Posted by: lboudreau | August 20, 2011

Inspirational Syllabus, My Attempt

Inspired by John Burke’s entry for the challenge and his initial inspiration from Dan Meyer, I decided to play with my syllabi.  Starting a new school, it seemed a perfect opportunity– not a whole lot developed yet for new courses and a clean slate with students.

I developed a general template for all classes, and tweaked as necessary for each of four courses.  This is the one for Honors Pre-Calculus.


John used common threads between people for his syllabus; I used images, because I find making math as visual as possible really helps it make sense.  These images link the Fibonacci Sequence, the unit circle, and conics– all topics we’ll study this year, but also linked to the idea of progression.  It seems clear that sequences progress from one term to another, with some pattern in play.  The unit circle also involves progression as the point rotates around the origin along the circle, and the angle changes magnitude (and maybe direction).  Conics, too, illustrate progression if we consider the shapes as the intersection of two cones and a plane, and the plane changes its approach angle.  (Conics also illustrate a progression of eccentricity, but I may not bring that up when we talk about this syllabus.)  I’m hoping students will find their own connections between the images, and we’ll have an interesting conversation, but at least I have something in my back pocket.

The final section on expectations may be the most important for my classes, but I find it’s most effective to bring it up last, after the nuts and bolts.  These items were suggested three years ago by Marsha Little when I was hashing out what I considered the most important elements of learning.  I’ve played with varying degrees of transparency over those years (sometimes students prefer not to know what’s going on behind the scenes, and sometimes they do).  This is is what I like.

I plan to talk about this on the second day of class.  On the first day, we do math (see following post).  I really like Dan’s idea: hook ’em right off.  Let’s see what sort of interest builds.

It may not be the Document of My Dreams (it’s still too long), but it’s a step closer, and I think we can use it as a springboard for learning this year.

Thanks, John.


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