Wheels starting to turn

1837452I found out on Tuesday that I would not be teaching Geometry this fall – because of ‘department needs’, I will instead be teaching an elective course for juniors and seniors who need one more math credit and who have not been successful in other classes (along with my Algebra 2/Trig classes).  The structure of the class is completely up to me, which is kind of wonderful, or would be, if school wasn’t starting next week.

I’ve decided to teach this as a problem-solving class, using the structure of the book Crossing the River with Dogs; the book features a different problem-solving strategy in each chapter, strategies which are tiered and accessible.  I met a teacher at PCMI this summer – Evelyn Baracaldo – who developed and taught this class at the NYC iSchool, and generously shared her materials with me.  I probably shouldn’t be putting together YET ANOTHER NEW COURSE, but somehow I can’t resist this one.

The challenge – in the few days remaining before the start of school – is to envision the [realistic] classroom culture I want for this course.  So the ideas are spinning around in my head, giving me more than a bit of anxiety, although I know this is part of my process.  This is what I’m thinking about so far, and I would LOVE FEEDBACK.

  1. The weekly warm-up sheets will be perfect here – estimation180, Which One Doesn’t Belong, visual patterns, Would You Rather?.  I’m thinking that the students will save these in a folder all term, and then do an end of term reflection/assessment of their progress.
  2. This class will also lend itself naturally to Number Talks, which I have been reading about all summer.
  3. Our notebooks may not be full-blown INBs, but they can still have a structure – sections for each strategy (tabs!) with worked problems.
  4. Group work, large whiteboards, vertical non-permanent surfaces – these are modes of working which are excellently appropriate for this content!

Sounds great, right?  But here is what is still unclear to me:

  • How will students be accountable?  With all that group work, how do I ensure that everyone is working?
  • How will students be assessed? (I am responsible for grading them, and for developing a grading policy; this is engrained in how my school functions.)
  • How will I introduce new strategies?  Will we just work on problem sets?  One 3-act per strategy? Math Forum PoWs?

I’d like to NOT reinvent the wheel.  There are so many wonderful resources out there (and in my house and on my computer and in my files at school….); I want to pull together all the applicable nuggets of brilliance that I have already squirreled away and teach those kiddies some math!

I welcome your thoughts –


  1. Jennifer fairbanks

    Sounds a lot like my small math class last year with juniors. Now I have same kids as seniors so another new set of activities. I do estimation every day, the kids lead it at the computer. Then we did our own estimation station for the whole school. We did solve me puzzles then created our own. We did visual patterns, some would you rather, which one doesn’t belong. This year I am excited we have subscriptions to yummy math, mathalicious, and math forum so I will have new material. It is fun!!!

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