Monthly Archives: August 2015

Epiphany: Speed Dating in Groups

So I really like using Kate’s Speed Dating as a review, but I always had problems: 1) setting up classroom 2) getting the rotation correct 3) having one kid that doesn’t understand the problem he has, EVEN THOUGH I TOLD YOU TO ASK ME BECAUSE YOU WERE ABOUT TO BECOME THE EXPERT. 4) Odd number of students 5) coming up with enough problems.

Last night I had an epiphany, I tried it out today, and it was GREAT!

Let’s do speed dating in GROUPS.

  1. Have everyone get a mini whiteboard and a marker.
  2. Give each group 2 copies of the same problem. I gave them these:

Alg II Equation Review Cards(file here). Last night, I didn’t have the mental ability to type the answers so they would come out on the correct card, so I just wrote them on the back. And look, I only had to make 7 cards!

3. Gave them four minutes to become the expert and I said I would answer questions at this time.

4. Had students count off 1-2-3-4 in their groups. Even Numbers were travelers, odd numbers stayed. The travelers traveled to the next group (clockwise), the pairs traded questions and then worked them. Three to four minutes later, repeat until you make it back to original group.

In all my classes, all of my students were working on the problems and helping each other out THE ENTIRE TIME. FOR REALSIES. And after, one class had time to start on their study guide and the conversation continued, which was awesome. This also helped with odd numbering: there were some groups where someone was absent so it was only one person that was the “expert” left in that group, but it turned out ok; they never had to sit a round out because it was by groups. It also helped with the issue where the one kid doesn’t know how to do the problem. Maybe this way if he hears the problem explained 7 times to different groups it will help! 🙂 The pairs worked great, too, they would talk to their original partner when starting, and if they got stuck, ask the other pair.  Plus I don’t know about you, but I’m much friendlier if I already know someone in a group rather than just being partnered with a stranger. Or maybe that’s just me. And of course the miniwhiteboards are a must; everyone can see what everyone is doing so easily!

And of course you need this timer (as recommended by Julie) to keep them honest!

And hey, guess what? If you’re reading this, you’ve made it through Monday. You’re awesome.

Category: Uncategorized

First Two Days Reflection

I actually started on the 13th, but am just getting around to blogging about it because I spent all last weekend making lagging, spiraling homework as well as activities that were not worth the effort I put into them (but that’s a topic for another post).  I’m teaching Algebra II w/ Trig and PreAP Precal, but I did the same thing in both classes for the first two days. I’m also adding a rating system from 1 (that sucked) to 10 (that was awesome)


    • High-fived all students and checked off names/got nicknames as they walked in. Rating: 9 due to difficulty in multitasking, also weird looks from students
    • Had them fill out google survey. Besides name, nickname, class period, these questions are also on there: Google Student Info Survey Rating: 8 I thought these kids could text fast, but it always takes sooooo long.
    • Told them a bit about myself. Rating: 10 because I’m awesome.
    • Hit the high points of the syllabus, showed them how to get to my google doc that will have links to everything we do in class SO DON’T ASK ME WHAT YOU MISSED. Rating: 5 I mean, it’s a syllabus.
    • Played the first day video from youcubed’s week of inspirational math. Rating: 7 Couldn’t get much discussion out of them after it, but it was first day.
    • Continued with youcubed’s day one activity of writing group norms. Now I just need to make them into a poster. Rating: 8 Got everyone involved and talking. Got some good descriptors: “Open-mindedness” “Listening” “Optimistic”
    • Spent the rest of the day with the Four Fours activity, also from youcubed’s suggested first day. Basic idea: use four fours and any math operation(s)/symbol(s) to make all the numbers from 1-20. Rating: 10 Almost 100% participation the whole time. This would also be a great starting activity for order of operations. Two classes had enough time to get all 20!
    • Homework was reading the Make It Stick handout and also having parent fill out google survey, here’s the good part of it:Google Parent SurveyRating: 7 Only about 75% of parents have filled it out as of yesterday. On the other hand, one parent actually wrote in the additional comments section, “Thank you for a great and innovative syllabus experience.” The “I’m proud of my child because” question is great to refer to in parent meetings.


  • High-fived everyone again. Rating: 10 Pro tip: If you’re setting stuff up between classes as kids are coming in, just go around the room quickly and high-five them before you stand outside the door.
  • Bellringer was 3 things you learned from the reading, 2 questions you still have, and one interesting fact.  After they finished writing, I gave them 1 minute to share interesting fact with group. Then I gave them 2 minutes to try to answer each other’s questions, then asked each group to share questions they still had and I answered them. I gave them another 2 minutes to decide their favorite key idea as a group, had each group share, then I elaborated with more information from the book. Rating: 9 Good discussions in each class!  Especially when I brought up the fact about re-reading not being helpful and “illusions of mastery.” My favorite moment: I was discussing lagging homework and asked, “so have you ever been in a class where the teacher says, ‘uh-oh, I have two minutes to finish this problem that you need to know in order to do the homework?’ Well, now we can hold off until the next day since your homework won’t apply to today’s lesson!” Then one girl replied, “Or we could try it as homework as generation for the next day!”  I think I may have cheered when she said that.
  • I had them fill out their math goal and find accountability buddies. Rating: 3 Almost every single student just wrote “make an A.” I also haven’t had time for them to check in with their accountability buddies. Would not do again, or maybe wait until a few weeks into class.
  • Up next was paper folding from  Rating: 2  I would not do this activity again. After the quick success of the first two (fold a square into a square that is 1/4 of the original; fold a square into a triangle that is 1/4 of the original), the next ones amp up the difficulty by quite a bit (fold a triangle that is 1/4 of original square but not congruent to first triangle; fold 2 different squares that are 1/2 of the original). Also, when students thought they got it, instead of convincing their partner, they would call me over and ask me if it was right. Quite a few students embraced the challenge and kept on folding, but for many of them, the frustration (and maybe pointless-ness?) was just too great and they quit. I’d be interested to hear if those teaching younger students have more success. And I still don’t know how to do the second square oriented differently from the first that has 1/2 the area of the original. I thought quite a few of them had it but upon trying to convince me, they didn’t.

I hope to back soon with a recap of the first real week of teaching, but after working on math for the last two weeks straight I need an afternoon of not thinking. At all.

My thing: It has been a while since I share a favorite thing, so today I’m going to absolutely amaze you with CamelCamelCamel.  This is a price tracker for Amazon and works in three different ways: 1) Connect it to your Amazon wishlist. It will automatically alert you via email when the price of something you want has gone down. You can also add individual items on the website (great for tracking stuff from other people’s wishlists for gifts) 2) Use the browser plug-in or copy the amazon URL into its webpage to see the price history. Great to know if that $40 price is just a high mark, or if it’s been $40 for the last three months, or if it wavers between $30 and $50. 3) Browse their list of popular products for “good deals” and “best prices.” Two things it doesn’t do: it does not alert you to lightening deals (but I usually get an alert if its a an-day daily deal) and it also cannot track kindle book prices. But I still think it’s a great tool!  And you could probably do something really mathy with the historic price charts, too.

Make It Stick: The Student Brochure

[Updated at 4:45 to include student goal worksheet]

Motivated by Julie (see LOTS of good conversation on this document) and by Pam, I made my own Make It Stick handout for students. I plan to assign this as homework the first night and spend the second day discussing it in class. (The first day I want to do’s first day of inspirational math week.)

Here are the pics (we have an electric brochure folder so I’ll be using that. Or else fold them while watching the required annual hey-don’t-touch-blood! video)

Make It Stick Student BrochureMake It Stick Student Brochure pg 2

Here is the doc file (I used Chowderhead and Century Gothic font) and here is a pdf file with a generic “In this class,…” instead of “In Mrs Craig’s class.”

I also want them to make a goal and find some accountability buddies:

math class goalDoc file   PDF file

Alg II Files: Rationals

My second-to-last post for my Algebra II files! (See more files and FAQs here)You can tell by how long I’ve procrastinated that I’m not really a fan of what I do for this chapter. Each year seems to get a little bit better, but I would never classify put it in the “win” column. In other words, feel free to take any of this and make it awesome. Then let me use it. 🙂

The first few sections don’t have note taker makers, because the problems need space to be neat and tidy:

Rational Functions from megcraig.orgRational Functions from Some notes on my notes: At the very top, it’s hard to see, but we start off talking about how we reduce 12/15. We don’t subtract 10 from each and say it’s 2/5! We talk about invisible ones.  This year, I want to focus on the fact that in the expressions, I can substitute any value for x and you will get the same value in the beginning expression and in the final expression. Magic!

Also, I talk about restrictions as “warning the villagers.” What if someone came along and put 5 into x/(x-5)? THE WORLD WOULD ERUPT INTO FLAMES.  And sure, I know *you* wouldn’t do that, but what if some innocent villager came in off the street and started putting numbers in? We need to warn them! This year, I also want to pull in the graph and talk about how the original has a hole at 5, so in order to be equivalent, the reduced one also needs a hole, which we make by excluding 5 from the domain. (I *just* realized this fact in the last few weeks.)

Some homework:

Rational Functions from here)

Then…can you hear the jaws music….

Adding and subtracting!

Rational Functions from Rational Functions from

Then some practice with every operation as either a worksheet

Rational Functions from here)

or as a step-by-step powerpoint (great for whiteboard practice)

Rational Functions from here)

Let’s solve some now!

8_3 8_3 pg 2I’m not *in love* with just crossing those denominators out, but haven’t figured out anything better yet.

Some practice:

8_3 HW

(file here) And a study guide for these three sections:

8_3 SG(file here)

Some inverse graphing:

Rational Functions from here). Hint: make a t-chart by listing pairs that will equal k. Super easy!

Inverse/Direct/Compound variation:

Rational Functions from here)

Powerpoint to go along with NTM:

Rational Functions from

Rational Functions from here)  Yes, I’d like to do a lot more with this, but this chapter is always rushed since it’s the last one before we have to start trig at the end of the year.


Rational Functions from here)

Then it’s time for graphing rational functions. I like what I do, but I think I want to streamline the process a bit–we don’t have to do all of these by hand!- and bring in some of Sam’s stuff.

We spend the first day talking about end behavior and points of discontinuity:

Rational Functions from here) Why, of course there’s a powerpoint!

Rational Functions from Rational Functions from here)

Then the next day we review the first two steps, then jump into graphing them. This goes a lot better than just throwing everything at them in the first problem!

Rational Functions from here)

And yes, another powerpoint:

Rational Functions from Rational Functions from

(File here) There’s even a powerpoint to check the homework that’s at the bottom of the NTM-file here!

Then it’s finally time for the study guide (note: this does repeat problems from the first study guide!)

Rational Functions from here)

So what are some of YOUR magical ways of staying rational while teaching rationals?!? Leave a comment or tweet me your secrets!

Precal Files: Logs

Yes!  It’s my final unit for my Precal files!  See my entire year’s worth of stuff (and FAQs) on this page.

In my regular Precal classes, I normally start with an exponent review:

Log files from file here-requires Running for a Cause font) (pdf file here)

Then we played a grudge match:

Log files from file here)

For my honors classes, we did exponent review during bellringers the week before and jumped right into graphing exponentials.

Log files from here)

and solving exponentials:

Log files from megcraig.orgHere’s the homework for the chapter:

Log files from here)

Then it was time to break out the logs!!!

Log files from

(file here) This year I want to be more explicit about how a log is the inverse/can undo an exponent. I think some of them still weren’t clear on that and what that meant for us. But meanwhile, we did some log graphs:

Log files from here)

Then some log properties.

Log files from here) We did a nice worksheet using log properties to solve equations from a “Calculaughs” joke worksheet book for Algebra II/Precal.

Then we stepped up the solving logs a bit:

Log files from

(file here) And did some group whiteboarding with these problems the next day:

Log files from here)

Then some applications:

Log files from Log files from here) WARNING!!!  You see that nice pretty chart where we’re going to notice that as we compound more and more, it will equal the Pert formula?  Yeah, it breaks when you do the seconds one in a TI!  It looks like you actually make more than continuously compounding!  Wolfram Alpha saved the day, but it made for a great discussion! Just wanted to let you know ahead of time so you don’t freak out in the middle of class. 🙂

Then it was time for a study guide:

Log files from here)

Because of some weird scheduling, after the test we spent a couple days on these advanced, precalculus-in-the-true-sense-of-the-word problems:

Log files from Log files from

(file here)

Well, that’s it! I’m done with my Precal files! Until I make something new when I start back next week. Stay tuned!

Category: Precal | Tags: , ,

The $2 Black & White and the $3 Color Poster

Yes, you read that correctly. I told you Monday about the Staples $2 black and white engineering print, but when I went to order some yesterday, I saw an option for color engineering prints. For $3. For 18×24.


I obviously had to try it out. Now again, two words of warning: Staples does not recommend these for photographs and they are not printed on thick paper so lamination will probably be necessary.

But here is the True Delight poster in all its black, white, and red glory:

IMG_0443It really is very nice in person. 🙂

Here’s the brain poster and a close up for detail:

IMG_0444 IMG_0445

So here’s how to get your own engineering prints with some helpful tips:

1) Go to and search for “engineering prints”

2) This screen will come up. Click “design now.”

poster 03) The next screen gives you the option for black and white or color engineering prints:

poster 0A(As a comparison, the oversized color prints are $17.99 for 18×24 color on nicer thicker paper.)

4) Upload your file and then you will be sad:

poster 1“NO! I WANT IT BIG, YOU DUMMIES,” you will say. So then you will go to Silhouette Studio and make 18×24 inch size PDFs of the brain poster and the true delight poster.  But the Strengthen a Dendrite one will cause you problems because it was in word. So you will feel even sadder.

5) Until you realize this hidden “fit contents to paper” option under “Media”:

poster 1A


poster 2

And it printed just fine:


I do have a goal of making a Poster tab on my blog, but until I do, feel free to just visit all my posts that have been tagged “posters” 🙂

Category: Uncategorized

Precal Files: Quads and Polys

Ok, technically, “Quadrilaterals and Polynomials,” but doesn’t “Quads and Polys” sound more fun? Also, this is my second-to-last unit for my Precal Files so my goal of having them up before school starts may actually happen! (See more of the files and FAQs here).

So most of this should be a review for Precal students so we booked through quite a lot of it. Starting with a quick review of parabolas:

Polynomial Files from megcraig.orgPolynomial Files from here, modified from unknown source)

Some homework for the chapter:

Polynomial Files from here)

Then we did a really cool NMSI activity about concavity. I added this to the end of it for a little derivative preview:

Polynomial Files from here)

Review graphing polys:

Polynomial Files from here)

And dividing polys:

Polynomial Files from megcraig.orgAnd solving polys!

Polynomial Files from megcraig.orgAnd solving polynomial/rational inequalities:

Polynomial Files from

(file here) I did a factor-sign-row chart and we also did a mini-graph on some to determine the signs. If you’d like to see more about the factor-cool-way to do sign charts, here’s a showme video of me doing a quick explanation.

A pretty intense group-work day on these inequalities:

Polynomial Files from here) And then wham, bam, time for the study guide!

Polynomial Files from here) And if you’re superinterested (or want to use the study guide and not make a video yourself), here is the showme video key.

Only one more unit to go!  Woot woot!


Alg II Unit One #SMPTargets

At the end of last school year, I convinced my fellow Algebra II teachers to write out a pacing guide following Jonathan’s (@rawrdimus) “pivoted” Algebra II sequence. I must admit I’ve been teaching a version of Algebra II for so long that I’m often leave that on autopilot while focusing on newer courses. With this new sequence and some new goals for the year, I’m hoping to change it up a bit this year while still not going crazy.

With that in mind, I met with our math coach and the other regular Algebra II teacher yesterday (he’s a brand new teacher so I hope to mold him into #MTBoS ways) to write some learning targets. Added goal/twist: make sure to cover an Standard Mathematical Practice within each one, a la Chris Shore.

If you haven’t downloaded Chris’s SMP posters, you need to do so now. They are listed under “my stuff” in the left column of his Math Projects Journal. I’m going to copy them two to a page and hand them out to students. I think it will be four pages that are going to get a lot of use during the year! My favorite part about them is the questions that he listed under each practice–really helps to clarify them for students (and, ahem, some teachers that couldn’t even list all 8 before his session).

So now that you have your practices ready, let’s put them into action with the first unit of Algebra II:

Alg II Unit 1 Learning Targets

1. I can persevere in evaluating numerical and algebraic expressions using order of operations.  Ms Craig will persevere in not losing it when told for the 4,793rd time that “my calculator says -3 squared is -9!”
2. I can reason abstractly and quantitatively when translating verbal and algebraic expressions.  Who is up for some contextualization and decontextualization? And by that I mean, who has a good activity for Alg II students about translating back and forth?
3. I can construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others when solving linear equations.  My plan with this is first day have them write out each step they are doing and/or do a flowchart equation. Then the second day do a “find and correct any mistakes with an explanation.”
4. I can model with mathematics when solving absolute value functions. I really want to bring in Kate’s exploration of absolute value.
5. I can look for and make use of structure to solve power equations with inverse operations. (i.e. solve an equation that has just an x squared or cubed)
6. I can attend to precision while solving equations with roots on both sides. I thought that would be good to talk about square roots in calculator and checking for extraneous answers.

So now I have a really stupid question that I will probably post on twitter as well: what can I do so I don’t have to write these out on the board every day? I really don’t have the space or the motivation to do so. Should I print them out and post them? Even if that means 180 sheets of paper? Times two classes? Give them to students as a typed worksheet so they can calibrate their learning as we go through the unit? Type them at the top of the day’s handout (if there is one)?

Category: Alg II | Tags: ,

Desmos Activity Builder for Function Transformations

Find what you love: Function Transformations

Do more of it: Ok, how about working with Sheri Walker (@sheriwalker72) on an awesome transformation idea she had for Desmos’s new activity builder?

And here it is!

desmos activity builder

Using shifts, stretches, flips, and shrinks, get the red function to match the blue dotted one.

We even added two challenge rounds:

desmos activity builder 2

And we forced Eli to try it out before we left for lunch:


He declared it awesome! (I have a feeling Eli declares everything “awesome,” though.)

Here’s what we LOVED about Activity Builder:

  • Easy to use–just like using the regular Desmos calculator
  • TEACHER DASHBOARD! Easily tell what all of your students doing. Easily share with the class (with projector) what everyone else is doing.
  • Easy to link up multiple graphs (before I had students turn off/on folders and Sheri ran into issues trying to link one Desmos graph to another in order because of how Desmos does its linking with edits)

Here are some things to be know when building an activity:

  • You don’t need to limit yourself to just graph screens! You can also do question screens and text screens.
  • You can also insert images into your graphs
  • Your default graphing window will remain the same when the students open it. However, projector mode is an option the students have to select themselves (if they desire to).
  • You cannot copy a previous step, for example, we used the same piecewise function and instructions for each step and had to reenter them. Shortcut tip: Open a regular desmos window and type your stuff in there. Then copy and paste each line into your steps.
  • Don’t hit cancel, even though it’s right next to done and even if you haven’t done any new editing!
  • You can visit the to find some activities build by other teachers to use, but I don’t think you can (currently) edit them.
  • (Currently) students can see your work. We “hid” our transformation equation way down in a folder on line 49. It was also suggested we could take a picture of the graph and insert it as an image. (We were worried the students would accidentally move it, but now that I’m thinking about it, they would just have to make sure the axes lined up if they did happen to move it). Another suggestion was to use points to mark the new function (so it wouldn’t matter if the students saw the points because they wouldn’t be the “answer” like f(x + 2) would be). (This would be great for parent function transformations, but we wanted students to see the whole shape easily).
  • Student can (currently) accidentally (or on purpose) delete/edit input lines and there (currently) is not a refresh/restore button.
  • Based on tweets, the Desmos team is aware of these last three bullet points and are trying to work out the best way to address them.

So go ahead and give it a go!  Make an activity! Make a polygraph! I’m sure you’ll at least have fun making it, although maybe not as much fun if these rock stars aren’t there with you:





Category: Uncategorized

Make it Stick Posters (and Poster FAQs)

[Updated at 4:00 to add “Delight” poster!]
[Updated 8/5 to add larger poster files and labels]

One of my (numerous) goals this school year is to introduce my students to the learning skills from Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel. (I think @druinok should really get a royalty from all the people that have started reading this after seeing the #eduread discussions! Which reminds me, join us at 8E/7C/6M/5P this Thursday where we start discussing What’s Math Got to Do With it?)

Another one of my (numerous) goals was to encourage “strengthening a dendrite” from Chris Shore’s My Favorites–giving students a sticker of a dendrite whenever they do something growth-mindset-y or that shows mathematical thinking.

And one of the things I like to do is make posters and play with fonts.

Put them together and what have you got?


Strengthen a Dendrite

Fonts used (in order): Captain Howdy; Chowderhead; Traveling Typewriter; Grand Hotel; Budmo Jiggler; Antique No 14; Janda Elegant Handwriting; Ever After; Sofia; Waltograph; KG Let Her Go; KG Happy; Modern No. 20; Mountains of Christmas; Bodoni MT Black; KG Eyes Wide Open; Captain Howdy

(pdf file here) (doc file here-needs fonts listed in the caption or change to your favorites)


math brain is under construction(Pdf file here) (18×24 file here)


Dendrite stickers(doc file here for using these labels) Amy Fine made a file for 60 labels to a page in case those you have those instead! Thanks, Amy!

I also made an alternate brain poster using the same font as the first poster’s title in case you’re into that kind of thing:

Math Brain Under Construction(pdf file here).  I also couldn’t decide between having the “is” or not. Opinions?

If any of you went on the #TMC15 cupcake run to My Delight Cupcakery (or enjoyed the cupcakes from said run), you may remember a pretty awesomely accurate sticker that they used. I made a poster of it but wanted to make sure it was OK with them first and Melinda replied, “That’s awesome, Meg!  Sure, you can make a print for your classroom; the quote is meant to be shared with everyone!  So glad you got more out of your visit than you expected, and thank you for sharing our Delight with your coworkers.”  🙂  I am more in love with this bakery than I even thought possible now. (And I was in pretty deep after trying their ice cream filled ones. ICE CREAM FILLED CUPCAKES, PEOPLE.) Anyway, here it is!

True delight color(Color PDF) (BW PDF) (18×24 Color PDF)

Now for some poster FAQs:

Did you make these? Yes.

Where did you get the pictures? Try Wikimedia Commons, Graphics Fairy, and ClipArtETC (h/t to @mathequalslove for that last one. Check out their graphs, too!) Of course, you can always do a Google Image search and only use those images/photos that are labeled for reuse (as I’m sure we all do already, right?).

How did you make these? The first one (and most of my posters) are made using Word, then I use doPDF to print to a PDF. Try using textboxes and clipart to jazz it up. And of course some fonts! Pro tip: Expand your text to make it seem snazzier:expand font exHere’s how:

expand fontPlay around with the values in number #4 until you get something that you think looks nice.

The brain poster I made using Silhouette Design software that came with my Silhouette machine but is free for anyone to use – download it at the bottom of this page. I like it because you can have your text trace any path. In this case, I made a circle, then had the two different lines of text trace it. There’s lots of tutorials on how to do this if you’re interested!  (WARNING: The actual machine is WAY addicting. You’ll want to cover EVERYTHING in vinyl decals.)

You may also want to try Canva or PicMonkey online. Some people also use Powerpoint instead of Word. Just give it a shot!

How do you print them? Around this time of year, I keep my eye out for Staples poster deals. Usually they offer a color 18x24ish for about $5.  I made these black and white so you can also take advantage of their $2 engineering prints. These are printed black and white on lesser quality paper. [Updated: they also print color for $3. Read more here.]They are not recommended for photographs, but if you look on Pinterest some people have gotten beautiful, fun, huge photos made for super cheap! We are fortunate to have our own laminator at school and once laminated the engineering prints hold up pretty well, but I did have an issue with the corner puckering where I used hot glue on it. It was normal temp glue (I usually use low-temp but had run out), so I don’t know if that was the issue. Just wanted to warn you about that!

Now go forth and strengthen those dendrites!