The Calculus of Eddie Jou
Guest blog by Ross T.
Eddie Jou is a sensible man. He wants me to believe that there was no special sauce involved in helping 50% of his students pass the AP Calculus exam last year. I press him for some innovative nugget. “Isn’t it better if the story is that other people might be able to get similar results?” he asks. After all, Eddie Jou is a very sensible man.
AP Calc at Match under Eddie is about gathering data about students and reacting to it immediately. We’re talking video game-like turnaround on feedback.
If homework shows a skill deficiency, Mr. Jou’s do-now addresses it the very next day. If quizzes reveal a misunderstanding, Eddie gives his TA—who runs calc seminar—focused student-specific remediation information.
It’s daunting and rigorous material, but his students know exactly where they stand. Eddie takes the time to explain how each test grade would translate to an AP score. “In October a 1 or a 2 can be disheartening, but I’m also able to say, ‘Yeah, today you’re a 2, but you’re also X points away from a three.’” With consistent and detailed feedback, students are able to see trends and maintain a growth mindset.
He also uses student data to show the class a correlation between homework completion and test grades. “I try to show them the value of practice in multiple ways,” he explains.
Eddie is quick to acknowledge that his timely and student-specific intervention is enhanced by having a manageable number of students. With a couple dozen kids, he can devote time to tightening his feedback loops.
And this year, Eddie is taking the differentiation to the next level. In August he finagled a schedule whereby his two calculus sections would meet back-to-back, which allowed him to move students between the two calculus classes. “One is faster paced,” he says. “They’re both doing the same material, but the fast class gets to more and more challenging problems.” This allows him to use test data to move students into a setting of more appropriate rigor—and to do so with precision, making adjustments on a quarter-to-quarter basis.
And he’s sure to call home with positive feedback whenever he can, or to hang back after school to meet with kids individually. He doesn’t think his methods are all that remarkable. It’s just common sense: know what each kid needs, know it quick, and deliver it ASAP.
“So, yeah,” he says, shrugging. “No special sauce.” And I suppose that Eddie’s subdued and poised demeanor was the reason I went sniffing for special sauce in the first place. By the time we’re done talking, my taste for it is much diminished.