Monday, January 9, 2012

Looking ahead

Today's our first day of semester exams. We always have exams the second week back after our winter break - I really wish we could do them before going on break, but it's always been this way and probably always will. My first class of precalc kids are currently working on it (I just finished up the answers and was pleased to only find one easily-corrected mistake on the test itself.... probably a record for me!).  This is the first time I've split an exam into calculator and non-calculator portions even though my tests normally are. I'm happy with the non-calculator part but think the calculator part is too easy.  Oh well - that can be fixed for next year!

In the next month or so we'll start scheduling next year's classes.  I've already started thinking about this a bit because for the first time this year we have an AP Calc BC course available. It was a last-minute thing last year so I didn't have time to really think about who should be in it; a handful of my precalc kids really stood out and wanted to take it. This year, though, it's constantly been in the back of my mind who I think is ready and able.

There are still some obvious choices. The kids who fly through everything with straight 98+ grades and love to actually think about math are definitely in.  There are two types of students in particular that I'm going to struggle with.

Type 1.  The under-achievers.  I have a few students this year who are obviously very very smart.
Two problems:  
1.  They're more of the "out of the box" type learner. They look beyond the typical problem to the "what if" type situation. It's an awesome thing to see, but when going to such a straight-forward-prepare-for-an-AP-exam type class (with a teacher who is very by-the-book, notation-is-key (because she has to be to get them ready for the test)) I don't know how that would work.
2.  These kids are under-achieving. They're not my highest-scoring students. In fact, one of the smartest thinkers has gotten B's both quarters because he doesn't really pay attention to the details.  That could be a problem.

Type 2.  The sophomores.  I have 2 sophomores in my classes (out of 94 total kids).  One does ok and I'll definitely recommend him for Calc AB but not BC.  The other does great but I don't think she's really learned anything since being with me.  She does a lot of outside work with math and was involved in some sort of college summer program.  She was moved into my class a month or so into school after starting out in our college prep precalc and blowing everyone else out of the water.  She's done really well in my class (A average on tests and quizzes) but doesn't work. Most days in class she sits with her head down (sleeping?) and homework completion is iffy. It's really hard for me to see what's going to happen when she hits something that she hasn't learned previously.  (She just asked me what multiplicity means in terms of zeros and didn't know why the zeros don't matter when talking increasing/decreasing/constant.) I feel like she's just relying on what she already knows.

My plan is to give the kids the opportunity to tell me what class they're interested in before I start giving my input. I'm going to give them this document to help them get an idea of what's involved and them get their feedback.  Hopefully some things will shake out from there!

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