently.

Here you watch students look at these flat patterns of a long rectangle and 2 circles...students count, stretch what they know about circumference and area....scratching prior knowledge and wondering how all this related to a cylinder. My friend keeps them humming, never letting up. I expect to hear that whistle blow at any moment.

One by one each group begins to see a connection. They see how the length of that rectangle and the circumference of the circle are related. I'm amazed. I never knew there was this connection. It makes sense to me!!! They figure out the answer and proudly call her over.

You'd think she'd be happy with that. Nope. She plops down a Pringles can or a Quaker Oats can and shoves them into generalizing what they know into ALL cylinders. Makes me think of what Roy Williams must of done when he coached her beloved Jayhawks when they were #1 around these parts so many years!!!!

Again one by one, with more leading questions she brings 'em home. They see these mathematical connections and by the end of 44 minutes of intense practicing their intellectual muscles, this diverse group of 26 12-year olds know the connection between surface area of rectangles and circles and cyclinders....and they have generalized that relationship into a formula.

Not bad for 44 minutes. See what I mean. It's more than a classroom. It's almost a mathematical spiritual experience of transformation. That's why I know I was in the presence of a National Board teacher. Now let's hope she can write about it well enough to document it. Can I help her do that? Ahhhhhhhhh. Now the pressure's on me.