Tuesday, 13 December 2011

You stole my reading day - thank you

Sometimes, I'm not quite as enthusiastic about heading to Brock's Hamilton campus.  Usually, this has been the site of our tech class, and probably my favourite class of the week.  But, after our final law class (test and assignment, 65% of our mark), most of our class was getting ready to finally enjoy a Friday off.  Usually, Fridays have been PD days, in school observation days, or conference days .... and at the end of our first term, many of us are in need of a break, and this was one of our two "reading" Fridays for the year.  Well, instead of a day off, our class headed to Hamilton to enjoy a lecture / presentation series on math teaching.

Yup, this was going to strain my ability to stay engaged.  As I love math, and I wasn't expecting the bamboo shoots under the fingernails moments that many non-math people might anticipate, this was going to strain my find 3 good things mantra a wee bit.**  At least I thought that things would be strained until the second presentation.  Shirley Dalrymple's presentation on teaching a 9 applied math classes.  As the past president of the Ontario Association for Math Educators, storyboarder for the Critical Learning Instructional Paths Support, and recipient of the Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence, she definitely was more than qualified to speak to us. Some of the highlights were:

  • Learning styles:  she has had one auditory learner within her applied math classes.  The classes tend to be evenly split between visual and tactile.  She recommended that we say nothing that a student couldn't say (and my inner Cicero cringed)
  • She starts her year with a poster project - students have to fill in the blank:  math is important in _____ because.  The students link math to real world applications and she gets a set of contexts within which to frame examples
  • With 10 minutes to go in class, she sometimes starts up a game of Math-O.  Students create their bingo card (filled with answers to problems), she reads out questions until 5 people win.  Net result, the students have willingly worked through about 25 math questions in 10 minutes - probably more questions than they would do for homework
  • Finally, she re-emphasized the importance of highlighters for word problems.  I've been using them with the students I'm tutoring, and it's nice to hear someone confirm that I was going down the right track.

Overall, I enjoyed this presentation for one main reason.  We've been presented with a number of theoretical approaches to teaching within teachers' college.  Almost every class has included some discussion on assessment - either Lorna Earl's Assessment As Learning along with the discussions in Growing Success on assessment for, as, and of learning.  Also, our math teaching class has been focused frequently on the necessary learning processes to teach the math curriculum in Ontario.  And as part of these classes, we've delved into many hypothetical uses for these assessments and processes.  What Shirley's presentation demonstrated is some concrete ways that she has successfully embedded these techniques into her class.

**Please note that I've got a couple posts in the works, one of which deals with motivation, overcoming the theory/reality disconnect frustrations, and finding 3 positive things about any class to focus on.

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