Maths that students are proud of

My school held it’s annual “Showcase day” last Saturday. Parents, prospective parents and nosy parkers came to find out what we do all day.

An interactive projector, a few pinboards and whatever furniture we could find decorated our little space in the showroom floor. But the most important part were the students.

Across the day we always had 3 or 4 students in our little Maths booth, generously giving up part of their Saturday to talk to the roaming public in about the work they had been doing in Maths this year.

Showcase has generally been a difficult time for the Maths department. When the Maths department booth is up against more “showy” subjects like Art, Design and Science (damn you elephant toothpaste!) How do you compete?

By making Maths More Creative!

If you’re in Queensland, you’ll know our Senior Syllabus is undergoing a huge overhaul, with our first students to graduate from the new system in 2020. In Mathematics, a new assessment piece called an “Extended Modelling and Problem-Solving task” has been added. A rubric is used to mark this assessment task, which is not something maths teachers are particularly accustomed to!

To prepare out students for this task, we have made mathematical report writing a part of our assessment in every year level from years 7 -11 (year 12 next year). This means we’ve had to design a number of different tasks for these year levels.

We’ve found in designing these tasks that students perform best, and have the most opportunity to show their full range of mathematical skills, when the task is creative in nature. Tasks have included:

  • Design and cost a Geometric sculpture.
  • Modify an existing wineglass to make it hold more wine, and have a “bendier” stem.
  • Create a game of chance to be played by three players, where player A has the best chance of winning.

These assessment tasks resulted in students having something they were excited to share with their parents and friends. While a student might be proud of getting an A+ on an exam, the exam isn’t something you can share with people. But they are excited to show off something like this!

Some things our students created

The pride on our students faces on Saturday when they could talk to strangers about the mathematics they had used to create that little wine glass was fantastic. It was theirs, it was real and created with maths!

Another task was our casino games. Students bamboozled the public out of their monopoly money when they played their well-designed casino games (with a house edge of 15%). Students got a real kick out of watching the dollars roll in, and were happy to explain the concept of variance when things didn’t go the houses way!

The image above was a student who went above and beyond in creating his 3D sculpture, using his knowledge from another subject to model it more fully. This student really enjoyed explaining his sculpture to our visitors on Saturday while holding the 3D printed object in his hand.

I can honestly say I am looking forward to Showcase day next year. Our students have some great new units to do over the next 12 months. I can’t wait to see what they CREATE!

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