Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Challenge accepted!

That great moment: when your principal walks in with the designated "principal of the day" (a superintendent from a nearby elementary school) and your students are working on their whiteboards and using Desmos to discover.  But then again, my principal has come into my room and brought other visitors this year and those were great moments too!  No more awkward moments thinking "man, I wish I was doing something cool!" Don't get me wrong, I have always been a stickler about teaching from bell to bell (ususally have the kids saying 'hurry up and give us the homework' after the bell rings at the end of class), but it was the traditional style....rows of students, me lecturing (it was a pretty good show, I won't lie!) and students following along with my awesome math jokes and silly examples.  But this year....THIS YEAR....is so different, and any day that someone comes in they get to see "coolness". Flipped classroom is so amazing, I don't know how I did the traditional style for so long! And even though I had students say "I love this class" before, it doesn't compare to now.  And I have to say, I LOVE GOING TO WORK!  (Keep in mind this is my 30th year!)

So the conversation with Calculus students today (who were working "the hardest" problem of the day) was that graphing is a good strategy, even if they don't use it all the time.  I have tried to encourage them A LOT to draw pictures and said even if you don't draw the picture, you should be thinking about the picture in your head.  Here is what I have found out....we "beat that out of them" in earlier classes.  Algebra 1:  let's solve this system of equations by graphing (day 1), every day after that: let's not use graphing, it's not that reliable, let's use Algebra. There are SO MANY more topics I could cite where we don't even show them the pictures of "the magic" because it's just easier to go to a formula that we are going to make them memorize anyway.  I really HATE that (and I don't use that word often, but I do!) I am NOT a memorizer and I discourage my kids from becoming one. When they say "why?", I say "because it won't stick! You'll memorize it for the test but forget it later and I don't want you to forget it.  So let's LOOK at why the magic happens." (aka draw a figure/picture) I've heard so many "ooooh, that's where that comes from. Why didn't my teacher tell me that last year?" I respond with "I don't know".

So back to the conversation (before I digressed), they were having to find zeros and critical points and horizontal asymptotes to a rational polynomial with a radical in the denominator, and they were to graph it.  Still being novices at all of the above, they were struggling. So bring on the Desmos!!

Student: but I thought we weren't supposed to graph in Calculus

Me: On the contrary, remember I've said "I like to see pictures", they tell us a lot. You might not have to depend on them completely, but they are a very useful tool in mathematics. You just need to know when to use them.  Like the tools in your garage at home.  Some of them you use more than others, but it doesn't make the other ones useless.

Student: you mean like a chainsaw? (thanks Brandon!)

Me: exactly!  (I love when they finish my analogies for me! Of course I used that again the next class)

Statistics was about the Pepsi/Coke challenge today.  Can you tell the difference (taste test)? I've never used this before and have to thank DANIELL DIFRANCESCA for his awesome lesson posted on the UNC School of Education website! I used it as written (after considering how I might want to change it and thought, it's great just the way it is). I went to great lengths to make sure the students were not able to tell the bottles apart (took the labels off, switched the caps so I was using either both blue or both red, and put the bottles inside a plastic bag--the plastic molding is different).  I had them talk about all the "lurking variables" without using the vocabulary YET (that's tomorrow) and if we could control that or not. When we had exhausted all of our ideas, I had them send me 2 members from their team to get the samples (cup A and cup B). The extra ones, I randomly assigned using the calculators random integer generator and the class roster. I had asked them if they thought the order one drank them in could have an effect and after they said "yes", I asked if we could control that. The obvious answer was change the order we had participants drink in, so I assigned half the room to drink A first and the other half to drink B first.  Since they had a data table, I made them fill it out at their groups first and then put their results on their whiteboards so everyone could copy it into their data tables.  Homework was to do some tallying of an assortment of results (percents of correct girls/boys, correctness based on order of A/B, and a few others, if you look at the worksheets, it will make sense).  Tomorrow we will capitalize on all that they learned from this.

Of course its great when the students say "that was so much fun", and tomorrow they will want to do it again.  Of course now they want to taste test lots of things!  But when I heard a student say "this was the best day ever", I countered with "what do you mean? Tomorrow will always be THAT! because it just keeps getting better and better and better in here." I didn't get an argument (even though I might have been expecting one!) :)

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