Moving Monkey Bars

My students are killing it right now in Geometry. We spent some time learning about rigid motions so that I can use them as the basis for their proofs on congruence. This will save us about 150 pages in the textbook, which I wasn’t really using anyway. Continue reading


How to Slay the Grading Dragon

I’ve taught before at a charter school for struggling kids, where grades didn’t matter. We gave grades sort of as an afterthought because society and school boards and transcripts demand them. But our principal forbade us to have a gradebook and the only grades we really gave were A’s, B’s, and F’s. Actually the F’s were “incompletes” until the student could never be brought around to fixing them. Even then, it was easy enough for them to start over again. Classes were projects with multiple credits attached, there were no subjects either, or grade levels, no “freshman” to stuff in the garbage can. We didn’t even have seating charts or teachers’ desks, or walls.

But that was then. Now I find myself back teaching in a pretty standard, 2000+ population high school in a different state, where content, subject tracking, and grades are king. I want the other thing back in my classroom though. I want kids to focus on what they are creating and learning instead of how many points they are getting. Learning should be natural and fun, not a gnarled and twisted byproduct of subjugation and compliance. Continue reading

Two Weeks in and We Finally Peaked Inside the Textbook

I am teaching freshman algebra classes for kids who struggle with math, and one geometry class. I am running a PBL style trimester but got sidetracked by a math problem from illuminations. The idea is that you take a square with area = A, where A is not a perfect square and try to find stacks of smaller squares that are the same height as your large square. I gave the problem to my students and watched them go. It is a pure math problem with no real relationship to the project we are doing related to public art funding (I had planned on folding it into some kind of art assignment with the golden ratio but couldn’t really make it work). So these students who hate math tore into this thing like they were wolves on a fresh kill. Continue reading