Sunday, October 23, 2016

Adobe Spark from #masscue16

I attended my first #MassCUE16 conference this week at Gillette Stadium.  It was so cool to be at Gillette for a conference.  Our school even got to go on the field for a picture:

#MassCUE16 stands for "Massachusetts Computer Using Educators" so it was a tech conference, not just related to math.  I went for two days.  We had some great keynote speakers and amazing breakfasts and lunches.  Thank you #MassCUE16.  Nicely done!

One of the presentations I attended was called "Using Adobe Voice in Math" - Yes, Math in the title - so I went!  It was presented by Annie Mazur from Weston Schools.  Here is the description:

"In this workshop you will have the opportunity to explore the Adobe Voice app and learn how it can be used in a math class. Workshop attendees will be able to explore the app and create their own Adobe Voice presentations."

Annie teaches middle school math and showed us Adobe Spark as a free program to add voice to slides.  She showed us middle schoolers working through a geometry problem and explaining their steps.  Their voices are so darn cute!  She said when she first learned about the program, she wanted to do it a lot but quickly realized, it takes a lot of time to grade them.  Something to consider.

Then, we got to play Adobe Spark is super easy.  You pick a background theme, chose from a great variety of pictures, choose some catchy music, and type in your problem.  For each slide, you are only allowed to speak for 20 seconds.  There is no editing.  If you make a mistake, you simply re-record.  Then, you save it and share it.

I was missing two days of class in my Accelerated Algebra 2 class.  They just tested on the first unit and were moving into Quadratics.  I was hoping it was mostly a review but we were doing Maximizing Revenue questions which are always challenging even when I am actually in the classroom.  So, I went home from day 1 of MassCUE and made one.

 I found a good problem online.  It had to do with a bus, so I found a picture, chose a background and some music.  I typed the beginning of the slides, then I did the problem out step by step.  I did one step, took a picture, did another step, took another picture, etc.  Uploaded the pictures and finally added my voice.  Super easy.  I think it took me a half hour.  I like the result.  I put it up on my Canvas class site and sent them an announcement to watch it the next day in class.

Here it is:

Maximizing Revenue

Alg 2 - Symbol Questions I Like

In Accelerated Algebra 2, I am making new graded assignment sheets.  In my old batch, I had one question with symbols that I really liked.  The students would struggle with it but they were very excited when they finally got it.  These "symbol" questions come up a lot in our math team competition so I think I found some of these there.

The kids are seeing more of them and are able to do them.  I am hoping they get one on our state test, the SAT, or the ACT because they will rock it.

Here are some of my favorites:

Alg 2 - Quadratics - a favorite question

Again, in Accelerated Algebra 2, I made new graded assignment sheets of 10 questions each, on any type of material.  In Accelerated Algebra 1, the students are introduced to the quadratic formula and imaginary numbers.  In Accelerated Algebra 2, we haven't reviewed this yet, so it was interesting to see what they remembered from Algebra 1 with this question.

This is another one of my favorite questions from a different assignment sheet.  Again, I apologize, I don't remember where I found it:

So much goodness - what is a root?  What is a quadratic equation?  What does "integral coefficients mean"?  And, then is that number one number or two numbers?

When I started doing this one myself, I started by thinking if this is complex root, there is another root that is subtracting the imaginary part and I can write these as factors and multiply.  It got messy.  I think I made a mistake and I was not successful, so I tried another method.

I decided to work through the quadratic formula backwards.  I saw a common denominator of 40 and worked from there.  It worked pretty well.  I could figure out "a" and "b" but c was still a fraction.  Some kids who worked through this wanted to hand it in with integer A, integer B, and fraction C.  Nope, what can they do?  They figured it out.  (I am not going to provide answers here.)  I was successful in this method though and really liked it - giving thought to how do you work with the "i" backwards, how do you work with number outside the square root backwards?

I also tried factoring backwards.  If I use "a" as one and try to factor forwards with the "what multiplies to "c" and adds to "b"?  Then, I could do that backwards.  I added them to get "b" and multiplied them to get "c".  I dealt with the fractions and voila!

Three great methods for this problem.  As I worked with students, I asked them some guiding questions to see what they remembered, decide what "root" they wanted to take (pun intended).

I like it!

Alg 2: Recursive functions - a favorite problem

This year in Accelerated Algebra 2, I decided to make new assignment sheets.  My assignment sheets are 10 questions long and assigned once every 7 day cycle.  They are collected and graded and can be on any material.  I do these to keep the math discussion going outside of the classroom and outside of what we are working on at the moment.  I got these new problems from SAT, ACT, and math team questions.  I don't remember where this particular problem came from, but it has been one of my favorites so far:

In class, we have not done recursive functions yet, but we have done function notation.  This really checks their understanding.  They think they start to figure it out and do f(2) but then they just use "2" for f(2).  They also want to try to find a shortcut to get to f(10).  I explain that they need to use the previous answer to get the next answer, so they cannot skip it.

Give it a try.  I like it.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Day In The Life: Post 2 #DITL Series: A Hurried Beginning: Oct 8

A Hurried Beginning to My School Year

This is the 2nd post in the Day in the Life of a Teacher Series

    I am taking a mini-family vacation to Maine to recoup and reconnect and to BREATHE.  The first thing I did when I got here was run down to the water and said "I can breathe!"

   It has been a hurried, chaotic, overwhelming beginning to my school year.  Just a combination of many things.  I feel like I am constantly working hard to do things on my to do list and making progress by prioritizing only to wake up the next day and having an even longer to do list.  I feel like a car constantly revving the engine and working hard, but this weekend is about putting it in neutral for a while as I recharge by the water and reconnect with my family.  Three of my four sons are here with us and my mother in law.  It is nice family time to eat dinners together, fish, throw the ball to the dogs in the water, play games.  I love it!

   We started our school year with being told we had to do 10 hours of mandated training on the computer by the end of September, so I sat with my computer over Labor Day weekend and did it.  Then, we were told they adjusted some of it to make it optional.  It still was 10 precious hours of my time.
   I had to write 17 letters of recommendation.  I do like writing them and bragging about the students.  I have most of them in Algebra 1 and 2 and some on Relay for Life, Cross Country, or Youth Group so there is a lot of good stuff to talk about, but again, takes time.  I wrote those all in September.
   I coach cross country boys.  There are 56 boys on the team.  We start a week before school which is good because there is so much paperwork to deal with - trying to collect all the boys' emails and their parent emails.  I need to make sure they have submitted their permission form and their up-to-date physical forms.  I ask them to email me their goals for the season.  I also have to design each practice as a differentiated school lesson because the runners come to me with a different base.  Some are capable of running 6 miles, so cannot run 1 mile, so I have three different plans each day.  We practice or race six days a week.  It is a second job and takes a lot of time.  The kids are great and make it all worth it though.
   Church Youth Group started up in September.  Three other moms and myself work hard to keep it alive.  We met with our group and came up with our school year calendar of events.  We had a parents' meeting that is not well attended to get other parents to help us plan and drive to events.  It is our church's 150th anniversary and we are getting for a big mass and celebration on Oct 23rd where our youth group will sing and serve.
    I am in my 12th year of teaching and decided some things needed some freshening up.  I teach three different classes - Accelerated Algebra 1 and 2 and Foundations of Algebra 1.  I decided my graded assignments needed to be updated.  These are 10 questions to be worked on outside of class and are due once a cycle.  Our cycle is 7 days.  I am getting the new questions from SAT, ACT, math team, and Exeter problems, but that means I need to do them first and decide if they are appropriate, type them, do an answer key.  It takes more time to grade them because I am not as familiar with the questions.  The questions are good and causing some great conversations for the kids.  I came up with a WYR: Would You Rather:
    **Would you rather be the student who does 10 challenging math problems in 7 days or
     **The teacher who has to read/decipher/find/analyze/grade 1100 math problems in 7 days?
     -->  I vote for being the student.
   I went to TMC16 (Twitter Math Camp) this summer and was inspired to try VNPS - Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces with VRG - Visible Random grouping - a fancy way of saying have the students in random groups working at the white boards.  It was a bit of work up front to buy and make the white boards and hang them in my room and I hold my breath every day that when I walk into my classroom, they will still be hanging.  It has been worth every bit.  It has changed the way I teach and I love it!  The problems the kids are working on are richer.  The conversations/discussions/debated are awesome.  Nothing like having a student physically step back and take a look at their group work.  I love it.  So, I am spending more time finding meaningful, meaty problems.
     I also decided I wanted to make new tests and quizzes for my Alg 2 class.  Again, find and write new questions, do edits, check for timing, do answer keys.
    All this happening, going on and BAM!  In mid-September, my father-in-law died.  It wasn't a surprise.  He was fighting all year.  He died of liver and kidney failure.  He was very sick and we were with him the day before he passed.  He lives 1 mile from us and was a very important person in our lives.  He was the most proud Grampa ever.  He went to every sport/ball game my kids had.  He just loved to brag about them all.  It was the first time my kids experienced someone close to them dying.  So, school life was put on hold as we planned the funeral and wake, shopped for clothes to wear, made a slide show, wrote a eulogy.  It was an exhausting week.  My students were great and understanding and gave me hugs.  My cross country captains came to the wake.  It was on our Back to School night so some of my teacher friends stopped in before they went back to school.
     Add to this I have one of my son's is a senior, so we are busy trying to get him to write his college essay, figure out where and if he might want to go to college, applying for financial aid and just trying not to miss any deadlines.
    Can you say crazy busy?
     That's why I needed a breather.
     Yesterday I tried paddle boarding.  It wasn't exactly fun given that the water in Maine is very cold and I didn't want to fall in, but I took the risk and did it!

      I caught a nice bass with lots of other little fish.

      The sun was beautiful yesterday.

      The sunset.

    And, then I woke up today and went for a run on these hills and it reminded of my year so far so I came up with a little prayer:

 May I always remember to notice my beautiful surroundings,
know the sun will continue to rise,
work hard on the uphills, and
breathe on the downhills. is time to fish!