Mathematics and the net generation – not in textbook exercises

So, in a few weeks time I’ll be teaching mathematics to high school kids. Almost certainly grades 8 & 9 (find out next week). I’ve been doing a bit of reading and have joined various online groups. Last week I purchased a couple of textbooks used in local schools to refresh my knowledge and see what’s being covered.

As it happens I started looking in the textbook for ideas for a video. In this post I was playing with What can you do with this (WCYDWT) idea from Dan Meyer. That’s when I came across this problem

Ying has five 90-minute cassettes that have been partly filled with recordings

I’ll stop there, I’m trying to imagine explaining to a 13 year old kid that doesn’t see the relevance of mathematics what a cassette is. I was a late adopter of CDs, and I don’t think I was buying cassettes after 1995. a 13yo will have been born in 1997/1998.

The “net generation” and “they think differently due to technology” has been getting a run in the some of the courses we’re taking. It seems that message hasn’t gotten through to the textbook folk.

Though, I do have to admit, that coming up with a textbook’s worth of authentic exercises and examples that can be fit within the constraints of a commercial textbook, is not a challenge I want to take on anytime soon.

Two questions down, there is a similar question, but this time it’s a 3-hour videotape.

4 thoughts on “Mathematics and the net generation – not in textbook exercises

  1. Even Dan recommends that you only need one cracker of an example every couple of lessons or so (I think it was in this presentation). I’ve taken that to mean about one a week, but even that has been hard to hit once the term starts. Need preparation time …

    OTOH, questions about videos and cassettes can be easily skipped over as the context works against making the problem worthwhile solving.

    I’ve also found that I tend to drift into “school problems” where you look at things around a school environment. It’s much better if the context is familiar to everyone, yet outside the school gates so they see that this is practical stuff. Unfortunatley that means getting to know the kids a lot better than I do now. More preparation time …

    1. G’day Tony,

      I take the point about 1 a week or so. The WCYDWT type problem does seem to lend itself to that, a complement to more directed instruction. In the end I guess it will be a case of experimentation to see what works well for me and also the students.

      The question of common context is important. One of the examples that’s been used in one of the courses was the idea of how much paint to paint a house. In short, in the specific context it didn’t work well because the students had no experience of painting.

      Which is why I’m wondering about contexts that may not be common, but may have other educational benefits. e.g. the average household expenses comparison between 2011 and 1971 I suggested in another post. Many of the students (especially in Years 8/9) probably don’t have much of an idea of that context. But it strikes me as worthwhile to teach them a bit about it, get them thinking about it with a bit of mathematics.


  2. One of the coolest authentic experiences I had come up with this term was a look at tracking cyclone Yasi when it was just about to cross the coast (and how far away is was from Bundy). The unit was latitude & longitude, so it seemed almost made for the task. I failed to appreciate the sheer apathy of a 12 Maths A student, and it ended pretty badly.

    Other have been moderately successful, but it’s really a complete mental shift from what they are used to. I wish you every success, but getting the context right is a big deal in the reception of these types of tasks.

    Pretty burned out from first term .. might be a little more spritely after I’ve had time to reflect on it all and start again for next term.

    1. It’s this sort of stuff that is the “little fear” at the depths of my thinking.

      One of the points I’m going to make in the final reflective post is that I simply can’t make really informed design decisions about lesson plans or integrating technology because I still don’t have a good feel for the context. For the actual classes I’ll be teaching, the school, the kids, the resources, the sheer effort of teaching a full-time load etc.

      This type of knowledge will reveal all sorts of constraints and even enablers that will and should shape any designs. For now, I can choose to be unconstrained by those, but have to recognise reality will bit.

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