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Monday - October 27, 1997

I am still amazed at the differences between individual classes. I am the same teacher going over the same material essentially the same way. So why is it that one class will get the material so much faster then the other?
    Case in point: 4th and 5th hour Algebra I. I assigned them to read Section 3-6 and do the exercises. That particular section deals with translating English sentences into mathematical ones. For instance, given the sentence "Five more than a number is 48", I'd expect them to write down "x + 5 = 48". This is not rocket science. Well, 4th hour got it pretty quickly. They struggled a little on a few of the more complicated ones but after I went over them, they seemed to understand. I then went over solving word problems and assigned a bunch of problems as homework. Pretty standard fare.
    Then came 5th hour! I had the students read off their answers to the homework and right off the bat, I noticed that I was getting a lot of wrong answers... even to the "easy" ones. By the time I get to the harder ones, I am not getting any right answers. I work a few out on the board explaining step by step how it is done... still nothing. I even redo one of them that I had already done on the board and some of the kids still couldn't tell me what to do. It was as if I was up there talking and none of my words even got to the students. By the end of the hour, we had gone through nearly all the homework problems on the board with no time left to go on to the next section. This was a moot point, anyway, since this class was nowhere near ready to go on. I assigned them the exact same homework set that they already had with the instructions to redo all of them. Tomorrow, I am planning on giving them a "homework quiz." They are to put away all their notes and papers and write down the homework as if it was a quiz. We'll see how it goes.
    If the differences between 4th and 5th hour aren't enough, there is also the differences between 3rd and 7th hour Geometry. Both seem like roughly the same blend of smart and not-so-smart students with some good groups and some bad groups. Wandering around the room in both classes, I cannot find much of a difference between the way the groups interact or in the pace of their work. The grades of both classes also achieve a rough parity. So why is it that 3rd hour finishes their work so much faster than 7th hour? The assignment for today was to check over their homework, then do two investigations (involving four conjectures) and then move on to the exercises. In 3rd hour, all of the groups finished the investigations and were midway through the exercises (with a few groups even finished with that). In contrast, not a single group in 7th hour finished with even one of the investigations. A few of the groups didn't even finish checking their homework. Same work; same amount of time; same teacher... totally different results. Weird.
    At least I can't be that surprised about Algebra II. With only one section of that class, I can't compare them to any other group. We started doing word problems involving two variables, today. Personally, I think using two variables makes all word problems significantly easier. In their usual "I hate math" way, though, this class made it seem like I was pulling their teeth. sigh. I try to individually help those that aren't getting it but they resist so much. A few of them seem bent on failing the class no matter how much I try to do something about it. Ah well...

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