May 022013

I have had this long term struggle going on in my head this year that we really don’t do a good job making connections between material in our classes, and that lack of connection is one reason why “transfer” (ala. Grant Wiggins and Understanding by Design) doesn’t occur as  frequently as I would like.

Well, I am not going to talk about it any more. I have the beginnings of a plan to enact. There will be many steps to this plan, but I think the starting point needs to be simple to enact and creates some opportunity for connections to be made.

Every test in my department from Algebra 1 through Trig/Precalc must have a couple of different kinds of problems on it. This is step 1 I am implementing next year.

The first type is a literal equation. Of course, as a stats teacher my first thought was M=z*root(pq/n). Perhaps at the algebra 1 level we won’t start there, but we can select most of the formulas needed in geometry and use them as literal equations and every quiz and test solve for a different  variable of one of the formulas. And, here is the kicker, EVERY time, the learner must explain why they are doing the operation. Justification is mandatory. If we look at the Margin of Error formula above, there are 4 different questions to be asked. That is 4 quizzes or tests that one question can be used.

The goal is get learners to think of literal equations a part of algebra and the justifications as the same thing as every other problem. By the time they reach AP stats, they will have seen this equation repeatedly and know how to manipulate it as a literal, not just with numbers in it. We need to connect AP Stats to Algebra 1.

Next, every test at algebra 1 level must have some form of the following question:

Evaluate (x – (x+h))/x with x = 2 and h = 3. Yes, I know it reduces to h/x, but as we move forward with notation, it becomes:

Evaluate [f(x) – f(x+h)]/f(x)  with f(x) = 2x+5, x = 2 and h = 3.  As the years progress the function can be moved from linear to quadratics to absolute value to cubics or rationals.

Finally, truly stress and monitor that verbage “rate of change of” every time the word “slope” is used.  The learners need to hear and write over and over the “rate of change of” the line in algebra 1, geometry, and algebra 2.

The goal is to create a common language / strands through all math courses and chapters that lead to AP calculus and AP statistics. All learners need to be exposed to the language of statistics and calculus repeatedly throughout their education so it is not different at the upper levels.

So those are the three things I can and will implement next year, without fail.

What am I missing?

Any other language to implement? Any other formulas / concepts that can be used at the lower levels of math that lead directly to the upper levels?



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