My ImagineIt project seeks to bring the beauty back to mathematics. I hope to do this by incorporating into my lessons beautiful mathematics found in nature and manmade objects, helping students recognize the mathematics found in the world around them, and helping students understand the practical applications of mathematics. I, along with many of my colleagues, am guilty of losing focus of what mathematics is really about. Mathematics seeks to identify patterns and make use of structures to help us understand the world around us. Our teaching focuses on theoretical concepts and applications of mathematical rules. Although these things are important, they do not reach the heart of the discipline. They are, however, effective at preparing students for standardized assessments, which is why many teachers focus their efforts here.
Throughout this project, I want students to see and seek patterns and structures in the natural and manmade world around them. This is not only a beautiful aspect of mathematics, but it also helps students begin to understand the world around them. To accomplish this, I will begin presenting students with pictures, videos, and data that shows students these structures and patterns. I will uncover the complexity of everyday objects to share the beauty of the mathematics involved with them. I will ask students to find structures in their world that involve mathematics and share those structures with their peers by creating posters, videos, and presentations.
Another way I hope to uncover the beauty in the world around students is by presenting them with weekly articles that discuss mathematical patterns or concepts. By offering these articles, I hope that students will begin to appreciate the mathematics that exists in the world around them. Even if they do not understand the specific mathematics concepts that are functioning, I want students to understand that mathematics is at play in everything around them.
To understand mathematics as a discipline, one must understand and appreciate its practical nature. Math quite literally is everywhere. It is the driving force behind many things in our society including scientific research, technological innovation, and engineering marvels. Mathematics drives our financial markets, advertising, realty, and local and international politics. The places where mathematics can be found are endless. Because of this, students need exposure to the practical applications of mathematics. Failure to incorporate this aspect means failing to prepare students to function as mathematically literate people.
Performances of Understanding
As I try to uncover aspects of this project with my students, I will have to assess their understanding of my big ideas. There are several activities that students will be completing to demonstrate that they have grasped the beauty in mathematics. I will address the practicality of mathematics by incorporating application projects into every unit that I teach. I will work to make sure that each lesson will come alive through these projects so that students can interact with mathematics while it is at work. This practicality is something that many students have not been exposed to in the past. I hope to shift student’s view of mathematics to something that is useful and found all around them by showing them this aspect of the mathematics.
Addressing the practicality of mathematics is important to prepare students for their future. However, it is also important because I hope that it will begin to change the view students have that mathematics is an abstract subject of numbers, variable, and equations. When students begin to see that mathematics exists in the world around them and is there for them to discover, their intrinsic curiosities will begin to yield motivation to learn more about the topic. I will ask students to begin viewing the world around them through new eyes. Students will create a product of their choice (video, poster, presentation, etc.) where they find a pattern or structure in the world around them. They will research the mathematics involved in the pattern or structure and present their findings to me and the class. This aspect will be formatted similar to the World of Wonder projects which we completed this summer.
As mentioned previously, students will be given weekly articles to show them beautiful mathematics. Students will be asked to read these articles and will be guided through a class discussion of them. Students will also be asked to keep a journal reaction to the articles based on guiding questions for each article. This is to further them seeing that mathematics is at work everywhere around them and to further their expose them to beauty in mathematics.
This project will be conducted in all of my classes at the Chicago High School for Agricultural Sciences, which is a small high school (720 students) located in far southwest Chicago in the Mount Greenwood community. According to the last school report card, the school boasts a diverse student population of black (41%) white (31%), and hispanic (24%) students; 53% of students are labeled as low-income; 9% of students are labeled as special needs. I will be teaching five junior-level classes: three regular level Advanced Algebra with Trigonometry and two cotaught Advanced Algebra with Trigonometry classes. Parental support is dependent on the student and determined on a case-by-case basis. The students at the school are typically motivated to successfully complete high school but are not motivated to learn for the sake of learning. At the school, I am fortunate enough to have a supportive principal with an open door to discuss any project I want to complete or there I want to implement. I have taught at this building for seven years and work with a grade level team who is in the process of implementing quarterly cross-curricular unit plans.
In my mathematics classes, I will have several units I will be covering this year. The major content that I will be teaching this year will include units on linear functions, quadratic functions, exponential functions, trigonometric functions, and geometry. Students struggle with content from each of these because they often fail to connect with them. I hope that through this project I can show students the usefulness and beauty of each of these topics.
To accomplish my goals this year, I will use many different instructional strategies. I will utilize lecture in the flipped classroom format for some of my lessons. I will use small groups to teach content using a project-based approach. I will also incorporate journaling as students respond to a weekly mathematical article which they will be reading. Students will also be utilizing the journals to react to the presentations which their peers share regarding beautiful math which they have found. I will also be using periodic surveys to gauge student understanding.
This year technology will be a large incorporation for my project. I will be including flipped classroom components to accomplish my goals of allowing students to find the beauty in mathematics. I have never created education videos and look forward to the challenge of doing so. I will be using Google Drive programs for several methods of communication with my students. The journal which I will be asking students to create will be done using Google Docs. This will allow me to give students feedback right on their work and allow them to make changes to their work and resubmit it with ease. I will use google forms to collect surveys from students and from parents. Students have access to Chromebooks while in my class and I also have access to several PC computer labs. They also will have access to their cell phones as needed.