March 15, 2013

Frozen Water "Sine Wave"

Some more video awesomeness.

I'm not sure I would call that a "sine" wave as Boing Boing did... but all the same some pretty cool visuals and some great potential links to physics and math. I'm teaching trig to my SL kids at the moment, might make for an interesting diversion. There is no place in the SL curriculum that hints that parameters such as amplitude and period can be functions rather than just constants... 

March 14, 2013

More Reflections - The IB and other Things

Moving back to greener pastures.

Next year I'm returning to my previous school. Leaving an overseas post, a great pay check and a school that I perceive to be in a pretty deep rut.

[Insert self-pitying rant on the failures of my current school].

This is my third school... I'm burned out. Tired. Frustrated. And still loving it when the light goes on and my kids get a tough concept.

IB it's not you. It's me?

With a senior class who doesn't have a single IB student likely to score above the world average and 25% of whom are likely to fail the diploma...  reflection comes quick and often. 

Looking over past posts as reminders of what went well (or not so well) I came across this at the bottom of a post about the unit circle.

Reflections: To be honest I don't know where the stage for this success was first set [...]. While having all the mathematical tools needed [...] is necessary I don't think it's sufficient. Two more pieces were needed:
  1. Students feeling the freedom to tackle a problem with different methods, thus allowing them to see problems in the context that is most natural to them. 
  1. Students being trained to solve new tough problems not simply repeating steps that the teacher has demonstrated on a whiteboard. 
A year after teaching that lesson on the Unit Circle I still believe those two pieces were the key to one of my most successful class periods in 10 years of teaching (and most other successes I've had).

Those two pieces seem to be in stark contrast to the demands of the IB and  other standardized test based programs.

March 05, 2013

Mechanical Integration - Surface Area

A clip from Dirty Jobs (one of my favorites) of a machine that calculates the surface area of irregularly shaped objects - in this case tanned hides. Too clever. Wish I'd seen this when I was teaching integration.

Spotted originally on Boing Boing.

March 04, 2013

IB Math SL and UbD

Could your students solve (with understanding) the following problem in 6 minutes with only 2-3 hours of class time and no prior exposure to binomial expansions or pascal's triangle?

Sure, my kids can write down the correct answer - they might even understand what they're doing - but it took a whole lot more than 2-3 hours to get them there.

I came to my current school a believer that the IBDP program was a good, even great, program for many students. I will be leaving with some serious doubts... In physics there are 6 hours set aside for kinematics but 18 for climate change and energy sources. Seriously? In Math SL I have 9 hours total for arithmetic/geometric sequences and series, binomial expansion plus rules of exponents and logarithms. Where's the time to develop either the need for these tools or any real understanding?

If you say it's supposed to happen in a prior class, then why isn't it in the presumed knowledge?

Today is a PD day. My job was to write enduring understandings (a la UbD) for my Math SL classes. So what is the "enduring understanding" of 2-3 hours spent on binomial expansion? Or for Math SL in general?

If I'm honest?
Students will understand that a big scary test that determines their college options is coming their way so regardless of personal interest they will pretend that they want to be engineers and "learn" math.
Or when thinking about arithmetic and geometric series: 
Students will understand that these questions are easy points on the IB test and should not be missed and that missing these questions will be followed by a long frustrated rant from the teacher or appropriate administrator.
For the sake of transparency maybe I should put this on my wall?

Please tell me I'm wrong. I know people live, breath and bleed the IBDP. It's just that I'm losing my faith.