Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Veering From Curriculum

Because on the last precalculus quiz I gave in which I put a seemingly innocuous word problem on there that needed a *basic* set up and the use of the quadratic formula and which most of the kiddies could not do ... I have decided to give them 4 word problems that we will work on periodically in class and on which they must complete them all correctly and *earn* four stamps of approval (a birthday present stamp this time, and not the coveted ballerina stamp of days gone by).

It's taking a bit of class time, but I think it's time well spent as they have trouble seeing the equation given to them and deciphering specifically what the variables are and what to do with the given information. And even after solving .... say for "seconds it takes to do something", they have no problem with boxing their 2 answers "-3 seconds" and "5 seconds". Apparently, negative time is fine in a teenager's world :).

And in calculus ... what's mostly tripping some students up is NOT the calculus content, but the manipulation of equations and of the use of complicated and messy fraction expressions. I try to think of why I have no problems with this while they do, and maybe, just MAYBE it's because my teachers made us do a bazzillion such problems and it's ingrained in our heads. Now I don't remember this drilling, but maybe I'm doing my students a disservice by not doing this periodically. I think I have to come up with a *fun* way to drill my calculus students on fraction manipulation and such.


  1. My junior high math teacher would tell us:

    There I was, just brushing my teeth, when all of the sudden.... Basic Skills Attack.

    We would have a 10 problem quiz involving adding five four-digit numbers, or some long division. Stuff we should all know how to do. And it counted towards our grade.

    Could work for fractions, too.

  2. Same math teacher.
    She had a deck of cards she made herself. We'd each get a card (or two). Say, mine would read I am 30. Who has a dozen more? and a classmate would then read her card I am 42. Who has one seventh of me?

    If we ended class early, we would play this game. The teacher started and the cards were cyclic, so the game ended when the teacher's card was the answer again. We had two blocks of the same math, so she would time us and report our time to the other class.

    We got so good that calculation became memorization of the cards and we just flew through the deck.

  3. Anonymous8:26 PM

    Oh! I like those ideas. I'm thinking "drilling" has earned a bad reputation, and there's something to be said for memorization of the basics.

    Now I have to wrap my mind around a "precal" deck of cards .... hmmmmm.

    Thanks for the tips.

    Ms. Cookie