FCS in Math

So....it's been a while.

My reasoning is swinging back and forth between "I've become less co-dependent on everyone else to do my job" and "Am I closing my door and isolating myself again?"

Anyway, school has been done for so long that I don't feel the need to sum up what you've missed. Here's the short version, I finished my fourth year, heading in to my fifth, finished my Master's Degree, and for the first time in my career, am not teaching Algebra I. Algebra I is my baby so it feels quite strange to step back from the class I feel the most comfortable and most prepared for. But it feels nice to know I only have 3ish preps: Geometry, Algebra II, and RtI Math (whatever that is).

I also have a middle school class. That same class nearly made me quit my job last year. I hated it. And was dreading it again for this year. Until....Contextualizing into CTE.

This was a conference I went to with my FCS (family and consumer science) colleague. She invited me to go months to go because she couldn't go without a math teacher. I said yes in passing and then vaguely dreaded it until time to go.

It was awesome. One of the best conferences I've ever been to. FCS teachers are way more friendly and way less socially awkward than the math teachers I usually attend conferences with. They love to talk and eat! Two of my favorite things.

The conference was ran by two guys who took their geometry class and construction class and turned it into a Geometry Builds a House class. It is a double block class where about 40 kids are in one classroom with two teachers who team teach. They spend 90 minutes doing math in the classroom and then 90 minutes working on the construction site. They've been doing this project for 7 years and have built and sold 7 legit houses. They're motto is that CTE (Career and Technology Education) classes drive the project and math enhances it. Students literally go outside and apply math to the real world. On test scores, they beat out the traditional geometry class and the classes from neighboring schools, even AP classes. The outcomes they saw were increased attendance, higher homework completion rates, increased enthusiasm (student & teacher), decreased disciplinary incidents, and allies in the core areas.

Here is their powerpoint:

It's a hook for students in Algebra I to do better since it is a prerequisite. They are now wanting to develop an Algebra II Auto where they will take a standard car and convert it to electric. Basically, during the summer they travel and talk to teachers about their project.

So with us and a bunch of FCS teachers, it was a little different. We don't know how to build houses. But we do know how to build lessons. We were given time to talk and collaborate on a lesson that the FCS teacher already does and how we can enhance it with math. It's amazing, even for this math teacher, to see how much math is naturally a part of their world.

For example, we came up with the idea of converting a recipe for a class to a recipe for the whole high school. What FCS teachers call 'conversion factor' is what we call 'scale factor' in the geometry world. Each pair came up with a lesson and then attached 'naked math' to the end of it. Basically, the math taken out of the context of the lesson so students recognized the connection between the two content areas. We all presented our ideas to the group and others suggested extensions. Then we went through the whole process again.

It was a great learning experience.

Here's what I think makes a good conference/classroom experience:
  1. Set the spark 
  2. Give people time to actually do it 
  3. Share results 
  4. Discuss, debrief, think ahead
I left the conference feeling excited and satisfied...which is what I wish I could say my students feel when they leave my class. I got even more excited when me and the FCS teacher realized we both have a middle school class during the same hour. As per usual, hers is a 'fun' class and mine is supposed to be extra math. So we've decided we are going to combine our classes for that hour, team teach, and try out all the new lessons we received from the conference.

Oh yeah, we have a flash drive with all of the lessons from 20 pairs of teachers- 40 lessons already done for us. Number 5 on my list above would be 'useful free stuff'. I'm so excited to have a vision for this class and fun things already planned! You would think someone giving you a class and saying do whatever you want would be fun and the easiest thing ever...but it's incredibly hard without a vision. You never know if you are doing the right thing, if you're making a difference...we already feel that enough.

I thought that this conference was so odd for pairing math with FCS teachers but now I think we should be paired up with every teacher! Why should I search the internet for word problems when applications come to life in other content classrooms?

I am eager to try something new and different and with some resources for once! I was surprised by the higher level of math found in a lot of FCS lessons such as systems of equations, exponential functions, and exponential growth and decay.

So being the teacher that I am, I'm going to share all the lessons we made. I don't know how valuable they will be and I can't promise high quality but maybe they will help you set the spark!

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