Tuesday, January 28, 2014

My Math Pledge

I've never really thought about this before. In algebra, there are so many ways to solve problems.

Isn't that supposed to be the beauty of it? Isn't that the focus of new math standards?

It is and it is. So why, then, when I give my kids tests, do they include sections such as Solve each system of equations graphically  and then two problems later Solve each system of equations using substitution and THEN (can you guess it?) Solve each system of equations using elimination ?? Why, why, why?

I just finished teaching my unit on slopes and graphing linear equations. I spent quite a bit of energy emphasizing how COOL it is that they get to CHOOSE their favorite way of approaching a problem. I mean, that is cool, isn't it? Don't give me that look - I get it enough from my students! I used this quote a lot over the last month: If you're a numbers person, do it algebraically! If you're a picture person, do it graphically! Or choose your preference based on how the question is asked - I literally do not care!  And I don't! I want them to be comfortable and use whatever method worked for them. I give my personal preference because they ask - if they give me a graph, I use rise-over-run. If they give me points, I use delta y - over - delta x. We solve equations both ways. We sometimes use both to verify answers. SO MANY OPTIONS!

So I started to look at the test I had prepared. It gave specific directions on how to solve equations. It use to be important to me that my students prove they could use EVERY method. Then I started to question my methods. The purpose is to give students the tools they need to succeed, not to make them masters of everything! Let's be honest, if you are more comfortable watering a plant using a glass of water, would you also go out and get the hose to do the same job? No, we choose the best method.

If I tell my students which method to use, how will they ever learn how to figure out which method is best?

My #mathpledge is to stop giving my students so much direction. I've given them the tools, and if they understand the topic, they will know how to use those tools to choose the best method. Or they will use what they are comfortable with. As long as they get to the answer and understand how they got there, that's all that matters.

What's your #mathpledge?

This topic makes me think about this blog post I also read about making students show their work. I'm still working on that one.