Next year, my math class will hopefully involve each week ~2.5 days of problem-solving, followed by ~1.5 days of writing/videoing/making some product about a chosen problem.
Over the past months, I’ve gone back and forth with being concerned about motivating WHY we have to make products. I mean, I plan to talk to students about why explaining your work is good for you and good for others. But those reasons aren’t always the most compelling.
Then, I read Drive which (if I remember correctly) posits that if you have met people’s need for competence and autonomy, purpose is less important, though awesome (and I plan to have tons of choice and mastery all over my class). And I took Developmental Designs, which identifies student needs as competence, autonomy, relationship, and fun. So I worried a little less about motivating the why of products.
But then I was talking with (one of my) my awesome student teacher from last year, who was thinking about an authentic audience (which would so much more clearly motivate why). And I got thinking again.
For awhile, I’ve wondered why so many high schools have Literary Magazines but no math equivalent. And then, post talking with said former-student-teacher, I thought — why not make it happen?
So, to start (baby steps) to address the authentic audience/why we make products issue, I am committing to the following for this coming year.
1. As often as possible, involve choice in what product students make to explain their math work.
2. As often as possible (which will be less so than #1), define or have students define an audience for their product (or maybe this can be all the time and just often be “other students who need help” or “myself for reference” and then work on getting other audience in the future … hmmm).
3. Have a classroom website (thanks, Mom and English Teaching Vegan for helping me get mine started last night!) where students somewhat frequently post products for parents/anyone to see. (I think this is a cool first step and am interested in developing it more in the future, maybe with purposeful interactions with … someone(s).)
4. Twice during this year, convene a group of interested BPS math teachers and their students and a bunch of submissions to produce a “Math Mag” either in print or (more ideally) online.
I think these steps are doable (though suggestions for how to structure the students-posting-on-class-website would be welcome) and a step towards making our math output authentic. What do you think?