Thursday, February 15, 2018

Teach 180: Contest Day! (Day 107)

Today our contingency plan went into effect.  We had a snow day the previous week and that meant we had to give the American Mathematics Competition (AMC) Form B contest, instead of the Form A contest.  This year we held the contest during an assembly period and students only missed half of one class period.  (In previous years students missed two class periods.  However, I think it is important for students to be in class, because you can't replicate the learning that happens as students interact with each other.)

The contest lasts 75 minutes and consists of 25 multiple choice questions.  Students cannot use a calculator and the questions are quite challenging.  After the contest was over, the room was buzzing with chatter, such as "How did you solve question #8?" and "How many did you actually put down an answer for?"  Tomorrow students can get their test books back from me and I look forward to discussing some of the problems with them.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Teach 180: Mathograms (Day 106)

There are times when the school day is over and I just don't feel like working.  Sure I could plan for future lessons or grade the test I just gave.  I could even organize the desktop of my computer. Instead I chose to get lost in some math.  Yesterday I saw a tweet about Desmos Mathograms. I found the tweet again today and opened up the link  Then I sent Mathogram Valentines to my daughter and husband. (My husband responded about a minute later with "Geek. Luv ya too.")                          

One of the things I love about both of these is that Desmos lets you see the "Behind the Scenes" of each graph.  Seeing the flower transform to a heart, I was instantly curious how it happened.  And I was surprised to see that it happened in just 9 lines of code! The Sierpinski triangle, just 4 lines of code!! Now I need to take some time to break it down and see just how it works.  I wonder if my tests will get graded tonight.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Teach 180: Helping Students (Day 105)

One of the aspects of my job that I enjoy the most is working with students individually.  When I taught in the public school, there was little time to give students the additional help they needed.  If they were free, I would usually have a class.  Or if I was free, they would usually have a class.  This would mean coming to school earlier than the start of the school day or sticking around after school was over to offer individual help.  Either before school or after school was an impossibility for many students due to bussing, part time jobs, or caring for siblings.

At my current job, I teach 4 classes and this allows me to have 3 periods where I am available to work with colleagues and meet with students.  Some days I don't work with any students and other days I might work with five different students.  Today I met with two students.  One had been absent several days in AP Stat and was trying to get caught up.  She had the basic understanding of what she was doing relative to confidence intervals, but needed some encouragement.  She had contacted me via email to arrange for a meeting time.

The second student had done poorly on a quiz and realized that she really didn't understand the basic properties of logarithmic and exponential functions.  She sought me out and found me talking to a colleague about the recent Calculus test.  This student wants to do well, but she often misplaces items, like her homework.  Even though I have time to meet with students during the school day, there are still times I need to meet with students before school or after school.  I have been meeting with one student once or twice a week since the beginning of October.  He recognizes that without this accountability he probably wouldn't get his work done for PreCalculus.

Some may think that these students should be able to figure math out on their own.  After all, the students I have described are seniors.  Doesn't giving the students help make them weaker?  First, the fact that they are willing to ask for help is a sign of strength.  It can be challenging to admit that you need help and are struggling.  If the first time a student asks for academic help is in college, it is likely to be even more challenging.  It is good to learn this skill now.  Second, I ask the students that I work with questions that they should be asking themselves.  How is this like the problem we just did?  How is it different?  Does your answer seem reasonable, and why or why not?  What do we know and what are we trying to figure out?  Modeling the thinking and questioning that students should be doing will ultimately help the student to help themselves.