Thursday, January 30, 2014

Day 91: Constructions and Teen Pregnancy

One of the state requirements for certification to be a math teacher in Pennsylvania is to take History of Mathematics.  When I took this course in grad school, I was in awe of how amazing the professor was, especially since I was expecting it to be very dry.

Instead, it was a course on comparative cultures in terms of their mathematical knowledge.  We did a ton of work with constructions, which wasn't something that I had done much of during high school or undergrad.  I loved it!  Not having taught Geometry in a long time, I haven't been able to do much since I've been back in the classroom.

But today...

On Monday, when we started going over the guided notes in Geometry, we were talking about the incenter and the circumcenter.  As I wrote on Monday, I was disappointed that the textbook and the notes didn't talk about, what I consider, the most interesting pieces of information: the incenter is the center of the inscribed circle of a triangle and the circumcenter is the center of the circumscribed circle of a triangle.

Today, I gave my geometry students a piece of white paper with a triangle on it.  Half of them were told to find the incenter and half to find the circumcenter.

Having never really done constructions before, they did amazingly well!  I was able to walk around the room assisting students who needed it, showing them how to make an angle bisector or perpendicular bisector.

I'm contemplating an activity for homework over the weekend.  A few months ago, we did an activity where they and a roommate had to find a place to live that was equidistant to their two jobs.  I'd like to do that again, but for three people.  The extension would be to ask them if it's possible for 4, or 5 people, and if so, could they do it?

It's something I need to actually plan and I hope to print out a map for them.  It's surprisingly hard to find a good printable map with neighborhoods or street names...

In pre-algebra, we are continuing to cover unit rates.  I took an idea from Kaci McCoy, gave the kids some supermarket circulars and had them find the unit rates of 10 items.  They were very engaged and having interesting discussions.

I was going to have this post be about authentic tasks vs. mindless calculation, but then one of my 8th graders told me she was pregnant.

I had a discussion planned for the second half of the class, but I felt that allowing this student to talk and feel safe was more important.  I threw a workbook page up on the board for kids to work on after they had finished the assignment and sat and listened to her talk for 40 minutes.

Her home life could be described as unhealthy at best and disastrous at worst.  Child protective services has been to her house multiple times.  She's in charge of her 4 younger siblings, the youngest of which is 10 months.

What I think I find most upsetting is not her age, or her situation, or her academics, but how willing everyone is to accept the pregnancy of a 14-year-old.  This has become common enough that the response from her peers was "Can I feel it kick?"

There are so many things going on for these kids that it's sometimes difficult for me to justify the importance of my class.

In period 8/9, not a single student did the homework assignment on unit rates, so we were unable to do the activity on the circulars.  While they were working on the assignments that should have been completed already, I called parents.  I was able to get through to 20%.

I think that I will go ahead with my plan of sitting in the corner and having students gather around me if they wish to learn.  I don't like the underlying philosophy behind this, but I'm at a loss for how to not allow these students to take away from the education of the few who wish to learn.