Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Reflecting on Coordinate Geometry Project Based Learning

As a school ARI (Appalachian Renaissance Initiative) lead, I was encouraged to implement project based learning in one or more of my classrooms. I opted to implement a project based learning activity in geometry as part of the coordinate geometry unit. The project asked students to work in groups of 4 to design a waterpark. The project work flow looked something like this:

Days 1 & 2: Water Park Research

Day 3: Make Land (Oversized Coordinate Plane)

Day 4 & 5: Draw & Finalize Blueprints
Homework: Write a paper to your boss defending your blueprint design, using the research notes.

Day 6: Draw in Walking Paths & Find Lengths (Distance Formula)

Day 7,8, 9, & 10: Build Waterparks (3D)

Day 11: Find the Midpoints of Each Path on Blueprint

Day 12: Build Benches & Place at Midpoint of Each Path on Model
Homework: Write TV Advertisements for Your Park Opening

Day 13: Record TV Advertisement & Finalize Model/Proposal Components

In good news, I LOVED this project. The kids (seriously - all of them) were into it at some level. They worked steadily, many worked hard and taught themselves how to do distance and midpoint. Other teachers loved the project, the principal loved it, the superintendent loved it - it was great (well... the janitor didn't love it... we made a mess!). 

I gave my exam yesterday. Some of the results were great - the kids that put effort into the project have a wonderful understanding of distance and midpoint - and not just at the level of the standard algorithm. However, the kids that simply went along with the project, doing what they were told to do by group members but little more did not form a great understanding of the content. 

A large part of this is my fault. Reflecting back on it, I should have planned more checks for understanding to make sure the kids were "getting" what they needed to get. I failed there. I went around and formatively assessed a lot, but there was no way designed for me to hold their feet to the fire until the ending examination. A distance quiz after day 6 and a midpoint quiz after day 12 would probably have largely addressed this problem. Next year I'll do this again, but next year there will definitely be quizzes! However, I really recommend project based learning. It's so fun to teach this way! I'll post pictures of their projects in another blog entry after Thanksgiving Break.