I posted about the project I put together for my Algebra Support class here, and wanted to take a few minutes to write a quick update on how it went.
First, I was right about most of my students’ lack of knowledge regarding baseball, although I was pleasantly surprised by a few of them. They were actually engaged in arguing over which teams they wanted, and a couple of students even knew enough about baseball to know what the statistics meant and how to use them. (Hey, arguing with each other about how to do the project is so much better than arguing with me because they won’t do it. I’m calling it a win.)
There was a lot of initial “I don’t get it” and “I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do”, which I’ve come to expect from my students. My preferred response was, “Did you read the instructions sheet?” followed by, “You’re supposed to decide how much to pay your players. Read it again.” I do this because I don’t like having to explain things 21 times in a row, and I want them to work on breaking their habit of learned helplessness. Eventually I think they got the idea, but that might have been because other group members explained it better.
What I Liked
My students settled down, worked hard, and actually worked well together. (I’m giving them independent assignments this week so they can quit complaining for a while.) They don’t like working together, although I can’t actually understand why, since they won’t stop talking to each other when they’re not supposed to be.
Everyone received passing grades on this assignment (or higher). I know, I know, I shouldn’t be so concerned about their grades. I’m just getting awfully sick of seeing them fail over and over due solely to their own lack of effort. It was nice to see them succeed at something, and I’m hopeful that it set a good tone for the semester.
Some of the groups really did a great job thinking through the requirements of the project and figuring out how to divide up their budgets.
I liked having them fill out an evaluation on how well they worked as a group. This gave me good information about the group dynamics I may not have observed and gave them a chance to reflect on their own participation in the group. I’m hopeful that such reflection will help them improve their own participation in their groups the next time I assign a group project.
What I Would Do Differently Next Time
Need to be more careful about group formation – I managed to have one group with NO knowledge of baseball whatsoever and they really struggled with the project. I also wound up with another group that had two quiet members who don’t know much about baseball, and one very talkative member who knows a lot about baseball. Of course the one who knew the most about baseball did most of the work.
I think I’ll re-write the directions next time to make it even more clear that students are not to just split the money evenly between all the players. A few groups attempted to do this, but I only caught one of them in time.
We “chose” not to set any restrictions such as a base pay or cap on salaries. (By chose, I mean the class argued about it so much that I eventually gave up and told them to do what they wanted.) Next time, I would definitely set at least a base pay amount. I had quite a few groups decide to pay their lowest players about $10,000. I’m assuming this is because they don’t understand how much it costs to … you know … survive. I might consider a cap on salaries. The students figured out that they didn’t all have the same budgets, and they freaked out that they might not have enough money.
(Speaking of which, the group that was given the Yankees wrote in their explanation that they had “too much money” and didn’t know what to do with it all. They ended up paying Ichiro Suzuki $11 million, so it seemed to me that they did figure out what to do with it all.)
We might be better off having a more in-depth discussion of baseball before starting the project – how the game works, what some of the stats mean, and how much the players get paid under the current system. Like I said, many of my students didn’t understand what is reasonable and unreasonable.
In spite of one student who wrote that she “thought it would be a lot more fun than it was”, I thought the whole thing was pretty fun. And I was glad to have a good start to the semester – here’s hoping it goes better than last semester.