Colin's Sandbox

Hitting the ground running

by on Jun.30, 2013, under #oltak

It’s been a crazy month of June to be sure, filled with lots of work travel and a trip back east to be with my family after the passing of my Grandmother.  It’s also taken a bit longer than expected to get a set schedule worked out with the student and the student’s parents, so I’ve been behind in the work for this course.

But it’s finally coming together: we have a set weekly event, a protocol of synchronous communication (based around using Skype), and a shared goal: understanding the math well enough to take the AK HSGQE in October and pass.  I’ll be working with another teacher on site who I believe either student taught at the school this past year or this upcoming year.  The parents are also active participants in this endeavor, so I view a large part of the job here is just coordinating everyone’s efforts and being flexible.

The work schedule I proposed initially would be a Skype session every Friday afternoon where we would go over problems in real time, go over work that was done during that week, and talk briefly about where we’re going next and come up with a fun project to do that elaborates on what we are working on.  At the suggestion of my wife (a former math teacher and current science teacher), I think I am going to try to mix in a little vocabulary each week and have the student use flash cards to help remember them, possibly using Quizlet After the session I am to send out the weeks’ resources to look into and work on in the form of an example problem and sections of Kahn Academy videos that show the progression on how to get there.  The usage of Kahn Academy was the student’s idea; I was pretty excited that she’s taken such an interest in knowing what methods and materials works best for her.  As part of the goals for the week I hope to have the student demonstrate the learning through a creative means.

We had our first session and it about how I expected; I was a little awkward at times, I think we came to some good understandings of some things that motivate her, and I think we made good strides at overcoming shyness.  My first impression is that the student feels a combination of being somewhat shy as well as intimidation when looking at the math expressions and equations.  I am pretty confident that we’ll work out a good working relationship.  The impression that I’m trying to give off is that the thing that I value most in someone I’m giving a lesson to is that they give it an honest go, learn from the failures, feel open to suggest ways that they feel motivates them.  We do have the luxury of being pretty flexible in how we tailor the class.  I think I need to change the whiteboard app somewhat to allow the use of the iPad and some sort of stylus.  Also I think in the future weeks I’m going to find more of a way to incorporate visual elements in the problems as well as manipulatives if we can.  For her first creative assignment I asked the student to take a recipe for some cookies, and divide it by 4.  Send me the original and modified recipe, and then bake it!

For the actual class mechanics I tried out a combination of a few tools:

  • Skype for synchronous audio, video, and IM client for sharing links
  • CoSketch as an interactive whiteboard application
  • At the student’s suggestion I set up an Class Dojo class room but I wasn’t able to get the student codes going; the server just sits there and eventually spits out a 504 HTTP error.  I put in an email to their tech support.
  • I set up a class in Kahn Academy and invited the student to join the class.

The Kahn Academy concept to augment a class is a totally new thing for me and I’m curious to see how well it will work.  I’ve done one personal foray into using the Kahn Academy to help learn about macroeconomics, because I had a passing fascination about the global financial crisis of 2008.  So far from the coach’s dashboard I can see that the student has already logged on, what videos they’ve watched, what activities they’ve done, and for the sections that they’ve attempted, how proficient they are.  I’m excited to see that the student has logged on and played around quite a bit already.  Awesome!

Here was the first solid week’s initial plan:

This week’s “Example Problem”You want to get ready for a week long camping trip where you’re hoping to take a lot of photographs with your camera.  Unfortunately you only have a couple of storage cards and they each only hold 100 pictures each.  You also want to save room for taking about 10 shots of the group at the end of the trip too.  About how many pictures does that leave for each day of the trip?  Let’s assume also that you can’t delete pictures 🙂
This week’s ideal result
What we’re shooting for is to be able to solve the “example problem”.  There’s a few different ways that I can think of so that I know you understand this.  A very effective way would be to come up with your own realistic problem and send me the problem and answer over email.
Another may be to turn the example problem into some sort of spreadsheet that you could just plug different numbers into for whatever reason, for example, if you found an SD card hiding in the kitchen drawer where mine always end up.  If you are into Google Docs, Google Spreadsheet works well for spreadsheet collaboration.  I think they’re great.
How are we going to get there?
For this week we’re going to use Kahn Academy resources to look at expressions and equations and go through the exercises on the Kahn site.  If you get stuck during the week with solving the example problem that’s OK, there’s a lot here – we can work through it together during the Skype session as well.

Other Sample Problems

If you want to see some examples of problems that could be on the test, check out HSGQE Practice Test: problems 25 and 27
Vocabulary wordsTry to come up with or find definitions for these words.  We’re going to turn them into flash cards.  The important thing is that you understand the definition, so if you have a hard time finding or coming up with a definition that makes sense, Google them, pick a few out and we can go over together to find one that sticks with you.

Kahn Resources for This Week
Please log into the Kahn Academy with your own login and join the class with the code MWT4DJ.  I’ve sent [the student] an invitation to that class.  Then go through the following resources and drill exercises.  If the bandwidth becomes a problem please let me know and we can find an alternate route.Expressions and Equations: step equations drill: for 2-step equations:

Two step equations drill:

Have Fun!

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