Monthly Archives: December 2015

More Books, Books, Books #MTBoS12Days

So this is an extended version of the “books read” prompt: the annual Insert Clever Pun Here Book Awards (also known in the industry as the “ICPBies”).

I had to hunker down this past week to finish my goal of 52 books, but I did! Here are the books I read:



And some stats:

Books read: 52
Pages read: 17,235*
Shortest book: 79 pages
Longest book: 599 pages
Average length: 331 pages
Average rating: 3.41/5 stars
E-Book:”Real” Book::30:22

*My actual page count was higher, as there were at least 20 books that I abandoned before finishing them. I am a firm believer in Rule #3 of The Rights of The Reader.

(pdf available here, book available here!)

And now it’s time for the ICPBies! (Click on any book’s picture to be taken to the Amazon page for it. And no, I’m not an amazon affiliate, but I did use my link. 🙂 )

Best Non-Fiction

If you’re a nerd (you’re reading a math blog that’s writing about books…YOU ARE A NERD), then you’ll love to geek out over this book. Warning: you will annoy all your friends and relatives with odd little facts about everyday material after reading this. Also: chocolate is amazing.

Best Education Book

In fact, my brochure that I handed out to my students with excerpts from this book was one of my more popular posts! Go read the post to learn more about the book.

Best Use of Typography and “Found Documents”

PLEASE spend $10 today and buy the hardbound copy of this book. And then read it. It is such a fun, creative, suspenseful page-turner. I think you’ll be disappointed if you get the e-book version; there is a reason it won this specific award!

Best Graphic Novel

If you are a nerd (which has already been established), then this book will warm your heart. It is a steam-punk-ish graphic novel about an alternate timeline where Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage get to be awesome together, with lots of long footnotes. I know, you’re sold, right? But really, I enjoyed every page of this book.

Best Book for Dog Lovers

People, this is a STEAL for the current price of $12 for the hardcover. First of all, it is a gorgeous book, with a wonderfully textured cover. Second of all, inside the book are gorgeous (watercolor?) pictures of Plumdog, our hero, throughout England and Scotland. Third of all, it’s written by Plumdog! Buy it for yourself and every dog lover you know. It will be their favorite gift!

Best Book, First Runner-up

A book that made me happy. And the dog is just there to be a dog and DOESN’T DIE. And it’s on sale for $3.99. I’m not sure what else I can do to get you to read this book.

Best Book of The Year

If you need to restore your faith in humanity, read this book.  If you need a good laugh, read this book. If you need a good cry, read this book. If you need to read, read this book.

Thanks for indulging me in my annual ICPBies! What books did you love this year? What books do you want to read next year? Do you secretly want to quit teaching and open a bookstore, only because then you could (a) get books to read for free and (b) tell other people what to read?

Category: Life Outside of School | Tags:

#MTBoS12Days Tried and True Strategies

Another post for the Yule Blog Challege!

Strategy #1: Rebekah Paterson had a great post yesterday about creating a space where students feel safe to ask questions. This led to a twitter conversation that reminded me I haven’t blogged this strategy (I guess because it doesn’t seem like a “strategy” to me?). I think I shall name it…

Creeper Teacher

Equipment Needed:
Timer. You could use your phone (BORING) or you could use a timer cube (AWESOME)

Something to sit on. You could use a stool (BORING), rolling chair (FUN, but may not work depending on classroom aisle size), or a creeper stool (AWESOME)

Strategy: On review or practice days, I creep on up to each group, set a timer for maybe 3 minutes and ask if there are any questions (I’ll be using some of Rebekah’s better phrases next time!). The first time around, when they are just starting, if they don’t have any questions, I’ll move on the next group. But after that, I stay the entire time. Students that don’t have questions in the first 30 seconds all of a sudden have some after 1 minute. I can also use that time to look over their work and see if there’s anything they don’t know they don’t know. 😉  It’s also great to limit teacher-hogs (I’ll finish a question if the timer goes off, but no new ones!). I also use the same strategy when I have 5 students wanting help on 8 different topics in a 30 minute study hall.

Strategy #2: Seriously you are the worst teacher ever.

Equipment Needed: Timer (see above)

Strategy: Students are not allowed to use a timer for the first 15-20 minutes of a test. I actually got this strategy from another teacher and I resisted it for a long, long, long time because I am THE WORST at arithmetic. Like, “they let you teach math?” bad. But I’ve grown to really like this strategy because (a) it makes them decide if they should wait until calculator time to do a problem (i.e. “is it a tool I need” versus “everything is a nail when you have a hammer”), (b) makes them less likely to reach for a calculator during class and (c) they still have a safety net of using the calculator when the timer goes off. Warning: the students HATE this with the force of 1,000 suns. But usually most of them come around, and a couple even thank me at the end of the year for making them less calculator-dependent.  (Note: In PreAP Precal, I sometimes do split up calc/non-calc into separate sheets, or just have all non-calc)

So maybe next semester you’ll try to be a creeper teacher or seriously the worst teacher ever!

Category: Uncategorized

Start/Stop/Continue #MTBoS12Days

Another post for the Yule Blog Challenge! (Had to take a holiday break, but now I’m back).  Here are the things I would like to start/stop/continue next semester:

Start: Incorporating more activities, less me talking! I always start off with good intentions, but then….

Maybe it will help if I…

Stop: worrying about “finishing everything.” I’m already stressed about next semester since I am “behind” everyone else, but I’d rather slow down and focus on fewer targets, and also feel that I can take a “breather” day instead of NEW TOPIC. NEW TOPIC. NEW TOPIC. REVIEW. GOT IT? GOOD. HERE’S THE TEST.

Continue: I did spiraling homework for the first month or so, but then… (seems to a be a theme with me, eh?). I’d like to start it again, especially with things from first semester that Precal will need next year in Calculus (they are finally geniuses at trig values and I don’t want them to lose that!).

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#MTBoS12Days Books!

Ok, so I still have a week until my year-end book round up, so while I’m waiting for my butter to warm up for some cookie baking, here are my quick writeups for #MTBoS12Days.

Book I read:

Illuminae  By Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff  This is the most recent book I’ve been recommending to everyone. Do not be put off by the page count!  It’s all told in “found documents” so it’s a really quick read, especially because you can’t put it down. It’s like the best of every scifi movie/tv show/book was put into a blender and out came this imaginative smoothie.

Book I’m reading:

Afterwards by Rosamund Lupton This was a book I’ve had on my (182-item) Kindle wishlist for while, so I bought it when went on sale for $1.99 last week. It’s kept me guessing as to whodunnit. I’m about halfway through and I don’t want to throw it against the wall, which is better than half the books I’ve started recently.

Book I want to read:

The Neapolitan Series by Elena Ferrante I really don’t know much about these, except the fourth (and last) one came out this year and was on a lot of best-of lists. I just downloaded the first one from the library to read as my next book.

Also, I just learned today that in Iceland, it is traditional to gift a book on Christmas Eve and spend the rest of the night reading and eating chocolate. I knew I loved Iceland for a reason!  Merry Jólabókaflóð! 

Category: Uncategorized

#MTBoS12Days Success Stories

Join the “Yule Blog Challenge“!

Non-School Related Success: I finished the #500in2015 run/walk challenge!  Now, little did I know when I signed up that the other people involved were all super-milers and were done in May. But I kept at my 10-mile-a-week, 40-miles-a-month plan (except September…I don’t want to talk about it). I walked when it was cold. I did walking workout videos. I started to jog/trot. I jogged 2 miles every single day in April, which involved waking up early. I jogged in the heat. I jogged in the humidity. I jogged around my house. I jogged in the rain. I did not jog on a train. I jogged at school. I jogged up and down our #%*#%#*$ hill a bajillion times. I jogged an entire 10K race with a 10:30 pace (I started the year at a 15-16 walking pace). And I ran my last two miles yesterday!

And now I never want to jog again. 🙂

School-related success: I don’t have a specific success story to share, so here are two survey responses that make all that I pour into the job worth it:

survey response 2 survey response

So maybe I don’t have the most exciting activities, and I need to do more SMP3, and I could probably do less lecturing, but at least I helped these two kids become better math people, and that’s what we’re in this job for, right?

Category: Uncategorized

My Favorites: Recipes #MTBoS12Days

Did you see @pamwilson and @druinok have started a “Yule Blog Challenge“? 12 days of blog prompts!  And only some of them actually involve thinking about teaching, which is a nice break for the holidays. In fact, it starts with favorites, including recipes!

(Also, guys, did you know that if you copy a link, and then highlight the words you want to be a hyperlink in your post, then ctrl + v, it automatically changes it to a hyperlink? Why am I just finding out about this now?)

If you like recipes and nice people, you should follow Sally’s Baking Addiction. I have two of her recipes that I actually get requests for:

Nutella-Stuffed Cinnamon Sugar Muffins (I usually make them the morning I have off for my prep period final, but this year I decided to sleep in instead. I think there were almost tears when I didn’t show up with them… 😉 )

Peanut Butter Monster Cookies. Confession: I tried making these with the peanut butter cup surprise and it went horribly. The cookies spread out way too much, so it was like this flat pancake with a bump in the middle (they still tasted good, though). So now I make them just as normal-size cookies, without the peanut butter cup. Super easy-no mixer or chilling!

My most recent find was the Ovenly Chocolate Chip Cookies. Warning: These are labeled as “vegan” and contain no butter. Or eggs (hence, “vegan”) Right now you’re thinking, “I don’t want some sad tree-bark cookie, Meg. This makes me question all of your recipe recommendations.” But you’ll just have to trust me. If you know me at all, you’ll know I don’t mess around with my desserts (e.g. having 3 people tweet me locations of cupcake bakeries within 1 hour of TMC16 location announcement). Mix ’em up today and bake them tomorrow and then you can shower me with gifts and accolades. Because I have tested a bajillion chocolate chip recipes and they always turn out somewhere from “ok” to “edible” to “WTF.”  I have made these probably 5 times since I tried out the recipe a couple months ago and every time they’ve turned out beautifully. Mr Craig says it’s his favorite chocolate chip EVER!

But now you’re asking, what is his FAVORITE cookie?  Well, that would be good ol’ Chocolate Crinkles. You know, the brownie-like cookie rolled in powdered sugar? Here’s the recipe I use:

Chocolate Crinkles

Beat together:
1/4 c oil
2 oz unsweetened chocolate (melted)
1 c sugar
1 t vanilla

Add 2 eggs 1 at a time

Beat in:
1 c flour
1 t baking powder
1/4 t salt

Refrigerate 3+ hours. Spoon out dough, roll into balls, roll in powdered sugar
Bake at 350 for 10-12 minutes. Somehow they get better the next day? (If they last that long)

My next one comes with a warning: DO NOT MAKE THESE WHEN YOU WILL BE LEFT UNSUPERVISED IN THE HOUSE. For real, you’ll take a handful now, ooh, just one more, and all of a sudden, there’s nothing left. And you’re in a sugar coma.

Candied Pecans
Whisk 1 egg white and 2 tablespoons water.

In a separate bowl, stir together:
1 c sugar
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon

Pour the egg white mixture over 1 pound of pecans (in yet another bowl) and stir to coat. Then pour the sugar mix over the pecans and stir to coat. Spread out onto cookie sheet (greased or silpat-ed or non-stick foiled) and bake at 225 for 1 hour, stirring every 15-20 minutes. Eat at least 3 when they are nice and hot from the oven. After cooling, store the rest in an air-tight container, on a high shelf, behind a padlock that only your dog knows the combination to.

Ok, last one! If you are not making your own whipped cream, you are missing out, my friend. And if you are not making your own whipped cream with a little “adult addition” then you are really missing out. It is super easy! I PROMISE! Use it to top anything (I may have been known to dip the above Chocolate Crinkles in it)

Amaretto Whipped Cream
Whisk 1 c of heavy cream until soft peaks form (Note: on my kitchenaide, that is 30 seconds at Level 7)  (Note: some people say you should chill the bowl and whisk in the freezer before making it, but I’ve done it both with and without and don’t a difference)

Add 2 Tablespoons powdered sugar, 2 Tablespoons Amaretto, and 1/2 t vanilla and beat. I won’t judge you if you need to “sample” it more than once. You just want to make sure it’s perfect, right?  Enjoy the oohs and aahs from friends and family when you tell them it’s homemade whipped cream.

Please join in on the Yule Blog fun!  I love reading other people’s favorite recipes. 🙂

2 Ways I Would Have Made Your Life Easier Last Week

YOU GUYS, I finally figured out how to make semester exam and study guide creation 43% less time-consuming and 29% less stressful. And it only took me [redacted] years to figure it out!

Note: Our exams count for 10% of the semester grade. In other words, it is very difficult to change your letter grade by your performance on them. In other other words, the kids have figured out they don’t mean anything and don’t take them very seriously. Therefore, I refuse to spend any more time or effort than absolutely necessary. So here’s what I did:

1) Because I sort of did my own stuff with Algebra II this year (more on that when I have more time), I had to throw out a lot of questions and put some new ones in. But, ugh, writing multiple choice questions, amirite?  But then, *light bulb* I realized I could use questions from old tests and use actual student-generated wrong answers for the distracters. I keep all their old tests, so it took just a few minutes to go through, pick out some good questions, and then look at their work to find “good” wrong answers.

2) Ugh, (mandatory) exam study guides, amirite? And then I’m not sure what is worse: making the key or making 27 corrections to the key. Well, hey, guess what? I already have some great (corrected!) study guides for each test; I’ll just pull my questions from those. But here’s where the genius part comes in (seriously, I had one class applaud me for my brilliance. Are you ready for it?): Copy and paste the title of the study guide and leave the numbering the same as the original study guide. 

For example, here’s how the start of Alg II one looked:

Alg II SG Example

The cleverness lies in the fact that I’ve already posted all the keys and video keys online, so students could just consult those if they were stuck. No new key to make! Or video key!  Woot woot!

And yes, sorry for delaying in sharing this awesomeness with you until the middle of exam week.  But store it in the back of your brain for May and thank me then.

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