Sunday, May 31, 2015

Solve Me Puzzles

If you haven't been to Solve Me Puzzles, check it out here: Solve Me Puzzles

It is about balancing mobiles and look something like this:

They are great!  I heard about them at NCTM in April and we have been doing them in my small math class since then.  We do three a day.  You can have the students do them on the computer, but I take a screen shot and add it to my powerpoint.  Then, the kids work on individual whiteboards to answer them.  I love the natural progression of difficulty. 

And, surprise, after a while, gasp, fractions might be needed.  In the example above, the kids would cut 6 in half and see that each branch will equal 3, but then, you have to divide 3 in half, so they discover they will need fractions and not just 1/2.  It comes naturally to them after doing so many.

We have gotten so good at them, that I thought it was time to make our own.  As we worked on the daily three, I asked a few leading questions - as we think about designing our own, do you think it is easier or harder to have a bigger number at the top?  Some kids said bigger numbers because you have more numbers to work with.  One boy decided his total number was going to be 3.  He likes a challenge.  Sometimes, one of the shape values might be given.  I asked when that might be.  We looked at our daily three and figured that out too.

I gave them some parameters.  They had to be at least 3 branches and use at least three shapes. 

As one student was making his own, he declared, "I am going to work backwards.  I am going to make my 4 shapes have numbers and then make the puzzle." 

It lead to some good thought process.  After they made them, they had to decide if they needed to give the students any shape values.  Some did and some didn't.

Here are there finished Solve Me Puzzles.  After they finished, we swapped whiteboards and they solved each others. 

 In the above puzzle, you need to be told the triangles are 12, if I recall correctly.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Speed Dating with Rationals

I love speed dating.  I have done it before and it is something I look forward to.  We did it today in Algebra 1 with multiplying and dividing rational expressions.  They each get a problem and a white board.  They become the expert on their problem, meaning they do it, check their answer with me, and remember their answer.  Then they pair up and switch problems with the person across from them.  If they need help, they check with the expert across from them, not me.  It takes a little while to get started as I make sure everyone has the correct answers, but then I can just sit back and listen and watch.

Great conversations heard:
"You can't cancel across" (meaning if they are both in the numerator - egads, no!)
"Don't tell me the answer.  How am I going to learn how to do it?"
"Take your time."
"Simplify your problem.  Simplify your relationship." (being pun-ny with 'speed dating')

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Estimation Station - The Details

We have been using every day for the entire school year.  We are getting good at it.  We wanted to see how the rest of the school might be. 

We planned it for about a week and a half of math classes - not all period, we did lots of math as well.  Our agenda one day looked like this:
  • Estimation180  Check these out here.
  • Solve Me Puzzles (3) Check them out here.
  • Which One Doesn't Belong? Why? (2) Check it out here.  
  • Visual Patterns (1)  And, these can be found here
  • Make signs for our 3 stations
  • Make advertisement signs and hang them around the school
  • Count the yellow and purple skittles
  • Factor when A is not 1
Students were skeptical we would get it all done in one period, but we did.

Each day we prepared a little more:
Day 1: The 3 ideas - brainstorm the stations and the necessary materials
Day 2: Meet with our film and TV teacher to discuss our plan for videotaping (Thanks Mr. Haas!)
Day 3:  Field trip down two floors to the science room to borrow goggles and aprons (Thanks Mr. King!)
Day 4: Make the signs and count the Skittles (Thanks to cafeteria ladies for giving us non-latex gloves!)
Day 5: Pour the soda (this was the plan but we didn't have enough cups so we had to wait until the day of.

The day before the actual Estimation Station project, I reminded the students to be in school.  It is a small class, only 10 kids, 8 come regularly but attendance is an issue.  One student said she had a field trip, one had an interview and then realized that was on a different day.  Another said he didn't really want to do it, but later changed his mind.  For a group who seemed excited for it, they were ready to bail on me.  I reminded them of all our time planning it and told them the money I had put into it.  They didn't realize the behind the scenes stuff.  They asked "How much did it cost?":

How much do you think the teacher spent?
3 bags of Skittles ($7.50 but only used 2 bags)
1 jar for Skittles ($1.00)
2 yellow tableclothes ($2.00)
2 Two Liters of Coke ($3.00)
Pack of 50 plastic cups ($2.50)
1 Watermelon ($7.99)
2 - 350 pack of rubberbands ($15.00)  This I had to research, watched some videos, learned the different sizes - ordered 3 inch Size 64 rubberbands from Amazon.

Grand Total: $38.99

Other materials:
Table, bowl for the watermelon (next time, bucket would be better, we ended up putting bowl on a chair, little tippy), pens, paper to write guesses on, goggles, aprons, bags to hold guesses, funnel to pour soda back into bottle, mini white boards to hold tablecloth down and provide surface to write guesses on.

Process for Watermelon:
2 kids put on 75 then took a break
2 new kids started adding bands until it broke
Surprisingly, no rubber bands actually broke on them
The actual explosion happened in a blink of an eye.
It was so exciting and cool to watch.
A big ball of rubberbands ended up about 8 feet away.

Coming Soon....The video.....Stay Tuned.
All answers will be announced in the video.

Estimation Station 3 - How many rubberbands will it take to make the watermelon explode?

"It won't work."
"How many rubberbands are in the bowl?"  (Answer: 700)
"Can I touch the rubberbands?"  (Yes) "Oh, they are strong."
"Do you know the answer?"  (No)
"Are you going to do it?" (Yes at 3rd lunch at 11:45)
"I got it. I know I am right."

How many do you think?

Estimation Station 2 - How many cups filled just to that level will it take to empty the 2L of Coke?

Lots of discussion at this station.  People looked at the bag of cups for the 16 fluid oz size.  They asked if we poured out the one cup from this 2 Liter.  Yes, we did.  We filled it to the first indent on the plastic cup.  They would use their fingers to measure how much was missing on the Coke bottle to the plastic cup. 

How many cups do you think?

Estimation Station 1 - How Many Lemon and Grape Skittles?

How many Lemon and Grape Skittles in the jar?

Some people didn't read the question and realized after "Oh, I guessed how many total skittles." Details!

Some people asked clarifying questions "So, you mean yellow and purple combined for one number?" Yes

They picked the jar up.  They counted.  They tried volume, something like 18x10x10.  That seemed too big.

How many do you estimate?

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Conics Projects

Phew, I finally graded all my conics projects.  I told myself I couldn't take pictures of them or blog about them (the fun part) until they were graded.  I finished that yesterday, so now I can blog about them.  They were great!  Last year was the first time I taught conics and I use @boblochel's project idea and made it mine here:  Conics Project

Last year I made a slideshow of the conic projects and posted it here.

This year, I tried a collage. I love the variety.  This happened naturally, just a few repeats.  One student was working on Iron Man and had his head finished.  He asked if he had to do the whole body.  I said no.  (I don't give them a set number of equations they must use).  He continued and did the whole body - so he had 277 equations!  They also have to find 2 intersection points - one of a conic/line and one of a conic/conic.  I don't teach the conic/conic system, they teach themselves.

Nice job students!

Chalk Quads

Another outside after lunch activity.  I used to NEVER go outside.  I was the teacher who said, "Don't ask to go outside; the answer will always be no."  Why?  I don't know.  It was easier.  It was easier to say no and keep them contained in the classroom, but after our New England winter we are all ready for some nice weather. 

I bought a bunch of chalk about 2 years ago and it has been in my closet, unopened.  This morning I woke up with the idea to just graph some quadratics.  We have finished the unit in Algebra I.  We are onto graphing rationals but could use some spiral review of quadratics for our final exam.  I gave them two quadratic equations - both in standard form.  Worksheet here.  They could work in groups of 2 or 3.  They had to write the equation and graph 5 points, including vertex, x-intercepts and y-intercepts. 

Most started right to work with drawing the coordinate plane.  A lot of them factored first and I did make them all factorable, I just thought that was interesting.  In our unit, we usually found the vertex first with -b/2a.  So, they factored, found the vertex and graphed.  Some of them did a table of values, plugged in some x's and found the y's.  Interesting because that is what we are doing now for rational function graphing but we didn't really do it with quadratics.  And, one group, uh oh, started by drawing an asymptote - oops - mixed up our current rationals.  Quadratics don't have asymptotes.  I think they will remember that!  I hope.

It was a beautiful day for it.  2 graphs was just the right about and fun for all.  Some pictures:

Duck, Duck, Radian....

This is how my brain works.  For some reason, I was thinking, kids these days don't know how to play Duck, Duck, Goose.  I know this from our mission trip a couple summers ago.  Then, I jumped right to - Duck, Duck, Radians.  We could practice going around the unit circle counting off in radians and if you are wrong (either on purpose or by accident, then you get chased by that person).  I thought, great idea if I say so myself.  So, we tried it.  We have lunch during a block period and come back for 20 minutes after lunch - so this would be perfect for 2 activities:

The other part of this is my Garland Unit Circle:

We had a lot of fun making it and it looks beautiful.  However, every day I would come in and some part would be falling down.  Last year it stayed up for the whole half term.  We haven't even had heat or humidity yet and it kept coming undone.  After April vacation, I came in and the entire circle was done, so I said, forget it and took it down but I didn't want to waste my beautiful laminated pieces.  I thought it might be fun to give the pieces to the kids and have a little competition to see which team could complete it the quickest.

So, these were my two activities for 20 minutes after lunch.  One half of the class would do the unit circle.  I put the garland on the ground outside and let them go.  They had all the pieces - 3 for each spot - the coordinates, the radian measure and the degree measure and they had to organize themselves and work together to complete it.  I have two classes with two teams each.  Their times:

1 minute 52 seconds      1 minute 26 seconds   1 minutes 34 seconds and 1 minute 24 seconds!

They finished it easily.

The Duck, Duck, Radian game, not so much.  They could barely get passed pi/2.  They understood the game and had fun with it, but it would be more interesting if they knew their radians better. 

Duck, Duck Radian Game: (the ground was too yucky to sit on)

A completed unit circle
Action shot of the winning team:

Graphing in the palm of your hand

Go ahead.  Take a look at your right palm.  What do you see?  What do you notice?

Do you see your life line, the one that kind of surrounds your thumb?  Do you see 2 more prominent lines?  If not, maybe squish your hand a little bit and see if you can find 3 creases.  Do these look like any kinds of graphs we are learning?

I went to a session at NCTMBoston called Alg 1 Common Core: This is How We Do It!  It was presented by Ms. Michelle Jackson and Ms. Karen Rivers from Arkansas.  They came up with this activity and I tried it. 

It was perfect timing because we were just working on comparing linear, exponential, and quadratic graphs and there you have it, right in the palm of your hand.  We drew on our hand, traced it onto patty paper, came up with 4 points on each line, entered the data into our calculator, performed some regressions and voila - an equation for each function!  We all thought it was pretty cool!  I recommend it. 

I did it in our 20 minutes after lunch period but that was too short.  I would recommend at least 30 minutes.  

Tiny Table

Two summers ago I saved a small table on the side of the road from the garbage man.  My husband sanded the corners.  I painted it, found some cool saying on Pinterest and modpodged those onto it and a station for my classroom was born.  My neighbor was throwing two cute Ikea chairs away, so I added those to it.  I had two chairs from home.

It is my students favorite place to work.  Whenever we go to classroom, they fight to get to the Tiny Table.  Wish I could have more. 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Getting ready for Estimation Station

I have a small math class of 10 students learning a mix of Algebra 1 and 2.  We have been doing Estimation180 every day so far of the school year.  At first, the students were wondering why we were doing this.  Then, they were getting really good at it.  They like the ones that relate back to one we have already done and know the answer to so we can make a better prediction. 

I thought it would be fun to do our own Estimation Station towards the end of the school year.  I saw on Twitter or Facebook, "Are you counting down to the end of the school year or preparing for the big finale?"  So, I am trying to think of it as a grand finale.

I wanted the kids to take some ownership and come up with 3 stations we could do during our lunch block this Friday.  We can have students in 1st and 2nd lunch write their predictions on a piece of paper.  They brainstormed a bit but we didn't have anything all of us could agree on, so I mentioned something I saw on the internet.  What about :

"How many rubber bands does it take to make a watermelon explode?" 

They were all interested, diving into it and we are going to do it.

But, I wanted two more ideas.  Anything after that seemed boring.  I suggested having an ear of corn and asking how many kernels = lame. 

We thought about candy and came up with not just "how many pieces of candy are in the jar?", but we are going to do "How many yellow and purple skittles are in the jar?" 

And, the last one will be a 2 liter of Coke and a plastic cup.  We will put a little less than half of the Coke in the cup (which will have a line marked on it) and ask "How many cups can we fill to the line?" 

They wanted prizes.  They are thinking about collecting money for a Dunkin Donuts gift card on the watermelon one.  The Skittles jar would be that prize.  Not sure what we are doing for the soda - maybe they win the soda?

Once we had our 3 stations, we brainstormed materials.  We are going to set up outside on picnic tables and will use plastic tableclothes, papers and pens for the guesses, 3 containers for the guesses. 

For the watermelon station, we need one watermelon, lots of rubber bands.

For skittles, we need skittles and a jar.

For soda, we need cups and soda.

I reached out to a science teacher to see if we could borrow goggles and ponchos or aprons, so we will take a field trip downstairs tomorrow to get those.

I emailed our TV/Film teacher to see if he might be available and interested to videotape it for us.  He came and visited the class on Friday to discuss what we were going to do.  He is going to try and get some video of my students asking the other students what their guesses are.  Then, we will set up for the watermelon.  He needs to figure out how to set up the cameras to get different angles.  He also needs to figure out how to keep his equipment clean.

Tomorrow in class, after we visit the science teacher, we will make a few posters to advertise it to the school so they know about it at lunch time.  And, then we need to make individual signs for each station.  We will also assign who will be working at each station. 

I need to talk to the custodian and give him fair warning.  It really does explode if you watch the videos online and we will clean it up, but I don't think he will be happy if he is surprised.

And, now I am off to order the rubber bands.  I am predicting it is going to take a lot, so I will order from Amazon. 

The kids are excited and invested in it.  It is going to be our first HOT week at school so it will be good to have something to focus on.

My plan for after the stations is to have the students total each of the station's results and we will draw some conclusions, maybe make some graphs, not sure.

Check back next week for Watermelon updates!

Do teachers make good students?

This has been sitting with me since I was at a presentation at #NCTMBoston. 

My mom was a nurse and she always said doctors and nurses make the worst patients.

I wonder if that is true about teachers - are they the worst students?

I felt like it at #NCTMBoston as I sat at my first presentation surrounded by a room full of people, big papers hanging around the room waiting to be written on, two presenters, and a powerpoint.  I had my laptop, my cellphone, and my old fashioned notebook.  I took notes as I tried to concentrate on what they were saying and showing in their powerpoint, speaking about a lot of great activities.  I didn't want to miss anything.  I was trying to take it all in. 

But, I was on twitter.  I was checking on #NCTMBoston to see what other people might be listening to - was I missing anything, was there a better presentation happening at the same time.  Switch to phone mode, snap a picture of the powerpoint slide for later, write it in my notes (look at photo).  Switch to twitter to tweet out a quote from the presenter.  Back to taking notes. Switch back to twitter to see that someone from #MTBoS was in the same room.  Look around to see if I could find her, I can't.

I am normally a focused person.  In high school, I was a focused learner although the only distraction we had back then was doodling in the notebook and we got in trouble for that.

I was so distracted at the presentations, trying to take it all in, process it, not miss anything in my room or in any of the other rooms at the conference.  It was a good energy though, but after a few presentations, it gets tiring. 

The other thing that happened was when I was sitting at one presentation that wasn't that interesting.  Guess what?  I can get up and leave.  I see that my friend has texted me that she is in a better one.  I can go to where she is.

What if our students could just leave during our lessons if they weren't interested.  Yes, I would be insulted. 

I don't know if all these happenings were making me a good student or a bad student but rather just a different student with all the technology and trying to use them as tools to my benefit.