Posted by: lboudreau | September 30, 2011

I wonder

So much for the goal of blogging every week…  Seems I can either live and teach, or write about it.  You’d never know I was on my 18th journal at home.

It’s been a re-energizing week.  Between catching up with Jill Gough, and reading new blogs (see blog roll to the side), and a great session with Heidi Hayes Jacobs at Trinity School, I feel engaged in a larger world again.  (Although not as tech-savvy as some– how do you link a Twitter conversation on a blog?)  Lost much sleep thinking about the classroom and larger educational world.

Two questions.

1.  What’s up with tech use and math classes?  In so many professional development experiences I’ve had, the extent of tech use in math is largely limited to the graphing calculator.  Not that I’m complaining.  It’s an elegant, powerful device, and has done just about anything students have needed, especially since CAS crunches variables, and we can go into some deep, d— thinking with it.  Wolfram-Alpha crunches the same (and then some) without having to spend $150, but it’s not quite as portable, depending on the hardware used, and you can’t bring it into an SAT room.  I like the TI CAS software, but again, not so portable.  (I do have issues with the lock TI has on the market, but that’s beyond my control at this point, so I let it go.)

So, is it the pervasiveness of a useful device that’s led to less use of other tech in the math classroom?  I think of my humanities colleagues and all the web 2.0 applications I’ve seen them use.  And the Skyping.  And polling with cell phones.  And Ning and blogs to communicate an build community.  I’ve seen far less of that with math, including in my own classrooms.  Don’t you think math classrooms would lead the way with technology?

It’s a pedagogy thing, rather than a subject thing.  The way we teach math has been so skill-centered that a calculator has sufficed.  When we change our focus, I suppose we’ll change our tools.  I suppose I need to do that, too…

2.  I’m teaching Geometry this year with College Preparatory Math (CPM).  My jury is out on it so far, although I’m willing to see where the year leads before the jury comes in.  Part of my problem at this point is judging when to let students continue and when to intercede.  When do I need to interject a comment or stop the class to discuss answers as a class?  Yesterday, as the class looked at angles (finally), they had to develop a conjecture about vertical angles.  Almost all the groups determined that vertical angles are congruent, and some even used the word (although we’re not picky about the vocabulary quite yet).  One group conjectured that vertical angles are opposite each other.  True, but rather misses the more important point.  Should I have led them into another understanding, or is it okay to let that slide for now?

It’s hard to gauge the level of my participation in this learning.  I don’t like the idea of misconceptions rattling around in heads, never addressed, or addressed so late that students struggle to re-learn.  I’m all about the benefit of the struggle to learn in the first place, and I love student-centered learning, but I don’t want to add confusion–math can be confusing enough.  So, do I step in?  And how will I catch when I need to step in?

When I’ve crafted my own curriculum I’ve had a better sense of the journey.  CPM is planned and scripted for the year, and I’m told you just need to get through the year to see the full effect.  I’m not particularly patient about it.

 

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