Well, today was a bit of a let down after the good things I have been seeing happening in my classes. Like Justin though, I realize that not everything can go well all the time. Today in my algebra classes we were working on composite transformations. They had been doing really well on transformations so I thought this would be review and smooth for them. All of a sudden everyone forgot everything and learned helplessness was rampant. I asked them to pull out their notebooks where they had recorded the steps and previous transformations to help them. No one could do this until I personally walked to each desk and asked them one by one, waited until they pulled it out, and turned to the page where the instructions were. This took a good part of the period, so as you can imagine, not much was accomplished. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

In my 3rd period geometry class the geometric mean exploration went very well. Students really dug in and were working hard at following the steps, making observations and working their way to the proportions. In the last two classes it was a completely different story. One girl became very upset and angry that I would not tell her the answers or the point of the exploration. She was quite rude to me and this caused a couple of other students to chime in. I stopped the class, explained that this is a discovery assignment and that there will be times in life when discovery will be an important skill. I actually told them to come to class tomorrow with better attitudes. How do you like that one Justin?

They are kids, and because of that there will be good days and bad. We all have to learn to adjust to exterior factors which can greatly affect our attitudes and willingness to interact with each other humanely. Even me.

Tomorrow is another day.

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I’ve found my Geometry students frequently get frustrated at “discovery” based assignments. They find it frustrating that, unlike in Algebra, there’s not always a step-by-step method for doing things. We just finished a unit on special quadrilaterals, specifically the rhombuses, and the class got into a huge argument over one problem.

We were looking at the diagonal of a rhombus to solve some algebra problem regarding the angles it bisects, and the class divided into three camps:

1) Look at the triangle the diagonal creates to add all angles to 180

2) Use the parallel lines cut by a transversal theorem to note same side interior angles add up to 180

3) “Just tell us what to do this is hard I don’t like it.”

This is an honors course, no less. So I spent a day linking parallel lines and triangles and showing the two ideas were precisely the same, just different applications (they’d already seen how parallel lines were used to prove interior angles of a triangle add to 180).

Meanwhile, in Algebra I, they never stop asking questions. We factored simple quadratics, and they wanted to know what if it was an x^4, or what if it had a negative exponent, or what if it was an x^5, and so I talked about even and odd exponents for quadratics and how patterns needed to develop to factor it correctly or else it couldn’t. They’re always trying to push in all sorts of directions, which is great!

And one class isn’t better than the other. Both of these groups are great–it just amazes me how Geometry can quickly frustrate students who are just used to Algebra’s “here’s a method, apply the method, here’s why the method is useful/works” approach.

This is so true. I love the possibilities that geometry has for great discoveries, but you’ve really hit the nail on the head, they want a formula which works for any and all circumstances. The students who can move beyond this and begin to see the wonderful things geometry has to offer are often surprised and thrilled that they did.

Thanks for your note. Appreciate the feedback.

[…] they love to discover. Looking here, I was reminded of how this is very true in Geometry. I’m in charge of the honors course, […]