Saturday 20 July 2013

MAT: Teaching 2013, The Bad

This is a continuation from the earlier post. We move here from The Good to The Bad.


I grant that part of the problem here is how I aborted it in September (because the provincial government were being stupid) then only resumed in May, but even in 2011-12 it was a miracle to get three people out. I think part of it is because I don't want it to be me lecturing, I want it to be about whatever the students would like. Yet (3D marshmellow version of Pascal's Triangle aside) I'm not really getting any vibes there.

Pictured: Student Initiative

Maybe next year I should blitz for a week, where one day we watch a Numberphile video, another we talk circles, another I give them a puzzle, then I see where the preference is? Just DON'T KNOW. Don't want it to completely dissolve into being a place merely for those who are good at curriculum style math. But... people came out to a colleague for that, so maybe this has to be that at first, since right now, it's a nearly empty room.


I instituted this in September, because I was concerned that the provincial government would become even more stupid, meaning I wouldn't have time to mark in my off hours. (What off hours?) The observant will see this was a "good" in November. I botched it.

While I still like giving the more instantaneous feedback, in the interests of time, I stopped taking them all in, only asking students to hand in if they wanted additional comments. Usually only two or three ever took me up on my offer, then I'd see communication errors on tests and wonder if some were a result of not catching those things when I was putting down quiz solutions. I'm also not great at catching who's struggling unless I see things written down, which I had deprived myself of doing.

So less marking for me, yes, but I don't feel like it was as effective as I wanted, or as it should have been. I have to find a balance somehow. Maybe take in every other quiz?

One pound IS NOT 500 g! You FAIL!



This is always a problem for me. I figure if you don't want to work, it's your choice to fail. But this year in my C-level, some students not working was actively disrupting the ability of others to work. I should have reigned it in. I kind of tried, by drawing up a set of class expectations for the first time in years, but it only slowed the damage. I'm also lousy at hands-on, and I hate games (I rarely even play them with friends). But that's what they thrive on. Some students I knew weren't achieving their potential, and I hated myself for that, but apparently not enough to find a way to bloody well deal with it. Sigh. Maybe I'll become better at discipline if/when I have kids of my own? In the meantime, FAIL.


I've blogged about this before. It used to take me 30 seconds per paper to total points. Now it takes me 2 minutes per paper to tally levels. Which turns 15 minutes into 60. Others in my department have this hybrid system that works for them; I think I'd still be second guessing myself. It's the editor in me... even if I did have a way to turn it off, I'm not sure I'd want to, for fear I couldn't get it back. Sigh. How do English teachers do it?! I think in numbers, that means I mark QUANTITATIVELY, not QUALITATIVELY, damn it!

Honestly, I feel like that's my biggest problem lately, because it's the one I'm actively trying to work at, and yet experience limited success.

Fortunately, I think that's the worst of it. My other items from November, namely personified math, use of website, and shutting up, have migrated to "meh" territory.

Of course, there's probably other things I need to improve on as well (like changing the date on the board more than once a week), but I don't want to get too down on myself. And if you have a suggestion for a fix, feel free to let me know!


  1. The first part, the big problem seemed to be preparing for work action against a provincial government hellbent on taking away bargaining rights. The Math Club didn't get anywhere because of the battling. The marking scheme came about because of the battling. Even classroom management may have been affected. The past school year may have been completely atypical as a result.

    With classroom management, did the problems happen in classes that were mandatory, or also in math classes that were optional? Do any of your colleagues have suggestions?

    The marking schemes... Yeah, and I still have no idea. You can't really give out open-ended questions like English teachers can (there are many ways to analyse a text; there aren't many ways to get to a correct answer in math). Does the concept of student improvement help any? (As in, student started at level x in September, shows that they have grasped the concepts even though answers are elusive, and are at level y at time of marking.) It's nasty in math when one loses the trail - a wrong step leads to more wrong steps, and, soon enough, the student's not only off course, but off the radar, too. I think the marking requirements need to be adjusted to reflect the reality of the course, not the other way around, but that's above your pay grade at the moment.

    For the math club, the students showing up are there for the math. Can you get them to do something creative while still math-y?

    1. Well, and as a friend pointed out, I'm not actually hired to run clubs. So that's more of a personal annoyance than a teaching one. (And just to clarify for all, we don't have multiple math clubs at school, my colleague ran one exclusively for math contests while I was busy with the school play.) Thing is, I don't want to use the political situation as an excuse. It's sort of like blaming what revealed the problem as opposed to the problem itself. (Hm, shades of Edward Snowden.)

      As to CM, colleagues had some thoughts/sympathies, but it still troubles me that I don't have the right mindset. Actually no - what troubles me is that I can't find the impetus within me to change the one that I have. "Mandatory" is also relative; it was the third needed math credit, but students didn't have to take college level.

      As to marking schemes, sorry - you're off base. My bad though for poor explanation. We do lots of open-ended stuff, as in "Here's two points. Create various parabolas that go through them, with equations." There ARE many ways to get a correct answer, that's the whole POINT to math these days. Some are naturally more efficient, is the thing. (Why use the quadratic formula when it factors?) So marking is based on levels and rubrics and I can peg that TECHNICAL stuff down. But when it actually comes to using MY OWN MARKING SCHEME, I still waffle between "Is that 68% or 75%"?

      It's my own plan! You think I'd get better. And I suppose I have, but it's still taking me three times as long to mark as it used to. Maybe there's a motivation factor in there too, though that's harder to measure. Oh well, I'll keep thinking.

    2. It revealed the problem, but also cut off time to fix the problem. Maybe the best is to ask students what they want to see in a Math Club? (Or is the first rule of Math Club to not talk about Math Club?)

      Hmm... Not sure if I can help there. The "mandatory" bit is to find out if convincing the problem students that they might be better off in a different class. If the class is required, that makes it difficult.

      Yep, I'm off. It sounds like the fuzzy factor is the culprit. Does the student understand what he or she wrote or does it look like rote memorization? I can't work with fuzzy. And, given your comments about my high school experience, maybe the problem is the fuzziness? Can you create a set of concrete points beyond just the technical to determine the difference between 68% and 75%?