Thursday, July 28, 2016

Doing PBL on a Spectrum

I spent last school year teaching Geometry Honors at my school with a Problem-Based Curriculum (available on Carmel Schettino's website). As I've said before, it was the most fun I've ever had teaching! As Tracy Zager talked about in her keynote at TMC, secondary teachers often forget to play with math. We get focused on algebraic ways of solving and forget that we can have fun with problems too!

As a department, we have talked about transitioning away from traditional materials and toward materials that better support students problem solving and "being puzzled and then unpuzzled," as some in the #MTBoS have termed it. As I talked about in my TMC presentation and again at the PBL Summit last week, I have consistently had a hard time seeing how someone could do "part-time PBL."

My school is very supportive of the work we have done in our GeoHon class, but also not interested in moving toward a model in which all of our classes are fully based on a PBL curriculum. So, I have been thinking a lot about where the happy medium will be for me in my other classes. (I'm teaching two sections of GeoHon, one of Alg2Hon, and one PreCalc this coming school year.)

I started to get a better idea of what that would look like today. I met with two other teachers today (one that taught Algebra 2 Honors in the past at my school and one that is teaching it this coming year as well). We talked about combing through a number of resources (Art of Problem Solving, CPM, Carnegie, Exeter, ...) and finding problems that go with each of our units.

For each unit/chapter, we'll develop a Problem Set that has mixed problems, and our goal is that none of them are the types of problems we could get from our textbook. I am envisioning my class having traditional work (maybe fewer problems) for practice, but also assigning 1-3 Problems from the Problem Set each night. When students enter the class the next day, I'll ask/someone will volunteer to put their solution on the board and they'll talk through it. It will give an opportunity for other students to share their solutions as well. In this way, part of the structure of the class will look like my Geometry Honors class (and the vast majority of students in this class took GeoHon last year). I'm hopeful that it will be a good start to introducing more thought-provoking problems in classes beyond the Geometry Honors course.

I'm also going to share all my materials - so if you have an interest in them, you can use them too! I've only started Chapter 1 (which for us is linear equations, linear inequalities, and absolute value). But as I finish them, I'll put them in my shared folder!

PLEASE let me know if you have any suggestions or feedback!

Friday, July 22, 2016

Whirlwind/TMC Recap and Goals

I'm currently sitting in the Boston airport waiting to board my flight back to Denver. The past week has been crazy. Let me explain...

Last Thursday, AJ and I drove about 15 hours to Minneapolis (with the dog in tow too). We explored and had some time together on Friday (I didn't sign up early enough for the Demos pre-conference...learned my lesson!). Saturday and Sunday were filled with awesome TMC moments - including my first ever conference presentation!

Then Monday was our 1 year anniversary! I left the conference early so I could drive back to Denver with the wife and so we could at least be together on our anniversary. We arrived back in Denver at 6pm and we were on our way to the airport at 6 the next morning. I flew into Boston on Tuesday afternoon, rented a car and drove the 2.5 hours to Deerfield for the Problem-Based Learning Math Summit. Presented on Wednesday and immersed myself in great conversations for two days. I'm ready to be home!

My general experience at any conference is one of excitement, generally followed by everything feeling overwhelming. I have so many ideas! How do I figure out what to do and change in my classroom?

I have three main goals/take-aways from TMC (apart from our #MTBoS community being SO INCREDIBLE)!

  • I will blog more regularly this year as a way to reflect on my teaching. My goal is to blog at least once a week.
  • I will schedule regular feedback meetings with students. I want more one-on-one face time with my students, and our schedule and class size allow me to do this. I will have an opportunity to give verbal feedback to ALL of my students regularly. 
  • I want to give partner quizzes in my classes as a way of reducing anxiety about what my assessments will be about (I will talk a little bit about this in my PBL summit post too)
Overall, TMC was awesome. I'm hoping I can make it to Atlanta next year! Since I was there with my wife, I feel as if I kind of missed out on some of the opportunities to hang out in the evenings. I struggled with that, but love that NO ONE made me feel bad about not being at certain activities.

*I'm struggling to upload photos...they'll be uploaded when I get home! 

I'll blog a bit about the PBL Math Summit soon!