Monday, October 03, 2011

Surprises abound

A surprising thing happened today as I had my students working on correcting their quizzes today. (See here for the original plan.) As my first period students were working on correcting my quizzes (and wanting me to answer questions as opposed to asking peers), several students asked to reassess. I had forgotten to say anything about wanting to re-quiz them on Wednesday and after seeing that several students were motivated to reassess on their own, I opted to not give a re-quiz to my Algebra 2 classes. For two of my three classes, my students were rather motivated and worked hard on correcting their quizzes. I think I have between 10 and 15 students coming in for reassessments between my three Algebra 2 classes (that's out of about 70 students). I am pleased to see them taking initiative.

I chatted with my principal during my planning period today. As I continue to reflect on my students' quizzes, I am really disturbed with the errors they made. These are things that should have been corrected/caught and fixed in Algebra 1. I had a brief discussion with my fellow math teacher with many years experience before talking to the principal and he is seeing the same things from his students (the ones I had last year in Algebra 2). It's as if the students aren't retaining what they have learned. As I talked with my principal, she made the point that they may have learned it wrong and continue to make the same mistakes because that's how they practiced it. This, for me, reaffirmed the importance of giving the students the answers when I give the practice problems so they can confirm that they are doing the problems correctly.

My principal is also about incorporating the real world where possible. As we discussed the situation, I expressed that I am almost afraid to put a real world situation in front of them, especially given what happened last week. It's almost as if my students don't know how to think. Put something even a little challenging in front of them and they freeze. But I also know that the real life situations can help motivate them. I started to look through the Math Forum Problems of the Week to see if I could find anything that caught my attention, but I didn't find anything right off the bat. I also looked at YummyMath but I didn't have a whole lot of time to dig through to see if I could find something that specifically had one variable equations. So, I'm still looking with a short time frame (for Wednesday!) to find something real world to help motivate solving equations.

I also have to figure out how to teach them to think - how to work with these types of problems. But I suppose that's a post for another day. For now, I'm off to bed. As always, comments are welcome and appreciated. Thanks for taking the time to read my ruminations. They help me sort through it all.


Anonymous said...

OK. Here's the thing about "real world problems". They almost never present themselves so cleanly as being "about one-variable equations". Consider our friend Dan Meyer's recent Partial Products task. Many of us would see it as a very clean application of proportions. But a read of the comments reveals that there are many good, solid mathematical approaches to the task. Often as math teachers, we have to let go of our iron-fisted grip on which strategies students are going to use as they work a problem. If we have chosen the problem well, someone's gonna use the strategy we want to teach, and we can use that student's work to make progress with the whole class. But we can't force students to see the same mathematical strategy we see (believe me, I tried last week with my College Algebra students and it just doesn't work-they'll submit but they won't understand unless it's connected to their own mathematical ideas).

Lisa said...

Thanks for the reminder, Chris. I needed to see that.