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Frustration over Retention

Warning – venting ahead… My Algebra 1 students today had a class-wide reassessment over three learning targets: solving linear equations, solving linear inequalities, and solving formulas for a specified variable. I had rearranged my units this year so that the unit with solving equations and inequalities was first since on the initial benchmark I gave, students could not remember how to solve equations and many commented that they knew they had seen it before but could not remember how to solve. Given that some of the other units I do in the beginning of the year assume that students remember some basics of solving equations and that many students could not even give me that on their benchmark, it made sense to me to rearrange the unit order so this came first. I know from their 8th grade teacher that last year they spent “a lot of” time solving linear equations. We spent more time than I would have liked […]

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Math Class With Less Direct Instruction?

I have a request and if you would be so kind to indulge me, I’d appreciate it. If you can answer the following, I would appreciate it. Tag me on Twitter (@lmhenry9) and/or post your answer in the comments (or blog about it and post the link in the comments). Thanks. How does a math class look/operate/function that is NOT based on direct instruction? What does a typical day look like? How is direct instruction infused in when needed? Background on my question: Andrew Stadel in January had posed a question on Twitter about finding and implementing tasks. Since then, I have been pondering on and off how I would change how I currently teach. I do quite a bit of direct instruction. I know that I should be looking at other options and not relying on DI so much. However, I find that when I ponder how my class would change, I feel completely clueless. And when I start to really […]

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Things I Have Forgotten

We are coming up on the end of the year. This is our last full week. Seniors are taking their finals (not in our classrooms) and we’re not too far from the underclassmen doing the same. I am preparing to give my final regular assessment in my Algebra 2 classes tomorrow. We are finishing up rational expressions and I pulled out the folder review (original post from Mrs. Graham is here) I had used last year and tweaked it to fit what they were reviewing for tomorrow’s assessment. In all four of my classes, students worked. Not every student, but the vast majority of them. For it being a Monday and 8 days left in school, I felt that was great. As my last class was working on the review and I was making the rounds, it hit me. When I design activities that “force” them to work, most students do what is needed to be done. When they actually practice, […]

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Please help by sharing your classroom practices

I had my evaluation today. It was not pretty, and this was not totally unexpected on my part. As I am stepping back and looking at this year, the more I reflect on it, the more I realize that with the changes in my Algebra 2 curriculum (moving to Common Core, not using a textbook), I reverted back to what I know – using direct instruction. And I did it way too much. I knew that going into my evaluation. My students are not very engaged in my class, something else I pretty much knew. My evaluation did not tell me anything that I did not already know. Was I upset? Yes. Even though I knew where I stood, I haven’t figured out what to do about it and the reality of where I am at coupled with that I don’t really know how to fix it made me upset. I’m not going to rehash everything. It’s not productive and […]

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When does "by hand" graphing or processes matter?

I am finishing up teaching polynomials to my Algebra 2 classes. We are discussing the Rational Root Theorem (i.e. p’s and q’s) right now. When I presented the material on Friday, I went through the whole process – finding the factors of p, finding the factors of q, finding the p/q values and testing using synthetic division. As much as I like doing synthetic division, I had forgotten how frustrating this process is for students – it is tedious and they know by now that they can find the zeros by finding the x-intercepts of the graph. So, as I reflected over the weekend and into this morning, I decided when I assess them on this learning target, I am only going to ask them to identity the factors of p and q and the p/q values. I am not going to ask them to fully find the zeros of the polynomial from that list. The more I thought about […]

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Polynomial Questions

Normally, I post questions like this to Twitter, but I need to use more than 140 characters to ask it. Please feel free to tweet me (@lmhenry9) your answers or post them in the comments. Thanks! We are starting the polynomial unit in Algebra 2. I have some students who have graphing calculators. We do not have BYOD and cell phones and i-devices are not permitted in school. I have four computers in my classroom. We do have a computer lab, but there are not enough computers for all of my students to have access at the same time. Some students have access to computers at home. My district has about 55-60% of its students on free or reduced lunches. I have students of many ability levels in my classroom. So, given that background knowledge… how would you deal with the graphing polynomials (and eventually exponential and logarithmic equations as well as rational and radical equations) with these students? Common […]

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Frustrated and Discouraged

I haven’t posted in a while. To be honest, I have been rather busy trying to keep on top of school work and life in general. However, I am compelled to post about midterm exams. **Blogger’s Note: I know at the end of this I am posing a lot of questions. Right now, I have no answers. Please feel free to add your own answers and comments at the end. Thanks. –LMH I generally feel that this year has gone well. I have been doing what I felt was a good job teaching, although I know there are a lot of things to improve on. Students have been doing well. Some have been reassessing. Grades for the grading period have looked pretty good this year. Generally, I feel that my students have been “getting” what I have taught. Then midterm exams hit. In my 21 years teaching, this has to be the worst year yet for midterm exams for me. […]

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SBG Changes?

For the past two school years, I have done Standards Based Grading (SBG). I have done a 5 (6?) point scale: I am not totally happy with the scale (I blogged about it here earlier this summer) and I got some great comments. But I’m not totally sold either. I am contemplating changes. I’m not totally certain which one(s) I am going to make, but this is what I am thinking: 1) If I keep the current scale, I think I am going to make the 0 a 0 in the gradebook (instead of 5/10). I had students who played the system and made no attempt on a skill but since it was a 50% going in the gradebook instead of a 0%, they were able to pass (when they really shouldn’t have) because they did “just good enough” on enough other skills. I am thinking this may solve the problem I talked about earlier with students passing who really shouldn’t […]

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How Much is Enough?

When I first started teaching 20 years ago, I was happy that my textbook had a guide to let me know what problems (and how many) to assign my students. I had no real idea how much was enough. Of course, at that point, most of the assignments were like #1-39 odd. I learned that it was a good idea to look at the problems before just assigning #1-39 odd carte blanche. Fast forward to now, 20 years later. Assigning 20-30 problems a night doesn’t work. I’m struggling to get my students to complete any outside assigned problems at times. So, as I was mowing the lawn today, I was wondering, how many problems is enough practice? Can you put a number on it? What practice do you assign on a regular basis? I look forward to reading your comments. This post originally appeared on An “Old Math Dog” Learning New Tricks.

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Common Core Concerns

I am starting to become concerned about teaching Common Core next year. After having done the Gap Analysis between what I currently teach and what I will be teaching, there is a lot that I haven’t taught either in a few years, or ever. It’s not that I am concerned about teaching it – I am pretty flexible, content-wise. I am concerned with how my students are going to adjust to the new expectations. My Advanced Algebra 2 students had a quiz Wednesday. Rather than knockin’ it out of the park, there were a lot of ground outs, and some pretty ugly ones too. These are supposed to be the best of my current students and lately, they’ve been pretty awful with their work ethic and drive.  As we were working through the review colored folders, I could tell that they have not been putting forth the effort to really learn the material until before the test. They were asking […]

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