Thursday, March 29, 2012

I can't figure it out

I just spent 3 out of 4 classroom days out of my classroom. Between taking sophomore girls on a field trip to learn about careers that use math and science, doing a gap analysis between our old curriculum and Common Core, and attending the first meeting of a committee working to close the gap between High School and Higher Education, I have been one busy puppy as of late. I was out two days, back in for one, and then out again.

The day I was back in the classroom, I did try what @druinok suggested in our chat last weekend. It did not go well. The directions on the board told them to sign up for a problem from the previous assignment, work it out on the whiteboard, and put the whiteboard on the chalk tray when they were finished. My Algebra 2 students actually did a little better with it once they were reminded to read the board and get started. My Advanced Algebra 2 students struggled. In debriefing a bit with them, they did admit that they had done at least half of the assigned problems, but I did not see any of them actually look at their work from before. I will probably have to add to the directions to get out the problems first.

What frustrates me with being gone is that things that I take for granted they should do or know to do (like look at the homework they did if they are working on a homework problem the next day in class) they have seem to have no clue. It's as if they can't, or won't, help themselves. On Tuesday, both my Algebra 2 and Advanced Algebra 2 students started simplify rational expressions with multiplication and division. We started these notes on Tuesday.

We only got through the expressions with monomials. I just didn't have enough time to get to the ones with factoring in them. So, with being out the classroom again on Wednesday, this is what I left them:

I also left them a note on the board letting them know two things - that I intentionally did not cross out the common factors in numerator and denominator and that they would have to do that, and that I had made a mistake (which is corrected in this) and the first person in each class to correctly identify it to the sub would get a treat when I came back on Thursday. (I baked cookies!)

My first class had no one identify the mistake (I had typed in x - 2 instead of 3x - 2 in the answer). The other three classes all had students identify the mistake. When I got back today, I did the same activity as Tuesday - sign up for a problem, work it out on the whiteboard, put it up. Most of my students struggled with the problems. Now, granted, a couple of the factorings may have been a little bit of a challenge, but most of them didn't even remember to factor in the first step. Again, I didn't really see anyone referring to their notes that I had given them.

We did go through the rest of the lesson that I had started on Tuesday. Most students left feeling more confident in the process than they came in. I have an in class practice activity tomorrow since it is a shortened staff development day and I won't see all of them tomorrow due to an assembly. (I borrowed what Mimi did here) I suspect they are going to struggle with it - they didn't remember factoring very well (even though we did it in January) and if they can't factor it, it will be hard to reduce.

So, I'm sitting here tonight trying to figure out what I did wrong here. I put together the worksheet rather hastily Tuesday when I realized that my original plan wasn't going to work. In retrospect, I probably should have picked different problems that factored easier for their practice worksheet (which wasn't posted). But as far as my worksheet that I left for them in my absence to help guide them as to what to do, I'm not totally sure where I went wrong. I am glad that the rest of the lesson seemed to go well. I think the guided notes are helping them.

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