Thursday, September 30, 2010

Why do students love this?

Last year, with my PreDP class (think Algebra I and II) I gave a class the Riddle of Diophantus and asked them to solve it. The students, with just a basic understanding of fractions, loved this problem and spent a good 40 minutes or so working on it. It allowed me to introduce algebraic expressions, substitution, and simple equations - as well as give the students so well-needed practice with fractions. This year, my colleague used it in her class with equal success. But what makes it work and engage students in a way that smaller problems rarely do?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Dealing with test results

This week, I've given three tests - a test in each of my three math classes (Math Studies, Math Standard and Math Higher). Inspired by all the brilliant SBG posts I've read lately, I want to find a good way to deal with the students' results and reactions.

Friday, September 24, 2010

What worked and what didn't

This week, I've tried a few things with my two math classes (honors juniors and standard seniors). One, a scaffolded proof of the Sine and Cosine rules, went horribly for some very mysterious reasons. The other, a Binder check procedure I've copied from another blogger, is going very well.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fumbling with inverses

My IB Mathematics course has started out well, with a successful introduction of functions, domain and range and composite functions. So maybe I started getting too cocky and didn't spend enough time on today's lesson - on inverses. Whatever the reason, it felt like hitting a wall. While students happily solved questions such as "what's k(x) if h(x) = 5x and h(k(x)) = x?", they could not even start on the very similar question "what's the inverse of h(x) if h(x) = 5x+3?" Even with me explicitly explaining the connection, by definition, to the previous question, students were dumbfounded by these developments.

Now I'm the one who's a bit stuck. Do I give an extra class on inverse functions - this would break my planning and mean I'm lowering my standards a bit. Or do I send them to the math study hall and go on with my planning, hopefully managing to fit in inverses now and then again? I'm leaning towards the latter but would really like to figure out what went wrong (and how to fix it). Maybe the language just got to abstract? Riley at Point of Inflection has a series of posts I probably should have read more carefully.

Ah well. "Where you stumble, there lies your treasure", is this nice saying I've always liked. Maybe there'll be something superbly useful in this mess somewhere.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Standard Based Grading, the IB-system, and something in between

Since I started teaching two years ago, I've been teaching in part the Swedish (standard based by law) system and in part the IB (final exam) system. It's therefore very interesting and funny for me to read about the issues US teachers are having with SBG, and the arguments people have against it (no, students do NOT come and demand a retest infinitely many times - they're too lazy and anyway the teacher can limit the assessment opportunities). In this post, I'm going to share my experiences and thoughts about the two systems I know, and propose a compromise.

Bonding Day

Yesterday was my first Bonding Day. In my school, Bonding Day basically means teachers orchestrate a series of team-building activities for students, usually in some park in Stockholms. The purpose is for our 150 students to have fun together, and, by cooperate in teams, build friendships and a generally nice atmosphere school. 
The investment for this is as follows: teachers spend one and a half full day planning, and students miss one full day of classes during Bonding Day. 

As I enjoy the teaching part of being a teacher, I felt a bit frustrated that all this energy went into an activity that doesn't directly further students' understanding of school subjects. Even though I did not have to participate in the planning, I was indignant on behalf of my colleagues. But that was before Bonding Day.