Today's Algebra class takes place in the computer lab for the first time this year. We'll return here weekly for the duration of this Statistics unit, after which I'll assess how things are working out and decide on the role I think the computer lab should play moving forward. There are all sorts of great tools online for helping students explore mathematics, and today I'll introduce them to one staple: Delta Math.
As students arrive, these instructions are on the front board. I tell students to sit wherever they'd like, and to follow the instructions. It's important to use Google Chrome or Firefox, because the web site is not currently compatible with Internet Explorer.
Check out my narrative video to see the steps that students should take to get set up, and an explanation of how to help students who don't have their own email address.
The modules in the linear equation practice assignment that I've set up are designed to help students become more confident at solving one and two-step linear equations. My goal is for everyone to improve enough that we'll able to see that improvement when we compare box plots for Linear Practice #1 and Linear Practice #2. This online assignment allows students to practice at whatever level they need. As they solve five equations correctly at each level, they can move on to the next type of problem. The Delta Math web site is about functionality over form, and I really like how its simple design draws attention to the task at hand rather than dressing it up with gimmicks. There is just the right amount of game-design to draw kids in. As they complete each level, they can see those results, and it's almost impossible for them not to want to continue "leveling-up".
I highly recommend checking out deltamath.com for yourself. The creator of the web site, Zach Korzych, includes videos to help teachers get started. For a quick overview of what's under the hood, you can also check out my video tour.
Once everyone has been working for a while (approximately 20 minutes in to the class) — I ask students to take out the data collection sheets they received on Monday. I say that as they continue to work at their computers, I'll come around to return Linear Practice #1 from yesterday. As I circulate, I find students who have already taken out their data collection sheet so I can show them how to record this data as I return their work. I have some students who have done quite well, others who turned in completely blank work yesterday, and a wide array of students in between. With all students, I have them record the data for this first trial, and I ask, "Can you do better tomorrow?" I want all students to see a connection between the work they're doing right now, and what will hopefully be a visible improvement tomorrow, when they try Linear Practice #2.
I don't debrief the particular errors I've seen in assessing Linear Practice #1, because I hope that Delta Math is helping with that. I have catalogued those errors, however, and these notes will help me decide how to focus our work in an upcoming lesson.
With a little less than five minutes left in class, I ask for everyone's attention. It's hard to get everyone, because some students are so engaged in trying to solve a few more problems, but it's really important to debrief today's work, rather than just letting class come to an end.
As a way of debrief, I say to the class, "Stand up if you were mad today." It's a funny thing about working with a computer: you can't argue with it. If you misplace a negative sign, if you write a fraction upside-down, if your decimal place is just a little off, the computer can't give you the benefit of the doubt and make some assumption about you were thinking. It's 1's and 0's. This can be frustrating for my kids. Two-thirds of them stand up.
"Great!" I say, which makes some kids laugh and makes other tilt their heads sideways. "Being mad is the first step toward learning something. It's the first step toward getting better." I pause. I want someone to argue with me or to support my argument. Sometimes they do, and we can take the conversation from there.
If that doesn't happen, I ask, "Why was the light bulb invented?" I let a few students answer, and then I shout, "Because people were mad that it was so dark at night!" I know I'm massively bending a paraphrasing history, but I'm proving a point to my kids. "Why were cars invented?" I ask, and now kids get the point. They answer, "Because people were pissed off about having to walk everywhere!"
"Right," I say. "If you’re mad right now, you’re ready to learn something. So nice work today." I give my goofiest high-fives of the year as kids leave.