Friday, August 10, 2012

Why We Started This...

I have been a so called "lurker" for a few years now.  I've enjoyed the benefits of reading other math teachers' blogs and borrowing their ideas.  Through reading the blogs, I decided to open a twitter account and have enjoyed where that has taken me as well.  For some time I have wanted to start a blog, but never thought I could contribute anything of value to the mathblogosphere.  Well three things changed that thinking for me:

  1. I'm not doing this alone.  Another teacher and I will be tag-teaming this endeavor and hopefully between the two of us you'll be able to get something halfway decent out of this blog.   
  2. Sam gave us the kick in the pants we needed with his call for new bloggers.  My colleague and I were talking about starting a blog all summer so I guess this is what we needed.  
  3. In my Precalc class we're starting a new project-based learning idea that was inspired by Sam's MV Calculus projects, and also by a TED talk on motivation.  I definitely wanted to record how this idea pans out, and I'm hoping that a blog will be the best way to do that.
I guess I'll try to give a very brief description of what we're going to try to do in Precalc, but I'm sure this will be a work in progress all year.  First off, the class is a Junior level course, and it's the only section in the school.  (There are other Precalc courses, but those are mostly seniors.)  For the first time this year we are going to track these students to go into an AP Calc BC course the following year and they'll be the only students in this course.  Thus our thinking is that we can make this course different.  If you watched the TED talk I linked above it talks about how Google has "20% days"where their employees have to spend 20% of their working time not working on work! Ha!  I should have went and worked for them.  Actually another teacher in my school spent this summer working with a friend who works for Google on one of his 20% projects.  So through all of this we decided to implement "Google Days" in my Precalc class.  (Google, please don't sue us!)  I don't think that we'll be able to do a Google Day every Friday, so maybe we'll do 10% and do every other Friday or something.  The students will have all year to work on one project or more depending on how this all plays out.  Each student will have an Advisor, a math teacher who will help oversee the project, and I'm envisioning total freedom (fingers crossed) on what they turn in for a grade.  It's going to be a a big undertaking but we're all very excited about this.  If it works well this year, we're going to try to implement it in other classes next year.

There are some things that we need to think about as we begin:

  • How do we introduce this?  What is the structure going to be like? We need to have this down soon!  School starts in just over 3 weeks.
  • How do we create a common rubric that is flexible enough to adapt to many different types of projects (i.e. skits, papers, physical constructions, etc.)
  • How do we get the students excited about a topic?  There's so much out there that they probably don't know (and that we as teachers don't know either!) so how do we create the desire to always dig deeper and keep learning about their topic even when the going gets tough?  Also, how do we incorporate challenging math topics when these students haven't had Calculus yet?
It feels great to get this blog going.  Thanks Sam for initiating this!


  1. Woo! Excited to see what comes out of this blog throughout the year(s).

    BTW, the 20% idea is not unique to google. It is often referred to as "bootlegging" and was used at 3M and HP (amongst others) before Google.

    Best of luck!

    1. Thanks Matt! Ya it mentions other companies in the video that do bootlegging, and mentions Results-Only Work Environment or ROWE. Make sure you comment on here often!

  2. Great start Edgren. A very interesting concept. Can't wait to see how it pans out throughout the year.

  3. Hello from a fellow former lurker! Looking forward to hearing about your project-based learning.

    1. Great! We're excited to try it out this year. It's a little scary, but it will be worth it.