I have gathered quizzes that relate directly to the upcoming midterm, as well as included a sample midterm. Please feel free to use these for practice! If you have trouble with the material, visit this page for additional resources. Don’t forget to grab a free version of wolfram alpha pro to help you if you’re enrolled at San Francisco State University!
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I’m wondering how group activities can be done with 40+ students; I often give short, paired activities during lecture, which (hopefully) helps with engagement, but if I want to give a longer “exploration” activity in class, there are challenges.
Checking in with each group is takes a significant amount of time, scaling linearly. I tried to keep group size to 3-4 students, but dividing students into groups of 4-5 lead to having about 8-10 groups. The down time caused some groups to finish faster than others. There must be an optimal ratio for the number of students to square foot of classroom. I currently have 40 students, but the rooms are a lot smaller than the previous semester, I must alter the group activity plans. I also had 80 minutes sessions on Tues/Thurs instead of 50 and a much larger classroom for discussions/group work in the 4th hour. My lesson plans will require more adjustments, I suspect.
Some groups had members forging ahead before everyone understood, and that’s always a challenge as well. I wonder if larger groups are a good idea, because conversations between more than 5 students often turn to a few pairs and few solo working in parallel…
Clarity: Instruction and Feedback
This time around, when I lead the group activity I focused on the clarity of my instructions, and I’m trying a different approach this semester compared to last. Previously, I gave handouts with specific procedure, but it was confusing for some students. This time, I tried a different approach, where I verbally and visually give instructions on the board and forgo all printed handouts in order to allow for students to make their own notes instead of using data sheets. I think I might bring back the data sheet for the later activities, so that the students can know what I specifically expect from them. I should specify that students should use technology to assist in graphing and calculations.
In terms of feedback, I tried to ask questions and check for understanding, but the number of groups is high, which means I must spend less time per group, or make the group size larger. If I maintain that the groups have no more than 5 people, then I will have at least 8 groups – which can cause my feedback to the students to be less precise and more brief. Perhaps I can take a vote with my students, to see if they prefer trying larger groups, given the challenges above?
Looking back, I admire my high school teachers who managed to deal with 30 students at a time, and were able to conduct experiments in labs, with open flames, too.
When I was in my late teens to early twenties, I knew I liked math but I wanted to try everything that would require application of math: I jumped from applied math to physics to engineering. I loved the process of learning, and I took a lot of different classes, and by the time I was halfway through the second semester of Mechanical Engineering courses, I finally realized that I was only really interested in the math, and talking about the math.
Then today, I went digging through my time-capsules on the internet. I have blogs scattered across a lot of different platforms, and I found this post over on Hubpages that I wrote in 2009. I’m pretty sure this reaffirms that I’ve always wanted to teach math.
Looking back, I’m glad that I took a long, winding path. I needed to grow a lot spiritually and emotionally before I was ready to take on teaching. Hopefully I’ll maintain my capacity for growth in the upcoming years.
Teacher Evaluations are out at SFSU. 😀
From my students’ responses, I learned that I can improve in the following ways:
- Plan what I will write on the board in more detail instead of such a rough sketch,
- “Don’t let nerves cause mistakes” – definitely happened 2-3 times where I did a problem incorrectly because I tried to wing it on the board…
- More intensive examples that can tie different concepts together before the midterm (where they do see synthesized word problems),
- On Universal Design:
- Group work that involve manipulatives, geared for kinesthetic/tactile learners,
- Audio / Visual learners balance – I tend to write a conclusion and verbally say a paragraph of explanations.
- On Long Term Planning:
- More group work for inverse trig functions and beyond,
- Maybe building a story that can be used for the concept questions during class?
- Manage expectations earlier – students will need to work and figure out a lot of stuff on their own,
- Create systems that can help students organize all the information – give suggestions on how to take notes, maybe?
- Give more time to do Chapters 4-6, Trigonometry chapters of the book.
- On Class Policy:
- Attendance and participation should be recorded more in detail,
- Be better about grading and returning stuff promptly – I definitely procrastinate on handing back quizzes sometimes. (No one complained about this but I still feel bad about it.)
Looking forward to teaching next semester! I will teach one class of precalculus and TA one section of Calc II. I wonder how different TA’ing for Calculus II will feel. 🙂