Math Topics

Socratic Seminars and Collaborative Learning in Regents Physics

Matthew Greene, Environmental Science and Physics Teacher, Rush-Henrietta Senior High School

Regents physics has been traditionally taught through the use of lecture-based instruction, which has been shown to be less than effective than more engagement-oriented teaching strategies. In this study I was interested to see if a more collaborative approach to learning would have an impact on my students’ understanding of physics.

I have been experimenting with a strategy called circle whiteboarding, a modified version of a Socratic seminar where students lead a discussion to come to a group consensus on a solution to a problem. In years past I have used whiteboarding infrequently in class, at the most once per unit due to the large amount of class time needed. In this study,  my classes participated in two to three seminars per unit for each of the four units in the first semester.

I saw a consistent growth in class test performance from unit to unit during the first semester. Student averages on the mid-term exam were higher this year than any of the past four years I have taught physics. Student perception of Socratic seminars also increased from the start of the school year to the end of the first semester.

Socratic seminars using circle whiteboarding as a tool improved my students understanding in physics, as test scores increased throughout the semester. Interestingly, my students began to enjoy and ask for the session with increased frequency. I was surprised to see students realize the value of the practice, and advocate for its use as a method of instruction. My classes now pick whiteboarding as the preferred method of review for tests and quizzes. For more information on Socratic seminars via circle whiteboarding, please visit my action research report Socratic Seminars and Collaborative Learning in Regents Physics.

Differentiating Instruction in Geometry and Pre-Calculus

Bryan Coe, Rush-Henrietta Math Teacher

As a Math teacher at Rush Henrietta, I teach a total of 98 students dispersed among my 2 sections of Geometry and 2 sections of Pre-Calculus.  My Pre-Calculus class is at Rush Henrietta High School and consists of juniors and seniors.  My Geometry class is taught at the Rush Henrietta’s Ninth Grade academy, and consists of 9th grade accelerated students.

For my action research project, I decided to look at the impact differentiation had on my students.  I wanted to look at the social, emotional, and academic impact it had on them.  I also wanted to look and see if my students demonstrated growth in their understanding of the concepts that I differentiated and if their test scores improved.

My plan was to differentiate at least one lesson in each of my units in Geometry and Pre-Calculus for the first semester. Differentiation has been linked to increased student engagement and better content understanding. My goal was to try a variety of approaches for differentiation and see which method was the most effective, which method I preferred as an educator and to survey the student to see what method they preferred as well.  I also incorporated some 21st century learning tools and the use of technology within these units as well.  I followed this plan in both my Pre-Calculus and Geometry courses.

For my action research plan, I used my Pre-Calculus classes to analyze what impact the differentiation had on students test scores and overall achievement. I have taught the class for the past five years and I figured I could compare test score between this year’s students and last year’s classes.  I also looked at what happened when I differentiated in one class and not the next. My action research report, Differentiating Instruction in Geometry and Pre-Calculus,  really looks at my journey as an educator through differentiation and the impact it had on me and my students.

Inquiry-Based Learning, Collaborative Learning and Homework Videos in AP Calculus

Pratima Kumar,  RCSD Math Teacher, SOTA

I joined the Faculty Fellows Program at MCC last fall with hopes of improving instruction in my classroom and promoting better content understanding in my students.  This program gave me an opportunity to go through some literature related to action research, learn from other educators in the program, observe other HS and College classrooms and receive valuable feedback and ideas from colleagues and facilitators throughout the program.

The inquiry question for my action research were a follows: “How does collaborative learning and inquiry based learning impact understanding and application of higher level math concepts in an AP Calculus Classroom?  How does the use of technology for video solution provide my students with Homework help?”

Based on my students test scores, answers to survey questions and my log book entries I found that collaborative learning gives students a chance to explain, critique and discuss with one another,  and leads to better understanding if they are involved. Though I did not find inquiry-based learning of be benefit to my group of students, I feel that it is a learning style that the kids should be exposed at an early age to be effective. I created video solutions to homework problems for my students as part of my action research and found this to be well appreciated and approved by all.

The CCTE program gave me an opportunity to try something new in my classroom for the first time, analyze its outcome and modify my action research along the way. I plan to continue with some of these practices, conduct my own action research, and try new things in the future.  For additional information, please see my report on Inquiry Based Learning, Collaborative Learning and Homework Videos in AP Calculus.