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!