“Ahhh, we have to do stuff on computer today?”

“[I prefer to learn] on my own, taught by a teacher on the board. Not Group Assignments!… because I learn things more indepth when learning by myself.”

“I feel like we waste time. I understand the concept, so move on. I understood it more [after the PBL]but I’m worried about cramming other stuff at the end of the year.”

This student does not like computers, Prezi, or group work. This student likes to take neat notes, color code, sit quietly, and learn in a traditional setting.

After talking to the student she said she understood the concept more after the PBL. Meaning it did benefit her. She expressed concern for how much material will be covered over the course of the year and that doing PBL seems to be wasting time. I tried to reassure her that I am on the same time line that I have followed in past years even with PBL included. This seemed to ease her mind a bit. I also hope that with PBL a deeper understanding of a few concepts will go a long way in the end, especially when it comes to problem solving.

While perusing the next chapter I came across an open ended prompt and explanation on what type of answer would give you a 4,3,2,1, or 0 on the PSSA. To my surprise, or maybe to my enlightenment I realized that the explanations and presentations my students are giving for PBL will help them learn how to explain their mathematical thinking more fully and clearly. Helping them score a 4 or 3 on the PSSA open ended prompt. So next time my principal asks what I am doing to prep students for PSSAs I’ll tell her PBL presentations.

« “Don’t worry, honey I’ll be there.”

The day of presentations, a girl came into my classroom and said she had to tell me a funny story about her project. This usually means the student doesn’t have the project finished and can’t present for some illegitimate, irresponsible reason. So I braced myself and this is what I heard…

“Ms. Hill I wanted to make my project special so I created a flyer to advertise for the Winter Concert. When I got home last night I nearly had a panic attack because I left it on the kitchen counter but it was gone. I called for my mom in a state of panic,’Mom have you seen the flyer on the table?’ She said ‘Yes, don’t worry, honey I’ll be there. I took off work and put it in the calendar. December 20th I’ll be there.’ Still worried about the flyer I asked if she still had it and she did. I said back to her, ‘that’s for a math project, it’s not real!’”

Negative Case Study »« Presentations: Round 2

Today was the presentation day for the 2nd PBL: Ticket Sales.

The first thing that happened today involved a student telling a hilarious story about her mother and her project (see next post for the full story).

Overall, presentations have increased in quality and thoroughness of research. There was equal speaking from each partner, slides could be read easily, clear organization, and math processes were clearly explicated. This is an improvement from the 1st PBL. I would assume that now they know what other groups are going to produce, they know how much detail to include, and are feeling more comfortable speaking in front of the class.

Presentations were also more creative this time. The groups who had a clear understanding of writing linear equations used their spare time to add humor, music, and art work to increase the overall enjoyment of their presentation. One group added a picture of a business man who made me laugh out loud uncontrollably. Another group included sample music that might be heard at the concert. And another invited us to come see the show and included dates and times.

It’s really cool that the kids aren’t just completing the project. They are going above and beyond, taking artistic liberations and including higher level math in some cases than what I expected.

“Don’t worry, honey I’ll be there.” »« Class discussion

After each period of independent work time the class comes together to share their group’s ideas, discoveries, questions, or misunderstandings. I noticed today how important this class discussion is to their overall process. For example today, many groups struggled to formulate their equation with the valuable information they gathered last class. Some groups could write it down but not explain it. Others could explain it but not write it down. And a few did not know how to put the pieces together at all.

The group discussion helps pull ideas from each group and allows the class to apply the ideas at their own will. Maybe one group wants to include profit from flower and concession sales and another doesn’t but they understand how to include it in the equation. The group discussion also allows me to address the class at once instead of repeating myself to each group.

It has been working out that once I encounter the same question a few times it is time for a class discussion on that topic. These topics apply to the whole class. How to write the equation or what is included in the presentation. This time allows me to fill the math conceptual gap. Today after the groups talked about how to formulate the equation most groups were on their way. Only two groups required further explication. And since the majority of class knows what direction to continue in I can focus on the two other groups specific lquestions without holding back the class.

Last year, when I first implemented PBL I did not hold these whole class discussions. But after further research and reading on the importance and structure of class discussion time I am thankful for this step in the PBL process. Although I am not applying class discussion in the exact manner I read about, the most important part is that the main mathematical concepts are being highlighted so everyone can understand them clearly.

Presentations: Round 2 »« Ticket sales PBL

A few days ago I introduced the next PBL with a short video. I get so nervous about what comments the students might make. I spent my whole summer creating these videos and PBL lessons so even the smallest negative remark would upset me. I did all this work to help them not make their lives miserable. Anyway I haven’t heard any negative remarks but the look on their faces is close, but different. The look is more like “that video didn’t tell us anything.” This video only asked the question “How many tickets pay for the show?” There were no numbers, no equations, just pictures set to music.

Watch the video here:

ticket sales

After the video and once the look of fear had faded we discussed the preliminary questions that popped into their heads. Students had questions like, “which show?, how much does it cost?, how many tickets are sold?, how many people come?” With Dan Meyers’ motto in mind, “help less” I answered their questions with “I don’t know, you tell me.” They never like that. Some students started to look encouraged once another student suggested asking their artistic teachers for the answers while some were ready for their nightly homework and ready to leave.

Class discussion »« Presentation Day has come and gone

All my fears have been discredited. There presentations went surprisingly well. Of course there is room for improvement but each group was prepared and ready to go. We did have some glitches with absent group members and forgotten passwords but all in all it was more than I hoped for. I was very surprised how well behaved the class was for each group. They were silent then even asked questions of each group at the end. Presentation times were also very reasonable. I encouraged each group to keep it under five minutes but I didn’t time them. If every student was present I think we could have had all groups present in one day, which I think is amazing. Along with short presentations however comes a want for more info. While each presentation hinted at research and thorough problem solving does it count if you skip right to the answer when sharing your findings? All groups said they found the area of the shower wall but only a few explained how they found the area. Or another example all groups said how much the tile would cost in total to cover the wall but only a few explained in depth how they found the cost per tile then the area of each tile and divided the area of the wall by area of tile to get the number of tiles needed and finally number of tiles needs times the cost per tile to equal the total cost of tile.

So overall, first time presentations for first time PBL I would call it a success. Is there room for improvement? Absolutely. I hope they take my comments to heart and improve upon the depth of explanation utilized in the presentation.

Ticket sales PBL »« Presentation day!

Today is my first day of PBL presentations. I am so nervous. Two long weeks of walking my classes through the problem-solving steps.

Step 1: Identify and select the problem

Step 2: Analyze the Problem

Step 3: Generate potential solutions

Step 4: Select and plan the solution

Step 5: Implement the solution

Step 6: Evaluate the solution

And now finally the final steps in the process implement (making the proposal) and evaluate (choosing which group made the best plan for tiling my bathroom). So many things could go wrong. Students not being polite audience members, group members being absent, too long of a presentation, not being able to view the presentation, the list could go on and on. I’ve never had any of my classes give formal presentations before, I am sweating. Wish me luck and wish my students luck. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Presentation Day has come and gone »« Kids say the darndest things

These are all quotes from my class as they work on a project to tile my bathroom.

“I live by a Lowes, so I think I’ll be going there.”

“This is so much more than what I thought.”

“We will be saving four hundred dollars!”

“I read an article about tile cutters.”

“You can use a wet saw!”

“Tanja (online chat person from home improvement website) you are, you are amazing, you are beautiful!”

“I feel tuckered out.”

“This class goes by really fast because there is so much to do and no time to do it in.”

“I’m working so hard on this.”

“At the begining I wanted to pull my hair out but now I really like it. We were jumping into something I know nothing about now I know about it [tiling].”

Presentation day! »« Pretty cool stuff

So some pretty cool things have been happening in class over the past few days. The last two researching days included students thinking outside of the box about where to find information. My Algebra 2 class has been working toward creating a sales pitch for why I, the customer, should hire their company to TILE MY BATHROOM. All groups started their research using google and looking for which tile to use. After about half a class period they realized that they do not only need the tiles. This revelation lead them to HomeDepot.com or Lowes.com. While on HomeDepot.com one group asked if they could call Home Depot. Even though we are in school and they would have to use their cell phone, I figured it will help their group and if this was for their home they would call HomeDepot. So I said Yes! Another group also connected with a knowledgable person. This time over an online chat through a home improvement website. Im so proud of my students for reaching out for help from experts on the topic.

Kids say the darndest things »« Day 1-PBL

I am finally getting my students started on their first PBL. They have no idea what is going on but I am sure they will catch on. The first day was totally crazy, the computers at school are in a constant state of rotating brokenness, some students spent all period waiting to log on to the computer while other log on in seconds. It’s difficult to explain to the class what Problem Based Learning is so I have given a brief over view and explained the steps of problem solving we will be following. Im sure right now most of my students are thinking “what the hell are we doing, what’s the point, where is she going with this, I dont understand.” But I have high hopes of them seeing the point and direction I am going in a day or two.

Pretty cool stuff »« Trial Run!