With the start of a new semester, and with the framework from and guidance of teachers more experienced than I, there will be big changes to my geometry classroom beginning next week. I am both excited and nervous about these changes (like starting teaching all over again), and so I thought I would use the opportunity to share them with you.
Here is the big idea: Although you will never hear me deny the importance of geometry, as I believe the skills and mathematical content knowledge is essential for my students if they hope to to move forward in their mathematical endeavors, much less survive high school. But there is a host of 21st century skills which are also valuable for my students to learn as they move through high school. These skills include:
- Critical thinking and problem-solving
- Collaboration across networks and leading by influence.
- Agility and adaptability.
- Initiative and entrepreneurialism
- Effective oral and written communication
- Accessing and analyzing information
- Curiosity and imagination
Now the challenge (which is by no means new challenge) becomes this: How do we teach the geometry content while paying heed to these underlying skills? With this question in mind, I present a new structure to my mathematics classroom.
The (very general) schedule:
Monday: We will introduce a new task to our groups of students which my colleague and co-teacher has come to call BIPs (Big Important Problems). These problems are complex, big-picture problems which will require students to use skills which they have not yet seen, much less mastered. However, the students will also receive a packet of problems which guide them to the necessary skills which will allow them to solve the BIPs. Students will have the opportunity to work in their groups to formulate a plan for modeling and solving their BIPs.
Tuesday-Thursday: Students will be working in the school computer lab watching videos which present tutorials and solutions to their packet problems, reformulating their strategies on the current BIP, and compiling progress logs / clarifying questions which will help them move forward. Groups of students will have consultations with me regarding their progress in the packet problems as well as the BIP of the week.
Friday: This is where the reveal is. Groups will present their solution to the BIP and see if their solution matches the real-world data. They will then be asked a few individual and group extension problems to further assess their understanding of the content.
There are a lot of moving pieces to this structure, and I am grateful for the work that teachers have put in to compiling the problems, creating the videos, and working out many of the the kinks over the course of the previous year. I am also grateful for the opportunity to merge one of my (ridiculously small) classes with another teacher who used this structure last year. I am sure I will undoubtedly meet my own challenges along the way, and have to make changes as I go, but that is part of the excitement.
I hope to write more of the nuances of this structure (such as what the problems are and what consultations and assessment looks like) as well as continue to reflect in blog form as things develop in class. For now, next week is going to be a significant amount of norming of the students (especially the ones merging classes).
*Note: I am not the creator of much of the structure, nor the curriculum. I owe this structure to the greatness that is my colleagues, and am merely doing what teachers do so well: stealing good ideas.