Monday, May 2, 2016

Student Takeout

OK, maybe more like student takeaway. 

The last writing assignment in College Algebra (of 6) is a bit different. The first 5 are them writing up a problem in depth, explaining thinking. I give them feedback, and they can revise or not based on their wishes. At the end of the semester the writing grade is half % out of 6 writings written, and half evaluation of three exemplars the student chooses on the 5 Cs. 

Five Cs: developed with David Coffey, based on NCTM's Communication Process standard.
  1. Clear (occasionally will find things not clear because of penmanship, accumulation of grammar/spelling or lack of paragraphs.)
  2. Coherent - there is a point and the writing addresses it.
  3. Complete - shows 2 hours-ish of work. Contains important relevant support towards the point of the writing.
  4. Content - the most relevant math is included, reasoning is shared and correctness of idea use and computation.
  5. Consolidated - the writing has a conclusion, synthesizing or summarizing or extending. (This is the hardest aspect for students to adopt.)
When working with Dave things should alliterate or rhyme.

The last writing was to be on these questions: What do you see as the big ideas of algebra? What did you learn about them? 

I'm under no illusion that these are objective since they are not anonymous, but they align more or less with my impressions.

Some responses moving towards my goals:
  • "I liked this class because it was the first class I have had where the students were running the math class, and the professor was there to guide us, not tell us that we were wrong. Our ability to voice our opinions was very nice..."
  • "Now, I feel like these concepts are things that I will actually be able to apply because I understand WHY they are done." 
  • "Logs have always been tricky to me, really tricky. What we did in class allowed me to break them down and really understand the rules and properties. " (Introduced them without the name. I call them  pixies because - pxe - reverses exp.)
  • "However, I really appreciate how easy going the class was, there are not grades to define us and SBARS did not have to be straight forward answers (in fact, they were not supposed to be at all), they helped us explain why we got the answers we did and that was a big factor for me. " 
  • "This course was more focused on learning how math works, not just memorizing and regurgitating. I really appreciated this because it made math much more interesting to me. I learned how mathematical properties worked, why and how. The way that the course was graded I believed was great. Some people, including myself are just not good test takers. The SBARs were great, you could work on your own time to show understanding as well as ask questions if you could not figure something out, For me this is a much more effective way of learning."
  • "It was nice to actually figure out where answers to problems came from, and how equations made graphs." 
 Some responses point out where to grow:
  • "I am never somebody whose been good at math and this new way of learning was definitely a bit of a difficult transition for me. Learning why we do problems the way we do was something I struggled to wrap my head around, considering I often didn't know how to do some of the problems in the first place."
  • "Generally as a student, explaining things are not how I learn, so to have to explain things was a new type of learning for me."
  •  For a College Algebra class, it was challenging and interesting!
  • "I still struggle with explaining why just because sometimes i don't really know what to say, other than it just is what it is. As a student i learn with direction and this type of class was less of  direction and more free flowing which is okay. Just hard to get used to."
  • "This class was actually really difficult for me, personally. I have never been good at math, so I was kind of doomed from the start."
  • "it has been a little challenging for me to understand what my grade in the class has been throughout the semester. I prefer to know my overall grade in a course so that I can prioritize my workload and be as efficient with my time as possible. "
And a warning to you K-12 colleagues: "I took up to Calculus in high school but I never once was asked to explain how i found the answer." I'm sure this is not true, but it was the student's perception.

To sum up, I think I will also use a student's words. This seems to capture both sides. "This class was quite difficult for me because it was a new style of education. I am a person who likes things black and white, which has allowed me to succeeded in math classes in the past. In most math classes once you find the answer, the problem is considered done, and you move on. However, this course has challenged me to think deeper into what I am actually doing in order to reach an answer. I think this type of thinking is more realistic as to what math really is."

What I am asking the students to do is real to them, but I need to find more ways to support them and build culture in 28 meetings.

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