Building a Deeper Understanding (formerly known as test prep)

I am home from NCTM full of ideas and classroom practices I would like to put into place when classes start up again next Wednesday, but I am also looking at the calendar and realizing that AP and Regents Exams are soon upon us (me and my students).  I have been teaching for 9 years and still struggle to find a balance between meeting my students where they are at and preparing them for high stakes assessments.  This spring, I am teaching both AP Statistics and Algebra2/Trigonometry.  As exams go, they are both what I would call “icing on the cake” exams- it would be great for the students to pass them- they could earn college credit for Statistics and the Trig exam is the gatekeeper to the advanced regents diploma and access to PreCalc, AP Calc, or AP Stats- but my students need neither for graduation.

Before spring break, my AP students were officially “done”with being exposed to new content- but my feeling is that THIS is when the learning is solidified- when we can go back through the curriculum and weave the units together.  AP Statistics is the best course I have ever taught because, unlike the disjointed laundry list of topics tested by the New York Board of Regents, the APStats test consists of four interconnected strands:

1.  Exploring Data

2.  Sampling and Experimentation

3.  Anticipating Patterns (Probability and Simulation)

4.  Statistical Inference

On my blog, I am going to post about the ways in which I push my students to go back in time and travel through the curriculum to make these connections and solidify their understanding so that their exam on May 9th becomes an opportunity to communicate what they know instead of having the questions make them realize what they do not know.  In the weeks to come- I want them to engage in a whole class journey where the students, at all times, know what they know, know what they do not understand, and know how to help one another change what they do not understand into something that they do.

I will be using some of the methods that I learned recently from Rhonda Bondie’s AL-ED Mini-Course  at a Math for America.

Once the AP Statistics exam is done, it will be time to use what I learned there in order to start to review the Algebra2/Trig curriculum in my other classes.