When the revised curriculum came out with a Mathematics Research Project in Math 20-2 (Foundations of Mathematics 11 elsewhere in the WNCP), many of us were surprised by its inclusion. The exact wording of the outcome from the curriculum guide is shown below.
Mathematics Research Project
1. Research and give a presentation on a historical event or an area of interest that involves mathematics.
1.1 Collect primary or secondary data (statistical or informational) related to the topic.
1.2 Asses the accuracy, reliability, and relevance of the primary or secondary data collected by:
- identifying examples of bias and points of view
- identifying and describing the data collection methods
- determining if the data is relevant
- determining if the data is consistent with information obtained from other sources on the same topic.
1.3 Interpret data, using statistical methods if applicable.
1.4 Identify controversial issues, if any, and present multiple sides of the issues with supporting data.
1.5 Organize and present the research project, with or without technology.
The Alberta 10-12 Mathematics Program of Studies with Achievement Indicators – Page 66
This outcome seemed really broad and wide open to me. I anxiously awaited the authorized resource so I could see how the approved publisher had treated this outcome. The approved resource is from Nelson (Principles of Mathematics 11). They introduce the research project on Pages 64 and 65. They outline a 9 step process to project completion, and then in each subsequent chapter, they have students complete one of the steps. Their process is:
- Select the topic you would like to explore. (1 to 3 days)
- Create the research question that you would like to answer. (1 to 3 days)
- Collect the data. (5 to 10 days)
- Analyze the data. (5 to 10 days)
- Buffer Space. (3 to 7 days)
- Create an outline for your presentation. (2 to 4 days)
- Prepare a first draft. (3 to 10 days)
- Revise, edit, and proofread. (3 to 5 days)
- Prepare and practice your presentation. (3 to 5 days)
In addition, on Page 64, they list “issues that may interfere with the completion of the project in a time-efficient manner.”
- part-time job
- after-school sports and activities
- regular homework
- assignments for other courses
- tests in other courses
- driving school
- time you spend with friends
- school dances and parties
- family commitments
- access to research sources and technology
As I read this, I became quite disheartened. Remember, for this revised curriculum, there was one approved publisher. The WNCP worked closely with the publisher to ensure 100% curricular fit. That seemed to suggest that Nelson’s interpretation of the Research project outcome was 100% aligned with Alberta Education’s. And what frightened me most was that Nelson’s interpretation seemed to be suggesting to students, early in Math 20-2, that they were going to have to do a project that would take between 26 and 57 days. Not only that, but this project was also going to interfere with after school activities. What kid, in his right mind, would want to commit to this? What teacher, in his right mind, would want to commit 26 to 57 classes (out of about 80, in total) to something like this?
I called Alberta Education and had a nice conversation with a person there. Based on my conversation, I believe I can provide you with examples of what this research project could look like. I’d hate to see teachers leave this outcome out, because I think students could have a lot of fun with it, if we present it properly.
What follows is my interpretation of this outcome. Hopefully I haven’t distorted Alberta Education’s intent too much. This is what I would do if I had a class of Math 20-2 students in front of me right now.
- The research project should be something that interests the students. Ideally, I would give them several choices as to what to do, but I wouldn’t leave it as wide open as the outcome suggests. I would have some pre-packaged projects ready to hand out.
- I would spend a maximum of 5 classes on this, and would not expect them to spend more than a few hours at home on it. 26 to 57 days is absolutely ridiculous.
- I would need help coming up with project ideas for my students to choose from. I would ask for help on Twitter and this blog. Which is what I am doing right now. If you have other project ideas that you would be willing to share, please send them my way. I will post them here, and maybe we can develop a bank of these things so that we can give students lots of choice.
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