Pardon the interruption. It appears that teaching two summer classes, homeschooling my 5-year old, witnessing the birth of my third son, and trying to beat the New Super Mario Bros. Wii game was just too much for me to write the blog the last month. But, I’m not giving up on this thing. I probably would have if not for a rather nice comment a while back from Kate Nowak. No, I am finding that I need to vent a little and get some advice; this place is ideal.
The precalculus course is going quite well. There are only six students, four of whom attend every day, and while comprehension is not at the level I want, I at least feel good about the philosophical direction of the course. My students know a lot of calculus. I don’t mean things like using the product rule or chain rule, though. I mean that they can look at a curve and estimate the derivative. They understand why the derivative will be useful in finding places where a graph will turn around. I could put them in a university physics course (calculus based) and they would not struggle with the math. That is the good news. The bad news is that all of you who said I needed to cut hyperbolic functions were right. There just isn’t the time. Every topic I cover, I have to cover twice and that really eats up real estate on the class calendar. I also will need to drop sequences and series as well as Riemann sums and complex numbers. This was all gravy material, but it is so fun I really wanted to get to it. Perhaps, next time!
My other class is a high school level course that has been somewhat disastrous. This was expected. The level of the students is incredibly diverse (some are going into calculus and others struggle to subtract whole numbers). Somehow, I’m supposed to teach material they all can learn. This wouldn’t be a problem, except it is also supposed to essentially be precalculus related material. This is the second year I’ve done this course and I still don’t know what the right material is. I do know that I’ve lost the least advanced students and I’m staying after class to teach the most advanced students calculus. Long story short: All you high school teachers out there are simply amazing.
Is there a good side? Well, I have implemented SBG in both courses and I’m thrilled with that. It is liberating to tell a student, “You don’t need to give me an excuse for missing the quiz.” My current policy is to test every standard at least twice. I haven’t implemented the approach where I make the first iteration out of 4 and second (more difficult problem) out of 5. Instead, they are all out of 5. If a student scores lower the second time around I lower it according to the following rule: Let denote the score on the assessment and let denote the composite score on assessments . The new score for the students is if this is greater or equal to . If is less than , then I will drop their score (by ) only if is at least two less than . There is one exception to this rule, namely if , then any lower score will drop by . I’ll explain my rationale for these if anyone asks, and I’ll consider other options if anyone cares to suggest any.
Okay, this is a good place to stop. I am now the proud owner of a netbook computer, so I might be able to write these while on the train. Hopefully, we’re back in business now. Next time, I’ll tell you about some recent resistance to my homework optional policy.
All the best.