Marble Slides R Us :)

Posted on July 13, 2017


Student in Math Literacy came in for help “on the computer part” of the course.  Well, Connect has been a source of frustration… a student asked “what does it want me to do?” and I had to answer “reach in and fix the program — it’s wrong again,” as we just asked it for the right answer which was exactly what we’d typed in.   Happily, the next one worked.
When Student said “I just don’t get these marbleslides — you’ll have seen them, right?”  and I thought… oh, those “latest thing math teachers are ga-ga-ing about” marbleslides?

Yea, verily… it was.   And the student bore out my premise:   struggle is pointless when you’re up to your eyeballs in quicksand.   It wasn’t at all clear where to begin, what went with what.   The “click everywhere and see what happens” hadn’t worked.
You click to “discharge” and things just went straight down.   No way to know that this was because the line associated with the equation was supposed to guide the marbles over the stars.   If you’re a math teacher, you could see that the equation matched the line.  Since the students don’t yet know how to graph equations of lines, that’s not there.  Yes, they can do it when the problems look right on a worksheet.   This doesn’t look like the worksheet.

However, with a little   guidance (“how can we make the line match the stars?”)  … it didn’t take long  for that learning thing to be happening and we both agreed that had a group of students not necessarily teacher been working at it, they’d probably have worked it out and learned from it.

Also notable:   SIQ sought out help from others at work – I suspect educated folks who will have passed higher level math courses than this – and got  “that is giving me a headache.  No.”

Without that magic ingredient — the “I expect to make sense of this” — which so many of our students don’t have … many a student in the class would have responded that way and tried to survive the exercise.   What should and could have been a brain-changing dendrite-developing activity would be another “I know everybody else is getting this but it makes no sense to me” experience .

Sometimes 2/3 of a class is smiling gamely and sure everybody else is getting it… and they’re all trying to fake it and survive, which doesn’t grow dendrites well at all.  They may find ways of generating the right answer — and if they don’t expect things to “click,” they work harder at the long way around… and affirm their belief that math is a thing you work really hard at to pass, not to make sense of.

Desmos rocks 🙂   Can we make a team of people to make activities that will bridge the “that’s giving me a headache, no” gap?  Teach to seek and find the connections?  Maybe do research to discern whether this achieves that amazing goal of being able to look at something in a different context and wrestle with it?  I think that’s what happened here but can’t say for sure that we didn’t just memorize another context…