I have links I'd like to share. Like another cool math-related art site, called Algorithmic Worlds. (Thanks Dan, for your lovely post about this.) And this simple decimal game that John Golden put together.
But I'd also like to talk about how this semester is going. I knew it would be better than last semester, but I was still nervous, because of all the trouble I'd had with difficult students. It has been glorious. I am loving teaching Calc II. I am enjoying a huge Intermediate Algebra class. (I wanted to let in former students, so I had to let in the folks on the wait list too. I have over 50 students.) And I have a tiny Beginning Algebra class, where I'll have time to help each one of them. I'm doing so much I want to write about, but I haven't had time to write.
The SBG folks got me pushing myself to allow students to retake tests, and I made lots of versions of my mastery tests for Beginning Algebra last semester. With 3 different courses this semester, I wasn't sure I'd be able to do that for all 3. I promised the Intermediate Algebra students who'd had me last semester that I'd continue that, but I figured my Calculus students didn't need it so much. When more than half failed the Volume test I gave last week, I figured I'd need to let them do retakes too. Today I made two sheets that laid out what a student has to do to be allowed to retake their test (one for Intermediate Algebra and one for Calc). Here's the calc list:
Retaking the Volume Test
1. Re-do each problem. Find your mistakes and explain your old thinking and your new thinking. The hardest part is usually setting up the integral. Show a representative disk, washer, or ‘tube’, labeled.
2. Do a volume project. My first recommendation is to get a glass, measure it carefully (using a caliper), line its axis of symmetry up with the x-axis, and come up with an equation that represents the inside of the glass. Do a volume of revolution, and give the volume. Now check by measuring how much the glass holds. Come see my examples if this isn’t clear.
3. Make a sheet summarizing the differences between the two methods (disks and washers versus ‘shells’, ‘soup cans’ or ‘tubes’).
4. Do the 4 volume of revolution problems on the back of this sheet.
5. Come show me all this in my office, and I will make you a new version of the test.
When students know they can learn the material still, they're not so discouraged after doing badly on a test, and I can keep a lively atmosphere in our class.
I'm going to a conference in SF on Saturday called Escape From the Textbook (which you can watch through live stream). I'm excited about that.
I've got more to write about my classes, but my son is waiting for me to read to him.