Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Things I've Learned about Giving Online Exams

Today is day 2 of our semester exams, and I've been giving mine on Schoology.
Some things I've learned:

1. I used ExamView to create an exam then imported it. The process was super easy. I found, though, that not all of the correct answers came with the questions. (Thank goodness I discovered that before the actual exam started!)

2. Some kids prefer paper exams; I made them email me to request one so that I didn't make unnecessary copies. They still have to enter their answers online.

3. Even mid-exam I had the opportunity to edit questions/answers. Not that I would ever make a mistake (ha!) but if a kid just happened to not be able to find the correct answer (because maybe it wasn't there) I could change the problem, they refresh, and the day is saved.  We won't mention the problem that I edited a couple of times and still couldn't get right. Ugh.  (Luckily the kids just laughed with (at?) me and weren't too worried about it.)

[Make sure the kid finding all of the mistakes is sitting close to you unless you want to get a good workout.]

4. Make sure the exam is resumable! If it's not the kids can't refresh.

5. Automatic grading is wonderful. But I'm still looking through the fill-in-the-blank problems to make sure that they get credit for entering x = 2 when I put the acceptable answer as 2. Minor details.

6. For scratch paper, I gave the kids a piece of paper that also had a place for them to write their answers. I thought it might be helpful for those kids who want to go back and review their work. Some used it, some didn't.

Is it a perfect system?  No. But a lot of that had to do with teacher error.

Will I use an online exam again? For sure. It's saving me from having to bubble in the scantron form, writing problem changes on the board, trying to beat everyone else to the scantron machine, totaling the scores, and entering them on the computer.  And now that I have these exams done I should be able to tweak for next year.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Today's wins...

Exams are next week and we're in full-scale review mode.

Here's the good stuff:

1.  Math 3 kids pulled out their Parent Functions foldables that I spent hours on this summer. Made all that time worth it.  (Note to self: add a page of transformations to it for next year)

2. One student took the time to watch a screencast I'd made on how to solve a system of 3 equations. And then he got the review problem on the exam review correct. :)

3. I know it's the typical end of the quarter scramble, but kids are starting to take an interest in what work they've done and what is marked as missing. Better late than never?

I gave my Math 1 kids a print out of their grade sheets because so many have missing assignments. Part of their work today was to locate these papers (because you know they're stuffed in the bottom of their backpacks) and if they couldn't find them, fill out a google form telling me what papers they need.

My big take-aways today:
I tend to allow students to turn in late work. And then I have crazy random papers in crazy random places.  So from now on I'm setting up a bin for them to work into as long as it's attached to a Late Work slip. Maybe that'll help keep me organized a bit more.

I need to start naming assignments better. I think in Math 3 we've had 3 assignments called "Factoring Polynomials" lately. So trying to identify what's missing has been a pain in the rear.

I'm definitely making some changes for next semester!

AND DID YOU SEE THE DESMOS NEWS?  Apparently you can now edit Activities that other people have made. LOVE IT!!!!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

A few of my favorite things...

In my Math 3 classes (which I've been treating like an Algebra 2 class lately and it's totally driving me crazy) we're factoring, solving, and graphing polynomials. I legitimately think this is the hardest topic for them of the year because of all of the stuff it forces them to know.

Want to graph? Ok, well find the zeros.
Need the zeros?  Factor it.
Won't factor? Try the quadratic formula.
What about the shape of the function? Check the degree and leading coefficient.

For kids who live day-to-day and only tend to remember one "thing" at a time, this is torture. My second period class, who I would consider my most involved group, has been in a revolt because I'm expecting them to remember all of this stuff.

Yesterday I gave them my most favorite assignment - this chart.
And then there was a back.

Needless to say, they weren't happy.

In Precalc we've been graphing sine and cosine curves. We started out with "Here are transformations, how does that affect the curve?", moved on to "Here's a graph, what's the equation?"  (loved using a Desmos Activity for that!), and today I gave them a set of data for them to graph and fit a sine curve to. It's interesting how they can all graph given an equation, are pretty good with fitting an equation to a graph with "nice" numbers, but the learning happens with the messy data.

We also did a fun activity on Friday plotting our individual Biorhythms (the idea that you have an intellectual, physical, and emotional cycle) to see how exams will fit in next week.

Oh, I do love me some trig.

(By request, here's a link to all of my intro to trig & graphing stuff.)

Sunday, November 29, 2015

More than one way to learn. I mean divide.

Happy Thanksgiving "break"!

I just spent 4+ hours grading quizzes that I gave last week on Polynomial Operations. They turned out pretty good, so I was happy. A lot of the mistakes were predictable (subtracting with negatives is always such a problem!), and the kids did well with the division of polynomials.

Some surprisingly so, especially considering the uproar that division caused in class. It helped that I told the kids to use whatever method "worked" for them. This student used long division for one problem (and messed up some subtraction) and "the box" for another. Can you see that she actually did it twice because she wasn't sure of the decimals?  I guess the second time through convinced her.

The day before the quiz I showed the kids what would happen if you did synthetic division when there's a leading coefficient...

While I had told them that they "couldn't" use synthetic because of the leading coefficient, once I showed this type of example several kids saw the relationship in the answers. The correct answer (via long division) is twice the other, though the remainder is the same.

It was kind of neat to see that several kids took advantage of this and used synthetic division on the quiz, then divided out that leading coefficient from their answer.

Saw this the other day from @dmarain:

It amazes me that people think that there's only one way to do so many types of problems. Is it arrogance? Fear of not being the sole ownership of the learning? So sad.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Using the boards...

I finally got around to using those nice white boards around my room today with the kids.

Yesterday they learned how to do synthetic division (to everyone's relief) so today when they came into class I asked for 4 people to put their work on the board. Once I had a volunteer I asked them to pick a friend. Those two went up together and worked out the problem with both synthetic and long division.

It actually worked out very nicely! Some kids were happy to volunteer and even more excited to pick a friend... the friends weren't always that thrilled, but they were working in pairs so there was support built in.

I originally thought about asking for 8 volunteers but knew it would be a stretch in some of my classes, so the "pick a friend" thing worked out great. It got kids up there that never would have offered.

In one class a student who wasn't here yesterday for synthetic volunteered (?) then chose another student who was a little shaky. We ended up recruiting a third student to jump in with them.

More division tonight, so I'll probably do something like it again tomorrow. And it gets me out of just projecting the answers. :)  Maybe I'll try asking for one volunteer and letting them choose the next person. And letting that person choose the next. Etc.

We'll see.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Polynomial Long Division.

It certainly would be easier to divide polynomials if the kids knew how to divide numbers using long division.

Many claimed they never learned.  It's always the teacher's fault, right?

So long division today; I was hoping to also get to synthetic division but that certainly didn't happen. Hopefully once they see it they'll forgive me for the long division pain. :)

What was interesting was that I actually had kids asking me if I'd make a screencast of a long division talk-through. I'm at basketball practice then an indoor soccer game tonight so it's not going to happen, but I did find a video on YouTube from PatrickJMT that I thought did a nice job of explaining.

I also was playing with Anna Hester's box method of dividing, which is super nice.  It's based on the kids using the lattice (area) method of multiplication but working backwards. So many of them like to multiply that way that hopefully dividing that way might be nice too.

Here's Anna's explanation:

Monday, November 9, 2015

Radians! Trig! Woo hoo!

I remembered last night while lying in bed (in those 30 seconds that it takes me to get to sleep because I'm always so tired from getting up at o'dark-thirty) that today we were starting trig in precalc class. Which means radians! Which meant I needed to find my favorite pi shirt (and earrings) to wear today.

So that set me on a scramble this morning to find that box that had all of my random clothes in it. Because we've moved since my last opportunity to wear a pi shirt.


I don't know how much trig my precalc class has seen. I have students coming from 3 different places (Honors Algebra 2, Honors Math 3, and Trig w Functions (which does very little trig, btw)) so I'm going to go through my normal trig unit like I have in the past. If I see that they "got" it I'll adjust on the fly.

Today we started with a quick warm up with adding and subtracting fractions - I'm sure they were like, "Seriously?!" and then went over the little special right triangle review that I'd given them Friday. Then we moved into the idea of measuring angles... why is this one 120 degrees and not 240? Why not 480? Enter the coterminal angle.

And now, just for fun, what if we throw in another unit of measurement? Who needs to stick with degrees anyway.  I pulled out my "very expensive, very accurate measuring tool" (aka The Smartees) and had the kids measure a variety of circles. Then we took those smartees and placed them along the arc of the circle to create an angle. That, my friends, is one radian. Now do it again. And again.

Have we gotten halfway through the circle? Almost. (Some kids had. They must not be very well trained in the art of smartee-arc measuring.)

This brought us to the idea of pi radians equaling half of the circle... and off we went from there.  I also showed the radian gif that's on this site that looks a little nicer.
That is the first time I've ever embedded a gif. So that's cool.

Anyway, my class went on from there. We labeled some angles we "think" we might use in the near future and talked about coterminal angles in terms of radians. And then the bell rang. (ugh)

However, on the way out, the kids were talking about the next class they were going to. One of the girls said she's not a fan of her next one because it's boring. And then she said, "This (precalc) is the only class where I have to think. But I'd rather think than be bored."

I think I'm doing my job.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Adjusting on the Fly

My sister-in-law and her family were visiting us a few weeks ago. She'd planned to leave after a doctor's appointment on Friday afternoon but then her hubby ended up stuck at work longer. She texted and apologized because they weren't sticking to their plan. Of course it wasn't an issue (and I told her that), then she thanked me for my flexibility.

Isn't being flexible a necessity for our lives these days?

Or is it just me in which plans don't always work out the best?

I had a plan for my Math 3 classes today, and because I was being observed I had to articulate what they were.

Original plan:
1. Warm up problem
2. Review HW
3. Split into designated groups to work through some applications of quadratics problems. Present to each other on the board.  (I had planned for groups of 5 - 6 and even rearranged my desks yesterday.)
4. Finish problems for homework.

What actually happened:
1. Warm up problem (which we solved twice because I wanted to show that completing the square and the quadratic formula got you the same answer)
2. Review HW - took longer than I had anticipated, but again I wanted to make them aware of the choice they had in solving quadratics. Plus we solved a couple because there was some confusion.
3. Split into designated groups to work on one problem (which I assigned). The hope was that we could come back together to our normal table groups to present the problem to their group.  After thinking on it I changed my mind on group size and quickly put my desks back into 4s. So then I had to re-design my groups so they represented a variety of strengths.
4. Some groups finished their problem relatively quickly, so I told them to work on another problem from the worksheet. Some groups were still finishing up as the bell rang.

So, most kids got one problem done today. Am I ok with that? Yep. I'm hoping on Monday to have the kids present their one problem to their group and take a look at some of the ones we didn't get to.

In working my way through 2 brand new courses this year, flexibility has become my middle name.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

I'm giving them choice and they don't like it.

We've been solving quadratic equations in my Math 3 classes for the past couple of weeks.

After starting with solving by factoring, I segued into radicals, completing the square, and quadratic formula (with a detour to show graphing).

(The word segue looks so weird.)

I've been very careful to emphasize the choice that the kids have to make when solving and haven't told them when to use which method. (Except for last night's assignment on the Quadratic Formula, when I wanted to make sure they used it for practice.)

Today's work was a chart - the kids were given 16 quadratic equations and told to assign 4 to each of our 4 solving methods (then solve 2 of each).  I really wanted them to think about how to solve each one.

And you know, for as much as kids want to complain that they don't get a choice in life, they don't like it.  They want to be told what to do when (wish my kids at home were like that!). They want to be spoonfed, and I'm refusing to do that. I want them to be able to rationalize which method makes the most sense, and if they use the quadratic formula on an equation that will factor, so be it.

I'm hoping that will work out better for them (and me, honestly) in the long run.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Rearranging and the Harkness Method

Four years ago, several of us were "talking" on twitter about getting together to work through some of the Exeter problem sets. There's an intrigue to how they run their math programs there and we wanted to try some of the problems.

The rest is history.
(If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out Twitter Math Camp and I'll hopefully see you in Minnesota this summer!)

Anyway, the method of instruction that they use at Exeter is called the Harkness Method, and there's a local teacher that has adopted it for both his Honors Precalculus and Algebra 1 courses (his name is Johnothon Sauer and he blogs about it here). I heard Johnothon speak a few weeks ago at OCTM and then had the opportunity today to visit his school with several of my colleagues to observe. We were split among a couple of different teachers and I didn't actually get to his room, but I was able to see one of his coworkers and his Honors Precalculus class.

The students were getting ready for a "Checkpoint" (aka, a test) and were leading themselves through review problems in their groups. From what I could tell, the problems dealt with rational functions, logarithms, the difference quotient, and sequences and series. The kids were moving from one problem to the next on white boards, working together, instructing, and asking each other questions. The teacher observed and jumped in to clarify as needed. Tomorrow they'll take a practice test (individually), then Johnothon was telling us that he has his kids grade each other's work before Thursday's Q&A session. Friday is the 5-question (with multiple parts) checkpoint.

It was very interesting.

The kids were active, involved, and interested.

Converting to using the Harkness Method would mean an awful lot of work this summer; the teachers made a ginormous packet of problems that the kids work their way through during the school year, 6ish problems a night. These problems spiral in difficulty and jump from one topic to a next, which keep the kids fresh on everything at once. I'd imagine that reviewing for a semester exam is a breeze!

Anyway, I headed back to school this afternoon pondering what to do next. At minimum, I need to get the kids working together more and discussing more. I wanted to create more white board space for them to work on (and make them work on it).

So I went back to school and talked about it with a colleague who had also observed. She had just gotten 2 dry erase-type things on wheels (that look more like shower doors) and offered me one. We ended up putting a tape grid on them and are going to use them to write our weekly agenda, which frees up a big white board in each of our rooms. I also ended up moving my desk to the other side of my room because it was halfway blocking another white board.

It feels like a completely different room!  The kids are going to be so confused when they walk in tomorrow.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Thoughts from the Week

A few things that got me thinking this week:

1.  I used Kahoot in all of my classes this week to review topics. Maybe it's just me, but I'm not a big fan. The kids love it (they were all like, "Are we doing Kahoot? Yay!") but I don't know that we accomplished anything by using it that Socrative wouldn't have done either.  My biggest ick is the emphasis on speed in answering questions.  Just because someone can't answer faster than anyone else doesn't mean they should get fewer points.  And then there are the kids that select an answer immediately just to get the points.

So maybe I'm not "doing it right" but I'm not sold.  I do like, however, the huge repository of Kahoots that are available.  That was nice.

Oh, and another thing I didn't like - the answers are so small at the bottom of the screen (and I was projecting my laptop screen) that they're hard to see. I was actually writing each answer on the board as soon as they came up so the kids in the back could see them.  That's annoying.

2. We've been solving quadratic equations in Math 2 this week. I'd originally planned on moving into the Quadratic Formula today, but I got to thinking yesterday.  It's Friday, the day before Halloween, and I have a 10th period (last period of the day) class. Not real conducive for learning new material. I decided to set up stations to get the kids practicing solving using different methods. I had a station for solving by factoring, solving by square roots, and solving by completing the square, and factoring practice. In the last station the kids were given a bunch of different quadratic equations and told to determine how they would solve each equation and justify their response (but they didn't have to solve).   I was very pleasantly surprised on how it went, especially with a squirrely 10th period group.

Oh, and for each station there was a QR code on the instructions so the kids could check their answers. Their work documents also had QR codes linked to videos if the kids needed some reminding on how to do the skill.  Some of them thought that was pretty cool (and actually scanned the QR codes to check their work!).

I'll definitely keep this activity in the rotation.

3. It's going to be a weird week next week. On Monday a math teacher from another school is coming to hang out for a couple of periods; it's a PD day for them and from what I understand they were given the freedom to check out other classrooms.  Tuesday we have a PD day (because of elections) and I'm heading to a school to observe the Harkness Method in use. On Wednesday I have a pre-observation meeting with my principal in advance of Friday's observation. (Which I'm somewhat nervous about but not as nervous as I would have been a few years ago. But I'd still like to find something fun to do... maybe a Mathalicious activity?  I've seen one that would fit in nicely.)

And for this weekend - at least 3 soccer games (maybe 4), trick or treating, and lots of planning for my Math 1 class. We just finished up the "review" that I wanted to start the year with (though you know they'd have claimed they never saw it before) and it's apparently time to figure out what I need to do with them for the next 3 quarters.  No biggie.

Monday, October 26, 2015


I'm disappointed in myself.

After starting out the year problem solving, asking questions, having the kids write, and trying to mix up different types of activities in class, lately I've resorted to the boring.

Warm up.
Homework answers.
New stuff.


That's so not how I want my classroom to be. I want to make the kids think. I want to keep them on their toes. I want to have an active learning atmosphere.

I get it in bits and pieces. In Math 1 we've been torturing ourselves with reviewing (supposed to be reviewing, though you'd think most of the kids are learning it for the first time) exponent rules. Definitely not the most exciting thing. But on Friday I created and gave them a Tarsia (jigsaw-type) puzzle, and the engagement was amazing. Every single kid was working and trying to fit the pieces together.  I need that to happen so much more often!

Today started a new quarter and a new dedication to re-making my class.

I've been checking out Mathalicious activites, trying to figure out how to incorporate more Desmos, more applications, more options for the kids to actually think about math.

I need to hold myself more accountable for doing what I want to do; for doing what I know needs to be done.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Sub plans and second quarter changes

I've spent several days out of the classroom in the past few weeks (a couple of days because of an out-of-town funeral and today for a PD session on Blended Learning) so I've gotten back in the groove of creating sub plans.

What a pain.

It's easier now than it was for those first two days - I have all of my seating charts done and a template created for the actual plans. But then creating and leaving activities for the kids takes a lot of time. Isn't it just easier to be in school?!

I'm particularly happy with what I left for my Math 3 kids today. I started with a 6-question factoring "check" that I'd posted on Schoology (our LMS). What I like best is that I was able to check their results while at my PD and see how they did. I left a few comments for kids who seemed to struggle a bit, but it was nice to see that they remembered how to factor after a 4-day weekend!

We've made our way through factoring by GCF, Grouping, and Trinomials, and I was planning on having them just review those today until I thought about how easy it would be to make a screencast for them to watch about factoring Differences of Squares. I posted it on Schoology and as of 1:44 PM, it has been watched 56 times. Not too bad for my 75ish kids!

I was then able to leave an assignment that incorporated factoring differences of squares in addition to the other types of polynomials. I have preached incorporating flipping and using videos in the classroom and now I just need to force myself to do it too.

On the other hand...
My Math 1 class has definitely started showing their colors. They started out great and I still have some superstars, but several of the kids (who are entirely capable) have taken to slacking off.  I need to work harder in that class; I've gotten into the "give the notes" rut and need to incorporate more activities and applications and engaging activities.

I'm also going to go back to my standards-based grading hybrid that I used in my General Algebra 1 class several years ago. I miss seeing the breakdown of what skills they actually have versus a "Solving Linear Equations: 20/25". I'm also going to offer retakes on quizzes after they've completed a review assignment (which I'll probably do on MathXL so that they can get an instant score and not be able to requiz until a certain minimum).

Just because I'm never 100% satisfied with the status quo, I was able to go to the OCTM Conference last Friday and saw Johnothon Sauerland present his version of Precalculus via the Harkness Method. This went back to my interest in the Exeter math program, which teaches kids through this discovery method. I'm hoping to get to go observe Johnothon on our next PD day in November. I can already see the amount of work ahead of me if I decide to try this in my Precalc class next year.

I need to start resting up now.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

If you're not using @desmos...

I've played with Desmos before in class. I've used it to illustrate different transformations to functions (parabolas, trig functions, etc) but hadn't had the students do much more with it.  I'd played with the Function Carnival and Central Park and Water Line but never used as a teacher in class.

(I have been out of the classroom for 2 years, so cut me a break.)

At some point over the summer (?) I saw that it had become possible for teachers to create their own Desmos activities. Honestly, I didn't think about it too much.  But then I saw that Meg had posted a function transformation activity that she and Sheri Walker had created, I thought it might be more useful for me in class.

I used their activity in class last Thursday and thought it went great. It was an opportunity for my precalc kids to practice transformations of graphs in a different way.  And since I'm doing the same thing in my Math 3 class, I knew it would be helpful for them too.

So on Monday night, I built my first Desmos Activity. It's pretty simple; I graphed 9 different parent functions (linear, quadratic, cubic, square root, cube root, and absolute value) in various states of transformation. The goal is to create an equation to match the graph.

I could have talked until I was blue in the face today about transformations and the kids wouldn't have learned 1/2 of what they learned through the activity today.


Everyone was engaged. (Especially after I told them I could see their results.)

The kids who typically can't stop talking (especially in one of my classes) still talked, but this time it was about the math.

So many students had a major lightbulb moment when it came to the difference between an equation with a horizontal shift vs a vertical one.

I never sat down because kids were constantly asking questions about why something wasn't working. Most of these kids would have normally to hear the answer from me the next day. Today they were curious.

My last period class (who typically likes to pack up 10 minutes early) barely had time to stand before the bell rang because they were working.

I can look at the results by question (to see if there's a major disconnect on a topic) or by student (to see if it's just one student that doesn't understand).

I could tell by the kids' questioning of me if they understood the transformations and were just having issues with how to type it or had no clue what it meant to shift left/right.

This is what they worked on. It's not fancy, it's not perfect. But oh my goodness, it was awesome.

(And... a student who has never spoken to me before asked several questions today. Breakthrough!)

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Catching up and getting ahead

Just a few things that I'm happy with from this week:

1. My precalc kids are currently working their way through a Desmos activity called What's My Transformation? that Meg Craig created. I know they've learned function transformations before; this is a fun way for them to practice in another way! Every single student is working and seem like they're enjoying it. And the excitement when they get a tough one is fun to see.
(They were shocked when the bell rang. That's awesome!)

2. I gave my Math 1 kids a Socrative Space Race yesterday to review for their quiz today on solving equations. It went well except that when I gave a multiple choice question with several possible answers, I thought it would count it correct as long as they chose one of the indicated answers. Not so much. The kids were not happy when they got a question right but were told it was wrong.  (like: when solving 4(x + 3) = 8, what's your first step? I selected both "distribute the 4" and "divide by 4".)

3. The hours I spent making that silly Parent Function foldable this summer were finally worth it; my math 3 kids put together the books yesterday and we filled them in today. Now I just want to make sure that I'm constantly referring to it (and asking the kids to).  I'm wondering if I should have put an extra page in to show the different types of transformations... Hmm.

4. I've been giving my Math 3 and Math 1 kids a warm up every day. It's typically a problem like what they did for homework or what we discussed the day before. In Math 3 we've spent a lot of time (too much, I think) talking about characteristics of functions. Today I found a graph on Which One Doesn't Belong? that fit the bill perfectly. I thought the kids have done a great job talking about how the chracteristics of one function makes it different than another.  I'll definitely be bringing those back as warm ups!  Much thanks to Mary Bourassa for this site!

Our kids are expected to have a computer with them every day; it's so nice to be able to use them at the drop of a hat!

I spent a lot of time this summer working on these first few weeks of the year, but I've unfortunately caught up with it all. Looks like my Labor Day weekend will literally involve some labor!  (And some sleep, hopefully!)

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

And more lessons...

I thought my Math 3 kids were doing well on the characteristics of functions (domain, range, increasing, decreasing, intercepts, end behavior, extrema) until I gave them a little check today with an online "quiz" that I'd built.

And now I know the truth.

Sure, some are doing great! But a lot more aren't and are trying to hide behind the kids answering the questions.

This just shows how important it is to do intermediate checks despite how a class "feels".

Formative assessments, anyone?

The grading is great online for matching, multiple choice, and true/false questions. But I wanted to see the kids' notation, so I left the questions as short answer. More of a pain to grade but so much more evidence!  So glad I did it that way.  With almost 90 kids to do this for though, that's going to be something I'll really have to consider in the future.

Monday, August 31, 2015

My Lessons from the first 2 weeks of school

1. There are a lot of details about starting school that you don't remember until you do it. Seating charts, health plans, IEPs, basic organization. I think I have it down now.

2. Whatever I plan for Math 1 or Math 3 is going to take 2 - 3x as long to actually accomplish in class. It's good that I'm writing my plans for the week in dry erase marker on my board so it's easily editable. And I use google calendar to keep track of my long-term plans, so it's easily movable.

3. Days go amazingly quickly when you're busy from 6:50 am to 3:00 pm.

4. Telling kids that I'm going to let them be responsible for their cell phone use (or lack thereof) in class is one thing. Them following through with that is another.

5. Kids are not shy about emailing at all hours of the day. Especially at 11:00 the night before an assignment is due.

6. I have to put exactly what is due on Schoology (our LMS) each day; if I just say it in class there are students who get confused.

7. There's nothing like back-to-school tired.

8. The feeling of having a former student come to my room saying "I missed you!" and giving me hugs (3 of them) is amazing. That's what makes #1 - 7 worth it!

Monday, August 3, 2015

If I didn't have Adult-Onset ADHD before this summer, I do now.

I made a list the other day of all that I want to get accomplished in the next 13 days. Because that's when summer as I know it is over.

Those tasks ranged from packing boxes and picking out paint colors for our upcoming move to figuring out what to take camping this weekend to packing the kids for their 9-day trip to Niagara Falls with my parents to figuring out exactly what I want to do in Math 1 and Math 3.

No biggie.

I sat down the other night to try and figure out this whole Math 1 General thing. It's technically the second half of Math 1 (for those kids who needed it spread out) but I think we all know that these kids haven't mastered the first half yet. And being that I have no idea what their EOC test will look like (because of Ohio's recent removal of PARCC from the docket), I feel like I have a little leniency. (Is that spelled right? Because it doesn't look right but it doesn't have the little red squiggle underneath it showing that it's spelled wrong.)

We don't technically have a book for the class, but I have a copy of Pearson's Math 1 that I'm going to use as a guide. Although I love not being required to do a specific set of sections, I feel like I have an outline to merge with my Pacing Guide.

So my plan is to start the year with the following topics:
I'm thinking we could spend a quarter of the year on that. While I might feel guilty about not doing what I'm "supposed" to, I think these topics are the backbone of any math class the kids will take in the future. So I'm making myself ok with it.

I haven't done a whole lot more with Math 3, except that I talked to a friend of mine who taught Math 2 last year. She's the teacher who tries her hardest not to do any school work over the summer (which is foreign to me) and I had to apologize profusely to make her get back in school mode. I'll make up for it with chocolate in a few weeks. :)  I was curious about how much they got to last year in terms of quadratics and was relieved to find out that she factored, solved, and graphed. Again, that doesn't mean that it "stuck" over the summer, but I think a nice little quadratic boot camp will be sufficient.

Oh, and I spent some time editing my foldable. Hopefully the third time's the charm!  (Here's a link if you'd like it.)

And because it would make too much sense to work on either of these classes tonight, I've been thinking about how I'm going to do my warm ups/exit slips. I tweeted out a query:
I've gotten a nice variety of responses, plus a suggestion to mix it up. That's what I think I'll do, especially at first when I'm trying 'em out in real time.

And another on the generosity of the #mtbos: Mary Bourassa is sharing her documents of warm ups. That's what I call generous. :)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I need 3 more months of summer. For realz.

I took off with my  kids to Florida last week for a last-minute vacation. And to escape reality for a few days.

But now I'm back and have a lot of work to do.  (Oh, and we're buying a new house and moving in the next week or so.)

I have a lot of decisions to make; things that used to be natural or "easy" decisions now seem harder. Maybe it's because I haven't had to make them for a couple of years now?

What's big on my mind right now:
1. I'd like to incorporate some of the Mathematics Vision Project's materials in my Math 1 and Math 3 classes. I'm thinking more about the Math 3 at the moment because I have 3 of them and it's going to be harder to make them more inquiry based. I'm tempted to just go straight through the MVP Units but I think I'll try to merge them with the Math 3 book we have available (as a teacher edition).

I started by making a list of the MVP topics and am trying to match them up with topics in my book. I have them in an excel spreadsheet so I can sort them to my heart's content.  I really like that MVP has an "honors" level - I think I'll be able to pull in a bunch of them to my Precalc class, too.

2. How (if) I want to do the requiz option this year. I like it for the Math 1 kids; I think it's really important for them to "get" these topics before moving on to Math 2. This Math 1 class is actually the 2nd half of Math 1, but my plan is to revisit solving equations and graphing lines pretty hard before moving on to anything that relates to the second half of Math 1. I don't know that these kids would take advantage of requizzing but it needs to be an option.

3. Notebooks. I'm not stuck on the idea of using a composition notebook - the smaller size gets annoying. What I'm thinking is that I'll have the kids use a 3-ring binder and looseleaf. That keeps it much more adaptable - we can add things in like an INB but have the flexibility with looseleaf. If that makes sense.  It does in my mind. :)

4. I'm going to use Sam's idea of folders for each table group. Even if I don't get them pre-stuffed with materials every day, it would be a nice easy way to turn in materials and help me keep a little more organized. So now I just have to decide if I want to have one color per period or have a rainbow of colors. I'm thinking one.

And then there's a lot of random little things
  • I need to get new pizza boxes for barriers when the kids take assessments.
  • Do I want to make copies of my pre-made notes for the kids or just post them online? That way some kids can write it all out (if they'd like), some can download and use their computers (we're a BYOD/1:1 mashup), or I can have some copies available in class.
  • I need to buy fans. I'm not sure where mine disappeared to and the school doesn't have a/c.
  • I need to print and laminate my SMP posters.

BTW - it was announced today that next year's Twitter Math Camp will be held July 16 - 19 at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. You should go! Just don't take my spot. :)

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


With another gloomy rainy day, the kids and I headed into school for the purpose of grabbing a book that I wanted to bring home.

But after a quick stop at Walmart (I found a cute little string of chalkboard flags and grabbed a black tablecloth) then Target (I found orange tape and a sign that I forgot to take a picture of), there was plenty for me to do in my room.

And the kids had their kindles, so they were totally entertained.

I worked on the walls a bit.
I started with this (how did Seiler stare at this for the past year?!):

And left with this:

I obviously need to get another black table cloth to finish it up. And then search for some cute orange borders for the bulletin board.

And then put stuff on it, of course.

On the other side of the room, my boy and I measured and marked closely and ended up with this assignment board - love the orange tape!
And then I found out that I'll actually have 3 different preps in the room, so I'll have to adjust the spacing. I'm going to put Monday through Friday across the top, plus a "next week" column. Each row will then represent a class.

I checked in with one of our assistant principals and found out the actual classes I'll teach - CP Math 3, General Math 1, and Honors Precalculus. There was a possibility of teaching AP Stats (and I was freaking out a bit about it) but a coworker of mine has taught it before and wanted it back.  Phew.

I spent a few hours this afternoon working on Math 3, and I'm feeling pretty good about it. Much better than a few days ago, anyway! I've gotten courses started on Schoology (our LMS) and old stuff populated and organized a bit. I might actually be ready when school starts! 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Getting started planning

I'm still not sure if I'll be teaching AP Stats or not, but I will have 3 sections of College Prep Math 3. My district went with the integrated CCSS pathway, so Math 3 is the previous Algebra 2 course that also includes some geometry and statistics (and trig - yay!).

The bad:  It's never been taught before at the College Prep level and we don't have books.

The good: I have a chance to create my own course, guided by the standards and the pacing guide (that I put together this spring). So that's fun! Albeit a lot of work.

We do have electronic access to Pearson's Math 3 book, and we use a program called MathXL that the kids can use for customized homework problems. They can even take tests/quizzes on it.

After looking at what was covered in Math 2 (a lot of geometry with some quadratics at the end of the year), here's my plan.

1. Start with a Parent Function foldable.  I want the kids to see the basic types of functions we'll be working with and learning about. I don't know if I can make 3 classes worth (85 kids?) using card stock, but it would be nice if the kids could keep them all year to add to and use as a resource.  I'd include linear, quadratics, cubics, square root, cube root, and absolute value functions. Probably not in that order.

After spending an embarrassing amount of time creating this foldable, it's done to my current satisfaction.

(Here's a link to the basic format if you'd like it. I just copied the one page back to back and upside down 3 times to make the six different pages.)

2. After going over the functions, we'll rewind back to linear and quadratic functions. Solving, graphing, etc. We'll also talk characteristics (increasing, decreasing, maxima, etc) and add that to our foldable.

I also started looking for some Math Practice posters to put on my pretty bulletin board and wasn't happy with anything I found. So I made my own! They have the standard, some more student-friendly tips, and key vocabulary. They're pretty plain, but I'll probably put an orange background around each. Again, here's a link to all of them.

ETA:  I couldn't stand it... I redid my Math Practice Posters.

And then there's a second page for each with the practice in more student-friendly terms.
I feel better now.

Friday, July 3, 2015

With a new classroom comes new decorations!

I'm super pumped that my new classroom has a bulletin board. Because I'm a geek like that.

But with a bulletin board comes a responsibility. It needs to be filled!

I picked this up at Walmart months ago because it was $.10 and I was feeling hopeful that I might need it someday. Looks like that was a good buy! It won't fill the whole bulletin board but I'm pretty sure I can find a simple black (or orange, the school colors) one to fill the rest. And a border, of course.

I've pinned a lot of stuff on Pinterest that I need to go back to. Here's my classroom decorations collection. Lots for me to sort through!  I love this "Be Who You Are" board, "Instead of I Don't Get It. . .", "Transform Thinking", "Teachers Definition of Talking", and pretty much everything else on there. It would also be fun to get some math involved... comics, graphs, etc. I'm sure I have some of those pinned too!

I have a set of two whiteboards in the front of my room and two on the side (where I'm going to put my desk). I like the idea of posting a schedule for classes so kids (and I) can see what's coming up for the week. I saw this board in a school I was nosing around in while my kid was at baseball camp one day and liked it. Though I don't think I'll include that second section in.  And I'd probably try and find some cute tape to use. I see a lot of those patterned washi (?) tapes at the store.

I'd also leave some room for me to be able to jump up and do a quick tutorial for kids. That could go in the blank section.

Now if only the AP Stats were as easy to figure out as decorating the room...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Let the freakout commence!

So far this summer I've seen quite a few changes...

1. Hubby and I are buying a new house. It's only 3.7 miles away from our current one, but it's got more land and a huuuge garage for him to hide out in. And a place to put all his stuff.

2. Which means we are getting the current house ready to sell. Kinda. I feel like I'm in limbo; we have so much stuff that we don't feel like we can list it with a realtor so I think we're going to wait until we're in the new house until we put this one up. And it's too early to pack, so I've just been purging all the stuff we don't need. Amazing how it collects.

3. Although we're staying close, the kids will be going to a new elementary school. They're good with it (now), and I found a babysitter for them so I'm good with it too.

4.  (The biggie...) I am officially back in the classroom! I've been waiting for the dominoes before me to fall before something opened up, and yesterday it finally did. I'm going to be back at my former school teaching math. Not quite sure what yet, but the open position was scheduled for Math 3, AP Stats (ack!!) and a blended learning version of Math 2.

So all of that time I've had the past two years to read and gather ideas will hopefully help me out. Unfortunately, my brain is a crazy place right now where I try and figure out how exactly I want to do things. The kids and I went into school today and took some of my stuff... I even rearranged the desks into groups of 4 before we left - that was a given.

Otherwise, here's what I am considering:
A. Not doing the formal Interactive Notebook. I'm strongly considering requiring the kids to have 3-ring binders with looseleaf paper. Much more versatile. We can still keep components of the INB without being stuck with the comp notebook (I found that scaling down to it was a pain.).

B. Creating a document for kids to do their warm-up problems on, then collecting weekly. Some accountability is helpful for those who think it's just free time. (I just threw this together. Now I need to think about it and make sure it's what I want.)

C. The constant collecting/grading of homework is always something I'm thinking about. I know that a lot of #mtbos'ers are in the same predicament, so I really need to dust off my blog reader and see what's going on. I saved one of Sam's posts about how he does homework (here), and I'm pretty sure Elizabeth addressed it too (found it!). (If anyone else has created the perfect system, can you please share?)

Going back to school today and starting to set up my classroom was fun but weird. But I'm so excited to be back!

I'll just need to remember this when it's October and I'm already tired of grading. :)

Thursday, June 25, 2015


My boy and I took a quick trip to Pittsburgh this week to visit some family (and watch the Reds lose to the Pirates - boo!). As we were driving across Ohio, I tweeted out to see if anyone had any ideas for activities for us, and several people mentioned asking Justin Aion. Duh! We ended up meeting for lunch at a yummy Thai place. In case you didn't already realize it, he's a fun guy. :)

My fingers are crossed that there will be some big changes for me next year! Hoping to know soon...

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Polar Coordinates and a fun #tbt

I covered a couple of Precalc classes today and got to teach about polar coordinates. I started with a clip of Crimson Tide (remember that movie? It's a great one!) so they could "see" some math.

"Math!", one of the kids yelled.

Then I handed out a couple of polar coordinate grids and told them there was an enemy sub right there. (I drew it on my projected computer.)
Where are we? (the origin)
How far away is the enemy?  (they counted the circles)
In which direction?  (we discussed using east of north vs an angle (measured from where?))
And then,
Is there any other way we could describe this location?  (Yep, with +360 angles, negative angles, etc)
So then we plotted a couple other points and came up with all kinds of different ways to get there.

Then, we got to the teacher's notes.  Because I spent so much time on the intro stuff, I didn't get completely through what she wanted me to. But I like getting them to think about what they're learning instead of just showing them, so hopefully she's ok with it.

And then on twitter today, there was this:

I guess freshmen aren't so bad. . .

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

5th grade math....

My son is currently finishing up 5th grade (only 12 more days for him!) and last week forgot to bring home his math workbook. I mean, it's not like having homework has been a habit for him; maybe once every other week does he have an assignment.

I put a plea out on facebook to see if anyone could send me a picture of the page and was thankful that a friend of mine obliged.  (He was too, considering that the punishment for not having an assignment is 50% off and having to sit during recess. Grr.)

I normally don't check over his assignments too closely because he does so well, but because I was copying from a picture that my friend sent onto a separate sheet of paper I obviously knew exactly what the problems were.

#1 - 4 were multiplication.
The next section went to this:
(Point E was drawn in by my friend's son.)
My guess is that they were working on plotting points.

The page finished up by asking the students to plot Point E so that BDEC was a square. (FYI, my boy was able to do it correctly. :) )

And the kicker? Find the area of the square.

This caught me off guard. I don't think the kids have done Pythagorean Theorem or (most definitely) the Distance Formula. So when my boy looked at me with a blank look on his face, I decided I'd talk him through it.  

I started by asking him what shapes he knows how to find the area of. The answer? A square/rectangle and a triangle.  We drew a big square around BDEC so that he could see some extra triangles.  He figured out that the big square was 5 x 5 and each triangle had a leg of 1 and a leg of 4. Taking the area of the big square minus the four triangles, he ended up with area 17.


I followed up the next day and asked how his math had gone (I basically wanted to make sure that she accepted the homework even though he'd written it on a different piece of paper.)  The first thing that he told me was that "my" answer of 17 for the area was wrong. It was supposed to be 16.

Um, what?! [You know what she did, though, right?]

I tweeted it. (Of course.)

I was happy that everyone agreed with me.  And Mike Lawler even YouTubed his son solving it!

(Check out Mike's blog here!)

I sent the video to my son's math teacher (thought it would be a nicer way than saying nyah nyah nyah) and haven't heard anything back.  [I did put it nicely; said it was such a great problem that I tweeted it and this guy made a video!]


Monday, April 27, 2015


I'm in a funk.

I miss math, I miss teaching, I miss feeling like I'm contributing to a school.  I was hopeful that a teaching position would open up and I could slide right back in but it doesn't look like that's going to happen.

My last couple of weeks have consisted of subbing (the lack of subs right now is crazy), running calculators around the building for our second round of PARCC testing, selling Prom tickets, and organizing the After Prom ticket data. Not too fulfilling.

I need it to be summer so that I can start thinking about other things. But I got a summons in the mail last week to report for jury duty in June (yes, the whole month). That's not going to make me happy. I'd actually like to see what the whole court process is like, but not during summer! Especially considering I'd have to pay for a babysitter for my kids and that wouldn't be cheap. I'm supposed to call in the Friday before each week to see if I'm on the list to report. Fingers crossed that it won't happen.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Individualized Quizzes and g(Math)

I'd heard of g(math) as an Add-on for Google docs and forms, but I ran across this post talking about how you could use it to create individualized quizzes for students.

Although it might be a lot of work, maybe it would be a way to create quizzes for students who are re-quizzing topics (if you go SBG)?

Just a thought.

Here's the post that got me wondering.

CCSS confusion

I like the Common Core for math.

And yet....

From the Math 1 Evidence Tables (what's tested when):

From the CCSS Appendix A (under Integrated Math 2):

Call me confused.

Monday, April 6, 2015

4th quarter! Math! What could be better?

Once again, it's hard to believe that it's 4th quarter. We were on Spring Break last week and are now facing 40ish days to finish up the school year. Woo hoo!

I've been working on putting together some pacing guides for our Math 1, 2, and 3 courses - we went with the Integrated pathway and there isn't a whole lot out there!  Try shopping for new textbooks... Most publishers (that we've seen, anyway) reissued an Algebra 1 textbook and slapped a couple of chapters of Geometry at the end.  Yeah, no.

So for now our teachers are making do with MathXL and piecing together sections from the books we already have. I'm hoping that if we have these pacing guides it'll help give people a clearer idea of what all needs to be taught.

This is a section from the Math 1 document (it's not ready to go fully public yet):
You've got the dates, unit name, # of weeks, short list of topics, standards, when they're tested, and the calculator policy of the standard.

The green and yellow highlighting indicates the importance of the topic being taught (green > yellow > blue) and I linked the standards to their places in our Unpacked documents.

If I was teaching this course I'd be pretty happy with this information. My only worry is that it's too much; one teacher I showed this to said all he wants is the topic list. That doesn't bother me at all (cough cough).

We have a Math Course of Study meeting on Wednesday so I need to have these done by then. I think the teachers will be linking in different resources they're using for the different standards, so it's almost like we're creating our own textbook.

And I get to live in math world for a while, which makes me happy. :)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

OneNote and Math 1

We have tablet PCs at my school, and as a (former) math teacher, I can't imagine teaching without one.

If you don't know what a tablet PC is, it's a fully functional laptop whose display swivels around and becomes a write-able surface. It's basically a smartboard within the computer. The district researched them several years ago (6? 7?) and decided to go with these as opposed to a smartboard because of the portability of them.


There are two different programs on the tablet that are conducive for inking on - Microsoft Journal and Microsoft OneNote.  I tended to stick with Journal because I liked the writing style (I'm picky about how things look) but I like the organizational aspect of OneNote. It's really like creating 3-ring binders for your files. You can have tabs with pages and subpages. An organizer's dream!

Here's an example of the tabs across the top:

And then the pages along the side:

I've been doing some work with the Math Course of Study Committee in my district and was checking out the pacing guides for Math 1, 2, and 3. We went with the Integrated Pathway so have had to create and arrange a lot of stuff on our own.  While I was perusing our 97-page google doc of the "unpacked" standards, it occurred to me that it would be really hard to find a standard in there without a lot of digging.

So, with nothing else on my plate for the day, I put together a OneNote notebook for Math 1.  And the cool thing is, it's sharable!  (Wish it was embeddable, but that may just be too much to hope for.)

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Recent Finds

I've found some good stuff lately!

1.  A presentation on Google's Lesser-Known Tools. I just shared this out with my staff. My favorites: GeoGuessr and Peanut Gallery.

2. Lisa Henry, a friend and co-founder of Twitter Math Camp, posted her Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 Common Core and PARCC Curriculum Tables on her blog. Definitely worth perusing, especially if you're in a state with both!  My district went with the Integrated Pathway so it's not a direct correlation, but it's definitely a nice resource!

3. Mary Bourassa is starting to blog her daily classroom activities. I never pass those up!

4. PARCC has released a Math PBA Practice Test. I don't know about you but I'm sick of PARCC, and we haven't even started testing!

I also shared some more subject-specific resources with the English and Social Studies teachers at my school...

They're located in a shared folder called Turpin Tech Resources.  Happy reading!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

One of those days...

Ever have one of those days when everything goes perfectly and you feel like you've accomplished a lot?

Yeah, that wasn't today.

Not that it was bad; I just ran into a bunch of roadblocks and couldn't figure anything out. And it was a busy day!

1. We started our morning with a state-wide Infrastructure Trial. The PARCC test is coming up and it was a good time to check to make sure that everything (ie, computers) will work ok on the site. And that the site doesn't crash.  From our end it went pretty well.

2. Our school psych let me know that the form we set up to collect information about student concerns isn't emailing the results to the counselors like it should. We're using a google form and the Ultradox Trigger add on.... great idea, and it's worked in the past, but for some reason it stopped working. I played with it for a bit but didn't get anywhere. I'll keep checking it out tomorrow.

3. I went over to our Administration Building to attend a meeting with the Parent Math Course of Study Committee. (They're bringing parents in to get feedback/keep them informed with what's going on in the math course of study.) We're working on a website to help them with all things Common Core Math Ohio's New Learning Standards. It was interesting to hear what they thought about our work; they definitely gave us some things to think about and redesign.

4. Back to school for a TI Webinar. It was billed as TI Graphing Calculator Support for PARCC Algebra 1 & High School Administrators  but was a lot like a sales pitch. At least, what I heard of it. I started trying to log in about 10 minutes early. Finally made it half an hour later. Ugh.

5. That left me a couple of hours to work on random stuff... adding a search bar to a google site (is it possible? If you know please tell me how to do it!), more on the Ultradox Trigger (to no avail), discussions with my co-workers about how to deal with our Chromebooks and the upcoming testing.

I just felt like I ran around all day and have more questions/problems than answers.

I think it's time to go home and go for a run.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Online calculator

I just had a request from a math teacher for something she could use in place of a physical graphing calculator in class. I do love me some Desmos, but it's not always the right choice when you're trying to do something more algebraic (like matrices).  I did a little googling and found Meta Calculator. I only played with it for a few minutes, but it looks like it could be a nice alternative to the TI-whatever when the kids don't have one handy.

Some screenshots from their four calculators:

There's an iPhone and iPad app available, but I also want to test the calculator to make sure it works on Chromebooks (I can't see why it wouldn't) and other types of tablets.  But for now, it's looking good!

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

We're back!

I had a nice relaxing winter break... I'm too embarrassed to admit how many days I spent in my pj's. :)

So back to school this week, and I'm getting ready for another Tech Thursday. My district uses Schoology as our LMS, so that's what I'm going to focus on.  I'm hoping to do some more advanced uses (as shown below) but I have no idea who will be there and what they'll want to discuss.  So this may be all for naught!  But I could save it for next week...

I just got a shout-out on our County ESC Math website. I wish it was for my own work, but it was for sharing Geoff Krall's Problem Based Curriculum Maps (which are awesome). I'll take the referral credit, though!  (If you haven't seen them, go now!)

If you read my previous post(s) about my son's late work at school.... I never heard back from his teacher, but his grade magically rose to an A level during winter break. I'm going to try and give her the benefit of the doubt:
1. She didn't get my email.
2. She had more grades to enter.
Both of those could have happened, right?