Thursday, August 30, 2012

Problems, Problems, Problems

We are nearing the end of the first FULL WEEK of school. I am very impressed with how hard my students are working. We have gotten past the REVIEW and have started working on some NEW skills. In ALGEBRA, we attempted to do some Critical Thinking and problem solving with the "Mars Rover Problem". In all honesty, I can say it didn't go very well. This problem came from the Futures Channel. It was a great APPLICATION of ALGEBRA in the real world dealing with why the Mars Rover has 6 wheels instead of only 4. Getting the students to problem solve was not easy. Students hate the traditional word problems like "Train A leaves the station and travels west at blahblahblah...." BUT, they really hate these REAL WORLD problem solving applications. My theory why? Because they're hard! This PROJECT asks students to use a couple of GIVEN PROBABILITY EQUATIONS and given measurement numbers to analyze the engineering design of an object.Then with that information the are asked to draw conclusions to anser the DRIVING QUESTION. It's HARD WORK!

My Geometry students are also struggling a little with our "Interior Decorating" project. It's not easy to plan and organize a MATH PROJECT. However, I am determined to help my students learn to REALLY THINK!

It's sad to say that students have not been TAUGHT to problem solve or think critically as much as they need to. It's not their fault. It's not their teachers fault either. Our society is so driven by the "Standardized Test" , we don't get to much real world CRITICAL THINKING. We are too busy teaching "Drill Work". Just because a student can solve 5x + 7 = 32, doesn't mean he can think critically or is prepared to be a "Productive Citizen" upon graduation.

Hanging Pictures on a WALL is a very low level basic skill. It's not a skill that's going to make you rich. It's not a skill that will get you a scholarship or admitted to colleger. It's not a STEM problem. However, it is a useful skill and truly is a REAL LIFE application. It takes some planning, organization, and practical skills with a Tape Measure. YES, IT IS A MATH PROBLEM and specifically a GEOMETRY problem. It is WAY beyond identifying a Ray, Line, or Plane and is infinitely more useful.

Well, enough rambling for one night! Tomorrow, we forge ahead. We will collect Notebooks, Weekly Progress Reports, Reflections, and Life Skills Evaluation for a grade. Then we ge back to work on some Critical Thinking Skills and TEAM PROJECTS. I love my students and look forward to the challenge!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Work Day

Really, every day is a work day.

But, at the beginning of school we spend so much time getting everything set up, we get very little MATH work done. The class rules for each class have been finalized and are attached below.
Geometry Class Contract

Algebra 1 Class Contract

It was a quite a cooperative effort developing these two contracts. Congress should work together so collaboratively!

All students completed weekly progress reports for last week and did a great job providing feedback about how things are going. We have now opened Khan Academy accounts to work on our Algebra and Geometry Skills. We will combine this "Skill" work with projects and connections so we can work on Critical Thinking Skills.

Here are two examples:

We opened class with this on Friday and discussed why this was true. We even tried it in class!

On Thursday we used this picture to problem solve. We asked" How tall would the person be that could sit Comfortably in this chair. (Picture from Dan Myer Blog 101qs) We came up with 72 feet tall. The class came up with some assumptions and did a good job justifying their answer. (We really used some basic algebra skills when we were planning how to solve it.) What do you think?

 Please take a seat, Gulliver
 We are really trying to get everyone to THINK to solve all sorts of problems. Math isn't just about numbers and shapes. It's about solving problems and thinking critically. We want to combine skills with these "Thinking Exercises" throughout the class.

My geometry classes just started an "Interior Design Project" to decorate the classroom walls. We will plan a layout, use measurement skills and organization to complete the project. We had our first Brainstorming session today. We will continue working on the project tomorrow!

My students are AWESOME! They are working hard and have been focused! I look forward to every day!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Teamwork in Math Class

Another great day for Algebra and Geometry. We didn't tackle "Math" on day 2, but we worked together to start building the TEAMWORK atmosphere of these classes. 

The Algebra class were broken up into 5 teams of 4 and were given "THE WASHER CHALLENGE". They had to devise a system to transport a tennis ball across the room and place it in a cup. They were given a large flat washer and 4 strings. AS TEAMS they did a great job being very creative and tackling critical thinking skills. The winning team made it in 17 seconds!

The Geometry class had a different challenge. They were broken up into teams to design and build SPAGHETTI TOWERS. The winning tower was 34 inches tall.

In both classes, I had a group also monitor and evaluate how the teams worked together. THey provided great insight and did a wonderful job.

In both classes, we then began BUILDING our class rules. The students took a class rules survey and with that information I have created a rough draft of our rules. We will edit them tomorrow and then put the CONTRACT into place.  I loved the discussion and openness of the students. We shared a google doc so EVERYONE had the chance to give their opinions. We also began discussion about our CLASSROOM TWITTER account and Twitter agreements were sent home to get signatures.

NEXT UP, we will create mission statements AND create our Khan Academy Accounts. We will begin working on some basic math facts to see where everyone is BEFORE we start work on Algebra and Geometry.

What a great start to the school year. I am absolutely excited about the positive attitude of my students. They shared some great things they were grateful for, sent some positive emails, and performed some random acts of kindness. WE WILL DO THIS ALL YEAR! I can't wait to see the great things these classes will do!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

I Love Math - Day 1 in GHS MATH 2012

Today was the first day BACK in the Classroom. I had a great day and look forward to working with my classes this year. As always. the first day schedule is crazy. Class meetings, handbook meetings, issuing lap tops, and abbreviated schedules add to the chaos of students trying to find rooms and teachers. Add on to that a BRAND NEW Building, it was a wild day. Even with all that, we were able to accomplish a few positive things today.

In Geometry we talked about a few of the projects we are going to start here at the beginning of the year. We will be "Decorating" my classroom with posters, signs, and "Rhoades" items. This first project will help us start out applying some basic geometric principals. We will measure, scale drawings , collaborate, communicate, and use some critical thinking skills in designing the layout.

We also talked about a future project of designing a residential sprinkling system using what we learn about circles, arcs, sectors, line segments, radii, diameter, and other 21st century skills.

In  both Algebra and Geometry, we covered the syllabus and basic housekeeping along with implementing a standards based grading system.

My students were great. They cooperated, participated, and seemed enthusiastic about the class.

The most important part of the day was the presentation and discussion about being positive about Math. I challenged the students to follow Shawn Achors "Happiness Advantage" system. Our homework assignment was to find 3 things were grateful for, email someone with a compliment, and do some type of random act of kindness. I will ask them tomorrow about the results. We will continue to do this and maintain a POSITIVE attitude about life and MATH class in the 2012-2013 school year.

Tomorrow: We will work on Team Building and then build the class rules and mission statement for the class. Can't wait!