First students were engaged and enjoying mathematics. Secondly, some who had not tested well on the unit were demonstrating a deep understanding and firm grasp of the concepts of slope, y-intercept, and linear growth. Most surprising was the fact that they vastly exceeded my expectations for the project.
Since then, I have incorporated math projects at the culmination of most of my units of study. Though they take an investment of time, I have found that they pay off even more than more traditional instructional days. For that reason I don’t regret finding the time to do them.
“One of those projects was done by a student who is blind,” I explained. “Another of the ten is deaf. Three didn’t graduate from the 8th grade due to grades, attendance, or pregnancy. One is in foster care because her mother was committed to an institution. Another came to us this year because her father’s parole was revoked and the family had to move closer to the prison. One is an ELD student who has been in America less than a year, one doesn’t know his times tables, and the tenth is our student body president. The beauty is that you can’t tell by looking at their projects who is struggling in math and who isn’t.”
Math projects show us that all students can achieve incredible results. I call this the “Emancipation of Intelligence”. The human mind is an incredible organ, and there is much more there than is shown on a standardized test. While traditional testing has its place, it can never reveal the depth of mathematical understanding that resides in our students. It would be a shame to shutter the mine before we have unearthed all its riches.