Trying to Sort Out Some Ideas

so, I wrote a post on Friday in a time of frustration and took it down later that day. Need to learn to use my drafts folder to sit on these ideas. (Thanks to hermathness and others for this idea)

I have spent much of the past day and a half in bed and will be back there soon, so I am going to divide some of the ides that were on my chest and weighing me down.

i wrote a Geometry text last summer and have been putting together HW assignments as we move along this year. It’s been a tremendous amount of work, but I feel that I am really learning about myself, Bout my students, and about what I value. Instead of just selecting some subset of problems from a text or relying on prefab worksheets, I have really been thinking about what kind of work feels important to me. We have a 14 day period of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas breaks and one of my Geometry teammates offered to take the reins of planning during this stretch. I am grateful for this and it have saved me much energy. Last week my colleague sent out a partial assignment and asked for help in fleshing it out. I scoured through some resources I have and proposed three problems to add on to an assignment where the section of the book concentrated on the Hypotenuse – Leg theorem. One of the problems in particular involved two steel rails that met with no gap and then buckled upward due to heat. I think it’s a pretty cool problem, but I knew that I would have to work it out for most of my kiddos after asking them to ponder it for HW. I am TOTALLY fine with giving my students some problems that I think only a few will complete correctly.  It is becoming obvious that most of my students do not agree that this is a great idea and some of my colleagues disagree as well. I see this as a failu on my part. I have not been clear enough in articulating why I think this kind of struggle is a good idea. I feel that I have a better idea of addressing this with my students than I do with my colleague. She told me she would not give that problem for homework because she did not want to freak her students out. I appreciate her concern about her students, I just happen to believe that freaking them out a bit is pretty important. Especially when it is a low stakes situation like a homework problem.

i ned to frame this conversation carefully and with only four days before winter break, it feels like I ought to sit on this for a little while. As always, I welcome any wisdom you have to share!


3 thoughts on “Trying to Sort Out Some Ideas”

  1. I think you should watch that doc I watched last night about tiny houses. It has nothing to do with math, but that guy built a house with no construction experience. There’s a quote in there somewhere about how how they broke this big project down into small projects, making what would seem impossible, easier. Like you try to do in your classroom…no freaking out!

  2. It’s that awful line between struggle and frustration. And struggle tolerance is low b/c of teachers avoiding it and students disliking it. Pushing against that is fraught with danger. Even if you get past the student barriers, you risk taking away the part of their perseverance motivation that comes from them thinking that you think they can solve it since it’s on the homework. Having stus present solutions helps with that, in my experience, until or unless it’s always the ‘smart kids.’ So I’ll try to have students share their progress without a solution to try and get at that it is the problem solving that I care about. Often using some variation on Dan Meyer’s language about ‘no problem worth solving ever came with…’ When it works, you get students willing to share progress without solutions. And that’s gold, Jerry, gold. Er, Jim.

  3. I wish I had replied sooner, because you are probably on break already. I agree that freaking the kids out a bit is a good thing. That said, I know that most of my students leave the last few (more difficult) problems undone on any given homework assignment, and if I watched carefully, I might notice that only the top students ask me to actually explain them. It is so difficult to get students to try things that are challenging for them. In my opinion, as long as you are doing this in class now and then – so they know that it is okay NOT to be able to do a problem but to think about and mess with it a bit – why not throw it into the homework? How high stakes is homework completion in your school? Do students become anxious if they can’t complete every problem (mine certainly don’t)? Truthfully, I think your colleague is overreacting, but I also think your self-assessment that you haven’t made either your intentions or how you envision the approach to this work clear enough to your students and others might be a helpful guide in how to move forward.

    I’m glad you reposted this – and I hope you have a lovely holiday – WM

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