I’m pretty sure technology exists…
Over a late night dinner at B-Dubs last night, my friend Dave, and I were talking a little about Algebra 2 and how much it just made us want to kill ourselves this year. We really tried. There were 4 of us that met a lot and discussed targets, essential questions, the ACT, and tried to create a fluid coherent Algebra 2 curriculum.
My biggest problem with the whole endeavor was that in the end the whole thing just turned out to be a list of skills much like this one. We expected C students to be able to do the straight skill work. We expected B students to be able to things like resolve an argument. Something like “Dave claims that bla bla bla and Aaron claims bla bla bla: who do you agree with and why? Then we expected A students to be able to use the skills to solve some sort of problem that we had not considered at any time during class. It might be a unique application or maybe we flipped a problem around so they were looking at the back end and had to figure out the front end.
I liked the way we assessed but getting from assessment to assessment was a huge chore. It just seemed like there were too many topics to make decent connections with. But my biggest issue was that it was hard for me to justify a lot of the content. Who needs to know all of that crap and why? Really? Who cares about complex solutions to quadratic equations? The ACT? Then who? I just don’t have the acting skills to pull some of those topics off. BTW, see Shawn Cornally’s latest post for more.
What Dave and I have spent some time talking about is why we don’t let the technology we have do the grunt work for us. If there is a need for complex solutions to a polynomial function maybe my average 11th graders don’t need to know how to find them by hand if they can do it with the technology. Maybe they don’t need to factor anymore because the technology can do it. Solve a quadratic by hand? What the hell for?
The interesting thing to me is thinking about what we do with our time if we aren’t learning how to solve systems of equations by elimination. What if we were solving complex and interesting problems? Problems that you would never get to in the 11th grade curriculum because you are hamstrung with skills and procedures. We should be using technology where it exists to do the grunt work for us so we can get on to the more interesting and important things.
Two final thoughts:
- I’m not sure yet what the complex and interesting problems look like because we have never had to think this way.
- I’m convinced that teaching the students to use the technology has a whole lot more benefit (mathematically speaking) than we think.