Reducing Due Dates

This year I get a trigonometry class all my own! Last year I taught trig, but under the direction of another teacher. This time it’s all me, baby.

I’ve been slowly going through the book, preparing a general outline for the course and putting together a syllabus, and I have an idea. Whenever I get a new idea, I feel certain that this is gonna be it, the idea that makes all the difference and turns my students into enthusiastic proto-mathematicians. So I might be overestimating the value of this idea, but, on the other hand, maybe this is gonna be it!

In truth, it’s not my idea so much as it’s an idea I’m adapting (mostly stealing) from my first college math professor. (Thanks, Dr. Kent!) Here’s my plan: for each section that we cover in the book, I’ll list on the syllabus every problem I want the students to solve. Then, instead of assigning a list of problems each night, I’ll assign two or three sections each week (or so). For example, on a Thursday I might assign book sections 7.3 and 7.4 to be turned in the next Thursday. On each day in between (classes at my school meet every day), the first five to ten minutes of class will be spent answering questions about problems on the assignment.

Here are my hopes: that having time in class to ask questions about the homework before it is due will lead to greater accuracy; that students will feel more energy for a task for which they have bit more autonomy (namely, they can choose when in that week to work the problems); that some will choose to get ahead by trying to figure out material we haven’t gone over in class yet; and that when those students ask questions about advanced problems, others will listen and, instead of hearing authoritative teacher-talk, will hear a peer’s request for understanding.

*May 20, 2013: This turned out to require far more executive functioning than my students were ready for. It went out the window in favor of daily homework assignments before the end of August, although we held onto the five minutes for questions at the beginning of each period.

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