Friday, April 26, 2013

We might be doomed after all.

My grade 9's are in the Electricity unit right now, and we're doing some very simple calculations involving power, energy and time. Seriously, folks, I'm giving them formula triangles which are simple as hell -- they don't even have to rearrange a formula, just cover up the one thing they want to solve for with their thumb, and the triangle tells them what the formula needs to be.

For the record, power = energy / time, or P = E/t. The triangle goes like this:


The question I presented to the class, and had them work somewhat independently to solve, went like this:

A refrigerator has a power rating of 3.2 kW, and it runs for 12 h. How much energy does it use?

This one kid, B, has trouble with math. Hell, B has trouble with everything; s/he's in their grade 11 year, but hasn't yet passed grade 9 science (failed it first time around, didn't manage to get it in Credit Recovery the next year (and if you can't do that, I'm sorry, there is really something wrong)). It really doesn't help that B can't seem to shut the hell up for more than 15 consecutive seconds.

For the record.... B and I got into a bit of a verbal back-and-forth a couple of weeks ago in class. I asked B, for the bajillionth time, to stop talking during the lesson. B shot back with the standard, "Sir, I'm not the only one who's talking!" -- and it went predictably for a while. But I got thrown a "Why are you picking on me?" and decided to go for broke. I shot back with, "I'm picking on you because I care about you. If I didn't care about you, I'd let you do whatever the hell you want. But I don't. So, stop it." And B stopped. But I can't keep bringing out this bazooka every time B can't stop talking, which is every fucking day. For the record, if you tell a kid to move across the classroom to an unoccupied desk and they don't... what then? I mean, you could send them to the office to get dealt-with down there, but honestly, that has always seemed like a huge cop-out to me. I'm not saying I've never done it, but the number of kids I've sent to the office in my nearly-11 years of teaching is very likely in the single-digits.

Anyway, I'm circulating around the class, helping kids individually that needed it (about half the kids, far as I could tell, managed to solve it on their own), and eventually I come around to B. Naturally, B hasn't even started -- but I decide that, darnit, we're going to get through this.

The first thing I have the kids do, after they've read the question at least twice, is to go through it and pick out the numerical information. These are grade 9s, so I don't pull tricky stuff on them like giving them extra numbers that don't mean anything; I play it straight with 'em.

I'll refresh your memory:

A refrigerator has a power rating of 3.2 kW, and it runs for 12 h. How much energy does it use?

me: "Alright, so, let's read this... 'power rating of 3.2 kW' -- what do you think you have there?"

B: "Uh.... [long, long pause] that's power, right?"

me: "Yup, it is. So, write P = 3.2 kW right there in the 'Information' section."

B: [writes it down]

me: "Alright, good. So, let's keep reading... 'runs for 12 h'. What do hours measure?"

B: "Ah...."

me: "OK, so, if you say that a baseball game takes three hours, what does 'three hours' measure?"

B: [utterly bewildered look]

me: "Look, it's going to be one of three things: energy, power or time. Look at the formula you're using. So... what does 'twelve hours' measure?"

B: "I... [long pause] uh..."

me: "All you need to say is one of the words 'energy,' 'power' or 'time.' So, which thing would '12 hours' measure, out of these three?"

B: [cautiously, but without any sort of certainty] "...energy?"

me: [head nearly exploding] "Um... no. Hours measures time. It's time. So, write t = 12 h here."

I'd like to say things got better, but they didn't. Meanwhile, as I'm trying to teach B some exceptionally basic mathematical reasoning skills, the rest of my class is starting to go insane and bounce around the interior walls of the place.

As I've said before, my job is ridiculous.

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