Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Random Thoughts

1. We played a last-minute Kahoot! in class today to review unit circle values. One of the boys chose Foussinating as his name. Hi 2nd period!

2. I took two class days to construct the unit circle; one day was spent labeling degree and radian values, then the next was creating little 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 triangles to fit the triangle and find the ordered pairs. I know this could have been done in a 20-minute period (instead of 2 35-minute shortened periods) but I also heard a lot of "Oh!" and "That makes sense!" when we got to the ordered pairs. So the extra time was worth it. Today we finally got to the point where we could see the relationships between those ordered pairs and the sine/cosine/tangent values.

3. I'm (tentatively, but pretty sure) teaching both Precalculus and Math 3 next year, both of which I'm currently teaching. So after a year of creating 2 brand new courses, I actually get to use one of them again!  But of course it won't be that easy...

A. We adopted a new textbook series for Math 3. Wait, let me edit that. We adopted a program for Math 3. Won't have too many physical books (which is fine) but our program seems to have a pretty good online component. And after a year of no book at all, it'll be nice to have more choices. But that also means that I either adapt my course to its program or its program to my course.

B. Not only do we have a new book, but I'm hoping that with another year of common core math under our belts, the kids coming into Math 3 won't need as much review/reteaching. I spent a lot of time on linear and quadratic functions that I "shouldn't" have to do. So even if I can compact that a little more it'll give me time to actually get to the statistics and geometry that I'm supposed to do in Math 3.

C. Because of the change in our courses due to common core, there's been a lot of overlap in Math 3 and Precalc. Which means that a lot of topics won't need to be repeated in Precalc and will give me time to hit limits and derivatives and the beginnings of calculus even more than I do now. But I also need to add in conics and matrices (both considered 4th year). My goal is to make them into blended modules that the kids can work through on their own, especially the matrices. So there's a summer project!  I should be able to lose rational functions, exponential functions, and even some of the trig.  This year I have a mixup of kids from Honors Algebra 2, Trig with Functions, and Honors Math 3 so I wasn't able to make changes. Next year they'll all be coming from the same place.

Regardless, this summer will hopefully be a little less hectic than last summer (bought a new house, got back to the classroom, started creating two new courses). But of course I'll still have work to do!

Monday, April 11, 2016

Walmart Warm Up

I was browsing through twitter last night (instead of grading the mound of papers sitting in front of me) and saw this tweet from Walmart:


Which got me wondering...
How many retweets/likes would it take to get to $1.5 million 1 ? And is it possible 2?

Instead of figuring it out for myself, I thought this would make a good warm up problem for today!

I added a couple of additional questions, too:
Given the number of RTs/favorites at the time, how much money is Walmart committing? 3
How many meals is this? 4

The kids thought I was a little wacky for thinking about this from a tweet, but maybe it'll actually make them think again when they see something like this. Or maybe not.

1. 1,500,000/0.90 = 1,666,666.67 RTs/likes
2. We had differing opinions. That's a lot of RTs/likes. But there's also no end date on the tweet. And you don't have to follow Walmart to see it (I don't). Overall consensus was no.
3. When I saw the tweet again this morning it had 10,142 RTs and 9251 likes for a total of 19393. At $0.90 each, that's $17453.70
4. Using those same values, $17453.70/0.09 = 193930 meals.


Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Observations from today

I've had two classes work through the problems I gave them. Again, for each set of 3 problems, they got to choose whether they wanted to do two easier problems or one harder.  It's been really interesting to see how they approach it!


  • The pairs are working well together. I let them choose who to sit by and at this point most kids have "someone".  In one class I had two individuals that I suggested move next to each other. They did, and although I didn't see them really working together, I did overhear one asking another for advice.  So that works.
  • To encourage the pairs, I moved my desks around. I normally have my room arranged in 6 tables of 4 or 5, but I wanted this to be a "pair" thing instead of a "group" thing.  Not only did I separate pairs out, but I have them facing a different side of the room. Oh the commotion that's caused today!  It's funny; some kids really like the pairs in a more row-like feel. Some hate it. But it's always nice to switch things up!
  • Most pairs are going straight to the 3-point question to decide if it's doable. And most are tackling it!  I thought that they would read it and go back to the 1- and 2-pointers. I'm happy to be wrong! 
  • Very few pairs have finished their problems, but I don't want them work outside of class individually or with other people (or.. not that they would do this... copy from someone else who had completed the problem).  So I collected the packets back and told them I'd give them time tomorrow to work. At this point in the year I'm used to everything in this class taking 2 - 3 times longer than I anticipate.
  • Students are really stepping up on these problems. Some of these kids I anticipated, but some I've been really impressed with. These students are thinking harder and better (if that makes sense) than I've seen all year.  I made a point to tell my classes that a lot of these problems came from an Honors Precalculus packet and that I was proud of how well they'd been doing with them.
  • I love the idea of giving them choice. Is it feasible for every day? Considering the time it took me to pick problems and sort them into categories and point values, no. But I need to make a point to do it more often.  I'll add that to my list of things I need to do... and maybe someday I'll accomplish them all.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Word Problem Choice

In my Math 3 classes we've been working on some trig. I hadn't been planning on doing trig as our next unit but I know there are a bunch of my kids who will be taking the ACT this weekend so I wanted to expose them to it first.

I started out with reviewing (ha!) right triangle trig, then went to Law of Sines and Law of Cosines. Yesterday we talked about areas of triangles. It's actually been fun to see kids enjoying solving - and they're not shy about telling me that they like it!

When we reach this point in my Honors Precalculus class I give them some word/application problems to solve. While the kids aren't too excited about them, I love it! It's not very often in Precalc that we get to some real-world situations. So I wanted to do the same for Math 3, but I know they're not ready for that level of problem.

Instead, I put together 9 problems (some from the precalc packet) and assigned points for each (1 - 3). The kids will need to choose which problems to do, but they have to total 9 points. So they can do 6 problems worth 1 & 2 points each or 3 problems worth 3 each. Or a combination thereof.

Here's an example of one of the problems. We did some problems similar to it today in class so it shouldn't be a big challenge. Hence, a 1-pointer.

Hoping tomorrow goes ok! If your kids are anything like mine, application/word problems are not their favorites... but if that's their only choice they can't skip them all!

(If you're interested, here's a link to the whole packet.)


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

A Fix for Quiz Corrections?

I detest quiz corrections. They're messy, I have to grade things more than once, and the kids often just copy their neighbor's correct answer without actually rethinking the work.

So when I had a student ask last week if he could do quiz corrections for a recent quiz, my instinct was to say no.

But then I fought with myself (not literally, you know). Isn't the goal to get the kids to learn the stuff? Is there a way to do quiz corrections so that they actually recognize their mistakes and go through the process to fix them?

I ended up creating this chart that I'm hoping will help in more ways than one.

My hopes:
1. It'll force the kids to show their work in a place where I can actually find it.
2. It asks "what did you do wrong?" so that they can inspect their work and think through it.
3. It'll keep the kids from just copying their neighbor's answer without actually doing some work.

I also gave a specific due date for the corrections so they're not floating in at any time. When I have RPoC (random piles of crap) I tend to put off grading it and it tortures me.

My first round is due on Friday, so the jury is still out.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

I know the problem... now someone solve it for me.

On a day-by-day basis I'm impressed with how much my students can do.

Solve a quadratic equation?  No problem.
Simplify this cube root? Got it.
Find the asymptotes and graph this rational function?  Piece of cake (mostly).

 Just this week in Math 3 we're working with radicals; simplifying, adding, subtracting, rationalizing, etc. When we concentrate on one task they're golden.  But once I expect them to actually remember skills from previous days (weeks, months, courses) I'm out of luck.

Rationalizing denominators is tough when you can't remember how to multiply radicals.  I actually mentioned this to the kids today and got several head-nods. "You guys are good with the idea of rationalizing a denominator. But when it comes to remembering how to multiply and simplify after setting up the rationalizing and that's where we struggle."

I've fought this all year with my Math 1 kids. Their retention skills are so lacking. On any given day I could teach a new skill to the class and I'd say a good 75% of the kids could understand and do it. If they chose to (another issue). But the next day it's a toss up to who knows what.

Is it me? I try and teach for understanding, hoping that something will click (instead of just memorizing a formula).   I've chosen to decrease the amount of problems I give each night; typically assignments are 5 - 6 problems. Would assigning more help?

In both of these classes I've started giving weekly review problems this semester. Next year I intend to start that from day 1.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Weekend comments

First, the bad:
I'm frustrated with Math 3 kids who can't factor. I'm going to start assigning a weekly factoring review. And including it on every single quiz for the rest of the year.

I'm annoyed that Math 3 kids don't know the difference between numerator and denominator. And therefore mix up the zeros of a rational function with its vertical asymptotes.  Do I need to say "top" and "bottom" for high school juniors?

Now, the good:
I'm done grading for the weekend and it's only 3:16 pm on Sunday afternoon!
Time for a run :)

*Edited to remove anything that might be taken as personal for anyone. Just me venting. If all students did their own work all of the time, I'd be happy.