cheesemonkey wonders

cheesemonkey wonders

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Exeter Math 1 Reflection 3: A Course in Advanced Proportional Reasoning

This is the third in a who-knows-how-many-part-series I am doing on my experience and practice of doing and using Exeter Math 1 in my Algebra 1 classes. The three labels I am using for this series of posts are: Exeter Math 1, Algebra 1, and metacognition.

As I see it, there are two core developmental strands in Exeter Math 1 that are woven together throughout the course. One strand concerns advanced proportional reasoning. The other involves what I would characterize as Exeter's method of "micro-modeling"—an ongoing spiral of frequent, small, subtle modeling tasks that provide extensive both variety and depth of practice in modeling. Many variations are explored so that students get a lot of practice in making sense of similar and differing contexts.

What I love about this blend of proportional reasoning and micro-modeling is that it occurs at the intersection of advanced textual interpretation and advanced proportional reasoning. This means it is an immersive experience in relentless sense-making and meaning-making as students explore modeling. In this course, mathematical modeling is a full-contact sport. Having worked all the way through the entire course, I can see how it is going to develop great fluency and confidence in modeling for Algebra 1 students, regardless of where they are starting (assuming, of course, that they have the basic prerequisites for Algebra 1 success).

The opening problem sets are deceptively simple, although page 1 problem 2 (from here on out, I'm going to use the Exeter-style notation of 1#2 to mean "page 1 problem #2), would be a fantastic Day 1 in-class rich task that drops students right into a hard micro-modeling problem with whatever tools they have.

But other than 1#2, most of the problems in the first 7 pages are deceptively simple. They're clearly written to review prior knowledge and to establish individual and group norms of work, with the major themes being work on rates, distributive property, order of operations, functional thinking, notation, number line, negatives and opposites, #unitchat, fractions, reciprocals, and rational numbers. Major concept development focuses on distance = rate - time, distributive property, working with various kinds of graphs and graphical representations, and micro-modeling.

And then you arrive at 8#1, and BLAMMO.

This is what I'm thinking of when I talk about a truly rich task blast-off.

I'm not going to give away the punch line here, but this "box within a box" problem is an excellent example of what I mean when I say the course focuses on advanced proportional reasoning. The problem requires a very advanced analysis of many distinct moving parts, along with an ability to track back and explain your thinking. By my count, this problem requires the learner to navigate and articulate issues of area, volume, footprint, a difference of footprints, layering, and negative space. Perhaps you can see other ideas here as well.

So if you're just getting started with Math 1 and wondering what the heck all the fuss is about, I encourage you to hang in there. 

I imagine that we will get to page 8 around the middle to end of the second week of school. And when we do, students should know that the fun is just beginning.  :)

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