Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Student Journal: Rational Approximations (Day 25)

There are several things I wish to discuss in today's post. First of all, my "Day in the Life" links are now visible at the Tina Cardone's official website:

And let's celebrate my official joining of Cardone's project with a link to another participant, Wendy Menard, whose monthly posting date is today, the 21st:

Menard is a New York high school teacher. She begins her September 21st post by announcing that it's also her daughter's 25th birthday -- maybe that's why she chose the 21st:

Here are a few interesting things I found in Menard's post. First of all, she writes that she always begins the day with a math problem whose answer is -- you guessed it, the date. As it turns out, I'm not doing it that much anymore. The problems I gave were too easy when it's already known that the answer is the date, plus I'm supposed to be giving warm-up problems from the Illinois State text.

Menard teaches Algebra II, which is learning about linear systems, as well as "Discrete Math." She writes that "Discrete Math" (which is learning about "matrix logic") is considered to be a downgrade from Algebra II -- and indeed, some students are disappointed that they can't take the higher course.

The next thing I want to discuss is the school calendar. As it turns out, the LAUSD school board has just approved a new school calendar for next year. There has been a strong enough opposition to the Early Start Calendar that the board voted to start school gradually later. The first day of school will be August 22nd, 2017 and then August 28th, 2018 -- just one week before Labor Day. Recall that I work at a charter school, not LAUSD -- but since my school is co-located, there's a good chance that it will follow suit and start later as well.

I'm actually curious what will happen to Admissions Day on the new calendar. It seems awkward to have three days of school followed by a four-day weekend. Perhaps "Admissions Day" will be mysteriously moved to make Veteran's Day weekend or spring break longer, as in other districts.

Normally I'd call a calendar that starts the fourth week of August a "Middle Start" Calendar. But somehow, it's stated that first semester finals will still take place before Christmas. Notice that this year, the fall "semester" is only 79 days long -- so this means that in two years, the first semester will only be about 70 days long, unless there some other changes (such as the shortening of Thanksgiving or winter break).

No, 70 out of 180 days is not half of the year, but it is much closer to two-fifths of the year. This is why I still say that the best way to deal with the problem with trying to squeeze a full semester between Labor Day (or just before it) and Christmas is to divide the year into five "quinters" rather than four quarters. Then the second quinter can take place before Christmas, while the fourth quinter can finish before AP and SBAC testing. The fifth quinter can be reserved for testing, credit recovery, and other end-of-year activities.

I'm still a little upset that my best eighth grader is no longer a student at my school. Our English teacher saw the girl walking to school one day, but she never arrived at our school, and the next thing we hear about her is that she attends another school. I was looking forward to teaching her Algebra I and recommending her to take Geometry next year, but now she's gone. Of course, it's still possible that I might help another student with Algebra I this year -- and even before this year began, I wrote on the blog that I wanted to try teaching some Algebra I to my eighth graders -- especially during the statistics unit. But still, the obvious student to give such lessons to is no longer here.

In class today, I begin having the students work out of the so-called "Student Journals," which are really just alternate textbooks. The traditional lesson for eighth graders is on rational approximations to irrational numbers, following the standard:

Use rational approximations of irrational numbers to compare the size of irrational numbers, locate them approximately on a number line diagram, and estimate the value of expressions (e.g., π2). For example, by truncating the decimal expansion of √2, show that √2 is between 1 and 2, then between 1.4 and 1.5, and explain how to continue on to get better approximations.

I continue to use the extra Wednesday block I have with eighth graders for science. But this time, I don't give a lesson from Sarah Carter, who is still working on things like scientific notation and significant figures. The goal is to get to the computer lesson on forces and motion.

I decide to give my students guided notes as found in the following link:

Let's see whether this will help them do well on the computer lesson next week. But as it turns out, our mixed-up Wednesday schedule may finally be getting fixed. I might get to teach my seventh graders math rather than just watch them do music, but it could be at the cost of not seeing my eighth graders that extra block.

Still, I'm going to give my eighth graders the science lesson no matter what, since they'll need it for the NGSS test in May.

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