Last day of alternate placement

Today was my last day of alternate placement.  I am both excited and sad.  Excited, because starting next week I get to settle into a placement that I think will suit me very well.  Sad, because I have had an incredible two weeks at my current placement.  I feel like I have begun to develop a real connection with the teachers and many of the students.  I know I will miss them.

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Sometimes small thing strike me as having a lot of significance.  Today, during fourth period, I saw a female student with a shirt that read, “It’s not how good you are, it’s how bad you want it.”  I love this so much, I want to make a poster for my classroom that says this.  I think this is an excellent counter to students who seem to believe that they were just born lacking the ability to do math.  I don’t believe anyone is born this way, since mathematics largely about patterns, and we are at heart pattern recognition masters.

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One of the major differences I’ve noticed between the suburban junior high I was at and my alternate placement was how much more choice the students have at the semi-urban high school.  This is partly due to sheer size (1800 students versus 800), and partly to the nature of the high school.  But I think part of it is a decision on the part of either the district, the school, the department, or all three.  For example, the traditional sequence of classes at this school is:

  • Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Advanced Algebra/Trigonometry
  • Precalculus
  • Calculus

Students have a couple of other interesting options, however.  Because the students are only required to take three years of math, the school offers an alternative to Advanced Algebra.  For those students who have taken and passed Algebra and Trigonometry, they can take a class called Mathematical Modeling.  This class consists entirely of data analysis.  Much of the data is generated by the students themselves.  For example, I observed students today outside walking around campus, measuring distance by pacing.  After taking these measurements, they would go into the classroom and share results, displaying them graphically and discussing why there might be variability in their results.

A second option, for those students who have passed Advanced Algebra, is to take Statistics instead of or prior to Calculus.  I had previously thought that Statistics was a class only offered to those students who were sufficiently advanced to have finished the “Calculus series.”

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