Where I Learn that what My Course Teaches is Worthwhile

So I've been taking this math course for ages. It seems like years, desipte the fact that I know it's not. 7 more weeks is the longest amount of time ever. But yeah, back to the point. So I'm taking this course, and we talk a lot about discovery and constructing learning; as in, "students should construct their own learning through the discovery process". What this really means is that textbooks are evil, and I should spend even more time thinking of engaging lessons for my kids so that they can learn. Which makes sense. This is how you learn as an adult. You need/want to learn something, you look at the pictures and give it a shot. This is how I installed my first light fixture. But it's darn simple to flip the page and discover where exactly we're going next the day before the students do. (I'm not saying this is what I do for my classes. I only teach 1 course that even has a textbook. I'm just saying there are teachers out there who ascribe to this philosophy...and I used it myself the year I taught Science.) So I have 2 assignments left for this course, and the current addition to my workload is an inquiry project into something in Grade 9 Applied Math. My question is, "Does instruction using algebra tiles improve the strategic competence of students for factoring variable equations?" (The answer is yes, for those of you who are reeeeally wondering) I pulled out the tiles today with my 9s, and we sat down and went to work. After reviewing which were negatives and which were positives, and representing different equations, we had 5 minutes left. This in and of itself was a miracle, since I'm usually scrambling at the end of the class to make sure everyone knows what exactly is going on. I really didn't want to get into something that was going to take more time so I gave my class a treat: they all made me pictures using their algebra tiles: houses with swimming pools, flowers, ladybugs. It was fun to watch them so intent on their building. But the best part? At the end of the class, they all wanted to know if we could use the tiles again tomorrow. That made my day. Even though I know they're only in it for the pictures.

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