## Trying to find math inside everything else

### Level Up! +1 to Exponents, +2 to Equations

###### Previously on The Roots of the Equation: You All Have “A”s, You All Have “0”s, and Grade Out of 10? This One Goes to 11.

I like games. All kinds of games: video, board, tabletop, role playing. And so I often think about how games and teaching align. One thing (good) games really do well is provide a sense of progress (especially role-playing games). You start off with not many skills, but as you advance you build them up, learn new things, and can conquer tougher tasks. By the time you reach the end of the game, those things that were hard from the beginning ain’t nothing to you now.

Games don’t usually score you on every little thing that you do. What they do is take a more holistic view and then, at some point, say that you’ve done enough to go up a level. And I say, why can’t I grade that way?

Many people have lamented that the best grading system would have no grades, just feedback that students respond to to improve their learning. But grades are required from external factors: school districts, colleges, parents, principals. But maybe there’s a way around that.

Last time, I said grades should just be a sum of the levels of the learning goals. So now I’m picturing students having a “character sheet” that looks something like this.

I maybe have created that name just so I could tell students to take out their SPELS sheet.

The N/A/J/P/M are my current grading system, Novice –> Apprentice –> Journeyman –> Proficient –> Master

At the beginning of the year we can do a pre-assessment to determine their “starting stats and skills.” Then as the year moves in, we do our work in class. But none of that worked is graded in the usual sense. We would write feedback on the assignment, giving areas for improvement, but the only time a grade is mentioned is when a standard improves. Even then, we don’t focus on what they are (“You now have a 3 in Exponent Rules”), but rather in how they’ve grown (“You gained one level in Exponent Rules!”). The former just highlights that they are not the best they could be. The latter highlights their constant growth and improving.

(Then, at the end, based on what I said in the last post, their grade is literally how many boxes are shaded on the sheet. Have 75 boxes shaded? That’s a 75.)

In order to do this effectively, what we really need to have are rubrics for each standard. That way we know what counts as evidence of a certain level in a standard across all assignments, so it doesn’t matter which assignment provides the evidence. The upside to this is that you do not need to then have a rubric for each assignment! You only need your standards rubrics, because that is all you are using. (The collection of these rubrics, then, in the hands of the students, are a road map to success.)

I’m pretty excited by this idea, and can’t wait to try it next year. This is my idea from the last two posts taken to the next level, with a clear focus on growth, and not deficit. We can’t get rid of grading, and I’m not 100% convinced that we should. But we can definitely minimize the damage that it does and use it to actually promote students’ learning. All we need to do is focus on how we always get better.

### Lab –> Lecture –> Assessment

Next year, the weekly schedule at my school is going to be 2 double periods for a particular class (alternating sections on an A/B day schedule) with a single period for every section on Wednesday. Because of the new schedule, I wanted to make a new structure for my class, which is the title of this post: Lab –> Lecture –> Assessment.

There are roughly 30 proper weeks of learning in the year, so I figured I would have 30 Learning Goals to cover, and do one each week. I would introduce each learning goal with a “math lab,” which may be an actual lab (like the popular M&M Lab for exponential growth/decay) or a 3 Act problem or something else that the students can really engage in before getting down to the nitty-gritty and symbolic way mathematicians deal with the problem.

The next double wouldn’t necessarily just be lecture, but it would be the abstraction of what we did the lesson before, including lecturing on technique and practicing what we’ve learned. Then assessment could be any number of things, but will almost certainly involve a targeted quiz.

Seems like a good structure, right? Problem is, while I have a lot of good labs and problems for most of the topics (and will keep improving), not all of them do. Particularly:

1. Radicals – Simplifying & Arithmetic
2. Unit Conversion
3. Solving in Terms Of
4. Box-and-Whisker Plots / Percentiles
5. Scientific Notation
6. Statistics Vocabulary (univariate/bivariate, etc.)

So my major goal this summer will be to develop something for each of those. The rest I can fall back on what I have, even if I don’t come up with something new/better. But these have nothing. My first task/idea is to develop a board game about radicals. That’s still under development. Any other suggestions would be appreciated.