I love the start of a new year, be it a calendar year or academic year, or when starting a new term. It gives a definite event to refocus and set out objectives. I was therefore excited to have the opportunity to start 2017 with my classes. My main focus of this term is to migrate from a traditional teaching model, that the classes I inherited are used to, to ‘Problem Based Learning’ such as explained here – https://emergentmath.com/a-prbl-pathway-and-selected-blog-posts/.
The only class that started a new topic are the grade 8s, the rest will have to wait their turn. So how did it go?
In the two lessons with grade 8 we briefly recapped measures of central tendency before starting to critique various data visualizations. For central tendency we followed an activity suggested by Van de Walle et al, 2016 (See ISBN 9780132824866 pg 352). The students really got into it, except that they all simply used their calculators rather than predicting how the measures of central tendency so even though they learned from it the main point was missed.
Another interesting aspect of the lesson was although they were working in groups and learning from talking mathematically they were so used to working on their own that a couple of times the conversations stopped and everyone reverted to focussing on the task.
The second lesson was a double so the time was split by looking at the mean, and then deciding on which chart would be best to visualize the data. When asked what the mean was, the students stated the algorithm of how to find the mean, but when pushed could not explain conceptually. We did two quick activities, again suggested by Van de Walle, the first was in groups of 6 to use string to measure the mean shoe length of the group. We regrouped and discussed methods chosen then facilitated the discussion to show the idea of levelling, that is taking making all the data bars the same height before using post-its and a number line to view mean a different way, as the balance point of the data.
Both pretty successful and the youth were really engaged and enjoying manipulating the materials. The remainder of the lesson we as a group asked some questions that we wanted to know the answer about, then collected data and in groups chose how to represent the data. This resulted in different representations and for a plenary we discussed the pros/cons of each graph type.
Both the youth and I really enjoyed the second lesson so let us continue the experiment, and hopefully deliver problem based mathematics with more consistency.