Every year some company sends me one Pi pencil about a month before Pi Day (presumably to motivate me to order Pi pencils for my students). And mysteriously, this one pencil comes wrapped in its very own sheet of bubble wrap. One year, both pencil and bubble wrap arrived in my classroom mid-class. The removed the pencil and I threw it to the side (if it ain’t Ticonderoga, it ain’t worth sharpening). But the bubble wrap! The bubble wrap is a joy and a treasure. A thing to be savored. So I did what anyone else would do, I began popping the bubble wrap. Students being present, this of course attracted their attention. Suddenly I had a room full of 7th graders all clamoring for their turn to pop the bubble wrap. (Can’t say I blamed them. I would have been jealous too.)
I ran to my desk, grabbed a pair of scissors, and cut the bubble wrap into tiny squares. “When you can show me six finished problems, you can come get a piece of bubble wrap.” Pencils flew. Dusty textbooks once again saw the light of day. The air hummed with the mental buzz of students diligently working to earn their piece of bubble wrap. One student finished six problems….pop, pop, pop… another student…pop, pop, pop… then another and another. Ah, the blissful union of mathematics and bubble wrap.
Since then, I have carefully treasured every piece of bubble wrap I receive in the mail (and silently curse Amazon for failing to use bubble wrap). Because in eight years, I have yet to hear a student say to me, “No thanks, I don’t really like bubble wrap.”