Consultants… and Student Interest

After school today, we had consultants come talk to us about the new 7-day rotating schedule that we’re adopting next year (each class meets 5 out of the 7 days, and those five classes will be 50, 50, 50, 50, and 90 minutes. (Yup, one big block.) The reason that this is under “one good thing” is that the consultants were actual normal teachers who have undergone this transition — and they focused on specific challenges they faced and what worked to deal with these challenges and what didn’t work. The best part was that one of the four teachers they brought in was a math teacher, so for the hour they gave us to think some stuff through, me and others in the Upper School math department just talked with him. Love it!


Today was the deadline for kids to send me revised proposals and rubrics for their second Explore Math. (I just sent emails with feedback to each student on their proposals/rubrics tonight.) This is optional[1] and involves doing one in-depth exploration on something they are passionately curious about or interested in. Thus far, some of the ideas that students are considering exploring:

  • Powerball Lottery
  • The Player Efficiency Rating in basketball
  • “Park effects” on how that affects hitting averages in baseball
  • The Lorentz contraction (weirdnesses in space-time)
  • The Collatz conjecture
  • The mathematics/accounting behind the scenes of a restaurant
  • Creating meaningful math questions that provoke conversations around social justice
  • Creating a 5-piece photography exhibition where each photograph illustrates an interesting mathematical idea
  • Creating 3 mathematical sculptures, and then doing a little work calculating the angles that polyhedra faces make with each other for a few simple polyhedra
  • Analyzing a weird phenomena that a student noticed in a physics program he wrote which has a bunch of wheels connected to each other, each spinning with a motor

The honest truth is I don’t know if any of these will actually get done. But I’ve met with each of these students, and they’ve expressed their ideas and we’ve refined them, and they have each written a mini-prospectus and their own rubric on how they want to be graded. So I think they’re invested. They’re definitely interested. We’ll see how the follow through is, however. But heck if I don’t even care. Just looking at this list, and meeting with my kids, has made me so happy because it shows me there is intellectual curiosity still in them, and that school hasn’t killed it all. I sometimes worry about that. Yeah.

[1] It can boost their grades, but not by extra credit. It will count as a mini-mini assessment that will be graded and added to their quarter assessments… so if they do well, it can boost their assessment average by adding an additional mini-mini-assessment to the mix.


4 thoughts on “Consultants… and Student Interest

  1. So many things I like about this post. First, I am curious about the ideas the math teacher gave you for the block class – we are going to 4 periods a day, alternating days (kids take 8 credits). I have been in a block, but we met every day. Did any challenge/ideas stand out in particular?

    • Ooops! Sorry for the delay. Yes, one of the ideas was to break the 90 minute class into a regular 50 minute class (where you continue teaching like you normally would) and then for the extra 40 minutes, teach something totally different… Like a mini-seminar, divorced from the current unit. And have that mini-seminar be ongoing during every 40 minute “block”…

      • That sounds like it would really encourage student engagement. I have four days next week where I will have each class for 3 hours ( rotating each day for gateway testing). I am relying on a pattern from my graduate classes – change every 3o minutes. Up, at seat, moving, matching, puzzles, sharing, etc. The idea is to review in short activities. We have four topics to be covered, so I am hoping to hit two each day this week, then the other two the week we come back from Spring break. Same types of activities, but one hour each day. Formative assessment: short quizzes – I love Kahoot! And some kinetic relay games to give them a break. I plan to blog thru the week about what is working/what’s not. This is Alg II stuff, so any ideas you have would be appreciated! I love what you are doing with your geom and precalc! (I love both subj. and hope to teach them again!)

  2. Second, I like the way you add the separate activity into a “mini, mini” grade that can add to their assessment piece. Thank you for sharing the topics, too. We have our county assessment SPG on April 20. After that, class is pretty much out for the students, and I think a mini task, of their choosing, to count towards the class final, might just be the thing to keep them engaged until class is legally done.

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