Sunday, April 28, 2013

Math vs Sports Practice

I first read about this on Fawn's blog:  Fawn Nguyen's Blog in response to Dan Meyer's response to Sal Khan's post about math practice vs wrestling.  She did a little survey, so I did a little survey.  I surveyed my Accelerated Algebra I class (freshmen) and my Honors Algebra II classes (sophomores).

Here is what happened:

Some of their explanations included:
 Girls who picked math:

  • Math is year round
  • I am not good at sports, so I will pick math
  • Math is easier
  • I love repetition
Boys who picked math:
  • School comes before sports
  • I am not athletic, so math
  • I want to be successful and I know I will need math
Girls who picked sports:
  • Math is too repetitive
  • Sports are interactive and interesting
  • You can work towards results you can see
  • Sports is doing, math is thinking
Boys who picked sports:
  • Sports are social 
  • Sports are more fun.  
  • You are outside, active, healthy.
  • I rather do hard physical vs hard mental exercising (from a freshman)
  • I feel pressure at math but at sports I can be me
NOTE:  I will try to get kids more active.  Now, how to do it.

Word cloud of my blog, using Tagxedo

I am taking a technology class and needed to make a word cloud.  I thought I would send it out to my kids on and ask them to reply on edmodo or tweet there answer as to what a quadratic is at #aquadis  One student did it.  Thanks Penelope!

So, I decided to check out a new word cloud site called Tagxedo and you can make one of your own blog site.  Let's see what I have been talking about:  (I think it came out pretty :)  )

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Compare Linear, Quad, and Exponential

This is a sorting/matching activity to compare linear, quadratics, and exponential - equations, graphs, table of values, and domain and range.  I created it with the help of graphs.  Here is the link:  Compare Graphs Activity

The students cut out the six different graphs, six different equations, etc. working in groups.  Then they have a discussion and sort them and match them.  Previously, I hadn't been a fan of matching but it really is a great way to see and experience students' thought processes, especially while working in a group.  In a group, they are forced to speak and you can "hear" them working.

Some kids started with all the graphs and matched from there.  Some started with the equations.  Most left the domain and range for last.  Some used the y-intercept to help them match up.  I thought it was great.  Then, I had each group take one of the 4 group pieces and bring them up in front of the class under the document camera and present their process.  This was the whole class got to hear their thought process.  It was a fun opening activity and I think the kids really got it.

Bonus is when my teaching partner tried the same activity and was raving about it.  It is always great to get positive feedback.  She loved it and her kids did well with it too.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What I will do with what I learned from Dan

One colleague has called me already to see how my day went.  I was so excited to fill her in, but hopefully I will get a chance to tell and show her more in person or at a meeting. 

What I will do with what I learned:
1.) Share with my colleagues
2.) Share with my students.  I will try to start a unit or a lesson off with a Three-Act or a 101 question picture.  I could also do it in our 20 minutes after lunch as an activity.
3.)  Start looking for more math in my own world and take a video or a picture and turn it into something I can use in class that would be interesting for the kids.
4.) Have the kids start sharing math they find.
5.)  Have the students ask more questions.
6.)  Have the students make predictions more often.  They are afraid of being wrong, but the more I ask them to just guess, the better their math will become. 
7.) Update my diigo list and add some tags so the future me will be able to find stuff later.
8.) Check out a thing called Tangle.  We didn't have time to get to that.
9.)  Check out as a way to keep youtube videos in case they disappear.
10.)  And, start a google doc of my ideas.  I have a notebook next to my desk, but I like the idea of the google doc list is everywhere, in the cloud, you know. 

My mind is blow...3 Dan Meyer talks in one day!

I am a lucky person! I have had the honor of getting to hear math guru Dan Meyer give three very different talks today.  I only wish the rest of my colleagues could have gone to hear his message.  He is truly innovative, creative, and modest.  He was surrounded by groupies today, me included.  It was just so cool to be in his presence, his tall, tall presence....

Once I got over how tall he is (79 inches), I concentrated on every word.  His first talk was about his Three-Acts and how we as teachers should be looking for math everywhere and taking pictures and videos and making them into problems for students to solve.  It will make math come more alive than a boring textbook word problem.  We compared some of his videos and photos and we saw, firsthand, how we were hooked.  He has some we can use in our classroom on his blog under Three-Acts here:  He has photos under a site called 101 questions where anyone can post and ask what question comes to mind.  It can be found here: And, he discussed making over textbook problems on this website: .  He is giving us as math teachers so many chances and opportunities to make math more fun and more accessible to more students.  All while encouraging us to find more math in our own lives and to share it. 

The second talk was his keynote speech to everyone at the conference and he was getting a lot of ooohs, aaahs, and chuckles, so even non-math people can relate.  He said it was his "Education Technology Presentation for People Who Don't Like Education Technology Presentations".  He taught us the stuff he looks for when dealing with technology and "Perplexity".  Perplexity is when people wonder - they don't know something, but they want to know it, and they believe it is within their reach.  Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could get this from all our students?  He says we should try to 1.) Capture perplexity, 2.) Share perplexity, and 3.) Resolve perplexity.  This was his Ed Tech Manifesto.  Capturing perplexity - find it - search the internet, get an RSS reader that will do the looking for you, save it to a social bookmarking site and tag it so the future you can find it.  Share perplexity - a lot of us have laptops, projectors, speakers, document cameras, software - use this to show student work, use it to sequence the interesting media you find and present it to your students.  Resolve perplexity - what kind of math problem does this break down to, but more than that - start with it. Don't just start with a list of objectives on the board and work your own through it and some practice exercises and hope you have time to get to the interesting word problem.  Make time for the problem.  Start with it.  Hook the kids.  Cause them to be perplexed and then maybe they will actually care about the rest of the lesson. 

And, finally, Understanding Common Core.  Our school has switched to it in 9th grade Algebra I and I am about a day ahead in my planning of it and still not quite sure what it is all about, but in about an hour, Dan made sense out of it all.  There are 8 mathematical practices and with one paper clipping example, he showed us how we can implement all 8.  Amazing!  (more in next post)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

WWYD? - my students did not prove to me they know quadratics

I thought my freshmen Accelerated Algebra I class was really understanding the quadratic unit. However, I just graded their tests and they didn't prove it to me. They can't complete the square when "a" is not one. They cannot factor! They cannot solve by square roots. Forget "i". I thought they understood that, too, but they didn't do those problems correctly. They did okay with the word problems and putting it all together, though. Maybe something was wrong with my teaching but I have taught it the same way to my sophomores in Algebra II honors for years and they got it. Maybe the test was too hard. The numbers were tricky, but it wasn't just the numbers that were tripping them up. They didn't have the processes down. I am not a fan of make ups, but this is important stuff and they need to get it. We are moving into radicals and rationals next and they will be really stuck if they can't factor. I am not sure what to do. Maybe a series of mini-assessments as I am still teaching the new material. Any thoughts?

One of my you make these math mistakes?

This is Dr. Burger from our Holt Algebra II books.  Here he shows the top 10 math mistakes in math.  Do you make them?

Sunday, April 7, 2013

How do you plan your units?

Given our school has started the Common Core with our freshmen in Algebra I, I am writing new curriculum this year.  I have the Accelerated class and a college prep class, so it is really two different preps.  I can use some of the same activities but the speed and difficulty and therefore, the exams are different.

Anyways, this is how I sit down and get ready for a new unit.  Our school has 5 periods a day on a seven day rotation.  So, we see the students 5 times out of 7 days.  I start with the school calendar and make my unit calendar.  I try to make sure I am not testing the day before or after vacation.  I try to make sure I am not testing after I haven't seen them over a long weekend plus a school day.  However, sometimes it has to be done, but it isn't ideal.  I create my calendar by breaking the unit in half, teaching and practicing, then having a quiz review and a quiz, repeat.  Then, a test review day or maybe two days and a test.  Next, I determine what I will assign for homework.  We have a new book, so I do all of the problems I am assigning so I can see what each questions is asking and to see if the assignment is too long or too challenging.  Then, I start looking on the internet and twitter and blogs for fun activities or projects or graphic organizers to help me present the lessons.  Next, I make the individual lessons.  I usually use a powerpoint to shine on the board but I still write on the board.  I like that my writing stays on the board for a while rather than disappearing with the next slide.  Sometimes, I create my own powerpoint, sometimes I find and alter a powerpoint.  There are some great ones out there.  I need to make sure I give enough examples - I do, we do, they do idea.  I like to start with Do Nows that might review a previous idea or something they haven't done before but can try it because it will lead into that day's lesson.  Sometimes, I like to start with a discovery activity rather than just telling them the rule.  All of this depends on the content and how much we need to get through.  I try to anticipate where the students will make mistakes or what kinds of questions they will have.  Once the lessons are ready, then I make the exams.  I used to do the UbD - Understanding by Design, working backwards and starting with the assessment.  I really liked doing this but due to time, I need to have the first lesson before I have the last test, so I have fallen behind on this idea.  Plus, I like figuring out what I am going to assign and the important concepts I want to stress with the students, then make the assessment so it touches on a lot of these points. 

How do you prepare a new unit?

Next year, I get to write the new Algebra II common core curriculum!  Bring it!