November 22, 2011

Tracking - Shades of Not-So-Awesome

I have arrived at a new school that has an old structure in the math department. We track our math students both by age and supposedly by "ability," starting in 8th grade. There are two levels of math for each age group, the "normal" and the "advanced," yet 90% of the student body are in the supposed advanced class. Added to this pedagogical flashback is the fact that we offer scholarships to high achieving local kids (we're private). We pull some of these kids out of fancy math and science schools only to put them in "9th grade math." We match them with like-aged students not in a class that might challenge these gifted and motivated kids. The result is many shades of not-so-awesome.

While slow to start the wheels of change are beginning to turn. The conversation of how our math program should be shaped is beginning...

So how would you do it? If you could have your choice of how to organize math classes grades 6 and up, how would you do it?

November 15, 2011

Why Math?

I found this talk brilliant. Let's be honest with our kids. When will they use what we are teaching them? And why are we teaching them the topics that we are teaching? I'll let the video speak for itself.


November 09, 2011

Logically vs. Mathematically

Today in class I overheard, "I tried it logically at first and then I tried it mathematically." It made me laugh a little, cry a little, and I had to force back the teachery knee jerk reaction, "But math is logical!"

The statement says so much about how our students view math and math class. If math isn't logical then we are doing something wrong, but I guess we already knew that.

While the statement made me sad, was this a case of actions speaking louder than words? The students were doing exactly what they should be doing, talking and working out how to solve a problem. Can a teacher ask for more?

November 07, 2011

Why Smart Boards?

I desperately want to embrace and make use of the smart board in my classrooms, but only if they make my classroom more student-centered or allow me to do things I can't already do given a computer and a projector.

While smart boards are undeniably wonderful eye candy and there are some good uses for them I have recently begun to question the value of the smart board. A quick google image search almost universally shows one person using the smart board and many others watching them... Ugh. That's not what I want my classroom to look like.

Is this photo doctored?
Check out the teachers shadow...

Have smart boards simply become something that teachers expect to have? Are smart boards really changing the way we teach? Are smart boards allowing students to learn more or in different ways? How does a smart board allow a teacher to create a more student-centered classroom? How does a smartboard beat a tablet and projector?

I am not an anti-tech guy, far from it, but I don't want technology for the sake of technology. I want technology that improves on what I can already do or even better lets my students answer questions they couldn't previously answer...

What are you doing in your classroom with a smart board?