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Educon 2.1: Project Based Learning in the Mathematics Classroom

Brad Latimer, Kenneth Rochester and Caitlin Latimer talked about benchmark projects that they have used in their mathematics curriculum.
Note: This site has all of the sessions and streaming channels can be seen here.
Here are the project discriptions

Each kid picked a city and had to get data on temperature and sunset times. Then they needed to apply transformations to sin and cosin functions to match their

  • Graphs w/ functions and data
  • Process guide

Concept map tied to the rubric. Some students made brochure, some could create a presentation, etc...

Alison, a student who's project was featured took data and put it in Excel, then into Geo-Sketchpad, and used "Pages" in iWork to create the brochure. She wanted a print out that people could take with them and not need a computer.

What went well: Students grabbed a hold of it and were engaged. (In student journal entries), Open ended in how they would present the material, 5 core values were met very well. Essential questions went with the project, Formal peer editing and informal collaboration.

Room for Improvement: More formal collaboration (Student led workshops on the key ideas to make sure the mathmatical concepts were solid), Process and analysis on why sunset times are different and the impact on the graphs.

Rochester-Algebra II

Passionate about Football, Track and Field, and Math -PLEASE don't take away the fun out of math!!

Students go first...What would you do with this problem? The next day, pick the method you like best. Everytime a student says they can't teach it to someone else, they really don't get it.

Exponential Function (College Prepatory Mathematics-mapped the curriculum from here.) Spiraling...

Pros-Wasn't fun, students didn't enjoy it as much!


Showed that a student attempted a problem from a latter
What worked well- informal assessment let him know what they knew, the benchmark turned out, but wasn't sure what it would have been w/out his help.
Con-Creativity wasn't there, no joy in the benchmark...
Save notes on class blog.
Wiki is the text for each class.

In the future benchmark-

Thompson-Linear Modeling and Cell Phone Use in Algebra 1
Students tracked cell phone use for a month along w/ 2 other students, then looked at 3 different plans to explain pros and cons of using different plans.
Used Geometer Sketchpad, students and teacher shared what they learned.
What worked well-Great understanding of what kids knew, Students who did well will share w/rest of class why. Some questions and answers were brilliant
What needs to change-Differentiate for kids who get it (compare other things like Netflix or other topics, and kids divide up to explore those projects)

Balancing formal assessments in a project based school:

  • Most of the time, quizes and tests assess knowledge level, Projects move to the application level
  • Vary everything, small quizes, large, partner quizes. By varying the formal assessment they get a better picture of where kids are at.
  • Use formal assessment to serve student learning

Comparing formal assessment with project based assessments

Formal assess skills, classwork every day, but randomly some count, "rough drafts are 80%"

What happens when projects are not well designed?

Shared a geometry project from 1st quarter, where students were supposed to look for geometry out in the real world. Ultimately it didn't really relate to what they had been learning. Collaborated w/ all teachers in the building and got ideas on improving. Some students got it, but not enough scaffolding for those who didn't.

How do you make the shift to Project based learning?

It's about solving problems, one way is by making it authentic and directly related to the application of their learning to real life problems.

(They're building the plane in the air here!)

How do you change to free up time for the projects?-

UBD! Wiggins-Don't treat your curriculum as getting through the book.

Students need immediate feedback

Students in here are great! "We are required to put it up. Let us do it first and then go back and show us. Warm ups on the board let us know what to do every day while teacher is checking work and taking attendance. "

Now we broke up into groups and created Google Docs to post to the wiki.

Our idea: Use Scratch for students to simulate a real world phenomenon like a roller coaster, or gravity, accelleration/decelleration utilizing the formulas they have learned in Algebra.

Another: Stairways and ramps at a school, that were put in for ADA, and they then looked at the slope of ramps and stairs and looked to see which ones met code, and compared it to others in the neighborhood.

Another: Global Climate change data, research temperatures in different time frames to test, collaborate together for the final timeline

So how do you get people to buy in to this? (It's December, we need to be teaching sin and cosin!)

  1. Align to state standards
  2. How long would it take to teach these standards traditionally?
  3. Traditional only covers knowledge, it doesn't really take that much longer, and you get to a higher level of thinking!

Student: "Why are we holding on to this traditional "Standardized Test" system when it isn't working?"

Projects won't be perfect first time around, but if you begin with the standard, you'll be moving in the right direction!!


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