Previously: PBL Part 1: The Shift to Skills
In previous years, it has been hard to find lessons appropriate for a heterogeneous group of students – some who rocked geometry in 8th grade and others who failed pre-algebra. Teaching a discrete content skill (e.g. factor a quadratic expression) was a guaranteed loser unless I had a way to add a serious range of depth to it (e.g. how easy and difficult can I make it to factor a quadratic expression?). Challenges like this, of course, lead to (the deathtrap of) tracked classes in many schools.
In my class this year, the tasks asked of students are ones that could be as appropriate to a 5th grader as they are to a professional demographer, event planner, consultant, etc. Every project has easy entry and impossible exit, which has resulted in students using a wide range of mathematical tools on the same project. Stuff like this makes me salivate for the day in my unit plan where the kid with the linear population growth model peer edits with the kid who went with an exponential model. Good conversation, good engagement; no tracking needed.