Remove the map and the territory takes a hit.

Original Post on MY BLOG

Sometimes we are reminded just how different classes can be.

Earlier this year I did this project with my Use of Maths class. It went well, they worked hard and were proud of the networks they had drawn; and they really understood the link ebtween that and the matrix. We had a bunch of good discussions about real life things; like logistics, mistakes we can make when getting information off the internet (Ashford International versus Ashford, Surrey – you don’t wanna get the wrong one to start your holiday!)

So I whipped the same project out for one of my AS Decision groups who had just learned about netowrks and matrix representation.

Didn’t work.

All the good stuff we got before was lost in a cacophony of hatred of worded things, the frustration of having to redraw networks when they get too confusing just because of where you have placed your locations. The size of the matrix was too intimidating. The searching online for train times was pointless to them because the lack of a definite answer was unsatisfying.

We got there in the end, but rather than being a productive struggle experience, it was a frustrating battle that used up a lot of my currency as a teacher. So now I gotta reflect on that.

What was different:

  1. The class is generally higher ability.
  2. They have spent the last few months working on mostly algebra and trig, with one acceptable answer to questions, as opposed to use fo maths, who are more used to ‘nasty’ answers
  3. I feel like context is not really important to a lot of the AS students – their intellectual need is to pass the exma with the best score possible
  4. I didn’t give them the Map of England to locate the towns on

That last point is the big one for me; everything else is something I can’t directly control but I think that map was actually a big abstraction step I took away.

That’s bad. I forgot the point of the task. To go from information to a graph based in reality to a network that abstracts that, to the higher abstraction level of a matrix, completely removed from the actual location of the towns.

By removing a rung from the ladder of abstraction and forcing them to enter at a higher stage I gutted a task.

So it’s time to damn well put that map back in, and to go back and reassess tasks with this in mind. Those lower abstraction levels are so important.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

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