My budding love of teaching, stemming from my larger love of math and learning

Friday, December 9, 2011

One More Reason To Help Me Know I Am Doing Something Good

Another dedication...and this one I know to be for real. 

It helps remind me that I am doing good things by being a teacher. I am realizing that I do have some great student/teacher relationships this year. Of course I have bad days, but each little conversation that is positive keeps me going. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Preparing for Tests

Recently, I have been really trying to stress "STUDY" and what it really means. In math it doesn't just mean, "oh I'm going to look through my notes", and it doesn't start the night before the test. But my kids don't get it. And I am not sure that I figured it out in math until grad school. But I am trying to communicate what I know now and had wish I had known then...
I have started giving out a "preparing for tests" review sheet about a week before the exam (hoping that next year I can be organized enough to give it at the start of the chapter, but I don't always know if I am going to use the Mid Chapter Quiz or Practice Test as take home items). 

Last test, I know that at least 1 student used it because I got an email from a parent when she didn't do so hot on her test saying she studied and even used the review sheet. 

But freshmen and sophomores don't really know how to study and freshmen don't even understand the idea of a cumulative final. 

This needs work, but I think it is a good start.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Math Videos

I'm trying to write a rubric for a 2nd semester project in geometry. I don't want everyone to do videos, but the ones below are sooooo funny!!! And I know that I have creative enough students if I give them enough time.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Thank Goodness for Thanksgiving Break

Those who are not teachers are always saying, "...but you get so many breaks...", and thank goodness we do. As I was heading into this week off I was so thankful, because I was starting to be ornery to my kids, to my coworkers, to friends. 

But one great thing happened this week: A young man, who misses a lot of school, who is troubled in so many ways, but is more intelligent then he gives himself credit (or other people give him, for that matter too!), walked into class on Thursday with a 52%. He walked out with a 71%. Turning in missing work does wonders!!!!!!!  He beamed when I told him his updated grade.  Hopefully, he keeps up the work through the rest of the semester.

I also received this dedication: 

For the record: I always want to help him, and he does come in to ask, although this student spends more time in the hallway then he does him class. And not that he is a behavior issue because he is mean and defiant, he just has some focus issues. 

I can't decide if this is suppose to be funny, sweet, or if its making fun of me?!?!?!?!?!

Oh and this was on his English project...nothing to do with actual math class. 

Last week, this same student move their desk into my "space" (aka right up next to my desk) because he missed me. This was during a quiz, so I tried to not make a big deal of it. I wish I had had someone else take a picture because the situation can not be described in words. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

All or Nothing Quiz

A few weeks back I gave the students an opportunity to get 100% on a quiz. The catch...I was super picky on formulas, work and notation, and if they were not 100% correct, they got a 0% (which I never put in the book, but the students still freaked out). I called it an All or Nothing Quiz.

I have 4 Geometry classes and about 70 students in those sections. I gave the kids an incentive of a sweet treat if everyone in one section got 100% on the first try. I was sure one of the classes could do it. Boy was I wrong!!!

Only 8 students got 100% the first try and boy did I upset some kids.

The type of problems that I put on the quiz: Draw an angle of a specific measure; Measure an angle; distance formula; 2 multi-step, variable on both sides problem.

Students didn't get 100% for things like: not writing the distance formula (and a formula is an equation, NOT an expression!!!!), not labeling the angle correctly (including arrowheads on the rays), giving a positive answer when it should have been negative.

I got responses of the sorts: "you gave me a zero because I didn't write d =?", "Just because I didn't label the angle I have to do this again?", or "my negative is up here, just not on the answer!"

I kind of felt bad, but I wanted them to be aware of the little things that effect their grade. These are things that they normally loose points for, but very little in the scheme of their entire grade. But those little things will be really big things later on. And actually the writing the whole formula is huge because they don't know how to work backwards in equations...because they do not write the ENTIRE formula!

I felt bad until one of our book study sessions. We are reading two books, which is another whole post in itself. But I did get something from from the book that my group is reading: Driven By Data - A Practical Guide to Improve Instruction. There is a section called "Increasing Rigor Throughout the Lesson", and guess what? I AM DOING SOME OF THESE THINGS!!!! YAY!!!

From the document:
Model "Right is right": press to get the 100 percent correct answer.

I take this as, "I can do these all or nothing quizzes and the students hate them because they hold them accountable".

I still have 3 or 4 kids that haven't got a 100% yet, I am going to have to follow-up with them this coming week.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

TIME: ‘Digital Literacy’ Will Never Replace The Traditional Kind Read

I follow Education Nation put out by MSNBC. I think that they post great articles and are a supporter of educators. Not that I agree with EVERYTHING they put out, I would say I probably agree with 90%.

This morning they posted an article by Time Magazine by Annie Murphy Paul talking about how digital literacy is important but not as import as traditional learning.

Some of my favorite quotes from the article:

1) "It would seem clear that what Leu’s seventh graders really require is knowledge: some basic familiarity with the biology of sea-dwelling creatures that would have tipped them off that the website was a whopper (say, when it explained that the tree octopus’s natural predator is the sasquatch)."

HAHA Sasquatch!!! Although I shouldn't laugh to hard, because my father makes a really convincing argument on the existence of such a creature.

2) "In their view, skills trump knowledge, developing “literacies” is more important than learning mere content, and all facts are now Googleable and therefore unworthy of committing to memory."

I think that learning "how to learn" and "literacy skills" are important. I am not a huge proponent of the need to plug and chug to just have to regurgitate the knowledge for some end of the year assessment. But that is where are education system is and that is what is expected of our students when then entire post secondary institutions. But then again, I do believe in a classical type of education. So I guess I am a little wishy washy.

3) “But if you focus on the delivery mechanism and not the content, you’re doing kids a disservice.”
I agree, so maybe I am not as wishy washy as I thought.

4) "Just because you can Google the date of Black Thursday doesn’t mean you understand why the Great Depression happened or how it compares to our recent economic slump."

WHY WHY WHY? Even in my math classes I ask my students "WHY?" They hate it! HAHA

5) But such skills can’t be separated from the knowledge that gives rise to them. To innovate, you have to know what came before. To collaborate, you have to contribute knowledge to the joint venture. And to evaluate, you have to compare new information against knowledge you’ve already mastered.

TRUE THAT!!!!!!!!!

6) At Google and all these places, we make technology as brain-dead easy to use as possible. There’s no reason why kids can’t figure it out when they get older.” What they won’t figure out is deep reading, advanced math, scientific reasoning — unless we teach them.

YES, they NEED US!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Great Article...and it mentions Sasquatch.

Saturday, October 8, 2011


Since day one of teaching I liked the idea of a warm-up or bellringer. Originally I had student do it on a half a sheet of paper and turn them in. The result: these sheets of paper would just pile up on my desk (or at this time I didn’t really have a desk so they would pile on my in roll-a-desk), and I wouldn’t get around to grading them for weeks because I had to lesson plan or grade quizzes and homework. Then I had student do them in there notebooks at the beginning of each day, but then I didn’t check notebooks like I originally intended because I was always planning or grading quizzes and homework.

New solution: I created a warm-up sheet where each day students date the box and complete the warm-up in this box. Then at the end of the chapter I collect them. I decided this was AWESOME and I was so clever…until I collected them the first time...

A lot of students did not put any effort or pride into completing these. Students didn’t even number them when there was more than once problem to do. Problems were out of order in the boxes, and one student even had 3 different sheets even though there were only 5 days of warm-ups!

When I handed this set back, I explained that next time the warm-ups needed to be in chronological order, as well as be numbered if there is more than 1 problem. If you are absent a day, it is your responsibility to get the warm up. Once a week I am uploading a document with the warm-ups on the class website where the student can go to get the problems. I think some of them think I am kidding. But I think I have covered my butt by having it in multiple places that things need to be turned in to me in order and if they aren’t they will not be graded. Hopefully, there won’t be any arguments, but I keep you posted.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Read Direction Much?

I ask you, what is UNCLEAR about the following statement:

"Put the letter of the answer on the line. Failure to do so will result in a score of zero for that problem"

Apparently everything!!! Multiple students received a score of zero on the first page of their Ch 1 test today.

I hate to read directions (that's why I don't bake), but it is a necessary evil of this world. I beg of you to please don't let students get away with NOT reading directions.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander

Barbara Coloroso...ever heard of her? If not look her up. She is a educator, who speaks about parenting, conflict resolution, and bullying.

She spoke to our students about bullying, they seemed engaged, but let's see if what she said translates to our school culture.

She then spoke to parents and community members. Again, she had great things to say.

I would write more, but I am so tired from this week. I will write more after I start reading her book 'The Bully, the Bullied and the Bystander".

Monday, June 13, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Are you SURE??

Final reviews...I am kind of enjoying this time. Why you ask? Because I can give the students packet of problems and they have to do them. My room is quiet for the most part. I allow students to have side conversations, as long as they are doing math problems in between. I have given the students an answer bank, so as they do problems they can check to see if the answer is there.

Is it bad that I find joy in telling overly confident students that they are doing the problem wrong when they can't find there answer in the bank?

Now I am not mean about it. I try to tell them that they have only done half the problem or that they are missing a piece of information, or are they SURE that that's the height of the prism. But when they start to argue, I get a little defensive. I make mistakes...sure, and I admit them. But I have a few students that just never want to admit they are wrong.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

End of the Year Review Woes!

I have NO idea how to review for the end of the year. My heart says, "Make it Fun, make it meaningful, make it so they REMEMBER!" But my head (or logically side) says "PLUG AND CHUG!"

There have been some great games posted on others' blogs lately. Miss Calcul8 has had Fish Pong and Ballon Pop. Bot of which I think are GREAT games. I think I may play Fish Pong in my pre-algebra class, but I am struggling with Geometry.

Why? Don't they deserve to have fun too?

Well, yes, but I don't know that I want to put myself through the stress. I am not up for the arguments that these students can put forth. I am not up to making sure that EVERYONE is participating, and trying to hold EVERYONE accountable. I am not up for making sure that my power point has no mistakes (I guess I could do problem on paper under my document camera) or taking the risk that my computer won't crash (you never know).

Is it harder/more time consuming to put together this review game, or to just make a review sheet? On top of continuing to unpack my apartment, to plan for Sophomore River Trip (I'm head program and more on JRT later), to try to find a summer job, and to try to figure out how to pay for a Grand Canyon Trip I have been invited on, I just don't want to be creative about end of the year review!

The least I am not searching for a job!

Thursday, April 14, 2011


NTOB = New Teenager on the Block

I can't say that I have ever been the new kid or teenager on the block. I have been the new adult on the block, several times in the last decade, but that is sooooooo different than in those formable years.

We have a new student at school. How hard it must be to move to a new school with 30 days left to the school year. I'm going to call this student "Larry".

I received an email from our counselor on Tuesday afternoon with Larry's grades...straight A student. He was being placed into my Consumer Math class. And with only one male in their currently, I was excited that there would now be another one in there.

Yesterday, Larry joined us for class. He slept through a video that I showed on 'Extreme Couponing', and I thought "OH NO, is he really a straight A student". But when I passed out the worksheet on calculating discounts, he was the only student that didn't need some guidance. He responded to me with "Yes, Ma'am" or "No, Ma'am", something rarely heard in our high school. And I'll admit, I got excited.

Well my enthusiasm was short lived. Today, I couldn't get him to do anything for the first part of class. I don't believe he filled in any blanks while watching the video. When I passed out the worksheet for the day, he just sat there. When I approached him to see if he needed help getting started, he said, "Well, I'm just going to fail this class anyways."

This SHOCKED me. He is a straight A student coming into a class that everything is OpenNote. But then he elaborated:
"I don't want to be here. If I fail, I can go back to Florida. I'm never going to play football again, so why does it matter?"

I did speak to him in the hallway and tried to convince him to do the work because if he does get to go back to FL then he would go back with his straight As not with failing grades. And that he would want to keep up his grades so that he can play football in the fall.

Long story short: Larry is a new kid at school. He is lonely. He misses his friends. He probably misses the warm weather of FL on this February-like day in April in Colorado. I can't even imagine how he feels.

On my way home from school today, I saw Larry hitching a ride. I drove passed him and then turned around to give him a ride. I know, as a teacher I shouldn't be picking him up, but I just felt like I needed to.

I think he was surprise to see that it was one of his teachers. I asked him where he was going and if his father knew where he was. He was going to the restaurant (well, ok, its really a bar) a the bottom of the hill to my neighborhood. I asked him why. His response:
"Its the only place I get service so I can talk to my friends in FL". Ok, my heart officially broke.

So to add to the list of new school, feeling lonely, feeling cold, NOW he doesn't have cell phone service!?!?!???!?! (We live in a rural mtn community where only Verizon works).

Again, I can't even imagine. And yes, I have tears in my eyes, just thinking about this kid.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Facebook...a success?

Well, I think I did it. I think I made a Facebook page for my math classroom.

I was able to create a fan page, linked to my personal page. I created a fake account with an email that I don't really use to test it out. My fake account "liked" the page and the newsfeed post appeared.

I'm pretty sure that I am not able to link to my personal page because I am not "friends" with my fake page. When my fake account is on the classroom page, I can't find any way into my personal page. There isn't even a picture of me.

I went to a couple pages that I "liked", for example Kindle. I can't see other users profile pics, only when they post a comment. There are 799, 155 people that like the Kindle page, but I don't know who...this is what I want my classroom page to be like. And I think it is...

So why am I nervous to roll it out to my students...because I am afraid there is a super smart one that will be able to hack into my personal account.

I now have 23 students that "like" my mathmaticious Facebook page. It seems to be working GREAT. My students had a take home quiz this week. One student posted he had about one of the questions...I am sure my response helped more than just him.

A student who was absent yesterday walked in today and said, "I was able to figure out the homework last night, I got the homework assignment from Facebook. It's so cool you have it." (P.S. this is a student that I had major problems with earlier in the school year...not sure what has changed, but she is doing soooooooo much better!!)

So if anyone out there is thinking about creating a page for their classroom...GO FOR IT!!!!! I am glad I did.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Not That I Really Had The Time...

But I created a review activity for my students. And I must say I am super proud of myself.

I have been trying to get away from just giving them review problems in worksheet form, and getting more creative about how I give them problems.

For CSAP Review I used the math dominoes (idea curtsey of Amy G), it was a hit in my Pre-Algebra class and with most of my Geometry students.

I also used a index card review, where a card
had 1
problem on the front and the answer to the previous card on the back. I don't remember who's blog I saw this on, but when I can find it (i.e. remember) I will give credit to them for the idea. This worked GREAT in 3 of my 4 Geometry classes. The 4th class is a huge class, and honestly, nothing works for them. I could put $1M in
front of them, 24 large pizzas and all the soda and candy a kid could want, and someone (if not 10 of them) would complain.

I'll post my versions in another post (probably sometime next week...SPRING BREAK '11, OH YEAH!)

But tonight I created a review activity for the Transformations & Symmetry unit. I got this idea from Miss Cookie. I created a puzzle from scratch!!

I got a quote from a website with math quotes, and then I used problems from the resource master from my text book. And here is the


Saturday, March 26, 2011

FACEBOOK...anyone use it?

Well, Duh...everyone uses Facebook, right? Exactly why I want to use it in classroom, but I don't know exactly how to go about it.

There is a FB page for 'Educators using Facebook', but I really haven't found too many answers for the questions I have. I did find a post on someone else's blog titled 'Facebook in the High School Classroom', which had some good points, but as far as setting up a classroom page, I have some more questions.

These are my questions:
1) I currently have a FB page, where I DO NOT accept friend requests from students. Can I link a classroom page to my current login without my students having access to my personal page?

2) I don't want access to my students' pages, is is best to set up a Fan Page where my students can 'Like' the page? Mainly I just want my posts to come up on their newsfeeds.

I feel like I have more questions, I just can't think of them right now.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Scribing - A tech based instructional strategy for the math classroom.

For being a NCTM member I get the magazine "Mathematics Teacher". In the February issue there was a great article about using a tablet PC in your classroom for instructional time.

The article discussed the advantages of giving the tablet to a student and allowing them to be scribe for the day, which, hopefully, will increase discourse in your classroom.

I WANT ONE!!! I am not sure where or how I am going to find the money, but there has to be a grant out there somewhere for math teachers to use technology in their classroom.

My concern with using this is...I am afraid to give up control. I know, that sounds dumb and over-baring. Most students have a hard time staying organized when they are doing their math work, I think it is important to model for them, just to help them stay organized. But is this too much? Is this what the student meant when she said that I "over teach"?

Another concern is that the "advanced students" typically do not show all their work and have a hard time explaining themselves in class. They get frustrated when I slow them down and ask them to clarify their response; usually this means to give in a complete sentences. So what will happen when they are the scribe? Will they slow down and take responses from their classmates or will they just buzz through, which will then cause me to not allow them to be scribe.

Will my mid level students embrace this?

How do I get my lower level students to participate, i.e. be scribe, without putting their math skills in the spot light?

But regardless, I WANT ONE, and I am going to find a way to GET ONE!

Saturday, March 19, 2011


It has been 11 weeks since Winter Break. I am exhausted. Wait I am not sure that exhausted can truly describe what I am feeling. And we still have 2 weeks until Spring Break.

I need something to pick me up. I need something to pick up my kids.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

CSAP Prep...Need Some Creativity!

I sit here on a Sunday afternoon, really wanting to go skiing, but the idea of driving 50 miles to ski just a few runs is not logically. So instead I am trying to make a CSAP prep packet.

I don't really just want to hand the kids a bunch of released items, but I am not really feeling very creative. CSAP is in two weeks, and I have to do something!

The first district I worked for had an assessment program that each month the students would take. When I left I printed out a bunch of grade 9 and 10 problems that are aligned with CSAP standards. So I have a lot more problems then just the released ones from the state, but what to do with them...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Do I need to be more clear?

Well its been a while...3 months almost to the day. It has been crazy, busy, stressful...but I am surviving.

Some good news to start: I have been told that unless I would like to be looking for a new job, it is not necessary. Our district is going through major budget cuts AGAIN, but there is really no way they could cut the math department. It is a slight relief, but until that contract is signed and in my hand, I am going to be standing a little closer than I would like to the edge. But it is GOOD news.

I have been trying to do more investigations in my class. But it is so hard because my students are so ingrained to have everything spelled out for them step-by-step that they can't follow directions on there own.

At the end of the last chapter, I tried two different projects; one in class, one week-long project. Again I will say, it was the end of the chapter, so I would have thought that they could have applied what they have learned, use there notes, look up things in the book...I was wrong.

I have yet to grade either, but this is an initial observation:

Time for Rebound was in in-class activity based on similar triangles. The students were to try to knock over a cup by bouncing a ball off the know, like playing pool; angle in = angle out and proportionate sides.

I wouldn't say this was a disaster, but I also wouldn't say it was a success. I think that my mid level students (those that work their butt off for a low B or a high C) did the best. They worked through the problem and I had to give them very little "extra directions". But my higher level kids (those getting a high B or an A) had the hardest time. I think this quote should sum it up, "I don't know what to do, the directions just stop." WOW! was what ran through my head at the time.

Then I gave a take home project. It was to make a scale drawing of a room. It was an 6th grade level project that I added things (or took things away) to increase the level of difficulty. The initial project gave the scale factor (1 inch = 3 feet), which is appropriate for 6th graders. I changed it so that my students would have to find the scale factor, which was an objective of the chapter we just finished.

I added a reflection to this project, something I found as part of a similar project on the web. One of the questions was, "What would you change about this project?"

Many students said, "I would make the directions more clear." Now I ask: Are my directions unclear, or did the students not connect this assignment to all the HW problems they have done in the book/examples that I did in class? I really don't know. I did A LOT of problems where they have to find the appropriate scale factor. We also did lots of problems where we changed inches to feet using a conventional scale (12 inch = 1 ft), then changed it to fit our appropriate scale for a map.

Currently, there are LOTS of upper level kids that just aren't taking notes during class. But they were also the same students that were lost when it came to this project.