My budding love of teaching, stemming from my larger love of math and learning

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Do I need to be more clear?

Well its been a while...3 months almost to the day. It has been crazy, busy, stressful...but I am surviving.

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 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.


  1. Keep this up, ER. My high school in Vail did not do QUITE as much hand-holding as it sounds like your students want, but even then, I was completely under-prepared when I showed up at school. I always worked hard, but suddenly NOTHING was spelled out. In the long run, giving mysterious but leading directions will help them so much. (I know I'm no teacher, but I hope you still like my input!)

  2. Thanks Holly!! It hasn't been that long since I started college and I was a GREAT high school student, and still felt like I got hit by a MAC truck during my first semester of college, much I believe the way you are feeling now. I keep trying to stress that choices YOU make will effect YOUR grade. And I try not to hand hold, but then it comes back on me that I am not "helping" them.
    And I do appreciate your are a wise soul for your age, you see the bigger picture...that's why you are studying engineering!