Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween!

Pumpkin pi, anyone? :)

(It's amazing what kids will do on the last day of the quarter for extra credit!)

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Things I've Tagged (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, October 28, 2011

One class down...

Just finished first period and I wanted to make some notes on it before I forget what happened. It was truly a whirlwind!  I'm thinking that half of the class walked out without a clue of what had gone on.

1.  Started out showing my facebook powerpoint.  When looking at the quartic regression slide, one of the boys (let's call him Fred, because he'll be back!) brought up the idea of Myspace, which I had intended to address as well (thanks to @DaveLanovaz last night, who made the same comment!).  Someone else questioned why the logistic regression equation didn't give a correlation coefficient.  I told him I didn't know why; I'd looked into it last night and couldn't find out. Fred (who is taking AP Stats) told us that the correlation coefficient is found by taking the log of something (he lost me here) to turn the equation into a linear equation. Because the logistic equation had already been taken a log of, you couldn't do it again.  Hence no correlation coefficient.  Or something like that.  (@druinok let me know (late!) last night that maybe my regression equations weren't the best as the calculator uses least squares regression which would affect the vertical aspects of the equation.  I decided that instead of redoing all of my slides I was just going to let it slide. Ha. :) )

2.  Flip the paper. The other problem they were to work on last night (thanks to @JackieB!) was to find the area between f(x) = e^x and g(x) = ln x in the interval [1/2, 1].  We talked through strategies... plot some points, draw a graph, cut up the shape into shapes we know to find their area.  Fred kept referencing integrals (I kept putting him off), other ideas were a trapezoid and a triangle, a big rectangle minus two triangles, and two triangles. Then I let Fred talk. He's a great kid - the kind who is constantly running up to the board to do his "thinking".  He's very very interested in all things mathematical and is currently taking AP Computer Science, AP Stats, and Honors Physics (in addition to Honors Precalc).  He explained the "idea" of integrals (dividing up the shape into smaller trapezoids of which you have an infinite number of pieces) and was very theoretical. Then another girl (who had asked me yesterday if this was an integration problem) came up to the computer and talked through something more "concrete". She showed an integral, made up a function, showed exactly what it was she was finding in terms of the area, and found her area.  Did I mention she's a sophomore who's come up through college prep and was just added to my class a few weeks ago because the trig teacher thought she needed more of a challenge?  And did I mention that she takes extra classes on the side because she likes math?  Anyway.  The other kids in the class were stunned.  Some totally tuned out because they had no idea what was going on and some were interested and amazed that they were seeing a classmate do this.

3.  New stuff - modeling exponential functions.  Not so exciting, but I was able to get the rest of the class to tune in.

Crazy class.


(A year ago this never would've happened because I wouldn't have given them the opportunity to think this way.  Shame on me.)

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Facebook regression

It turns out that using an exponential function to model the facebook population wasn't the best choice.  Check out the results!

(Can you tell I had fun making this? I love the results of this question!)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Catching Up

So a few days ago I was happy that I was all caught up in everything.  Today?  Not so much.

Friday's the last day of the quarter and I've got a stack of papers thiiiiiis high on my desk.  Projects (kinda) that I collected from my precalc kids today, Algebra 2 systems of equations quizzes that were taken yesterday (which I should've graded last night but just couldn't bring myself to do after spending almost two hours carving pumpkins with the kiddos), and a myriad of make-up and late work that needs to be added in.

[side note: There's just something about random papers that annoys the heck out of me and I hate trying to figure out where they go and why.  I was actually considering this summer coming up with a half- or quarter-sheet for the kids to staple to their late/make-up work saying when the assignment was due and why it is being turned in late.   I might consider that for next quarter.]

And so I can avoid actually getting any real work done, there are a couple of things that went well today.
1.  My principal stopped in during my 3rd period class for what I guess was a formal observation (although I thought that we were supposed to be notified about them, but oh well.... I'd rather be surprised so I don't stress about it).  It was probably the best class for her to be here for, which was nice.  We spent quite a bit of time reviewing last night's assignment (solving exponential and log equations), took a little side trip to Wolfram Alpha to see if it would tell us about the origins of the term "natural log" because one of the kids was insisting they were abbreviated ln as a result of being Napier's initials (um, no), then went to google translate to check the translation of natural logarithm into French and Latin.  Hey, you know it's all about 21st century learning, right?

Then we went over a couple of the questions they still had about the Risky Business project that was due today (and that was seriously all for show - I never intended to do that with them but thought she'd appreciate the assignment.  She did!  She loves that kind of thing) so we did a bit of that before I gave them tonight's assignment.

2.  One of the days I dread the most in Algebra 2 is the day when we first start Linear Programming.  It's such a process that the kids really don't like it... and today was that day!  After a bit (ok, a lot) of whining about how long it was going to take them, the kids really settled down and hopefully will do ok on the problems I gave them to try tonight.

3.  Over the summer I'd put together what I could about the number of people on Facebook through the years.  I found something like this and typed up a list showing how many active users were on through the years.  Today (as we're finishing up with exponential functions and logs) I finally checked the values that I had and was delighted to find that the numbers are almost a perfect exponential function!  Nice.  So tomorrow I'm going to ask my precalc kids to come up with the date when Facebook has 1 billion active users. Should be interesting!

I'm out of stuff to say.  Guess I should get to work!  Boo.

Monday, October 24, 2011


I'm actually somewhat caught up on work tonight right now, so wanted to jot some things down that I found tonight (while cleaning up my 1000+ google reader. Sigh.).

1.  Another gem from Ms. Cookie. Love her. I'm so happy that she's back to teaching precalculus this year!  Love this idea....

"I'm also going to start the 100% or 0% quizzes soon. I want them to have quick and accurate access in their heads to the sine, cosine, and tangent of all the special angles given in radians (including on the axes). I give them a 10 question (14?) quiz and I take it with them the 1st time. I tell them that I'll give them twice as much time as it takes me, and they have to get 100% or it's a 0%. They can take it as many times as they want throughout the 6 weeks. This forces them to have a super fast grasp of it."

2.  A salary/when-are-we-going-to-have-to-use-this pic from Dan Meyer.  Love the coordinate plane involved.  (And you have to love Dan's comments, too:  Good news about learning second-year algebra and trigonometry, though. It seems you're well-positioned for a career teaching second-year algebra and trigonometry. (See also: careers in physics.))

3.  I gave my precalc kids something like this the other day in which they found a quadratic equation relating the drop and speed of roller coasters.  While whittling down my reader, I saw this post shared by Kate Nowak that I'll definitely (try to remember to) pull up if I give that again next year.

4.  It seems as though I didn't learn last year when giving a project the last week of the quarter. On Friday I handed out a "Risky Business" activity (not really a project) in which they kids will use logs to determine the risk factor involved in several different activities (which I have been waaaaay too helpful on. Seriously need to stop that!).  I've had several students ask about watching/acting out the Tom Cruise underwear scene from the movie... I've denied that, but I think I'll show the Alf version tomorrow. I wonder if they'll know who Alf is.

5. Got an email from our district tech-type lady about leading (helping? who knows) a Twitter PD session on our next inservice day. I detest speaking in front of people so this is already causing me anxiety, but I agreed. Now I'll just need some help from you all in trying to decide what to say. Luckily there are some other math teachers at school (@mseiler and @dhausberger) talking too so I won't have to go solo.  I'm thinking of trying to find Sam Shah's talk he did a while ago about the blogotwittersphere and showing it... :)
[Found it!  And he called it the Blogotwitterversphere]

Friday, October 14, 2011

End behavior!

Blogging is so not on my list of things to do today... but I had a comment that I couldn't resist posting!

My Honors Precalc kids did their Polynomial Photo project last week (or so) where they used geogebra to fit a polynomial function to a picture they'd uploaded.  (Links here and here.)  I added some requirements to it this year - instead of just finding a polynomial, they also had to find its zeros and end-behavior.  When I entered the grades for the project on our online gradebook, I included in the comments what they'd left out so the kids could see why they didn't get some points.

One of the girls came in today saying that her parents sat her down last night to have a "talk" with her. They'd seen "end behavior" as a comment and thought that it referred to her behavior in class.  She then had to explain exactly what end behavior is and why she missed her points.

I thought that was hysterical!  (Keep in mine that this is a good kid who LOVES math and wants to be some sort of mathematician in the future.)


Another "Fun Fraction Friday" in Algebra 1 today!  Although they complain about fractions, I honestly think these silly freshmen would be disappointed if we didn't do them.  When I see kids in the hall before class on Fridays they always ask if we're going to do Fun Fraction Friday.  So funny.

And to make it even better, today I gave them a bunch of word problems, too!  (like, "this train left point A at this time traveling this speed... when will it meet the other train")  It was a momentous day for us.  And yet they still had fun, thought that solving the consecutive integer problems was "cool", and the other word problems were "so easy".  Seriously?  Who are these kids?!


Looking through the results of the fractal activities from last week (I know, I know.  I'll never catch up.) The last question they were to answer was "What's the relationship between fractals and complex numbers?"

One boy's answer:
It's complicated, but they're trying to get it together. Fractals has a problem with commitment but he loves complex numbers and wants the relationship to work out. Complex numbers loves fractals just the same as she did when they first met, every kiss to her feels just like the first again, she wants fractals to put a ring on her finger but she doesn't want to rush him.

Total BS?  A funny way of getting around finding the real answer?  He's lucky that it's Friday and I'm in a good mood. :)

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Things I've Tagged (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A few comments.

I'm actually ready for 7th period today (this is my plan period, and I'm usually getting ready for my last class of the day!) so I thought I'd post a couple of things I've been thinking about.

1.  I had a nice comment from a fellow math teacher yesterday while I was running on the treadmill (less than 2 weeks until my half marathon!).  He said that as a football coach he talks to a lot of the guys about their classes and how they're doing and has never heard anything bad about my class.  The guys all enjoy it and think I'm a great teacher and explain things well.  So nice to know!

2.  In precalc we just finished up the fractal unit that I put together (here).  The kids enjoyed it; some got into it more than others, of course, but it was at least something new for most of them. A few people said that it's changed how they're looking at their surroundings, checking to see if things are forming fractals at all. I thought that was pretty cool!  I scrambled and found some of the long skinny balloon-animal balloons (on clearance at Target!  woo hoo!) and several groups made a tetrahedron balloon fractal (check out Vi Hart's instructions here) that I hung from the ceiling.  Just in time to look good for conferences. :)  Or not so good, in some of the cases!

3.  One of my Algebra 2 girls (who is totally rocking it right now... somewhat surprising to me because I had her older brother last year and he really struggled) asked me the other day if I was the only person who teaches the Honors Precalc class.  She was kind of upset that I am because she said it's making her want to take the class.  (I think there's a compliment in there!)  I told it was really early to be deciding that and we'll talk about it later in the year, but at this rate I think she's a shoo-in.

4.  Parent conferences are tonight, so it's one of those 13+ hour days that you only dream about (or have nightmares about!) over the summer.  We went to all appointment times this year (as opposed to our normal division of some walk-ins and some appointments) and mine are all full.  I'm not looking forward to the constant  talking but at least the evening will go quickly!

5.  I keep getting emails that people are adding me on Google+.  I'm honestly wondering why (and where these people are coming from!).  I haven't been on Google+ since it first came out and have posted a total of probably 2 comments.  Anyone else this way?  I'm perfectly happy with Twitter as a professional resource.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Things I've Tagged (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.