Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Calculus Workshop Ideas

I just returned from my weeklong workshop, and now I feel more secure in teaching BC this year. Except it won't be strictly BC, I think, because of numbers, I may have a "stacked" class of mixed AB / BC students together. Maybe I'm being totally unrealistic, but it was either that or no BC, and I wanted the challenge for the kids (and me) that signed up for it.

The workshop teacher was mostly a lecture type of teacher, and she commented that since BC goes at such a fast pace, she doesn't feel she has time for explorations or "fun" activities or such. So in that sense I didn't get any "fun" ideas directly from the workshop. I did get some teaching-mechanics ideas from her.

She seemed to like Staedtler MEDIUM nonpermanent pens for her overhead. She found them at art supply stores, and I liked the fact that you could buy individual ones. Purple, here I come.

She also had a teeny water bottle (3" high?) with paper towels nearby, to clean parts of her slides instead of using her fingers all the time.

When a kid asks something she didn't know, she said, "I don't know. I haven't thought about it. What do you think?" And that seems to get good discussions going.

On the overhead, do scratch work on the side in a different color to keep everyone on the same level and the "not so quick" students will have a point of reference instead of not asking and feeling stupid.

Her homework policy is to walk around the room for a quick check and chat with the students (with grades given and such). The main thing about that (instead of collecting it) she feels is that they have to look her in the eye and tell her they didn't do the homework, and she felt this got more of them to do it. Also, it builds a sense of community and the kids felt acknowledged.

I thought of having an activity or several activities where the kids analyze a multiple choice question. I found that last year, the kids all thought the MC questions were easy because they found their answer and moved on. It didn't occur to me to ever teach this skill that the test makers know what types of mistakes they make and will have such answers. So my activity is for them to do one problem and circle an answer. Then give the right answer. Then they have to go analyze the other choices and literally figure out what types of mistakes would have gotten that answer. With this hopefully they'll build an awareness of checking work and being careful on MC tests.

I'm thinking of having a suggestion box up front for various comments students want to make but don't have time for in class. There'll be a template of what's acceptable/needed ... mainly date, period, and maybe name, and comment. Maybe I can also have a Whole Foods kind of wall where comments are displayed and responses shown.

Some (rough) poster ideas of ones I want to make and display in my room:
"What do you do when no one is watching? Do the right thing."
"Get more sleep"


  1. What is AB/BC? An abbreviation? A skills rank?

    I had one college prof who always included
    D) None of the the above
    on multiple choice math tests. Very unnerving.

    I like the idea of having the students anayze which wrong path/assumption will take you to which wrong answer.

    I was once a test engineer and it takes much more time to test the error possibilites than to test the expected and proper paths.

    I used truth table so much in that job, but I hear that school kids don't get around to studying them nowadays. I work with my MathCounts middle schoolers by using sandwiches for my examples. Peanut Butter AND Jelly is not the same as Peanut Butter OR Jelly.

  2. Anonymous2:11 PM

    Hi Heidi,

    AB basically is a subset of BC Calculus. So suppose you learn 10 topics in AB, then in BC you learn those 10 plus 8 more (I don't have the proportions right, I'm sure).

    I like that "none of the above", I'll have to sprinkle that in (after the analysis work, though). Hopefully, I'll have better multiple choice grades.

    And you're right. I taught geometry at 2 different schools. At one we did an extensive unit on logic. At my current one, we did a "milder" treatment one year I taught it, but the next year, it was one of the topics put aside to have time to study for the state exit exam. Grrr.

    Ms. Cookie

  3. Anonymous2:30 PM

    Okay, that "subset" business sounded dorky. I'm sure you know what a subset is, I'm just unclear on the proportions, that's what I was trying to get across. ... BC seems to go almost twice as fast as AB does.

    Ms. Cookie

  4. BC covers more but ends sooner. Do students take them sequentially, so the subset part is review? Or are the kids split by comprehension level and take (AB OR BC)?

    I'm happy that I was in middle school right when BASIC was accessible and I learned so much about logic from my programming. I'm told that kids today only program their TI calculators.

    Yeah, None of the the Above really forces a student to have faith in one's method and answer.

  5. Anonymous8:44 PM

    In most cases a student takes either AB or BC. I have heard of schools having students take AB then the next year take BC. At my school, it'll be the first year a BC course has been taught, so I'll have some "new" students and some who've taken AB. Should be interesting.

    Ooh, I taught QBasic for a while and loved it. The students could do all sorts of fun graphics, and yes, they did learn logic.

    Ms. Cookie

  6. I teach AP Statistics and I do a problem of the day for their warmup that is a multiple choice question. In their POD folder, they have to answer the question, but they also have to write WHY they chose that answer (or why they eliminated the others).

    When we review for the exam with practice tests, I also do a item analysis sheet that lists each question, the general topic of the question, what chapter it is from in our textbook, and what section of the course description it came from. The kids really liked being able to analyze their MC practice tests.

  7. Anonymous1:16 PM

    I like that idea of how to incorporate the MC questions in class. I became aware last year that the students don't fully know how to take a multiple choice test. They think that if their answer is there, they must have done the problem right. Thanks for sharing.

    Ms. Cookie