Saturday, February 11, 2017

Persevering #Becoming Math

I am continuing to read Tracy Zager's book Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had and am on "Chapter 9: Mathematicians Use Intuition", page 237.  It talks about doing Estimation 180 problems.  On page 238, it concludes, "Ultimately, what we really want them to do is to take this habit of mind and transfer it into their problem solving."

In my Foundations of Algebra I class yesterday, I was growing frustrated, losing my patience, feeling like I am not reaching them, they are not getting it.  Then, I read this and I regained hope and realized I am making a difference after I remembered our great discussions.

In class, I always start with the same opening structure, one Estimation 180 as a class, two Solve Me Puzzles as a class, and one Visual Patterns with all students at the boards in groups of 2 (there are 9 kids in class, one was absent).  Then, we get into our lesson.  Yesterday it was a paper card sort matching linear equations, graphs, words, and table of data.  But, let me back up.  The openers were great, the card sort, not so great.

We have done Estimation 180 since the beginning of the school year.  The kids question it - "Why do we have to do this?"  But, then sometimes, they really get into it.  And, whether they know it or not, they are getting really good at it and the discussions have been getting better and better. 

I invite one student per day to come up to my computer and run through the google doc with the conversation to poll the class for their range of too low and too high, then their guess.  The person at the computer gets final say as to the estimate entered.

Two days ago we did Estimation 180 Day 75 that asked "What is the weight capacity of the hospital elevator?'  There was some talk and some guesses.  We first had to decide what we were more familiar with - pounds or kilograms.  We decided on pounds.  We discussed how come it had to be so big.  We ended up guessing 3500 pounds and the answer was 5000 pounds.  The kids were shocked it was so high.

Yesterday, the Estimation 180 Day 76 question was "How many passengers can ride in the hospital elevator?"  with this picture given: 

Interesting conversation started right away.  I was trying to capture it all.  They knew the number 5000 pounds.  They said "Well, the average person might weigh between 140-180 pounds."  Another said, "It looks like 3 people can fit across the back."  I, myself, was thinking weight-wise, so I appreciated the visual idea of area.  Here we had some thinking about weight and some visualizing the space and area.  They decided that if you did 5000/100 pound person you would have 50 people, so 50 would be too many.  The students ended up guessing 24 because they thought it looked like 3 people could fit across and 8 people deep.  I loved it.  Great discussion, thought process, class coming to a good range and conclusion.  The answer is 33.  We were pretty close and they recognized that - "oh, that must mean there are 11 rows instead of just 8."

In Tracy's book, p. 239, Tracy is speaking with a teacher continues talking about the estimating process and says "we get to take that experience with us into the next problem."  The teacher says, "That makes perfect sense.  And that's why my students have so little intuition.  They've never been allowed to prove anything to themselves: they've just been told."

Next up were two Solve Me Puzzles.  If you haven't checked these out, they are great.  The kids can play on their computers but I take screen shots and put them into my class powerpoint. I put them on the quizzes and tests too.  I love the level of difficulty get increasingly more challenging and we are right at the point where the fractions are coming ("The fractions are coming! The fractions are coming!")  Solve Me naturally builds the need for fractions.  This was our picture yesterday with Puzzle #82: 
The kids automatically and quickly divide the top number in two and then in two again to determine the value of each branch.  Next they went to the far left with the branch of 8, divided it in half and looked at the three shapes.  Because the shapes are the same, I asked, "What same number added three times will give you 4?"  One student said to another student, "Can you do 4 divided by 3 on your calculator?"  I said, "Wait, what did you said?"  He repeated it. I said, "That is your answer."  At this point, the other student said "1.3" and this student then said, "yep, 1.3".  So, I wrote on the board, "So, 1.3 + 1.3 +1.3 = 4?"  I said, "you have to be careful because you are rounding that answer and rounded decimals are not exact.  Let's back up to what you entered 4 divided by 3.  How can you say that?"  Student asks, "4 thirds?"  I now wrote and asked, "So, what is 4/3 + 4/3 +4/3 or 12/3?"  Oh - four!  They say, "I still don't like fractions."  I say, "but they aren't that scary and they are more exact.  Just try them."

Here, I am not turning these into equations.  I know you can.  I feel that would turn the kids off to it.  Throw an x in there and they will shut down.  In Tracy's book on p. 239, she states, "It's true some special education students need more repetition, so what if we gave them extra opportunities to make sense?"  That is what I am trying here.  Take this picture and make sense of it, without throwing in the math and the variables.  And, they are doing awesome with it.

As you can see, our discussions have been long and these are just 2 out of the 3 openers but they are so valuable and worth it.  My third was this Visual Pattern #27. 
Again, I screen shot it and add it to my powerpoint.  They are given the first three steps and asked how many total squares are in Step 43.  It is always Step 43.  They know now that this is so they don't write all the way out to step 43.  They do enough to figure out the problem.  At this point, I have vertical whiteboards all around my room, so they get up to the board in groups.  Today I allowed them to pick their groups, but normally I would use Visual Random Grouping with  I am kicking myself that I didn't take pictures of their work, but I remember their work well enough to replicate it in my own handwriting to share with you.  They have been working on these for about three month now.  Again, some love them, some hate them, a couple are really good at them, but we are all making progress.  Some draw lines to represent rows and columns, some color code, some use just numbers, some draw the actual shape (for example, a football helmet in a past problem).  They are allowed calculators, too.  Give it a try. 

Imagine this is in student handwriting.  It is student work.
At the front board, I had two students do this.  They are two who are really struggling with just getting started at any problem, but they did try and they did see something within the problem:

At the back board, I had three students come up with this.  They like to draw.  They always see it visually.  They love to color code.  They often will look for the number that it is increasing by.  If you look at the top, they are just doing the shaded blocks increasing because they already figured out the unshaded blocks.  There is always great discussion in these types of problems as to whether they should add the two numbers or multiply them.  Some are starting to see the difference. These students are.

This next work is from one student working by herself.  She used to draw pictures but once we starting looking around the room and comparing work, she realized she didn't have to really draw all the boxes.  She is one who is struggling with when to add or multiply.

And, this last student worked by himself.  He wanted it to be all him today.  He has gotten most of them recently, while working with a partner, but he wanted to show us, he could do it all by himself.  He is a man of few marks and uses lines for rows and columns.  He gets so excited for these problems because he is finding sucess and I see his confidence growing (All that makes it worth the time we are putting into it.)

When they are all done, I don't just share the answer to tell them if they are right or wrong and they know that by now, so they have stopped asking.  I ask them to look around the room and see what they notice.  I want them to learn there is often more ways to do a problem.  There are more ways to represent a problem.  I love the freedom they have on the whiteboards to spread out over space and the ability to erase gives them more confidence to get started. 

Then I ask the students to share their process.  The above was the ordered they shared in.  As the students noticed there were two of the same answer, so the two other groups figured out they must have done something wrong.  The first group realized they forgot to account for the gray blocks and the girl by herself recognized she didn't go up far enough.  They are self correcting.  They are self analyzing.  Again, I am not turning them into equations because that would stop them.  They are figuring it out with their own sense making. 

In Tracy's book on p. 240, it discusses this from Andrew Gael, "A lot of professionals are very good at scaffolding and creating step-by-step processes that lead to sucess for special education students.  Something I've been advocating for is that we don't scaffold out the mathematical thinking that goes into solving a math problem."  On page 241, Tracy continues going back to her master's program at U Washington and her professor Ilene Schwartz talking about the word "scaffold" - "imagine a building under construction with scaffolding all over it. The whole idea is, at some point, you take the scaffolding down, and there should be a building there that can stand on its own."

I could dive in and give my students a method, a process, an equation, but instead, I am just giving them an opportunity.  I am giving them an opportunity to make sense of it themselves because that is so much more powerful.  It is the experience they can take with them into the next problem (like from the beginning of this blog post.)  I really really hope they happen to have a lot of patterns on their state test next year, because I think they will rock them.

Thanks again Tracy for reminding me to stick with it.  It is paying off day by day.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Day in the Life of a Teacher: #DITL Post 8 An Ordinary Wednesday

This post is the 8th in a series called A Day in the Life of a Teacher series.  I checked my last #DITL post and it was Post 7: A Snowy Sunday.  Today, it is Post 8: An-icy-Wednesday-wait-4-hours-and-it-will-be-almost-60-degrees-but-don't-get-too-comfortable-we-are-getting-a-foot-of-snow-tomorrow kind of day.  I thought I was leaving early for work but only 1 door in my car would open and I had so scrape about 1/2 inch off the car.

Got in and one of my students from first term came in for extra help.  Helped her and then she turned around and helped some friends.  Great to hear her explain it.

Today is Wednesday and I make it a point to leave right at the end of the school day.  I also try not to have anything in the evenings.  Sometimes it happens, but not tonight.  So, an afternoon wide open is what I need in the middle of the week. 

We are at A day in our 7 day cycle, so I have a prep period in my room first - this is heavenly.  Then, I have Accelerated Algebra I and we are reviewing for a quiz that will hopefully happen given tomorrow's snow.  Next up is Accelerated Algebra 2 and we are reviewing for a conics quiz hopefully tomorrow.  During lunch block I have lunch duty, followed by last period in Foundations Algebra 1.  We are working on graphing standard form of a line in there.  I am not sure what I am doing with that yet so I will work on that in prep.

We have one week left before February break, so I am trying to wrap up our units with review, quiz, review, test.  A snow day would throw a monkey wrench into the deal.  I do leave a buffer day just for this reason.  I don't like to test on the last day before vacation because often kids are absent and another reason is I can test on Thursday and get the grading done before I am on vacation.  If there is a snow day, this will have to happen. 

7:30-8:30 First prep - spoke with another Alg 1 teacher about our new Quads unit.  Updated my calendar for the unit.  Printed off my Alg 1 and 2 tests for next week.  Prepped my Foundations class and decided to do cup stacking in class today.  Sent a teacher on Twitter some Quad graphing stuff for her unit. 

Got a text from Son#1 that he is trying to change his flight.  He is turning 25 next week (Golden Birthday - 25 on the 25th!!!)  He supposed to fly to New Orleans for a long weekend tomorrow at 12:30.  Problem is, snow is moving in.

8:30 - 9:35 Acc Alg 1 - Review for quiz - We go over some graphing polynomial homework, get a study guide of what will be on the quiz - factoring, graphing, and applications of polynomials.  Then, I gave the students an option - they could practice with worksheets on factoring and graphing or choose from 5 online games posted on my canvas site.  I would say they are about 50/50 with worksheets vs computers.  While they were working, I created a reference sheet for my Foundations students to use next week on a quiz on graphing lines in slope-intercept and standard form.  It is so easy to just google images and use them!  I also looked at and their Jen Ratio lesson.  When I clicked to download it, it pulled up a lesson on pounding headaches.  I tweeted at them and it was fixed right away!  Gotta love Twitter!

9:40-10:40 Acc Alg 2 - Review for quiz on conics - kind of same as above.  I did do a formative assessment using Go Formative where I took a 3 question conics quiz I had on a worksheet and uploaded it to the site. From there I can add the multiple choice possibilities and then see live results.  I entered the wrong answer for #2, so we had to adjust for that.  Then, lots of worksheets to practice conics.  I allow them to work in groups and they settle in.

10:45 - 11:50 - Lunch duty - my least favorite duty, but at least I just walk around and get some steps in.  It is nice to see the students outside the classroom as well.  It also reminds me that we really do have a lot of great kids at this school.  There aren't any fights.  They are just normal teens eating, chatting, and laughing.  Outside the cafeteria, there are 3 tables set up for Make A Wish foundation, The Red Cross Club and a group selling  There is also a ping pong table set up.  We have some serious ping pong players at this school.  So much they bring their own paddle (is it a paddle?) 

Son#1 texted to say he was able to change his flight to today at 3:40.  Wow, lucky he was able to make it work.  This reminded me to text Son#2 because his 22nd birthday is tomorrow and he is at college.  We were going to drive to UMASS Dartmouth tomorrow to take him out for his birthday, but not with the snow.  Bummed I won't see him on his day.

11:50 lunch then 20 minutes prep - I need to make a copy of my conics reference sheet for the hopeful quiz tomorrow but as the day goes on, I am really thinking we will not have school tomorrow.  I see Casey @cmmteach also wants the Quadratic graphing stuff on twitter, so I send it along.  Great to be connected and help out.  Our lunch period of math teachers was all abuzz with snow day wishes as it is sunny and beautiful.  I never want a snow day.  It always messes me but, I really do think we will have one tomorrow.  If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

12:45-1:50 - Foundations of Algebra 1 - Start by checking and reviewing the homework.  Then it is Estimation 180, 2 Solve Me Puzzles, and Visual Patterns (at the board).  Then, we will do cup stacking.  Any activity we can to make sense of graphing and writing equations of lines.  Update about class.  It didn't go well as usual.  This is a tough group of kids.  There are 9 kids, 2 were absent today.  They have really low math skills and trouble focusing, plus some refuse to do work, and live to come up with distractions.  I tried. I tried hard, but was quickly losing my patience.  We wrapped up the texting activity we did yesterday and then I was explaining the cup stacking.  I use the big styrofoam cups.  I explained "They mean seem like just simple cups to you, but they are mine.  I bought them.  I ask you not to ruin them in anyway.  Please don't write on them or poke them."  I can see one student looking at me funny.  This student says they won't be able to do this.  I told this student to not touch them and let the group members touch the cups.  There were only two groups working on big whiteboards.  I wanted them to make a table of values, a graph, write an equations, and make a prediction of the number of cups to the top of my head.  This same student backed away as I was giving the group the materials and was refusing to work.  This happens every day.  I asked my co-teacher to remove this student and he did.  It is unfortunate for everyone involved.  I was able to work with both groups and they did eventually figure it out.  One thing I learned from this is that I will NOT being doing Barbie Bungee.  This is too bad, but if I can't trust them with cups, there is no way I will be able to trust them with rubber bands and Barbie dolls.  Plus their attention span will not allow them to focus long enough to make the connections I would hope they would.  I was going to do that Monday.  I will come up with something else.  These are kids who could really benefit from manipulatives and hands on, but their behavior is getting in the way.

1:50 school is done and I am out of there, highly stressed.  My Son#3 is out golfing.  He is ice skating on a pond if the ice is save and if it isn't, he's on the golf course.  Son #4 is home, hanging out.  Today, the sun is shining and it is 53 degrees!  I only live 1 mile from school and am quickly in my running clothes - no need for a sweatshirt today.  I turn on my podcast.  At the recommendation of @viemath Marissa and @cmmteach Casey, I started listening to podcasts only when I run.  I listened to all of Serial Season 1 about Adman and Hae.  Now, I am following it up with Disclosure which takes the same case and breaks it down even more.  Wow, details, details, and lies and lies!  It is interesting and it takes me away from my school day.  This episode is talking about cell phone towers pinging in order to determine locations of people during a murder case.  When I get home from my run, I shower and start thinking about how I might use cell phone data in my upcoming trig lesson.  I will have to do some research.  I also start thinking about the possible snow day tomorrow.  What needs to get done - nothing!  Great a lazy day.  Truth be told, it is now 3:15 and since I just showered and I don't have to go out tonight, I put my jammies on.  I grabbed my computer and sent more Quad graphing stuff to Casey @cmmteach on twitter, got my knitting, my yogurt, and my water and plopped myself on the couch.  I am blogging now.  My next step, start researching cell phone pinging and finish watching This Is Us from last night.

Then, I caught up with Mercy Street as I knit my blanket.  I accidentally deleted last week's Mercy Street, thinking I watched it, but I didn't.  Trying to catch up on it.

A friend I work with called and we chatted about everything from 4:30-5:30 all the while I watched the streaming school closing, but not us, yet.

5:45, suppose I should get up and make dinner.  On Wednesday's at our house, it is pasta day.  Again, keeping Wednesdays light and easy.  Tonight it is ravioli with salad.  Nice and simple.

6:30 back to the couch to watch The Real O'Neals while my husband does the dishes :)

6:48  - School is cancelled!!!!  I guess more of the same tomorrow - knit, tvs, movies, maybe a puzzle, love me a snow day!

For tonight, more tv and knitting.

1) Teachers make a lot of decisions throughout the day.  Sometimes we make so many it feels overwhelming.  When you think about today, what is a decision/teacher move you made that you are proud of?  What is one you are worried wasn’t ideal?
   A teacher move I am proud of today was my sharing on Twitter.  Some teachers were looking for some quadratic stuff and another for anything on polynomials.  I sent them along.  One that wasn't ideal - everything about how I handle Foundations.  It was the end of the day.  I was tired.  My patience was running thin and the class was like a circus.

2) Every person’s life is full of highs and lows.  Share with us some of what that is like for a teacher.  What are you looking forward to?  What has been a challenge for you lately?
   I am looking forward to getting together with 3 couples from high school to do an Escape Room for the first time this weekend.  I love puzzles and winning, so we better figure it out!  A challenge lately is my Foundations class.  I am totally going by the students' progress.  But that means I need to plan the lessons day to day depending on how far we get in each lesson.  I don't like this style of planning.

3) We are reminded constantly of how relational teaching is.  As teachers we work to build relationships with our coworkers and students.  Describe a relational moment you had with someone recently.
   One that stands out was during lunch duty.  A student that I do not even have in class came up to me during lunch duty and offered me a fun sized Kit Kat bar.  I love chocolate, so it made my day.

4) Teachers are always working on improving, and often have specific goals for things to work on throughout a year.  What have you been doing to work toward your goal?  How do you feel you are doing?
  My goal for this year is to help student be able to better explain and think through a problem using vertical non-permanent surfaces.  It is my first year doing it.  I do it all my classes.  I enjoy finding good problems for it and every time I do it, I love standing in the middle and taking it all in.  I just did it yesterday with conic word problems.  The students did great.  I am so happy my proposal for this was chosen for Twitter Math Camp.  My colleague and I will be presenting on our first year of going vertical.  I can't wait!!!

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Part 2: ...And the 1/2 book I've been reading

Not by any means is it 1/2 of a book.  I am only half way done with it, but had to share:

I am so excited to be reading a book my friend, Tracy, wrote.  It is: Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had by Tracy Zager.

I first met Tracy at a conference in Portland, Maine.  I met her friend, Shawn, at that time too.  He is one of the teachers she follows in her book.  Since then, Shawn and I have met up twice in Connecticut to present at conferences.  I had the privilege of getting to hear Tracy rock her keynote speech at Twitter Math Camp last summer.  She is such an eloquent speaker, I knew I had to see her thoughts and ideas in book form.  I ordered it as soon as it became available and I got it on its first day of shipment along with a lot of my tweep friends (on twitter).  We all posted our package in the mail that day.

The first thing I noticed is that it is a large book - good - it will be chuck full of goodness.  I love the feel of the cover.  No, that isn't Tracy on the cover, by the way.  I loved the Foreword and I teared up reading the Acknowledgements.  I fell in love with the table of contents.  Just look at the titles:

There are so many amazing color pictures of actual student work to help explain what is happening in the classroom.  There are actual conversations between teacher and students.  Who wouldn't want to read it?  By the way, I recommend this for ALL teachers of any grade and any subject.  Not just math teachers.  There are so many great observations, ideas, reminders, studies, and techniques in here.  It should be a requirement by colleges for new teacher programs.  If you have a new or old teacher in your life, buy it for them.  It is a gift!

I am only half way through it because I am studying it.  I am reading it slowly, making notes in the margins.  I am thinking about how I can make changes to my lessons and questioning techniques and putting them instantly into practice.  Yes, it is written about her visiting elementary school classrooms and teachers, but the ideas are universal.  It all just makes you think.  These are things I want to remember.

As I'm reading it, I remember Tracy talking about different parts on Twitter.  It is really cool to see it all come together so beautifully.  Nice job friend!

I'm not done yet because I don't want it to end.  I had to kick this blog out of my head today though before I even finished the book.  By the way, it is cheaper on the Stenhouse site rather than the Amazon site.  What are you waiting for?  Go buy it, start it, put it into practice!

4 1/2 books already in 2017

I have been devouring books recently.  If you read my blog, you know I just finished binge watching Gilmore Girls so I decided to take a break from Netflix.  I love to read things that I know are going to be movies.

I started this year with Victoria by Daisy Goodwin
 because I heard it was coming to PBS Masterpiece Theater and I loved Downton Abbey.  I bought the book for my mother in law for Christmas and she quickly read it and passed it on.  I don't usually like history books.  I was worried it might get too dragged down in details about dresses, the buildings, the war, but this one was about the people and I loved it.  I zoomed right through it.  I am also watching the show and they are doing a great job with it.  I will admit I read very fast and enjoy every second of it.  I can tell you if I loved or hated the book after and what happened, but a month later, I won't be able to tell you much. 

In fact, I went to see a brand new musical on Broadway in December called Dear Evan Hansen on Sam Shah's suggestion.  I read a little about it on the internet.  My friends were asking me what it was about.  I told them I really didn't know.  Then, we are there and watching and it was like deja vu.  I was remembering the timeline and the lines themselves and then it dawned on me I read the book last summer.  I totally forgot even reading it but then I remembered that I loved it.  It's kind of nice to forget it because then I kind of have a fresh mind when I am watching the movie.

I see the movie The Shack is coming out.  I do remember reading that some years ago.  It was different.  It was difficult at some parts.  It had some God-stuff in it.  It will be interesting to see how Hollywood interprets it.  (A side note: I read Lovely Bones, similar to this one, a bit disturbing, but I would not see that movie.  I had an ok picture of it in my head.  I didn't need it any more vivid on the big screen.)

I like happy books, happy endings, light stuff.  I do like stuff that makes me think.  I love reading young adult books too because it is who I teach every day.

I have a best friend from high school and we do dinner and a movie date every month.  It doesn't matter that there isn't anything great out for movies, we will go see it.  We have seen some duds but it is about the company.  We love to look ahead and see what books to movies are coming and plan to see that.  It is like a book club for two.  We are critical of how the screen adaptation goes but we are usually very happy.

The next book I read last Saturday was Wonder by R.J. Palacio.
  Yes, I am able to read a book in a day, even with working out, making dinner, and going to church.  It is a gift, I know.  There I must use it :)  This book is about a boy in high school who was born with facial deformities.  He was previously home schooled but now is attending a private school and his journey and how the people around him are affected.  It was really good.  The movie is coming out later this year.

My friend recommended The Nightingale by Kristin Hanna.  I have read her books before and I really like the way she writes.  My friend told me it was a big book but I was reading it on my kindle, so it wouldn't intimidate me.  It is a story of two sisters and their story living through the time of the Nazi invasion of France.  It is another history book that I wasn't sure I would like, but I loved it.  I loved the development of their characters and their story.  There was suspense.  It does take place in 1994 as well, so there is a little bit of back and forth.  I highly recommend this one.  I read it last week with the bulk of it Friday night and finished it yesterday morning.  I was going to work out yesterday morning and was at a point in the book that was going to make me cry, so I had to put it down.  I did all my workout and errands and then sat down and finished it.  So good!

Took a look through my kindle (ipad really) to see what I might read next and then I remembered I just ordered Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (only $1.99 on kindle right now)  on the recommendation from Meg Craig from Twitter.  Totally different from The Nightingale.  I was back to YA.  It was a quick read.  I started and finished yesterday.  I was tired, my eye balls were going to pop out, but I persevered and finished as my husband was watching all the Superbowl stuff.

And, my 1/2 of a book is going to get it's own blog post....on to that......

Sunday, January 29, 2017

My #TMC17 Proposals Were Accepted!

The Scenario:  A quiet Saturday night around 9 pm.  I was nestled into my spot on the couch surrounded by 2 dogs and 2 cats.  Boys were in their rooms, sick husband was in bed.  I was reading the book Wonder, so I hadn't stopped to put my pajamas on which is rare.  I had the tv on PBS- old time country music in the background.  I was mostly reading my book, but occasionally took a break to check Facebook and Twitter. 

Twitter was making my heart heavy with all the posts about #muslimban and what was happening at our airports.  I was in disbelief, but starting to realize that unfortunately anything is possible.

I happened to check my school email and voila - an email from TMC that both of my #TMC17 proposals were accepted.  I was so elated.  I wanted to jump for joy but there was no one around to share this with in my quiet little house.  I didn't want to post to Twitter yet to sound braggy about it amidst all the bigger things we are dealing with.

I did see Anna Vance @TypeAMathLand liked the @TmathC post that the emails for acceptances were out.  So, I messaged her separately to see if she was accepted and both of hers were, too.  So exciting.  I had someone to quietly share my success with.  We both decided not to post to Twitter yet, but said our congratulations.

I am so excited and honored to be able to present at TMC17.  Last year was the first year I was able to go and it was the best PD around.  I wanted to jump in and try to present something.  I presented about review games in December to the ATOMIC group of teachers in Connecticut and it went really well, so that one is ready to go.  And, then I also wanted to share my success with #VNPS and #VRG from Alex Overwijk.  I heard him speak about it at Boston's NCTM a few years ago and then lots of talk about it at TMC last year that I decided to dive in.  This will be about my journey into this world of whiteboards.  I love it!  I also love that we are starting second semester tomorrow and knowing that I will be presenting about it, I still have a chance to put it to work in my classroom and continue to try new problems.

I couldn't fall asleep last night because my brain was abuzz with ideas. 

In six months, I will be presenting in Atlanta at #TMC17.  Thank you for choosing me.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

On being a beginnner...

On Monday, I took my first ever tap class.  I have always wanted to take tap dancing.  Each time I see tap in a movie, it reminds me I want to take tap.  I saw La La Land before Christmas.  I wasn't crazy about it, but I loved the tap, so I signed up.  It is an 8 week course, right in my town, so it is convenient.  I invited all my friends, just in case they have always wanted to learn how to tap.

It's so weird to be a brand new beginner again.  I love it.  It's just different.  It reminded me of this poster I have in my classroom:

There are 9 people and one teacher.  I am watching everything she does and asking lots of questions.  I was starting flat-footed and noticed she was not really ever on her heels, so I asked.  I had to pay close attention to everything, including the sounds.  She would say, "This combination should have 4 steps so four sounds."  I thought the class was for beginners but apparently it isn't.  I would say 4 of us are brand new and 5 have had at least one class before.  I felt a little bad for the ones who have had it before because I didn't want them to be bored, but I also didn't want us to go too fast.  We started with the basics - tap your right toe 16 times, then 8 times, then 4 times, then 2 times and 2 times again, then out to the side, then your left foot and repeat.  I am trying to get every step exactly correct so I can train my brain to do it the right way and not have to make corrections later on. 

She was telling us the weird names to each step too - oh, vocabulary.  I was trying to remember what the name was, what the steps were, and what they should sound like.  It was a lot to digest. 

I am able to laugh at myself when I mess up and I think that is good to keep away my frustration.

We did some steps across the room in pairs so we could hear better.  One student remarked it wasn't like in band and playing an instrument where you can fake it until you make it.  You can't fake it.

I was starting to get it going across the room and then she said we could add our arms.  I gave it a try but I wasn't ready.  I still needed to focus on my feet.

The next day, I pulled up some videos on youtube and watched basic steps and learned one longer combination.  I just kept playing it over and over and over.  I love that I can do this.  I want to keep practicing.  There was a video on youtube with the La La Land dance.  I tried it, nope, not possible after 1 tap lesson.

But, I am doing it, I am enjoying it.  I love learning and I am game for anything.

Tap, tap, tap!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

MY Grandmother's Birthday

It's MLK weekend and I ask my students if they were going anywhere. A few said they were going to Vermont. I said, "So am I. I'm going to visit my grandmother."  One student said," YOUR grandmother?" I said, " Yes, MY grandmother." Again, "No, YOUR grandmother?" Me, "Yes, MY grandmother. She is still alive.  She is turning 94 years old." Student, "Oh, I don't have any grandparents alive."  I had to pick up a prescription for her.  She was born in 1923!
   I know I am blessed. We call her Mamie. She is my mom's mom. She had 10 kids, lost one baby early in life. She was a maternity nurse for 50 years! She is hard a rock and my hero! I may be off on my numbers here but it is too early for me to run through the cousins but on last count, I think she has 33 grandkids and 25 great grandkids so far.
  She lives in an awesome old farm house outside Burlington, VT and we grew up coming her for every 4th of July because it was my grandparents anniversary and every Christmas. Now we come up in January for her birthday and still for July 4th and if someone gets married. I am so happy my kids get to do what I got to do as kids. I had lots of cousins to run around with and now they do, too.
   Do you know what a "church key" is? It's how you still get into her house!  It looks like this:
   And, a dinner bell, yep, we would be off playing and we better come running when we heard the bell ring!  As I took the picture, I think "it sure looked much bigger growing up".

  My youngest Aunt and her son, my cousin live with Mamie and take care of her. So if you don't believe I have a a grandmother, how about this, my cousin is 14 years old. He raises chickens, turkeys, and cows here on the property. Right now he has 2 cows named Prime and Rib.

   Two weeks ago, Mamie had a stroke. Remember I told she is one tough cookie. She already came home last Saturday! She still lives at home with the help of my aunt. Again, we know we are blessed.
   I was sitting with her yesterday and decided since I really liked interviewing my student teacher, I would interview my grandmother. I had to talk slowly, loudly, and keep the answers so they could be short, but she did great:

Me: "Do you remember math class in high school."
Mamie: looking very confused
Me: "High school math class. It was only about 80 years ago."
Mamie: "Oh, OK."
Me: "Where did you go to high school?"
Mamie: "a Catholic school in Montpelier."
Me: "How many people were in your math class?"
Mamie: "About 20."
Me: "Did you have boys and girls in your class?"
Mamie: "Oh, yes."
Me: "Did you like math?"
Mamie: "Yes"
Me: "Did you use paper or chalk?"
Mamie: "Paper."
Me: jokingly, "Did you use calculators?"
Mamie with a chuckle: "Oh, no."
Me: "Did you use math in your line of work?"
Mamie: "A lot."

And that was enough. It really warmed my heart for two reasons:

1.) She didn't jump in right away and say the normal response of something like, "yuck, math!"
2.) She actually liked math, you go girl!!!

Shout out to Tracy Zager and her new math book "Becoming The Math Teacher You Wished You'd Had" because she opens the book with a discussion with her mom and math. I'm glad I got the chance to ask! Thanks Tracy!

Here's a picture of me, Mamie, and my mom.
Here are some of us at her 94th birthday celebration!!!