Monday, June 01, 2009

Alternate Finals

All year in calculus I told the kids that if they signed up for and took the AP Exam, and if the proctor mentioned that they worked hard and didn't put their heads down or doodle or such, then those students would have an "easier" final exam in my class. Everyone this year took the exam, and I debated what final to give them.

I had a discussion with an AP English teacher whom I respect, and she mentioned that she gives the kids (in the same situation) a college-style text (poem?) to read, and they have to analyze it in some such way. That got me to thinking that even though I want to teach textbook reading skills to my kids, I never seem to get it together to manage such a thing effectively. Then, VOILA, idea. I scanned some books and found a section on probability using calculus. It "looked" like heavy reading from the perspective of a high school kid, but once I plowed through it, I saw that it was very friendly and gave examples and such for the problems I had them do for their final.

I prefaced the final with, "you will be reading such things and learning on your own in college, so this is your chance to practice it. Read through the section, and look carefully at the examples, and do the 6 problems I've circled". They (for the most part) worked hard, and I got a wide range of scores back, and it was enlightening for me.

At the same time, I'm thinking of various precalculus students I have. They scored in the high 90's all semester, and I know that the final would just be an exercise of spewing back stuff to me. So for those kids, I copied some sections of a precalculus book on a topic or 2 that we didn't cover, and did the same thing with them. I did not get to cover induction proofs or binomial theorem this year, and those were my topics of choice. In my mind, I'm thinking of just averaging their semester grades and giving them that for their final exam grade, but I also wanted to challenge them a bit. It was extremely fascinating to see how various students handled it. Some just dove right in and tripped a bit, but with a wee bit of help did fine. Some quietly plugged away without asking any questions, but when I went over to see what they were doing, they were lost. Some were completely flustered at not having a good handle on things. They were so out of their comfort level and had to keep being reassured.

This makes me think that I want to give such a test to the whole class some time periodically, to give them an incentive to truly read a text for understanding. Of course the problem is time, time, time. We'll see.

No comments:

Post a Comment