Wednesday, May 25, 2016


1.  Sleep. But get out of bed at a reasonable time and run before really starting the day. (And by reasonable I mean 8 - 8:30.)

2. Read. I have a stack of books that I'd like to read. And an awesome front porch that's just waiting for me.

3. Enjoy TMC and not freak out about presenting. Like, what the heck was I thinking?! Be nice to me, people.

4. Re-do Precalc.  No small feat!  But with switching to the integrated pathway there's a ton of overlap between Math 3 and Precalc. There's also a few things we need to add back in (conics and matrices) that were left out of the common core curriculum. But so much of the polynomials and rational functions live in Math 3 now that we shouldn't have to reteach it, especially in an honors class. Looks like there's a group of people on twitter that are re-thinking their precalc classes, too, so hopefully we'll get things figured out. (Check out #precalchat.)

5. Re-do Math 3. I'm not looking for a major overhaul here (hopefully), but we just adopted a book series that has a pretty substantial online portal. I'd like to play with it and get a good idea of how I'd like to use it next year.  It's nice to have the year laid out, though, so I can tweak this summer instead of creating from scratch.

6. All the little stuff.
How do I treat homework?  There's an online option for precalc too, that I could add in so the kids aren't always doing book work. I don't like going all online but it would be nice to be 50/50ish. And I'd feel better about giving grades for homework if I knew the kids weren't just copying each other's problems or the answers from the back of the book (which I encourage them to use to check). In Math 3 I plan on using the new program and supplement with worksheets. The kids won't have a physical book.

What about warm-ups? I love warm-ups in class; I think a lot of good learning and review happens then. But should I make them timed for those classes who are soooo sloooow to get started? And what about the kids who wait until I go over problems to write down the answers?  It'll never be perfect.

I loved using the folders for tables this year; it made passing out and collecting papers so much easier. I need to think about any possible changes for that, if necessary.

Last summer we bought a new house (moved the weekend after school started), and I got this "new" job. It was a crazy summer.  I'm hoping for a much more relaxing one in 2016!

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Box Project (part 2)

I don't know that I ever wrote a "The Box Project (part 1)" post, but whatever. It's May.

On one of the first few days of school I give my precalc kids a randomly sized piece of rectangular card stock and tell them to make the biggest box possible. We have the "what is a box" conversation and then talk about the algebra involved.

It's a great review of all kinds of algebra... polynomials, domain, extrema, etc.

I have them fill out a summary sheet of their findings. They include the dimensions of their original paper, the dimensions of their box, and the cubic expression representing the volume of their box.

Then I put their papers in a folder and file it away, hoping that I'll find it on this day in May.  So far I've been lucky and have located them every year. But let's not jinx myself.

We've been finding limits and discussing the difference quotient (and how it will help us find slopes) for the past couple of weeks. Today I gave back their box summary sheets (which they were amazed to see) so they could apply the difference quotient to their volume functions.

Amazingly, after setting their result equal to 0 and solving, one of the values was eerily close to the value they'd determined would create the maximum height of their box.

Minds blown.

(Yes, we talked about why we were setting the derivative (although they don't know that term yet) equal to 0.)

And then I let them talk me into completing just 4 problems on a too-long worksheet that I'd given them. Because it's May.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

15 more wake ups!

Have you started your end-of-the-year countdown yet?  I always get confused if it says "x more days"... does that include today? So I used the number of days left that I have to drag myself out of bed at 5:30 am wishing that I'd gone to bed earlier.

In my precalc class we're learning a little about limits. It's actually a nice way to end the year; it's something that these kids will see next year (but have some familiarity with) and what we're doing with limits isn't super complicated. We've spent a lot of time looking at graphs, creating tables, and talking about why a limit may not exist. Tomorrow's quiz is my all-time favorite because it has the cool scratch-off question (ala the fabulous Sam Shah).

There are kids missing all kinds of days because of AP Testing and being counselors for the district's 5th graders (who are at a local camp for a few days) and I got tired of worrying about who would be here when.  So I gave my precalc kids a calendar of what's coming up in May. To that I stapled any paper that I would have given them, and also attached a list of all of the book work that I would be assigning.  Not here? You know the schedule!  Of course my goofy sophomores come in and ask every day what we're doing.

And then they ask if we can have a free day. No way! It'll mess up my calendar!

In Math 3 I'm staying consistent with what I've done all year:  underestimate how long it will take to get through something. I originally thought I could get through graphing sine and cosine in one week (including a quiz). Instead, we'll quiz on day 10. But I'm ok with that! I detoured this week and had the kids write equations based on graphs (thank you Desmos!) and also did a couple days of real-world data that was sinusoidal. So we'll quiz on Friday and start a few days of logarithms next week. Hopefully next year I'll be able to get through logs because I won't have to spend as much time on quadratics (ha ha ha).

My Math 1 class is a whole different situation. These guys took the AIR test a few weeks ago and since then we've been wandering through polynomials. It's a Math 2 topic but it definitely won't hurt them to get a preview! We spent several days adding, subtracting, and multiplying (using the box/area method) and this week started factoring by GCF. Things would be much simpler if all of the kids knew their multiplication facts, but a girl can only dream.  My plan is to start factoring quadratics (with a = 1) tomorrow... we played with product/sum puzzles a few days ago so we'll use that idea paired with un-doing the multiplication box.

I don't have to give them a final exam (because of the AIR) so I'm trying to find something fun to do that last week. Something project-y without being a major production.  We'll see!

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.)