3 down, 1 to go

Today is the end of the 3rd 9 weeks grading period, only 9 more weeks until summer! Yay!

So of course instead of finalizing my grades, I’m blogging, but I have an excuse. Really, it’s a good one! The required online grade book program that I use is on some silly scheduled maintenance or back-up or something every night from 10-11, so I really can’t do it now.

In the meantime, I have been taking time to reflect on my practices. Recently some of my students (the struggling ones in particular) have been complaining pretty directly to me that they do not like my methods. In their words, the way I’m teaching doesn’t work. They want me to tell them how to do a problem, then give them problems exactly like that to solve. No group work, no extended problems, nothing challenging–that sort of thing makes it too difficult to make an A!

Now it would be soooo much easier for me to succumb to this type of mind-numbing “teacher dumps knowledge into students’ heads, students dutifully regurgitate” routine, and grades would likely improve, and many students would be much more comfortable in math class. But the thing is that I really don’t want them to be comfortable! I want to stretch them and make them think and choose experiences that will help them figure out the important ideas. I want the problems to be messy and long and challenging–isn’t that what math is like in real life?

So as I plan my last two units of study, I am really trying to “stick to my guns” and teach the way that I truly believe is the best way for students to learn and understand and remember long-term, despite the obvious fact that many of them really do prefer some boring old school marm un-differentiated, low-technology, outdated pedagogy.

Here goes nothing!

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3 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Dear Mrs. Fuller,
    Please, stick to your guns. It comes down to this: you want your students to feel the satisfaction of hard work and a job well done, some of them want the easy way out. They do not realize that perseverance and problem solving skills are needed for every kind of paid and unpaid work and that every good employer wants THAT kind of employee. Indeed, functioning well in life takes these kind of skills.

    Don’t give up.

    March 12th, 2010

  2. LSquared

    Sounds like a fine plan–being easy often does not equal learning. On a related topic, I found a little article in Teaching Children Mathematics a couple years back to be most insightful. It’s called Vygotsky and the 3 bears–in order for problem solving to result in learning, the problems have to be not too hard, and not too soft–just right (finding “just right” is, as I’m sure you know, the hard part).

    March 12th, 2010

  3. @Lori–thanks for the encouragement. I know it’s the right thing to do, but sometimes it’s hard to keep it up.

    @LSquared–love the article! http://www.nctm.org/eresources/article_summary.asp?URI=TCM2005-01-246a
    I have been thinking about this in terms of “access”–any student can solve any problem, I just have to provide an entrance point for them where they can be successful. Some students can start from scratch and work out everything themselves, but others need more scaffolding–maybe doing a warm-up problem that gets them thinking about key points, or giving them a graph that is already scaled and//or labeled instead of having them make their own graph . . . you get the picture. That sort of differentiation is tricky, but so important!

    March 12th, 2010

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