Monday, November 17, 2014

I actually get this!

Four little words that bring such music to my ears!  "I actually get this!" I heard a lot of that or "oooooh" today in both classes.  It was most fun because several times the students didn't know I heard them say it to their teammates.  Calculus has been working on differentials, propagated error, relative error and maximum error for the past 3 days, and they still cause a lot of confusion when an application problem rolls into the picture.  I have drawn a diagram of what we are finding over and over and over so they can see it.  And finally it started to click today (yay! lightbulbs are coming on!)  While I know there are still some questions (hopefully we can finalize answers to them tomorrow), I KNOW that I did a MUCH BETTER job at explaining them this year.  Sometimes, it really helps to let students work (after you have given them some direction) and see where the problems tend to be.  Otherwise you are trying to troubleshoot where there may not be trouble and at the same time missing where there is plenty.  That happened both Friday and today.  I needed to see their collective work to know what the problems were.  Having whiteboards 270 degrees around helps me see them quickly.  Then I know how to fix the problems.

Stats students are trying to make proper Venn diagrams and tree diagrams and see the connections between them for probability.  So many had not seen their connection until today, when I got the "oooooh".  There were many "aha" moments.  It feels so good when that happens.  And it's fun because the students then see how "the magic" works, even they said "it's magical" and I feel like they really did see a magic trick which will now stay with them because they witnessed it unfolding right before their eyes.

Isn't that what we are supposed to be doing as a math teacher?!!  Showing students "the magic" behind the trick.  So many try to just teach them the trick, but the students can't reproduce the trick because they don't really know "the magic" behind it.  It's like trying to perform a card trick where you haven't figured out HOW it works, and you keep getting it wrong because of that.  I feel like so many students get turned off to math because they view it as a bunch of secrets and magic that they don't have the keys to.  I hope that is not the case in my class.  I love showing them the secrets...and the more drama you can add to it: "hey guys, this is a secret, don't tell anyone I told you but...." really gets them interested.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

How they do love math!

It was Saturday School today....for FOUR HOURS!! 8am-noon.  Who wants to get up and do math for four hours on a Saturday?  52 of my students did and they were enthusiastic about it!  We had so many desks, tables and chairs, I'm confident that the fire marshall would have declared us to be in violation of code, but that didn't matter to the kids (or me)!  There was SO MUCH math discussion going on.  It was like being a comic book enthusiast at Comic Con!  Surprisingly, I couldn't even tell you how much noise there was because I don't notice it so much anymore.  Funniest part of the day was having a student tell me, "I called you and you ignored me." It was funny because I thought it was a solicitor so I silenced the call.  Her group was trying to get my attention from across the room.

The most interesting part is how little I actually had to do.  I circulated the room, as much as I could with 45 desks, 3 large tables and 9 spare chairs, but mostly students were up at the whiteboards working and explaining to each other.  Sometimes there was a disagreement about a solution and I would get called over.  Occasionally I got to use a "teachable moment" about some topic (I still love getting to explain!). Once in awhile, groups wanted to know if their solutions were correct and I loaned answer keys here and there.  It is awesome when the students can check their answers and choose to re-work (if they get it wrong) the problem rather than call me over immediately.  What I have been experiencing lately is: "if you leave them to work together long enough, they almost always get to the correct solution".  As students have been working in class, I have noticed that sometimes a group will send a "scout" to get my attention when I am working with another group, and then by the time I get to that group that had a question, they say "nevermind, we figured it out".  I love that!  Moreover, if one student in a group asks a question, my first response is "did you ask anyone else in your group?".  If the answer is no, I simply say "they don't bite" and walk away.  Still working to teach them that I am not the "keeper of the knowledge" and how to use their immediate resources.  Many times I explain to one student or one group and then make them "pay it forward" by explaining to another.  If they can do it, I know they have it figured out.  That explaining is SO IMPORTANT!!

It was interesting how the groups formed.  Because they are used to working with a new team every two weeks, it didn't seem to matter who they worked with.  While I would have expected them to sit with friends, they just sat anywhere and started working with whoever was at their table.  Some of them moved desks to form larger groups.  All I had to do at 8 am was announce their options for what they could work on, and post it up on a section of the board.  After that, they made their own choices about how to best prepare for upcoming tests, or the final, or learning the current contents we are covering in each class.  Mind you half of the room was Calculus and the other half was Statistics, so it was impossible for me to be teaching.  But the students rely on me less to do that as they really have realized that I give them instruction when they need it (at the beginning of new topics) and then I give them the tools they need to figure it out so that it is internalized.  They don't need to listen to me much.  I really am a coach, and I love that.  I push them farther, make them think deeper, apply what they know and explain it to me and to each other.  This year really has been the most amazing year of all my 30 years combined!!

Looking forward to every day that I go in!!  Even on Saturdays!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I wish you could be here!

I REALLY wish you could be in my class everyday watching what I get to watch!  It is so exciting...EVERY day!!  The kids don't NEED me like they used to!  I've created a bunch of independent learners...collaborators actually.  I get to watch and they allow me to participate once in awhile, but they really do depend on each other!  It is THE BEST!  And even though I don't actually "teach" like I used to, I get to interject, ask questions, make suggestions, ask more questions and let them tell me lots of stuff about math!  (At least I still get to make the video lessons) What could be better?!

In Calculus today, I gave them problems #11-5.  Yup, I wrote it correctly.  Initially it made them stop and ask "what?", until someone said, "so you want us to do them backwards?"  Yup! That's what I want. They were off and running, working away on their whiteboards.  But here is the best part: I forced them to go backwards because I wanted to make sure they discussed the hardest ones first.  Well THAT plan didn't work out (happily) because they were not deterred for very long.  Soon enough, groups had 11, then 10, then 9, and all the way to number 5 completed. Some teams had time to get out the laptop and start watching tonight's notes!  That has never happened.  I'm going to have to "up my game"!  But it felt amazing!  Especially when they asked so few questions.  Sometimes their having to wait to ask me for help pushes them to try a little more with the problem...and then viola', they get it without me (so that by the time I get to their group, they say "we figured it out").  Gotta love "wait time"!

Statistics is progressing nicely as of late.  I've had them working a bit more in their groups in a productive manner.  They have been discussing 3-way and 2-way tables and I keep giving them more things to consider.  Today was are in the throes of Simpson's Paradox (little synapses are bursting in their brains when they see the outcome change!)  But one of the reasons I would love for you to be here is the RICH discussions they are having in their groups.  Asking questions that I usually ask and then answering them collaboratively.  It makes me smile (inside and out) when I hear their talk!

Still maintain that I have the best job in the world!!