Sunday, December 11, 2016

Exams are coming!

A few years ago the district I teach in moved semester exams from January to December. Not that the end of the semester actually changed, but the thought was that it would be good to have them before a two-week(ish) winter break.

I guess.

For my year-long classes, the change of weeks doesn't affect me much. But my colleagues who teach a semester-long class give their exam in December, have the break, then come back for 2 weeks before the class ends. Seems pretty awkward to me!

So this coming week is the last week of real classes we'll have before our (short!) winter break. Exams are Dec 19 - 22.

Anyway, every year I struggle with how to deal with the exam review days.  I'm more of the mindset that I want the students to practice what they personally need to. I don't lead a whole-class review (unless they request it) and I like to give them time to work/ask questions. I give a packet of review problems and post the answers (or have them available).

And every year I wonder how to "grade" these problems.
1. I don't want to grade for correctness.  It's practice for the exam.  And besides, I'm posting the answers.  And another besides, I don't want to take the time to do that.
2. I don't want to grade for completion.
      a.  If a student feels like they need to spend more time on a certain section than another, then I want them to go for it.
      b. Copying is running rampant through my school right now. So the probability is great that students who aren't working on the problems during class are just going to leave my room and copy it from a friend who has actually done it.  I refuse to reward the copy-ers.
3. If I choose not to grade anything at all, I feel like I'm babysitting in class for several days in a row. I can only imagine the number of Snapchats that will be sent around the school.

So I'm toying with the idea of just giving points to students who are actually working on the packet in my classroom.  Basically, those kids not wasting the 3 days in class I'm giving them to review.

I don't want to give these points on their quarter grade (because what does it show they learned?) and am thinking about adding it as a portion of their exam grade.  Because, really, it is showing if they worked on reviewing for the exam.

So my thought is checking to see if they are working for 3 days and add 3 - 5 points/day as part of their exam grade. If the students decide not to work then they know they are affecting their exam grade. And with these extra points built into the exam grade I wouldn't feel like I'd have to curve the grades.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Polynomial Hand Turkeys

One of my students asked last week if we could just make hand turkeys in class tomorrow (our last day before Thanksgiving break). And first I was just like, "No."

But then I thought about it.
1. We have Grandparent's Day in the morning (students are pulled out of class) and a Student/Faculty basketball game during our last class.
2. We had a quiz today.
3. It's the day before a long break.

So hand turkeys it is!

But of course I'm going to make them do some math, too.  Here's what I came up with:

I created a table of 24 different sets of polynomials for the kids to use.  They're all cubics and linears, very similar but with some different signs and coefficients.

So hopefully this will be a fun little activity that will get the kids working, coloring, and enjoying the last day before a much-needed break. 

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Conics and the Super Moon

Earlier this year we talked about conics in Precalc. One day for a warm up I gave them this problem:

It was a fun little way to talk about a real-life ellipse.

And then last night, I saw this tweet from NASA:

So cool! My only complaint is that I didn't have this to show when we did the original warm up. (And someone asked in one class if the moon actually grew by 14%. Um, no.)

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Random Observations

A few things that are scattered throughout my brain today:

1. I used Plickers to review some content in both Math 3 and Precalc. I really like the site except when it freezes up. And then it annoys me. Luckily it wasn't something that I couldn't fix by restarting my phone, but who has time for that in the middle of class?  And I really wish they'd include the possibility of mathtype in their answers. It's awkward to try and include square roots.

2. We're quizzing in Math 3 over solving quadratics tomorrow. Technically it's a Math 2 topic but the kids don't remember a lot (anything?) about factoring or solving and I feel like it's such an important thing to be able to do that I spend a good amount of time on it. Today I gave them a worksheet to practice solving equations (I emphasize the importance of choosing the best method to solve and not just the quadratic formula each time); the worked-out answers were on the back of the paper. My advice was to work through a problem then flip and check. I told them I wasn't going to collect the assignment tomorrow but to do what they felt they needed to do to prepare themselves for the quiz. In all 3 of my Math 3 classes I noted that the students who struggle immediately pulled out their phones once they heard the worksheet was optional. The students who do well immediately started working on it and checking their answers.

  • Are the lower-performing students that way because they don't work?  Or are they trying to avoid showing what they don't know and hoping it will go away?  (My vote is a mixture of the two.)
3. In Precalc we're reviewing Rational Functions. We've spent a couple of days practicing finding the zeros, asymptotes, etc, and graphing and seemed to be doing ok with it. Today I gave them graphs and asked them to write the functions.  It's amazing how much harder it is to work backwards through a problem. But it definitely shows what they know!  Instead of a quiz I created a Desmos Activity that I'm going to have the kids work through tomorrow.

4. I stayed up way too late last night watching election results. Honestly, I think the election of either candidate would have created a scary situation. A few kids mentioned it in class today but it didn't seem to be a big deal but unfortunately that's not how a lot of the country is dealing with the president-elect. I feel so badly for those kids who will basically be viewing the new president as an enemy (and vice versa). The next 4 years are definitely going to be a roller coaster.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Desmos and Conics

I was sitting during a break in my parent conferences last Thursday evening trying to decide what to do the next day in Precalc. I had a review packet for polynomials ready (because I refuse to teach them again to a group of honors kids who learned it last year) but I wanted to take a little break to do something fun.

And what's more fun than Desmos?!

We just finished a unit on conics (added in this year because it got lost in the common core transition) and I thought it might be a good time to play with the equations. I remembered Bob Lochel doing something with conics and desmos, so I checked out his blog and found his conics project posted.

I read through his requirements and made a few changes. Here's what I came up with:

The students' task:  Create a picture using conics
1. Use at least one of each type of conic (hyperbola, parabola, ellipse, circle)
2. Incorporate color
3. Turn in both a digital copy and a hard copy

That's it!  I was a little nervous about not giving them more guidelines but I wanted the students to be able to really play and create on their own.  The projects are due on Friday but I've already gotten a few submissions, and I am super impressed!

Some of the students are going above and beyond what I expected - my current favorite is an owl whose wings flap. It definitely took some learning on the student's part (and mine!) to figure out how to tilt the wings [ellipses] so that they weren't just vertical or horizontal. And then she figured out the animation.

I started creating a google slideshow with images of the kids' work... I'm going to post it below. Right now there are only a few images, but remember this isn't due for 3 more days!  As I add to the slideshow it should update below.

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Quadratics & Twitter: FTW

I won't see 2 of my 3 Math 3 classes tomorrow because all of the juniors are taking a practice ACT, so last night I was trying to think of something I could do with my last period class.

Today I showed them how to create a scatterplot and perform a linear regression using the TI calculator and I thought it might be fun to do a regression with data that we gather ourselves. I did a little googling and wasn't able to come up with any good ideas, so I went to twitter.

And, oh, the responses:

I totally agree with Scott Leverentz:

Now I just need to make a decision!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Better Warm Ups

I'm trying to do a better job of keeping warm-ups more interesting this year. Instead of just throwing a question up that mirrored the previous day's work, I'm mixing it up a bit.

In Ohio, every junior will be taking the ACT in the spring. And since I spend my day with (mostly) juniors, I thought incorporating some ACT prep would be a good thing to do. So every Wednesday-ish we do some ACT questions (which were so generously donated by Meg Craig!). I used Plickers for the first several weeks; tomorrow I'm going to switch it up and do Socrative.

Last Friday my 4th grader came home from school with a 3x3 grid and asked me if I could put the numbers 1 - 9 in them so that every row, column, and diagonal had a sum of 15. (Using every number once.) She said it was a problem given to them in math that day and no one, including their substitute, could solve it.  That was a great one for yesterday!  Some of my students worked and got it in a timely manner, some did better once they had the middle square, and some never got there at all. But they all worked on it!

Some students asked me to give puzzles more often, so I'll have to add that to my list.

Last Thursday my 4th grader (she's a wealth of questions) came home from school and told me that she'd read a book that day.  She loves to read and does so very quickly, so I wasn't surprised. She'd told me that before. But then I asked what book and she answered, "Harry Potter." Um, what?! I thought maybe it was an abridged junior version or something until she pulled out that 800-page monster out of her backpack (it was book #5 if you're wondering). She claims to have read at the babysitter's in the morning for about an hour, on the bus on the way home for almost an hour, and then walking up the driveway (we have a long driveway but it's not that long). So that was today's warm up: How many words per minute would she have had to read?  We even gave her the whole 10 hours that she was gone from the house.

This actually segued into the thought of the world's fastest reader Howard Berg (which I searched an found a YouTube clip of)

and then the next clip on YouTube was a 13-year old girl on Johnny Carson back in the day.  Of course the kids had never heard of Johnny Carson, but whatever. It was a fun discussion.

My Precalc warm up wasn't as fun today - I asked the kids to find the intersection of a line and a circle (we'd just discussed the equation of a circle yesterday). I loved how it incorporated writing equations of circles, solving a system of equations, and the quadratic formula all in one fun problem. But they didn't agree with the fun thing.

I pulled in desmos to show how they could've used it and skipped all the algebra...

Friday, September 23, 2016

Re-Thinking Re-Quizzing

All of the Honors Precalculus students are assigned summer work. I know - doesn't that stink?! For the past several years we've set up assignments in MathXL so that the questions are automatically graded, though the students still have to turn in work when school starts in the fall.

Although this year we had issues with MathXL because the kids waited until the last minute to do the assignments (shocker) and their accounts had expired. So that was fun.

Anyway, during the first week of school I gave a quiz over the material covered in those assignments - linear functions, quadratics (factoring, completing the square, quadratic formula), and some other random stuff like rational functions, solving radical equations, etc. A lot of stuff that is going to be vital they know how to do.

It's sad how low some of the scores were for these students who are in the upper level course and (if they do well) will be taking AP Calc next year.

For this quiz only, I offer the option to retake some questions. But I didn't want to re-grade them all! So I decided to try it electronically.

Step 1:
I created a google form (that I posted on Schoology, our LMS) for the kids to indicate up to 5 questions that they'd like a re-do on (there were only 15 on the quiz itself).  This gave me a nice spreadsheet so I knew exactly who was doing what.

Step 2:
I created assignments in Delta Math that matched those questions. I told them that they needed to do the practice problems for the questions they were going to re-do. My intent was to check to make sure they'd done them but that seemed overwhelming for me. So I'm just going to hope that they got some extra practice.

Step 3:
I created a separate quiz in Schoology for each of the questions. I have the option of doing true/false, multiple choice, ordering, and fill in the blank (all of which are automatically graded); I can also give them short answer questions which I would have to go back and assign a grade for (no way).

Step 4:
I individually assigned the problems to the kids who had signed up for them, so all they saw as an option to do were the questions they had signed up for.

So today was requiz day, and I was holding my breath. Would this work out well?

Thankfully, the answer was yes!  I fixed some details today so that their scores would feed into the Schoology gradebook (which I'll have to transfer into our "real" gradebook) but it wasn't a big deal.  This was a bit of upfront work, but now the hard stuff is done and I won't have to re-do it for next year. Woo hoo!

I am allowing my Math 3 kids to requiz topics this year, and this is totally how I'm going to do it from now on. I'll ask them to submit their work when they're done (so I can give it a quick glance) but the days of double-grading problems are over!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The first 3 days

My 10th period class just walked out the door and I finally am taking a moment to sit and reflect over the last 3 days.

The bad:
Man, it's been hot and muggy. We were actually allowed to wear shorts and school tshirts for the first two days of school. Today wasn't supposed to be as bad heat-wise but it doesn't feel much different. Having a second-floor, eastern-facing room (so the sun comes in ALL DAY) isn't fun when the temperature is above 90 degrees and there's no air.  Tomorrow's high is supposed to be in the upper 70s.  Thank goodness.

The good:
Everything else. For real.

My classes have been great. It's amazing to only have 2 preps (haven't had that for YEARS... and by years I mean like 16 of 'em!), no general classes, and 5 classes of juniors.  I feel like by the time the kids are juniors they're over the freshman hand-holding, the sophomore I'm-not-a-freshman-anymore and haven't gotten to the senior I'm-too-cool-for-high-school stuff.  Juniors are my favorites. :)

I've also taken the time to do some fun stuff the first few days, and I'm planning for several different activities each day (instead of just one and done).

On Monday I used Sara Vanderwerf's name tents and 1-100 task and had a great start. The kids loved the 1-100; so many of them mentioned it in their comment to me on the tent.

On Tuesday I used Fawn Nguyen's Noah's Ark task, which was a lot of fun. My 10th period class was dying to know how to solve the problem and one of the girls actually came up to the front of the room to explain how her table had gotten the solution. I was amazed that someone was brave enough to do that on the first day! And that on the first day of school in a classroom that was hovering in the 90s they cared enough to want to know how to solve the problem.

We also took some time to play with Desmos in each of my classes, did some ACT Review problems with Plickers, and tried out the new textbook software. So it's been a busy, but fun, few days!

Fingers crossed that it'll stay that way!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Final Homework Plan. I think.

School starts tomorrow.  Finally.  I feel like all of my peeps on twitter started weeks ago, and I've been sitting here twiddling my thumbs.

Not really, but it'll be nice to finally get back to what it is I've been working towards all summer!

I'm *still* trying to figure out exactly how I want to handle grading homework.
Because I'm going to give a homework grade. In the perfect world, the kids would do it regardless and I wouldn't have to worry about it. But we all know we don't live in a perfect world.

In my Honors Precalculus classes I'm going to use MathXL for homework instead of assigning out of a book. I like the instant feedback that the kids get and that they can't just copy off of their neighbor.

But I don't know that I need to make it due the day after I assign it. We all know that these kids are super involved in every activity/job/whatever under the sun. I know that there are times that they won't be able to get to their assignment or are having internet/computer issues.  So I'm strongly considering the idea that I'll create all of the assignments for the unit beforehand and make them due the day before the test/quiz. That would let the kids do them when they have time and yet get them done before the assessment. I don't want to make them due on test/quiz day so that we have the cushion day beforehand if there's a question that they don't understand.

And these are the type of kids that might want to work ahead, too. Why not give them that opportunity?

But I also would like to check written work; I don't want everything done on the computer/calculator.  So here's my thought on that:
As I create the assignments in MathXL, there are certain problems that I am going to specify that the kids need to show their work on. I've asked them to have a spiral or composition notebook for that purpose. Then at the end of the unit I can flip through and check their work.

Can you think of any issues with this idea?

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stuff I've Been Working On

Remember that ADHD I mentioned last post?

Here I go...

1. It's minor,but I made a new warm up sheet. I only put 3 spots on a page to force myself to either do something online, on white boards, or as a class the other 2 days a week.

2. I fixed up the Parent Functions foldable that I spent hours on last summer. Literally.  I think it's better now. But I have to figure out how to send it to the school copy center so that it prints as a booklet exactly as I would like it.

3. I found some of the plastic picture frame thingies at the Dollar Store and bought 7; one for each of my tables. So tonight I made new table number labels and also a sheet of "Instead of 'I don't know'" questions for the back.

4. I downloaded all of Sara VanDerWerf's Math Wall of Shame files that she so generously shared; this is what I'm going to start with on my bulletin board. At least half of it.  I actually got this board recovered this past spring before school was out and was horrified to see it this week with a piece of border missing. Our floors were worked on over the summer and I'm thinking that the piece fell off and was thrown away. And I don't have enough to fill it in! I just ordered new border from Oriental Trading Company today to redo it. (Our colors are orange and black and I wanted to keep with that theme.)
But isn't it appropriate that it was on the "#MathFail" part of the board?!

Things I Still Want to do:
1. Figure out how I want to create a self-paced module to have my Math 3 kids work through linear functions. If they need to. I refuse to teach it again.

2. Get a grip on my Matrix unit that I'll be starting Precalc with. I haven't done it for a while.

3. My plan was to put together a little tutorial for the TI8* and what I would like the kids to know how to do, but my TI SmartView software is having issues. Hopefully that'll get fixed in the next week so I have time to do that before school starts!

4. I'm presenting something at a building tech day next week. Probably should figure out exactly what that is. Hmm.

5. Figure out my first day of school plans. I detest the first day of school. I'm nervous, I'm hot, I don't know the kids. Can we just skip it and go straight to day 2?

Slide Rule Update

I'm in major ADHD mode (which I think is adult-onset due to twitter) with just a few days before school starts. I feel like I have to get everything done NOW and I'm jumping from one task to another like crazy.

But I wanted to take a moment to share something that I thought was super cool.

Some background:
In 2009 I borrowed a class set of slide rules from the International Slide Rule Museum and learned how to use one. Then I taught the kids. If I remember correctly, it was just a few days to fill before Thanksgiving break. But it was interesting! (Here are a couple of quick posts about it: post 1  post 2 )

Then, about two weeks ago, I received this email:

I responded saying that of course, I would love to have the slide rules! I'm never going to turn down an offer of gifts. :)

My kids and I went in to school on Monday to drop off some of the stuff that's been accumulating in my dining room this summer and a box was waiting for me.  It was the slide rules!  Along with a lovely note:

How totally cool is that?!  Not only did this gentleman search me out, send me his slide rules (one is 55 years old!), but his wife also has a connection to the area.  His return address wasn't local, so I'm just seeing this as a major coincidence.

I'm horrible with thank you notes, but I'll definitely make an effort to send him one!

Monday, August 8, 2016

#makeitstick - My first thoughts

At TMC I sat in Anna Vance's (formerly Hester) presentation about using the ideas from the book Make it Stick by Peter Brown, Henry Roediger III, and Mark McDaniel (here's her slides). The premise is how to run a class so that students more easily remember the things they have been taught. Because I know we've all been in both situtations:
1.  "We never learned this!" when referring to fractions/linear functions/factoring
2. "I don't remember how to do any of this" in the middle of a test.

I ended up ordering the book that evening as I sat in my dorm room in Augsburg.  It came pretty quickly, but life got in the way and I didn't even pick it up until heading to the pool today with the kids.

So now 102 pages in (the kids both had friends there to keep them occupied!) I have a lot of ideas.  For now I want to make note of some of the passages I've highlighted:
On pg. 3-5:

  • Learning is deeper and more durable when it's effortful.
  • We are poor judges of when we are learning well and when we're not.
  • Retrieval practice - recalling facts or concepts or events from memory - is a more effective learning strategy than review by rereading.
  • Trying to solve a problem before being taught the solution leads to better learning...
  • All new learning requires a foundation of prior knowledge.
  • Elaboration is the process of giving new material meaning by expressing it in your own words and connecting it with what you already know.
These were in the "Claims We Make in This Book" section and would be expounded on later.

At this point I was thinking about a student I had in class last year. He was a very curious, interested student (with horrible handwriting) and insisted on covering every page of fill-in notes with his own summaries of things. And then he'd tell me that he was going to go home and re-write and re-organize his thoughts. This boy asked a lot of questions. But you know what?  He got it. He demolished the exam.  And he was doing so much of what I was reading about today on his own.  I'm thinking about tracking him down this year (although he's the type that will stop by to visit regularly) to ask him how he got started doing this.

On pg. 16, in reference to a student who had studied diligently and done poorly on an exam:
"Had he used the set of key concepts in the back of each chapter to test himself? Could he look at a concept like "conditioned stimulus", define it, and use it in a paragraph? While he was reading, had he thought of converting the main points of the text into a series of questions and then later tried to answer them while he was studying? Had he at least rephrased the main ideas in his own words as he read? Had he tried to relate them to what he already knew? Had he looked for examples outside the text? The answer was no in every case."

I never learned how to study. I was lucky enough not to have to. But how many students also haven't learned how to study and do poorly because of it?  The authors are emphasizing that "studying" doesn't mean re-reading textbooks or notes. It means doing.

On pg. 20, when referencing the importance of testing:
"In effect, retrieval - testing- interrupts forgetting."

Now this doesn't have to be a major unit test. And it shouldn't. But what about a 2-question feedback only quiz the day after you learn something?  

On pg. 28:
"Retrieval must be repeated again and again, in spaced out sessions so that the recall, rather than becoming a mindless recitation, requires some cognitive effort."

It doesn't work to give a quiz in class after practicing the one topic for 3 days in a row. Sure, the students should do well on it, because that's the only thing they've been focusing on. But will they remember how to do that same thing in a week? Or 3 months later on the exam? Such is the importance of spaced out practice/retrieval of knowledge.

On pg. 32: 
"When retrieval practice is spaced, allowing some forgetting to occur between tests, it leads to stronger long-term retention than when it is massed."

On pg. 21:
"One of the best habits a learner can instill in herself is regular self-quizzing to recalibrate her understanding of what she does and does not know."

On pg. 43:
"When the mind has to work, learning sticks better."

Don't you find this to be true?!  If I struggle with something that I'm finally able to conquer I tend to remember my solutions more.

The next section in the book dealt with what they call "Interleaved" practice. Not just doing one thing at a time, but mixing up topics and making the students actually think about what they're doing and when they should do it.

On pg. 53:
"For our learning to have practical value, we must be adept at discerning "What kind of problem is this?" so we can select and apply an appropriate solution.

I try and do this, especially when dealing with quadratic equations. I make an effort to have the kids talk about what method of solving is most appropriate for different types of equations. Sure, you can use the Quadratic Formula 20 times in a row, but is that necessary?! Is it the most expedient, appropriate method of solving x^2 = 40?

There's also been a lot of talk in the book about giving feedback to students and giving them the opportunity to work through the material in their own words. But I hate to be too wordy and am going to save that for my next post. Hopefully it'll come with some more concrete ideas of what I want to do in class to help this process!

Monday, July 25, 2016

My #TMC16 takeaways (Post #2)

I'm still working through my #TMC16 thoughts, so bear with me...

One of the keynote speakers, Tracy Zager, pulled up this comic:

(It's from a post by Ben Orlin here.)

Honestly, it makes sense to me. I feel pretty confident in my content knowledge but struggle with the pedagogy (which I think of as the "why" of teaching). And stereotypically the elementary teachers aren't as knowledgeable but have great ideas in how to run their class. (Although my kids have had several excellent, strong math teachers... and yes, I totally feel bad about stating that stereotype.)

Tracy's point was that we have a lot we can learn from each other. I agree. But how do we get there?

My biggest takeaway from Tracy that I would like to incorporate into my classes this year is the idea of a closing activity. Nothing major, but just giving the kids the opportunity to think about what we'd done, what they'd learned, what they had questions on, etc. Not necessarily an exit slip (been there, tried that) but a chance to reflect. And not pack up their stuff with 10 minutes left. :)

My travel buddy Pam Wilson told me about an idea she'd heard in relation to using a closing activity. If you're anything like me, time totally gets away from you. So what Pam suggested is to set your fitbit (because so many people have them!) alarm for 5 minutes before the end of each class. That silent alarm won't disrupt the kids because they won't hear it, but it would be a great warning that time is ending soon!  And 5 minutes gives plenty of time to wrap up the activity, reflect, and pack up stuff.

(BTW, I really enjoyed the 12-hour drive with Pam! Such a sweet lady. And I kept sending myself emails of Pam's ideas on the way home so I wouldn't forget anything!)

Sunday, July 24, 2016

#TMC16 post #1 (My stuff.)

I've been back from Twitter Math Camp (#TMC16 if you're so inclined) for almost a week now, and I still have a lot of stuff meandering through my head.  I really need to sit and work through my notes sometime soon!  I'm actually hoping for some rain so that I don't feel guilty about missing pool time with the kids to do school work.

I felt pretty good about the presentation that I did on Saturday afternoon (many thanks to the schedulers for letting me get it done on that first day!) and was surprised to have 20-ish people there. I was also surprised that I actually wasn't nervous when it started! But I was happy to have it over.

Here are the slides that I used:

 And a direct link to a google folder with all of the materials I shared.  (Please let me know if the link doesn't work!)

It's been fun to see other people blogging about going to my session and having favorable comments. Considering the respect (and awe) I have for some of these fellow mathies, it really means a lot!

This is a picture of those of us who were at both TMC12 (the first one!) and TMC16.  And I just want to say that I'm actually quite a bit taller than Hedge; I was just crouching so you could see Julie behind me. ;)  There are a lot of amazing people in that picture!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Warming up (revisited)

I was really good about starting most classes (excluding quiz days, normally) with a warm up problem or two. I loved how it got the kids working immediately, gave me time to get my stuff together for class, and even gave me a few minutes to check homework (if I was going to).

And, most importantly, I think a lot of learning happened through those warm ups. Sometimes it was from kids asking each other for help, sometimes it was prompting them to think about a problem a different way, sometimes it was extending their thinking on a problem. Sometimes I reviewed a topic we hadn't seen in a while, sometimes I gave a question as a preview of things to come.

When it appeared that most were done, I'd take a few minutes to talk through (or have students talk through) the answer. This could take up to 15 minutes in class total.

In one of my evaluations a mention was made by my principal about setting a timer; it's something I always considered doing but didn't want to push kids through the problem without giving them a chance to think. And yet it would help with the dawdlers who I constantly had to tell to get working.

I gave the kids a new warm up sheet every two weeks; it has 10 blank spots on it, so after those two weeks were up I would collect the sheet and give them a completion score. One point per day that we had a warm up. So basically, not a big deal unless you didn't turn in the sheets a few times.

I've toyed with the idea of having the kids leave their warm ups in the table folders with the idea that I would periodically check them. I haven't figured out why that isn't a good idea yet. Aside from not making the kids responsible for a paper for 10 days in a row. 

So here's my question...
Do you do warm ups in class? If so, how do you work it? Do you set a timer? Do you grade them? Do you have a better way of doing warm ups?

Sorry, that's more than one question. But all feedback is appreciated! 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Student feedback (part 2)

And then a few more questions on the survey...
What type of learner would do best in my class and why?
  • A hands on
  • A learner who works well in groups and is somewhat outgoing would do best in your class because they can get help from and check answers with friends, and an outgoing learner would do well because your class requires a decent amount of participation
  • Auditory and visual learners that are great on repetition. I study notes often and did the practice work sheets along with then the screen casts and practice sheets when i would repeat the notes to myself over and over made it easy to learn a lot of the information. Especially when you would give demonstrations of certain things on the board because once I studied it I would be able to understand why you did something.
  • Any learner because you gave many examples that helped me learn better
  • One who doesn't mind taking notes. Your notes are very helpful and i didn't mind taking them most of the time but people who don't like to take notes would find it boring.
  • Classical learner: Listen how to do problems then do examples
  • Any learner because the class is well laid out.
  • A person ready to learn about math. If you go in not thinking it is worth your time, obviously it won't be a good year. A learner who is more math based and not picture based since we used more word equations than pictures I believe.
  • Seeing because of what we do on the board.
  • Listener and visual learner because that was the two main ways we learned
  • Listener, a lot of talking
  • One who can visualize aspects of equations because not all steps are shown sometimes
  • Note-takers because there were a lot of notes
  • A listener because you generally give us notes then go straight to a work sheet
  • Note taker, and paper person, lots of paper and notes
What type of learner would struggle in my class and why?
  • A lazy learner because the class does have some work that helps to succeed
  • Someone who needs to see pictures represent things. The triangles and real life situation problems are the best.
  • Listening because if they aren't paying attention it will be hard to catch up.
  • Someone who didn't listen well because you explained most of the things we learned.
  • Visual, we don't see things a lot.
  • One who needs every detail.
  • Non notes-based learners because there were a lot of notes.
  • Maybe a person to needs to see not just hear.
  • Hands on because there is a lot of visuals.
  • I think a shy learner would struggle because they are afraid to ask questions, even though you are a teacher who is truly more than willing to help.
  • A lazy one. You reached out to a lot of different types of people you were also so awake and full of energy in the morning it keeps things from getting too repetitious which can come from a pure lecture style the demonstrations and funny examples and jokes keep things engaging.   With the content being difficult at times if a student doesn't study and do the basics (like homework) it will be very difficult for them to learn.
  • I think that only someone who wasn't doing their work or weren't listening would struggle.
  • One who doesn't like to take notes or someone who does poorly on tests and quizzes. I'm not the best test taker but I always do my homework so it was a struggle to keep a solid A when my test grades would bring it down.
When you're fifty years old, what will you remember about our time together? What will stick with you?
  • All the fun things we did that may not have involved math at all. The friendships that I made with other kids in my class and with the seniors will stick with me.
  • -b +- (Squre Root) b(squared) - 4ab all over 2a. I will also remember how nice you were and how caring you were over students
  • My friends that I made by picking my own seat.
  • Yes because you were my favorite teacher and I learned the most from you. I never saw you get frustrated.
  • That you were really nice.
  • The games and extended review we had and the hot room haha
  • Nothing because I'll be really old. Maybe notes and stuff.
  • Probably not.
  • Most likely not.
  • I will definitely remember learning about fractals and hearing your stories!
  • Our awesome relationship. You told a lot of jokes and made me really smile and laugh. I looked forward to your class every single day and I will remember that for a long time.
  • I will probably remember some of the projects we did.
  • When you gave us our own personal unit circle which was laminated.
  • There's a good chance I'll be senile (it strikes early in my family), but if I remember anything it will likely be the derivatives despite the short amount of time they took. I enjoyed how they worked.
Anything else you'd like me to know?
  • I hope you have an amazing summer, keep up the good work. See you sometime in the fall, I will miss having you as a teacher.
  • Good job and try to draw straighter lines on the graphs or I will do it for you!! :)
  • Overall you're a great teacher! Best math teacher I've had since 5th grade probably
  • You have very pretty handwriting (ha!)
  • I thought you were a really great teacher and I hope you know some stuff about calculus because if you do I will probably come back to you for some help! You always made me laugh and I looked forward to coming to your class.
  • Thank you
  • I really enjoyed having you as my teacher!
  • I really enjoyed your class. Above on this survey, I was having a tough time coming up with anything negative. You are very good at your job. I'm kind of a math person but in past years I have had math teacher who ruined it for me. You are a very nice teacher (one of my favorites) and I thought you taught very well. I always wanted to give kudos to you because you were very patient with our class. Particularly with annoying kids who asked 10 million questions about things you had just gone over. Anyways, keep doing what you do because you made Math bearable :) Have a good summer.
  • Not really. It's been a good year and I hope I do well on the test tomorrow.
My take on it...

I'm happy with these responses. Every student is going to view the class in a different way, especially considering their own strengths and learning style. I try to make my class one that students enjoy and from what I've read, I've succeeded. The focus on note-taking was pretty major (in both a good and bad way) and that's definitely something I'd like to change.

Also, I was amused at the students who said "Good job". I don't think as a high schooler I had the awareness of how my teachers did their job. This reminds me of earlier in the year when one of the students made a comment about how much work I did for them. Again, I don't recall having that awareness as a student.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Student Feedback (Part 1)

I posted a form on Schoology the last week or so of school to give the kids an opportunity for feedback. And then I didn't check the results because I didn't want to know. No, not that I didn't want to know, but that I was a little worried to see what they would say. Only a few filled it out (I didn't make it a big deal) and the results are conflicting, but interesting.

I did it via a form that I found on twitter that someone shared (sorry - I don't remember who!). It basically asked the kids to list up to 4 things to keep, 4 to change, 4 to start, and 4 to stop.  (My comments in italics.)

Here are the results. (This got waaay long, so I split it up into 2 posts.)

  • Interactive notes on the projector (5)
  • Warm-ups (5)
  • Games with boards (?)
  • You always make sure [we] know the material before we test
  • Review sessions (4)
  • trashketball
  • Being funny and letting kids chose their seats. I worked really well with the people I was near and have some great memories your class is a lot of fun
  • Give time in class to work on homework (2)
  • No MathXL
  • MathXL (different class)
  • Exam reviews (2)
  • Review games
  • Worksheets (amount) (2)
  • Weekly agenda (I posted my plan for the week on a board in my room.)
  • Quizzes instead of tests (just the name quiz makes it less stressful)
  • Graded homework (always something for me to re-think in the summer!)
  • Spend lots of time on notes when we start a new topic
  • Online exams
  • Transitions between units
  • Going over homework
  • MathXL with factoring practice was so helpful for keeping the basics of first semester in mind because it made exam review much easier
  • Posting things on Schoology. It's a great way for keeping informed and helps students who are easily confused like myself and the notes you gave were a big help.
  • Homework (what? how?)
  • Less homework (2)
  • Go over tests 
  • That you choose seats
  • Go over all aspects of problems because sometimes it doesn't shop up that way on tests
  • Warm ups: I liked doing them on Schoology
  • Have more review games in class (2)
  • Length of notes: make them short and simple to understand
  • More time to do homework in class
  • Sit in table groups (the rows were less conducive to group learning and discovery) (yes!!)
  • Break practice exam on Schoology into sections
  • Maybe a little more review before quizzes
  • Give credit (or lack thereof) for every homework assignment
  • Class setup (?)
  • More in class time (to work?)
  • Go slower
  • Homework every night (there wasn't... maybe this person wish there had been?)
  • More opportunities for extra credit (2)
  • Partner projects: I liked them, but I like it if we could work with more than one other person
  • More problems on review sheets
  • Amount of homework (we have 9 (6) other bells, possibly 9 (6) other bells of homework and a life to live outside of school as well) (Funny, because their typical assignments were less than 10 problems. I'd have trouble shortening them any more and still feeling good about the practice they were getting.)
  • Have MathXL be extra credit
  • Do a warm up every day
  • Pizza boxes sometimes worked but all need to be in one direction or it doesn't work (I used pizza boxes to create barriers during quizzes. Adjacent students also had different quizzes. Nothing's perfect, but I thought this would be pretty good.)
  • Less time spent on the unit circle (Blasphemy.)
  • More test corrections
  • Wish you wouldn't go so fast sometimes when we learn things
  • Less MathXL
  • More class time work so we can ask more questions

  • Different fun in-class activities (3)
  • More review games (5)
  • Start going slower
  • Letting us choose seats (2) (I did for certain classes. Some couldn't handle it.)
  • More extra credit (4)
    • But only to the people who do their work and deserve it but maybe got a few bad grades on tests or quizzes
    •  It would be helpful for me, but learning benefits are dubious. This recommendation is less of something that you should do and more something I would prefer that you do. 
  • Slow down a little for students who struggle with the current topic
  • More partner work
  • Split up BOB into the chapters (it takes forever to find the answers in one big BOB) (I posted the odd answers for the kids to check their work. BOB = back of book)
  • If early exam review on MathXL doing it in class after due date would be really helpful instead of independent review (I'm not sure what exactly this means... go over assigned exam review problems together?)
  • More projects
  • A note sheet at the end of the year with the most important things to know
  • Be able to ask more questions
  • Quiz corrections
  • Help struggling students with extra material to help them review better
  • Short practice quizzes or tests for large unit test on Schoology or MathXL for independent review
  • Group assignments (which, IMO, only one person out of the group actually does)
  • Reward system? Candy? Homework passes?
  • Perhaps go deeper into derivatives? I enjoyed that unit. (Wish I'd had time!)
  • Being so lenient. I liked how you are ready to help but sometimes people became such a distraction and it was hard to learn. (TRUTH. I'm too nice sometimes and it causes issues.)
  • Giving homework.
  • MathXL (5)
    • Some of them are pretty tricky. Or at least give more attempts per question. (I would limit them to 2 - 3 tries per question.)
  • Teaching so fast
  • Don't teach new stuff the week that exams start (even though they had 3 days in class to review beforehand...)
  • Warmups (3)
    • Some of them are tough and having math early in the day makes warmups dreaded 
  • The tables (I didn't know anyone at my table and no one there made an effort to include me, so I didn't learn as well). (That's sad. But I also think this person should have made an effort to meet people. With juniors in high school do I need to do ice breakers to learn names?)
  • There was nothing really bad that I didn't like.
  • Everything seemed to go fairly well. I wouldn't recommend stopping anything.
  • gesmos (I think they meant desmos... and that ain't stopping!)
  • Choosing our seats
  • Large MathXLs
  • Having homework every night (again, they didn't)
  • I didn't think there was anything else I really didn't like!
  • Overall I thought the class was awesome and your class was really fun you are a great teacher

Here's my take on the perfect class.
No homework every night, and every homework is graded. For completion. And make it short.
More time in class to review and play games but go slower on the new material.
Lots of extra credit.
Keep warm ups, and yet don't.

Got it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Box Project (part 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Minds blown.

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

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

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

15 more wake ups!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Random Thoughts

1. We played a last-minute Kahoot! in class today to review unit circle values. One of the boys chose Foussinating as his name. Hi 2nd period!

2. I took two class days to construct the unit circle; one day was spent labeling degree and radian values, then the next was creating little 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 triangles to fit the triangle and find the ordered pairs. I know this could have been done in a 20-minute period (instead of 2 35-minute shortened periods) but I also heard a lot of "Oh!" and "That makes sense!" when we got to the ordered pairs. So the extra time was worth it. Today we finally got to the point where we could see the relationships between those ordered pairs and the sine/cosine/tangent values.

3. I'm (tentatively, but pretty sure) teaching both Precalculus and Math 3 next year, both of which I'm currently teaching. So after a year of creating 2 brand new courses, I actually get to use one of them again!  But of course it won't be that easy...

A. We adopted a new textbook series for Math 3. Wait, let me edit that. We adopted a program for Math 3. Won't have too many physical books (which is fine) but our program seems to have a pretty good online component. And after a year of no book at all, it'll be nice to have more choices. But that also means that I either adapt my course to its program or its program to my course.

B. Not only do we have a new book, but I'm hoping that with another year of common core math under our belts, the kids coming into Math 3 won't need as much review/reteaching. I spent a lot of time on linear and quadratic functions that I "shouldn't" have to do. So even if I can compact that a little more it'll give me time to actually get to the statistics and geometry that I'm supposed to do in Math 3.

C. Because of the change in our courses due to common core, there's been a lot of overlap in Math 3 and Precalc. Which means that a lot of topics won't need to be repeated in Precalc and will give me time to hit limits and derivatives and the beginnings of calculus even more than I do now. But I also need to add in conics and matrices (both considered 4th year). My goal is to make them into blended modules that the kids can work through on their own, especially the matrices. So there's a summer project!  I should be able to lose rational functions, exponential functions, and even some of the trig.  This year I have a mixup of kids from Honors Algebra 2, Trig with Functions, and Honors Math 3 so I wasn't able to make changes. Next year they'll all be coming from the same place.

Regardless, this summer will hopefully be a little less hectic than last summer (bought a new house, got back to the classroom, started creating two new courses). But of course I'll still have work to do!