Quantum Progress: A Blog by John Burke
I was assigned to a blog by John Burke called "Quantam Progress." He teaches math and physics at a boarding school in Delaware. The first post I read was about a different teaching method he is using to get his students to dive deeper into a subject. Too often students skim through things and slide through a course without ever really doing work. Mr. Burke's idea made it so that his students could only achieve a high "A" if they put in the extra work and complete what he called "capstones" for 3 points each added to their grade (if they had a 90 and completed one capstone, they received a 93 in the course). These capstones were problems that were a little harder and took a little more work than normal, but if the student wanted a higher grade, leading to a higher GPA, they were to complete them.
In my comment, I commended Mr. Burke for making his students actually work for a better grade, instead of handing it to them. I explained to him that I loved the idea of the capstones and hope that it worked well for him. Lastly, because it wasn't stated in his about me section, I asked him what grade it was he taught at the boarding school. I am hoping to hear back from him because I would love to know what age his students are!
The second blog post of Mr. Burke's that I read dealt with problem solving in Algebra. He essentially said that simple problems in algebra have students stumped because they think they can only be done one way. His example was solving a system of equations with substitution. He said that students got caught up in the "legal" algebraic moves, instead of thinking about what would be a "smart" algebraic move.
I commented on Mr. Burke's post and agreed with him. Because we are caught up in teaching students strictly test material (whether that be state tests, or standardized tests), I feel that we are losing some of the creativity teachers once had. It used to be that teachers had the time to teach you different ways of solving a problem and different ways of looking at problems. I told Mr. Burke that today, it seems that students are caught up in ritual problems. They have a mindset that problems in a unit are all done exactly the same way, when this isn't always true. This is where John Burke's "legal vs. smart moves" come into play. Even if something is legal in Algebra doesn't always mean it is the smart way to go about solving the problem!
If you are interested in the math/science field, I strongly recommend that you check out Mr. Burke's blog! Click here if you would like to read it.