It is quite obvious to the majority of Americans that the current model of our education system is severely flawed. We have watched many other countries catch and pass us up in the all important academic areas of mathematics and science. We are slowly seeing changes in our schools and one of those changes involves grading students through the use of application problems and projects. Project Based Learning (PBL) will be the focus of this article.
Everything in our society has changed in the last 50 years. You only need to look in the average American home and see all of the technology that exists that was not there even a decade ago. Everything has changed, that is, except the nature in which we learn. Many teachers still stand and lecture for a solid hour and expect students to vacuum that knowledge up and be better for it. However, many of our children do not learn effectively this way anymore. This is one reason we are seeing the rise in charter and private schools across the country. Providence Christo Rey High is one such school that is grabbing headlines in Indianapolis, Indiana. A lottery has to be held for admittance into this popular high school because there are so many young people clamoring to get in.
Science classrooms have especially benefitted from this project based learning. The entire curriculum at some of these charter schools is done in the PBL format, and both the kids and teachers love it. The most difficult aspect of PBL is the upfront planning that is requires. Often times, the projects require a skilled expert in their particular field to guest teach some classes.
Algebra teachers have found it far more difficult to regularly implement PBL strategies. Much of the content on standardized tests such as the ACT is still so abstract that it is difficult to put it into real life settings on a regular basis. However, teachers are challenging themselves to continually create these lessons that will actively engage the minds of our future engineers and doctors.
Here are a few quick tips on how math teachers can implement PBL strategies in their classroom:
Peak their interest from the beginning. Find an engaging video (or create your own) or story to really let your students know the importance of solving the problem at hand. The problem needs to be real and easy enough to identify at least what the problem is going to be.
Start off small. There is no way any teacher can go from no PBL in their classroom to doing it every single class period. Start by throwing yourself in and designing one awesome unit and see how it goes. You will quickly learn about what works and what doesn’t work for you in your classroom.