Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Math motivation through creative assignments

How do you motivate students to show their best without the use of marks?  The answer to this is very simple; Allow them to complete an assignment in a way such that their creativity, passion, and interests can shine.  Instead of marking this assignment, let them show it off.
Back in elementary school I had “show and tell”.  When it was my day I was allowed to stand in front of the class and show off who I was and tell my class who is the real David Martin (to this day I am still unsure though who I really am ;) ).  My teacher never graded me on this, and I was allowed to bring in anything from home.  How can this activity and true intrinsic motivation be mimicked in other grades?
I wanted to see if “show and tell” could be used in a gr. 12 classroom.  In my calculus class, we were studying functions and how to graph them.  Instead of asking my students to graph a function that had no meaning to them, I asked them to create a drawing (using multiple and piecewise functions) that represented who they truly were.  I was amazed by what I got, and here are some of the pictures:

Before I hear criticism and the stereotype that only calculus students are high achievers, I also gave an assignment about the Alberta winter games to my math 30 applied class.  In the assignment, students were allowed to represent the math in a creative way.   A student used an actual hockey jersey to represent their work.
Why did this work?
Students were asked to create something they can truly call their own and then to present their work to the class.  They were told to inform the class on WHY they drew or created the project they did.  Not only did we learn about math throughout this assignment, but the class also learned a little more about each other.  Students want to be treated as individuals and our assignments should allow this individualization to shine. 

1 comment:

  1. Great idea David. I'm a big proponent of creativity in the math classroom. And with 21st century graphic/game design software (and, say, java and flash), math and creativity are more intertwined than ever.

    Here's an idea along the same lines I posted for a coordinate geometry art project, dealing with coordinate transformations: