One thing that I’ve always struggled with is adding challenging questions to my assessments within a SBG scheme. Like a lot of people using SBG, I use a 4 point scale. The upper limit on this scale is similar to an A, and for the sake of the post I’ll refer to the top proficiency as “mastery”. If a student were to get an A in a course I teach, roughly speaking they would have to be at the mastery level in at least half of the learning objectives, and then only if they don’t have any level 2 grades.

In my math classes this year I’m trying to develop and encourage a thinking classroom. Best practices include dialogue and problem solving, along with spaced practice and with guided examples. For some students they have entered math 8 with less than ideal fluency. The question for me is, what is the best way to approach this?
I think lots of students would benefit from increasing their fluency and speed with math facts.

Grade 8 math has been fun and interesting for me to teach. Compared to the algebra and pre-calculus parts of the higher grades, the topics covered in grade 8 seem to be immediately relevant and useful. None more so than proportional reasoning.
My students, for the most part, managed to grasp the concepts of ratios fairly quickly. This shouldn’t be a surprise, given how much scaffolding there is in the BC math curriculum.

Tired of making new complex trinomials for quizzes and tests on factoring polynomials? If you have python installed, you can use this script for making quiz questions.
from random import randint import math ############################################################ # complex will take the form ax^2 + bx + c # binomial factors will be in the form (dx + e)(fx + g) #randomly choose d, e, f, g for questions in range(0, 20): a, b, c, d, e, f, g = 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0, 0 ## use while statement to avoid zeroes while (d == 0): d = randint(-6,6) while (f == 0): f = randint(-7,7) while (e == 0): e = randint(-6,6) while (g == 0): g = randint(-10,10) a = d\*f b = d\*g + e\*f c = e\*g print ("(" + str(d) + "x + " + str(e) + ")(" + str(f) + "x + " + str(g) + ")

Last week I started getting some pushback from the students in my Math 10 classes. I have been running the classes in a flipped manner, where the lecture is replaced by activities and application/practice. I’m sure the students are benefiting from the classroom environment, but it’s not completely obvious to them. As I’ve seen in the past when doing problem based learning, older students don’t always like self-directed learning. In the case of Math 10, I have students that want to be shown how to do something, along with seeing examples, before they even think about trying or struggling with the topic.

I recently got a new contract in Vancouver teaching Math 10 and Math 8. While I feel pretty comfortable with the material in these courses, teaching math has some stark differences from science. Whereas each junior science course is like a fresh start for the students, math isn’t. Each student in math is carrying years of baggage with them by the time they hit secondary school. For Math 10, the baggage is even greater.

An issue I’m struggling with is whether a science classroom should allow cell phones to be used a calculator. It’s a pretty complex issue with lots of different aspects coming into play. A brief list of pros/cons is:
Pros
smartphones are powerful computers and can be utilized sometimes people forget to bring calculators to class (human error) one less device to carry, charge, pay for Cons
difficult if not impossible to discern between a student that is using a smartphone as a calculator as opposed to using their smartphone for messaging removes the teachable moment of a student having a consequence for not coming to class prepared possibility of cheating on a test or quiz complex rules that will lead to abuse: smartphone ok for class but not test; ok to use if you forget your calculator but don’t make it a habit I’d really like to hear your thoughts on this issue.

I recently read Martha Nussbaum’s book Not For Profit, Why Democracy Needs The Humanities. I really like the underlying principle of the book, and it is something that government policy makers and universities should consider, as well as public and private school stakeholders.
The basic premise of the book is that schools are focusing too much on an education system that is believed to lead to stronger economic growth and GNP.

The following email was sent out to the BCAMT (BC Association of Mathematics Teachers) listserv. I think it is very indicative of what can go wrong with math education when we spend too much time dictating math curriculum and standardized testing. In no way is this a criticism of the math teacher, the teacher is obviously doing whatever they can to help their students have success in the final exam.

The other day while looking at my MET course discussion forums I came across a post that made my blood boil. The topic being discussed was LOGO, and how Papert partially designed the language as a tool for constructivist learning of math for children. One of my classmates said they didn’t understand much about LOGO because she “wasn’t a math person.”
My jaw dropped, blood ran to my head (or away from head?