Category Archives: Reflections

Hey, What’s Up?

I promise a Stars of the Week post will be coming in the next couple of days! Maybe I need to rename it Stars of the Month?!?

This is just a “hello!” post from me.

ACT Prep is still a struggle. I am just going by what I read in a workbook I found and I spend every day literally teaching to the test. It goes against every fiber of my teaching soul. Rumor has it I might be sent to some training soon so that might help.

On the upside, I am much less stressed this school year. So you want to shorten all our classes to 47 minutes? No worries! Oh, all the seniors will be gone Monday afternoon and then all the juniors have a ring meeting the next day? Go for it! 7 pep rallies? I’m interested! Plus all of my weekends have been homework-free! (So I really have no excuse not to have SOTW posts up weekly, except Lego Disney Castles do not build themselves, people.)

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Plus there was a trip to Nashville to see The Lumineers, with, yes, FRONT ROW seats! They put on SUCH a great concert!! It’s like they’re actually happy to be there and want to give the crowd a good show. img_1594

(There was SRO in front of us but we were still super close! And there was even a ledge for the seats so I could still see above everyone! Which never happens!!)

Ok, back to work and ACT prep. There was one day that was kind of fun: the first day of talking about writing. The workbook I was using said that the best “hook” to use was a fake quote. Yup, just make something up and attribute it someone famous (or your grandma). We practiced making fake quotes and shared them. Also told them all about how the essay was going to be about something in high school, and you’re to take a black-and-white stance on the issue. Then that afternoon I was working on the next day’s notes and went to look up another thesis example on my favorite ACT website, Prep Scholar, when google returns the following article: “The New Enhanced ACT Writing (2015).”

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We had a great lesson in “sometimes your teacher does not know everything” the following day. And yes, guys, you can still use a fake quote (and back it up with fake statistics!).

To fill my day and to feel productive, I spend my prep periods helping the IT teacher and the bookkeeper. The bookkeeper had surgery on her hand the week before school started so I’ve been her right-hand man. Guys, you need to go thank your bookkeeper tomorrow. You have no idea how many steps it takes to get a PO filled and paid. It’s ridiculous.

I’ve also been spending time in my garden, aka my deer feeder. My new favorite nursery is the Lowe’s clearance rack. I mean, if the deer are going to eat it anyway, might as well spend $.25 or $1 on a plant instead of $5, right? We finally installed a second deer barrier (fishing line strung between two PVC poles that we can take down each morning) that seems to be helping. (Yes, I’ve tried two different sprays, dried blood granules, dog hair, dog pee…). Here are some survivors and new plantings:

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The black-and-blue salvia and whatever that blue plant is in front of it have been super-deer-resistant. Not bad for $1 each!

But the biggest news of all is that in two weeks, I will be starting my Masters of Education in Library Science! Everything sort of fell into place: if I start now, I am grandfathered in to receive Master’s pay even if it’s not related to what I’m teaching; our district gets a discount on tuition; I have time in my schedule to intern at the school and local library to get my hours. If all goes according to plan and I book it (pun intended), I should be done a year from today!

Does this mean I’m giving up on being a math teacher again? No, it doesn’t. But it certainly expands my options for the future.

Is this just a random choice? No, I’ve actually been talking about doing this for about ten years. While I didn’t start truly loving math until college, books have always been my first love!

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What would your dream school library look like?  Big comfy chairs. Whiteboard tables. Charging stations everywhere. Student & staff recommendations. But most importantly, I want a library where any kid can find a book that’s about him or her.  For me, I’d want Ann Patchett’s This is The Story of a Happy Marriage, which contains the article This Dog’s Life, which was the first time I read that it’s okay to be a woman and want a dog instead of a baby.

Please share a book that you wish you had read in high school (or maybe did read in high school and are glad you did) in the comments section!

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You Can’t Pick Your Pollinators #MTBoSBlaugust

I’ve been having frustration recently about how much I share online. I’ve taken so much from the MTBoS that I want to give back in my little way; I don’t have Big Ideas like 3 Acts or WODB or Life Changing Theories of Teaching, but dammit if I don’t have a note taker maker for almost any topic you can think of. I’ve put a lot of time into creating all of my materials and it is nice knowing that my work is appreciated by some.

But sometimes I feel a little bit like I’m giving away the milk, if you know what I mean. Why would someone want to have me work as a math teacher when they can just take all my stuff? Today I reached my limit and told Mr Craig that “I want to burn that blog to the ground.”

His response: “You can’t pick your pollinators.”

You see, I’ve been trying to grow a pollinator garden to attract bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. We first had a batch of Japanese beetles I had to deal with. Then a herd of deer came through and destroyed half the plants. Then we had a bit more wasps than usual. Then I got stung by a yellow jacket. At that point I told Mr Craig that I was pretty close to being done with nature and tearing all the plants out.

His response: “You can’t pick your pollinators.” I can’t put a sign that says “Bees only!” or “No Stingers Allowed!”

So yes, there’s a few bad guys out there, but so are some butterflies. And big (nice) bees. We’ve even been getting hummingbirds recently. And, oh yeah, even some pretty flowers that I get to enjoy just because they’re pretty!

So I could worry about the “bad” pollinators and the possibility of being stung or I could focus on how I’m giving bees and butterflies that are working hard a place to come to get extra energy that will help them build up their hives.

No, you can’t pick your pollinators.

But you can focus on the beautiful and beneficial ones.

And squash the stinging ones under the heel of your shoe.

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#MTBoS30: Pet Peeves and Little Loves

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Tina recently wrote a post about one of her pet peeves, so I thought I’d take that idea and list 5 pet peeves, but end on a positive note with 5 “little loves” (that was the first phrase google came up with in response to “opposite of pet peeve”). Oh, and use lots of gifs.

Pet Peeves:
1) Improper use of Reply All.

Oh, Microsoft, why did you set this as the default in Outlook 365? Read here how to change the setting.

2) Wasteful paper usage.
ezgif.com-resize-352Seriously, one-inch margins and 14 point font? No wonder you need 3 pages for that 10-question worksheet. And of course I’m behind you at the copier.

3) “I don’t know how to do this because I was absent that day.”

4) Announcements.
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Maybe if we didn’t have them 17 times a day they wouldn’t make the list, but we do so they did.

5) “When will you have this graded by?”

tumblr_o4d9xed1OJ1s2wio8o1_500Are you taking the test the day it’s given? Then it will be returned the next day like I do every single time. Are you making up this test 4 months after it was given (true story!)? Then I’ll grade it when I feel like it. And I’m not sure when that will be.

Little Loves:
1) “Hey, it’s almost time to go! Class went by so quickly today!”

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2) “I went ahead and printed off the notes from when I was gone, can I just ask you a few question I had on the homework?”
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3) When the janitor who opens the trash bag and puts it in the bin gets assigned to my room for a day.jackpot
4) A well-made Note Taker Maker…especially if it’s made by someone else and I get to use it!
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5) “Did you even look at your notes? They’ll tell you what you need to know!” (Said from one student to another) tumblr_inline_myop5e57TW1qm5fq8

So what are your pet peeves or little loves?

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#MTBoS30 And the question is…

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In my last post I shared some interesting responses to my student survey and was asked in the comments to share my questions. Here are ones that I use or have used:

Rating Scale Questions (Ranked on 1(strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree) or some other similar ranking (like too easy to too hard):

  • I understood the material as it was being taught.
  • The tests were appropriate for a PreAP level course (too easy to too hard)
  • The amount of homework was… (too little to too much)
  • I feel better about math than I did before precal.
  • I understand math more than I did before Algebra II

Multiple Choice Questions

  • Which seating arrangement help you learn best? (rows, groups, partners)
  • What did you do outside of classtime to help you improve? (complete some/all homework, came for extra help, got help from friend, got help from tutor/watch videos/other resources)

Free response Questions

  • What are some things you’ve learned really well (and why do you think you did)?
  • What are some topics you struggled with (and why)
  • Did you take advantage of retakes? why or why not?
  • Did you feel prepared for the ACT? What suggestions do you have to improve this part of the class?
  • What changes to the class do you recommend (**note: you get much more “constructive cristicism” versus “teenagers being jerks” responses with this question versus when you phrase it as “What should Ms Craig change”)
  • If you could give yourself advice to do better next year in math, what would it be?
  • One thing I would like Ms Craig to know is…

That last one is usually the most insightful!

Category: Reflections | Tags: ,

#MTBoS30 Survey Says….

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Friday was the last day for many of my PreAP Precal seniors (senior finals start Tuesday but 98% of them are exempt) so I had the students do a SurveyMonkey about the class. I was actually debating whether I should do it this year or not–this year has been a real struggle for me and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to hear negative feedback, but I went ahead and did it anyway and I’m glad I did.

(Sidenote: I like SurveyMonkey because it’s free, easy to use, and makes pretty charts and such for you. I also like the fact that you can look at an individual response and I will admit I deleted two responses because sometimes teenagers are jerks. One word of warning: you can only have 100 responses per survey unless you pay for it.)

Here are some of my favorite responses with my response to the responses in parentheses.

What are some things you feel you’ve learned really well?
how to apply concepts rather than simply plug a number into an equation (Insert 1,000 heart emojis here 😉

One thing I would like Mrs Craig to know is…
you always dress better than so many people (it’s nice to know my sartorial efforts are appreciated)
I’m glad we stopped doing the folder notecards, they just became a chore to complete (I noticed the same thing, which is why I stopped, but I’d like some way for students to reflect/organize the material in the chapter other than the graphic organizers I give them. Suggestions welcome.)
…you have more attention given to kids who automatically understand the work (Whoa. That is a very observant and deep insight. Definitely something I need to work on next year. I go into triage mode sometimes: should I help 5 people who are missing 10% of what they need or 1 person who is missing 50%? I wish our study hall was set up so that I could just give a pass to a student that said “Looks like you need some one-on-one help. This is your pass to come to my study hall today.” Maybe I’ll make some of those for next year! Suggestions welcome for this as well.)
she’s so passionate about math that you can tell she actually loves being a math teacher (I do!)
One major takeaway from this question is that students super-puffy-heart-love the study guide videos. From all the other comments I get through the year about them, they are well worth the investment of time and money. Now thinking if I should start doing mini lesson videos for kids that are absent or need to listen to something again? Or–wait for it–start a document that has links to Mrs-Craig-Recommended Videos for each topic? Hm, that seems doable. And crowd-sourceable. Tweet me if you’re interested in maybe collaborating on this over the summer. 🙂
I had about five responses (out of 50) that had the general idea that I am intimidating to ask for help. This has always been an issue I’ve struggled to work on, and I thought I was doing better–I like going around on my creeper stool and helping students as they work through a study guide. But maybe I need to work on helping during discovery or group activities more–I’ve been trying to “be less helpful” but maybe that is not helpful? These were probably also students in the 16% of replies that said they feel worse about math than before Precal.
On the other hand, 57% of them said they feel better about math than before Precal (25% no change) and there were also about 10 comments that said something about great positive attitude/ being helpful/ making them like math more so at least I know I’ve reached some students this year, which makes all the other stress and work worth it. Right?

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#MTBoS30 (ish): Teacher Appreciation Day

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Today I got a phone call from the US Department of Education thanking me for my teaching. One of my best teacher friends nominated me for their teacher appreciation, isn’t that super nice? So I thought I’d join the #MTBoS30 and show appreciation for some very special teachers.

Ms Smith, who taught me Honors Precal and never got mad no matter how many times she had to say, “Meghan, turn around.” Not only that, but she also accepted my invitation to participate in the teacher portion of our local FFA livestock show, which meant she had to pretend to guide my pig around in the ring for ten minutes. Ask yourself: are you that dedicated to student relationships? Also, I need to buy a plant for my room and have it get kind of droopy, then when the kids get some bad test scores, pretend to “just notice” that the plant needs some water and care and attention, but then it will spring back. Talk about a pro move.

Dr Foreman, my Cal I (and many other classes) prof, or I like to say, The Reason I Became a Math Teacher.  Even though I had already had Cal BC in high school (but didn’t take the AP test), it was like I was learning calculus for the first time, or should I say, understanding calculus for the first time. He was also my adviser and just a general all-around great person. He had the best deadpan delivery of anyone I’ve ever known; I try to imitate it but never quite pull it off (the trick is to keep on going like you didn’t even make a joke and wait for the laughs to come 20 seconds later). This is how nice he was: his daughter attended the high school where I first taught and he told her to say hello to me on the first day so I would know a friendly face. How sad for his life to be cut short by cancer, but he definitely touched many students’ lives during his career.

Dr Atkinson, my other math prof, who LOVED math. And always (like I tend to do) got super excited at that moment in a middle of a proof when you realize HOLY COW GUYS THIS IS GOING TO WORK OUT (even if you’ve already done the proof 10 times before). He was also so patient during his office hours; I wish I had that kind of patience when someone asks me how to multiply matrices for 168th time.

Susan S, with whom I taught with for multiple years but not long enough before she retired. She had taught everything under the sun and could explain anything to anyone without making you feel dumb. She taught me how to graph functions! She was also great about determining This Is Important versus This Is Required. She was such a good teacher that every time you mention her name, someone in the room will always say, “Oh, I miss Susan.”

Suzanne C, my classroom neighbor and friend. You know the whole “teach people math” versus “teach math to people” thing? Suzanne has got that down. She is always making connections to kids that some people think are unreachable and teaching kids that some people think are unteachable.  In her crazy way she is always an ever-present reminder of putting kids first.

Beth R, my school BFF.  What would I do without her? (Answer: Quit. Seriously, I was debating a job change recently and one of the major cons was “no Beth.”) She has taken on AP Cal all by her herself and rocked it. She is great to collaborate with or just bounce ideas off of. Her students know they’re going to work and learn in her class but it will also be enjoyable. Oh, and yes, we are so on the same wavelength that we once wore the exact same outfit on back-to-school PD day.  Also, if you have a super-rough day at school, she will bring you a bagel the next day. I mean, you can’t ask for more than that from a friend, can you?

My fellow MTBoS teachers…this post is already too long without going into why I appreciate all of you, but I hope you already know I do.

Thanks to all of these teachers for being so awesome.

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 YouCubed.org’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

#1TMCThing + I Can’t Count

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I decided that my #1TMCThing is going to be collaborating with Sheri Walker to make and USE some awesome Desmos stuff in Precal (and also Algebra II). But I have trouble counting, so it turns out I have more than one #1TMCThing. But hopefully some of them won’t be too difficult to implement!

  • Write daily learning targets that also include the Standard Math Practices (see Chris Shore’s examples on his 180 blog, starting at about day 160). Our school wants us to start using targets anyway, so this would be a good way for me to get excited about writing them. I’m meeting with our math coach Monday to help me get started. If you develop any (or want to discuss), we’re using #SMPTargets to connect.
  • Grow dendrites in class like Chris’s My Favorite.  Need to find brain poster and make dendrite stickers.
  • High-five at the door a la Glenn. I’m not that great at connecting with students early on in the school year, so I’m hoping this will jump start that. I really am a nice person, kids!
  • Use the hand signals from Chris Harris’s number talks (at the bottom of this PDF). And enforce not calling out. Although I am totally bad at that myself. I need to apologize to everyone in the blogging initiative seminar because I totally just blurted out stuff while others had a hand raised. Sorry, guys.
  • So simple…use Matt Vaudrey’s “End your discussions in 5…4…3…2…1” instead of “Ok, time’s up, guys!”
  • Using Brian’s quadrant plan for mixing up groups. I got lazier as the year went on and sometimes the kids got stuck in the same groups for a few weeks. Hopefully this would be easy to implement and keep up with-I could make a new quadrant plan every 9 nine weeks, and they could rotate through.
  • From Make It Stick #eduread, “Calibration Quizzes” 2x a week and spiral homework.
  • Finish posting all of my files, and continue to post new ones through the year! Thanks to all of you that let me know that you’ve been using some of my stuff or that my stuff helped make your stuff better.
  • Be proactive in welcoming newbies to MTBoS. Tweet out blog posts that I like so people know that someone is reading.  Keep an eye out for #nahf so I can send good vibes when needed.
  • Stay positive! Let others (students, teachers, and admin) see the nice and kind side of me that y’all saw at TMC.

I fear I may have too much on my plate, but I can’t decide what not to do. At least I’m super excited to go back to school!

Category: Reflections, TMC | Tags: ,

Make It Stick: Even Stickier with #eduread

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For the past few weeks, I’ve been joining the lovely gals of #eduread to discuss Make It Stick by Brown, Roediger, and McDaniel.

As for the book, the first 100 pages were really good, then it dragged quite a bit for the next 100. There were quite a few stories that were supposed to help elaborate their points, but really just seemed tangential. However, stick with it (ha!), because things get really good in the last 50 pages which has tips for students, teachers, and trainers as well as stories/examples that really let you see the tips in action.  I wish I could get a copy of this chapter into the hands of every student!

Here are some of the big ideas and how I want to implement them this year:

Calibrating-(we decided we liked this term better than “a-whole-lotta-quizzing”) Implement a lot of small, low-stakes quizzes so students can “calibrate” their learning-where they are and what they need to work on. Rereading does not actually help master material, but quizzing and flashcards (with correction) does. Although I don’t think I can handle daily quizzes, I’d like to try for maybe 3 times a week.

Spaced and Interleaved Practice- Although it doesn’t feel like it, trying to remember something a few hours/days/weeks strengthens your learning. Also, massed practice of one topic can lead to “illusion of mastery.” I’m guessing I’m not the first teacher who has had this issue–each day the kids are doing great on the topic, then you get to study guide day and all heck breaks loose because the kids are not used to the problems being all together. I’m going to try to do lagging homework (the homework for the night has topics from a couple of days previous) that also has a lot of spiral review in it.

Generation and Reflection- Generation is trying to find a solution before being shown and I’m assuming you know what reflection is. 🙂  I’d like to use these at the beginning/end of units: start each unit with some sample problems from the chapter and some leading questions: “what do you think the main idea of this unit is?” “what might we need to work these problems?” “how do you think these are different/same from previous chapters?” Then at the end of the unit (or maybe midway and again at the end), have them reflect on their original ideas and what they now know about the unit.

Mnemonics I also liked that they are a fan of mnemonics as a way to organize your learning, not in place of learning. There is one topic that I teach that some teachers use a mnemonic for that I wasn’t really fond of. Now I see that we can discuss the how and why of each part, then have the students use the mnemonic to remember all the parts–in essence, a to-do list of tasks, not the tasks themselves.

The really big takeaway from the book is that you must embrace the fact that “learning is deeper and more durable when it is effortful.” Many of these practices will seem hard to students (and me) and they will feel like they are not gaining anything, but the authors are pretty persuasive (with research to back it up, not just anecdotal accounts) that these setbacks are a sign of effort, not failure, and will make learning more meaningful and long-lasting.

Special thanks to @numerzgal, @algebrasfriend, @pamjwilson, @lmhenry, @fourkatie, @rachelrosales, @mary_dooms, and especially @druinok for such lovely conversation, debate, and motivation. What are we #edureading next?!?!?

 

An Algebraic Epiphany

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People, this post is why I love the #MTBoS.  You can’t read everything, learn everything, critically think about everything; but if you read blogs and tweets, then you can collect more of that knowledge than you would alone. So even though I am not participating in the #intenttalk book study/chat (Am I the only one who always thinks it’s Kimmie Schmidt on the cover?), I did see this tweet from Bridget:

I used that method a wee bit this year when I taught inverse functions and a few students really latched onto it. But now I’m thinking of starting this way on day one,  building on it, and tying it into Glenn’s three rules of mathematics. I sat down and played with it a bit for the last few days and all I can say is:

Are you ready for this?  Ok, let’s just dip our toes in:

Flowchart math from megcraig.orgThe main idea being that we think through the equation “forwards” and then work back to the solution using inverses. Another easy one:

Flowchart math from megcraig.orgI like (a) completing the circle of life by checking our answer and (b) each column showing equal values.

How about we try out the shallow end:

Flowchart math from megcraig.org Flowchart math from megcraig.orgYeah, I’m totally digging the two arrows for square root, too.

Flowchart math from megcraig.orgAre your ready to put your head underwater?  Ok, here it is….wait for it…

Flowchart math from megcraig.org

So one place where this method has problems is if there are variables on both sides. But I want to use this more as an introduction in each section, not a method for solving each individual equation. However, we can use the fact that each column is equal to set up the rest of the problem and finish with quadratic formula.

Now I thought for sure this could not work with quadratics. OR COULD IT?

flowchart math from megcraig.orgOk, so the weird thing here is that (a) my new erasable markers don’t like it when you rewrite over something you just erased and (b) we have 2 places that x is involved, so 2 starting points. But then I don’t know how they are going to add to equal 6. But (spoiler alert!) we do know what has to happen if we’re going to multiply to equal zero…

flowchart math from megcraig.orgHere the two back arrows from zero come from the fact we had two x inputs. Pretty powerful, eh?  Let’s try it on some other tricky problems, like rational exponents:

flowchart math from megcraig.orgOk, guys, we’re going to jump into the deep end now….ABSOLUTE VALUE!

flowchart math from megcraig.org

Update: I was so excited about “un-absolute valuing” that I forgot to “un-multiply”. -6 should turn into 3, which would then turn into -3 and 3; and finally -6 and 0 as the answers. Which I probably would have noticed if I followed my own recommendation to circle back through.

Holy cow I’m in LOVE LOVE LOVE with having to “unabsolute value” as a step, because of course to “unabsolute value” you go back to positive or negative.

But wait, what about….

flowchart math from megcraig.orgOk, ok, a little tricky, but not undo-able.

Now I did have trouble with this problem:

flowchart math from megcraig.orgI wasn’t sure if my beginning value should be x or 5. When I tried it with 5, I thought of it as “If I’m at 125, what root would I need to get to 5?  Oh, the third  root. That means the original operation in the top line needs to be the inverse of the third root, which is cubing, which means x = 3.”

But if I keep my beginning value as x, then it leads into a nice intro/need for logs:

flowchart math from megcraig.orgAnd then I went crazy with the log problems!  (Although not pictured is two logs equal to each other, e.g. log (x + 7) = log (2x – 4). I’ll leave it as an exercise for the reader; it really is quite pretty.)

flowchart math from megcraig.orgflowchart math from megcraig.org flowchart math from megcraig.org flowchart math from megcraig.orgThe last one being another case of, “Uh-oh, need to rewrite this as something isn’t so ambiguous.” Another case of that:

flowchart math from megcraig.orgOk, ok, I don’t know why I didn’t have two starting x’s and then divide them, but isn’t it just beautiful how it works out this way?  So I went some more down that path:

flowchart math from megcraig.orgThen I thought of other problems that cause students anguish, and immediately thought of the difference between 2sin(x) and sin(2x):

flowchart math from megcraig.org flowchart math from megcraig.orgAfter this, my brain was pretty much done for the day.  Or at least, I thought it was. Then I had a shower thought (where all problems are solved): hey, wonder if I could tie it to graphing transformations?

flowchart math from megcraig.orgGAH!!!!!  So you go through all the steps, then find your parent function, in this case absolute value. You have to use inverses to get to x (minus three, or in this case three to the left) and OH I SHOULD HAVE PUT = Y AT THE VERY END BECAUSE THEN YOU TRAVEL “FORWARD” (stretch 2, down 4) FROM THE PARENT FUNCTION TO GET TO Y.

Another one?  ANOTHER ONE!

flowchart math from megcraig.orgI don’t know why you would want it, but if you did want all of these examples in one pdf, here you go. Now there are some drawbacks as I’ve mentioned: things need to be simplified first, somethings get a little wonky, how will this work for trickier equations; but I think Kayne sums it up pretty nicely:

Would love any thoughts/opinions/comments/suggestions/epiphanies!