Thursday, February 23, 2017

Factors that Make Vantage...well...Vantage

When I was in high school, the word "factor" scared me half-to-death for two reasons: 1. Because it was usually accompanied by the word "problem" in Algebra.  2. It also made me think of Fear Factor...the show on NBC where people either did really dangerous or disgusting things to try to win $10,000 (or whatever the prize amount was).  Either way, it's safe to say I was never a fan of "factoring".   So, when I stepped into Mrs. Kelly Horstman's class last week and two of the first words I heard were "radical" and "factoring", I started wondering what I had gotten myself into.  If I wasn't good with regular factoring, how would I not embarrass myself with "radical factoring"!?
However, as the discussion got started, and Mrs. Horstman started going through the notes with her students; I realized that I wouldn't have any "problems" in this class (sorry, couldn't resist the pun).  I would never take anything away from any of the teachers I had the pleasure of learning from at Kalida High School roughly 15 years ago, but I can honestly say that if someone had explained the process of isolating radicals before solving the way that Mrs. Horstman did yesterday, I may not have feared factoring nearly as much as I used to.
I also can't say enough about the way the students were encouraged to work together and push through roadblocks as a class, rather than trying to figure everything out on their own.  One particularly tough problem really got my attention.  Without getting too in-depth, I'll just share that there was more than one correct way to arrive at the answer.  Instead of working through it herself, Mrs. Horstman had two students with varying ideas on how to isolate and break down the "Xs" work out their versions on the board, while she walked around and checked with other groups of students on which method they thought was correct.  In the end, both students at the board were correct, but one of the methods just needed an extra step before it would be ready to be solved.  Mrs. Horstman was able to explain why both methods worked, and all students seemed satisfied...until it came time to actually solve the problem.
Because of how the problem was set up, there were actually two possible answers.  "Were both correct?" several of us wondered.  From the discussions going on around the classroom, I wasn't alone.  Mrs. Horstman explained that sometimes Algebra gives you what she called an extraneous solution.  How do you figure out which is extraneous and which is correct, though?  That sounded extra strenuous to me.  Once again, she calmly put that in the hands of the students.  And, unlike me, they were able to respond!
"Plug them in!" Several of them said.
Sure enough, the students worked at their desks while Mrs. Horstman plugged both possible answers into the original equation on the board.  One solution worked, the other did not!  I was thrilled.  Not only because I' learned a new vocabulary word, but also because I felt like I understood the process of how we got to the correct answer.
Participating in classes like that, and seeing our students learn how to work together, discuss, and find their way through challenging situations is a huge "factor" in why I continue to Love working at Vantage Career Center.  Our students are willing to help each-other, and our teachers care enough to find unique ways to lead student collaboration in ways that allow them to learn as a team.
Have a great rest of the week!  

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