Saturday, December 18, 2004

New Ways to Torture Students

I was talking to my mom, and we came up with two ideas that I'm thinking of trying in the spring.
Real Life Word Problems
Sometimes I put more work into writing problems than the students do in answering them. To write a good real life problem, I either need to use something that I'm familiar with (cooking, sewing, knitting, etc.) or else I need to look around to find reasonable numbers. Because I want to have problems that are relevent to my students, I often end up poking around with google for factoids like the weight of a lamb at birth or the amount of vinyl siding that comes in a box, or how many points are typically scored in a lacrosse game. (When I get lazy, my word problem people play Calvinball.) Based on the quality of plagiarism observed in my students, some of them are pretty good at finding basic information with google. So for these problems I will come up with the scenario (painting a room, buying a car, planting a garden, building a bookshelf, knitting a scarf, whatever) but I will make them find the numbers they need and then solve the problem.

Reality TV-based gimics
Just like on TV, my class consists of a bunch of people -- some of whom are annoying -- who are forced to spend time together while carrying out various tasks, often working in teams. And it's not just me who finds them annoying; they annoy each other, too. In order to keep behavior in line and to keep people motivated to stay on task, I am trying to think of a way for the class to vote on the distribution of bonus points or to vote people out of their groups.