Friday, 27 September 2013

Back At It

I have been back at school for almost 4 weeks now. That looooong list of all the things that need to happen at the beginning of the year seems to be no less daunting after all these years that I have been teaching. As ever, it has felt like I've been running a race but the finish line keeps moving.  The difference this year is that I seem to be the one (in part, anyway) who is moving that finish line.  I have always wanted to do my best, but since becoming more active on Twitter, attending TMC13 and taking Jo Boaler's course, I feel like I have a better idea of how to improve.  This means more work, of course, hence the unreachable finish line.  And it has meant that I have not had time for Twitter which makes me feel disconnected from some of the people to whom I feel the most connected in this crazy math-teaching world : (

I want to attempt to briefly recap what I have been doing over the past 4 weeks in my 3 classes, but I will focus on my grade 9 academic class, as that is where most of my energy has been going.

I have 28 grade 9s (that's the maximum allowed here) and they are lovely.  Really, they are all lovely kids.  I let them sit where they wanted to and I learned their names on day 1.  I told them that I wanted them to make mistakes, that making mistakes is how we learn.  I told them we would be working on their number sense and on patterns.  And we have.  I have been doing counting circles with them, almost daily (thank you @wahedahbug!). It is not everyone's favourite thing, but we do it nonetheless.  They all have to talk.  They all see how to break up numbers and rearrange them.  They see that when someone makes a mistake, it's not the end of the world, but that I turn it into a learning moment.  I am making note of what we do for our counting circle each day - just flying by the seat of my pants, really.  I noted that starting at 120 and going down by 3 was a poor choice as one student landed on 69 (sigh).  I have done one math talk (12 x 15) with them, which I'm glad no one saw (to be improved upon next time).  I introduced visual patterns from the start (the one shown below is a favourite of mine).  Thank you @fawnpnguyen for creating this collection of patterns.  We talked about a variable representing the generalization of a pattern.  We saw the same pattern in many different ways - in terms of the picture and how to write it algebraically.  We saw how to get from one algebraic representation to another.  We did orangemallows when we talked about like terms.  And we did "Like Term MATHO" (bingo).  They worked in groups on big whiteboards. They did 5 quizzes which were all formative (all our quizzes are formative) upon which I only wrote feedback - no marks on anything.  I also set up each quiz as half a page and repeated the questions on the bottom half of the page for them to show corrections.  And it seems to be paying off as the results of their first test are better than they have been for a few years : )

I haven't felt the need to pour quite as much energy into my grade 10 class prep but am really enjoying brainstorming with my colleague after school each day.  We talk about the next day's lesson and homework and tweak more than make big changes.  Yesterday's class was all about finding the distance between two points which I introduce using Dan Meyer's Taco Cart 3-act.  I have to explain to the kids that there are actually taco carts in California.  No so many of those up here!

My grade 12 advanced functions class is a little on auto-pilot.  We have used desmos a lot while exploring polynomial and rational functions.  I love desmos.  It helps students make connections and ask questions.  All good.  On Monday shared work problems will come up so I added the Bean Counting 3-act.  We'll see how that goes.

And, only because I have so few pictures included in this post, here is one more.  WCYDWT?