It’s the end of Spring Break, and I’m just finishing up my Algebra plans for the coming week. The backstory to this post is the week before break I began exponent rules with the Algebra classes and successfully confused lotsa kids. Woosh. I’ll take responsibility for some of it, and I think I know what went wrong.
First, I tried to use Smart Slides to guide the classes through the material. For those of you who pre-prepare your slides for class, you’re stronger planners than I. My pre-prepared Smart notes have some significant flaws. For example, I might introduce a new concept like negative exponents with , get some head nods and then run the train straight into a brick wall with the next slide: . I’m not kidding. And the best part? I won’t know it’s coming either! Kids will just look at the slide and think: “I had it. Then I lost it.”
This sounds gnarly. My problem is not that I can’t plan, and normally the gaps aren’t that gross, but I’m trying to make a point here. What you think will flow smoothly on Sunday at the Coffee Shop doesn’t always flow smoothly on Monday in class. And you’ll have a much better sense of what should come next when you’re in class. So, wouldn’t it be nice to not be tied to the next slide?
Solution: Return to the whiteboard. I realize that lecturing is not the most progressive education strategy available, but many of us still present content this way. So we should at least do it well. There’s a reason that many professors who lecture for a living, even in Computer Science, still use a chalkboard. It puts a subtle break on the amount you write, it gives the audience time to follow you, and allows you to adjust on the fly without being tied to your next slide. I connect more with the class when the material is coming from me not from the surprise next slide I created a few days ago. I’m also giving students a little more processing time because I can’t reveal paragraphs with the click of a button. The white board also doesn’t change with a click so choosing carefully what you put up there helps students because they’ll have the reference for the rest of class. This is very hard to do well with any brand of Powerpoint/Smart/Keynote presentation.
Not that I want to present everything by lecture, but Exponent Rules and some brand new skills are worth presenting this way. There are many rules, they’re not so tricky, but they deserve clear names and a multitude of examples. So I outlined my notes, the examples I want to give, and I’ll have a printed copy to work off in class this week as we revisit the confusing stuff from last week, and jump into the void of new stuff.
Here are my notes.
Once kids have a decent grasp of the rules I’m going to give them a shot at two problems I like. There’s slight WCYDWT bend to the first problem.
What’s the largest open box you can fold from a sheet of paper?
If you want to run calculations on the fly for this problem, you might want to download Maxima (a great Computer Algebra System). I’ve made a little file that can crunch numbers for this problem given arbitrarily sized pieces of paper, and fold lengths.
Here are the resources for the boxfold problem.
The rest of the files I have for this unit are in the box.
- Note the second option in the “Cell” menu in Maxima is “Evaluate All Cells” this will crunch the numbers initially, and you should do it again whenever you change any of the input… ↩