lim joe→∞

Teaching, Mathematics and Teaching Math.

Archive for August, 2012

The “unfailable” test

Posted by forumjoe on August 22, 2012

Disclaimer: Some kids still failed!*

Background: My Year 8 Modified Maths class is a class of 11 kids who really struggle in mainstream maths classes.  Numeracy issues, learning issues, concentration issues and motivational issues abound in these kids and god I love ’em.  They’re the best benchmark for whether activities are engaging or because they’ll definitely tell you what they think, and they’ve got very high standards for quality.

They don’t want to sit reassessments, they do bare minimum homework and class work so many reassessment opportunities are not taken advantage of.  The assessment for each unit has to be comprehensive and self-managable. I’m sick of being helpful and avuncular with these kids! I’m trying to get them away from asking “how do I do it” for every single question on the test.

The Test:

So here’s a test I created.  Within the assessment itself, it steps the students through the methods and techniques.  This is AFTER we’ve been studying this stuff for a couple of weeks, so they really just need a reminder.  Most of them really enjoyed the test and said it was “easy” (even though they found the unit “hard”).

It could be argued that this process takes too much independent thought away from the students.  Is it really an assessment if it tells them how to do it in the previous sentence?   We’re not assessing if they can remember how to do it, we’re really assessing how well they can follow instructions.

It could also be argued that the instructions are too complex and can not be followed by students with literacy issues. This is true, and I’m not really sure how to fix this. I want to make the instructions Hemingway-esque, but I also want to make sure they’re explicit. I think I failed at this, because I still got kids asking questions. So in short, I like the method of instructions on tests, but I dislike the implementation in this case.

My rationale for giving such detailed instructions is that they’re still demonstrating understanding, and that’s the important thing.  I still had students struggle to understand how to do the process, and I think that the marks they received are an accurate reflection of their understanding (which is the whole point).  None took me up on a further reassessment opportunity. 😦

So here’s the document.  I’d love to read your feedback in the comments. At the risk of being vainglorious, I will state that my disclaimer was just to reduce my boast. I really did have no kids fail this test!
Please note: The pagination stuffed up a bit in the import to scribd, so ignore it if the paging is weird.

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New Beginnings

Posted by forumjoe on August 21, 2012

Well, I haven’t posted here in 6 months.  I know a number of blogs that don’t post anything for a while and come back with “Sorry I haven’t posted anything for a while” and then go back to dormancy.  Repeat.  I’m determined not to do that.

There are lots of reasons I haven’t posted much (usually because I feel disconnected from the edublogosphere due to teaching under a totally different system) but now I’m using Sam J Shah’s New Blogger Initiation to motivate myself and see if this thing clicks with me.

want to use this blog to help critically reflect on my teaching, to inspire new methods and resources and to share advice on teachings techniques.  It’s only useful if it’s updated regularly, so lets try again.

It starts simply.  Many of the options to make my first post about were based around people starting a new school year.  Being an Australian, we’re in the middle of the toughest part of the year.  Lots of tests coming up, about to have a two-week break, don’t even have time to scratch myself.  So I picked the easy and relavent option to start with:

lim joe→∞

First goal: Explain the title of your blog.

When I was starting my blog (nearly 3 years ago) I asked friends for suggestions.  I got two great ones from @straaken http://brnz.org/hbr/  “Blogorithm” (or “Blogorhythm”) and “Lim Joe Approaches Infinity”.

I liked the first one for the punniness, but it would be more appropriate for a music/maths blog.  It didn’t seem too appropriate for me.  But the second one stuck.  It was Mathsy, it was nerdy and it was appropriate for me.  It signified growth, it showed that I’m getting older, do I get wiser at the same time?  As my age approaches infinity, does my wisdom?  I loved the sort of questions this title signified.  I tweaked it a bit to have a different url that still made sense, and there we have it.

I’m not proud of how much I’ve updated the blog over the years.  I’m not proud of how much I strayed from the core concept of teaching.  But I am proud of quite a few posts here, and most of all I’m proud of the title.  Thanks Straaks!  I’ll buy you a beer next time you’re in Hobart.

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