Geometry Plans for Next Year

May 1, 2013

I have the stereotypical reason for not having blogged anything since November: lack of time. I have been the level leader for Geometry this year, and that has eaten into my time more that I thought it would. I’ve also had some personal stuff such as having one best friend not wake up one morning and my other best friend had her first baby.

The other reason that I haven’t blogged is that the only thing I’ve been interested in blogging about is the class that I am almost definitely going to be teaching next year. I haven’t written about it out of a kind of “jinx” mentality, but since it seems almost certain, I’m going to start putting some stuff down.

I proposed to my department leader and my principal that we restructure our Pre-AP Geometry class around the Exeter Math 2 curriculum. They really liked the idea, but they weren’t sure that they wanted me to stop teaching regular students. Since then, we have decided to create a 9th grade center in our school next year, and I have been approved to teach PAP Geometry and regular 9th grade Geometry.

So, here’s my plan:

  • As much as I love the Exeter problem sets, it might be a little too rich for students used to a traditional curriculum. In order to prevent a mutiny by students (or their parents), my plan is to do a modified “flip” of the classroom.
    • Students will copy down the basic notes for the lesson (definitions, theorems, etc.) and do some very basic skill practice for homework. I may use Khan videos for reinforcement if applicable.
    • During class, students will work on the Exeter problems in groups. I plan to use whiteboarding, jigsawing, and mixing up groups to keep things fresh.
  • Thanks to Sam Shah, I also found out about The Park School of Baltimore, which will send you their curriculum if you ask. It’s got some great “Habits of Mind” material for practicing problem solving. I can use this to vary things up a bit with the Exeter material.
  • We’re on a block schedule, so I only see the students every other day. I think on the weeks that I see them three days, I will give a quiz or practice constructions or something more concrete.

Problems I forsee:

  • Selling this to students. This is something new, and students often resist new things. It’s also going to be frustrating for them as I plan to be “less helpful” (tmDan Meyer). I plan to structure the grades such that the problem sets will be important, but will not have the potential to kill their grades as long as they honestly attempt them.
  • Selling this to parents. Again, this is something new. I plan to emphasize how important these skills are for college, how it won’t sabotage their child’s grades, and that even though the students complain that “she never helps me,” that it is by design.
    • A subset of this problem is that the other PAP Geometry teacher is going to be teaching a regular curriculum. I want to be sure that parents’ concerns are satisfied enough that they don’t try to put pressure to either make me stop or to have their child put into the other teacher’s class.
  • Keeping my administrators in the loop. They are really trusting me to make this experiment, and I want to keep them honestly informed on how well or poorly the classes are doing. I told them at the outset that one of the reasons I wanted to try this with PAP Geometry is that it is not a prerequisite for anything else in the math curriculum–if I screw up, it shouldn’t affect them too much down the road. Obviously, all of us would like this to be successful, though.
  • I’m working through the problem sets right now, but obviously, I can’t wait for Twitter Math Camp in July!


One comment

  1. Ms Miller

    Terrific idea, good on you for convincing your administrator’s to let you structure your class this way. I also want to congratulate you (and them) for being brave enough to let this happen while another teacher is taking a different (more traditional) path. At every school I’ve been part of this kind of difference has struck fear in my teammates. As a department chair myself, I waffle between feeling brave enough to do strictly what I think is right, being a good teammate and only modifying what I do compared to others, or being a tough guy and ‘making’ my colleagues go along. I have never taken the third path because I know that this is not a formula for success for my colleagues or for their students. The second path is the easiest but it also feels like my students at times see me as a bit schizophrenic. I preach about process, I talk about problem-solving, but at times they simply get a slightly modified version of what they’d normally see anyway. Since I teach mostly jrs/srs in AP level classes, I worry that they would experience such a system shock in classes that are already stressful. These are tough decisions to make and I applaud you for such a thoughtful plan. Good luck to you and your students on this journey!

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