I was at a training today where we were supposed to write a unit plan by first starting with the final outcome. This is pretty standard backward-planning good teacher practice, but the catch was that the outcome was required to be an interdisciplinary real-world activity that the kids could create and work with… not a math test.
I understand that this type of thing is excellent for children and how they learn. I understand that I should stop being such a stereotypical math teacher and start doing things like this. But I can’t.
The unit that would have been useful for me to plan would be my algebra unit in January. It’s where the kids are supposed to learn how to move between tables, graphs, equations, and written descriptions of linear equations. They should be able to continue and describe both numerical and visual patterns. They should be able to calculate slope and x and y intercepts from tables and graphs and equations. They should be able to write algebraic expressions, equations, and inequalities from word problems. They should be able to identify functions and linearity. They should be able to graph inequalities. They have about four weeks to learn all of that… and it’s not like they come with tons of background knowledge.
So forgive me, but I don’t want to waste time on a interdisciplinary project. I want them to learn how to do this and practice it. I’m proud of myself if I can get them to build some of the knowledge themselves instead of just working an algorithm… I don’t feel any need to watch them connect it to social studies and do a project on it.
Maybe I would feel better about it if I had good examples of how it can be can be done in 8th grade math, but it seems like everything I’ve been shown either requires more time than I can afford to spend or is way below grade level. At the training, they suggested I have the kids design the floor plan of a zoo and figure out area and perimeter of the cages. NOT RELEVANT. NOT EIGHTH GRADE LEVEL. One day, hopefully I’ll be a good enough teacher to think up awesome ways to get my kids to apply the math they’re learning. Until then, I don’t want to force it, or I’ll end up wasting all our time on stupid things that fifth graders should be doing. Please just leave me alone and let my outcome be a well-aligned test.
But no. So instead I wrote my unit on probability, because it’s easy to design appropriate activities. Unfortunately I’m already halfway through teaching that and won’t be able to use any of the work from this training. Useless.