## Tuesday, January 10, 2017

### Day 87: The Pacemakers

Last year, the math teachers in my department chose a new curriculum and text book series for the 7th and 8th grade math classes.  They picked the Big Ideas Math series and I heartily agree with the choice.
 "In this version, all the word problems are about surfing and redwood trees."

Instead of a traditional workbook full of repetitive practice problems, the accompanying student workbook is filled with activities, probing questions and a small number of practice problems that allow students to apply the concepts.

Each section begins with an introductory activity that is frequently hands-on.  In the last section of Pre-Algebra, where we explored the internal angles of a triangle, the activity asked the students to draw a triangle, cut it out, tear of the angles, put them together and make an observation.

Now that we've moved on from internal to external angles, today, the students were asked to work with a partner to do something similar.

Draw a pentagon with extended sides
Label the external angles
Cut out the external angles
Put the external angles together and make and observation
Repeat with a hexagon and an octagon
 The white pieces can pull off so I can put them together on the board!

It didn't go as I would have hoped.

After the activity (as much as we completed) we had  discussion about managing class and group time.

Many of the partner groups did excellent work and came close to finishing, while others had to be reminded multiple times to get back on task.  Even the groups who worked well had difficulty working at an acceptable pace.  I'm not sure how to attribute this issue with speed.  For some, it's simply a matter of not doing the tasks, but for others, they are so scared of doing it wrong and having to start over that they move extra slowly to prevent mistakes.

Interestingly, this only decreases the number of mistakes because fewer tasks have been accomplished on which to make those mistakes.  The percentage of mistakes remains unchanged.

The activities and problems are age/grade appropriate but are still taking too long.

So we talked.

I told them that I want them working in groups because they learn much better when they teach and learn from each other.  At the same time, they are much more attentive to the tasks when they are working individually or when I'm giving direct instruction.

I can't even count the number of times I've written that last paragraph.  I suspect that means it's a larger issue than just these kids in this class.