Saturday, August 18, 2012

Start. Continue. Stop.

I saw it at Tina's blog (Drawing on Math), and it's been in my head since then. Seems like weeks ago. It's only been two days. That's how much my mind's been whirring. (Writing this at 2am, because I just couldn't sleep.) What I want to start doing in my classes, what I want to continue doing, and what I want to stop doing.

  1. Using the techniques I learned at that WAYK workshop, at least some of the signs.
  2. Bringing food. This might not pan out. I'd like to have tea and healthy munchies available in the back of the room. (This comes from WAYK. It's the 'meadow' you might want to head to when you're 'full' (of learning).) I'm considering bananas, popcorn, apples, essene bread, nuts, maybe sweets.
  3. Doing more math (less rules of the course, syllabus, blah blah) on day one, picking a problem that's at the heart of the course. This is part of starting my planning by reflecting on my goals.

  1. Designing the course from what I know it to be about, rather than following the textbook. I might use the textbook daily (or I might not). But I design the course. Designing my calculus course is the main thing keeping me awake nights - I can't stop thinking about it.
  2. Letting students retest. My linear algebra students really came through in the end because of this. They earned the highest grades I've ever been able to give (about 8 A's, 4 B's, 1 C, and 1 D). I think all my students can do this if they're willing to make the commitment.
  3. Having the students work in groups of 4 much of the time, and in pairs when I'm doing anything close to lecture (so they can check in with a partner on what I just presented).
  4. Searching for cool projects that go well with the courses I teach.
  5. Offering one mastery test on problem solving, which will appear as a subtest of each test I give. I'll be doing this in pre-calc, and probably in calc I. I don't think I can do it in calc II. The students only have to solve one problem to master this.
  6. Offering donut points: When a student catches me in a mistake, it's a donut point. When the class has gotten 30 donut points, I bring in donuts. Two functions: 1. Get those mistakes cleared up. 2. More importantly, get the students questioning what I'm saying.
  7. Doing much of what I mentioned in this First Day post 3 years ago, including index cards to learn their names and call on them,  making a phone list, and stamping homework.
  8. Blogging. Aka reflecting on my teaching.

  1. I might stop putting grades on tests. I've used percents on tests. (Quizzes get x.x/2, which may work well, actually.) I might switch to just putting  'Mastered', 'Getting close', 'Needs more work', or something similar, and still putting the percent in my gradebook. (Mastered=90% to 100%, Getting close=65% to 89%.) Or, I might think about it this semester, and try to implement it later. I feel like I'm trying to do a lot new already, and I don't want to overload myself.
  2. I'd like to move away from the expensive textbooks put out by conventional publishers (and toward open source textbooks). I don't get to choose this alone, really. My department picks the required textbook together. I'm hoping to be able to influence them on the next calculus text. The Guichard looks the most conventional (and therefore the most likely to appeal to the whole department), but it doesn't have as many exercises as I'd like.
  3. I'll stop doing 'thumbs up-down-sideways' (mentioned in that First Day post), because I'd like to replace it with 'show your level', where students hold one hand sideways with 4 fingers spread to show the levels (1. not there, 2. getting some, 3. getting it, 4. could explain to others and extend), and point with the other hand to their level.

What's changing and what's staying the same for you?


  1. Thank you for posting this. I love the donut points idea. I'm returning to work after maternity leave in a fortnight and your blog has got me thinking. Thanks

  2. Big changes ahead for me too with no grading HW and allowing retests, so I'm glad you saw positive results here. I like your mastery test on problem solving! And I'm stealing your donut points idea! (I have to stop giving out little treats though.) Thank you, Sue! Oh, I have to figure out how to get twitter feeds like you have for James Tanton on your blog. Got tired of favoriting his tweets all the time.

  3. The math lab supervisor also commented on how my students really worked on learning the material to retest.

    If your blog uses blogger, I think they have a 'gadget' for adding someone's twitter feed. I just added it on a whim, and I bet I did it after seeing an easy way to add it. (Yep, there's even a button - in Spanish, though - to add this gadget to your blog.)

  4. Turns out I like my thumb-meter better than the 4 fingers (digital) meter I was going to change to. It took my one class to decide that. (Mainly because the students weren't making it visible enough.)

    I'm also not going to stop putting grades on tests. I've changed things up plenty this semester. If that still seems like a good idea next semester, then maybe.

    I am happy to be offering students low-cost alternatives for the 'required' textbook.


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