Saturday, July 30, 2016

BASS Linear Algebra


That title still cracks me up, apparently the person that named the course didnt realize it was an upper division college course. Oh well. This was a course on linear equations. Lines. Slopes. Intersections.

This was the first time I have ever created my own curriculum and taught it for more then a couple lessons. HOLY COW ITS HARD. I didnt expect it to take 1-3 hours per 55 minute lesson block. But I got through it and here are some things I tried and I tried a lot of things in the four weeks;

Barbie Bungee

This lesson on paper is awesome. It has modeling, written math, visuals, and doll manipulatives! What could go wrong? Well... How about a poor plan, unstructured lesson, little guidance and to wrap up. YIKES! My first time teaching this lesson and almost everything went wrong.

I think my biggest problem was I didnt spend enough, if at all, time predicting what students would do once they got into the lesson.  I started the lesson off full of hope that the students would rush in, and dive right into the math... Nope.  They started tying all the rubber bands onto the feet and then not measuring and just guess and check. Guess and check. Guess and splat goes the barbie... It was chaos, I did circulate to the different groups and steer them back to the modeling. It didnt go as planned at all.

I needed to create better directions, have students collect rubber bands after they have finished modeling the ones they had. I needed to have groups present, or look at each others graphs, or talk about their equations. Something that would show other students what they were doing and seeing if we had a trend.  Maybe try to put it in a desmos class activity so I could project it...  Lots to think about.

Would you rather?

The question was would you rather have to carry 30 bath towels? OR Carry 80 Bars of soup? I projected the picture Up on my board and let the kids get to it. It was a great way to start off the summer session with a open ended question that they looked dumbfounded at me for a bit until they realized I didnt have an equation for them to use.

I brought in a bathroom scale, 5 towels, and 8 bars of soap.  They started by making a prediction, and then getting into groups based on similar predictions.  They then had to create mathematical reasoning to prove to me that their prediction was possible or that they were going to change their stance.

This worked out really well, groups did it different ways. Some did by size, 12 soap fit in the 'volume' of a towel, some did by weight.  They talked about their answers as a class at the end and we had some really good thoughts.

I did more Would You Rather's over the past month of BASS,


I used desmos a lot. A LOT.  I explored lots of other activities that have been created.  The top one for students was polygraph lines.  They liked how they had different partners each time, and how they had something to interact with.

Students had "homework time" and I sometimes sent them home with a Desmos activity to do. My favorite activity to see where students were at with slope was sketchy lines.

Cup modeling

I got this activity from @MaryBourassa (who got it from Dan Meyer @ddmeyer) at Phillips Exeter Math  Conference.

The idea is to use cups to stack up to the teacher's height. BUT students only get 10 cups. They then have to predict how many cups it will take to stack upto the teachers height.

This is the worksheet I used (Thanks Mary)

Students worked well together and created all different ways of doing it, this was much more structured then the barbie bungee.

Story of two lines

I really didnt have an expectation for this one.  I went to desmos and graphed two lines that intersected.  I then had students graph the two lines and write a story about them. 3-5 sentance story at least.  Once they had their story, I broke them into partners and had them share their stories. They then needed to create a better story then their originals. This was my lead in to intersecting lines. Im not sure what the students got out of it, but it sure was interesting listening to what they came up with.

Card sorting!

I found a card sorting desmos activity that came right after my pattern matching lesson, it was great. Kids struggled a little bit, but I think that's because it was the first time anyone has told them that there can be multiple representations to the same thing...

BASS Summer School

At some point during the year I was asked to do BASS, Brewster Academy Summer School. A four week program, that was not for credit but rather for students that wanted more experience with subjects or their parents sent them there.

When I signed my contract I was told "Do whatever you want, they are here to experience good mathematics" So... I did whatever I wanted, and boy was it A LOT OF WORK.  They never teach you how much work writing your own curriculum is. How much time and effort that goes into each lesson.

I taught three sections "Linear Algebra" which was all about lines, I guess no one told them linear algebra was not what they thought. The second was Quadratic algebra, and the third hands on geometry. All I will write about separately.

I was lucky, I had just come out of a week with @MaryBourassa learning about fun activities we can implement in our classrooms.  So I had a head full of ideas on what things I wanted to try. What a better testing grounds for new ideas then summer school?!

My school and our curriculum

My school is fantastic, of course I have only worked at one school so I dont have much to draw on. But my school is great. I love working here.

I work at Brewster Academy, a private boarding school in Wolfeboro NH.

Its on the shore of Lake Winnipesaukee, its absolutely beautiful. You could not ask for a more distracting view. Although the winters are a bit cold if you're not used to New England winters.

But, enough showing off and bragging...

My school is divided into teams, one freshman team, two sophomore teams, two junior teams and one senior team.  Each team has one teacher of each core subject, two instructional support teachers, and one or two art teachers.  The senior team has double the amount of teachers but still meets as one team.

My department has eight teachers, one freshman, two sophomore, two junior, and three senior teachers.  We meet once a week to talk about the going on's in our school and in the department. There is not as much collaboration or sharing of ideas that I would like to see, but we have a new department head this year so hopefully he will turn it around.

Our Curriculum  Last year was my first year teaching and I love teaching. I didnt like the way I ended up teaching what they gave me.  At the start of the year my mentor math teacher handed me a flash drive and said "here, this is all the packets for the whole year." I went home and opened it up on my computer, and there was a folder for each unit and a daily packet.  Each day I printed out the packet for the class and went through it.

They are all about direct teach;
  1. The teacher explains what the students are going to do today
  2. The teacher does a couple examples
  3. The teacher has the students (that are in groups of 4) work on examples and floats around the room
  4. The teacher goes over anther set of examples
  5. Rinse and Repeat
EVERY DAY I was doing this... Now for a first time teacher this was fine for me because I was trying to keep a hold of everything else that comes with teaching, and not having to worry about what I was going to be doing the next day was a HUGE PLUS.

That lasted all about 3 months.

As winter rolled around I started to realize that the students were just memorizing facts and examples. SURE they were working together, but the "accelerated" students would finish and then the "standard" students would just copy off them... 

I was frustrated, I was disappointed as to how I was teaching our students. So I googled "great math lessons" found Dan Mayers site and then it all started.

ted talks

The flood gates opened and I was overwhelmed quickly, VERY quickly... 

At the end of the year our school sends two math teachers to the Phillips Exeter Anja S. Greer Math Conference.

Where I meet a lot of awesome people and took a class that @MaryBourassa taught, and I honed my inner passion to change what we do.

What I want to do/try this year;

-Actually have ACTIVITIES in my classroom
-Spiraling part of one of my classes
-Go grade less or at least standards based grading
-Create great hooks at the start of each lesson
-Which on doesnt belong

How I got here.

Who am I and what is my story?

In May of 2014 I graduated from Keene State College with my B.S. in Mathematics.  I had finished the education track except for the student teaching, which meant I didnt have my teaching licence.  I had gone to school to become a math teacher and I was so close to finishing.  At that point I was over saturated with school and I threw in the towel and took my math degree and left.

A year later in the summer of 2015 I applied to work at a local restaurant in Wolfeboro.  The owner of the restaurant asked me in my interview what I do when Im not here.  I told her that I went to school to become a math teacher and I had my degree in math.

BOOM, just like that my life changed.

It just so happened that she was on the board of trustee's at the local private school and that school needed a math teacher. So I dressed all fancy, went to the school and interviewed. Two days later they called me and offered me a job as one of two junior math teachers.

September 14th 2015 I started my career as a high school math teacher in my first classroom ever!!!