Day 65 – Bathtub Problem

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Math 8 – Today students worked on the bathtub problem. It was totally solvable and as a result we saw a lot of success. The problem was difficult enough to stimulate discussion and reveal initial misconceptions though. Most groups first thought the solution would be 45 minutes. I think the logic was that if you add an hour and 30 minutes and then average/split it between two, you get 45 minutes. Listening to student conversations, there would inevitably be someone who would speak up and say something like, “That doesn’t make sense! If you use just hot water it only takes 30 minutes, it can’t take longer by adding even more water!”

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Day 64 – Arduino Sketches

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Engineering Physics – While some students finished their timer sketches last week, many are still working on theirs. However, most students are very close to finishing. I’m asking that students put comments in their code. There are two schools of thought on commenting code: comments should explain what you’re doing; comments should explain why you are doing what you’re doing.

For this project I’m asking students to comment using the latter scheme. I don’t need to know what the if statement is doing, I want the student to clearly explain why they are using it. I’ll go through the programs and give feedback on this.

Day 63 – Least Common Multiple

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Math 8 – Today was a pretty quiet day. The kids did some practice questions, and we spent some time going through what is a Least Common Multiple. First I had to find out if the students actually knew what an LCM is, which was a harder job than what you’d imagine.

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We finished with voting on finding which ratio is bigger. This led to a good discussion on comparing ratios, equivalent ratios, and problem solving. Which is bigger, 17/32 or 17/33? This can be confusing, but students know that 17/2 is bigger than 17/33. Therefore 17/32 has to be bigger than 17/33.

Day 62 – Pro D Pasi Sahlberg

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Pro D – Today we had a professional development day, and a lot of snow! I grew up in the interior of BC, sliding around on snow and ice and frozen lakes. My drive to work in the morning was a bit crazy though. Twice while going up a hill my car lost traction, sliding sideways and backwards. I used all of my ninja-things-you-should-do to keep the car moving forward but lost out. In the end the solution was to gun it. Pedal to the metal. I parked at the bottom of Dunbar at Broadway and enjoyed a nice walk up to Lord Byng on 16th Avenue in the snow.

The morning was spent attended a talk by Pasi Sahlberg. His talks are probably often geared towards American audiences, because as he clearly laid out, other countries should be more like Canada when it comes to education.

Here is a mind dump of what I took away from the talk and other thoughts of mine recently.

  1. I’ve always hypothesized that BC’s success in education is due to great autonomy in teaching, and Pasi also believe this to be a factor
  2. PISA scores give us some information which can be useful but shouldn’t necessarily be a driving force. Pasi says PISA is now succumbing to the equivalent of doping in sports.
  3. Canada’s PISA score is increased because of our immigration policies.
  4. The highest PISA scores are likely greatly a result of authoritarian values, both in education and family life. I don’t understand why this isn’t talked about more. Is it direct instruction vs inquiry, or authoritarian vs self-deterministic?
  5. I shake my head at the hand-wringing of the WISE folk and their BC followers. I truly believe that they are mostly wrong in their analysis of math education in BC. We’re going to the toilet, they said. We’re about to see the results of 10 years of bad pedagogy, they said. It hasn’t appeared though. Well, some of their arguments are still valid and PISA is not the final chapter of math ed analysis.
  6. Bloggers like Greg Ashman analyze education policies based on research results, which I certainly appreciate and agree with. This was one of the biggest eyebrow raising things for me when I entered education from my engineering career. I would read or hear about something and ask, “how do you know that though?” In some ways I’ve changed some of my attitude after working with kids.  There is a lot of evidence that shows that inquiry doesn’t lead to better learning. I get it. However, it’s my philosophy of education that changes how I look at this. What I noticed when talking to kids is that they have had their curiosity beaten the hell out of them. Many kids are so unused to asking a question, wondering, and generally not curious about things around them. Students of mine, especially older students in physics, that are used to a lot of teacher centered direct instruction are seemingly incapable of expressing a thought without first being told what that thought should be.  I spent considerable time with my science 8 class last year having them develop questions, discuss questions, develop opinions and develop scientific experiments (ie inquiry). I saw amazing growth in these kids as people, citizens, and students, even if they may not have learned as much “content,” (and I don’t think they did learn less content).   Worked examples be damned, my students stopped saying “I don’t know” when asked “what do you think?”   That is worth more than a test will ever measure, imo.

Day 61 – Nothing Exciting

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Math 8 – Today was a pretty standard day. The Math 8 students had a quiz on percent, then we reviewed equivalent ratios and did some practice with my picking random names to answer questions.

Out of my own curiousity I also asked my students about some of their gaming habits. Specifically I was trying to see how much smartphones were overtaking gaming systems. As you can see from above, I figured about 1/2 of the kids with gaming systems prefer to use either a smartphone or desktop pc.

Day 60 – Quantitative Force Diagrams

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Physics 11 – This year I’m doing some deliberate practice with quantitative force diagrams. I realized last year that many students had problems with unbalanced forces because they would hit a force diagram and say they didn’t know “how to calculate applied force.” They said they didn’t have a formula for applied force. So I want to reinforce that forces can be found via force diagrams.