I've come to grow quite fond of our little After School meetings!  The discussion is always quite intense, world problems are solved, and the food is always good, too!


Last week, we met yet again.  Topics up for discussion included possible changes to our final project before the May presentation.  We talked about A4A lessons that we've recently tried in the classroom and plan to use in the future.  We discussed the Responsibility for Learning lens.  Finally, at the last minute, we came up with some great ideas that would completely CHANGE our final project, but an exciting change, nevertheless.


First, we discussed Spaghetti Bridges.  One member of the group wants to give it one last shot, while the rest of us have pretty much abandoned all hope for success on that one.  Students gravitated towards the science portion of this lesson, and they struggled to see the math connection.  Good for science teachers, not such great news for math teachers.  We know we'll have a final project to share, but the conversation was pretty much dropped when no suggestions for where to go next were offered.


One member of our group tried the Mile Marker activity and LOVED it.  She said that there are so few absolute value lessons out there, and the kids really seemed to grasp the concepts while going through this lesson.  Additionally, we talked about what a great lesson the M&M activity would be for exponential functions.  A new member to Algebra for All had no clue what this activity entailed, and so the rest of us gladly filled him in with promises to get him all of the copies and resources he needed.  What a great moment for Algebra for All!


This somehow led into a great debate about the Responsibility for Learning....  not just in a lesson, but generally, overall in schools.  With such distractions as Career Center students pounding on classroom doors, and hanging out in the hallway, it makes it much more difficult for students to take on that responsibility for learning.  Furthermore, are we putting too much on the students that aren't necessarily going to fit the traditional "college bound" curriculum?  Do we put them in a position of such grief and stress, are they even in a thinking place of their brain?  Some argued that putting high expectations on some students may actually end up doing the opposite of what teachers desire.  These students get so overwhelmed, they shut down and fail to take responsibility for their learning.  It was also mentioned that if math students see more of the "real world" applications, if they can see WHY math is valuable to them, they may take more responsibility for their learning.  I guess that problem was NOT solved.


Our meeting ended with an interesting revelation.  Our "real world application" talk somehow got us fixated on forensic science and the enormous amount of math as these specialists calculate blood spatters, tire skid measurements, etc.  These all involve sine, cosine, tangent, ratios, proportions, and so much more.  It was agreed that we'd contact various science teachers in our respective buildings (again with the science connection) to see if there was an applicable lesson plan that would fit our final project requirements.  We're hoping to get some distinct and clarifying questions answered at the next face-to-face meeting about the final project requirements.


I look forward to meeting up with this EXCELLENT group of colleagues again tomorrow!

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Comment by Beverly George on March 25, 2011 at 9:01am
Kara, I'm interested to hear more about this personalized instruction that you have planned for next year!  Students tracking their own success would be an EXCELLENT motivator, I would think.  MORE please!!!
Comment by Kara Roberts on March 24, 2011 at 6:49pm

I am glad that you are accomplishing the objectives for Algebra 4 All.  It seems as though you are working with dedicated teachers that have the desire to find alternative approaches for teaching.  It is awesome that you are finding so many science connections.  I am interested to see what comes of the idea behind forensic science.

You asked about putting too much pressure on kids.  I think putting the pressure on creates a bell curve.  There are the few that will take the responsibility and thrive, there are a few that will fold under the pressure since they beleive they cannot do it, and then there are the rest in the middle that will just go with the flow and do what is told of them.  I cannot give you an answer.  At the middle school level, we are putting the pressure on as well.  Next year we are going to a more personalized instruction with student set goals and the like.  The students will be tracking their own success.  I don't know if this will add pressure or if it will create more buy-in or what.  But, holding our kids at higher standards is what we are expected to do.  ...I cannot remember where I was going with that...sorry.

Thanks for the post.

Comment by Beverly George on March 21, 2011 at 7:03pm
Noah, you are very kind!!  I am flattered by your praise over our after-school meetings.  I applaud your thoughts of having a "student-centered" curriculum that involves more input from the students.  I will certainly take a look at the video!  Again, thanks for the positive comments!
Comment by Noah Sharrow on March 21, 2011 at 1:45pm
what a great/thorough posting...it seems to me that this is what EVERY meeting should be!  (Focused primarily on instruction and planning great lessons, with a balance of fine-detail discussion and big-picture thinking too)  Your Responsibility for Learning discussion is one that I (and every teacher in the world?!?) have been involved in from time to time.  On the one hand, "YES, EVERY student should get through Alg2 - obviously!"...but...on the other hand, is a student who has an excellent Alg1 and Geom experience doomed for failure in life?!?  A big issue on my mind recently is giving the students more VOICE in their schooling - what to study, when to study it..."just in time" learning  just because a student has Alg1 in 8th or 9th or 10th grade...what does that "lock them" into later?  Check out this really interesting 20-minute TED talk from the creator of www.khanacademy.org  ...  the future of education is coming...fast!  Overall, it seems like a good thing, but whether it is good or bad might be irrelevant - it will definitely be different

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