Thursday, February 24, 2011

A Timely Word Problem

I was talking about word problems and percents in my Intermediate Algebra class, and I came across this slide.  These notes are three years old.  (I found an old version.)
One slide from today's class
The timeliness of the problem relates to the protests in Madison, WI and other states over the collective bargaining rights of the government employees.  The fate of public employee unions in Ohio is much more relevant to me, as my wife teaches in Ohio.  I am a member of the AFT, and have been since I was in graduate school in Milwaukee, WI.

I usually don't like to discuss politics, but I think that Gov. Scott Walker has grossly misread the mood of Wisconsin.  Wisconsin is a very pro-union state, and attacking the unions will not win as much political support as it would in other states.  Unfortunately, the debate about balancing budgets (which I fully support) has been about scoring political points by going after the small programs supported by the opposite party.  Unfortunately, the real discussion of how to live within our collective means has yet to begin.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Getting Prepped in Augusta

Augusta High School Parking Lot
Last Thursday, I traveled down to Augusta High School in Augusta, KY to lead a preparation class for the math ACT.  There were 25 out of the 26 Juniors in attendance.  The session was only 90 minutes, as the Principal wanted to meet with the students afterward.  I met with the student in the library, which means that there wasn't a whiteboard to work with.  Fortunately, I had planned ahead and brought my tablet PC and a projector.

I covered roughly the same material as in the other sessions this year.  I started with an overview of test taking strategies.  The book we are using, KAPLAN ACT 2011, is more precise on its test taking strategies, and I improved my talk accordingly. Then, the students work on problems for 20 minutes.  I broke the work into two periods of 15 minutes and five minutes.  The book suggests working through the test in two passes with the same proportion of time. Finally, I highlighted a few of the problems that illustrated the mindset that the ACT requires.  I usually spend an hour on this part, but I only had 30 minutes due to the shorter time frame.

There was one teacher and a guidance counselor in the room with me.  I am always a bit nervous teaching in front of high school teachers.  They have had years of preparation and experience in teaching.  My teacher training in graduate school consisted of one handout, a sample syllabus, and instructions not to date the students.  At least one of the students said I was "cooler than the last woman."

I've only been to Augusta twice since moving to Kentucky. It is just a few miles closer to Cincinnati than Maysville along the Ohio River. Both Maysville and Augusta are similar in their histories and populations.  Here is a picture I took of the river.  It is the best I could do with my cell phone while illegally parked.
A view of the Ohio River
If you are curious about Augusta High School's famous graduate, whom I mentioned a few posts ago, his yearbook photo (according to the New York Post) is below.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Student Checklist #1 - Reading A Section of Your Textbook

Our college is going full steam on our QEP on critical reading.  As part of our course redesign, I wrote a draft of a checklist for reading a section of a math textbook.  I'll be discussing it with my coworkers, so a revision may be on the way shortly.  The Microsoft Publisher 2010 version is here, and the PDF version is here.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Teaching Checklist #1: In the Classroom

I've been thinking about checklists, and as it is the end of the week, I don't have enough energy to do real work.  So here is a checklist that I developed for use inside of the classroom.  The PDF version is here.  The Microsoft Publisher 2010 version is here.

I followed the checklist making checklist from The Checklist Manifesto.  The last part of the checklist is to validate the list that I just wrote.  I'll be testing it in my classes next week.

The main focus of the checklist is communicating with the students about the details of the course.  I find that I like to charge ahead with the course material, and I forget about reviewing and giving the feedback that the students need.  Another teacher may need a different set of checks.

This is designed for a face-to-face classes.  I do not teach on-line, so I wouldn't be able to develop a checklist for on-line classes.  We are working on developing computer mediated sections of our developmental classes, so I will be making one for those classes soon.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Food For Thought: The Checklist Manifesto

This weekend I finished reading The Checklist Manifesto by Atul Gawande.  It was a very interesting book.  The thesis is that there are some tasks in any profession that are simple and routine, but often overlooked.  These tasks can have disastrous consequences if neglected.  The examples range from surgery, construction, aviation, and finance.

The question I have after reading this book is what routine tasks in education are often neglected and could lead to disaster for our students if they are overlooked.  I know there are some, but they escape me at the moment.  Please share your thoughts.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

ACT Prep Number 3 is Out of the Way

I lead my third ACT prep class of the year tonight.  I had a smaller class tonight, eight students.  I got to talk to the students more than usual.  One was a home schooled sophomore who was trying to get to MIT.  He was worried about paying the tuition.  Another was trying to get into Johns Hopkins for radiology.  Most of the high school students I teach have much less ambition.  This group reminded me why I went into education.

My last, hopefully, ACT prep class will be at nearby Augusta High School.  I'm shamefully excited to go there because they have one famous alumni.  I'll leave it to you to guess who.