Experience First, Formalize Later for Algebra 1 Systems

In January 2020, a friend and I were able to go to a StatsMedic Pop-Up Workshop and see the lessons in action. It was a great Saturday. We were able to see the lessons in action, get some of the insights on the hows-and-whys, and hear the Experience First, Formalize Later (EFFL) philosophy. After that weekend, I came back to school excited to start tweaking a lot of what I had been doing.

Since my AP Statistics was in EFFL form, I started on the next unit for Algebra – Systems of Equations (click to see and download the lessons). The engagement of my classes was great. Students were commenting, “the period’s done already?” And just like what I had seen in reviewing for the AP Exam in my Stats class, students were referring back to the situations when we were reviewing for quizzes and tests. And while I can’t tell you definitively that test scores were better (we were prepping for potentially going remote due to COVID-19), I can tell you kids were engaged in my classroom. Engaged kids make for fewer classroom management issues. I never heard, “I’m not going to use this.” Both of those are wins in my mind. I did tighten up the lessons a bit, these are pretty much how they were presented to my Algebra classes (two facilitated with a special education teacher and one standard).

In class, I didn’t go through all of these all in a row. For each solving technique, we did the lesson(s) and then spent at least one day of practice in class. Those practice days were usually standard review days (kids working, us focusing on students with struggles) or we were doing Vertical Non Permanent Surfaces in random groups
(Alex Overwijk’s blog post is worth a read – it changed how I do a lot in my classroom). Either way, students were engaged as they had a better idea of what was going on and while I had our Algebra Learning Cards in the past, looking at the Important Ideas boxes served the same purpose.

My goal this year was to try to re-write the entire Algebra curriculum so the lessons were in EFFL format. But like you, goals were rewritten by words like remote, hybrid, and the like. I’m hoping that once things settle down to get back to writing EFFL for Algebra and will share those as I build them as well.

About Aaron Hayes

Husband, father, and math teacher (usually in that order). Love sane use of technology in the classroom, great questions, and using time wisely. Current dreams: do some consulting and get on a particular team-based reality show.
This entry was posted in Algebra, Best Practice, EFFL, Teaching and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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