Sunday, September 18, 2016

High School Senior First Week Struggles

One of my classes, (a senior remedial class) was not going well at all this first week. The students were not engaged, they didn't want to do any problems, they were not confident, they were struggling. I was struggling. So on Friday I tried something on completely different. 

1) I started off with socrative questions

1-What does math resilience mean to you?
2-Are you a math person?
3-Can you become a math person?

I got results that are exactly as you would think. They struggled a little bit with what math resilience meant but we talked it through.  

2) I showed them a Jo Boaler movie and asked what their thoughts were on it.

3) I did estimation180, did two of them (day 211 and day 212). I asked each person for guesses too high, just right, and too low for each one. Then they talked with the group and the group came up with a guess together. That they then shared with the class.

This worked well, everyone could at least guess, I asked the groups to explain their guesses and some groups explained great ideas while others just said "I dunno, I guessed" then I showed them the answers.

4) I had them do the student desmos activity polygraph lines (guess who for lines) 

They really enjoyed this once they understood what was going on. They used great words, like slope, intersections and if I noticed that some students weren't using those words I pointed to the projection and said " If you need some examples of good questions or other questions you can look up here" after that, most students were using great math terminology. 

5)  I finished with an exit ticket, asking them about the lesson.

1-What did you like?
2-What didnt you like?
3-What would you change?

I think it was really good for them to hear that I believed in them and that this year was about math resilience and becoming confident. They enjoyed today. Now just to make next week as good.

Monday, August 29, 2016

What I found this week in MTBoS 8/28/16

First Day Activities

As school is starting right around the corner and my school starts about a week after other schools I am going to post some first day activities that I have found and they look like something I could do.

Name Tents - Sarah V's post on how to use name tents to get to know your students better, and to have a dialog with each student every day.

Marshmallow Challenge - Spaghetti, tape, marshmallow... build the tallest tower in 18 minutes. Ready? Set? GO!

System of 6 equations - Giving students a problem that they will see later on in the year so that you can tell them they will find this easy, and so the students who know it all, know that there is something they don't know.

Birthday Treats - On the first day have students fill out a form, and on it is when is your birthday and what is your favorite treat. Then on their birthday bring it in!

What are 5 numbers that mean most to you - Have students fill this out and then later in the year use this information to create problems. Students don't realize where you learned these facts from. Its great!

Stuck on an escalator - Show a video of two people on an escalator that are stuck there. Shows students how silly they look some times. This post talks about how persistence and grit is good in a classroom.  Great post on intentional struggle, and how we can help students be successful at it. 

Getting to know you Quiz - Students create 6 questions and 4 multiple choice answers, then you take the quiz. They grade it and give it back.

Broken Circle - Each group member gets part of a circle, NO TALKING, NO TOUCHING OTHER LETTERS, and each person has to complete their circle. End of task review - no one is done until everyone is done, notice what other group members are doing. LOVE IT.

Content Ideas

5 ways to express a function - Thats it!

How to redesign a lesson - AMAZING, gives great examples, gives context and gives reason for why. This post is a great way get yourself geared up and excited to revamp some of your lessons.

Poster Ideas

Inequality VS Interval Notation 

Personal Badge - Create a talking point, using math symbols to create a badge around your neck and on the back some interesting hook about math like WODB. Great entry point for anyone to be engaged in math.

Classroom Sudoku - This is brilliant! Take a board in your room and put up a giant sodoku board, interactive, where students can put in numbers.

Yet Poster - I have always liked the concept of YET, or not YET. This post inspired me to create my own yet poster.

Classroom Activities/Lessons

Asymptote Investigation - Students look into what an asymptote is before they learn about it, self discovery.


Desmos Face - Students take a selfie and then trace their face using conics and functions. This is for Calc students to review some Pre-calc.

Asymptote Desmos Lesson - Introduction to asymptotes, and different examples of each. Little "quiz" at the end with a card sort.

How to GOOGLE - Teaching students how to google, on HW have phrases set up like "if you need more info google_____" then later on ask them what they could google as one of the Hw problems. Talk about how if you google that phrase they can then go to images or videos. On First day of the unit have them find 10 facts they know or could find using google.

Positive Struggle - Have students try to mimic a piece of cut paper

Desmos Derivative Card Sort - I stumbled upon this while on the MTBoS, Its a good way to check in with students to see if they understand the concept of a derivative.

Daily Ways to Run a Classroom 

Remind App - use it to set up lists of students to send out one mass text

Classroom Norms - A small list of individual norms, group, and class accountability. What is each person accountable in the different groups. Followed up by;
Cup questions - Students use different colored cups to display their confusion or questions. So the teacher and the group and other groups know if someone needs help.

Intentional Vocabulary - When using math vocabulary in a sentence, define the word in the same sentence, helps students fully understand what is being asked/said.

Opening/Closing 3 minute activities - Things to try in the classroom; Share one word, The reading minute, Closing statement. All good things to try.

Everyone has to raise their hand  - What a great idea! Everyone has to raise their hand in order for the teacher come over and answer a question.  This forces students to talk to each other before they raise their hand.  My only worry, is this going to prevent questions from being asked if students have to have the whole group know they have a question? Im just starting out (my second year) and trying to find that balance for students to feel comfortable to ask questions.

Classroom Setup 

Positive and Negative Infinity - Post a + and - over the whiteboard.

Can it fit into the daily lesson?

Math Talks - Start off the lesson with 112-29, have students do it in their head. Then secretly give a thumbs up when they have it, so they can share their SOLUTION, then ask for another way.

Lagging HW with a twist - I wasnt a fan of the week lagging of homework because I teach at a private school and we only have 100 days of teaching... So for classes like Pre-Calc we teach a topic a day, and dont have a lot of room for taking multiple days to teach something.  But I do like the idea of keeping students thinking of topics for more then one day at a time. I found a middle ground I think, and I want to try it this year.
Day 1 - Lesson
Night 1 -  HW on easiest 33% of Day 1 Lesson

Day 2 -  Lesson
Night 2 - HW on easiest 33% of Day 2 Lesson AND on medium 33% of Day 1 Lesson

Day 3 - Lesson
Night 3 - HW on easiest 33% of Day 3 AND medium 33% of Day 2 AND hard 33% of Day 1

Reward good work - Having a sticker to put on students work to let them know they are doing an awesome job. Or just be more supportive when doing a problem correctly.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

What I found this week in MTBoS 8/21/16

Classroom Lesson / Activities

Domain and range - This is a way to help reenforce domain and range of a function, in a foldable notebook. Can be adapted for many other ways though. I like the idea of having range, and domain on the folds so students can see exactly what is going on.

Introduction to trig - When I read this I was hooked. Showing kids that slope is just another form of trig.. LOVE IT, and then it gets better with the math magic, having students create their own triangle and then "guessing" their angle based on two sides... So easy, so good, such a great hook

Problem based search engine - I have run into this before, and have used it to much success. But I found it again and wanted to keep track of it, so I put it here! Thanks Robert Kaplinsky.

AP Calculus Checklist for Students - This teacher listed out each topic in AP Calc that students should be able to do.  In each chapter its a list of "I can" statements that students will be able to answer.

Brain Breatks - I really like this idea. I know I was one of those students who would do really well on this idea. Ive been thinking about adding things to my clock so that I know when students are at their best (first 10-15 minutes) at their worse (the middle) and when they may check back into the lesson (at the end). Maybe in the middle I could do a 2 minute brain break.... Hmmmmmm

Something like this, only not elementary school

Debate in a math classroom - I like this idea a lot, using a specific day for students to challenge others on a topic. WODB, WYR, are just a couple ways to get the room into different groups and debating using their math terminology and ideas.

SaraVanderwerf 100 Numbers - This activity is great, its GREAT, absolutely great for getting students in a spot to realize what great team work looks like. I really like this. Students are given a sheet with 1-100 listen on it and they have to highlight in turns all the numbers 1-100. Then you take pictures of them working and show them after, explaining that this is what great group work looks like.

SaraVaderwerf Think STAND Pair Share - Think pair share, but after they think have students stand and walk to another student and then share. Getting students out of their seats helps out a lot to keep them going, focused and just down right happy. Love it.

SaraVaderwerf Add it up - Groups of 4, each student has a problem to do, and the solution you give them is the sum of all their solutions. So if they dont have it correct then they need to go back and check all of them.

Parners Add it up - Add it up in partners!


Stick figure dances to music while showing the parent graphs for trig.

Classroom Policy

Steps to formalize routines - This teacher put in words what I was trying to do in my classroom with having students ask questions to each other before they asked me. Group work norms.

Data Wall - Not really a policy but a great classoom idea. Love it, show the data from tests and quizes. Or even Hw. So kids know where they stand and what they have to do.'

Daily HighFive - Every day make it a habit to give every student a high five, either as they enter, as they exit, or in the hallway. Get to be someone in their life they look forward to getting a high five from.

SLOW MATH DOWN - I really like this post, has great content and a great message, slow math down. How one teacher slowed the math in her classroom so students felt like they could think!

Group responsibly cards - 4 different group member jobs and description of their roles, so everyone in each group knows who is doing what.

Standards Based Grading Letter to Parents - Great letter to parents, says a lot of great things.  Has examples of current grading and what SBG will do better or change.


Homework Video Problems - This is a great idea, I dont think I could do it just as they would but I would change it up a bit. Having students make a video of one problem and then look at another students video and follow along and comment on what they think of it.

Lagging Homework - Ive been thinking about this off and on, and I like the idea, but I don't know how receptive my school would be about this.  I might try this with one unit and see how it works.

Hope Punch Reward - Giving kids hole punches for doing their homework, and then after they get 10 or some amount they get a free 100% quiz grade.  I like this but dont feel I need it in my classroom, my students are pretty good about doing their homework, and are usually on top of things.

Helpful Classroom Tools

Poster Maker - How to make a normal picture or doc into a poster! Easy.

Posters for Classroom - I got a bunch of great ideas off this blogger and blog post. Tons of great posters to put up in the classroom.

Classroom Posters - Here is a blog about one person's classroom, good posters.

Name Tents - Typical name tents with a twist! On the inside is a spot for students to write comments/questions to the teacher, and then the teacher replies. Good start of the year way to get to know your students.

Classroom Look - I think this room has great organization, I like the concept of only put upon your walls what you refer too daily. Nothing more.

Rolling the Dice - Using writable dice to replace worksheets.  Write expressions, or concepts, or operations, or anything. Students roll the dice and do what is written on them. Fun way to have students 'control' what they do.

First Day Describe Me - Sheet for the first day of class that goes through who I am in multiple ways.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Classroom Ideas

My new classroom

Last year was my first year teaching, and my focus was not really on how my classroom looked. I had math posters, and the usual suspects but nothing that screamed awesome math classroom. So this year I want to change that. Ill post again when I have my room set up and see what comes of it.

I like this, because I could do it in radian - giving students another exposure to it.

Using this for any assignment, HW, Quizes, Tests, showing students how they did vs the class. Or create a competition between groups or something.

This looks very interesting, I wonder if I could create a rotating unit circle... Hmmm.....

Ive seen words like this that are around the clock.  I like this one a lot.

Follow the trend of either HW or assessments of the class a whole. Still thinking about this one.

I always got the "I dont know" last year, and I hated it. So here is an easy way to fix that. I started asking "okay, then ask a question" but they sometimes clammed up.

Simple, yet great.

Great Motivational posters.

Just some humor added to the room.

Having students be proud of their work is great to share!

Great way to get kids thinking before they ask something.

More classroom humor.

Exit Ticket anyone?

Great poster on Mindset growth.

Awesome idea to share with students how math is learned so they can see where they are in the process. 

It seems that some of my students struggle with this, so its a great and simple idea to put it up.

Another poster on what to ask, or how to ask questions.

Students struggled with the new symbols, so why not make a poster of them?

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Apps, Widgets, Websites that I use in my classroom.

Lets start off with the one that has taken my heart. It is wonderful. Simply wonderful.


If you dont use this in some form in your classroom you should start thinking about a way.  This site is great.  I use it in a bunch of ways;

    1. Graphing Calculator

When a student is unsure of something, how it looks or what happens when I change ______ we pull up desmos and look.  When we are introducing transformations, its so easy to get an equation with variables and use the sliders.  For projects where students have to create a graph and then come in with it printed. Desmos is there for us.

    2. Activities

Any of their pre-made activities are great, or just create your own. Easy entry but a lot can be done with it;

  Card sort, Marble slide, Graph draw, Create your matching graph, Hidden folders...

    3. Check-ins

At the start of class have students create a function that shows a property, or display a property that I want them to then show me another function that has the same. Its an easy way to see if they understand or don't.  Plus in small groups they can work together or separate and then compare what they created.

Echo Smart Pen

I haven't used this yet, but my department got one over the summer and I want to pilot it.  The idea is to have students take it home and do a homework problem while using this pen. The pen records their voice and their scribe to a file that can be then viewed.

Its a way to get into a student's head, and hear their thinking out loud.

I use this every day in my classroom.  This site is a quizlet type site, a kahootz type site. It is a site where you can pre-make a quiz, and have students do it with instant feed back while having teachers see how many correct and all that.  Students can access this on any device. Computer, tablet, smartphone, ipad... all of the above, just need an internet connection.

What I use it most for is the exit ticket.  Its pre-made and leaves a question at the end for you to make up for your kids. So you could ask, what did you think of? OR what would you change about? OR how would you? and at the end there is a free response question for the students to do.  I usually ask what students would change or improve about the lesson.  Probably 60% of their feed back is "I liked it all" or "Dont change a thing" But every once and a while you get that diamond in the rough, which makes you think... oh yeah, I could do that!

What I found this week in MTBoS 8/14/16

Classroom activities

Four in a row - problem numbers are on a grid 6x6 or 8x8 and if a student gets a questions right they put their name in that number. First person to get 4 names in a row wins!

Families of curves - I found this a couple weeks ago but revisited it this week. I really like the ideas going on here, just letting students explore math and curves. Students create "pretty" looking functions by setting up a function and then a list, that changes one variable. Sam Shah, always spot on in his ideas.

Trig Identities - Start off with 1 = 1 and then have students come up to the board changing one side. Then after they do some steps, they end up with their own identity. I would like to have students (in groups) do this, and then see if the other group can go backwards. Start off at their identity and end up with 1 = 1.

Easy way to review - This is a great way to review problems that students should already know.  Leave something out!

Classroom Setup

I really like how this room looks, I already have groups of 4 in my classroom and having each student have a white board or having their own standing whiteboard would be awesome.

This easy DIY standing whiteboards would be great to have a couple for students to work with, easy / cheap to make too!

Blogs to revisite

I did not read this one, but I do want to come back to it. It is 11 essentials for portfolios, I want to try doing some portfolio work this year in pre-calc. Maybe test it out in my FST course, a course between algebra 2 and pre-calc.

I found this blog while on pintrest looking for AP calculus projects. She does a related rates shoebox project that is pretty nifty. I wish I had time to do it

How I would like homework to be


Last year was my first year teaching, my first year collecting homework, and my first year grading homework. After this past year, I now understand why my math teachers didn't always give it back the next day, or that week, or even back at all. Holy cow what a time consumer.

What I did:

What I started doing the first trimester was to collect the homework every day, and grade it every day. All of my classes, every night.  Then in the winter trimester I got lazy, I started to pass it all back at the end of the week.  I didn't give it back every day.  I noticed that students were doing poorly on quizes and doing the same mistakes they did on their homework. Problem was, they didn't know it was wrong. Because I didn't pass back the homework quickly, I never told them it was wrong.

What I started to do at the end:

The last trimester I think I found a middle ground that I liked.  They would come in every day and for the first 3-5 minutes they would correct their own homework.  I had answer keys that I passed out, to each group. (I had groups of 4, each group would get 2)  They passed in their corrected homework for me to finalize into a grade.

I liked this system, the students got immediate feed back and I didn't have to grade every problem!

  • Some students just copied problems they didn't do
  • Some students didn't grade, just gave them selves a 100%
  • Some students would be so worried about getting a bad grade that they would only correct some of it because I asked them too. (They showed an effort to make me think they corrected it all)

  • Immediate feed back
  • Less grading I had to do
  • Students could see that others got problems wrong as well.

How I want to improve for this year:

  1. I want to have students to be able to self grade their homework so they can see what they got wrong, or how they got it wrong. 
  2. I want students to be excited when they solved it a different way then I did.
  3. I want students to be focused on the steps they messed up on and not the fact their answer doesn't match.
  4. I want students to know they were not the only ones that got that problem wrong.
How I plan to do these things;

  1. I will hand out the answer key, either typed (if I find myself bored with nothing else to do) or copy the already done hand written key for students to compare their homework with it.
  2. Students will (if they got the problem wrong) HIGHLIGHT the step in which their homework does not match my homework
  3. Students will write on the top of their homework the problem number they did differently then mine, and I will give them a shout out or something next class for creative thinking.
  4. If a student gets a problem wrong they will put a tally next to the number on the key, when I collect the key's I will say "Looks like 3 people got ____ wrong, 5 people got ____ wrong, those must have been tricky." Or something. So students know others got them wrong.
  5. Have students only have a green pen and highlighter to write in while grading their homework.

How to grade?

I struggle a lot with this one.  I agree with a lot of research out there that giving feed back is always better then a grade.  I want to try doing this, no grades just feed back on the homework. I will write each student comments on the problems they got wrong, or the steps they got wrong.  

But my school loves grades. So to grade the homework I will grade them on:

  • If they graded it correctly.
    • If a student didn't correct a problem then thats points off. 
    • If a student put in an honest effort.  
    • If a student doesn't highlight what their error was then more points off. 
    • If a student clearly wrote in what I had as an answer and didn't attempt a problem, then points off.
    Im still thinking about this one. Last year each homework was out of 100% (school standard) and so I did 50% if completed and turned in on time, and 50% correctness. So basically if they turned it in on time and did well then they got between 85% and 95%. Which for homework effort is just fine with me.

    How do you do homework?

    Any helpful hints for a new teacher?

    Thoughts on my idea?