By Dave Dompke, Kesha Patel, Alyssa Cobb, and Mark Heintz
I loved math class in high school. It always made sense. There was a logic to it and the mental gymnastics to figuring the solution was intoxicating. Yet, the structure to it required a lot of practice. My visit to Dave Dompke’s class left me with a different view on the structure of a math class. The students were free. They had flexibility on how to learn the material. Dompke created the conditions to allow students to do what works best for them. In the one class I visited, I saw students engaged with each other in how to solve the problems, debates, working by themselves, working in groups, at their own pace, asking the teacher for help, going over previous material, and challenging themselves with tougher questions.
This is a great starting point for what learning could and should be in a math class. Read the teacher and the student responses below. I asked Alyssa what she wanted a school to be. Her response will push your thinking a little on what school should be.
What did learning look like in the lesson?
Students were accessing previous knowledge to solve current problems on functions. They were learning new concepts while at the same time. They were trying to learn something new while using concepts they learned from the past. They had direct instruction initially but then were able to work with their cooperative groups to practice these concepts.
What do you hope to do for the next time?
I would like to test for understanding and see how many students are already familiar with the concept before I begin teaching it.
Kesha Patel: What did you learn in this lesson?
There was a lot of review work involved, and I was generally able to grasp the concepts pretty quickly. There was a problem I learned to do that I’d never seen before. The problem required me to use my prior knowledge of functions in a different way. That’s one of the reasons I like math; I’m able to take different steps to solve a problem to get one single answer. This lesson showed me how to do problems differently and how to use things I already know.
What do you hope to learn for the next time?
I hope to learn to solve even more complex math problems and use what I already know in different ways. I like being able to arrive at one answer but in various ways. I feel like this class will help me enjoy math even more since I’m gonna be exploring new material and new ways to solve problems.
Alyssa Cobb: What do you hope to learn for the next time?
I hope to learn the in-depth parts of the problems and how they can apply to us in everyday lives.
What do you want a school to be?
All classes should be able to be chosen thoughtfully while keeping in mind what we want in our future careers with classes that adhere to such careers. Also, school should allow you to focus on your social bonds and not just how “smart” you are because intelligence is not all of life.
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