Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Here we Go!

Today was the first day of the new school year. Last semester I blogged daily about my grade 10 applied experience as I was spiralling through the curriculum with activities for the first time. I don't plan on blogging daily again, but really do feel that it helped me reflect about my practice, which I believe is really important and often neglected aspect of our profession. So my plan is to blog when I do something that I think is interesting, however often that is.

In Ontario, most schools are semestered so we teach the same students every day for half the year, then get a new crop of kids in February. We see each of 3 classes for 75 minutes and have a 75 minute prep period each day (when we are not supervising or covering someone else's class). This semester I have MHF4U (grade 12 advanced functions), MPM2D (grade 10 academic math) and MFM2P (grade 10 applied math) first semester.

At the end of last year, one of the cards I got from a graduating student said something to the effect of "I will never forget the first day of math class in September". At the time I read it, I had no idea what we had done back on September 3rd! I did figure it out though - we did the Marshmallow Challenge. And we did it again today in MHF4U! I stole this from someone (thanks and I'm sorry I don't remember who you are). I put students in random groups of (mostly) 4 and gave each group a large whiteboard.

I actually gave them 20 minutes to build as I remember time being really tight last year. Here are some of the final products. These are the sturdiest ones:

and here is the winner:

It was really interesting to watch them interact and I loved hearing the numerous "What if we ...". I was impressed with their efforts and collaboration. We also talked about mindset and learning from mistakes. It was a good first class.

Next up, grade 10 academic. I have done the "Don't Lose Your Marble" activity on the first day of MPM2D for ever (well, almost). Students have to find the relationship between the height of a ramp and the distance a marble will roll. I like this activity because I think it gives students a chance to remember something about linear relationships in a low pressure situation. (Note: I know that it is actually a quadratic relationship and I will tell them that tomorrow. For the small data set that they collect, a linear model works quite well.) They work in groups and help each other remember things like dependent & independent variables, slope, etc. And I get to observe them which is a great way to start to get to know them. I plan on doing many more activities with this class this year so we are off to a good start.

Last period of the (very hot) day was grade 10 applied. The girls all sat together and the boys did the same. I moved a few people around to even out the groups. We talked a bit about spiralling and the fact that we will be working through a lot of activities, which was met with a positive response. Then I gave them Fawn's Noah's Ark problem to work on in groups. I think my next comment is a reflection of why many of these kids are in the applied (vs. academic) math. It is like they have have the curiosity zapped out of them. It is sad that they gave up so easily, or tried to. That they did not want to solve the problem. That they thought they were not smart enough to solve the problem. I continued to encourage them and kept saying "Convince me!" when they came up with an answer. I tried to point out some of the good strategies they were using and nudged them in the right direction if they were really stuck. No one finished the problem in class so I said there would be a prize if anyone comes in with a correct, well written up solution tomorrow. We'll see. There is always a lot of work to build up the confidence in many of the students in MFM2P. I believe they can all succeed and will work toward having them believe the same.

I did accomplish my day 1 goal: learn the names of ALL my students. Now to finish planning for day 2!