In Precalculus today we focused on reviewing concepts from algebra. The students spent much of the period with a worksheet that consisted of problems such as graphing linear/parabolic functions, working with fractions and exponents, solving for x, and a few other disconnected concepts which will be vital in precalculus. As this period was more procedurally based, I had opportunities to assess many of the class’s prior knowledge coming into the class. My CT made it clear that the mistakes people generally make in precalculus are not precalc mistakes, but algebra mistakes. It is sort of a trend I see in mathematics.
- In algebra, the students learn how to apply arithmetic in broader ways to solve for unknowns.
- In precalculus, the students learn how to use algebra in new ways to solve more difficult problems.
- In calculus, the students learn how to use trigonometric functions and other concepts from precalculus to solve new problems which are invariant from many different fields of work
Back to the classroom – it looks like there is a fairly wide range of abilities in my placement. Since the classes are not tracked at all (and all the students are required to take precalculus), it would make sense that the students are at very different levels. This will definitely be a challenge for me throughout the year, but I believe its essential for me to overcome this hurdle to become a successful teacher.
The homework assignment for the first night was to write an email to the teachers. I made it my personal responsibility to respond with a personal to every single email I received. I generally made my email about as long as the email I received. That means that the students who sent one sentence explaining how they are fulfilling their homework assignment merely got one sentence thanking them for sending it. The students who wrote a paragraph about themselves received a much longer email.
Some of the emails I received:
- Hey Mr. Shiner, My name is _______ and i am really excited to start off this year with a good attitude towards math class. I am looking forward to your class and the activities we will be doing this year. Happy to have you as a teacher.
- Mr. Shiner. I guess if I had to say one thing about myself that seems pertinent to my character, it would be that I’m willing to try anything once. I wouldn’t call that being a risk-taker, because I’m not, but rather being open-minded–something I can promise I’ll be in math class this year. (A second thing I can tell you is that I like math, so being open-minded won’t be too difficult.)
- My name is _______ i will be one of the juniors you and _______ will be teaching. I would appreciate if you have any questions please don’t mind emailing me I will gladly respond to you. I hope you enjoy being in our class.
note: I received many basic emails (with a single sentence telling me nothing about the students) but there was a considerable amount of emails which were surprisingly detailed.
Some of the emails I sent:
- (to a student who said she likes koalas, milk, and books) Thanks for the email. What would you prefer: Reading a book about a koala drinking milk, or watching a koala read a book about milk? Also, your pets have very interesting names. Is there a history behind them?
Update: The student would prefer to watch a koala read a book, but do the milk drinking herself. Touché student…
- (to a student who likes board games and video games) I’m glad you like my dreads. I like them too (most of the time). I’m also really excited that math is your favorite subject. What board games and video games do you like to play? I used to play a lot of video games, but I haven’t had time recently. I have a pretty good board game collection though.
Although it took me almost three hours, responding to the emails was a lot of fun. I am hoping that personal emails to the students will help establish a better relationship with them. We’ll see I suppose.