Friday, November 22, 2013

The Farming [Thing]

I called this a Project. It's not.  It's more of a problem-y kind of performance task learning opportunity assessment of  for of for? learning that hits close to home.  Literally.  We live in a huge agricultural area and kids don't know what an acre is.  Anything that gives students a chance to wrestle with the fact that a piece of land can't have dimensions of 20 acres x 20 acres, is a win.  Anything that allows me to answer the question "What's an acre-foot?" by doing this, is a win.

In this project  problem's first iteration, I was focused on the skills of equation writing, line graphing and solving mixture and work problems.

In the second iteration, I was less focused on the skills and more interested in having students explain what each component of an equation represented, why we'd want that equation and how graphing inequalities made sense.  We got to discuss why understanding the problem makes sense--kids tried to hire crews to prune cotton.  For you city-slickers out there--you don't prune cotton. It doesn't grow on trees.  Students had to sign up via Google form to interview with me as they finished a task.  I did something north of 175 interviews for one class that year.

This year, I've changed it a bit more.  They are no longer tasks, they're constraints.  There are fewer of them and they don't specifically tell kids what to do.  Before, I told them to create inequalities and graph them. Now, I'm removing some of the scaffold.  They get to decide what tools they want to use.  Before, I did this project after we had done systems, mixture and work problems.  This time, we have only done systems. They're going to have to work through the mixture/work stuff.

That's been the highlight--the mixture problems.  I have a few students who went straight for that constraint and have been on a mission to figure out how to make sense of it.

Today, one boy asked, "Mr. Cox, how accurate to I need to be?  I'm accurate to the trillionth, but I can't get it to be exactly 36%."

I said, "How accurate do you think you need to be?  We're killing weeds, not sending someone to space."

So, with all that, here's the updated version complete with dynamic answer key.

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