Sunday, June 12, 2011

What does your math class look like?

During my (presently) weekly lawnmowing, I wondered, what do other math teachers' classes look like? I mean, if I were a fly on the wall in your class, how would it run? What's the basic structure/flow of your class? I thought about tweeting this, but then I couldn't answer it myself in 140 characters, so I thought I'd post it here and see what people said in the comments.

My class is what I would consider very typical. Bell rings and in some classes, I have an opening question for students to answer. This is something I have struggled with for a long time. In my Algebra 2 classes, I did a feedback problem for students to work on and turn in, which I would return with feedback on it. We would go over any questions from the previous day's problems. Then the lesson (mostly me talking) and then if there was time, start on the assigned problems.

I don't want my class to look like this next year. I don't feel I am best using my 50 minutes I have with my students daily and I want to incorporate much more problem solving, rich problems, etc. in my classes.

**Addendum - there was something else I meant to add intially as a part of this discussion. How many problems do you assign for practice? Are there certain types of problems you look for to assign? How much practice do you think is "enough?"

So what does your math class look like?


Anonymous said...

As a brand new teacher, you have described my class as well in this blog. I too am looking to attempt a different approach. I currently plan on doing an Action Research Project on student motivation and hope to discover new ideas to try this upcoming year.#whitehod

justanothermathteacher said...

My classroom looks like that on some days. However, I was of the same opinion as you...I didn't want it to look like that every day. So I have slowly built up my toolbox of interesting/discovery-type, problem-solving activities. So now, at least once a unit (and I try for more than that...but some things I just can't manage to make interesting)....I have the students working in groups to solve problems that I may or may not have given them a lecture on yet. I am getting a whole lot better at letting the students do the work and using my questioning more effectively to get the desired results...without me lecturing. But it isn't perfect yet. There are still topics that I have to stand up front and talk-at-them. I don't like that, and so I'm working on finding "big problems" to incorporate. If they would stop changing the classes I teach, I might be closer to getting this accomplished! lol

Lisa said...

@whitehod - I hope you'll share the results of your action resarch project.

@justanothermathteacher - Is there something in particular you read to help you improve your questioning? Thanks for sharing!


Anonymous said...

My classroom this year looked different for the first time from what the 'typical' math classroom looked like. The AP Stats was a little more traditional at the beginning of the year, but at the semester I discovered twitter which radically changed my approach.

I became much more project and learner centric instead of teacher centric. There were several days where I handed out 1 problem, said "Go" and let them figure it out from scratch using the book and each other. The interesting thing was when I asked if I could help, they told me to go away. They wanted the challenge of doing it themselves.

For my algebra 3 class, it is very problem focused. Each unit begins with the big picture, we break down the math for each situation, learn the math, and then solve the original big picture problem. As an example we wanted to find a lost hiker for understanding how GPS works, we discussed the GPS system, then flattened it to AGPS and cell phones. Now we have 3 circles (conic section math, completing square, expanding binomials, ect), subtracting the expanded equation (polynomial arithmetic) and solving a system of 2 equations to determine the location of the hiker. This one problem may take 2 weeks start to finish as the embedded math is learned.

Embedding the math in a larger context gives everyone a REASON to accomplish the goal. It is not just random numbers and letters, but a means to an end, and they are interested in the end.

I am teaching those same 2 classes next year, and adding Alg 2. My goal this summer is to figure out how to do more of the above type things in Alg 2.

John said...

This makes me think of Dan Meyer's 3 acts post:

Engagement is the key, and what in our class invites them in to what we want to think about. I use a workshop structure now: start with connections, focus, activity, and finally reflection back. In homework I use the same structure.

Dvora said...

My classroom this year has looked like that many days. It was tough coming in mid-year and taking over. For next year, I plan to use the ideas of SBG and Dan Meyer's Math Stories much more in my classroom. I am hoping to change.

As for practice, I give about 6 - 10 problems max so some practice is done, but if confused not too much or too much incorrect practice. I also often have students compare answers in pairs before we talk as a class. Even this late in the year, I find having them in groups of 4 makes the students work more with each other and rely less on me.

Anonymous said...

9 years ago as I started my first teaching job in the inner city I was told I had to have a "warm-up" problem. Now in rural VT I am still using one - it allows me time to speak with individual students or check assignments as necessary at the beginning of class, and I can use it as a pre-assessment or formative assessment to see what the students know. Students use it as a check for themselves. It can take some "training" at the beginning of the year but most students buy in. Sometimes I have assigned some nominal points for completion, but not always.
I follow you on twitter an appreciate your candidness, glad to find your blog!

Stephen said...

I came across this post after looking at your grade SBG resources, and as a physics teacher who uses the modeling curriculum ( we have heard a lot about the CPM math program and its advantages of student centered instruction. I'm not sure if you've heard of it, but if not it may help change your whole outlook on teaching, just as modeling has done for me.

Stephen said...

Also, really look at CIMM follows the modeling philosophy....

Ashley said...

In response to one of Stephen's posts...I used CPM at the first school I taught at in Colorado. It was an excellent program and I would highly recommend it to anyone that is looking for a more discovery-based/student-centered/collaborative classroom environment. I absolutely loved it and I am very sad that I am not able to use it at my current district. I still take everything I learned from CPM and apply it where/when I am able.