Spiralling in Advanced Functions (MHF4U)

I’ve been spiralling my courses for the last few years, but this last semester was the first time I spiralled the Advanced Functions MHF4U course. If you’re new to the spiralling idea check out the blog post from Mary Bourassa and the MHF4U website from Al Overwijk and Janice Bernstein. They’re great resources to get you going.

This post is really to remind my future self on what I did this semester and for anyone else asking spiralling questions.

On Planning

Occasionally I will get an email from a teacher who is interested in trying spiralling and the question they usually ask is, — Where do I start? I think most of us need someone to shine the flash light down the path for us to see where to head. I usually start with a table that shows the strands of the course and where the major skills (overall expectations) fit in. I try to group them by themes. This year I my cycle one was about introducing the functions and focusing on graphing characteristics. Cycle two focused on linking algebraic representations with graphical. See below.

From there I keep an ongoing day-to-day plan.

Click to see the live version

On Homework:

In the past I’ve given out homework in a very traditional way, “Tonight, complete page ___ Questions #__ to ___. Tomorrow we’ll take them up.” And what did homework take-up look like in a grade 12 course? Well, for me, it was always “What problems did you have trouble with? Number 8b? Ok, does anyone have that one completed? Kearra can you put that solution up on the board?” If no one had that question right, then I would put up a solution. And everyone watched, twiddling their thumbs (or more realistically — texted) while I put that solution up….or we all watched Kearra put the solution up. Not a great use our of time.

I’ve changed that process over the last year or so. For me, giving out homework comes in a homework set. I got the idea from Al Overwijk and Mary Bourassa. The sets not only have practice problems from the ideas from that day, but also practice problems from other areas of the course. Each night of homework they are practicing most strands of the course. It keeps concepts fresh in their minds and keeps practice going all semester.

a typical homework set

When students come to class they get a playing card that randomly assigns them a partner. Instead of asking which question we should put up, I choose two or three from the set and the pair has to put them up on the vertical whiteboards/blackboards around the room. They are only allowed one piece of chalk or marker between them. I circulate around the room to give feedback and check for understanding/thinking. I’ll routinely yell out to “switch the marker” which forces students to communicate, error check, and defend their work. A better use of our 10 minute homework take-up time. After, students hand in their homework which allows me to check their understanding and gives me insight on what skills we need to improve on (I choose one or two questions to focus on). Gone are the days where I give out homework and I don’t find out what they really know until test time. Now, I know daily. Is it more work for me? Yes it is. But it’s worth it.

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After homework take up.

Whiteboards & Note-taking:

Most of our problem solving and practice work in class this year was done on non-permanent surfaces. For some students, parents, and teachers this is a concern since they are wiped away and there is not a record of that work. Here is an email response I sent a fellow teacher this year to address the concern:

“Do your students need the note? Are they asking to take notes? If so, have a conversation with them about what they need and teach them to take pictures of what they need or make notes for themselves. Or have them summarize what they’ve learned after doing the problems as an exit slip.
I sometimes do “important” solutions on chart paper and then they stay up in the room so we can refer back to them.”

Changes:

As always I’ll be making changes for the next time I teach the course. I want to include solving equations earlier in the course. This year I didn’t bring it in until cycle 3 and I feel like we could have benefited from more exposure. Also, radians need to be introduced in cycle 1 so that it can fuel all of trig for the rest of the year. I feel like it was crammed into the last cycle.

Day-to-Day Outline and resources for MHF4U

See the outline as a webpage

Get your OWN copy of the Google Sheet to modify.  – You’ll need a Google account

Appointment Clock

In class today we practiced, error-checked, discussed solutions, got peer feedback, got teacher feedback, smiled, laughed, and cringed. Today’s class was supposed to be boring. We were supposed to just practice solving polynomial and rational inequalities. Boring right?

A few years ago I saw an activity structure called Appointment Clock from an English teacher in my district. It was one of those structures you see at a PD day and think… “that’s kinda cool” and then the weekend happens, and by Monday it’s gone. For some reason, this weekend, years later….it popped back into by brain.

To start all students got an appointment clock handout.

They were given two to three minutes to circulate around the room and schedule “an appointment” at the indicated times. 

Next, they were given ONE inequality (list of inequalities) and about 7 or eight minutes to solve it. They were to write the solution to their inequality on the handout and keep it hidden from the other students. They were to check their solution using Desmos. I circulated to help anyone who needed it. “Now, this inequality is YOUR inequality….you are the master of this one.” Once everyone was ready, I announced, “Get up, and move to meet with your 2 o’clock appointment. Show your new partner your inequality. Complete their problem in your notes and check with them to verify your answer.” I gave them 7 minutes. This is where great stuff happens. They check with each other to find mistakes, get feedback, improve. After the 7 minutes or so, I announced, “Now, meet with your 10 o’clock appointment and repeat the procedure.” The structure is very much like Speed Dating

We did this for the entire class. Every minute was worth it!

At no time was practicing solving polynomial and rational inequalities boring. Not today!

 

 

Perimeter Jumble

You’ve seen this problem before.

I was discussing this problem with a co-worker a week or so ago and they suggested I change the scenario to a fence around a skate park….”to make it more relatable to students.” I wasn’t sure that particular fix was going to make my students want to solve it more (more on that from Dan here, here, and here). Instead, “I want to make it more curious than that…and get my students to do most of the heavy lifting”.

The textbook and many teachers will tell you to break out the geoboards and bands. But I still feel like that is telling them what to explore. I wanted them to ask the question before we do the exploring. How can we make this topic more curious?

Here is my attempt at making this more curious:

Show them this and ask for what do you notice? What do you wonder?

Today, my students noticed: “The number of pieces stayed the same,” Different rectangles, squares were made,” “The rectangles were blue,”

Today, my students wondered: “What would the perimeter be?” “How big were the rectangles?” “Were they all the same area?” “Why are we doing this” “Which shape would be the biggest?” “How long was each piece?”

I circled the wonder: Which shape is the biggest? But I extended it…. I confirmed some of their other wonderings like…yes the number of lines didn’t change. How many did you see? Did you guess 24?

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Draw one of those rectangles you saw on your whiteboard. Write the dimensions. Determine the area.

I asked each student what dimensions they had and the area. Who has the biggest? I extended the idea….”I wonder what would happen if we had a different number of lines, a different perimeter to work with?”

The rest of the lesson would flow much like all of those geoboards lesson (get their hands/minds working — the less I talk the more they learn).

I assigned each pair of students a piece of chart paper with a new perimeter to work with. Draw rectangles with your set perimeter. Record the dimensions and the perimeter.

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The recorded on the sheet:

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I showed some pics of student graphs on the TV and we concluded together that squares were making the largest area!

The groups then turned to doing some practice problems of “Here is a perimeter…what dimensions will produce the max area” and the backwards questions…”If the largest rectangle has an area of ___ what would the perimeter be?” Some groups were given the problem where we only use 3 sides to enclose an area. What now will make the largest area?

Stripping this problem of context didn’t make them want to investigate less……in this case my students were engaged as much as I’ve seen them lately.

I wasn’t pushing them to memorize that it’s a square that will give the max area….I feel like the big idea here for us was taking our own wonderings and investigating them systematically to discover a relationship. For me that is the bigger take away for these grade 9 students.

 

 

Fav & Fix – Dec 1

For the Favourite & Fix series I’m posting one idea from my lessons that week that was my favourite and one topic that I need help on. Something I hope to fix. I’m hoping that in the comments or on Twitter (#Fav&Fix) you amazing readers can help me out with some hints, tips, and suggestions.

Favourite: The Cheating Quiz

This week I gave a quiz to my grade 9 applied students. It consisted of 4 questions – Two on linear relations and two on reading distance-time graphs. After the quiz was over I said “It’s time to do a little cheating.” Each student is to find another student they were comfortable sharing their work with. I said, “For question 2 only, share your work with each other. Discuss what you notice about each other’s solution. Do you have the same? If you have different solutions who is more right? After you discussion go back and adjust your solution if you need to. Hand in after.

I really enjoyed listening to them share. It was interesting to see how they defended (or didn’t defend) their answers. After reviewing their new work on that question it not only gave me insight into that one students thinking, it gave me some insight into what their partner was thinking too. For the student below I can see some really good thinking about how the linear relation changes. But now I know for both of these students we need to have a discussion how the increase of 100 every 5 people affects the equation. Looking at each students paper in the room now tells me a lot more about my class’ understanding compared to not having a “cheating quiz”

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Fix (just a comment)

My MEL3E class is coming off a two week themed activity where we designed, built and launched rockets. Today we were completing the Sugar sugar Desmos Activity and a student says to me: “When are we going to do something fun?” I relply, “Fun?”….he says, “yeah, like watch a movie.”

I’m not one to show movies in class. 

Why do students always equate fun in class with movie watching? How does the student who just smiled through two weeks of math class, built and launched rockets, helped me fix the launcher numerous times, and today, yes today, defended his choice on which sugary cereal was the best choice not know he was having fun?

I guess enjoying class does not equal “having fun”.

Math class doesn’t have to be fun…just worth it.