I love a good ice-breaker, especially one that helps us get to know each other on a personal level. Sure, content-related opening moves are important, but personal ice-breakers build community and help us connect together in ways we might not have before. I’ve posted multiple possibilities on The Coaching Sketchnote Book, like Soft Starts and Quick Writes. And now, I’m adding another fun ice-breaker to our collective coaching notebook: What’s Your Equation?

We all have unique characteristics, traits and experiences that make us who we are, elements that often change over time as we change, too. So that means this ice-breaker is not only for new groups of colleagues working together, but for any group at any time of the year to simply come together as humans, not just teachers. 

I remember the first time I engaged in an activity like this as a teacher myself. The presenter asked us to introduce ourselves as 2-word tongue-twister. At the time, I had a brand new baby at home, so I was Sleepless Stephanie. My colleagues offered their own introductions: Careful Kathy, Juicin’ Jen and Truthful Tanya are three that come to mind all these years later. Why do I remember these introductions 16 years later? Because these seemingly small, personal statements launched a great deal of conversation and laughter among colleagues who had known each other for a while, but found new ways to connect as a result of the silly request. 

These personal ice-breakers are important to building connection and community and I’m offering you my personal favorite here:

What is your equation that makes you...you? 

Think about it for a minute. If you had to introduce yourself as a math equation (I know, I know, I usually stick to literacy!), what might it say?

Here’s an equation that currently represents me:

3 kids + 5 dogs - sleep / 2 blogs + reading  - gluten = Stephanie

Here’s another alternative:

5 dogs

4 laptops

3 kids

2 blogs

1 husband who travels

0 wine left =)

Fun, right? Creating equations to represent ourselves is such a fun way to get to know each other or get to know each other even better. And it’s incredibly simple to try. Here are a few options:

If you are coaching in person, stock tables with sticky notes and markers. If you really want to go all in, print fun math equation symbols and add them to the pile. Teachers write each element of their equation on a sticky note, add math symbols and arrange and rearrange until their equation is complete. What comes next? A fun discussion sharing the equations and the rationale behind them. I like to snap pictures of these equations to remind teachers of them later on and challenge them to create new ones based on their current realities. 

If you are coaching virtually, you can easily translate this activity to Google Slides. To create your own, invite teachers to a shared presentation where all have editing access. Teachers choose a slide for themselves and create an equation on the slide using text boxes and math symbols (equation shapes or special characters will work). Want an extra element? Encourage teachers to use icons from The Noun Project to make the equations REALLY come to life!).  If you prefer to use a template, you can download mine here:

When it’s time to share, scroll through the presentation for teachers to browse and encourage lots of conversation along the way. And, since it’s already digitized, you can easily return to these equations later and ask teachers if and how they’ve changed. 

Need a twist? Keep the creation process anonymous (as best you can!) and have teachers roam the room or scroll the slidedeck to guess who each equation belongs to! Just be sure to have teachers click off their own slide so their Google avatar doesn’t give it away!

This simple, yet fun, ice-breaker invites us to think outside the box and get a bit creative. It also builds camaraderie among teachers, not to mention it helps you get to know them even better. You might even take it a step further and ask teachers to create shared equations for their grade levels and even their school, giving you even more information to support your coaching. It could even be a creative way to represent teacher learning at the end of a unit of study. And, if you create these equations at different times of the year and compare them over time, it's a creative way to archive teacher learning in the school!

Have some fun and give it a try! Then, share your own equation below!

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