I sit here still wondering if I am doing the right thing. A senior school teacher has the world at their feet, being able to teach to year 12 across all areas of your specialist curriculum is what gives you worth when seeking to further your career. I'm considering applying for a position in the middle school.
In a small low socio-economic school rarely is the full curriculum offerred (1B-3D MAT and 3A -3D MAS) and rarely will you get to teach the upper subjects as there is competition for them among those in your department. I've been lucky to be given an opportunity to teach all levels of year 10, MiPs, MwM, Discrete, 1BC MAT, 3ABCD MAT and 3AB MAS, but have rarely been able to teach any of these courses more than once. School collaboration (where students are bussed between schools for small class subjects) only makes this cycle longer. Being at the end of a cycle of students, my run at these subjects would take at least another three years (following students through from year 10) and I'm not looking forward to the slog of working with another lot of under prepared kids.
The fatigue and long repeat cycle is a factor in the constant turnover of teachers as they seek to develop depth to their understanding of the curriculum and pedagogy - many at this stage of their career seeking independent sector jobs and more pliable students. Being four years into my career, I'm looking for an opportunity to further improve my teaching and I know there is a job to do in middle school to better prepare students for high school. I've taught senior school for three years and the whole time have yearned to go back to middle school and do what I was trained to do, despite all evidence that says I am a better exclusively senior school teacher than an exclusively middle school teacher - oh for a position where I could do both!.
It has been pointed out to me by many that to not teach any senior school is career suicide. To lose the perspective senior school offers reduces the ability to bridge students into senior school and reduces your attractiveness to a potential employer. Furthermore, from the outside it would look like I was 'encouraged' away from senior school because of under performance, inability to handle the stress or lack of ability. Maybe subtly this is the case (I hope I'm still my harshest critic, my results this term have been woeful by my standards) but I think the want to move to middle school is still my choice and not something that I am not being directed towards by administration. I may also be walking away from a leadership issue in senior school as if I'm not in senior school, I won't be considered once senior maths staff seek new opportunities (conversely what would a future employer think if I'm eight years into my career and still applying for a senior position!).
Despite this, now that a middle school position has finally arisen, I have put my hand in the air and said, 'I would like to work in the middle school if I am the best applicant.' Many people have supported me in the senior school and I feel I have let a few people down by deciding to do this, as it would leave a hole and cause some instability whilst a new teacher is settled in (whereas a new teacher would have less impact in middle school especially mid-year) but I feel I can't complain about student preparedness if I'm unwilling to roll my sleeves up and do something about it. It may set me back a few years in my quest for readiness for a HoD or TiC position but if there is a job to be done (and the middle school needs to gear up for national curriculum and year 7 introduction (if it ever happens)) this is a job I can do well.
After all, I'm only really happy when engrossed in what I am doing and striving for excellence. I'm reliant on others to find areas where I can do this and need faith that they are cognizant of my career progression when utilising my skills. It's a bit harder with a newborn as I have to think about career progression a bit more than in my idealistic past, but I still feel that making it 'career' rather than 'best interests of children' the prime focus of my teaching (as I see in other 'driven' teachers) is a mistake in my case.
Ultimately, if the school needs a senior school teacher, I can do that. If they need me as a middle school teacher, I can do that. If they can find a way to allow me to do both, that would be good too.
Saturday, July 3, 2010
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Pride in your work.
It's taken half a year but I think the message is sinking in. This week I have focused on getting students to perform to a standard rather than some fictional developmental level. I am the teacher, I set expectations on how I want things to be done and no, I don't really care how your last teacher let you do it.
Hard up against the left margin, work down the page, rule a new column if there is space for it and use it, exercise number before you start in a column, work marked from the back of the book once an exercise is complete with a red pen, one line for each line of working (why do students miss spaces??), a space between each question, each question should be written as if to be read by another human being - not in some chicken language from outer space.
Also, if I give an instruction on how to do something, pay attention and do it that way. If you are writing 4709 in words, it is four thousand, seven hundred and nine. The 'and' is important. Ninty, ninteen, forteen and fourty are not words. One equals sign per line, the question is always to be written unless a lengthy worded problem. If you are adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing vertically I expect to see clear columns for place value.
When I come into class, don't wait for me to say get out your books - just get them out. If I write notes on the board, write them down verbatim - I haven't met many students that can paraphrase sufficiently to make more succinct notes than mine. Asking what time the period ends is a waste of time - the answer will always be two hours fom now. If you fail a quiz, expect 60 questions for 'practice' over the weekend. Don't talk in my class about social events unless you can consistently get 80% in assessment - you obviously haven't got time to lose.
If you have a problem, seek help. If the problem has to do with a boyfriend, seek someone who cares - I'm only ears for maths and things that need mandatory reporting. I'm not your friend, please remember that - I'm your teacher.
.. and the funny thing is, when you lift expectation, it's easier to teach. The students respond and start to realise that you only want the best for them - tell them it's much easier to just sit back and watch them fail (or to give them phony grades that make it look like they are learning). To me setting high standards is just showing students how to take pride in themselves and their work. Building self esteem is not mutually exclusive with negative responses. I think that in many cases students need to have the bar lifted for them before they can start to do it themselves.
Hard up against the left margin, work down the page, rule a new column if there is space for it and use it, exercise number before you start in a column, work marked from the back of the book once an exercise is complete with a red pen, one line for each line of working (why do students miss spaces??), a space between each question, each question should be written as if to be read by another human being - not in some chicken language from outer space.
Also, if I give an instruction on how to do something, pay attention and do it that way. If you are writing 4709 in words, it is four thousand, seven hundred and nine. The 'and' is important. Ninty, ninteen, forteen and fourty are not words. One equals sign per line, the question is always to be written unless a lengthy worded problem. If you are adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing vertically I expect to see clear columns for place value.
When I come into class, don't wait for me to say get out your books - just get them out. If I write notes on the board, write them down verbatim - I haven't met many students that can paraphrase sufficiently to make more succinct notes than mine. Asking what time the period ends is a waste of time - the answer will always be two hours fom now. If you fail a quiz, expect 60 questions for 'practice' over the weekend. Don't talk in my class about social events unless you can consistently get 80% in assessment - you obviously haven't got time to lose.
If you have a problem, seek help. If the problem has to do with a boyfriend, seek someone who cares - I'm only ears for maths and things that need mandatory reporting. I'm not your friend, please remember that - I'm your teacher.
.. and the funny thing is, when you lift expectation, it's easier to teach. The students respond and start to realise that you only want the best for them - tell them it's much easier to just sit back and watch them fail (or to give them phony grades that make it look like they are learning). To me setting high standards is just showing students how to take pride in themselves and their work. Building self esteem is not mutually exclusive with negative responses. I think that in many cases students need to have the bar lifted for them before they can start to do it themselves.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Fatigue... and a poke at Julia..
Teaching is one of those careers where fatigue is a constant enemy. It's important to recognise (especially at this time of year at the end of an 11 week term) that you're not going to be at your best. Week 8+ is always a bit of a danger time where you can lose perspective on your successes and fall into the trap of seeing defeat in what you are attempting to achieve.
With the NCOS things have changed a little, it means that you have to press on at a time where typically you would wind down into the end of term. You really need to fit two good weeks of work in to make a good run at the mocks at the end of term 3. Kids will be feeling the pressure, admin needs reports completed, exams need marking, tempers will fray.
Yet this is also a time when teams come together and there are opportunities to do small things that can make a lasting impression. Take the time to smile at someone, guide them through a nasty spot, do an extra duty, smile when you get relief, go on an excursion, offer around a chocolate bikkie or grab some take away for the staff room. In the crucible great things can be borne.
Take inspiration from wherever it stems, much of mine at the moment comes from my daughter, where in the past I may have given up and sought another challenge, I now dig in and look at the problem again seeking new solutions. A challenge is just an opportunity yet to be realised.
I was working with my 10's and we are looking at their ability to perform in non-calculator situations. Many can't divide, and many of those can't multiply because their tables are weak. Any idiot can teach kids tables. Maybe it's time I rolled up my sleeves and planned a tables club for next year, to fix a core issue. If numeracy is the focus next year, perhaps this is one path to finding long term success.
It's also a time where many decide it's time for a change and the inner conflict occurs of the desire for stability vs career opportunity. Do you talk people into staying or encourage them to pursue other options? I don't know the answer for this other than to encourage them to seek someone with more experience to help them with the answer. Other than this blog, I have no desire to lead (or even influence) as my best leadership option is to lead by example. Whilst still learning content and gaining an understanding of leadership roles I am in no position to lead with expert power. With time, my masters, a bit of experience and teaching year 12 courses may lead me there.. but I think I have a way to go yet.
If that idiot Gillard can become Prime Minister, who knows which lump headed student will solve world hunger, cure cancer or bring about everlasting peace. Some even might remember that teacher that gave them a hard time or a bit of encouragement that put them back on a path to success.
With the NCOS things have changed a little, it means that you have to press on at a time where typically you would wind down into the end of term. You really need to fit two good weeks of work in to make a good run at the mocks at the end of term 3. Kids will be feeling the pressure, admin needs reports completed, exams need marking, tempers will fray.
Yet this is also a time when teams come together and there are opportunities to do small things that can make a lasting impression. Take the time to smile at someone, guide them through a nasty spot, do an extra duty, smile when you get relief, go on an excursion, offer around a chocolate bikkie or grab some take away for the staff room. In the crucible great things can be borne.
Take inspiration from wherever it stems, much of mine at the moment comes from my daughter, where in the past I may have given up and sought another challenge, I now dig in and look at the problem again seeking new solutions. A challenge is just an opportunity yet to be realised.
I was working with my 10's and we are looking at their ability to perform in non-calculator situations. Many can't divide, and many of those can't multiply because their tables are weak. Any idiot can teach kids tables. Maybe it's time I rolled up my sleeves and planned a tables club for next year, to fix a core issue. If numeracy is the focus next year, perhaps this is one path to finding long term success.
It's also a time where many decide it's time for a change and the inner conflict occurs of the desire for stability vs career opportunity. Do you talk people into staying or encourage them to pursue other options? I don't know the answer for this other than to encourage them to seek someone with more experience to help them with the answer. Other than this blog, I have no desire to lead (or even influence) as my best leadership option is to lead by example. Whilst still learning content and gaining an understanding of leadership roles I am in no position to lead with expert power. With time, my masters, a bit of experience and teaching year 12 courses may lead me there.. but I think I have a way to go yet.
If that idiot Gillard can become Prime Minister, who knows which lump headed student will solve world hunger, cure cancer or bring about everlasting peace. Some even might remember that teacher that gave them a hard time or a bit of encouragement that put them back on a path to success.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
April Fools Joke - Not!!!
Today I had a look at the expected standards "C grade descriptors". This document outlines the requirements of a C grade for a student yrs 8-10.
"The descriptors have been informed by population testing data [NAPLAN], draft national curriculum materials and the professional knowledge of experienced teachers. During the consultation process teachers strongly supported the production of concise descriptors and welcomed the inclusion of examples." Department of Education April 2010.
The issue is that the end product was written devoid of common sense.
Here is an outline of the expectation for year 9 students from the C grade descriptor document.
"By the end of Year 9, students use number and algebra to solve routine and non-routine problems involving pattern, finance, rate and measurement including the calculation of area of triangles, circles, quadrilaterals and the surface area and volume of prisms, pyramids, cones and cylinders. They solve problems using Pythagoras’ Theorem and proportional understanding (similar triangles and the tangent ratio). They have a sound understanding of linear functions and are developing fluency with using quadratic and simple non-linear functions, such as with patterns involving doubling. They have a sound understanding of index laws pertaining to positive integral powers."
My issue is that this is a C grade description. The number of students with "sound" understandings of linear functions (by my definition of sound) during year 9 is minimal and students that have a conceptual notion of quadratic and other functions at this stage are the "A" students that have been extended - not the C students. In fact given this description it would be difficult to give many C's or even a single A in many state schools.
If students entered high school have some algebraic knowledge, they may have some chance at reaching this standard. At present I would suggest that this is highly unlikely. As students delivered by national curriculum are 5 years away - starting assessment now at a national curriculum level is ludicrous.
It is obvious the scope and sequence has been modified to include national curriculum requirements (look for the * in the scope and sequence). You can see that linear functions was the main focus of year 9 and then quadratics and 'other functions' were dumped into the sequence with little consideration given as to how time will be found to implement the new curriculum especially as it was hard to fit in the old curriculum (I sat and wrote a lesson by lesson plan for year 9 based on the old scope and sequence and challenge anyone to do the same on the new scope and sequence given the current entry point of students in year 8).
I have no problem with lifting the bar for students, but it requires time to re-instill work ethic at a younger age and subject specialists having access to these students.
To grade students that have not been adequately prepared for national curriculum assessment is grossly unfair. How anyone could propose this for semester one grading 2010 indicates a lack of understanding of the change management required. Either schools will need to fudge grades (easy to spot when comparing NAPLAN to school grade) or masses of students will not get grades higher than a D or E.
When teaching students in low literacy settings, handing out D & E grades to students trying their utmost to succeed is tantamount to child abuse. It is demoralising, unfair and sets up an expectation of failure. I can't say this in stronger words. Someone needs to have a good think about what is being done to our children.
Link to national curriculum media release (Julia Gillard)
Link to expected standards (Department of Education)
Link to mathematics scope and sequence (Department of Education)
"The descriptors have been informed by population testing data [NAPLAN], draft national curriculum materials and the professional knowledge of experienced teachers. During the consultation process teachers strongly supported the production of concise descriptors and welcomed the inclusion of examples." Department of Education April 2010.
The issue is that the end product was written devoid of common sense.
Here is an outline of the expectation for year 9 students from the C grade descriptor document.
"By the end of Year 9, students use number and algebra to solve routine and non-routine problems involving pattern, finance, rate and measurement including the calculation of area of triangles, circles, quadrilaterals and the surface area and volume of prisms, pyramids, cones and cylinders. They solve problems using Pythagoras’ Theorem and proportional understanding (similar triangles and the tangent ratio). They have a sound understanding of linear functions and are developing fluency with using quadratic and simple non-linear functions, such as with patterns involving doubling. They have a sound understanding of index laws pertaining to positive integral powers."
My issue is that this is a C grade description. The number of students with "sound" understandings of linear functions (by my definition of sound) during year 9 is minimal and students that have a conceptual notion of quadratic and other functions at this stage are the "A" students that have been extended - not the C students. In fact given this description it would be difficult to give many C's or even a single A in many state schools.
If students entered high school have some algebraic knowledge, they may have some chance at reaching this standard. At present I would suggest that this is highly unlikely. As students delivered by national curriculum are 5 years away - starting assessment now at a national curriculum level is ludicrous.
It is obvious the scope and sequence has been modified to include national curriculum requirements (look for the * in the scope and sequence). You can see that linear functions was the main focus of year 9 and then quadratics and 'other functions' were dumped into the sequence with little consideration given as to how time will be found to implement the new curriculum especially as it was hard to fit in the old curriculum (I sat and wrote a lesson by lesson plan for year 9 based on the old scope and sequence and challenge anyone to do the same on the new scope and sequence given the current entry point of students in year 8).
I have no problem with lifting the bar for students, but it requires time to re-instill work ethic at a younger age and subject specialists having access to these students.
To grade students that have not been adequately prepared for national curriculum assessment is grossly unfair. How anyone could propose this for semester one grading 2010 indicates a lack of understanding of the change management required. Either schools will need to fudge grades (easy to spot when comparing NAPLAN to school grade) or masses of students will not get grades higher than a D or E.
When teaching students in low literacy settings, handing out D & E grades to students trying their utmost to succeed is tantamount to child abuse. It is demoralising, unfair and sets up an expectation of failure. I can't say this in stronger words. Someone needs to have a good think about what is being done to our children.
Link to national curriculum media release (Julia Gillard)
Link to expected standards (Department of Education)
Link to mathematics scope and sequence (Department of Education)
Sunday, May 23, 2010
Teaching of mathematical literacy
I have been teaching a low literacy class this year and it has taught me the perils of relying on the immersion technique to teach mathematical literacy. After seeing the positive effects of direct instruction of low literacy students, I see immersion as a lazy teaching technique for low ability students - immersion is slow, ineffective and generally detrimental to these students, especially in a large heterogeneous class.
Let me explain. When I teach area, I generally teach students to write a story that I can read. They draw a diagram, label the sides, write a general equation, substitute the values, evaluate the solution and check their answer. Once this technique has been learned I can then easily teach other concepts such as Pythagoras' theorem, trigonometric ratios, surface area and the like.
The explicit teaching of mathematical literacy (requiring specific layout and explicitly explaining the meaning and need for each component of the layout) is the key component in this exercise. By year ten, most can answer the area of a rectangle and write the answer, but cannot abstract the method to a circle. I attribute this to a lack of mathematical literacy and a failure to appreciate the true need for mathematical literacy.
Although modelling has a place in teaching mathematics (a key tool in immersion), we must be mindful that we need to teach literacy explicitly and not assume students will just pick up major concepts by observing a question being completed. The difference between a student answering a question correctly (after being given an example on the board) and being able to identify how to answer a question correctly from a range of tools (without prompting) is considerable.
Mathematics has grammar just like English. If students understand the grammar of mathematics, the meta-language of mathematics and the algebraic/arithmetic/visual representations/tools of mathematics, then their ability to solve problems increases exponentially.
And as mathematics teachers we can appreciate the benefits of exponential growth.
Let me explain. When I teach area, I generally teach students to write a story that I can read. They draw a diagram, label the sides, write a general equation, substitute the values, evaluate the solution and check their answer. Once this technique has been learned I can then easily teach other concepts such as Pythagoras' theorem, trigonometric ratios, surface area and the like.
The explicit teaching of mathematical literacy (requiring specific layout and explicitly explaining the meaning and need for each component of the layout) is the key component in this exercise. By year ten, most can answer the area of a rectangle and write the answer, but cannot abstract the method to a circle. I attribute this to a lack of mathematical literacy and a failure to appreciate the true need for mathematical literacy.
Although modelling has a place in teaching mathematics (a key tool in immersion), we must be mindful that we need to teach literacy explicitly and not assume students will just pick up major concepts by observing a question being completed. The difference between a student answering a question correctly (after being given an example on the board) and being able to identify how to answer a question correctly from a range of tools (without prompting) is considerable.
Mathematics has grammar just like English. If students understand the grammar of mathematics, the meta-language of mathematics and the algebraic/arithmetic/visual representations/tools of mathematics, then their ability to solve problems increases exponentially.
And as mathematics teachers we can appreciate the benefits of exponential growth.
Location:Perth, WA, Australia
Perth WA, Australia
Saturday, May 22, 2010
Functions and the Casio Calculator fog(x)
When finding fog(x) the CAS calculator does a good job of simplifying algebraic steps, often to the point of making traditional questions trivial in the calculator section.
I'll start by defining a function f(x) =2x+1 and g(x)=x^2 and attempting to find fof(x), fog(x) and the inverse of (fog(x)).
To define a function f(x) go to the Main window and select
Interactive->Define
A window will appear
Enter the function name (eg. f)
Variable (eg. x)
Expression (eg. 2x+1)
The main window will reply:
Define f(x)=2(x)+1
done
Repeat:
Interactive->Define
Enter the function name (eg. g)
Variable (eg. x)
Expression (eg. x^2)
The main window will reply:
Define g(x)=x^2
done
To find fof(x)
In the main window
Action->Transformation->simplify
f(f(x)) (using the soft keyboard)
press exe
The main window should say
simplify(f(f(x))
4x+3
To find fog(x)
In the main window
transformation->simplify
f(g(x)) (using the soft keyboard)
press exe
The main window should say
simplify(f(g(x))
2x^2+1
To find inverse of fog(x)
In the main window
action->transformation->simplify
action->assistant->invert
action->advanced->solve
y=f(g(x)),x))) (using the soft keyboard= don't forget the "y=")
press exe
The main window should say
simplify(invert(solve(y=f(g(x)),x)))
Here is a link to other CAS calculator posts.
I'll start by defining a function f(x) =2x+1 and g(x)=x^2 and attempting to find fof(x), fog(x) and the inverse of (fog(x)).
To define a function f(x) go to the Main window and select
Interactive->Define
A window will appear
Enter the function name (eg. f)
Variable (eg. x)
Expression (eg. 2x+1)
The main window will reply:
Define f(x)=2(x)+1
done
Repeat:
Interactive->Define
Enter the function name (eg. g)
Variable (eg. x)
Expression (eg. x^2)
The main window will reply:
Define g(x)=x^2
done
To find fof(x)
In the main window
Action->Transformation->simplify
f(f(x)) (using the soft keyboard)
press exe
The main window should say
simplify(f(f(x))
4x+3
To find fog(x)
In the main window
transformation->simplify
f(g(x)) (using the soft keyboard)
press exe
The main window should say
simplify(f(g(x))
2x^2+1
To find inverse of fog(x)
In the main window
action->transformation->simplify
action->assistant->invert
action->advanced->solve
y=f(g(x)),x))) (using the soft keyboard= don't forget the "y=")
press exe
The main window should say
simplify(invert(solve(y=f(g(x)),x)))
Here is a link to other CAS calculator posts.
Inverse Functions and the Casio classpad 330
The 3CD course requires knowledge of domain, range, co-domain and inverse functions. The classpad can handle these in a number of ways.
The most obvious way is in graph mode (Menu-> graph tab). Set up a graph (say y=(x+1)/(x+2), and visually examine it to find the domain and range. To find the inverse, click on the graph and select Inverse (Analysis->Sketch->Inverse). The equation of the inverse can be found by selecting the inverse graph and examining the equation bar at the base of the screen. Be careful with this method, as the resultant inverse graph is not written in "y=" form.
The less obvious way to do it is in the main window. I have not found an "inverse" function yet, but the following is a workaround to find the inverse.
Go
Action->Transformation->Simplify (to simplify the resultant equation)
Action->Assistant->Invert (to swap the x & y variables around)
Action->Advanced->Solve (makes x the subject of the equation)
Enter the function
Press ",x)))" using the soft keyboard (to make x the subject of the new equation)
It would look something like this when finished:
simplify(invert(solve(y=((x+2)/3,x)))
In a way I prefer the main window method as it mirrors the algebraic method. I think students need to really understand the parts of an equation to effectively find the domain and range. I explicitly draw students attention to critical information such as the inability of the function to equal zero or where the function is undefined
a) Look for possible values of x where y=1/0 will occur (eg. {x≠-1} for y=1/(x+1) ).
b) If it is not possible for the numerator to be zero (eg. {y≠0} for y=2/(x+1))
If the range is not obvious it is often easier to examine the domain of the inverse of the function.
Here is a link to other CAS calculator posts.
Purplemath has a good explanation of inverse functions.
The most obvious way is in graph mode (Menu-> graph tab). Set up a graph (say y=(x+1)/(x+2), and visually examine it to find the domain and range. To find the inverse, click on the graph and select Inverse (Analysis->Sketch->Inverse). The equation of the inverse can be found by selecting the inverse graph and examining the equation bar at the base of the screen. Be careful with this method, as the resultant inverse graph is not written in "y=" form.
The less obvious way to do it is in the main window. I have not found an "inverse" function yet, but the following is a workaround to find the inverse.
Go
Action->Transformation->Simplify (to simplify the resultant equation)
Action->Assistant->Invert (to swap the x & y variables around)
Action->Advanced->Solve (makes x the subject of the equation)
Enter the function
Press ",x)))" using the soft keyboard (to make x the subject of the new equation)
It would look something like this when finished:
simplify(invert(solve(y=((x+2)/3,x)))
In a way I prefer the main window method as it mirrors the algebraic method. I think students need to really understand the parts of an equation to effectively find the domain and range. I explicitly draw students attention to critical information such as the inability of the function to equal zero or where the function is undefined
a) Look for possible values of x where y=1/0 will occur (eg. {x≠-1} for y=1/(x+1) ).
b) If it is not possible for the numerator to be zero (eg. {y≠0} for y=2/(x+1))
If the range is not obvious it is often easier to examine the domain of the inverse of the function.
Here is a link to other CAS calculator posts.
Purplemath has a good explanation of inverse functions.
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Composite Area problems
With my year 10 "literacy focus" mathematics class we have been looking at the language of measurement, specifically area and perimeter. The idea has been to get students to clearly understand the importance of units and how to interpret what questions are asking.
When thinking about perimeter we are only thinking about the boundary outside a shape. We then looked at some real world shapes and measured their boundaries, followed by drawing some scale diagrams of shapes and measuring their boundaries.
We then tried to describe how much space was in the shapes. I tried to drive them to describing dimensions, but some students had enough prior knowledge to say calculate the answer by multiplying lengths.
The main issues came as we arrived at composite shapes where composite shapes had to be split into basic geometric shapes. Deriving missing measurements really brought home how much trouble low literacy students can have with basic mathematical concepts such as subtraction. Assuming that a student can see how to find missing sides is in many cases overestimating their ability.
Even at year 10, the majority of low literacy students fail to see f- c = a whereas they are more likely to be able to see a+ c = f.
Because of this to use a scale drawing to assist these students see subtraction in action requires some thought. If a student drew the above diagram with the following measurements they would
not use subtraction to find the missing side on the top rectangle. They would count the squares (if on grid paper) or measure the vertical gap and put the measurement of one on the page.
To encourage students to use subtraction I needed to encourage students to first look at the diagram and do a number of examples with them without using scale diagrams, explicitly doing subtraction sums. We checked our examples with scale diagrams, rather than finding the solution using scale diagrams.
Though a subtle difference, this was far more successful.
Another successful strategy used during these lessons was using formal layout during the early stages with simple examples. By doing this, students were able to see the connection between diagrams, algebraic substitution and the usage of formulae.
For instance:
By learning this and ensuring each example was completed thus, when triangles and circles were introduced it was a trivial case of changing the formula and adding a line to the bottom
Area(Shape) = Area(S1) + Area(S2)
It was interesting to note that students at this stage had now forgotten that perimeter was the outer boundary and were including the S1 - S2 boundary in their perimeter calculations. It had to be explicitly explained that
Perimeter(Shape) != Perimeter(S1) + Perimeter(S2)
and that the intersecting boundary needed to be subtracted. For me, this is learning real mathematical literacy. Students are becoming able to exactly describe their intent on the path to a solution.
When thinking about perimeter we are only thinking about the boundary outside a shape. We then looked at some real world shapes and measured their boundaries, followed by drawing some scale diagrams of shapes and measuring their boundaries.
We then tried to describe how much space was in the shapes. I tried to drive them to describing dimensions, but some students had enough prior knowledge to say calculate the answer by multiplying lengths.
The main issues came as we arrived at composite shapes where composite shapes had to be split into basic geometric shapes. Deriving missing measurements really brought home how much trouble low literacy students can have with basic mathematical concepts such as subtraction. Assuming that a student can see how to find missing sides is in many cases overestimating their ability.
Even at year 10, the majority of low literacy students fail to see f- c = a whereas they are more likely to be able to see a+ c = f.
Because of this to use a scale drawing to assist these students see subtraction in action requires some thought. If a student drew the above diagram with the following measurements they would
not use subtraction to find the missing side on the top rectangle. They would count the squares (if on grid paper) or measure the vertical gap and put the measurement of one on the page.
To encourage students to use subtraction I needed to encourage students to first look at the diagram and do a number of examples with them without using scale diagrams, explicitly doing subtraction sums. We checked our examples with scale diagrams, rather than finding the solution using scale diagrams.
Though a subtle difference, this was far more successful.
Another successful strategy used during these lessons was using formal layout during the early stages with simple examples. By doing this, students were able to see the connection between diagrams, algebraic substitution and the usage of formulae.
For instance:
By learning this and ensuring each example was completed thus, when triangles and circles were introduced it was a trivial case of changing the formula and adding a line to the bottom
Area(Shape) = Area(S1) + Area(S2)
It was interesting to note that students at this stage had now forgotten that perimeter was the outer boundary and were including the S1 - S2 boundary in their perimeter calculations. It had to be explicitly explained that
Perimeter(Shape) != Perimeter(S1) + Perimeter(S2)
and that the intersecting boundary needed to be subtracted. For me, this is learning real mathematical literacy. Students are becoming able to exactly describe their intent on the path to a solution.
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