In grade 7 pre-Algebra we have hit the ground running FAST with the Engage New York Module 3 curriculum. I absolutely adore this unit, but it is a lot of material packed in incredibly fast for the kids. It expects them to have very solid knowledge of all fraction operations and very good recall of solving one and two step equations. Before the Common Core curriculum, much of grade 7 was spent learning how to solve one and two step equations.
As with any class the spread is great in the pre-Algebra class and everyone is working to adjust from the double blocks of math they had in grade 6 to what feels like a very short time to work together in grade 7. Daily I leave class thinking, “if only we could have a double block for this class.” I feel like a lab period every other day would be AMAZING!
But, back to the project. The tail end of Module 3 lends itself to a PROJECT. I went through the Module and noted all the topics I would need to hit in a project. In the back of my head I thought maybe I could find a project that someone else had written that could hit all of these things. However, after going down a rabbit hole online I realized that almost every project either cost money (and you couldn’t really get a feel for it until you bought it) or just didn’t quite fit what I was looking to teach.
I took a day off to be with my mother while she had surgery. I was so grateful to have the opportunity to be there for her and to kind of keep my dad company. I say kind of because I spent the time in the waiting room mostly working on designing this project. I brought our iPad and went through the Engage New York lessons carefully. I selected all the problems that I wanted the kids to be able to do, making sure that the project would involve what the curriculum was teaching.
Later, after writing it up I reached out to the principal to ask if we would have permission to paint murals IF the kids expressed desire for this. The entire premise of the project is that they have the opportunity to paint a mural so it was best for me to know if I should position this as hypothetical or as a real opportunity. Our principal responded that “YES” this was indeed a possibility. The school is looking to have murals be on panels so they aren’t actually painted on walls (makes great sense) and he thinks a math mural would be pretty awesome.
This project is designed for groups of 3-4 students. The kids are currently partnered with a student of their choice for their class seat. In almost every case, they have chosen partners who learn similarly and tend to have a similar level of competency with the material. I plan to link partner groups so that we have a very high achieving group partnered with a group that struggles a little bit more. I’m looking forward to seeing how this dynamic works with this group. The project is worth 30 points and will count twice in the grade book. We score by total points. To compare, we recently had a mid-module assessment that was worth 50 points. This assesses skills in a different way and covers straight up math, creativity and the ability to synthesize things together. It is larger than just knowing HOW to do a problem, in that they must design something and then generate calculations. They also have to negotiate different personalities and styles of work, possibly negotiating out of class time to work.
I plan to give them 3 – 4 class days for the project with a portion of that time as direct instruction.
Project work time
We introduced this project in phases. It started with the kids using Chrome Books, text books and their own life experience to fill in the vocabulary and formulas. Most groups jumped right into this and made good use of the one class period they had. Anything they didn’t finish was assigned for home practice. I later posted a Google Presentation on Google Classroom with all the definitions and a screen shot to formulas. We spent class time discussing the formulas but only briefly talked about the definitions.
Pictures of groups working
The 2nd day we went through half of the class problems. It was a back and forth discussion, lecture, practice style. They were assigned to go through the first half the section 4 problems after this class period.
Day 3 was more of the same back and forth and they left with the entire packet assigned. We’d start the project “for real” the next day in class.
I had expected to move quickly through this portion, making it a home assignment while we went on with new material. However, the groups were working hard in class and really enjoying it OR struggling. In either situation I felt that being able to monitor and guide them would be helpful. We ended up taking two extra days on this, but I feel that it was worth the time we gave it. The groups mostly enjoyed it and did A LOT of calculations. I hope that these types of calculations are engrained in their heads after this. We did have graded warm-ups to kick off work days where I made sure that individuals were able to find areas of complex shapes. Most of the students are doing well with this.
Students with their projects
Some groups ARE interested in painting their mural. I am excited to make this work out for them. We did drop the cost of the paint portion of this project. When I went to set it up with them I realized that almost no one remembered the unit rate material from Module 1. They had done it a long while back now in spring of grade 6 and the curriculum we’re in now isn’t about that. It would have required a double set of calculations for the project followed by the price calculations. If we had more time to give this we would have delved in, but our schedule requires that we move forward into module 4. In hindsight, I would have reviewed that as part of the direct instruction days instead of thinking they’d remember and be able to apply it.