Class began today with a quiz over recent readings about the essential elements of Project-based instruction.
After the quiz was completed, Dr. Petrosino showed a video documenting teachers and students solving the Jasper “Rescue at Boone’s Meadow” problem that we had looked at last week. He also introduced the idea of analog problems that are different versions or extensions of the original problem. Surface level analogs address a different aspect of the same scenario, and the class viewed the fuel consumption, capacity and consumption, and headwinds and tailwinds analogs of the original problem. Conceptual analogs cover the same content within a different scenario, such as the Lindbergh question analog for the Jasper problem.
The class then discussed the Jasper problem. One student was critical of the data acquisition process (collecting information from a video), but others felt that it was engaging, allowed for interaction with technology, mirrored real world problems, and allowed for teaching about functions and variables if students lacked information.
The class felt that the middle school classroom in this video was less teacher-focused than the average classroom, and they saw less lecture and fewer worksheets than they would have expected. Dr. Petrosino pointed out that the format of the problem and the class allowed for greater participation by students who were perhaps less skilled at reading. The class wondered about whether older students would be as engaged in doing problems like this, though they acknowledged it was a good alternative to lecture, and felt that grouping would be especially important with secondary students.
Dr. Petrosino told the class that kids who had a year of math curriculum that was primarily focused on Jasper problems reported not having had a math class that year even though assessments showed significant math gains. This classroom was so fundamentally different from their conception of what a math class is that they did not recognize it as such.
The contextualization that is exemplified by the Jasper problems is based in cognitive psychology. Novices in any subject have trouble distinguishing important from trivial information. The essential question we are asking is can we go from a complex problem and work backwards into the basic facts, or do we have to go from basics to complexity?
Dr. Petrosino ended class by talking briefly through the Jasper problem planning net and a mapping of TEKS to the problem.