Thursday, March 28, 2013


Now that my possible jobs have been decided against, I'm in the place where I'm thinking about next year's classes.  I have a few options:

1.  I was offered the chance to teach all 4 of next year's precalc classes.  While it would make my day pretty much awesome, I don't know that I could keep up with the grading.  Any time I assigned a test/quiz/project I'd be facing a stack of 112-ish assignments. Ick.  And honestly, by the time I get to my 3rd precalc class of the day I'm a little tired of it.  Maybe 4 isn't a good choice.

2.  If I take 3 of the precalc classes, then I was offered 2 of our new CCSS Math 1 courses. The good thing is that I would then only have 2 preps and (hopefully) have time to get stuff together for this new course. The bad thing is that I would have 2 classes of CP freshmen in a brand new course.  My department head said that she'd basically like me to take a lead role in designing the new course as I'm the most progressive out of the three of us who would be possibly teaching it.

3.  I could teach other assorted classes. I'll keep the precalcs for sure (it's like my "thing") but anything else could happen too. When asked what I would like to teach, I said Algebra 2 or our Trig w/Functions (although that would be a new prep for me and I don't want a new prep on top of a Math 1 course) but would basically take anything except for Geometry (yuck).

Anyway, we'll see what happens. For now, it's the last day of school before spring break.  Ahhhh...

Pig Trig

A friend of mine is training for the Flying Pig Half Marathon in May. (I'm training for a half, too, but decided not to do the Pig because of the crazy hills... I'm a wimp.)  He was telling me last night that he's trying to figure out at what incline to set his treadmill to help him prepare. And, since I was a math teacher, could I help him out?

(Those questions always make me nervous. What if I can't actually do the problem?  Then I look dumb.)

The section of the run that he's most worried about is from miles 5.5-ish to 8, which climbs about 280 feet.  Our question was how do we convert that to a percentage at which he can set his treadmill?

My friend and I sat and figured it out last night (after I discovered that a 45 degree angle is considered a 100% incline... which doesn't make sense to me, but whatever).

And what a perfect question to open with in today's precalc class!  Yes, they think I'm a geek for sitting and doing math with my friends, but after I convinced them that this was a legit problem that we were trying to figure out, most kids bought in.

(Want an answer?  Figure it out for yourself :) )

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Diigo Tags (weekly)

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

Friday, March 22, 2013


I have one particular senior student (let's call him/her Chris) who is lazy yet has done well all year because s/he picks up on things quickly (and has friends who will "help" by letting her/him copy their homework).

On Monday, Chris slept in my class.

On Tuesday, Chris missed the whole class because they were giving blood for the blood drive. (And never stopped by to get the assignment.)

I was out yesterday for my Math 1 thing and left a review sheet for the class for today's quiz. I told them earlier that I would come back from my meeting to help out after school if anyone had questions (7 or 8 students showed up, which I thought was totally respectable).  I also had a couple of kids stop by during homeroom to ask questions, a couple of kids stop by during my Math Intervention class to ask questions. No biggie.  (And I'd posted the worked-out solutions to our Schoology page.)

Chris stopped by during the class period before the quiz while I was helping my freshmen figure out how to solve a quadratic equation using square roots.  At that point s/he expected me to drop everything and help her/him. When I said no, Chris was in disbelief. S/he expected me to put them first because the quiz was next period.

When quiz time arrived, I sat down next to Chris and told her/him that I would be more than willing to help out, but not during a class. I said s/he should've come by either yesterday after school or today before school. The response?  Chris couldn't come after school yesterday and is always late to school so coming early wasn't an option.

I know it's not nice of me, but I hope next year something (smallish) happens to help Chris realize that things aren't going to work out so well in the real world. Or at least in a college setting. Some of these kids are so protected that they could get a real eye-opener when they leave high school.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Livebinders revisited

I spent the day with the CCSS Math 1 curriculum team trying to plan for next year's roll out of CCSS Math 1.  What an undertaking! We've gotten together about once a month for a full day trying to get stuff together. Because there won't be a book available (or money from the district to get new books), we decided that we're going to move forward with using Math XL, a Pearson product.  Today was mostly spent putting courses and then post-tests together for each of our units.

I think everyone realizes that there's a lot of resources "out there" for CCSS, it's just a matter of finding, sorting through, and organizing them. Our secondary curriculum director suggested that we put together a livebinder to house what we find; we'll be able to sort them into the units and easily search through what's there.

I'd kind of forgotten about livebinders; I've used them in the past to try and collect links but more often than not just tag things in diigo (and then forget about the resource when it comes time). But now I'm thinking I'll go back and try to organize all of my links into nice livebinders that I'll (hopefully) remember to reference.  I just made one with my precalc links that I had tabbed up above (I haven't done the trig tab yet... I'd like to sort through and classify them a little more).  And what's cool is that I can embed the livebinder into my blog so anyone who would like a visual of the resource can see it without any trouble.

So if you have a chance, check out the livebinder that I threw together for Precalc. My next undertaking will be to go through my diigo tags and get them in there, too.

Oh, and one cool thing. As we first opened up livebinders today, she suggested that we try a search for CCSS Math I to see livebinders that had already been made. One that showed up had one of my blog entries on the front page!  Total coincidence, but I think the people I was with were impressed by that. :)

Here's a binder I put together to show off some student work:

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

End of the quarter already?!

Is it just me or is this year flying by?  (Not that I'm complaining, mind you.)

I can tell that Friday is the end of the quarter. A bunch of kids signed up to requiz, others are worried about getting missing assignments in, and most are wanting to know if Friday's precalc quiz will be on this quarter. (Yes.)

And then there's the email I got yesterday from a student asking if there was anything she could do (in the next 4 days) to bring up her grade.

My response:
1.  start preparing for Friday's quiz
2. get your homework done before you get to class (as opposed to writing down the answers as questions were asked)
3. ask questions when you have them

Sunday, March 17, 2013

New beginnings

A new name, a new look. (Same old me, unfortunately.)

I'm at a point in my career where I feel like I need a change. If that's by leaving my school and trying something new, so be it. If it's staying put but working on what I do and how I do it, that works too.

A few years ago when I started my old blog, I pictured something strictly to do with technology. I was going to write about what new things I found and how I used them.  The big buzz words at that time was "Web 2.0", so grabbed on and titled my blog "My Web 2.0 Journey"... which sounds so chintzy right now.

I thought it was time for a name change.  What I like best about the new address ( is that it's simple. It's me.  I can change the "name" of my blog whenever I want and it won't affect this.

This is where I'll be posting now. I'd be honored if you follow along.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pi Day Follow-Up

Yesterday was fun. The kids had a good time, enjoyed some of the different things I had out for them to do, and ate most of the cookies. (But I still had enough to take to my daughter's softball practice last night, thank goodness.)

And today?  I'm exhausted. So happy that it's Friday and we have no plans this weekend!

I just wanted to share some of my favorite quotes from the kids on pi day.

"You're like a pi nazi."

"It's a word search. I don't need directions." (From a student who missed the fact that the non-used letters formed a quote.)

"Mrs. Fouss, what's a Euclid?"

"Is E-u-l-e-r a real word?"

And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day!

I keep telling everyone it's like Christmas for math teachers. And yet I think I'm the only one at my school who celebrates it.  (Everyone else seems to go along with me good-naturedly... and probably laughs at me behind my back. :))

Today is all about pi. I've been scurrying around all morning (while doing "hall duty" for the OGT) trying to make sure I'm ready. It didn't help that I was only here half-day yesterday because I had to take my kid to the doctor.  (His finger was swollen about twice the normal size and turning green. I thought I should give in.)

The majority of what I'm doing today was stolen from shared by Jessica (@algebrainiac1) at a Global Math Department meeting a few weeks ago. I adjusted/added a couple of things.

I'm setting up the following stations:

1.  Given 7 different size triangles, use yarn to measure their circumference and diameter. Find the ratio.  Then average the ratios.  How close are you to pi?

2.  Look up your birthday in pi.

3.  Read an article about Albert Einstein (it's his birthday today!). Then try to draw a perfect circle. I'm providing a half sheet for them to draw on and a circle printed on a piece of laminate for them to check to see how well they did.

4.  Complete a word search using phrases dealing with pi.

5.  Read an article about using tau instead of pi and then fill out a unit circle with tau values. (I'm only giving this to my precalc kids.)

6.  Eat a pi cookie (if you sing a pi song).

Monday, March 11, 2013


I'm a little disappointed right now. Not shocked, but sad.

I just had a nice conversation with a recruiter from Math Solutions and got a few more details about the job they're hiring for. It's presenting their Math-180 program that was just rolled out, and they're really needing people to come work for them.

Three big problems (on my end):

1. It's part-time. Although the flexibility would be amazing, that also means no benefits. No insurance, no money in my retirement account. No work, no money.
2. If I worked every week (a 2-day trip) I would still be making less than half of what I make now. I've never complained about my salary - I know I have it a lot better than most teachers around the country - but I can't justify that sort of reduction.
3. If I worked every week I'd be away from my kids for at least two days a week. Although the idea of traveling on my own every week sounds awesome, I'd miss my family too much and my husband's hours are so unpredictable (he could get home at 4 or 7 on any given night) and inflexible that it really would be hard to manage.

They're having a 2-day recruiting meeting in Dallas in a few weeks. During the middle of the week. She asked if I had some personal days I could use to get away from school (the company would pay for all expenses). But to take two personal days in a row? I don't even know that the district would let me, especially if I can't give a reason why.

The only plus that I can think of for trying this out is that it sounds like something I'd enjoy doing. And unfortunately that's not enough of a reason to leave my comfortable, well-paying job right now.

The recruiter said that if this isn't the right time for me, that's ok. This type of work isn't going away. Maybe it'll be a year (or a few) and then the fit will be right.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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

Friday, March 8, 2013

Yucky Friday :(

It hasn't been that great of a Friday yet and it's only 10 AM, so I'm really hoping things change.

First period precalc was fine. We started talking about vectors yesterday, though, and I've been doing too much of the talking. Hate that. But how else do you get through the basic terminology/notation/operations? Next week will be better because we'll start using the vectors.

I had to go to an IEP meeting during second period. (My plan period is from 8:28 - 9:18. It is seriously the worst time to have off because that's when parents can come in for meetings. I've been to more IEP meetings this year than ever!) The student in question is much brighter than he acts but has quite an attitude. Yesterday he refused to put away one of those little finger skateboards. I asked him twice, then told him that he needed to give it to me. He refused, saying that he would rather be written up than give it to me. Not a problem. I started to write him up and noticed him still playing with it. After telling him that even though I was writing him up he needed to put it away, he got belligerent and I had the special ed teacher in here with me escort him to the office. The mom at the meeting was upset that I hadn't let her know, even though this was 7th period yesterday and I knew I'd be seeing her 2nd period today.  She calmed down, though, and told me she'd "deal with him" later.

Then I messed up, which makes me feel bad. A friend of mine across the hall has a rough 2nd period class - there are a couple of boys that really act up and she's had a tough year with them. After my IEP meeting I was finishing up some things in my room when I heard a lot of commotion from her room. I wanted to make sure everything was ok, so I went over just to pop in. She was fine, but one of the boys was making some rude comments about her needing some mental help... and he just kept talking. I said something to the effect of, "Why are you being so rude? I don't even know you but I'm getting a bad impression." Probably not the best thing to say. He kept going off so I escorted him down to the office. (They weren't surprised to see him, so I'm sure he's a frequent visitor.) I just feel badly that I interfered in something that wasn't my business but I didn't want her to have a rough time and no help.

I apologized to her, but I'm going to head over with some chocolate here in a few.

Hoping that today gets better!

I can't end it like this. Some good stuff:
1.  I've worn sweatpants all week to school (it's our "OGT Training Camp Week"). And had a snow day on Weds.
2.  Next week because of the OGT I'll have a 2-hour period each morning to sit in the hall and give breaks to those people who have sophomores testing. And get a lot of work done during the day (which means no taking papers home to grade!).
3. My Intervention class is a weird variety of kids all working on different math topics. But they get along fantastically and we have a good time.
4. My precalc kids did horribly on their weekly review (this week was exponent rules). The good news? I decided that I'm going to make them do them again next week so I don't have to make up a new review for them. Less work for me! I'll replace their quiz score with next week's.
5. I apologized (again) to my friend across the hall and took her chocolates. She's not mad and thinks I'm dumb for feeling bad.
6. Next week is pi day and I found out today that Graeter's celebrates it by selling $1 pies.
7. I'm feeling better now.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Snow Day!

It seems like it's been years since we've had a snow day. Oh, wait. It has been years! And then yesterday a miracle occurred. The snow that was predicted actually came... it didn't start until 10 pm-ish and continued through the night. Everyone knows that it's all about the timing, right?!

After being rudely awoken by my 6-year old at 8:30, I sent a tweet out to my classes:

Do some math on your snow day! Send me a pic of you doing math in the snow. Make a unit circle, calculate the diameter of a snow man, etc.

Tweet or email me your pictures before midnight. And have fun!

(I also posted it on schoology (our online portal) so that everyone had a chance to see it... not just those on twitter.)

It took a few hours (I guess they got to sleep in!) but then I started receiving some pictures. You gotta love when kids do math on their day off!

Here are some of the entries:

I did this a couple of years ago, too. 

I'm bummed (but not surprised) that none of my Algebra 1 students did anything.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


I emailed the manager from McGraw-Hill on Sunday afternoon to let her know that I wasn't going to proceed with possible employment there. She sent me back a very nice email saying that she was "so very sorry" to hear that but totally understood. She also said to let her know if I was interested in any freelance work.  So there's that.

Then I emailed my resume to Mary from Math Solutions. I just heard back from her saying she'd passed it on to one of their recruiters and I should be hearing from them soon. Four minutes later I got an email from one! Included with the email was a job description... what concerns me is that it is for a part-time consulting job. The salary that Mary mentioned was generous for the part-time, but I'd be losing any benefits that I currently have. As a family we use my insurance; my husband works for a small construction company and I'm sure their rates are through the roof. I guess that's something we'd need to check on.

There was also a job application included in the email; I just filled it out and am ready (I guess) to send it back. Not that this is anything final by any means, but there's just something about making this next step.  Like it's real or something.

I talked with my principal yesterday about my job search; I may have jumped the gun a bit but I didn't want to hide anything. He's new to our district, a former math teacher, and really seems like a good guy. He mentioned that he's trying to work out some coaching opportunities within the school, even as a one period a day/3-day a week thing. It'll be interesting to see if that goes anywhere. He told me that he didn't want to see me go; the kids often mention how much they like me and my class. I said that I don't really want to go but feel like I need to do something new.

I forgot to mention that Mary suggested a couple of coaching books for me. One is called Instructional Coaching: A Partnership Approach to Improving Instruction (by Jim Knight) and the other is Coaching Classroom Instruction (by Robert Marzano and Julia Simms). She said they'd be good resources even if I decide to stay at my school. I ordered both and am waiting for them to arrive.

Off to send my application.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

New beginnings

It's funny how I can define my life in numbers. Math has always been such a big part of my life and I always thought I'd be a teacher forever. I've been a high school math teacher for almost 16 years, but last year I started getting a little itchy. I love my school, I love the kids, I love the people I work with. Yet I wasn't really content with where I was. I felt like I was in a rut.

Fast forward to about a month ago.  A friend on twitter posted a job opening with McGraw-Hill, and that got me thinking that maybe a change could happen.  After going back and forth with him about the position, I decided to submit my resume. It was nice that I knew that by doing this I wasn't making a commitment to anything, but by doing this I might start to open some doors.

One day after school that week I met with a friend who works in our district office. I totally respect her opinion; she's good at giving me ideas to think about that I never would have thought of before. After discussing the opening at McGraw-Hill, she mentioned to me the possibility of working with her friend, Mary, at a company called Math Solutions. Apparently it's a company that does professional development for math teachers. They've mostly worked in the K-6 age group but are now expanding into junior high and high school.

I met with Mary yesterday for breakfast where I was able to find out a little more about the position with Math Solutions. It really sounds like a neat opportunity, the only worrisome thing being the possible amount of traveling that could be involved. While I love to travel, having 2 kids ages 6 and 9 who are involved in sports pretty much year-round could make things tough.

I've decided that I'm going to move forward with the possibility of working with Math Solutions. It's scary; my only "real" job has been as a teacher and I'm now looking at leaving my comfort zone.

My friend sent me this quote. It's so appropriate for where I am right now!

If you feel both excited and scared, that is it. If you're just excited and not afraid, there is no challenge, no stretching, no initiation; you are still in your safe zone, and growth is unavailable. If you're just afraid, there is no positive motivation. Why walk through a fear unless there is something you are walking toward? But if you are simultaneously turned on and frightened, do it and watch your growth skyrocket.

Alan Cohen

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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