Monthly Archives: August 2014

#MTBoS Sunday Summary

My week:

Algebra II w/ Trig

We took our first test, which was a GREAT segue[1] into growth mindset and overcoming setbacks.  Although they didn’t knock it out of the park, I had fewer really low grades than previous years, so that’s a good sign.  This is usually a tough test and I think I need to either (a) break it up into 2 quizzes or (b) actually follow the notes that I leave myself every year that say “DO MORE DAYS OF ____”

Then into functions with this beautiful Note-Taker-Maker[2] that I stole bits and pieces of from everyone, but I think mostly from mathequalslove.

Capture1.doc file here

Friday we did the ever-popular graph stories, but I made it into a worksheet because I do not have time for scissoring.  They worked in groups and I paired groups up as they finished to discuss answers.  Then when everyone was done I brought out the talking dog.

No, it didn’t actually talk. I’ve been having an issue with students not listening to other students talking, so I thought I’d take a cue from GWWG and Mr Healy and start the rule that you can’t talk unless you have the talking dog.

So the dog was passed around as we explained and discussed our answers to each graph.  And what do you know?  It worked!!  Not 100% of the time, but they were listening a lot more than before. Some of the kids had great explanations, too, including “we first thought it was this graph, but then when we met with another group, we realized….”  Win!

PreAP Precal

Holy moly, definitely some ups and downs this week with discovery learning.  All of the kids are working super hard at trying to figure out what I throw at them, but they are lacking in (a) math skills and (b) seeing math connections.

We spent about 1.25 days on translating linear equations to discover our “new” point-slope form: y = m(x – h) + k.  Worksheet here.  It went really well and was a good lead-in to piecewise (“isn’t it so much easier to write the equation of this guy using point-slope since we don’t know the y-intercept?”)

We also spent 2 days on average rate of change, worksheet here. (I’m pretty sure I stole this from someone, too–I really need to work on documenting my sources!)  The first side of it went great, but I need to reword it so they understand we’re doing the exact same thing on the back!  Just calling it a different name!  Really!  That’s it!  Then I wonder to myself, would they have made better connections within the same time frame if I had lectured for 20 minutes on AROC, definition, formulas, etc, then let them work with applications of it for 1.5 days?

So even though it may get me kicked out of the MTBoS, I think I’m going to stick with introducing a topic as a class first, then letting them loose on going deeper, rather than letting them loose to discover the topic but running out of time to go deeper.  Plus, I think based on this: zone(poster available here) I’ve been in the panic zone as a teacher way too much this year and need to scale it back to be in the learning zone.  I need to keep reminding myself I don’t have to try everything that I learned at TMC during the first month of school!

[1] I’m not going to lie to you; I just found out last year this is word that people are using when they say “segway” as in, “Using (person, birthday) as a function example allowed me to segway into mentioning I don’t like Starbucks.”

[2] Notetakermakers (or “NTMs”) are what I call my graphic organizers.  Yes, I make one for each section.  Yes, I do use a lot of paper.[3]

[3] Dude, I don’t know why the superscript is showing up as just tinier script.  I’m using “sup” and everything.  Here’s a subscript example: [1] which looks to me exactly like the superscript.  Sometimes I hate everything about wordpress except for the fact that I get to use “”

3 Tech Tips for Teachers

Just a quick post to share some of my favorite tech tips.  These are some that I think everyone is born knowing and then I’m shocked to find someone techier/younger/hipper who doesn’t know it.

1. Print 2 to a page.

Seriously, these kids have good vision.  Save a tree.  In Word 2010 or higher, it’s the bottom option:

CaptureaAnd in earlier versions, it’s in the lower right of the print box:


(I don’t know why I didn’t set my examples to actually have “2 pages” instead of one, but I trust you guys are smart enough to figure that part out.)

Pro tip: Type your original on legal.  When you print 2 to a page, it will use up all that space you get at the bottom when printing letter 2/page.

2. DoPDF PDF Converter.

Download here.  (Looks like Windows only, sorry losers Mac users)

This installs another printer on your machine, but it really prints it to a PDF file.  Simply print, select it as your printer, then choose where to save it (you can even choose a default folder).  “But I can save .docx as a .pdf, so why would I need this?”

A) Combine with tip #1.  Type your document as normal (because using Word’s 2 to a page layout while making a worksheet is super annoying), maybe using a slightly larger font (maybe 14, but I can get away with 11).  Choose doPDF as your printer and choose 2 copies.  Then it opens up the PDF and you can print 2 to a page from there.  This really helps when you use the protip above, because sometimes Word doesn’t play nicely printing legal 2 to a page.

B) Make a PDF of a powerpoint handout to post for your students.  Is there anything more annoying than seeing a kid in the library print out 27 full-page slides?  But since you can’t teach everyone everything, this helps.

C) Print all those annoying “print this confirmation” pages (even though I’m about to get 12 different emails confirming that I did, in fact, order Orphan Black Season 2 because I can’t wait for it to come on Amazon Instant Prime).  Send them all to a “receipt” file.  Bonus if you can spell “receipt” right on the first try.

3. En Dash Shortcut

You know how sometimes Word will change your hyphen to a nice wider subtraction sign (the “en dash”), but sometimes it won’t depending on the relative humidity?  I can’t believe that in my previous shortcut post, I forgot to share my favorite shortcut off all: making two hyphens into an en dash:

Bonus tip:

Dude, I just learned this one last month and I’ve been a dropbox user forever. I would always go to the website to get a link to share, but did you know that with box or dropbox, you can right-click on the file or folder on your desktop to get the link?  It’ll copy it straight to your clipboard.

Am I seriously the last one to learn about this?

Category: Tech Tips | Tags: , ,

Highs and Lows: Even/Odd Functions and Absolute Value

So I’ll start off with the low so I can end on a high note.  What are the three most dreaded words for a math teacher?

Absolute. Value. Inequalities.

I’ve tried 147 ways to teach these.  This year I went with let’s shade our number line first, then write the inequalities to solve.  Talked about kids on leashes at the mall can be five feet in front of mom or five feet behind.  Talked about restraining orders mean you need to stay five feet away from me in both directions.  Talked about how when we shade in between two numbers, we’re going to write our expression in between the two numbers. Talked about how I’ve shaded all the numbers below or to the left or, you know, less than  -5, so I better write it as < -5 even though the original says >.  Sent them home with homework which maybe 10% did.  Next day: practice problems on individual whiteboards. (powerpoint file here)

Chaos ensued.  Like I never even mentioned number lines the day before.  Or that we’ve talked about writing inequalities when we’ve shaded between two numbers for two days before that.  Maybe I really did forget to mention the need for two equations yesterday?  That’s probably it.  So let’s see why what we did wrong is wrong. Let’s see the correct way.  Let’s go around to every group and have them say it needs to be < -7 instead of >.  Have every group tell me to put the expression between the two numbers for < since I’ve shaded between the two numbers.  Try another round.

Maybe 15% less chaos.  Finally towards the end of eighth period (third section of Alg II w/ Trig.  Which, yes, did I mention that?  Second time around to see these absolute value guys.), I gave up.  “Some teachers say a good way to remember is that greatOR means ‘OR’ and less thAN means ‘AND.'”  I could feel Tina quietly weeping from a distance as I said it.  I even made sure to say “some teachers” so that they wouldn’t think that I would ever say something like that.  What happened next?

“Oh, that makes sense now!!”  Maybe 80% got the next two examples correct, which was a vast improvement over the previous classes. “But they won’t remember it six months from now!”  True.  But obviously they didn’t remember my method 2 minutes later, so….

Scorecard: Conceptual learning: 0  Tricks: 1

High Point: Intro to Even and Odd Functions

We’re describing graphs this week in PreAP Precal.  It’s the first time  they’ve seen even/odd graphs, so I decided to let them try to figure it out by showing this totally awesome powerpoint.

CaptureevenYou have to download it to appreciate the awesomeness of it.  I used some emphasis tools to make the reflect across the y-axis and rotate around the origin.  Then the next day we brought out our individual whiteboards and drew graphs based on descriptions. (File here) We were rockin’ and rollin’ and then I hit them with this one:

CapturekxI know, it totally hurts my brain that f(6) is greater than k(-2) when it’s never increasing.  I even told the kids I didn’t get it the first time I saw it and said it was a “did you eat your Wheaties?” question.  (Of course this is when someone from central office popped in to observe and half the kids only have 2 points plotted.)  I even had one or two groups in each class come up with the correct graph!  One period was begging for more to try, but sadly I had to tell them no because we had to take a quiz so we could have enough grades in that category.  Ugh.  And next week we start on our shortened schedule so we have 5 less minutes in each class MWF.  Double ugh.

Final scorecard: Conceptual learning: 1 Tricks:1

Category: Uncategorized

Sunday Summary Week 1

Jumping on the #mtboschallenge to do a 3-2-1 summary of the week.

3 Good Things:

1) The Best Department Chair in the World Ever took it upon herself to talk to the admin about making another PreAP Precal class and the admin was nice enough to do so.  It meant changing around at least 40 students’ schedules, so it was a lot of work for everyone.  But that means I no longer have class sizes of 31 (actually, I was about to have class sizes of 32 which is when I started to freak out–my room could not hold another desk!) and I got to rearrange into groups of four!  Yippee!!!!!!!!!  The rows were just not working for what I wanted to do with groups.

2) I sent out a plea for help and many people put a lot of time and effort into crafting wonderful replies that really got me thinking about my role in the classroom and how to be more effective for everyone.  I will do a recap post soon of everyone’s replies, but for now be sure check out the comments on the post (and also lots of great discussion on twitter.  And it’s also never too late to add your own answers.).

3) I had an awesome day in every single class on Friday.  Each class had begun discussing word problems the day before (ok, yes, I still spend a day teaching word problems.  True, some of them do not have real world connections, e.g. “find 3 consecutive integers whose sum is -3,481.”  Yes, I also want to do Mathalicious lessons and more organic problem solving, but baby steps, people.  Baby steps.) I started class Friday by putting up a timer for 7 minutes (thanks @rachelrosales) for them to finish and turn in bellringers, and get signed up for edmodo/remind/google survey if they had not done so (I posted a checklist so they could see if they had).

After that was done, I handed out the big whiteboards and one marker per group.  I stated the rule that the person writing can only write what the other people tell them, which some followed better than others, but I didn’t have the heart to enforce it when they were having good math discussions.  And, yes, that means that THEY WERE HAVING GOOD MATH DISCUSSIONS.  And CHECKING THEIR ANSWERS TO SEE IF THEY MADE SENSE.  And ARGUING NICELY WITH EACH OTHER.  And I DIDN’T SEE ONE STUDENT NOT PARTICIPATING.  And EVEN THOUGH THEY GOT DISCOURAGED THEY KEPT TRYING. I think because they didn’t have pages of “wrong” stuff or piles of eraser dust, THEY SIMPLY WIPED OFF THE BOARD AND STARTED OVER.  And EVERYONE COULD SEE THE WORK BECAUSE IS WAS ON THE GIANT WHITEBOARDS.  And I COULD SEE EVERYONE’S WORK.  And because they had to finish the rest of the problems for homework, THEY WERE ALL WORKING TO GET AS MANY DONE AS THEY COULD.  As in, in almost every class, I WAS THE ONE TELLING THEM TO STOP AND GET READY TO LEAVE.

so, um, yeah…..I like the giant whiteboards.  As an added bonus, after the first problem I checked, I had them give me their names. (Yes, it is the 7th day of school and I know about 3 names so now you realize when I introduced myself to you for the 103rd time at TMC14, it was not because you weren’t memorable. I just am horrible at remembering names. Especially if you have the audacity to wear a different outfit the next day so I can’t remember you as “boy in blue striped shirt.”) Then as I returned to each group to check more problems, I recited the names again.  So maybe I will remember some of them tomorrow.  If they sit in the same seat and wear the same clothes.

2 Things I Made This Week that I’m Proud of:

1) My order of operations talking points worksheet.   Link to doc file


2. Some fun posters!

four principles one poster chalkboardstop staring start writingCapturepartymathAll of them (and black and white versions) can be found in this folder.

1 Thing I’m Struggling with This Week:

How to do less directed teaching and more discovery when it’s really just a whole lot of definitions to cover this week.

Make sure to visit and leave some love for the other challengers (and add your blog, too, if you’re UP TO THE CHALLENGE.)

Category: Uncategorized

Many Questions, Few Answers

So in trying to be a better teacher this year, I have a few questions that I would LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE like, seriously, LOVE if you could add your input either here or on twitter (@mathymeg07)

1) I’m really trying to “you, y’all, us.”  But Y’ALL is soooooo slow.  I hear them having great conversations on example three for 10 minutes, but I want them to see example four before they leave, too!  How do you not worry about time?  Or how can I better plan or pace my class time?  I am trying to book it through bellringers, homework questions, discussion/lecture/practice and definitely not having enough time to finish or even squeeze in a quick formative assessment (other than me going around and looking at their work in groups).  And I don’t want this “oh, the learners will learn at their own pace and just take as many days as you need” because I have approximately 217 objectives to cover in Algebra II.  (FYI, we switch between 47 and 52 minute classes every other day).

2) The class is finally rocking and rolling and 25/26 have the correct answer.  What do I do with the one kid who doesn’t get it?  Move on and tell them I’ll help at the end, but I won’t really because I’ll run out of time?  Tell them to come back later, but they won’t?  Have someone (or me) explain the problem even though 25 of them have it solved correctly?

3) Also, what about the one kid that is always finished first?  I have one kid that has already finished the application practice we’re going to work on tomorrow.  I don’t mind that he has because I’m also the type of person that will work through something you give me until I am done, whether or not it is assigned.  I would just like to make class time more worthwhile for him.

4) What do you do with the kid that answers every. single. question?  Or, I guess to describe it better, the kid who thinks out loud.  Loudly.

5) I tried whiteboarding mistakes and I really liked it for the groups that were making the mistakes.  However, some students complained that it confused them when we went over them.  How can I make whiteboarding beneficial for the students that got it and for the students that are still struggling with the concept being whiteboarded?  (side question: could we come up with a better name than “whiteboarding” so it doesn’t seem like I’m using questionable spy tactics with my students?)

6) How can I get over the feeling that I am letting some kids flounder by pushing so much of their learning onto groups and away from directed teaching?

Again, I would appreciate ANY AND ALL COMMENTS, SUGGESTIONS, OR MAGIC POTIONS!!  Thank you!

Category: Reflections | Tags: ,

Desmos, Giving up Control, & Pretty Happy Things

Mishmash of stuff going through my mind this week:

Desmos Function Carnival

Confession: I had not been to the computer lab at school for 10 years because the last time I went nothing worked.  The second day of school is normally picture day, so I  thought I might venture into the lab again, since it was already a wasted day.  (Of course, they rescheduled picture day.) I tried out the Function Carnival with PreAP Precal and Algebra II w/ Trig.  I think both classes had much success and enjoyed it as a nice way to ease back into math. I have 52 minute classes and some finished with 15 minutes left, many with 5-10 minutes left, and a few were working until the bell.  Since we ran out of time for class reflection, I wish I had made a worksheet (or google form) for them to do about what they noticed/wondered and, maybe for Precal, describing what type of graphs they had seen.  If you’re trying it for the first time, I would definitely recommend having a tablet device of some kind.  I brought in my own iPad, so I could use the teacher dashboard and monitor as I went to talk to kids.  Once they got to the final screen, I could also quickly check their graphs and have them work on ones that could be better (or congratulate them for being very precise).  I think this Friday (the for-real picture day) I will be trying another one–maybe the penny lab?

Giving Up Control

I’ve been tweeting with the group work guru herself, Ms. @CheesemonkeySF, about doing talking points tomorrow.  I asked if I should monitor the “NO COMMENT” rule and she replied:

Capture SF

She went on to say, “So many…don’t delegate this authority and, as a result, they don’t actually gain the benefits of the group work they believe they are using.  If you want kids to go deep you have to set up a structure in which to trust them.  And you can’t test trust cautiously!”

AAHHH.  But it’s scary to give up my authority.  I like feeling like I’m shepherding these little lost sheep to safety.  I don’t know if I can trust them because I’ve been both surprised and disappointed at what they can do when left to their own devices. What if they just stand out in the rain with their mouths open and drown?  And if they can be trusted, how does that change my role as their teacher?

Also going through my mind is a tweet from this week about how we need to build relationships with our students so that they will do anything we ask just to please us (or something to that effect, maybe it was walk through fire just because we asked?).  I do not have this type of relationship with my students.  Yes, most of them come in and do their work and I don’t have many behavior issues, but I don’t see this ever happening in my class.

Is that ok?  If it’s not ok, what can I do to change it? Is there some code word like “BaaRamEwe” I need to use like Babe?

Pretty Happy Things

Man, things are getting a bit deep around here.  Let’s look at some pretty things for Made4Math.  Some of you may have seen my notebook at TMC14:

02-party binderI made it using my Silhouette machine.  It’s like a Cricut, but instead of using cartridges you design things using its software.  That means it can cut ANY font, and a lot of other cool stuff, too.  If your school/district has a teacher resource center, you may want to talk them into buying one.  It can cut paper, cardstock, vinyl, heat transfer, stickers, all sorts of things.  For the notebook, I cut it out of pink vinyl and applied it to a black notebook.  Some other people wanted to get in on the action, here is Susan Craig’s (no relation)

Capture nb

BTW, how can you nicely insert tweets into posts, besides this horrible attempt at screenshotting?

I also have this one from last year:

03-FNL binderAnd as a special offer for reading this far, I will send a notebook-size (or clipboard-sized) vinyl cutout to the first three (3) people to leave a comment.  You can choose from above (I also have “Whenever I’m sad, I stop being sad and start being awesome instead.”) or if you have a favorite quote, I would be glad to make a new one!

Inspired by my FNL notebook, let’s end this post with a little Coach Taylor motivation:

Listen to me. I said you need to strive to be better than everybody else. I didn’t say you need to be better, but you gotta try. That’s what character is. It’s in the trying.


First day!

Tomorrow is the first day of school. These are the good things that have happened over the past three workdays:

1) I got a new parking spot in the shade.

So I’m hoping things will get better when the kids get here.  I should have a good group this year, just a lot of them (over 160 at last count).

Instead of lesson planning last night, I thought I should make some posters because fonts > freaking out.

First my classroom rules:

CAM00136Three cool things about this 1) I made it using PicMonkey, from the same people that brought you Picnik if you used that back in the day before Google killed it.  I haven’t played around a lot with PicMonkey, but I definitely could see myself spending lots of time there.  2) I printed it as an engineering print at Staples for $1.85! Warning: after laminating, the hot glue affected it oddly as you can see in the corners.  I was using high-temp glue which I normally don’t use so I don’t know if that was part of the problem.  But I’m willing to live with it for $1.85 (that’s including tax, my friend.)  3) Here’s the file.

Then I went to work on Glenn’s 3 Essential Rules of Math  Behold:

CAM00137Thanks to some crafty suggestions, I’m going to jazz it up with some washi tape and/or bulletin board border, but I still like them.  Here is both the pdf and word.

Then today I went to work on my beginning of school Powerpoint.  Do you like memes?  Well then, you’ve come to the right place. Enjoy.

Also if you note in slide 5, TMC put me over the hump in states!  Thanks, Jenks!
One final image: There was a discussion on twitter that some people don’t own 12 different rolls of washi tape, or perhaps not even know about washi tape!  It is “pretty” masking tape that you can write on and also peel off of most things without damaging it.  You can usually find it in the scrapbooking section.  Office supply stores also carry it, but they are sometimes a bit pricey. I don’t know if Target still has the four rolls for $4 in the office supply section, but it’s worth a look.  There are many things you can do with it, but this is my fave:
01-washi tapeWe have a table in our entryway with all of our different white power cords.  Add some washi tape to the end to easily identify.  If you’d like to be even more clever, add the same color to the other end of the cord in case you have to unplug it.  And if you’d like to be super clever, you can put the tape just on the top of the plugs that have an orientation.  Yes, that means always plugging it in correctly on the first try.  You’re welcome.

My Classroom

I start my first day back at school tomorrow, with the students coming back Thursday. Mr Craig & I spent some time last week trying to rearrange my room into groups. I think I may have at least one class of 30 AND I have a really bad closet/projector/projector connection/whiteboard layout AND I have attached-chair-desks. All of that meant that I could not get any traditional grouping to work, so I ended up with this:

11-classroom from front

Need to do some poster rearranging. Don’t you love Rosie with “MATH: We Can Do It!”?

There are a couple of issues, the main one being that I have only have enough big whiteboards and card sort games for 8 groups, which means I’ll have to think of something if I end up having to use the full 10 groups.  Plus I’m not sure how easy it will be for the guys on the end to share with each other if the middle one is working.  But, as @mathtans said, it’s the “least worst” of the possible options I had. Here is the view from the doorway:

12-classroom from door

Cleanest my desk will ever be. Also note the requisite “what if the Earth was…” geometric shape posters.

And from the back:

06-classroom from back

Don’t be jealous of my curtains that I’ve never hemmed. Also, no, I don’t know why they didn’t mount the flag higher.

If I end up with less kids, I’d like to try groups of four but my computer needs to be where it is so it can connect to the projector, which means I lose the best “in front of screen” desk locations.  The desk on the left is a standing-height desk that I use with my document camera; I got it from Overstock last year. It’s much better than playing hunchback over the cart I had previously and I can spread out all my papers.

Now for a few closeups.  This is my make up work station.

04-makeupI write what we did every day on the calendar, then use the calendar to help with planning the next year.  I use this hanging folder to hold handouts for absent students.  I put the name on top of each worksheet and then stick them in the period folder.  If you look closely, I tied paper clips to the folders so I can clip half-sheets to the top of each folder (my paperclips kept walking off and I was too lazy to keep going over to my desk for new ones, which is why they are tied now.).  No excuses for not getting a handout! Since I fill out new notes with the document camera every period, I put the filled-in notes in the pink folders-students can either copy and put back or keep the copy (first come, first serve).

This is probably the most important part of my room, my Wall of Cute:

10-wall of cute

Sometimes you need a picture of a corgi butt to get you through 6th period.

Some people post growth mindset posters. I have these:


Click the pic to read them easier.


Ok, ok, I also have a few motivational posters, too.


Capture5 Capture6


Any fans of Wonder out there?

The first two I made: PDFs here and here.  (If you’d like one with a different background color, Contact Me!)  The third one is available here.

I didn’t even plan the color coordination on these two:

05-DFTBAThe first one is a sign from the second one I printed, but I can’t find my original source. 🙁

I forgot to take some closeups of my Harry Potter ones.  Here they are.

I can't remember who I stole this idea from originally, please let me know if it was you!

I can’t remember from whom I stole this idea originally, please let me know if it was you!

Capture4Capture2Capture3They can all be found in this folder.  If you want the “PEMDAS” version of the curses poster, it’s the original one in the folder.

This last one I stole from Math Teacher Mambo, with modifications. We have two different schedules throughout the week, one with a 7th period study hall.  The long arrows are for long period days and the short arrows are for short period days.  I made the arrows using my Silhouette machine.

08-clockPlus it’s a fun thing for kids to guess about on the first day of school.

I’m also linking this post to Made4Math. Sure wish a lot more of y’all’s projects were listed on there (hint, hint).

Hope you enjoyed my classroom tour!  If you have questions on anything, don’t hesitate to ask!