Some good news to start: I have been told that unless I would like to be looking for a new job, it is not necessary. Our district is going through major budget cuts AGAIN, but there is really no way they could cut the math department. It is a slight relief, but until that contract is signed and in my hand, I am going to be standing a little closer than I would like to the edge. But it is GOOD news.
I have been trying to do more investigations in my class. But it is so hard because my students are so ingrained to have everything spelled out for them step-by-step that they can't follow directions on there own.
At the end of the last chapter, I tried two different projects; one in class, one week-long project. Again I will say, it was the end of the chapter, so I would have thought that they could have applied what they have learned, use there notes, look up things in the book...I was wrong.
I have yet to grade either, but this is an initial observation:
Time for Rebound was in in-class activity based on similar triangles. The students were to try to knock over a cup by bouncing a ball off the wall...you know, like playing pool; angle in = angle out and proportionate sides.
I wouldn't say this was a disaster, but I also wouldn't say it was a success. I think that my mid level students (those that work their butt off for a low B or a high C) did the best. They worked through the problem and I had to give them very little "extra directions". But my higher level kids (those getting a high B or an A) had the hardest time. I think this quote should sum it up, "I don't know what to do, the directions just stop." WOW! was what ran through my head at the time.
Then I gave a take home project. It was to make a scale drawing of a room. It was an 6th grade level project that I added things (or took things away) to increase the level of difficulty. The initial project gave the scale factor (1 inch = 3 feet), which is appropriate for 6th graders. I changed it so that my students would have to find the scale factor, which was an objective of the chapter we just finished.
I added a reflection to this project, something I found as part of a similar project on the web. One of the questions was, "What would you change about this project?"
Many students said, "I would make the directions more clear." Now I ask: Are my directions unclear, or did the students not connect this assignment to all the HW problems they have done in the book/examples that I did in class? I really don't know. I did A LOT of problems where they have to find the appropriate scale factor. We also did lots of problems where we changed inches to feet using a conventional scale (12 inch = 1 ft), then changed it to fit our appropriate scale for a map.
Currently, there are LOTS of upper level kids that just aren't taking notes during class. But they were also the same students that were lost when it came to this project.