Vito Prosciutto: Teaching community college math on the road to a PhD.

Friday, February 06, 2004

Algebra - The rich get richer 

I'm feeling a bit better about my algebra teaching again. I've graded about half the quizzes and there are still a lot of students struggling with the material, but it is rough material, so that's not entirely unexpected. My mentor has me doing a lot of the administrative work that needs to be done as a teacher, which is really pushing things a bit for me. I'm ok with attendence, but tardies are difficult for me to keep track of (I think that I'm going to start closing the classroom door so that I'm more conscious of late arrivals), and I've failed on the assigning detentions on later tardies. Dealing with students who miss a great deal of class marks another challenge. There's a part of me, as awful as it is to admit, that looks at the 10-absences-and-you-re-dropped rule with a bit of anticipation in some cases.

One interesting thing that happened was that the two classes moved through a classroom exercise with algebra tiles at very different rates. As a consequence, the first class got only a cursory overview of how to factor trinomials with a minus sign, while the second class got a very good overview. It will make for an interesting class on Monday to see whether the kids read through the section as instructed before attempting the homework. Worse still, when I looked at the homework, I saw that not one assigned question was in the form ax2+bx+c! They all had at least one subtraction in them, and most had the third term negative, which was the form that the first period kids got the least exposure to! (And I keep writing with exclamation marks!)

I did get some sense of what sort of questions will be raised on Monday, though, since I had one student come in after school to take a quiz and she asked me about some of the homework questions she had done and why her numbers didn't match the back of the book.

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