Words of Wisdom

Youth is wasted on the young.

Thursday, 12 June 2008

What Am I Teaching Them??????

Dateline: Friday 6th June 2008

Do you see this?

Do you SEE this?

This is the end result of my year 10 Maths lesson on fractions.

This is what happens when you ask Year 10 to cut 60cm lengths of streamer, create fractions of 1/2, 1/4, 1/8, 1/3, 1/6, 1/12, sort them into graduated lengths and stick them onto A3 paper. One out of 10 managed it and she had only cut the even denominatored fractions!!

I cannot do justice to the chaos which ensued. They lost bits, they randomly chopped bits, they wrote one sixth as 6, they argued, they told me it was a pointless exercise and that they weren't going to use it 'in life'. They dropped bits on the floor. They 'waited for me to help' (aka doing nothing and then letting Mrs A do it all for you).

Part of the problem was the curly nature of streamers or perhaps I am just clutching at straws...or streamers. Part of the problem was that they cannot follow instructions! Even when they are written down on a paper in front of them! Part of the problem was I did not show them 'one I'd completed earlier' first so they didn't have a visual on what they were trying to accomplish. Most of the problem is that they are hugely disorganised, dysfunctional and do not understand fractions.

Me: Watching now, this is the part where I am HELPING you (for those who will protest in 10
minutes that they couldn't do it because I never help them) . First I need to find out what a
third of 60cm is. How can I do that? Anyone? What operation do I use? Anyone? No? OK,
it's division so who can divide 60cm by 3?
(blank looks)
Pupil 1: Why?
Me: So we can find one third. So, 60 divided by 3....anyone?
Pupil 2: 100?
Pupil 3: What are we doing?
Me: We are trying to divide 60 by 3 and no it is not 100.
Pupil 1: Why?
Me: So we can find a third.
Pupil 2: Which streamer are we cutting? (holds up a half)
Me; No, not that one, that is your half. Have you labelled it with 1/2?
Pupil 2: No.
Me: Well do it now. Now, where were we? Oh yes, what is 60 divided by 3?
No-one? Well what is 6 divided by 3?
Pupil 4: 3! Because 3 and 3 is 6.
Me: (giving up) OK well, 6 divided by 3 is 2 so 60 divided by three is 20. So get out your ruler and mark off 20cm. That will be 1/3 of the streamer.
Pupil 1: I don't have a ruler.
Pupil 2: Neither do I.
Pupil 3 : Neither do I...

Need I go on?

Anyway, this tangled mass of lunatics streamers are what was left after the lesson.

Footnote: It is now nearly a week later. I re-did the lesson with stiff cardboard 'streamers'; split up all the kids so that they were working individually; handed out rulers and scissors beforehand; TOLD them what to do step by step (no discovery learning here thanks) and we got most of the fraction construction done. Yesterday I tried to move on to the next stage where they sorted, order and compared the fractions. Once more it was an unmitigtaed disaster. I will not be deterred. Tomorrow we will sort and compare the fractions again and this time it will WORK.

Stay tuned. Oh and for those of you who, with Year 10 say, "what is the point of this activity?", it is to give them hands on experience in proportional thinking. It is also good for practising how to measure 5.6cm using a ruler marked only in mm...or even one marked in cm with no intermediate markings :-(. It is also good for learning how to follow instructions and for getting a sense of having achieved something by finishing it. Eventually I will display their fraction bridges on the wall and then I will take a photo to show you how it all turned out.

Right before having myself committed.


Chris in Happy Valley said...

OK, first of all, I could see a year 10 student saying "what's the point of fractions", but I hope that none of your other readers do,

2nd - I am now officially dreading going back to teaching ;)

Brittany said...

Kick them in the shins? Then you will feel better! ;) Ok, so that won't work... but... hmph. Sorry!!!!

Arizaphale said...

Chris: be afriad...be very afraid...although hopefully yours will not have learning difficulties. (Congrats on the job too..!)

Brittany: Himself tells me I should just take them out the back and shoot them. Shin kicking may be preferable to that.

Gawlerites said...

Hi A
Try applying the "Centrelink" fraction test ie do you know how much you will earn when you leave school. The answer will come back so quick it will stun you, then ask what half of that is, again I can almost see them standing on their seats to get in first, even a third will produce an almost instant response.
Or am I being a little bit over 60 ish
Catch up with you soon

SSG said...

maybe you could get them to divide cakes between them equally? or burgers? or pizza or fries? 2 in a group, 3 in a group, 5 in a group etc and compare sizes, or is using a protractor too much?

i remember the 'what's the point' people from school. 'whats the point of maths' 'what's the point of knowing what a similie is' what's the point of learning french' 'whats the point of learning' basically... man now I deal with those kids having kids on a daily basis...

Anonymous said...

Oh my goodness, I don't see how you have the patience to deal. From the level of maturity they are showing, maybe the marble jar reward system wouldn't be too juvenile after all!

Stacy said...

Wow, you have the patience of a saint! I understood the lesson...and the point of the lesson, does that help? ;)

headbang8 said...

Go to Street Remley Studios and do a voice-over demo tape, and become a struggling radio actress. Then go to Channel Nine and argue that with your snazzy personality and educational background, you can be the next Patsy Biscoe. It's what you were meant to do.

Andi said...

Your determination is amazing- this is why you are a teacher! No one else would take the time to keep trying when they do not get it. I completely got the point of your streamers lesson, and I think it was an amazing effort to try the hands-on approach. I NEVER understood math in school, and I could have done very well sitting in your class. I am with Brittany, though, it would make YOU feel so much better to kick them in the shins. Oh, somedays I daydream about fates such as that, and then I imagine that when I get arrested, I will FINALLY get some rest sitting in a jail cell- LOL!!! Keep up the good work, and know that it WILL pay off someday soon...I just know it will.

kim said...

Oh boy......