## Friday, 24 March 2017

### Curve Sketching in a Thinking Classroom

I ended my first full unit teaching in a Thinking Classroom (you can read about the beginning of this journey for me here) in my calculus classes just before the March break. I surveyed my students and had mixed feelings about the results. Many suggested 20 minutes of notes at the beginning of class, yet many of these same students also said that they never looked at the notes I post on Google classroom each day. I e-mailed Alex Overwijk to ask for advice, saying that I felt like I was doing something wrong, or at least not entirely right. His response went along the lines of "they don't like being uncomfortable, they don't like having to struggle and you aren't doing anything wrong". I think that what led to me feeling as I did had a lot to do with the very skill-based nature of the unit. They were taking derivatives and taking more derivatives and then they took some more derivatives. This led to groups taking turns doing questions. The questions were not challenging enough to require them to work together as a group to solve them. I'm not sure how to change that for the let's-learn-how-to-take-derivatives unit, but I will ponder that some more before we get there again next year.

This past week we have been working on the elements of curve sketching. Using the first and second derivatives to help determine intervals of increase and decrease, local maximum and minimum points, intervals of concavity, points of inflection, etc. I have continued to use visible random groups and they have continued to work on the VNPS (whiteboard/chalkboard) for almost the entire class each day. I have tried to be more intentional about what I do work through with them - mostly at the beginning of the class. The questions have been more interesting and more challenging for them. I am really pleased with their efforts. I am finding that they are putting all the pieces together more easily and that I am also thinking more deeply about the material. And it's fun! At least twice this week the bell rang at the end of my afternoon class without anyone in the room being aware that it was the end of class. They didn't want to stop. It's incredible how much fantastic work they are producing and how well they can explain it all to me. I am not quite sure how much gushing is appropriate, but my students are awesome. I snapped this picture of some of them this morning and it makes me happy and proud to look at it.

Here is the progression I used for the week (apologies - I got lazy and didn't include all the answers). They did not all get through every question yesterday and today, but I believe that they all have a solid grasp of the material. I continue to post filled-in notes at the end of each day should they wish to review the work or try any of the questions on their own.

## Monday, 6 March 2017

### Full Unit in a Thinking Classroom

I was going to blog about the last few days in my calculus class, including "Leibniz Day", but I just can't. I found out at the end of the day today that a student I taught all of last year passed away over the weekend. Sometimes teaching is really hard.

Here is the docx version of what I did and here is the PDF version.

## Wednesday, 1 March 2017

### Quotient Rule in a Thinking Classroom

I learned a lesson yesterday when my students far exceeded my expectations. One group had completed the entire sequence I came up with to "discover" and apply the quotient rule within 30 minutes of the start of class. This is when I am really glad that I have taught the course many times before and know the material inside out. I let that group start on their homework, something that never really happened during class time even before I switched to a the thinking classroom model, while I found another question worthy of their time. I could have just thrown an uglier question up on the board for them, but I wanted one that would make them think and, hopefully, challenge them. I found a good one and they got back up and worked at it for most of the remainder of the class.

The challenge for me is to set up my sequence of questions in a very intentional way, making sure the progression is neither too little nor too much at a time. But I also have to make sure that I have planned enough challenges to keep them going and keep them thinking. Getting that right will take a little more practice.

After that class I fixed things up for my afternoon class, adding the new question into the sequence along with another harder question that would make any algebraic misconceptions come to light. It turned out to be a little too tricky for most groups and they all got stuck. I adjusted by giving them the answer so they knew what they were trying to get, but many groups eventually abandoned that question and moved on. After that class I rearranged my sequence again, putting that question last.

As I learn to adjust and plan better hopefully I will get better at finding that sweet spot of just-right difficulty progression and quantity.