Sunday, April 14, 2013

Basic Construction- This is hard

I teach geometry 1, self contained, tenth period.

In a school where remnants of an old special education system exist, even if the form in which they currently exist no longer makes sense,  I am assigned students who "successfully tested" past the first high school mathematics course, but are considered in need of separate (but equal) instruction in a separate classroom. (Okay- the educationally cool word, is parallel-talk about your geometry vocabulary!)

That's the remnants part.  There are no more courses for adolescents with no literacy skills, no programs for students who can't handle a compass, let alone a geometry proof.  Everyone is placed in college-preparatory programs

So I try to teach college preparatory  geometry.
This is hard.
That's Bartholomew's favorite line.  Bartholomew who wear's diamond (or cut glass- I'm not a jeweler) studs in both ears, talks in a squeaky voice and hides under the desk in social studies. (I don't know how or why, but the social studies teacher came in one day to offer him pizza if he wouldn't hide under the desk anymore- He didn't - We shared the pizza).

This is hard.
This being whatever I ask him to do, solve for x, find the area of a four by four rectangle drawn on graph paper, or  basic geometric constructions- which is what we were doing last week.

Thursday afternoon, I worked with him constructing the angle bisector using a compass and a straightedge.  It involved sequencing six steps and manipulating a compass.
This is hard.
Yeah?  You think?- try teaching someone who insists picking up the compass is hard- to construct an angle bisector.  Forty minutes later, I have no idea who was more frustrated Bartholomew or me.  Bell rang- we went  home-frustrated.

I would just pass him.  It was ridiculous to keep harping on it.  We weren't getting anywhere - and he didn't deserve to fail, because the skills were out of his functioning range.

Then I got to thinking- what would Bartholomew really need to know in his post secondary (as the IEP calls it) life?  Would he have to solve for x  or would he have to use tools in some prescribed series of steps?

Friday we tried again.  I changed the task to copying an angle, four steps instead of six. I drew a big angle on blank white sheet. I asked him to touch his nose, bend his elbow, clap his hands in order.
This is weird.
Yeah, weird.  But - he could follow three directions in the appropriate sequence. So I guess weird is better than hard.

We worked all period on copying that angle,

With limited success.

But some limited success is better than frustration.

We both went home happy. It was the weekend.

1 comment:

  1. We're used top weird, but hard is tougher to handle. I'll be in touch. Maybe we can get together an early weekend in May.