What Do We Do With The Seniors?
Robert Loew, High School Math Teacher
Loew and his colleagues wanted more options for students who finished Precalculus during their third year of high school (or earlier) but who weren’t going on to a STEM major and didn’t want to take Calculus. They came up with two.
1. Math Analysis
College prep. Approved by the University of California for a-g credit.
One semester of “Calculus Lite,” heavy on application, light on theory, including:
- continuity and limits,
- average/instantaneous rates of change,
- the derivative as the rate of change at a point,
- basic rules for differentiation, including the chain rule,
- the meaning of extreme values,
- the meaning and use of the first and second derivatives,
- the integral as the cumulative effect of change / area under the curve.
One semester of “other math topics,” including:
- management science,
- Eulerian and Hamiltonian circuits,
- critical path scheduling,
- game theory and negotiation,
- the prisoner’s dilemma (as it applies to arms negotiation),
- fair division (as it applies to settling an estate between three heirs),
- the time value of money,
- models for saving and investment (as they apply to calculating the value of a stock, the greater fool theory),
- decision analysis.
- Calculus and Its Applications. Marvin Bittinger. Addison-Wesley.
- For All Practical Purposes. W.H. Freeman. Addison-Wesley.
2. Problem Solving
Approved for elective credit. These are techniques for solving problems that aren’t neatly defined, for answering the question “what do you do when you don’t know what to do?” The course emphasizes both individual initiative and group collaboration, rewarding creativity and divergent thinking.
- Draw a Diagram
- Systematic Lists
- Eliminate Possibilities
- Matrix Logic
- Look for Patterns
- open ended inquiry / divergent thinking,
- tolerance for ambiguity,
- sustained effort,
- many students will be uncomfortable and “may need to be filtered out.”
- Problem Solving Strategies. Ted Herr and Ken Johnson. Key Curriculum Press.
I applaud this kind of curriculum design but it seems a shame to me that students who aren’t already tolerant of ambiguity or already patient in their problem solving “may need to be filtered out” of a class designed to teach tolerance of ambiguity and patience in problem solving especially since those seniors have likely been indoctrinated with those bad habits by eleven years in the very same school system.
PowerPoint. Texty. Comic Sans.
PowerPoint printouts. An interesting tactic here: he withheld the handouts until the very end and passed them out only in exchange for a completed session review slip. Seems to me to miss the point of handouts as another space to interact with ideas, but whatev.
- A family of deer skipped across the path as I walked to this session. The grounds here are incredible.