August 16, 2012

End of Year Reflections 2012

Each year after students finish their final exams, I ask them to reflect on the course.  In past years I've read them when I needed some motivation to get back into gear and start prepping for a new year.  This year though I needed motivating to read them!  I finally decided that today was the day and sat down by the lake to read.  My task was occasionally interrupted by ducks, geese, swans, a great blue heron and a kingfisher but I read and took notes on all of them.

The prompt students saw is as follows:

This year I learned…
About myself
About mathematics
About studying/school/how I learn

In this class…

My favorite chapter
The most interesting activity
The hardest thing to learn
Ms. Cardone is... 

The first section made me really happy.  They said things such as: 
If I apply myself I can do awesome
I need to work harder to understand math
Although I do not enjoy math I can do it
Math is actually lots of fun to do
I can tackle hard problems
Self motivation is key to success
I can do more than I imagine
I am smarter than I thought
If I work hard and try things I can accomplish anything
I can learn
Growth mindset achieved.  Even if the percents from this lesson weren't correct (oops), at some point before their final exam my students were convinced that being good at math takes effort, not innate ability.

Their favorite chapters covered pretty much everything that we studied.  The hardest topics were also really spread out, which I was relieved to see.  Last year there were lots of students who said trig.  There were a good number this year too, but trig is a challenge that requires bringing everything we learn all year together.  Plus, a couple students said trig was both their favorite topic and the hardest (and couple others said it was their favorite), so I don't think it was an overwhelming difficulty, but a reasonable challenge.  Thanks to Mathy McMatherson for helping me develop my trig unit!  There were also only two students who said proof was the hardest topic.  Yay!  The fact that the favorite chapters and hard topics are so spread out tells me that there isn't any particular unit I need to totally revamp; students each have individual strengths, weaknesses and preferences.  I didn't screw up any particular unit, or I screwed them all up equally ;).

Final vote counts for favorite activities:
Aging Trees: 18 votes (plus a couple for anything outside)
Pi Day: 14 votes (several identified it by 'we rolled stuff down the hall' so it wasn't just about eating pie)
Dilating Comics: 5 votes
Indirect Measurement: 4 votes
Computers: 3 votes
Pen Pal: 2 votes
Fractal: 2 votes
Also Mentioned:

Coloring, Triangle Quilt, Taboo, Paper Basketball, Pie Charts, Tesselations and making flowers with the compass.  (I had far more students than there are votes, but it was the very last day of class, I didn't exactly require everyone to have a favorite activity.)

Shockingly, my students' favorite activities involve going outside and eating pie.  Coloring also makes a solid showing (dilating comics, fractal, triangle quilt and tesselations all involved color).  Lucky for them, these are 3 of my favorite things to do as well.

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