Thursday, January 13, 2011

Batman math

A few thoughts as this first semester draws to a close:
1.  I need to get more project-y.  I've done some neato stuff with Precalc (like our geogebra photos project and the Wolfram Demonstration Project) and would like to keep trying to find new stuff.  I've neglected my Algebra 2 classes, though, and need get my butt in gear.  First up:  a quadratic equation project (like what my co-worker Ashley Fago did with her Algebra 2 classes).  I'm hoping to get to conics this year in Algebra 2 (we should be able to) and want to have them make up some facebook pages for each conic.

2.  I had some icky decisions to make today about a couple of boys' grades.  I told my classes at the beginning of the year that they needed to pass 2/3 of the grades that contribute to their semester average (2 quarters, 1 exam).  And then I didn't think about it until today when one of my girls was stressing as she finished up her exam because she had to pass (she'd failed the quarter).  Oh yeah!  Lightbulb.  So I went and looked over the other students' grades just to check that no one had slid through, and I found one.

This boy had gotten a B during our first quarter then bombed 2nd quarter (59%) and failed the exam.  I was facing a bit of a gut check:  do I stick to my guns or go the easy way out and let him pass (based on the computer averaging of our grades).  I stuck, called the dad to let him know, and the boy will fail.  Hate that.

Boy #2 is a charmer when he wants to be.  He's cute and smiles and acts all sweet but I know copies assignments and basically has no morals.  He's bright, though, and usually skates through pretty easily.  He had an A for the first quarter, a B+ for the second, and just barely got a B+ on the exam.  Because of some crazy grade-stuff that's been going on lately at school, we were told that we weren't allowed to give any minuses (A-, B-, C-, etc) as semester averages.  So this kid's grade would've averaged as an A- which I would've had to bump to an A.  Really?  I mean, I caught this kid during the final today trying to get his neighbor to help him on a problem.  To let him get an A would be demoralizing (for me... and I'd hope the other students if they found out!).  So I went back to his exam review packet (which I counted as part of his exam grade) and checked it a little more carefully.  I legitimately found evidence to take a point away, which dropped his exam grade to a B.  His semester grade is now a B+.

3.  Lots of stuff coming up!  I feel like I'm not going to be at school at all this semester (which is tough, but that means it's going to fly by!)
            a.  1/2 day out at the end of January to work with other Algebra 2 teachers to start working on a common exam (yuck)
           b.  1 1/2 days out at the beginning of February to go to Sacramento (I decided that I'm excervous.... excited and nervous.  Get it?)
           c.  2 days out in April to go to the NCTM Conference in Indianapolis (anyone going?)  Just excited about that... not nervous at all :)


I just saw this link on twitter and thought it was cute:

epic win photos - Math Problem WIN
see more Hacked IRL - Truth in Sarcasm


David said...

If you are having qualms about your assessment practices, you should check out assessment for learning.

At my school, which uses one example of this, we don't use the mean to calculate final mark for a student. We treat grades as a snap-shot. What do I think this kid is capable of?

I can look at individual assignments and go, okay well that kid had a lot of help from their parents. Let's look at another assignment for a truer representation of their understanding. Or for another kid, I might notice steady improvement in the kid from the beginning of the year and award them a stronger grade as a result, especially if I know the assessments towards the end of the years were more difficult.

lysmekah said...

I'm not sure where this fits into the American Math curriculum, but I just did a great project with my Math 10 class (in BC, Canada) where I gave them a list of slopes, linear equations, points, domains and ranges and they have to include the list and create a picture out of them. Students learned a ton about how to use these elements on linear equations and graphing, and put out some AMAZING work. I'd be happy to email you the details if you're interested.

KFouss said...

David -

I did some thinking about the standards based learning model this summer and considered going to it for this year. I'm not quite sure I want to go that way - honestly probably because the "normal" way is so ingrained after 16+ years of being a student and 13+ as a teacher. I'm still considering. Even thinking of that, though, I'd still fail the first boy. He did fine on any Algebra 1 topic 1st quarter but not on Algebra 2-ish (factoring, quadratics, etc.) and then didn't do well on the exam. I don't know what else I can do for him (and believe me - I've offered help plenty of times!).

lysmekah - I don't know that I could use it for Algebra 2 right now (we're past that) but a project like that could definitely work in Algebra 1! I'd love it if you'd e-mail me. :) kristenfouss at yahoo dot com


Anonymous said...

I try to use projects in my classroom to make it more student centered. Instead of teaching or reviewing quadratics this year in Algebra II, I just gave them a project similar to this one:

The students used a quadratic to study about basketball on other planets. They had to use the quadratic formula, graph parabolas, and identify important points on the graph. I found that I had to spend time with the groups when they got to certain parts of the project. It was much better than lecturing though maybe not as time saving. The project ended with each group creating an alien on a chosen planet and creating a sports write up on it including height, velocity of shot, personal info... The kids seemed to like it and it was good review of parabolas.

By the way, I am planning on going to NCTM. One of my coworkers is presenting and asked me to go and help her. I am excited! It would be great if we could get a blogger / twitter group together on night!

KFouss said...

Thanks, Amber! I just saved a copy of that to use next year in Algebra 2. (And maybe in Algebra 1 if we get there this year... but it's general, so who knows!) I had kids asking about a problem tossed about throwing something up because the equation always started with a -16. They can actually be observant sometimes! :)

And we'll definitely have to arrange for a tweetup at NCTM. Can't wait!