Posts Tagged ‘Exponents’

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!

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Man oh man, I am stoked to start teaching Monday. I am dying to provide these students with an opportunity to play with and create (stolen from @mrschirles) math. I am a little apprehensive to take over since over the past week there has been very little structure in terms of expectations, learning and discipline. I already knew that classroom management would be a challenge but it is obvious there will be plenty of opportunities to perfect my skills. Is it too idealistic to think that if I just motivate and engage these students enough they won’t sleep, eat, or listen to their ipods? Probably.

I am also torn because my co-op uses a lot of direct instruction. Suddenly I find my thoughts gearing towards “How are you supposed to teach PSSA prep without direct instruction followed by individual practice tests in booklet?” This scares me. How do I expect kids to be motivated if I can’t even get creative and motivated for this stuff?  This morning I scoured blogs for discussions on standardized test prep, teaching exponents, scientific notation and engagement. No luck – will keep looking.

So far my plan will go as follows:

“Engage”: I was considering putting a doubling question up which will most likely have them struggle  for the first 1-3 minutes… unfortunately I do not think this is engaging unless that doubling question has to do with extremely relevant topics, this would only serve to get them working and thinking quickly. However I also know these kids are not used to struggling and getting them into the habit of using their prior knowledge, thinking and linking ideas on their own before I teach will probably come with great resistance.

Properties of exponents:  In the past I have taught negative exponents and zero power using inductive reasoning – based off of this video I found a while ago. For some students it works great, for others not so much and I usually show another mini-proof by using the properties of division to reenforce as well.

This summer when I finished teaching exponents I discovered a great worksheet on a blog but now I can’t find it again. Let’s just consider it some mathematical mirage – one of those resources I wish I would’ve tagged but am not even sure if it really exists. This summer I created one based on of Kate Nowak’s log laws worksheet. I found my worksheet took too long and was not as “guided discovery” as I had hoped, still needs tweaking.

Scientific Notation:  My main idea is to ensure I am not teaching memorization – go left/go right! I really want to show students that it multiplication and use the properties of exponents to help guide this. Individually they will complete practice test problems from the book individually but check answers/strategies with their partner when finished. Ask each other first before they ask me/co-op.

All feedback appreciated!!

Exponent Worksheet

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