Progress Report

A beautiful Monday here – the heat finally broke and fall is beginning. I just want to take a few moments to share what’s been happening with two of my courses. I am teaching AP Statistics (my 5th year doing so now – I am finally beginning to feel comfortable), AP Calculus BC, and Geometry, I have already written about my Geometry book that I wrote this summer (you can grab it here if you have not done so already) and I am pretty pleased so far with how the students are responding. We just spent two days in our computer lab so that they could get their hands dirty working with GeoGebra. In my book, Sect 2.4 is the hand-on intro. This section has the fingerprints of @jensilvermath all over it. It was fun to watch the kids poke around and try to discover. It was a refreshing reminder that all of the talk about digital natives needs to be taken in context. There are certainly tech skills that feel more natural to my students than to me. Hell, there are things my 11 yr old son knows better than I do on our laptops. But this kind of exploration does not necessarily come naturally. I also am reminded of the relationship between comfort with material and comfort with exploring. Some of my students accomplished so much more and were so efficient compared to their peers. I saw a direct relationship between kids who feel confident that they understand directions like – create a regular hexagon and then create a circle that contains the vertices of the hexagon. The students who were willing to simply poke around on the pull down menus were quick and happy to execute some simple commands while others just stared aimlessly at their screens. I led class very directly on Friday in the lab and intentionally did not do so today. I have had a couple of students comment that they are enjoying the text and that it feels easy to read. I have also had a few tell me that they do not like my habit of asking questions for which there are multiple correct answers.

I spent about 5 or 6 hours this weekend reading short essays from my AP Stats students and responding to them. I had them read How Not to Talk to Your Kids an article that I first read about 7 years ago. It was my first encounter with the ideas of Carol Dweck regarding mindset and praise. It changed my thinking as a parent and as a teacher. I gave my students two sets of quotes that I found memorable and asked them to pick one from each set to comment on. I also asked them to find a meaningful quote of their own. I was really proud of them. I got some thoughtful responses and quite a bit of personal reflection. When we debriefed in class today most of them said that the article really made them think about their own childhood, what motivated them, and how their parents treated them. Could not ask for much more than that. I also shared with them a brief video from an interview with Richard Feynman. In it Feynman discusses the distinction between knowing the name of something and actually knowing about that something. My students reported, as expected, the depressing news that they feel that their job is often complete when they know the name of something. I was pleased that they expressed, pretty unanimously, that this is not the way it should be – just the way it is.

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