Friday, October 14, 2011

Pilot Recap, Week 8: They get it

That title sums up where Heather and I have gotten to:  they get it.  We have finally gotten to the point where students have completely bought in and more than that, they like it.  Meaning, they like the course, the approach, the goals, and the execution.  Sure, there are about 1000 things we can do to improve and we will.  That's the nature of a pilot with a brand new course.  But in the meantime, they like coming to math class.  They like seeing what's going to happen next.  And here's what I care about:  they are learning. 

A sample of what we did this week:

Topic: Study census data on median weekly earnings vs. unemployment rates as well as educational attainment vs. unemployment rates.
Goal: Develop scatterplots, idea of association, best fit lines, predictions. Discuss how level of education affects potential earnings and likelihood of unemployment.

Topic:  Origami done in a roundtable group relay
Goal:  Analyzing the role of steps, their order, precision, and teamwork

Topic:  Looking at proportions within recipes and chemical equations, balancing chemical equations
Goal:  Work on developing proportional reasoning; see similarities between chemical equations and algebraic equations (terms, coefficients, checking work, strategy for starting a problem)

Topic:  Students measured an ingredient by volume, then weighed results.  Found standard deviation.
Goal:  Looked at role of variability and how it can measured, that measures of centers are not enough to tell the full story about data.  Used numeracy and algebra to develop the standard deviation formula, order of operations to utilize it.

Topic:  Analyze problems and write 1-step equations to solve them.  Solve them numerically and compare/contrast methods.
Goal:  Understand basic priniciples behind solving equations to set foundation for more involved problems next week.  Analyze the role of numerical and algebraic methods, when each has an advantage.

This is just a taste but I think it shows the variety.  We've found a way to make the topics connect within a unit and have some relationship to each other.  We're always moving forward, building their numerical and algebraic skill set.  But with that, we work on proportional reasoning constantly, functions, and bring in geometry and stats whenever possible. 

If you're wondering how origami could end up in a unit that has solving equations, the idea is this:  show, don't tell.  We want students to understand that you can't "wing" everything in real life.  Sometimes order, accuracy, and precision really matter.  I can say that till the cows come home; it will mean little.  But put students in a situation where they experience that firsthand and all of sudden, the message is very clear.  And beyond that, it's just fun to see 20 year olds fold paper boats.  :)

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