Year-Long Project Ideas (vLanger, v1)

(Yes, that means this is my idea, Kogut probably has other ideas, and that this is IN PROGRESS. In case you couldn’t use context clues to figure out what vLanger, v1 meant …)

Side note: I am traveling to Philadelphia this break to visit some friends from college.  Yesterday, I went to the library to get another book for the trip (though I have to do lots of other actual-work things on the train, of course).  In the hopes of finding a new inspiring book, I went to the education section and found, “Teach Like Your Hair is on Fire.”  While I am only a bit into the book (and definitely don’t agree with all his curricular methods or his tone all the time), the beginning of the book has the same premise as the Alfie Kohn and Mark Barnes books I mentioned earlier: treat students as people.

It is so refreshing to read these books.  I kind of want to sneaky-require all new teachers I know to read one of these books, so they don’t get lost in the world of classroom management through control while forgetting students are people.  I have many stories about this, but one in particular I remember from the first day of my teacher training program.  Anyway.

End side note.  Superficial connection: at least two of these authors ALSO talk about meaningful, year-long projects.  Which I’m very exited about instituting next year.  I have two ideas (that aren’t mutually exclusive) so far.  I would love to hear other ideas or comments on these ideas.

Idea #1 – Solve {insert some somehow non-arbitrary number here} Choice Tasks by the end of the year

For a while now, I have been collecting cool tasks that aren’t tightly connected to my curriculum.  I get them from NCTM, other math blogs, and books I read (I inherited/stole this awesome book that you wouldn’t even know is awesome by the title from my former math coach – I didn’t mean to steal it and I even emailed to try to give it back to her once I realized it – it’s “Problem Solving in Mathematics” from the Lane County Mathematics Project).  In any case, this year-long project would involve students choosing some number of these tasks to solve by the end of the year.  Students could present their solutions either in writing, as a video, or as a podcast (or … other ideas?) as long as the product met our problem-solving criteria.  Students would collect these tasks (along with any other final work) in a “Final Draft Math Binder”.  We would celebrate when students produced work ready to go in the binder.

Questions …

–       Alone/together? Should students have to work alone for some number of problems? If they work together, how do I ensure all the students in the group actually thought deeply?  Maybe students can always work together or alone but have to produce individual final products?

–       What do I do once a student figures out a solution so that other students who chose that problem do their own work?  Does it matter if they have to produce their own final product?

–       How many tasks should students solve?  I am hoping next year to have Open Honors (students can choose over the course of the year whether they pursue the honors level of the class).  If so, the number could be different for course vs. honors

–       Should I categorize the problems/require students to try different categories?  Some categories I could have are patterns, shapes within shapes, working backwards (though I wouldn’t call it that), diagramming

–       How do I encourage excitement about the final products and how do we celebrate student work without giving away answers?  One teacher friend suggested I organize questions by term so at the end of a term, we could have a public celebration of work, but then those problems would go away.  Might be a good solution.  Might be annoyingly complicated/arbitrary.

– Where do I find more problems?  Book suggestions?

Idea #2 – Math Moments Blog

I’m not that tech-savvy, but I think it would be cool to have one blog for each of the courses I teach.  Students would then be invited to (and required some number of times to) post …

–       An “ah-ha!” moment, where something clicks that hadn’t before.

–       A this-is-math moment, where they are not at school, but something mathy happens. Woah.

For all of these things, I will eventually (i.e. before the beginning of next year) have criteria and exemplars.  Hopefully funny-but-awesome exemplars that include videos of me and Kogut.

Thoughts?  Ideas, oh people who are smarter than I am?



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