Friday, January 27, 2012

Working hard

Week 2 is complete and again, I'm pleasantly surprised at how well things are going.  The main difference I noticed this week was work ethic.  Maybe our students are just more ready for a college class.  Or maybe we're better conveying and eliciting the amount of work necessary.  It could be a combination.  Either way, they are working hard.  They're doing paper and MML homework as well as quizzes (in and out of class).  They've remarked that the class takes a lot of time.  We told them that on the first day, so I'm happy to see they've taken us seriously.  Because a class doesn't take time unless you're really working on it.  Most of my students in the fall said the class didn't take that much time.  They also said at the end of the semester that they wished they had worked harder.  And their results were fair, but not outstanding.

So far, we've done a little algebra, lots of numeracy, some proportional reasoning, and today began a look in functions.  It's always something different, be it whole class vs. group work or the content.  We mix it up regularly to maintain their attention and engagement.  I overheard a student this week say, "this goes so fast!"  That's an amazing comment since 1) it's a math class and 2) it's a 100 minute class period.  But I'll take it.

I do a quiz every class to start the class.  It's my way of checking in with them and keeping them accountable.  Sometimes it's a MML problem.  Sometimes it's a conceptual problem or something from homework.  It varies.  Today, I just wanted to see what they thought of the class so far and what they need to work on.  The comments fell into two categories:  "I like the class" and "I need to work more on fractions."  Some examples:

"I was always struggling with math but this class and MML have given me better confidence in myself."

"This is probably the most exciting math class I've ever been in.  I like how it's taught!"

Are some struggling and still asking for me to stand at the board the entire period working examples?  Absolutely.  It's not the majority but some want that familiar approach.  Still, they're buying in.  They see that a different approach can still be good.  Plus, we do enough whole class and mini-lecture type work to appease those needs for direct instruction.  I am very pleased to see that they're seeking out help.  That alone will make a big difference.

We had a problem today that was very challenging.  It dealt with units they're unfamiliar with and was very realistic and therefore, tough.  But it was so fun to watch them break through the problem.  At first they were frustrated and complaining, then "what about this?" and working, and finally I heard someone say they got it.  And more followed.  We talked about perseverance and how it's uncomfortable sometimes to learn but during that moment of discomfort is when the actual learning happens. 

So, all in all, I'm pleased with the progression of the course.  Certainly there are places for improvement and adjustment but it's taking shape into a course I hope to teach for many, many years.  There's something incredibly satisfying about showing adults the power of mathematics in ways they haven't seen before.

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