Tag Archive | Mathematics education

And So It Ends… But Not Really.

I think the stars aligned. Why, you ask? Somehow in the chaos of my final semester, three of my classes all required (well, two required and one was optional) a personal project that was rather open ended. Between my Math Education, Moral Education, and Technology in the Classroom classes, I found a common niche. This niche was in a flipped classroom. Anyone who’s been reading my blog knows that lately, I’ve been somewhat obsessed with them. That is partly due to how awesome I think they are, and partly due to the fact that I’ve had a monster project involving them for the last two months. I elected to do a unit within the Math 9 Curriculum on Polynomials. For more information and a better run down of the project, click here.

So how does this project tie into a critical project for Moral Education? Well, the way I see it, there are two ways to interpret the phrase “moral education:” (1) The act of educating students about morality, or (2) education that is inherently moral. I chose to focus more on the second definition, since we covered the first definition a lot more in class. For my Math Ed class, I created the flipped unit, but at the end of it, I was left asking questions about the equity of using a regular assessment model. How fair was it to assess my students the way that I’d grown up being tested, the way they’ve probably always been tested, and the way that most teachers still test? This, in fact, is less of an assessment and more of an evaluation. How could I build authentic and informative assessment into this unit? I looked at two different ways, comparing and contrasting them with each other as well as with current Quiz-Quiz-Test Model. I came up with a learning contract that uses standards-based grading and an assessment through learning that uses the material covered in the unit to bridge the gap between grade nine and grade ten math, all while enabling me to assess each skill that the student needs to demonstrate in order to fully understand polynomials for the grade nine requirements.

However, I’m not about the ignore the first definition of moral education. Within this classroom, there will need to be a lot of discussion about equity, fairness, and ethics in math education. These conversations need to take place in order to justify why I would even consider challenging the status quo. These conversations could be overtly teaching morals and ethics. Implicitly, I am morally educating my students by treating each student with great respect — so much respect that I want to customize their learning for each of them and give them the opportunity to shine come assessment time, however that may manifest itself. More importantly, I want to provide them with a desire to learn, not just  force them to memorize, material. Showing this kind of respect for their intelligence, effort, and learning is modeling good citizenship for my students.

As for the critical side of my project, I have to say it was really intriguing and fun to start to dig into challenging the typical math classroom. I started off by flipping a classroom — a big change to begin with — then I challenged how the videos were made by pushing for a more inquiry-based approach. Then I got to challenge the assessment of such a classroom. This project has really helped me rethink how I want my classroom to look, and it has certainly made me more conscious of justifying why I would do something in a classroom. Is it just because that’s the way I was taught and it worked for me, or is it because it is truly best practice?

So I sat down in front of a video camera one afternoon/evening and I spoke. I gave myself a list of questions, many of which made the final cut, while some did not. I will apologize for a few things: firstly, I didn’t realize how daunting talking to a tiny lens would be, so I had several prolonged “ums” that I edited out, but not as smoothly as I would’ve liked; secondly, toward the end of filming, I started to get a scratchy throat, so my voice gets a bit raspy; and thirdly, it’s quite lengthy–as in it is over an hour–so you may want to grab a coffee and a comfortable chair. Other than that, I am quite proud of how this turned out. I’m glad I took the chance to sit down and reflect out loud. Even the editing process was quite reflective for me. Listening and having an internal dialogue with myself was a really cool feeling, and it has certainly pushed my thinking further and inspired me to keep thinking about these tensions.

If the video doesn’t play, you can view it on Vimeo here. Special thanks to the Vimeo staff for helping me through my uploading difficulties. They have a fantastic staff that helped me troubleshoot through their well-kept help forum. Much appreciated!

It seems like it is time to say that this project has finally come together, from the practical math education side of the polynomials unit, to the moral side of assessment, to the technological side of making this whole thing (the unit as well as how the project is assembled, researched, and presented). While I can officially say, “I’m done,” I need to add in a “… for now.” This project will never be done. It will always be a work-in-progress. It will always be evolving, and I never want to stop learning about it.

On Checking Out

I love learning. Love, love, love it. While I have a particular interest in math, math education, English, English education, education in general, baton twirling, sports in general, dancing, the arts in general, etc., I like to learn about anything. Anything that builds my knowledge, I tend to find some benefit someway.

So what does this have to do with anything? Well, I’m frustrated. I’m frustrated for some students in my graduating class, as well as teachers who have their degrees, that they have checked out. They think that getting the almighty degree is the end of the learning road. I’ve done my darnedest to ensure that I’m milking these last four months of my degree for all they are worth. Three down and one to go, and I think I’m doing a pretty good job. I’m seeing students around me with a different feeling though — they are making comments or acting in a way that suggests they are thinking, “Three down and one to go. Thank goodness. I want out of here. I’m just putting in my time for a degree. This is all make-work stuff.”

It's frustrating to see these metaphorical signs around me when I really do care. Flickr photo credit to justinjagged.

I’m here to say (and vent – sorry for the rant) that no, it’s not a make-work project! What you make of it is the work you put into it. I don’t think I can say that enough. Any good dieter (oxymoron, maybe?) knows that it’s all a matter of calories consumed versus calories expended. Same in learning — what you put in to it needs to be equal to what you get out of it. I want to get as much as possible out of the next four weeks as I possibly can, so I am working my butt off, and doing so rather happily. I can honestly say that staying up until 3 a.m. is actually kind of pleasurable if you like what you are doing. It all boils down to motivation. I am motivated to learn (on most days), because I love it; whereas, it seems that some of my classmates are just motivated to get the heck out of there.

I’m publicly stating this now — I have learned more in the last three months, with the exception of my internship, than I did in the three years leading up combined. I learned a boat-load in those three years. I had to, but I have learned so much more as a result of my internship, thinking about what I did well, what I could have done better, and what I can do to fix it. How can I be a better teacher? How can I be a better role model? How can I be a better learner? None of this growth would have been possible without an internship, but I sure am glad I try to stop growing after internship.

All I can to these prospective teachers is this: when will you ever get the chance to find something you are passionate about, learn about it from at least five experts each week, interact with fellow teachers about ground-breaking education ideas, design the perfect earth-shattering/mind-blowing/kick-butt unit just because you can? When? I don’t know about you, but unless they add another 10 hours to the day once we start working, it won’t be happening.  This isour time. We can reflect. We can grow. We can conjecture new ideas. We can research. We can find things we are passionate about.

How you handle all this is up to you, but for me, I’m going to take advantage of it. Why wouldn’t I?