August 4, 2014

TMC: PreCalc Session

I was lucky enough to spend my mornings at Twitter Math Camp facilitating the PreCalculus session with Jim Doherty. We had a wonderful crew of teachers who were all eager to jump in and share and work together to create some awesome tasks.

Each day Jim and I planned some sort of opening activity. We folded conics on patty paper, identified creatures using a dichotomous key (and discussed how dichotomous keys apply in PreCalc) and did a rational card sort. All three activities are on the wiki.

We started the discussion by sharing the topics in our courses as everyone's interpretation of PreCalc is different, plus we had a few participants from outside the US who have an entirely different scope and sequence. Once we had a set of topics we considered what essential skills we'd like students to focus on in Algebra 2, and what essential PreCalc skills are necessary for Calculus.

Our Brainstorm

The three highlighted phrases are the three topics we focused on. We split into groups to tackle the tasks. I know my group had some excellent insights and a lot of enthusiasm. It was wonderful to have three days to think about a single topic. I rarely have time for such depth on my own, but to have it with a group of teachers who were equally passionate about students making connections and understanding was amazing. We had the time to try things that didn't work (deriving the equation of an ellipse from the geometric definition is tedious and not a good use of kids time in our cases) and explore ideas that we weren't sure about. We didn't finish what we had hoped to, but we made progress and I think the energy of this conversation will carry me through to continue tinkering with it. Everything we did accomplish is posted on the wiki.

The Wiki

If you have any questions on how people intended to use the materials linked please ask, we want the information to be useful for everyone whether they were present or not. Greg did a nice job of recapping our presentations.

I can't wait to try out the trig and conic tasks (my course doesn't include vectors). I'll try to remember to share my experiences and adaptations, I hope you will too!


  1. Good stuff! I wish I could plan with our group for every lesson! You and Jim did a really great job!

  2. Tina - thanks for the summary and the link to the work our group did. Still decompressing from TMC and the wonderful math conversations there. It was great working with you!

    Connie - thanks for the kind words. The session went as well as it did due to the hard work and good cheer of all the participants. I concur that planning like this would be a wonderful treat during the year. Sadly, life often gets in the way.