Sunday, March 31, 2013

Quadratic Review - Flowers in the Yard

My post yesterday inspired me to make a review for quadratics.  The Eggs in a Basket activity went so well I wanted to try it with my Accelerated Algebra group, so I made this.  Same idea.  I can't wait to use it.  Here is the link:  Flowers in the Yard

I did the answer key, so it should be ready to go.  Enjoy!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Math Review Activity - Eggs in a Basket

Oh exponents are killing us!  My Algebra I C2 class just cannot get it.  I thought exponents would be a nice break from lines, lines, and more lines, but they are really struggling with the exponent rules.  We started the first day with no rules, just expand it out and figure out what is happening.  They got it.  Next day, introduce the rules, slowly, over 3 days.  Review, quiz, tank.  Ugh!  Then I told them, you got it when we did it the first day, the rules messed you up, so go back to expanding it out.  Nope, they won't do it.  It is frustrating.  So, I gave them three smaller exponent quizzes each day before we began our lessons on exponential growth and decay (which they are doing well with so far).  Each day I would review the previous small quiz and give another, but still no progress.  I told them it is because between days they aren't doing anything about it.  They aren't practicing.  They aren't coming for extra help.  So, why should I think they will magically get it.

Anyways, that is the frustrating part.  The good part is I found a new review activity that I love.  Again, I can't remember whose blog I found it on to give them credit, so please comment and let me know if you know who the creator is.  It is NOT me!  I know there was a skeleton in the graveyard version and this is the timely Eggs in a Basket version:  Eggs in Basket Review ppt  It is in PowerPoint form, but they are essentially just 8 worksheets with space for 4 problems.  It is blank.  You add your own problems so it will work for any review.  The creator said they did increasingly harder on each worksheet.  I kept each worksheet at the same level of difficulty.  I did all of the number 1 questions similar - an exponent problem.  All the number 2s were an exponential growth or decay equation and they had to tell me which it was.  All the number 3s were to graph an exponential growth or decay.  And, finally all numbers 4 questions were exp growth or decay applications.  You guessed it, they got stuck on the number 1s, exponent rules.

The way it works, is the students work in groups to complete the four problems.  I gave each group one colored marker, different colors for each groups.  Once they finished their sheet, they showed me to see if they got it right.  If they did, they got an egg to color with their color.  Then, they decide which place they want the egg to be taped to on the board. They stick it and get back to work.  When reviewing, I like to think about how many problems the students are actually getting to without getting too stuck in logistics of the review game.  This one went better than I anticipated.  There were some groups that did 3 sheets of four questions but most students did about 5 sheets of four questions.  And, they did work together for the most part.  About 5 minutes before the end of class, you tell them time is up.  Then you pick your own eggs with points on them (0, 25, 50, 75, and 100).  You blindly pick and say, this egg is for Central Park.  Then, all the eggs that were taped there get those points.  Pretty cool.

I thought it was going to take us all of block period to do this activity, but going over homework and quizzes took up a lot of the time.  We did this in about 25 minutes.

I will include two pictures here.  One with the eggs and the scores.  And, one where some students wanted to pose.  I asked them not to block the eggs but you can only see one egg.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

My Advisory

We have advisory at our school.  We meet with 10-12 kids each Thursday morning.  The idea is that these students have at least one adult in the building to connect with besides a teacher.  They are randomly grouped into their advisory groups and it is interesting to see them blend together over their four years in high school.  This is my eighth year of teaching so it is my second group graduating.  With this group, I wanted them to see their progress, so I had them write letters to themselves once at the beginning of each school year and once at the end.  I typed up a fill-in-the-blank letter for them to fill out each time.  I also took a few group pictures.  I wanted to be able to give them their letters when they graduate and I love to scrapbook, so I put the two ideas together and each of my 10 students will get a small scrapbook.  I have the six boys done and I will be moving onto the girls' books once I buy more tape.  They aren't totally complete.  I need to add one more group senior picture, one more end of the year senior letter, and then a decorated page so they can add one of them at graduation. 

I figured out how to make a Picasa slideshow so I am going to embed it here.  Hopefully it will work.  I did block out the student's name expect for on the front page. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

2 Low Tech Quadratic Review Activities

We are getting ready for our quiz on the first half of the Algebra I Quadratic chapter.  I did a 3 part review in class today.  We started with an A/B review, then did 2 webs, then a review packet.

I learned about the A/B review a few years ago at an NCTM conference.  I have popsicle sticks, one with a red A and one with a blue B (color coding helps me tell the difference too).  I made 10 quick review questions that are multiple choice with two possible answers - A or B.  The idea is that it isn't an in depth, thoughtful review activity, but more of a quick, more automatic dipstick, provide quick feedback kind of review.  I tell them yes or no as they hold up their stick.  My ppt is here:  PPT with A/B review questions  Some of the math symbols didn't come through, but you get the idea.  The kids like it.  And, I get an idea of what the kids are and aren't understanding.

Next up, we did two webs.  I gave them a quadratic equation in the middle of the paper and asked them to tell me anything they could about it.  One side was in standard form, the other in vertex form.  I let them brainstorm the first and then slowly put it on the board.  By the time we did the second one, they were fighting to get to the board first to write their idea.  Here is the worksheet:  Web - Vertex Form Quadratic

Here is what the kids did on the board from the standard form web (worksheet was upload with equation):

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Speed Dating: Rational Style

This has been a crazy few weeks with snow days and state testing.  I teach three Algebra II classes in a row but they have all been affected differently.  So, my period 2 class got the extra time to do the speed dating idea from Kate Nowak's site: Speed Dating

I did it before and remembered it being a little chaotic, so I didn't set my expectations high.  Therefore, it went better than anticipated. 

Here is the worksheet of multiplying and dividing rational expressions.  Speed Dating with Multiplying and Dividing Rationals

Basically, the kids get white boards and put their desks facing each other.  I give a little piece of paper with one problem to each student to simplify.  They have to become an expert at their problem, meaning they need to do it until they get it right and check it with the teacher.  This is the chaotic part with 26 kids trying to get my attention.  (numbered problems and a clear answer key will help speed this up).  Once they are all experts, the fun can begin.  The students trade papers with the person across from them and try to work out the problem.  They are to ask the expert if they got it right.  A lot were still asking me and I told them to ask their partner.  From here it was pretty self sufficient.  Once the students were done with that problem, one row shifted and they had a new partner and a new problem.

The kids enjoyed it.  I took one picture without them knowing, but then they caught on and posed.

A little fun after a morning of state testing.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Snow Day #6 and my to-do list

We have our 6th snow day of the school year.  We are already going to June 28th.  I wonder what magical day they will pick for us to work.

Once I knew it was a day off, my brain went into action and started my to-do list. 

My to-do list is a 5 subject spiral notebook on my home desk.  I write everything I need to do in it.  I like the notebook because then I don't have a million little pieces of paper everywhere.  Also, I can refer back to about a year prior and find phone numbers, email address, packing lists, etc.  And, a little secret....sometimes I will do things first, then add them to my list just so I can have the satisfaction of then checking them off.  Yep, a little crazy.

My best friend and I are very different.  When she asks me how was a day off or a vacation, I always say it was great and list off the millions of things I have done.  For her, a good day off is doing nothing and relaxing.  I feel better when I am doing, but don't get me wrong, I love to snuggle up on the couch and catch up on some tv.  Too bad I finished up with Downton Abbey already.  And, I forgot to go to Red Box for a new movie.

I just can't figure out how to turn it
Here's a picture of our snow: 

Here's a snapshot of my to-do list:
1.) write a blog entry
2.) take my Google class
3.) make the boys pancakes
4.) read my in-house class work
5.) update my lesson book
6.) enter my grades online for the month
7.) find a good online game for my algebra I kids to practice exponents so I can post it to edmodo and they can play it today.  I will make a "snowy exponent" badge and award it if I see them playing it.
8.) help my son with his own science homework
9.) shovel (of course, another family shoveling day, it is a pretty funny time)
10.) figure out how to change a pdf file into a writable form for my son's scholarship forms
11.) scrapbook for my son's high school book because he is graduating in June
12.) catch up on dvr tv shows and knit
13.) hit the gym when the snow ends
14.) and maybe clean something around the house

I will take a picture of our snow to add above and then I can check #1 off my to do list.

Have a good snow day.  (it is 6:06 am)

It is now 8:08 (a great time of day, I am uploading my pic and sharing this post and I can check off number 1, 2, 3, 7, and part of 12 -done while watching tv)

Monday, March 18, 2013

The BIGGEST thing I have had to learn as a teacher....

is to be flexible.  I am a typical Type-A personality, over achiever, who likes to be organized and plans ahead.  That is not really ideal in the teaching profession.  Well, maybe if I taught at a school in a warm climate with no school days.

We have a confusing rotating schedule with five periods a day for a seven day rotation schedule.  "A" day is period 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.  Then "B" day is 6, 7, 1, 2, and 3 and so on through G day.

When I first started teaching only 8 years ago, if we had a snow day, we would bump the day so we didn't miss that letter day.

Well, a few years ago, it was decided to just skip the day so the rest of the years letter days would stay the same and not have to be shifted.  Okay, but what if I was testing on that day, it still gets bumped and I have to bump everything else or even double up on lessons or skip lessons all together.

As a teacher, I feel comfortable when I am planned a week in advanced.  That is, all of my lesson plans are completed and everything is photocopied, tests are ready to go.  That isn't happening this year because of the Common Core new math curriculum that we are developing as we go.  Add in a new laptop program and it is tricky.

But, add in (so far) 5 snow days, and I am about to crack.  We are predicted to get a big messy snow storm tonight.  I live in Massachusetts and my sophomores were supposed to take the state MCAS test tomorrow.  However, the state has already decided to move it to next Monday.  It was supposed to be Tuesday, Thursday and Friday.  Now, it is Thursday, Friday, and Monday.  I have to plan around MCAS because my sophomores would be missing.

Tomorrow is supposed to be a G Day, then an A day.  If there is a snow day, we skip G day and go to A day as usual, but the G day is moved to next Monday along with the MCAS.  So, we will be going A, B, C, G, E, F, G in the next cycle.  Are you confused yet?  My head is spinning.

So, as I get ready to go to bed and hope for school tomorrow, I still can't really plan the week because it depends on the weather.

All this brings me back to being flexible.  I know we have a lot of curriculum to teach and I want to squeeze all in and in the right order but still at the right pace, so I have to make changes.  And, I think I have become better at just embracing whatever the next day may bring and bumping things or moving things or consolidating things as I need to.  Of course, the kids are great about it.  I always think "never let them see you sweat" and try to keep things as seamless as possible.

Today was the first day ever when I asked a full class of kids - do you want a snow day tomorrow? - they all said no!  We are already going until June 28th!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Disney - A math project

Give them less and hopefully they will give you more.  This is the idea of a lot of bloggers out there, including @DanMeyer .  He wants to give students less information and make them brainstorm and estimate before tackling a problem.

I did this project early in the school year.  Our freshmen have BYOD, so I wanted to make use of the laptops.  I had students work in groups and plan a trip to Disney.  They were to work in google docs to create a powerpoint and only had a week to do the project because goodness knows you can take forever to plan a trip to Disney World.

I presented them with the basic premise and then had them ask me questions:

1st one: "How do we get there?"  Well, I am blessed with a small class so there were only 3 groups I had to assign.  I told one group they were flying, one group they were driving the family car the full way, and one group (we live in MA) they were to drive their car to Maryland, stay at a friend's house and then fly from MD to Florida (my family actually did this once to save on airfare.)

2nd question: "How much money do we have?"  I told them $8,000.  They were very excited.

3rd: "Who's going?"  I told them a family of 4, mom, dad, a 10 year old and a 14 year old.

When?  Nov 3-Nov 10, 2012.

Where do we stay?  In the park.

Where do we eat? you decide.

As a class we brainstormed possible costs - food there, food on the travel, sunscreen, park tickets, transportation costs, hotel costs, souvenirs.  Then, we brainstormed sties they might visit and finally they got to work.

I did tell them they needed to include some math in there - equations, tables, or graphs.

It was one of my favorite classes all year.  They were immediately engaged.  They started dividing up the work right away.  They really are going at working collaboratively.  And, then it was all up to them.  I just walked around listening to their conversations:

"Let's stay at a Hotel 8 and stay for real cheap."
"Let's eat at McDonald's off the dollar menu."   (I guess they didn't think that $8,000 was so great after all.)
"If we stay at the Grand Floridian that will be $5,500 and almost all our money."
One group was looking at all the costs separately and then someone found the packages, so they compared the two methods.
The group that was flying even remembered to include the cost of parking at the airport.

It worked.  I gave them a little and they put it all together on their own!

Here are the instructions:  (nope, can't find them right now.  I will add them later if I can find it.)

Here is one of the students' powerpoints:  Disney Student Project

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Linear Systems - A Picture Project

I assigned a picture project to both my Accelerated Algebra 1 students and my college prep Algebra 1 students.  Luckily, I learned from my accelerated students because I assigned the project to them first.

I instructed them to create a word problem for a system of equations with two unknowns or a rate = distance times time problem.  I told them to take a picture of the things and turn it into a word problem then put it into one PowerPoint slide and share it with me.  They did, and they came up with a great variety of questions.  I then compiled them into one PowerPoint and shared it with the class on review day for them to work on (through ).  However, I didn't ask them to include the answer, so I had to do all that work.  Some students didn't include a question.  They just sort of told a story.  Some students made the problem so it didn't work out correctly.  Those were the biggest problems.

By the time I was teaching it to my college prep level class, I had revised it a bit.  They now had to include a second PowerPoint slide that had the work worked out and the answer.  Ahhh, now they had to do the thinking, not just make up some numbers.  There was less variety in this group; most of them dealt with food items.  Some of them realized they could work backwards - make up the answer they wanted and then make the numbers or prices fit.  Ahhh!  Wow!  A few of the kids liked the answer to come out to the same number for x and y.  But, overall, they did a great job.

Here are the better instructions.  I found the original idea on the web a while ago so I don't remember who to credit.  But, now that I have my blog, I will always remember to note who I am borrowing the idea from and they will get due credit!

Instructions:  Linear Systems Picture Project Instructions

Accelerated Student PowerPoint:  Accelerated Students Picture Powerpoint

College Prep Student PowerPoint:  College Prep Student Picture PowerPoint

My favorite part was catching a student smiling to himself.  I asked him what was up and he said, "I hear someone working on my problem."

Friday, March 15, 2013

Figuring out Blogger

My two goals were to figure how to put multiple pictures on my blog.  That was easy, just hit the picture button and upload from your computer.  Thanks Blogger!

I also wanted to figure out how to upload or link to my word documents so I could actually share my activities.  I had to google it, but I figured it out.  I will try to explain it here for my TechRich Classmates:

1.) Upload your word document to google docs (go to google drive, click on upload file and find your file to upload)
2.)  Click on share and change it so that it is "Public to the web" and hit done
3.)  Now click on the link of the name of your doc in google docs and this will take you to its webpage in the "cloud".  Right click on the web address and copy.
4.)  Start writing a new blog in Blogger and when you are at the part where you want to include your link to your document, click link up in the menu bar. 
5.) Put the cursor where it says URL and paste the website of your document. 
6.) Click on "text to display" and delete all that junk.  Change it to a more descriptive title.
7.)  Click the box that says "open in a new window."
8.)  Click the blue text that says "test this link".  And, voila, it should open your word document.
9.)  Finish up your blog and hit save, then publish it! 

Nice job - in less than 10 steps!

Pennies and Box and Whisker Plots

Of course, I can't find the activity sheet online that I used for this activity but basically I had my Accelerated Algebra I students bring in pennies.  It is a small class, but we collected a bunch.  Then, we worked as a class to sort them and it ended up making its nice own little histogram.  Next, we made a box and whisker out of the dates of the pennies.

Here is the class busy at work:  (the pennies are so little, they are hard to see)  Can you tell where the pennies from the 2000s are?

ZAP - a review game

Kids love a good review game, but not so much when it is always the quickest or the smartest kids or team of kids always winning.  I tell the kids I do like review games because the material has been taught and we do want to try and do it a little more quickly so it is more automatic, but we still want to be able to go over the problems and learn from them in order to prepare for the quiz or the test.

In comes, ZAP.  I found this online at a few different places so I don't really know who to give credit too.  I will include the directions here:  ZAP review game instructions

Basically the premise is the students work in groups to answer any kind of review questions and the first team to answer correctly gets to pick a number 1 - 16.  Behind it are some instructions, some that have position effects (double your score)  and some with negative effects (ZAP your score - which means you are down to zero).  With the ZAP board playing with the scoring, you never know which team will actually win.  There are some funny directions in their too. 

Here is my beautiful ZAP board I made with library envelopes from (nice and cheap and oh so cute!)

I wrote the directions on index cards and inserted them into the envelopes.

Stained Glass Window - graphing lines

In my Algebra I college prep freshmen class, we did a fun little project I found on the web of graphing lines to make a stained glass window. 

Here is the file:  Stained Glass - Linear Project

Here are two finished projects:


Math Inequality Auction

I did a math auction on inequalities in my college prep Algebra I freshmen class.  You could do it with any math content.  I found the idea through someone's blog a while ago, but I don't remember who to give them credit. 

I made up some auction paddles.  Made up the worksheets so the kids had to work in groups to complete the three questions in each group.  And, then let the bidding begin. 

Math Inequality Auction

I made each lot worth a different amount of money.  We did the whole auction and as a group won the "lot", I took a picture with my camera of their work with their team name and the amount they bought it for.  Beforehand, I had set amounts that they would be worth.  So, maybe a student wins lot 4 for $300 and it is worth $500. 

It was a fun activity and the kids really liked it.  I wish I had more time in the class because we were a little rushed at the end.  It was a very engaging activity though.  It also helped that I have an assistant teacher who kept score. 

Here are some pictures:

Catapults and M&Ms in the name of quadratics

In my honors Algebra II class of sophomores, I always look forward to doing a culminating project on quadratics.  We start at the beginning of the chapter with introducing the project and having the kids break up into groups of 3 and 4 and start designing and building a catapult outside of school. 

Meanwhile, in school, I teach them everything they need to know about quadratics.  They have a due date to bring the catapults to school to showcase them, to test them, to compare theirs to the other students and to decide on how they might improve their own.  Next, they bring it home and get it ready for target shooting day.  We spend two class periods on the lab.  Day 1 is launching M&Ms from the catapult and timing the landing to come up with the equation of the path.  They need to use their equation to determine where their target (a bowl) should be placed. They shoot from floor to floor.  Then, they are asked to translate it up onto a desk.  Day 2 is the "for real" target shooting.  The kids get 1 practice shot from the desk and then 3 real shots. 

They really enjoy this and get to see all of their quadratic knowledge put to work. 

I will try to include the lab with directions and rubric here.  I am not sure of the best way to attach a word document, but I will try:  (okay, I put it on google docs and linked to it but it is way at the bottom.

Here are some pictures.

Hint: smaller is better, we are going for accuracy, not distance or height and I don't recommend allowing students to use mouse traps (too fast to time) or to build a trebuchet. 

Catapult Quadratic Lab

The End of a long week

We came off of a snow day from last Friday and had to try to rearrange stuff this week.  Then, Wednesday was an early release, but man, it was a long week.

Next week, the sophomores will take the MCAS and I will be proctoring, so it is a weird choppy week.

I am taking two classes and starting tutoring one student, plus all my other regular family and life stuff.  I am at the point where I just need to take a step back, breathe, and prioritize.

First, it is Friday, yeah!  I gave three tests today and I usually grade them right away as another class is taking them, but I really needed to prep lessons for next week.  I like to be prepped a week ahead of time but with two out of three new preps this week, it isn't possible.  So, I prepped at school, then came home and corrected for 2 hours.  Note, I said corrected.  I didn't put them together for a grade yet, but that will be the easy part.

The sophomore Algebra II honors students have just wrapped up their chapter on Logs.  Unfortunately, it was way too choppy with midterms, vacation, and snow days.  Overall, they seem to get it, but they weren't as solid as I would have liked.  Next, we move onto Rational and Radicals.  It is all straight skills and I hope they get it.

My Algebra I C2 kids have started rules of exponents.  I opened both classes with a discovery I found online (but now, I can't remember where I found it from).  It was basically on expanded form and "discovering" the rules for multiplying and dividing powers.  They struggled at first "I can't do this", "this is stupid", "this is impossible", but then they got it so by the time I recapped and put it together into the rules, they got it.  I only hope something sticks in their brains over the weekend.

And, my Algebra I Accelerated kids have started the chapter of quadratics which I just wrapped up at the end of last term with my Honors Algebra II kids (because old Alg 2 basically becomes new Common Core Alg 1).  So, it is good that I can use a lot of my old Algebra 2 stuff.  It is a little different order in the book we are using, but again, I think the kids are getting it and I hope they retain it over this weekend.

My weekend - well, my two youngest boys have a bar mitzvah all day tomorrow, my second son is working all day, and my oldest is in CA, so hopefully my husband and I will actually get to do something :)  

Next thing to learn about blogging: how to post links to my activities or upload them (not sure which).

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Inviting my friends - making my blog roll

I started my "Creating Rich Technology" class today and we are starting with two ideas - making a blog and creating a diigo.  I have started both.

I started my blog last night and after today's class, I learned how to add the blog list.  I feel like I have invited my friends.  Now, all I have to do is come to my own blog to do all the reading of new posts.

Two things I still need to learn:
1.) How to move my blog roll below my profile. 
2.) How to sort of "promote" my new blog so people will actually find me and read me.

One of the questions we had in class today was: who is our audience.  Most people chose either their students or the parents as their audience.  I want mine to be other math teachers.  I love reading other math teachers' posts - ideas, kid's funnies, links, books they are reading, new activities, etc.  I want to learn!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Diving into the Mathblogosphere!

Take 1:

I have been reading math blogs for over a year now.  I have my favorites (just to name a few):
  • Dan Meyer @dy-dan and his Three Acts (I get to meet him in April!)
  • Brian Marks and his classroom activities (met him in Dec)
  • I use @StatTeacher as an RSS feed to get my new blog updates
  • @MissCalculuate has the coolest name and math ideas
  • Kate Nowack @function-of-time is so cutting edge
I think these are my top favorites.  I follow them on Twitter too.  I think it is such an opportunity when a lot of us math teachers are teaching the same thing during the same week across the boards and we can share ideas. 

I haven't had a blog yet, so no way to comment on their blogs, but I have a notebook at my desk where I write down lots of innovative ideas.  Then, I try them and I want to share my input and findings and how I may have changed their idea to work with my students.  Now, I hope to have that opportunity.  After reading math blogs every day, I know what I like - ideas, methods, and pictures - along with what worked and what didn't, so I hope to incorporate all these great things into my own blog.  (I also love just a touch of personalization, lots of updates, and corny math jokes)

I will try my first picture.  This was a cut and paste activity on why factoring the difference of two squares works: