One of the nice things about the IBO MYP curriculum is that it’s completely untracked and all students have access to it. Except for math…in the last two years of the program math is split into Math Standard and Math Extended. The idea is that Math Extended is supposed to cater to the top students to prepare them for DP Higher Level Math and a future STEM career, but in our school things have worked out differently.
Instead any student that has any inclination at all towards math takes Math Extended in an increasingly packed (and diverse) class, leaving the students who despise math to wallow in what’s almost become slow math instead of the standard thing. And so the rigor of the class has also declined in response…I hate that!!!
This year I have my usual MYP4 Math Extended (9th grade) but I also have MYP5 Math Standard, and I’m so excited to try to really get these kids doing math!
Our first unit is on quadratic equations and functions and their first big investigation is on how the form of the equation affects the graph of the function. I decided to jump right in on the first day with a formative assessment of their knowledge on graphing linear functions as a way to introduce several things. It started off nice and slow (so I thought):See the entire formative assessment here.
I gave them each two pieces of paper and asked them to keep track of their “noticings” on one and their “wonderings” on the other with these prompts up on the beamer:
“I notice/see that _____” “I realize that _______” “I’m confused by _______” “I wonder if/how/why ______” “How do/can you _______” “How/Why does ____ work?” “What would happen if ______”
I had them work individually for 6 minutes — I intended it to be 10 minutes, but I noticed right away that one or two students were unable to complete even that first question. I stopped them and asked them each to jot down at least one noticing or wondering and then begin to discuss in their groups.
I was extremely pleased with how much they started helping each other and working together! In one group there was even a disagreement and a debate over how a line with a gradient of -3 should look.
I had let them pick their own groups and three students who are particularly down on math had sat together and they really struggled to get any of the problems done, but in each case someone had an idea and they were able to be the group leader for that particular problem, which was nice for them (though I don’t know that it’s tenable to have them remain as a group).
They all worked really diligently for about 30 minutes and which point I asked them to consider as a group the following questions:
- What was the point of this activity?
- What do you think I, the teacher, should learn from it?
- What do you think you, the student, should learn from it?
- How do you feel about what you did?
Here’s the list of what they came up with as answers to the first three:
- To refresh their memory and get them ready for the new year
- To check what level they are at so I know how to help them
- To work together in a group
To which I said, “math isn’t specific enough! Be specific.” And then they were — they said graphing, equations and how it relates to the graph (BINGO!), linear equations (YES, so we can next distinguish between linear and quadratic!), gradient. I love that they came up with everything I wanted them to learn for themselves!
Then I asked them to flip to the last problem in the formative assessment (no one had gotten close to it), which was meant as an introductory exploration to quadratics:
We managed to go through the first two parts of the problem together (though it took a lot of prodding they were able to discover the answers for themselves, leading one student to say, “I feel smart!”) and then I told them about their HW, which I said would be different than what they’re used to and difficult but to not give up and if they don’t know one question, to write their thoughts anyway and then go on to the next.
Here’s that HW, which might be way optimistic, but I’m excited with how I hope it helps them develop (we shall see and I will report back!).
As they left, I collected their noticings and wonderings. A handful wondered what the connection between an equation and a graph was (yes!) and a full 11 of them noticed that they’d forgotten a lot over the summer. But my favorite, even though it’s not about the math itself, is this one:
I think I’ve gotten off to the right start with them…I hope!