Monday, July 29, 2013

Parallel Lines and Transversals game

Here's a simple game that helps students cement all the different vocabulary words for the angles formed by parallel lines and transversals.  I teach at school specializing in one-to-one instruction, so unfortunately it's not very much fun, but it does work!  I basically just made a geometry version of my parallel and perpendicular lines game.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Sharing and Laziness

My 5 year old nephew this morning had a bowl of blueberries.  I had a devilish headache and was lying on my grandparent's porch swing.  So when I wanted a blueberry, instead of going to get one for myself  from the kitchen, I asked him if I could have one of his blueberries.  He gave me three.  And he fed them to me himself.  Isn't sharing nice?

A few weeks ago a new teacher was hired at my school.  She's certified in English, but she'll need to teach some chemistry this summer (my school is kind of crazy) so I told her I'd share all my lessons with her so that she had somewhere to start.  She was surprised and thanked me and this led to a larger discussion about sharing resources.  She said, and I'm quoting almost verbatim, "I'm one of those teachers who gets up Saturday morning excited to lesson plan all weekend.  I'm happy to share my resources with coworkers I like, but I won't share with teachers I don't know or don't like because I don't want to encourage them to be lazy!"

A week later our school's curriculum writing team got together and our bosses told us not to make the lesson plans for the curriculum they're distributing across their various campuses too detailed.  They don't want more than a page per lesson.  Most of the teachers they hire aren't certified teachers because it's a private school so they told us they need a unified, regimented curriculum to support people who have never taught before.  At the same time though, they said we could trust the teachers to know their subject matter and that they only needed an outline of content to be covered with no recommended instructional strategies or resources because "we don't want to stifle our teachers' creativity by giving them anything that's too detailed."
Is this a common view point held by teachers and administrators that providing rich, creative, and detailed lesson plans, activities and games promotes laziness and stifles creativity?  It's hogwash!  I am inspired by innovative and engaging ideas that I find in other people's lessons and the more detailed they are, the easier they are for me to adapt, to understand, or to use to help my students learn.  The richer my materials, the more freedom I have to experiment.  The more time I have to think about how to engage particular students.  When I share my lessons I get feedback on what worked and what didn't and I become a better teacher.  I can't believe how entrenched this miserly attitude is about sharing materials.  This curriculum meeting was composed of dozens of teachers and administrators from all over California, New York and New Jersey and they accepted this rationale without question.  That we should keep the good ideas secret to try to force other people to come up with their own good ideas.  Don't they know that good ideas mate with other good ideas to produce litters of new, bouncing, energetic good ideas?

And so what if you give a lazy teacher your lesson plan.  Isn't that a good thing?  Those kids in the lazy teacher's classroom maybe haven't encountered innovative teaching strategies before and if a lazy teacher uses someone else's lesson plan to good effect with their students, isn't that what we all want?  That even kids who have "burned out" teachers have access to rich educational experiences?  Why save the good teaching just for the students who happen to have been placed in your classroom?  It's so silly to hoard!  I guess I can understand not wanting someone to get credit for your idea, but in the end aren't we in this business to help students learn, not to accumulate "credit" for ourselves?  I'm probably way too idealistic for this world.  I guess I feel so strongly about this because I wouldn't be a sixth of the teacher I am today if I hadn't ripped, stolen, copied, and adapted every idea I could skim off of other teachers' blogs and websites.  So I guess I am one of the lazy teachers but boy am I a better person and a better teacher for being willing to learn from all these amazing experts surrounding me.

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Logic of Geometry

I've noticed a distinct void in the Common Core where geometric logic used to have a home.  This makes me really sad for three reasons:

  •  I think it's a really great way to show students how mathematical thinking can be applied to real life 
  •  I was skipped past geometry in high school and when I got to college, the lack of logic training was a real handicap
  • And I've developed a tiny bit of skepticism about Common Core.  Not a lot, but I read this article about how the Common Core was developed and it creeped me out a little.  The fact that only one teacher helped develop the Common Core seems kind of terrible.  I recently made friends with an economics blogger and he told me that every profession engages in "turf defending" where those in the profession reject outsiders' perspectives.  That immediately made me not want to be a turf defender. I won't be the person who stomps on the school house floor and screams "MINE!"  Of course I want outside input, but can I also add that it's maybe a little out of hand in education?  I want to teach logic damn it! 
  • Oh, also, I've found logic very challenging to teach and to give up on trying to find the perfect way to introduce it now just because Common Core gives me permission feels like a cop out. (so I am pretty selfish after all.) 
I've made a point of always teaching it thoroughly up until now.  This year at least I'm stubbornly sticking to my guns and teaching a bit of logic (although I nixed conjunctions and disjunctions, mostly because I personally never used them in college)

Below are my three logic lessons if you'd like to take a look.  I'm writing lessons for the other math teachers in my school so the notes are kind of overly detailed.  Also my school gives us only 50 hours a year (as opposed to the usual 150-180) to get through a year's worth of material, so it's all super condensed.  I don't know if it's usable outside my school, but feel free to steal and I'd love feedback.  I've uploaded the pdfs below to preserve formatting but the .docx are also available on Scribd.

Note: I borrowed some of the homework problems from Harold R. Jacob's Geometry: Seeing, doing and understanding 2nd ed. and from AMSCO's Geometry.  I also totally stole the formatting from Dan Wekselgreene.