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Rationale
A. How is your topic central to one or more disciplines?
Mathematics has this stigma of being boring or untied to other learning
that students do in school. As a result, students feel that they are not “Math
People”. As educators, we need students to see that one is not simply a
“Math Person” or not. All students have the capability of being successful in
Mathematics, but it starts with the instruction that we give to students. One
of the ways that I like to get students to see Mathematics as a multiple
disciplinary subject is to require students to use math vocabulary and
articulate his or her thought processes. Bringing this Literacy component to
Mathematics can give students who are stronger in Language Arts to feel
that they can succeed in at least one aspect of Mathematics. Praising one for
using correct vocabulary and articulating their thought process can instill
confidence. This confidence could translate into better performance than
previously displayed.
To get people to believe they are capable at understanding
Mathematical concepts, educators need to put more emphasis on the
process of solving a problem and not the final answer. If final answers are all
that the focus is on, a student can get discouraged more quickly. Having a
stronger understanding of the process will eventually result in students
getting the correct answer. My class will walk away seeing the connection
between Mathematics and other classes they take, and the confidence to be
a problem solver.

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When it comes to my topic for my unit, my classroom mentor gave me
the topic of volume and surface area due to restraints he has with the
flexibility of the Eighth Grade curriculum. Unfortunately, my classroom
mentor has to cover certain material in a specific amount of time and this
was next for the Eighth Grade class. Not only did I not get a chance to
choose my topic, but I only have a certain amount of time to cover each part
of the topic because we need to move quickly through the material in order
to get ready for the PSSA’s. This limits how I will be able to teach the concept
to my class. My plan is to activate my class’s prior knowledge by asking
where they have seen Cylinders, Cones, Prisms, etc. in the real world. Then I
will talk about how these objects are filled, whether with items or air. This will
get them to start thinking of these figures in terms of occupying space and
properties they have, thus the conversation of volume will ensue. Relating
the material to the students’ lives will lead to deeper learning (Skemp
1976/2006). The same can be done when it comes to surface area with
packaging, material needed to build a surface, or how both are viewed from
a business perspective. Through several discussions about the concept of
volume and surface area, involving real world examples and how to solve for
each, the students will come away with a complete understanding of both
subjects.
B. Why would your topic be interesting?
Volume and Surface Area are probably not high on the students’
interest level. Honestly, I do not believe that a lot of the students in my

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classes have a high interest in Mathematics as a whole. It seems that the
students feel that Mathematics is too abstract and have a lack of connection
to their lives. I would like to change this dynamic during my two-week take
over. Students should see these Mathematical as tangible concepts that
occur in the real world and see how Mathematics develop problem-solving
skills. Whether one is trying to find money within their budget to buy a new
bike or an engineer trying to develop a new advance in technology, everyone
problem solves in some sort of way. The misconception that students have is
that problem-solving skills are limited to numbers. Problem solving could
take place when an appliance breaks or one gets a flat tire on the highway.
One of the major keys to problem solving is using prior knowledge to figure
out something one does not know. These skills can be developed and
sharpened in a Mathematics classroom. Students should view themselves as
problem solvers within the classroom and not just someone merely along for
the ride who memorizes formulas. This change in perception of the
classroom could make one more interested in learning about all content in
Mathematics, including volume and surface area. I tend to do this by tying in
the real world through discussion and word problems instead of computation
problems.
Once I explain to the students about what it means to be a problem
solver, I believe that this will inspire some to take a new inquiry stance when
it comes Mathematical concepts, like volume and surface area. Mainly, I want
the students to know where the volume and surface area formulas came

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from and not just believe them to be true. So many times, students are just
given formulas and told to “plug and chug” their way through a problem.
This causes a bigger disconnect to the real world and makes Mathematics
more mundane. It is important to see as many physical representations of
the figures that we are asking them to find the volume and surface area of.
This allows the students to see what properties make up both these figures
and wonder how volume could be measured. After students have had time
exploring the figures, we can have a discussion to see how one would
calculate the volume and surface area. We will then compare our formulas to
the ones that are in place and discuss why they may or may not differ.
Having their opinions heard and valued will cause more engagement from
the students and may inspire further inquiry about the figures presented.
As a teacher, I have never found volume or surface area interesting as
a student or an adult. It was something that I knew existed and did not pay
much attention past the formulas. I believe this was due to the fact nobody
presented either of these two concepts as something to investigate, merely
just as formulas to memorize. However, through research on how to teach
these concepts, I have found both to be quite interesting and see the
importance in knowing both. Whether it is a company trying to see what is
the most cost effective way to package their product or what gives me the
most ice cream for my buck at an ice cream parlor, surface area and volume
are all around us. It could be seeing how much water fits in a swimming pool
or how many posters one could fit around their bedroom. It appears in

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people’s lives young and old. Once the connection was made, I saw how
interesting the topics were and the value in knowing it at a younger age.
Through the discussions and real world connections, my students will see the
importance and value of knowing volume and surface area outside of the
classroom.
C. How is this topic accessible to students?
Throughout my time in my Spring placement, I have done countless
observations on my classroom mentor, planning and teaching. This included
taking notes on how to make the material developmentally appropriate for
the students. Every child needs to be challenged in order to push them to
new levels of learning. However, what is challenging for one student may not
be necessarily challenging to the next. This involves intentional
differentiation based upon the student (Tomlinson 199). Providing real life
examples and bringing in models of figures we will be talking about will
provide a good foundation for the students to activate prior knowledge they
have of these figures (Skemp 1976/2006). Multiple Intelligences, like
physically seeing the figures, will bring a tangible and visual model to the
students who learn in different ways (Gardner 1983). There are also some
wonderful videos to show the nets of the figures (cylinders, cones, spheres,
etc.) that can help students break down what they are really made of.
Through graphic images and discussions, I will be able to have students
share personal experiences or encounters with volume and surface area.

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Some may tell stories of painting a wall, stuffing books in one’s backpack, or
hanging posters of their favorite artists in their bedrooms.
Another way to gauge accessibility is to give a pre-test or a challenge
problem to see where there knowledge level is with the content I will be
teaching them. For example, I would like to pose a challenging question
when it comes to volume and surface area to the whole class. This question
may be the right level of rigor for half of the class, but the other half may
need some more scaffolding in order to access this problem. Once I am able
to identify the students who need additional supports, I will be able to
provide “hints” or further information in order to get them to start on solving
this problem. If a handful of the students are still having difficulties, I will pull
them aside in order to provide even further supports in order to help them
access this challenging problem. By the end, every student will get the right
amount of rigor for them in order to further their own understanding of the
problem. Once these groups are identified, I will be able to plan further
instruction around their cognitive levels. I will put emphasis on my students
having a growth mindset when it comes to the two weeks I am in charge of
the class. If they can view that intelligence is gained through effort then they
will have the will to work through difficult problems (Dweck 2010).
D. How does this topic provide multiple opportunities for multiple
connections?
Every student brings in his or her own unique life experiences into the
classroom. This could be different perspectives of learning from previous

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grades or experiences they have had at home. Like I mentioned before,
volume and surface area are all around each of my students’ lives, from
posters or pictures on the wall to drinking a glass of water. Through my
opening discussions in the beginning of class, I plan on having the students
share all these experiences in order to have other students gain insight into
the topics being discussed. From being in a fifth grade classroom last year, I
know that volume is mentioned in previous grades. The topic may not have
been discussed thoroughly, but I do know that the students should be aware
of some of the key terms. Surface area is on the eligible content for the
PSSA’s for Seventh Grade, so that topic should not be too far removed from
their academic lives as well.
Having to articulate one’s answer will be able to bring in further
connections from their Literacy classes as well. In their Literacy class, the
students are expected to be able to provide evidence in the text to support
their opinion. This goes the same for me with their thought process to
answer a problem. The students are expected to be able to say their thought
process and use what they already know as evidence in order to solve a
problem or equation. Being able to articulate their thought process will not
only develop better communication skills, but it will allow for other students
to hear their strategies used when solving a problem. Hearing multiple
strategies will allow students who may have been struggling with a problem
to see it in a new light. This skill can be helpful whether the student is in
Mathematics, Literacy, Science, or Social Studies. In each subject, one has to

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defend their answer or opinion by providing evidence.