Experiencing Scale in Higher Dimensions

A colleague and I have often bemoaned our attempts to teach the concept of scale factor in higher dimensions. A topic that has such beautiful and elegant patterns and symmetries between the scale factors consistently seems to sail directly past the experience of our students. I have tried enacting several tasks with the students including some favourites from the #MTBoS (Mathalicious 1600 Pennsylvania and Giant Gummy Bear). Each time, the thinking during the task seems to dissipate when new problems are offered. It just seems like students have a hard time trusting the immense rate that surface area and volume …

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Problem Posing with Pills

My class always welcomes conjectures. This is made explicit on the very first day of the semester. This goes for everything from grade nine to grade twelve. As the grades advance, the topics have us venturing into increasingly abstract concepts, but conjectures are always honoured. Certain class structures promote conjecturing more than others. Students offer questions during lectures, but they are often of a surface variety. They notice a pattern that has occurred in three straight examples, or think they have discovered a short-cut. I don’t like using tricks, but if they are “discovered” or “re-invented” (to borrow a term from …

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Algorithms and Flexibility

I was given a section of enriched grade nine students this semester. I decided very early on that the proper way to enrich a group of gifted students is not through speed and fractions. They came to me almost done the entire course in half the allotted time. This essentially alleviated all issues of time pressure.The beautiful thing about this is we are able to “while” on curiosities that come up during the class (Jardine, 2008). I am not afraid to stop and smell the mathematical roses–so to speak. In a recent tweet I explained it as the ability to stop and …

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The Discourse Effect

This semester, I’ve been attempting to infuse my courses with more opportunities for students to collaborate while solving problems. This post is designed to examine the shift in student disposition throughout the process.I have noticed an increased conceptual understanding almost across the board and this is reflected in the differing solutions on summative assessments. It is also nice to see their marks  grow on these unit tests. I do not believe that paper-and-pencil tests are the best venues for displaying conceptual understanding, but it is awesome when the two intertwine.My unit structureI plan my courses in units of study, and …

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Fraction War Task

A while ago I wrote a post on embedding atomic skills into tasks so that the basic skills are developed and used as tools of mathematics rather than the ultimate goal of mathematics. I try to develop tasks that follow this framework. I want the student to choose a pathway of thought that enables them to use basic skills, but doesn’t focus entirely on them.Recently, I was reading Young Children Reinvent Arithmetic: Implications of Piaget’s Theory by Constance Kamii and came across one of her games that she plays with first graders in her game-driven curriculum.The game was called double …

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Sorting Set(s)

Set Theory, Counting Methods, and Probability are probably my three favourite topics to teach. For the first time under our new curricular framework, I got to teach these topics to a group of seniors. I decided to build up large themes and understandings through introductory tasks; my goal was to create an “unflippable” entry point where students could work together to complete tasks and filter out necessary details such as rules, notation, etc. I began our study of Set Theory with this task.The students were introduced to the idea of what a set is. They also were given some elementary …

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Pythagorean Triples Part 1: Student Strategies

The school year is winding down for me and my project-based grade ten classes. I have found myself looking at the curriculum more and more as the final day approaches. I was told by many that content coverage would be impossible in a project-based setting; this only made me more anxious. Compounding this problem, I needed a substitute teacher for a day and do not like throwing them into a project setting without any briefing. In order to accommodate them, I chose to photocopy a worksheet on the Pythagorean Theorem for my students while I was gone. When I alerted …

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Using Real-Time Graphs

I have a class of grade nine students this semester that are part of a stretch program. This essentially means that they get 160 hours to complete a 120 hour course. The class is designed to accommodate the transition from elementary school (Grades 1-8) into high school (Grades 9-12) for those students who feel uncomfortable with their math ability. It also affords me a few extra days here and there to stress certain topics. One of my foci this semester has been pattern modeling. Essentially, we work with various patterns and develop generic rules to describe their behaviour. Linear relations will …

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Soft Drink Project Part 3: The Design

This post is the third in a series of posts detailing the happenings of a math project. To better understand the whole story, please start reading at the beginning: Soft Drink Project Part 1: The Framework The next few classes after the brainstorming class were a blur. Students would come into class, grab their previous work, and get down to business. It was the best I could do to have supplies waiting for them. I learned quickly that students can become pretty demanding when it came to their learning. I didn’t have any problems granting their requests; none of them …

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Soft Drink Project Part 2: The Brainstorm

This post will make a lot more sense if you read the framework for the project in “Soft Drink Project Part 1: The Framework“. I left the classroom energized; I could not remember a time that I was more pleased with a lesson that I had taught. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it teaching. I was observing. The process of brainstorming began organically. I had my doubts that it would continue the following Monday. Typically, students can’t even remember where they sit after a weekend–let alone what task they ended on. Monday came and, much to my astonishment, students …

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