Thursday, April 2, 2015

Student Choice in Mathematics

By: Rachel Barry

Student choice is a great way to motivate students to learn, engage students in the course content, and allow students to take ownership in the classroom.  There are various ways to provide students with multiple modes of communicating their learning: PowerPoint presentation, storyboard, written essay, etc.  Technology fosters these modalities by providing students with the ability to record their thoughts, expand their knowledge through perusing online resources, and communicate with teachers and peers.

Sometimes providing student choice can be difficult as a teacher.  Aligning the curriculum with standards (whether ACT, PARCC, or College Board), unexpected days off, and students' prior knowledge all come into play when mapping out the scope and sequence of a course curriculum.  These constraints can eliminate the time it takes to effectively evaluate student learning through various modes of their choice.

When it becomes difficult to schedule big picture student choice options, I have tried to find smaller ways for students to take control of their learning in the classroom.  An good example of this is the topic of multiplying binomials.  Back when I was a student, I was only taught the FOIL method in grade school.   Now in teaching this topic myself, I have expanded the number of ways to solve these problems, geared towards the students learning style.  Not every student gets the FOIL Method, especially my visual learners, so I also show them the Box Method.  Our population also has a significant number of English Language Learners, who have previously learned the Long Distribution Method at their prior schools.  A couple years ago, I added another method, geared towards artistic students, that I learned from coworker called the Cresent Moon.  My students will watch these videos, try each method, and determine which way works best for them.

This is just one example of how education is evolving to include student choice.  By giving students various methods to approach problems, they are better equipped with critical thinking skills.  Every student learns differently, so I try to provide them with various paths to reach their understanding of the content .  I have found that students are more likely to pursue problems going forward when they have been able to try different approaches and determine which method works best for them.

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