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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

How Do You Do PBL in a High School Math Class? (Part 1 of 2)

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      When someone finds out I am a teacher at a New Tech school they always ask how hard it is to write projects.  When they then find out I teach algebra, geometry, and engineering in a New Tech school they ask "How do you do PBL in a math class?"  What's funny is until I was asked that the first time I never thought about it because I was told that this school is 100% PBL and the idea of NOT doing PBL never entered my mind.

     Now  I am nearing the end of my third year at our school and I have seen three years of teachers imagining, creating, and living through projects.  One of the key parts of our professional development is the requirement for each teacher to present a project they are planning on doing, or, a project they are thinking about doing, once every 2 or 3 months during our weekly faculty sessions.  Once you have examined someone's project critically and have had projects of your own examined critically the creative juices flow much more quickly.

     What follows is a quick run down on how we set up the algebra one curriculum for the 2009/2010 school year.  First, to do PBL you have got to throw out the state and district curriculum.  Now I've got your attention.  Actually, as a good teacher you NEVER deviate from the curriculum.  What you DO deviate from is any type of pacing guide or "year at a glance" that the school district has for the rest of the schools.  There are very few, if any, teachers capable of creating projects that exactly align with the pacing recommended in a text book or by a district curriculum specialist. 

     So we went to the district specialist and we told her that we would promise to incorporate all of the required content but that we needed to rearrange when the content would be introduced.  She agreed to listen to our plan and even gave us the go ahead provided we gave her our entire year planned out showing the projects and what content would be covered.  That is harder than it sounds.  We had to agree to projects many times with just a name, an idea, and the content to be included.

     Next time we start creating......