Monday, July 23, 2007

Slacker's Paradise

Aside from whole-class work, pairs and small group work, it appears that students of the Connected Mathematics Program are occasionally afforded the opportunity to do individual work. That is, of course, when the questions are less demanding.

"For an occasional question it is suggested that students work entirely on their own. Such questions may be less demanding than questions for which group work is suggested, or they may provide an opportunity for teachers to assess each student's understanding or skill at an important stage in the development of key mathematical ideas in the unit."
Keeping in mind that we're talking about middle school children, the student guidelines suggest the following when it comes to working in groups or pairs:

If you are confused, ask your group to explain. If no one in the group can answer the question, and it is an important question, raise your hand for the teacher.

Is it me or can you imagine numerous scenarios where this could go terribly wrong? Terribly wrong to the tune of 24-30 students at a time. What if they think they are correct but no one in the group actually is? What if they are embarrassed to admit they don't understand? What if they don't consider it important and it really is?

If someone in your group uses a word or an idea you do not understand, ask for an explanation. You are responsible for learning all you can from your group. You are also responsible for contributing to the work of your group. Your attempts to explain to others will help you to understand even better.

Charming. "You are responsible for learning all you can from your group." What if the group has nothing to teach the student? What if the group is goofing off, unfocused or just doesn't care? What if they honestly don't understand... does it really matter as long as one student in the group/pair actually does? Where's the incentive for every member to pull their weight? Again, just imagine the many things that can go wrong here too.

If memory serves me grades 6-8 are quite a challenge for teachers no matter what the subject. By this age kids really figure out how to push your buttons (and the envelope). You can bet they'll quickly figure out just how to manipulate this situation which rolls out the red carpet for shortcuts, tuning out, and wasted educational opportunities.

It's a slacker's paradise.

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