Friday, June 26, 2015

Government Exam destroys passion

Below is an article written by a teacher after the 2015 Grade 9 PAT (Provincial achievement exam)

Feeling frustrated, and so I imagine parents and kids are too. Today was one of the toughest grade 9 PAT math exams I've seen in awhile. I saw tears, frustration, and a very sizable chunk of kids needing extra time to complete the exam. Saw kids whose class marks are in the 90's get hammered and scrape by with barely over a 60%.
So dear Alberta Education, here's my rant; instead of patting yourself on the back by writing convoluted, multi-step, detour questions, many of which require correctly calculated intermediary answers, all in the glorious effort to inspire multidimensional thinking heavily dependent on simultaneous synthesis of several curriculum outcomes, how about you keep it a little simpler?
How about just a few more straightforward knowledge based questions?
How about instead of knocking kids way off balance to the point they lose their confidence, you limit the amount of "higher order thinking" questions to 1 out of every 10 or so?
Because once the students' confidence is gone, they're done. I saw 2 outlier questions - one of which was asked in the first 5 questions - that gave me pause, and I teach the damn course!
Quit using the June PAT as a field test on kids stressed out enough about their next journey into high school. Ridiculous. They're not your guinea pigs. Stick to just a little more straightforward assessments. Please.
Hard to "inspire" kids to learn when you obliterate them on a government exam

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

What are students saying about no grades?

Recently I asked my class to fill out an anonymous online survey and here are the responses.

1) Overall, did you enjoy learning the material in Math 31?

96% Yes
4% No

2) Did you feel as you wanted to learn more about the material in Math 31?

88% Yes
12% No

3) Do you feel as your knowledge of the course content is demonstrated through is assessment practice?

96% Yes
4% No

4) Provide Mr. Martin with comments around being allowed to demonstrate knowledge multiple times without any punishment. (Here are some)

Being able to do a test multiple times with no punishment ensured that I actually understood what I was doing, no matter how much extra help or time it took.
It would be rather irrational to test whether or not an individual has fully inculcated the outcome by assessing their ability merely based on one particular type of assessment. I intuit this is a better way, as it lessens the pressure and reduces the students' stress level.
It was nice to be able to rewrite everything. It allowed for me to continue to learn and not be punished for not knowing something at the time of writing but rather allowing me to prove that i can learn it and i will eventually understand what I'm doing.
By allowing students to retake tests, the emphasis placed on knowing the material is hugely increased. Rather than a student doing poorly on an outcome, resenting the material and never bothering to learn it again because the mark is said and done, this offers a way for the student to re-learn the concept and show their understanding. I really like this.
High school is hard enough without the added pressure of a test. it's nice to know that even though you fail an outcome you can retake it and relearn it until you fully understand the concept.
A teachers job is to teach students the outcomes by the end of the semester, not in a week. In other classes you are given a week, maybe two, to learn an outcome and after that you never touch it again until review week. In Martin's class if you don't 100% understand the outcome you can work with it all year to understand it. I feel this gives you a significantly more comfortable feeling with the material.

5) Someone could critique Mr. Martin for not giving daily homework.  What would you say to this person?

I personally learn better from practice, so I personally wish there was a little bit of homework.
He give us extra practice sheets and access to a textbook so we have opportunity to do extra work, but aren't forced to do it if we don't need it.
I'd almost agree with them, as homework with a mark attached forces you to pick up the material at home and stay fresh with the topic at hand - something that really helps with being lazy.
There was no need for homework because the class highly prioritizes individual responsibility, Not assigning homework creates extra time for a student who really needs to review and relearn the materiel to do so.
you don't need to do daily homework to understand the content of he course so why do extra work if it is not needed.
While Mr. Martin does not assign daily homework, he has practice work for students to do available on his webpage for every outcome in Math 31. This way students who really do want to succeed in the class can optionally do the homework available online. This feels more like a transition to post secondary, which calculus should be, than teachers repetitively handing work sheets back that not everyone needs to do to understand the concept.
6) General Comments
I really like the problem solving aspect that you introduce when reviewing an outcome, the way you integrate real-life situations into the class. Even the extra-curricular stuff, such as the finance app on our calculators.
I just am bad at math, so the course was a bit of a struggle. The class creates a good environment where there's very little stress, which is especially nice, unlike most other math classes with their Tuesday quizzes and constant marks. 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Are you beautiful mathematically?

A great to introduce slope, or a just a cool way to link beauty to math...

1) Get students in groups of 3 or 4 and provide them with a ruler stick, and ensure each group has some way of accessing a google doc.

2) Create and share the google doc that has the following tables for students to input data.

Distance from outside edge of eye to center of nose vs Distance from inside edge of eye to nose
Length of forearm vs Length of Hand

Length from Head to end of fingers standing straight vs total height

3) Have students measure the various measurements and write in the google doc their results.

4) Ask the following questions (change depending on grade level)
-Determine the slope of the 4 sets of data.
-Draw any conclusions you may have.
-Can you think of anything else that may have this relationship?
-Research the number Phi
-Prepare a "cool thing" about this number and be prepared to share with the class.

5) You could even have students calculate their beauty number-How close their own measurements are to the golden ratio.

Here is a pic showing just how the Golden Ratio makes a face look more beautiful