Sunday, August 29, 2010

Day 8

Today went better, but I'm not sure I like why it went better. It went better because I did more. I structured it more, I scaffolded it more, I led them through it more. It seemed to go better, but at what cost? It's going against what I'm trying to get them to do, going against be less helpful.

So I'm torn. It's not that I mind structuring and scaffolding if I think it helps them become curious learners, helps them get to the place where they can inquire and explore more on their own. But I don't think that's what I accomplished today. I think I structured and scaffolded and therefore they didn't have to think much.

We explored inverse variation today by looking at distance, rate and time. The opener (pdf) was review, and I thought pretty basic, but they are still struggling mightily with dimensional analysis. Then we moved on to the lesson (pdf). We first looked at a digital picture of a falling tennis ball and then tried to figure out how fast it was going, how long it had been falling, and what height it had been dropped from. This was a hopefully fun way to look at inverse variation and solving one-step equations.We then used this video (downloaded and edited so they couldn't see the calculated mph) to look at d = rt again (thanks again Dan), and talk about inverse variation and solving one-step equations some more.

Overall, they seemed engaged, it seemed to go well, except I don't think it really did. Frustrated I am (in my best Yoda voice).


  1. FWIW, I'm tagging along with this fun little blog of yours, Karl. Your situation is unique among all the math bloggers I read because you're an experienced educator slumming it in math, which means you're only fresh to the content, not to teaching. It means I don't have to wonder if your classroom management is a liability here or if your students respect you.

    I can imagine the time it takes to blog every day so no need to get back to me on this but in the future I'd be grateful if you'd unpack notes like: "we then used this video to talk about inverse variation."

    I have had to structure these activities very carefully so that most of that "talking" is between students rather than between me and the most vocal student in the class. I'm curious how you structure them.

  2. Dan - Actually, it's worth a lot.

    So far, there's a whole lot of talking by me (I think I actually might be happy if I had a vocal student or two that were dominating the discussion - that would at least be progress).

    If you look at page 5 of the lesson pdf you'll get an idea of how I attempted to setup the discussion around the video. We worked out together Rich Eisen's speed, and then I played the part of the video where the mph was displayed and we talked about it a little. Then I had intended for them to do Tebow and Ford - with some help - but not enough time so I skipped to the quick t-chart and graph to show them non-linear. (Part of the messiness there was a result of me picking up a whiteboard marker and writing on the smart board - kind of messed with my smartboard doc - and the board.)

    Part of the problem with my continuing difficulties with timing things correctly is we never have enough time to discuss things as in-depth as I'd like. A lot of that is on me, some of that is probably due to it being first period and they're just not responsive, and some of that is due to them just processing things very slowly, much more slowly than I would've expected and have experienced in the past.

    So, I'm telling myself to be patient - with both my students and myself - but it's hard.

  3. When teaching a Gr9 applied math class in Ontario (academic courses are more theoretical leading to University prep, applied are just that - more applied leading to college prep) I've always found it takes 3 weeks of training them. During this time I focus on community building and building skills required for problem-based learning. Throughout this "training" I often use math they have seen before, or chunk it into TEENY pieces. 3 weeks is a long time, but I've found that once I explicitly focused on getting them comfortable with problem-based or inquiry driven learning we flew through the rest of the course. Students are so often used to being spoon fed math, it's a hard habit to break. Building confidence, communication skills (math talk and how to debate ideas), organizing thoughts during inquiry, trying the toys/manipulatives and taking risks were my focus for 3 weeks (usually starting actual curriculum slowly on the 3rd week). Hard to "waste" so much time, but the investment was always well worth it. Once they had the skills/confidence and comfortability to take risks I could introduce the new skills with much less "teacher talking" time. So, keep at it! You mention it being easier when you spoon feed - and it is - but so worth it to spend the time relinquishing some responsibility, as long as they have the skills). Tough conflict to be in. You can do it! Three weeks of hell and then it gets better! :)

  4. Jac - Thanks. Yeah, I didn't do so well at building that culture. Part of my problem is the old problem of simply enough time. I see my students four days a week, 59 minutes a shot, and about 7 of those classes per semester shortened, a few lost to other things (testing, etc.). So I see my students 61 times first semester.

    So, class time is at a premium, so I tried to shortcut the culture thing and that didn't work so well. I'm not quite sure how to fix it because - even though I need to - I still don't feel like I have enough time. So, I'm trying to build the culture alongside doing the work - I expect that won't work so well.