Seventh-grade math students at Decatur Middle School recently spread out in the classroom and hallways to create a blueprint for a rain forest area at a zoo.Someone needs to make a video of these kids "learning about" volume, depth, cylinders and cubes.
"We're learning about volume, depth, cylinders and cubes," said Tayaba Nadeem, 12.
She and group members Emily Siegman, 12, and Molly Cooper, 13, researched mammals, fish, amphibians, birds and reptiles in the real-life application for math.
"It's a different way to do stuff without using the textbook," Emily said.
That's exactly the point, said Principal Mark Anderson. Getting kids who are used to talking, texting and watching videos engaged in their schoolwork should lead to better test scores, he said.
In honor of their efforts, the Southwestside school has been named one of the state's first three "Schools to Watch."
The program, which was launched in 2002 by the National Forum to Accelerate Middle-Grades Reform, recognizes successful schools so that their efforts can be duplicated elsewhere. Every three years, schools must reapply to keep the distinction.
The title doesn't mean the school has soaring test scores. In fact, ISTEPscores at Decatur Middle School are flat, with about 60 percent of students passing each year, Anderson said.
"It's not about test scores," he said. "It's about what you're doing to help the kids."
Decatur Middle School started changing the way it teaches three years ago, including more project-based learning in anticipation that Indiana would become a Schools to Watch state, Anderson said.
Decatur Middle School's engaging approach puts it on a select list
by Gretchen Becker
March 11, 2010
How are they actually learning about volume, depth, cylinders and cubes while they're "researching" [Googling] mammals, fish, amphibians, birds and reptiles?
And how are they using the formulas?
What do they know about the formulas?
Do they remember the formulas?
If they happen to forget one of the formulas, and don't have access to Google, can they derive a more complicated formula from a simpler formula?
Could these kids figure out the formula for obtaining the surface area of cylinder by grasping the fact that the surface area of a cylinder is composed of two circles and a rectangle?
I bet they can't.
That's the problem with applying math to the real world.
Kids don't learn to apply math to math.