Well, the school year is off to a full sprint!!! In addition to my “regular” job as a highschool mathematics teacher, I also teach stats at a local college. This is the first time that my college class has coincided with the opening of the school year and it is exhausting!!!! My course load was changed this year as well. I am now teaching three Algebra 2 with Trigonometry classes, a Calculus course that runs concurrently with out local community college, and one section of Academic Intervention Services (AIS). I have not been terribly happy with my Algebra 2 state exam results and since Algebra 2 constitutes the bulk of my course load this year, I decided to revamp the course.
In my opinion, New York state puts it’s students (and teachers!!!) in a tough spot by teaching a bunch of Algebra for a year, taking a year off to teach Geometry, and then coming to Algebra in the third year. I decided to spend 4 days doing some basic algebra skill review in the form of an Algebra Bootcamp (a la Sam). I focused on exponents, greatest common factors, basic trigonometric ratios, and factoring. I think the students enjoyed easing back into school and not having to jump right into a new unit. Also, teaching this review unit allowed me to give my students a good starting off point for my foray into Standards Based Grading (SBG).
I have been dabbling in SBG for the past couple of years in my Fundamentals of Algebra course. I loved the pedagogy behind it, but I never felt that it was terribly successful. I think part of the reason was that I was not as fully invested into it as I should have been and that the lower level freshman did not have the desire and drive to take advantage of the possibilities to raise their assessment grades.
My Algebra 2 students (mostly Juniors) and Calculus students (all Seniors) have taken off with SBG! I have gone from feeling lonely in my room after school to having at least a half dozen students in my room. My student teacher and I have been diligently working pairing them up or putting them in small groups and the mathematical discussion that has taken place has been awe-inspiring. I can’t wait to hear more conversations down the road as the students get more used to using conversation to think and discuss mathematically!
I have been trying to find a way to have them “sign-up” on my website before they come in. I have embedded a google form into my website. It seems to have a few bugs in different browsers. I am not totally sure what is going on there. Ideally, I would like the students to sign-up ahead of time so that I had a list of who to expect and I could take attendance. Also, I could report to parents or administrators exactly who came to extra help. And I would have it all done without a bunch of unnecessary paperwork! Furthermore, if I could find a method that worked for me, I could know ahead of time who was coming in and I could have customized retakes all ready for them when they arrive!
Overall, it has been an exciting and hopeful couple of weeks. Usually by now in Algebra 2 I am starting to feel a little discouraged and worried about the looming Regents exam. This year, however, I am excited to see how these changes will affect the success of my students on the exam! I will keep you all posted.