liebster award

liebster award

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Applying my goal to an annoying question *Opening week activity*

I've got a number of goals for this next school year.  There's Interactive Student Notebooks (which administration has given the ok). Standards Based Grading (which the admin is less than fully supportive of) and pre-teaching.

I will devote a post at sometime to the process of pre-teaching I am considering.  This post is about how I want to use that idea to solve a problem which comes up at least 2-3 times a year in each of my classes.

"When will we ever use this?"

I have lots of responses for this question, this post is not about them.

Next week my students will arrive.  They are coming with baggage, many of them cripplingly so with regard to mathematics. They've struggled, OR WORSE YET, they've never had to struggle, to work, to imagine how to solve math questions.

Still, "when will we ever use this?"

Their newness to me is a benefit, believe it or not. Many of these students are, being high school aged, thinking of what they'd like to do as a career for the rest of their lives.  I'm thinking this might be one of my only chances to get an honest answer from them about what they might like to do.  I'll take it.

They're asking the right question, especially given the age they are.  Problem is, they're asking the wrong person.  Look at the pronoun.   "When will WE ever use this?"  This question should not, nah CANNOT be answered to the satisfaction of the student by the teacher.

So, I want to know what each of my students wants to do when they grow up, and then I want to use their answers to have them tell me, and the class when we'll ever use this.

I see the big pitfall already.  I won't need math to be a choreographer (told to me last year by a lovely young lady).  Or, I don't know what I want to be.  Well, each of my students will one day be a member of our society, preferably a productive one.  (That's the part which is up to us)

I'm going to collect this data.  I want to sit on it for at least a month.  I want to know the students better, and I want them to know me better before we discuss this little project.

Then I'll wait for someone to ask that magic question. "When will we ever use this."   I'm glad you asked.


I want a research paper.  How does HIGH SCHOOL leveled mathematics appear in the job you wish to one day hold?   No high school leveled math involve in your chosen career?  (Very unlikely) then I have a list of math topics which affect many adults, just in being citizens and residents of our modern civilization

Voting, demographics, borrowing money, lending money, taxes, population, accelerating in relation to cars, decelerating in relation to airplanes/boats, lunar cycles, average climate (temperature, rainfall), triangulation, etc...

Can't find an appropriate topic, the pick one at random from my hat.

How is this pre-teaching?  Seems to me any time I get students reflecting and/or predicting (and doing more work than I am) them I'm doing something right.


  1. I'm interested in this topic also. I know, as a 30+ yrs statistician and now a stats instructor, that people use math all of the time. But I still wonder sometimes if it is really necessary for high school students who clearly don't have an interest in or a mind for algebra to suffer through it. It's something I struggle with. Some other countries, like Finland, allow differentiation in requirements to begin much earlier, so that everyone does not have the same high school minimum requirements. It is more based on their aptitudes and likely directions after high school. I tutored my niece all summer in algebra, and she clearly learned nothing last year, but still needs to take two years of math in high school. I'm not sure I think this is a good idea. For many folks, I can give an immediate answer for how statistics is relevant for them, in any career. But algebra, maybe not.

  2. I. Absolutely. Love. This! I teach a group of 8th grade Algebra 1 students. I'm asked this question at least once a week. Also, I love having them write in class to explain certain topics. I may try this!