Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Diigo Tags (weekly)

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

The End is in Sight!

The next four weeks (five if you include exams) are always a crazy time around here.

Not only are we SO CLOSE to the end and the weather's turning nice, but kids will be in and out (and so will I).  In addition to AP exams starting on May 6, I will also have precalc kids out to accompany district 6th graders to their Outdoor Ed Adventure.  This is a pain; there are three sessions of kids going, 3 days each, with a middle overlap day.

It gets to be so that I don't even check the attendance list. If a kid isn't in class I assume it's for a good reason.

But it's not like we're going to keep learning, right?  I mean, come on, Mrs. Fouss!  We're not doing anything in any other of our classes! (My response?  Then you have plenty of time to get your math done!)

I decided to put it on the kids. I wrote up a calendar that I'm going to give to the kids so they know what they're missing. If they don't get assignments beforehand then they can deal with the penalties.  My plan is to get all of the worksheets printed up and available for them to pick up; I always give them a layout of the book assignments for each chapter in advance.

And I seriously can't believe we have 24 more days of school this year. Wowzers.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

My Diigo Tags (weekly)

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Friday, April 19, 2013

Student Equations

I'm still giving my students a Quote of the Week for them to respond to.

Last week's was this W.C. Fields quote:
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try again. Then quit. No use being a damn fool about it."

I was shocked at how many of the precalc kids agreed with it. They basically thought that it wasn't worth wasting your time.  I don't know if they actually thought that or are just so used to agreeing with what a teacher says that they don't think.  I hope it's none of the above.

I gave the same quote to my freshmen this week and they all disagreed.  Phew.

This week's quote was from Albert Einstein:
If A is a success in life, then A equals x plus y plus z. Work is x; y is play; and z is keeping your mouth shut.

Instead of getting their feedback, I asked them to write an equation that fits their lives.  Here are some of the results.

(click on it to enlarge.)

Monday, April 15, 2013


I'm giving my precalc kids a quiz tomorrow on arithmetic and geometric sequences. It's been kind of a weird last week or so, so it'll be interesting to see how they do.

A couple of reasons why:
1.  Instead of assigning book work, we're trying out the MathXL program. I think this is a pretty easy topic (especially when compared to others) so it's a good chance to try it. But as with all new things, there have been some bugs. Kids have been working on problems late (or not at all, depending on their access). I'm not a big fan of that.

2.  I had to leave last Tuesday because my daughter's school called and she had a fever. I didn't get a chance to get anything "formal" together for my 3rd precalc class, so I just told them that their notes had been posted on schoology and to check those out and do the MathXL problems. The next day (of course) I ended up doing a quick re-teach, so I feel like I'm almost a day behind with that group. We'll see how they adjust.

Because I wanted to make sure they're on track, I used Snagit to create videos of me working out some of their review problems.  I've done this before, and it got me wondering why I ever stopped.  It's an easy way for the kids to see how to do something when they're confused.  (Here's one.)  But then I realized that I spent my whole 50-minute plan period doing this.  So maybe that's why I stopped?

But I also ran down to the copier and ran off some notes for Algebra 1.  And talked to one of our special ed teachers about some kids. And had to update my version of Snagit and restart my computer.

So maybe time shouldn't be such an issue.

Friday, April 12, 2013

This Week's Top 10

I've been doing a pretty good job lately of keeping up with my Google Reader.... which I will change to Feedly, I think, in July. I have an app (or two) on my iPad that helps me remember to check to see what amazingness people are putting on their blogs. My only issue is how to save those awesome ideas so I can use them when the time is appropriate. I've been starring them but hardly ever go back.

There's been a lot of really good stuff lately that I wanted to make sure I shared.

1.  Area of a regular polygon I don't teach geometry, but someday could. This looks cool.
2.  Build your own Death Star  I mean, really. How can you pass this up?!
3.  Exponentials in Context A good way to bring real-world applications to exponentials.
4.  The Beginnings of Precalc INB I'm not sure I want to do INBs in Precalc, but I can always keep it as an option.
5.  Linking Functions If you're starting CCSS in Algebra 1, you seriously need to check out Jeannette Stein's blog/livebinders.
6.  Rational Functions and Limits We're just about there in precalc.
7.  Conics in Desmos Love desmos, not too crazy about conics. This could help.
8.  Free Calculus Stuff From Me! I'm not a fan of TpT.  I love how as a math community so many people share freely. But that's another topic for another day.
9.  Intro to Quadratics - from "drab" to "fab" I love cheesemonkey! :)
10. Triangle Challenge - The Ambiguous Case Explored Using Pipe Cleaners Anything to help kids understand why the Law of Sines can be such a pain in the butt.

And I just found this this morning via twitter. Geoff posted Problem-based Curriculum Maps for CCSS.  Heaven.

See what I mean?  Awesomesauce.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Adapting to online assignments

We're making the big change to incorporate CCSS next year into our curriculum.  My district decided to go the integrated route and doesn't have money for new books, so we decided to use a program called Math XL instead. It's an interactive online textbook in which the kids are given problems to solve (and enter their answers). It has both multiple choice and short answer questions.

The Good:
1.  Kids get different problems (so copying homework is going to be much harder)
2. They get instant feedback on whether their answers are right or wrong
3. I can see how they did and how long they took on each problem.
4. There's some way to download the grades in Math XL and import them into our grade software. I haven't tried that yet.
5. You can also do tests/quizzes using this program.
6. Kids get used to doing math on the computer; a necessity since they'll have to do the CCSS tests online.

The Bad:
1. Technology problems... although after the first day of trying to get logged in, I haven't heard anything from the kids.
2. The program needs flash to work, which means that the kids can't use an iPad or phone. I found an app called Puffin that seems to do well, though it's $2.99.
3. This year I've been collecting student assignments randomly throughout the week. I'm not sure how to adjust this to work with Math XL. I told the kids that they need to still work on paper like they would normally (but then enter their answers online) and that I would randomly collect that. The assignments we've been doing haven't required much work, so I haven't done that yet. And then there's #4 which contributes to that, too.
4. Because I was worried about students having internet access, I've left the assignments open for more than just the normal one day that I would give them to work. And they're definitely taking advantage of that... some kids are getting behind and we're only on day 2.  I figure next year I'll be using this with freshmen from day 1 and can just set the standard that they do their assignment that day/night and that's it. No extra time. (The district plans to buy enough Chromebooks that each freshman will have one to use during the school day.)
5.  I often have time in class for the kids to start their assignments.  If they don't have a computer with them, that's wasted time.  So either they need a computer or I have to keep them occupied until the bell rings. (Again, the 1:1 thing should negate this.)

From thinking through "The Bad" I think I've found work-arounds for all of the issues that I've recognized in these past few days.  I don't know that I'll keep this program up for the rest of the year; I wanted a chance to see it in motion and get issues figured out before we use it for real next year.

So here's what I'm thinking for next fall for my freshmen:
1.  Open up assignments early so they have a chance to go through them before class if necessary.
2.  Require them to keep a notebook/INB with their work that could be collected at any moment.
3.  Close assignments before class begins the day after it's assigned (like a normal assignment).
4.  Maybe give a homework completion grade? I don't want to do this necessarily but I also don't want to look through everyone's work every day, especially if they're doing different problems.  This is obviously still something I need to work through.

If anyone uses MathXL (or something similar) and would like to give me advice or recommendations, I'm all ears!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Trig is. . .

Last year I asked my kids to tweet me using #trigis. I got some great responses (in < 140 characters).  This year, I asked them to respond to that in one word.  Here are the results:

I love that the most common response was "interesting"!!!

I also asked them to tell me what their favorite and not-so-favorite parts of trig were. I love seeing what they thought!

Their responses:  (My emphasis added in bold.)

What I enjoyed about trig:
**That once you understand all of the rules and the unit circle, it is not as bad as some people think it is. I especially enjoyed it since I got 100% on the last three quizzes. I also liked all the projects we did.
**Everything adds up. It makes so much sense how all of the concepts are related.
**The easier units: vectors, reference angles, trig identities.
**Using things like the unit circle to solve real world problems.
**The amount of work that relied on itself from an earlier section or chapter.
**The geometry aspects and the fact you can use multiple ways to get the right answer.
**You could visually check your answer by comparing it to a triangle.
**It was interesting how it all tied together. Also there was no factoring.
**Adding up the vectors (those were easy).
**Everything we learned connected with one another. It wasn't just learning different things that didn't have anything to do with each other. There was a lot of algebra which I'm pretty good at.
**Its essentially the same stuff over and over, just worded differently and in different formulas
**I enjoyed the more algebra type stuff with solving or reducing. The last quiz was nice, and I enjoyed Unit Circles and knowing what they are.
**The ending, and the last quiz.  (you can't win 'em all!)
**When I finally understood something, it was fun. I could do it quickly and enjoyed it.
**I enjoyed using soh cah toa, complex numbers with the (cis) thing, identities, and vectors.
**There were a few units that I actually understood, which allowed me to appreciate the complexities that make up math. Some of them were pretty darn cool!
**When it clicked, everything was easy, and all I had to do was plus numbers into a formula.
**I enjoyed the unit circle once I understood it because it just kind of came to me
**"~the unit circle - I've got that thing memorized!
**~sine and cosine graphs - easy if I remember what to look for"
**The parts of trig that were a little easier.
**Once I learned the unit circle, it came easier and made sense whether I did well on the tests or not. Physics is a lot easier because of all the trig we did. Sin/cos/tan comes much easier to me now than it did before.
**Despite my complaining, at least it makes sense logically. It was pretty easy to make connections back to geometry and while I wasn't a huge fan of geometry at least it made sense.
**There are many real world applications.
**Sinbad and cosette!
**I really enjoyed verifying the trig identities because it was very logical, like a puzzle.
**I liked the triangles and parts like that because there was a physical diagram that made sense with the math.
**I finally understand sine and cosine, as well as log functions.
**The laws.
**It understood most of it. It's very straightforward with lots of pictures and equations. Also, so much of it was applicable to real life situations that it made it more interesting to learn.
**I liked figuring out how everything relate back to everything an it was just a puzzle to solve.
**Getting answers right, or when I "got it".
**vectors unit
**It is just kind of plug and chug.
**you built on the same concepts- things you learned you used again later
**It was completely different from all the math I had previously learned. Some of the same techniques were used but for the most part it was new. And once I figured out how to do whatever we were working on, I enjoyed it a lot more.
**I really liked the unit circle stuff and cos, sin, tan!
**Most of the equations were easy to remember.

What I didn't enjoy so much about trig:
**Probably the unit circle and having to remember all of the formulas to find different stuff.
**Forgetting the check my calculator's mode.
**The hard stuff: solving cos/sin, parametric & polar equations, trig forms, verifying identities.
**Memorizing the unit circle and having to relive some of the bad memories from geometry.
**Coming directly from AP physics which makes it almost impossible to focus, and sometimes work.
**Bearings and so many different rules and formulas
**I forgot pretty much everything from geometry so it was difficult to catch back up.
**The unit circle was hard to memorize.
**Everything but the vectors (at least they were ok!)
**It was super confusing with a lot of different formulas
**Having to remember all of those equations and remembering when to use them.
**Although it includes a lot of algebra, it's much different than any other type of math we've learned. Also, there were a lot of fractions because of the unit circle, and memorizing the circle was not the most fun thing I've done.
**when the fundamentals were switched around (Example: during bearings, Tan was adjacent over opposite not opposite over adjacent)
**unrealistic real life applications
**the geometry aspects
**"The word problems were terrible and I see no real world application whatsoever because computers can probably do all of that now anyways."
**Unit circle, standard and trig form, identities, arccos stuff, graphing sin, cos curves, roots of i, six trig functions, reference and coterminal angles, and word problems. Other than that it was fine. (what's left?!)
**It took me a while to understand things. It was difficult but worth the work.
**I did not enjoy graphing trig functions, things such as the (arcsin) stuff, and solving trig equations for x.
**"When I didn't understand something no matter how hard I tried, or how much help I got, or how many notes I took, I did get a little bit frustrated. Identities will be the death of me. "
**It didn't make sense very often.
**"~arc tan sin csc identity stuff - super confusing, I still don't really know those identities
**~roots - that equation stuff confuses me
**~MAKING DUMB MISTAKES - I've never done it this much so I blame trig's complicatedness.."
**Having a lot of situations that trig has to be used in, and keeping them all straight.
**Memorizing all of the formulas was difficult and how to get started on certain problems. Once we moved on to the next unit, I often forgot how to do previous problems from the unit before. I often didn't know what the question was asking so I didn't know how to start it.
**So many formulas and if you switched even a little letter it kind of ruined my whole test.
**Memorizing the formulas that went along with the trig.
**Remembering the equations, and graphing them.
**I did not like bearings. The slight differences and figuring out the correct placement of the angles and sides was difficult.
**I didn't like problems that were completely conceptual.
**Graphing sine and cosine equations.
**The beginning of trig- the end of trig. It wasn't always fun!!
**Remembering all of those formulas! There were so many of them, and they all changed depending on whether you were using sine or cosine or tangent. Also, bearing were pretty cool, but they completely messed up my mental picture of zero degrees.
**Sometimes it was hard to remember all the equations or all the different techniques to solve the problems.
**"Getting answers wrong, or when I didn't ""get it"".
**graphing tan and cotangent graphs
**Having to remember all of the equations!
**memorizing the unit circle; bearings; many formulas to keep track of
**Trying to figure out how to do everything. Because it was so new, I felt like a child being taught something so simple, but sometimes I just couldn't grasp the concept of trig which was frustrating.
**The weird rules and the area, angle, and side laws of sin and cos.
**The amount of equations that we needed to remember.

So, the good?
Applications. It was new. It was like a puzzle.

The bad?
Memorizing formulas. I tried my best to help them derive those formulas (so they didn't have to memorize) but kids aren't used to doing that. Also, Geometry. But there's nothing I can do about that. :)

My Diigo Tags (weekly)

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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Mom of the Year


I'm on day 2 of my second-most favorite week of the year. My kids are in school and I'm on spring break. It's heavenly.

I'm not the best at this stay-at-home-mom gig. I did pretty well yesterday; got the kids up, made their lunches, and drove them up the street to the bus stop. Today, not so much. I'm going to go with the excuse that my six-year old climbed into bed with me at 3:15 and then coughed until 7:00 so I didn't sleep well. But I didn't get lunches made and then we missed the bus. That would make me 0 for 2, if you're counting.

So I drove them to school (just 10 minutes up the road, so no biggie) then waited in the car line until the kids were allowed in. It was actually nice; we sat and chatted about school stuff and what was going on today. Once the magical time came and they were allowed in, it was fun to see how every single kid got out of the car and ran into the building, like they just couldn't wait to get inside.

Can you imagine high schoolers doing that?! Getting so pumped about being at school that they park their car (or get off the bus) and then run into the building? It's sad that so many kids don't enjoy being at school, and yet there are a lot of times as I walk around the building during the school day that I can understand why. I hear a lot of teachers talking and see a lot of kids staring blankly... Or sleeping... Or texting.

It just helps remind me what I would like my class to look like when someone walks by. I want them to see students engaged, either by actively working on their own or with their tablemates. I know there are times that the lecture thing is unavoidable, but I'm trying my hardest to minimize those times.

I think adopting the CCSS next year will change that (for some of us). It looks like I could have a CP class and a general class, so that would definitely keep me on my toes.

And to think that I wasn't going to try and work much this summer. Ha.

(Speaking of summer, my first-favorite week of the year is when the kids go to stay with my mom for a week. I'm all about sleeping in and lying by the pool!)