September 6, 2010

Cleaning Out the Gutters

Filed under: Classroom Management,High Effort/Low Payoff Ideas — Adam Glesser @ 11:26 pm

School is starting this week. Hooray!!!

No more summer
Here comes class
Time to get up
Off my chair

The syllabi are written. The schedules are finalized. The students are being informed of their impending doom. Mmmm, it’s good to be alive.

Let’s see, what can I offer you today? First, in case you aren’t checking out the awesome SBGBeginners Wikispace, here is a link to my (always in flux) standards list for precalculus. I would post my standards list for Topics in Finite Mathematics (and maybe I will still), but  I doubt there are too many people teaching a course covering precisely what this course covers. Nonetheless, I should tell you a bit about my experience with producing the grade distribution for that course.

First, my precalculus course is controlled by me. I get to decide what, where, when and how much. So when I decided to make standards comprehension 70% of the grade and to reduce the midterm and final to 10% and 20%, respectively, that was all good. Unfortunately, the other course is not under my control. I had to do some serious negotiating with the course coordinator who is worried that my not grading homework policy will be a disaster. There are four exams in that class and, in the end, they will make up 60% of the grade. I’m making 30% of the grade standards comprehension. Those of you adept at addition will notice the missing 10% and that is the cool/scary/”oh gawd, what am I doing” part. This last bit is called Oral Evaluation. Way back in May, I mentioned my desire to teach only three students, instead of twenty-five. Well, I’m giving it a shot in one of my courses. Every student will sign up three times during the semester to be one of my three interloculars for the day. Their grade will be determined by their preparedness and their performance. More on this story as it develops.

In an effort to waste time, I collected links to videos targeting the standards for my classes (see here for precalculus and here for finite mathematics). Originally, I was going to record the videos myself, but even I can’t justify spending that much time right now on duplicating previous efforts. In the process of creating these lists, I started hanging around on the Art of Problem Solving website. This reminded me of all the time I spent taking the California Math League contests in high school. Man, those were fun. And…

Homeschooling Connection

As I’ve mentioned before, my wife and I are starting homeschooling with our five-year old this fall. Actually, since I happen to believe that

  1. Summer vacation should be a time to do things you enjoy
  2. School is something you should enjoy

we started a proper curriculum in April and went all summer, forgetting to tell him that he shouldn’t want to learn over the summer. (Mwoo hah hah!!! Kids are so gullible.) So, we’ve covered addition, subtraction and multiplication and are just starting with division. Incidentally, division is the first operation that I think my son finds practical. At the store today, he was constantly telling me how much each member in the family would get of the things we were buying. Anyhow, I was thinking to myself that knowing the four basic operations at his age is pretty good and just think how far I can take him over the next few years. But then, I thought to myself how my biggest complaint with my students is how they are so weak at the basics. Even those who can perform calculations efficiently, can rarely apply that math to solve real-world problems or interesting abstract problems. What if I got my son up to the level of understanding the basic vocabulary and then, instead of striving for breadth, went for depth? What if I started feeding the kid competition style problems and applied problems, not with the goal of getting him into the Math Olympiad, but rather aiming towards mastery of the foundations of arithmetic and mathematical thinking? The idea gives me goosebumps…oh, wait, the air conditioning was set to 63.

One last bit: I made up a few songs to help my son learn the multiplication tables and I think I’ll record them and post them on the blog for posterity. I searched hard for such songs and hated just about everything I found. Mine aren’t really any better, but they don’t annoy me as much and my son sings them all the time.

More Bad Poetry

There once was a teacher who dared
To teach as if all students cared
But his methods all stunk
‘Til he read Think Thank Thunk
Now his class is no longer impaired

Happy New School Year!!!


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