cheesemonkey wonders

cheesemonkey wonders

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Algebra 1 quadratics — which method and why

When kids demonstrate that they don't yet have a solid-enough fluency to move on to deliberate practice with metacognitive reflection, it's time to go back to the drawing board.

That's what happened this morning with my second-block Algebra 1 class.

So during third block, I went to the library and started fishing in the MTBoS Search Engine. I wanted a card sort activity or an idea for one.

It didn't take long to find out that Dane Ehlert and Geoff Krall had already come to the same conclusion independently — and that they had even done some of the work for me!

Everybody's kids are at different levels when you slam into a new topic. So it's great to be able to find the structure of an activity that you can easily adapt to fit your own students' actual depth of knowledge.

This is why, even though I love a lot of the Shell Centre activities, I often find that MTBoS adaptations (or my own) are best for the reality of my classroom. They've given us some fantastic models to use in our actual teaching and learning.



Monday, March 21, 2016

What to do when strong students struggle

Jessica Lahey just posted this column on the New York Times web site and I think it may be the most important read I have seen for parents of the kinds of students I teach:

All students encounter struggle. Even strong students struggle. And when this happens, parents often ask me how they can make their child care more about doing better in math.

The only answer I know — the only answer I trust — is that you have to be willing to allow them to struggle.

Only then can they truly own their own success.

If they don't own their own failure, then they can't own their own success.

The eminent child psychologist Rudolf Dreikurs wrote about this more than 50 years ago, and it is as true now as it was then. You have to step back and let them own it. Dreikurs called this the practice of using natural and logical consequences. If the child doesn't own the problem, then s/he cannot own the solution.

I also love Dr. Charlotte Kasl's framing of this. She calls it the "Good luck with that!" response. I have seen this approach be very successful with students who have internalized a kind of passivity or learned helplessness that drives adults crazy. They have learned how to get adults to rescue them.

I think of this not as "tough love" or "grit" or a growth mindset. I think this is about the practice of maintaining — and helping adolescents learn how to maintain — strong, healthy boundaries.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Let the kids teach themselves how to do Talking Points

In thinking about the ways in which I try to push authority downward into student groups, I have been searching for ways to get my students to teach themselves about how to do Talking Points.

scene from the forthcoming Harry Potter and the Chapter on Inequalities
from the forthcoming mathematical
blockbuster, Harry Potter and the 
Chapter on Inequalities
So far, this has been by far my most successful method.

I have written "deleted scenes" from unmade (or yet-to-be-made) movies to introduce new concepts by having kids do a readers' theater activity instead of lecturing. So, I thought, why not do the same thing for Talking Points?

The results have been much better than I expected. Because all the voices and rules come to them through their own voices, they seem much more bought into the guidelines. They also act as their own enforcers of norms, rather than my having to circulate around the room constantly on the lookout for infractions.

So here is a link to my deleted scene for having kids teach themselves about Talking Points.

I will also be using this scene in my NCTM workshop on Talking Points next month.

Let me know what you think!