Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Designing a math class

I get to design my newest math class.  The topic is middle school math and it's meeting for the first time this week.  It's a small group of people so I'm excited to tailor it to the needs and interests of those in the group, once I find out what those are.

This project has me thinking: What is my ideal math class like?  I have the freedom to make it exactly the way it should be, given the resources I have.  So, what are the key elements of making a really great math class?

There should be choice, but not too much choice.  Keep the structure flexible, but make sure to have a strong concept of the "default" structure so that the learners and I have something solid to start with.

For this class this will mean having engaging activities to offer in class, and having high quality assignments for learners to work on at home.  The activities will be games, 3-acts, and other group problem-solving, and perhaps some peer-tutoring type thing.  One portion of the assignments will be engaging problems, probably from the Math Kangaroo sample questions.

I have a new idea to try out for the other portion of the assignments.  In the era of YouTube there is less need than ever for standing in front of learners and introducing concepts or giving in-depth explanations.  I want to offer learners the structure they need to acquire new concepts at home, and bring those concepts back to the math class for practice and refinement.  I will pick a video and a math task to go with it, and challenge the learners to invent ways of approaching the problem themselves before they watch the video.  My hope is that this will catalyze the kind of inquiry that makes math fun and exciting, and will help create a deep and robust understanding of the concepts.

Wish me luck! :)

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