Tuesday, June 29, 2010


I stopped in at school today to pick up a couple of textbooks that I hadn't brought home with me (didn't think I'd need them!).  As I was walking down the hall to my classroom, I noticed that all of the rooms have nice new desks in them...
(Ours all have blue chairs.  But whatever. You get the idea.)

And then I got to mine... 

(Which are this style but not nearly as nice.)

What's a girl gotta do around this place to get new desks?!?

Wouldn't these be amazing?!  But it'd definitely be harder to keep the kids awake.

On a much happier note, we had an incident yesterday with the power cord for my tablet.  Seeing as how the battery on this thing lasts approximately 22 minutes, having a good cord is important.  I was a bit worried after a piece came off and the charger refused to work afterwards.  I stopped by the tech office at school today to find no one there - but I did find a big bin of random cords.  Luckily, one in the bin looked familiar, so I smuggled it out - and it works!  Thank goodness.  I don't think I could take an involuntary break from twitter right now. :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer to-do List

When the summer started a few weeks ago, I didn't feel like I really had that much work to do.  I'm teaching a new class next year (Algebra 1, which I've taught before) so that will take some time, but my other two classes are repeats from last year (and the year before.... and the year before....).  No problem, right?  All taken care of.

However, since I've been on twitter that much more this summer (don't tell my husband!  though I'm sure he probably knows), some more things have popped up that I want to figure out.

1.  Homework  - how do I want to do it?  I posted here some thoughts that have been bantered about... but now @druinok has me thinking about doing this, too (scroll down for her comments).  I like the idea of giving a list of assignments in advance and had thought about doing that for precalc.  Getting them checked (and signed for by me) before the test happens is something I still want to consider.

2.  Precalc - how do I want to do it?  I got the Workshop Precalculus book the other day but haven't had much time to look through it.  I'm hoping that it will cover a lot of the topics that the kids have seen before in a different way.  That'll hopefully help take some of the monotony out of the first quarter (or so) of school.  Not that I'm monotonous, of course, just doing the same thing over again can be. :)

3.  My focus the past few days has been the idea of Standards Based Grading (SBG).  It's a way of teaching/assessing so that the kids are really responsible for knowing their stuff.  Every person I've tweeted with has their own version, but I really like @k8nowak's version.  (Her jing screencast is here - that helped a ton!)  There's no way I'd roll it out for all three of my preps, but I'm thinking of trying to implement it in Algebra 2 - that's such an important year for them and I think using SBG would really make them learn their stuff.  Here are all of the links I've collected in the past few days tagged SBG.

I wish I would've done a little more work last week when my kids were out of town.  Instead, I had a great week of sleeping in, reading books, and going for runs.  I did get some work done - I de-wallpapered and painted my kitchen.  Whaddya think? :)

Monday, June 21, 2010

My book came today!  Not too bad for just ordering it late Thursday night, huh!

I'm excited to look through it and see what all I can use in Precalc (and Algebra 2, for that matter).  I'll get my book report done for you all when I get a chance. :)

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Diigo Updates (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Homework, anyone?

I had a great twitter conversation last night with @druinok, @jreulbach, @Mrs_LHenry (with some asides from @msgregson, @wmcneary, @mccormickmath, @samjshah, and @approx_normal and a couple of great links from @mrautomatic) that got me thinking about how I want to do homework next year.  I don't have anything concrete in mind yet, but here are some things that I brought from the convo. (If anyone needs some math people to follow on twitter, that's an amazing list up there!!!)

1.  Using some type of barometer for kids to show how much of an assignment they understood
      Options:  Green/Yellow/Red (cards taped on desk? write on paper?)
                     Sign-in sheet (or paper in their notebook?)

2.  Post homework answers in class for kids to check on their own (or just assign odds)

3.  Have kids write #s on the board for problems they want to see (keeps things anonymous, hopefully will get the shy ones to ask what they need to ask!)

4.  Differentiating Assignments - overlap problems (like Prob Set A is 1 - 10 and Prob Set B is 6 - 15) Let some kids choose which set, assign some kids a certain set.  But how to assess?  Same thing?  (Need to check with @k8nowak about her Easy/Hard worksheet.)

@jreulbach's wiki:  http://msmathwiki.pbworks.com
Differentiating Assignments blog post:  http://approachinfinity.blogspot.com/
Posting Answers blog post:  http://mctownsley.blogspot.com/

Oh, and @msgregson talked me into buying this project book for precalc...  just kidding!  But I did buy it last night and am so excited to see what it's got for me to use!  (This is hopefully more of what I'm thinking about doing this year....)

Monday, June 14, 2010

I'm trying to think through how I want to do precalc next year, but I've got a little girl pulling on my arm to read her a story...

Will definitely come back to this!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Some of the results from my end of year survey... My comments in italics.

Did you put forth your best efforts in this class?  Explain.

I got a bit lazy second semester, focusing on colleges and other classes a little more, but mostly, yes. I find that when the teacher takes the class seriously and does his/her best to actually teach the class for understanding (rather than the daily grind), I'm far more motivated to do the work.

(I don't know if that means he/she felt I taught the class for understanding or not... I'm hoping yes.)

I did and I did the best that I could.  Math isn't my strongest subject, but you made it both fun and entertaining, and you were probably one of my favorite Anderson teachers.
Did you feel comfortable asking questions or seeking extra help?  If no, please explain.

yes.  Although I never stayed after school frequently, I was comfortable asking for help, no matter how small.

Yes I did.  You are such a nice teacher that I never felt awkward if I didn't understand something.

(These were all yes's (yesses?).  Awesome to know.)

What advice do you have for me in teaching this course again next year?

I like the way you present notes.  I like doing bookwork and then doing worksheets after we've done a few sections.  Having only 10 - 15 problems a night was good, too.  I think more people did the homework because the number of problems didn't scare them away.

(I just went to 10 problems a night this year (odds only) in precalc, after years of doing 25 - 30.  The kids appreciated it, and their results were just as good.  I'm definitely going to stick with that for next year.  I'm determined to actually grade more assignments, though, to make sure that they're spending the time on their homework that I want them to.)

Keep up with the games!  It keeps us awake.

Dont change much I learned a lot more in this class than any other one I have taken

listen to your students. if they all dont feel ready for something...give them alittle extra time

Maybe do a weekly review and bring stuff back that we had already learned.

(Great idea!  Definitely need to do something like this. . .)

Don't change anything.  Math is usually such a boring subject, but with the activities you had and by being such a nice and caring teacher, you made it really fun and for the first time i didn't dread going to math.

Keep it up.  It was fun having a teacher that wanted to talk to us and tried to have so many activities.

(I'm glad they appreciate the activities... it definitely takes time to get them together!  I'm hoping to do many more next year.)

What advice do you have for students taking this course next year?

(I'll summarize... DO THE HOMEWORK!)

Did anything in particular surprise you about this class?

The surprise was only having 10 to 15 problems of homework.  I went in thinking we would have a ton but it was a good amount.  Not too much but not too many either.

You proved to me that it is possible for math to not be completely boring.


Is there anything else you think I should know?

I've always loved math, and it's always been my best subject.  But this year and your teaching made me love it even more!  Thank you!!!

Mrs. Fouss, you are a great math teacher and because of you I am probably going to become a math teacher myself.  Thank you for a wonderful year!

If I had an hour to live I would spend it in your class because it feels like an eternity.

(Aww, how sweet.  Wait a minute. . . what?!)

Here's all the responses:  
End of Year Survey                                                                                                                                   

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My school bought new math textbooks for the 2009-2010 school year.  If you're a teacher, I'm sure you know how much work it can be to get new books - it's like teaching a brand new class!  I was lucky in that only 2 of my 3 classes had new ones, and the one was just a new edition (but same material).  So really I was down to one class to prep for. 

In my Honors Precalculus class we mostly cover functions in the first semester and trig in the second.  I love teaching trig and have been pretty successful in finding fun stuff to do with it, but the first semester material is usually a mishmash of topics.  The kids have seen most of the material before, and with the new Honors Algebra 2 books, it sounds like they've really done a nice job of covering a lot more of logs and conics and rational functions and such much more rigorously.  Which left me thinking last night (at 11:00 PM while I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep)...

What am I going to do first semester next year?

It would be a major waste of time for me (and the kids) to cover the topics I normally cover in the way I normally cover them.  Why spend all those weeks factoring and graphing and solving equations that they already know how to solve?  I want to be able to at least touch on the different types of functions (because we all know how well kids remember things from year to year) so they're not totally unforgotten, but I was thinking that maybe I could do that for a few days and then come up with projects for the students to do to help them cement things.

Here's what I typically cover:
1.  Functions and their Graphs (transformations, combinations, inverses, linear models)
2.  Polynomial and Rational Functions (zeros, graphing, complex numbers, quadratic models)
3.  Exponential and Log Functions (with nonlinear models)
4.  Vectors (we throw that in there first semester to help the kids out with physics)
5.  Conics
6.  Sequences and Series (with Pascal's triangle, the Binomial Theorem, mathematical induction)

Aside from Vectors and Sequences and Series, all of these topics have been done before.

Anyone have any ideas on how to gloss over them quickly and then apply knowledge with a cool project?