Tuesday, March 07, 2017


For the past few years I've taught only two courses--pre-calculus (incl. trig) and statistics.  As I'm our school's only stats teacher, I make all the decisions myself.  It might be nice to have someone to bounce ideas off of, but I end up doing ok.  I share pre-calculus with another teacher, though, and since the latest push is "equal educational experience", or something like that, we try to make our classes as much alike as possible.  So far that means collaborating on quizzes and tests, as well as giving them on the same day as each other.  It will mean more as time goes on.

The other teacher has a different philosophy of testing than I do.  He's more flexible than I am on the topic, though, so thankfully he compromises more than I do!  He used to give 2-day tests, now we give 1-day tests, for example.  And in many cases I come up with the problems, he types up the test or quiz, and then I format how I like (I like a definite place in which to put the answer, for example).  Then we give the assessment.

Recently we've been covering trigonometric sum and difference identities, double-angle and half-angle identities, and the like.  He's always been one to require students to memorize the formulas, whereas I'm not one much for memorizing things that students will use only once.  I can tell he didn't like compromising on that point, so I threw him a bone:  what if, instead of a bonus question on the test, we give bonus points if students opt to take the test without using the list of identities?  He liked it, we agreed on his determination of how many "bonus" points to grant for doing so, and that was that.



three of clubs said...

I have become more and more hard core on this and similar topics. The point of teaching moderately advanced math is not about getting answers, it's about developing the mental muscle to answer questions which we have not yet confronted.

Forget about cheat sheets, etc., and multiple retests (which I think you once described as recon) --- at what juncture is a 16 year old responsible enough to learn something which countless others did? Oh, and don't get me started on linear interpolation.

I have yet to see any evidence that American students are advancing as a result of changing teaching styles and technologies. And I am willing to bet
that the typical test you give in a precalculus class is much easier than the ones you took a few decades ago.

Anonymous said...

That's a fair compromise, but I find your policy reflects both the real world as well as my experience so far in universities. Most of my classes allowed us to write our own cheat sheets, or at the very least provided a list of transformations/formulas. And the tests were often hard enough anyway where it didn't matter.

Mr. W said...

ahhh the joys of PLCs. We are doing that here at our school too. We have all had the same pacing guides & grading scales since I have been here (13 years). Recently, there has been a push to get us to use the same tests and grade them the same way, even together. I think that is where our department draws the line. We try to make the chapter tests similar, but the teacher still has the final say.

Benchmarks & finals are a different beast, those are all identical and given within a day of each other, mainly if it falls on a block day.

Anna A said...

Three of Clubs,

It is not only math where the material is getting easier. I have seen the same thing in theology and chemistry. A friend confirmed that history is also being simplified.

I was horrified a number of years ago, when I had to replace an analytical chemistry book. I had copied a small section for reference before my boss lost the older book. The same section in the same text, just a newer edition was almost unrecognizable. I don't want to imagine what it is like now.

Darren said...

Given the difficulty I've had in my master's class the last few weeks, I'd hate to think that master's classes in math are getting easier!