Wednesday, May 1, 2013
Middle School Modeling: Integrated Math/Science
or My Apologies to the Scientists, Polya and All the Modeling Teachers Out There
I decided to go with a process rather than specific content in this class. I know stuff is going to be on the test and we need to cover it. But, I also know that my students will one day leave and go be anything but a scientist or a mathematician.
So I settled on asking students to question, think, plan, model/analyze and tell people about what they did. That's it.
Everything we did this semester followed this template. I found the following questions/directives to be helpful when turning students loose on a problem.
1. What's the problem?
I think we call this "inquiry", but I really don't know anymore. Does it count if I give the question?
2. What do you think the answer's going to be?
Props to Dan for making a guess be an explicit part of the lesson plan. Something I should've been doing 10 years ago but somehow didn't.
3. What smaller questions will you need to answer first?
This is tough. Students live in circular argumentation. I mean, c'mon kid, give me at least a spiral argument once in a while. The name of this blog should mean I have some grasp on the importance of questions, but I've never explicitly asked students to break larger questions into smaller manageable questions nor realized how badly students need help with this.
4. What's the plan for answering the smaller questions?
Two big take away here for students:
1. a good plan = good data = good analysis
2. plans change
5. Go do the plan. (ie. get your data)
6. Make sense out of the data.
This was the sweet spot. How can math be used to turn data into an answer? Kids are getting the hang of this and it's fun to watch.
7. Answer your question.
Cross check the answer with the guess.
8. Tell someone about it.
I use the word "presentation" very loosely here. This was anything from a write-up to a group presentation to an informal interview after an activity.
None of this is new. But, for some reason, it seemed new. The first few activities we did would focus on a particular piece (I'll blog about these--this year. Promise.). The challenging part was to keep from over-planning. Not because I'm that kind of teacher, but because the more I planned, the less students had to. And, well, #4. Oh, and time. It takes a lot more time to have students make the plan and we have bells.