Aug 102013

I am trying a new approach to my first week of classes. Instead of the usual first day where we hand out syllabi, and go over policies and procedures, and bore everyone, including me, to death I am trying something completely different.

First off, I am keeping my room set up in groups. I have 6 groups of 4 each and 2 groups of 5 each for a total of 34 desks. That is my largest class so far, so I will keep that arrangement. I did this last year for the first time, and it was successful. I am working on making it more so this year.

On each table (I think of each groups of desks as a table) is a paper that says:

Please fill out and share with the individuals at your table. Once everyone at the table has shared, raise your hands so Mr. Waddell can pick up this paper.

Table # ________________________

My name is: _______ I prefer to be called: ________

3 things that make me interesting are:

  1. ___________________________________
  2. ___________________________________
  3. ___________________________________

Last year I realized that even after a couple of weeks, some of the tables had not even really shared their names. I am forcing the issue with this file (in word docx format). There is space for 5 learners to write their names since I have 2 tables of 5.

Next, in my Algebra 2 class, they are getting a problem. Here it is, in its entirety.

I need new phones for my house, and we are currently not on contract so we can switch to any company.

I need 2 smartphones and a plan to go with them.

Your task:  In your groups, create a poster that lays out the 2 year cost of my 2 new phones and plan. Each person’s handwriting must be represented equally on the poster for everyone to receive full credit. Decide which plan I should get, and explain why clearly enough that my non-mathy significant other will understand. Graphical depictions of the costs would be helpful.

On the desks will be a poster paper, some markers, and that is all. Of course, I have more information for them, and when they write down a question that needs that information to be answered, I will give it to them. Not until they ask AND have a question written down and ready to be answered will I give it to them, however. If you want that file, it is also in docx format.

Finally, and this is the one I think I am most proud of as a first day lesson, is the literal equation solving review for my Algebra 3 course. I am also going to be using this in my Alg 2 class as a day 2 review.

Start off by using the first 6 minutes of this video:

Right, the “game” they propose is AWESOME. The fact they then also show how they are creating equations to solve is amazing, and if we push the game into the CCSS model and require the writing out of steps to accomplish, then we will end up with something REALLY cool.

So, I created this document (yup, in docx so you can edit it as well).

The first page is explanatory and the link. The second page is the “game” as it is presented by Numberphile, and the third page is 7 literal equations from the AP Physics formulas sheet.

My goal is to have the learners in 1 70 minute class period work together, write out the steps to the game in each case, and then apply those steps to something that learners normally have a HUGE difficulty with.

Why am I doing this? I want to set the tone for the year that the learners need to write, they need to discuss, and they need to ask questions. These are challenging tasks that require the learner to process and develop ideas, not simply puke up something that I have told them previously.

That is my goal.

Will it work? I don’t know. I will find out on Monday.

  5 Responses to “First day of school – a new approach”

  1. This is so cool! I’m teaching an online statistics course this fall but I am going to steal your idea and have the students do it in breakout groups while we are meeting virtually and submit their whiteboard.

  2. I LOVE the transcendental numbers video! Thank you for sharing your doc with us! I absolutely see this being a first day project for Hon. Alg 2 or even Pre-Cal. Thank you, thank you!

  3. You are welcome. I am glad it will be of help to you.

  4. How would you answer a student who would just use subtraction each time. For example, on sqrt(2). Why go through the bother of squaring to get 2 and then subtract 2. Why not just subtract sqrt(2) at the start? Am I missing something in the rules of the game? Thanks

  5. I had a learner ask this, and my answer was twofold. #1: The rules of the game says only whole number subtractions, divisions, or exponents. They bought that, even though I slightly amended the rules to allow fractional exponents if they chose to (for cube roots or square roots). I took this rule directly from the video.

    I also had one learner push me on that rule as arbitrary. I agreed, but then I asked him how to subtract irrational numbers. How does subtraction with decimals work? How do you subtract 4.56789 from 7.12345? He thought of this and went into place value, etc. He was very aware of number sense.

    Then I asked him, how do you really subtract the square root of 2, when you never know what the next decimal is. We are subtracting a decimal, but the decimal expansion does not end (we did watch the rest of the video about transcendental numbers, so they had some background). He saw my point pretty clearly, and squared the binomial.

    Plus, part of my purpose here is to get the learners to remember how to do square a binomial. This was a first day of school lesson, so they needed the reminder / review.

    Thanks for the comment David!

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