Sunday, August 9, 2015

Save teaching time at the beginning of the year with "Are you ready for Pre-Calculus?" worksheet (and Algebra 2 Honors)

This year, we are going to block scheduling. There has been some talk of losing precious teaching time, and so the thought our department has been discussing is, how can we make that time up? Is there a way to do this without teaching a mile wide and an inch deep? Especially since we already felt like we could not get through enough material with the previous schedule.

I have always been a big proponent of teaching "Chapter P" at the beginning of the year, which means reviewing all of the prerequisites with the students. I have felt like I can get everyone on the same page, basically, and I will know that students really DID learn this (if they claim that they didn't in the previous year...though we all know they did!) This takes up a good 2 to 3 weeks of school, but my theory has been that if you teach/review the prerequisites well, you save time later when teaching concepts that are based on them.

However, at the end of the school year, our new department chair threw out the idea that we sort of skip over the prerequisites. I was appalled. WHAT?? There is no way I could do that. Reviewing at the beginning gives students confidence to start slowly with things they understand. They begin to trust you early. And they feel like they can DO THIS. How could I get rid of prereqs??

My colleague suggested the idea of a diagnostic test in my honors class at the beginning of the year, so that I could see what the students know and could skip anything they are all comfortable with. Though I love that idea and started off making that this year for my students, I began to think about the fact that we have so many different schools that feed into our 9th grade--not only several different high schools, but from several countries as I worried that they would be all over the place with what they knew and did not know as a group, and I wasn't sure it would save me as much time as I needed.

Plus, I liked my knew way of teaching since after spring break. When I got my new classroom then with whiteboard wall paper, I really delved into the idea of students collaborating and teaching each other. I noticed that kids quickly became comfortable discussing what they knew with each other rather than working at their desks in a more isolated fashion. So I also wanted to use the idea of collaboration in getting all of the prerequisites out of the way in a few days. And I remembered a former colleague used to use an  "Are you ready for Calculus" looming fear started to turn itself into something I could possibly use in the classroom...

I don't teach Calculus, so I had to make up worksheets for my other classes. I will teach Algebra 2 Honors (out of Algebra and Trigonometry 9e by Ron Larson) for the first year this year, and Pre-Calculus (out of Pre-Calculus with Limits 3e by Ron Larson) for the second year. Before I go any further, let me first talk about, which is THE ABSOLUTE BEST THING THAT HELPED MY STUDENTS THIS PAST YEAR WHEN WORKING ON HOMEWORK. @calcchat gives free solutions to odd homework answers to Larson textbooks, and my students (mostly) diligently used them, and I freed up SO MUCH class time going over homework. Yes, occasionally I caught a student copying answers, but it really only hurt D student still remained a D student. Did I mention they also give live help from 4pm - 12am????

But I digress. So, in keeping with making students take ownership of their learning WHILE collaborating, I came up with two documents; one for Algebra 2H and one for Pre-Calculus. On the first day of classes, I will go over some class rules and assign the packet for homework with a time limit...I will likely tell them to spend 30 minutes or so just working on what they know. Then on the first block (90 minutes), I will divide them up into random groups (ala @AlexOverwijk from Twitter Math Camp) and have them work on the rest of the worksheet. I am hoping to use @pegcagle's idea of having red, yellow, and green cups for the groups to let me know if they are good, need help (they are frustrated, but "good" frustrated), or if they are freaking out in need of some major help.

After this class, I will decide if there is something I really need to spend time on, but rather than me teach everything, they will work together. There are videos (most from the Larson site on instructional videos ) and students can use our math lab for help. I think I will set up a google classroom (have not used this yet) link so that they can talk to each other while they are working on it outside of the classroom...or perhaps a twitter hashtag...any ideas on that one?

So here are the two worksheets.

Hopefully it will go well, and if not, I will adjust as necessary.
Also, here is something fun that I just got...don't be jealous, you can get them, too. They are yoga pants that my colleague told me about from There is another kind, too...but you have to google "math leggings" rather than math yoga pants. They have been so much fun to wear at should see all the jealous, I mean, weird looks I get from other yogis, haha!! I see a great Halloween costume in the making...or maybe my math club will design their own next year! Hmmmm....
Don't know what to make for dinner? Go to Pinterest, which is where I always get my ideas. I just made this Chicken Quinoa Burrito Bowl from tonight, and it was seriously delicious. I am not the best cook, and this came out really good, which means it's no fail. If I can make it, anyone can. My husband cleaned everything up (he usually does when I cook) so that I could finish this blog!

Gah! School is almost upon us. Where did this lovely summer go?
Until next time,


Unknown said...

Way to go husband! Good job.

Lisa Winer said...

Haha yes, great job! :)

mrdardy said...

I have to say that my reflexive reaction to Chapter P is much different than yours - not to say that either of us is 'right'.
I have long felt that it is best to try to start off with something new rather than review. I tend to cycle back tot he Chapter P ideas as needed throughout the year. Rather than starting the year by repeating the past, I want to start the new math class with something that feels new(er) and cycle back to the admittedly necessary reviews when they are more directly related to what we are about to tackle together. Often review in August fades away already by the time October or January or March rolls around.

Just a different way of thinking about this - curious to hear how this year's approach works for you and your kiddos.

Unknown said...

Hi! I was curious if you still have your "are you ready for precalculus" worksheet? I love this idea and for some reason I cannot get it to download. Thanks!

Array of Style said...

Hi thanks for sharing thhis