Friday, 19 July 2013

MAT: Teaching 2013, The Good


Been meaning to toss this one online. Time to do a quick look back at 2012-2013 and hit the highlights, to recall for next term. Better late than never, eh? Splitting it across two posts, similar to how I did back here, in November. In fact, a couple items will be repeated and updated.


1) REDESIGN OF DATA MANAGEMENT


Quick context: This is Ontario's Grade 12 University level probability/statistics course. The course itself is five strands, each with two or three expectations; I've been teaching the expectations, but unaligned to the strands. The textbook is over 10 years old and contains an entire chapter no longer in the curriculum, so no help there.

Part of my difficulty lay in how continuous distributions and standard deviation are in a different strand from central tendency and interquartile range, which otherwise felt like a reasonable fit. Or rather, they were still a fit from last year, when I shifted the whole course towards expectations, away from points (currently the only one with this course at the school). This year, I think I finally managed an alignment with the curriculum document that I'm (temporarily) satisfied with!

I also revamped the probability project (part of strand 5), which has in the past been "rewrite a fairy tale or book to include probability" and then "research or invent a game and analyze its probability" to be... "research any question from this list". The list was generated by me asking the students for suggestions, which I then modified accordingly. So yeah.

That still needs tweaking (how do you mark a project where someone analyzed the probability of being selected for jury duty?) but I like where it went. And of course, I also like my redesign of the course exam, which I blogged about previously. Probably won't be changing this course around much next year, in order to focus efforts elsewhere.

2) SEAT SWITCH FRIDAY


Quick context: Like it says, on Fridays, students would sit elsewhere.

I'm not comfortable making groups, or even working with them; this seems like a reasonable alternative. In some sense it was a fail, as I kept forgetting. But I liked it when I remembered to do it, and while I didn't do it with my C-level class, a number of them would sit in different places anyway depending on attendance. One U-student told me he worked better when on the other side of the class. I also feel like the day-to-day pairings really do need to break up and shuffle from time to time.

Pictured: Not working well together.

Would likely work better if I started it at the outset. Which will murder me in terms of name recall, but such is life.

3) SONGS


Quick context: I rewrite popular songs to have math lyrics, and sing them in class. With accompanying powerpoints.

Actually, I hesitate on this one being 'good', but it wasn't 'bad' per se. On the one hand, I had a student call me over one day and say, "You know, you haven't had a song in several weeks". On the other hand, I had three guys walk out of class mid-chorus one day. Somewhere in the middle is that, in the end, not many said it helped with content - though they did say it was entertaining. And if they're enjoying the class, they may enjoy the subject more. Still, I don't want the novelty and entertainment to take away from the maths.

Really on the fence here. Don't want my own ego to become a factor either. Still, call it a win?

4) PHOTOCOPYING STUDENT SOLUTIONS


Quick context: After a test, I would choose good student solutions, photocopy them, and post them in the class as the model solutions. Tried to never have more than half a page from any one particular student, per test.

This meant that I didn't need to draw up my own solutions, which I often didn't have time for anyway. It did mean noting good solutions as I went through, and photocopying, but only once did this hold me up from returning tests within the one week window it usually takes me. I also feel like students may have responded better to seeing their [peers] own work.

Would you write in a thought bubble?
If I continue this, in theory, at some point I'll teach the same class twice in a day - I wonder, should I run the same text and mix solutions into one set? Or have two? There was also one test where I had a picture, to which I added a thought bubble. Only a couple students wrote in it. Meant to do that more.

That concludes the Good, tune in to the later post for the Bad. Got good things YOU do that are similar, or that you think I'd enjoy reading about? Drop me a comment below.

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