Sunday, October 20, 2013

When Perseverance Pays Off

Our high schools are committed to taking the integrated path with the first three courses and since the middle schools will be teaching these courses, I'm part of the team building the units.  I've been piloting the curriculum by the folks from Utah and, for the most part, I like it.  I'm particularly enjoying the learning cycle they employ:  Develop Understanding, Solidify Understanding and Practice Understanding, mostly because it's pretty easy to discuss with the majority of teachers.

This task was at the beginning of a learning cycle.

Source: Mathematics Vision Project

I had a student, H,  come to me before class and say, "Mr. Cox, I spent like three hours on problem 3 last night.  I couldn't quite get it."

During class, students worked with their groups and started presenting solutions.  As I approach H's group, she gives a high-five to the student next to her.

Me: "What's that about?"

H: "We figured it out!  I get it now."  Then she shows me her solution.

"Feels nice, huh?"

"Yeah, I think I'm gonna cry."

Me too, H.  Me too.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Student Rubric

We are currently working on a performance task where students have to gather data, apply a line of best fit, determine a rate and then make a prediction.  It's been a task to help students shift their thinking from right/wrong to more/less.  In other words, I don't want them to see their understanding as binary--I get it; I don't get it.  I want them to see their understanding as something that falls on a continuum.

When doing something like finding a line of best fit, I think it's less important to discuss what the line looks like and more important to discuss why a particular line is best. This leads us to the descriptors we've been using to discuss both sides of the same coin:

Concept and Precision

5: Strong concept; Precise

4: Strong concept; Somewhat precise

3: Problem with concept; Somewhat precise

2: Problem with concept; Lacks precision

1: No attempt

Through a few discussions with different classes, the top three descriptors have evolved into something like this.

5: Precise answer with precise method

4: Estimate backed by reason

3: Estimate

Then I walked by a student and noticed the self-assessment she was doing.

How's that for kid friendly?