I took on 3 classes yesterday and… I survived!!!!! Now if you follow me on twitter you do know I made the small error of writing in sharpie on the white board but beside that things went really well. I used this exponent lesson from misscalcul8 (which was adapted from this by Sean Sweeney). It went great except for a few hiccups.

Students really resisted the “guess your answer” part of the worksheet. I knew students would probably not remember the properties but I assumed that after guessing and working with the numbers they might recall a few things from their Algebra 1 days (last year!). However they felt uncomfortable using any prior knowledge, number sense, or general guessing to come up with an answer. Many times as I was walking around the room I heard “I’m stuck” on that part – which was bananas because kids could literally put BANANAS and not be wrong. It makes me really sad that kids are SO scared of math that they won’t even put pen to paper in fear of failure (or maybe I’m reading too much into it). This really opened my eyes to some general goals I want to have with these students.

- Become a critical thinker – learn how to be creative, take advantage of things you know, write down what you’re given, make the problem simpler, find an alternative way to solve something, construct the solution before knowing the formula/rule and general strategies to solving more challenging problems
- Have more fun with math! Most of the students seemed so hesitant about guessing; usually when I won’t guess it’s because I’m scared to be wrong. I really want to show them that great success can come out of failure.
- Provide meaningful work. So many handouts, homework assignments and lectures are based on busy work. I want to make math relevant and meaningful not just in the classroom but at home. I want these kids to find value in math and notice it around them.

I asked my co-op about the inability to guess/link prior knowledge and he explained that, “The students here only do well if they completely understand what they are doing.” Let me dissect this a little bit for you all; “Do well” means work quietly and efficiently on what’s assigned and “completely understand” translates to replicate the example problems left on the board. I’m sorry – but that’s not thinking, hell that’s not even doing math. When I was having a conversation with the department head about the scary seniors (a post for another time) he responded the exact same way. The only way to “control” them is to give them something they understand. They don’t like to struggle, they don’t want to be wrong, they only regurgitate information which is why they don’t retain it. And that is exactly why we have spent 6 days covering chapter 1 sec 1 and 2.

It’s going to be important for me to walk the fine line between struggle and frustration with these kids and I know that’s going to take a lot of trial and error as a new teacher. I read these posts by @delta_dc on gradual release of responsibility and I think this is the type of model I may want to begin with to get them more comfortable with individual discovery. He wrote about students constantly seeking help from the teacher and backing off and noticing the frustration on the kids face. Let’s just say this – I’m known for being the bitch tutor who won’t give you the answer when you ask the first time, I will always say TRY SOMETHING. But, I need to be careful not to frustrate them so much that they turn off, shut down and put their heads on their desks. I also don’t want to remove all the struggle (hey, that’s using the brain!) so like I said, trial and error. I’m going to aim for engagement, strong worksheets/supplementary material, and reading up on GRR and other methods some more!

Anyway, I literally went to bed at 7pm last night but it’s worth it – I’M FINALLY TEACHING!