Thursday, May 9, 2013

It looks like a lot of you haven't made the move to the new address.

C'mon, what are you waiting for?!  :)

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I'm Moving!

I decided it was time for a change.  Please add my new address to your Google Reader... um, I mean whatever it is that you're going to use to replace Google Reader (I'm going to try feedly).

Here I go!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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

Friday, March 15, 2013

Pi Day Follow-Up

Yesterday was fun. The kids had a good time, enjoyed some of the different things I had out for them to do, and ate most of the cookies. (But I still had enough to take to my daughter's softball practice last night, thank goodness.)

And today?  I'm exhausted. So happy that it's Friday and we have no plans this weekend!

I just wanted to share some of my favorite quotes from the kids on pi day.

"You're like a pi nazi."

"It's a word search. I don't need directions." (From a student who missed the fact that the non-used letters formed a quote.)

"Mrs. Fouss, what's a Euclid?"

"Is E-u-l-e-r a real word?"

And now back to our regularly scheduled program.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Happy Pi Day!

I keep telling everyone it's like Christmas for math teachers. And yet I think I'm the only one at my school who celebrates it.  (Everyone else seems to go along with me good-naturedly... and probably laughs at me behind my back. :))

Today is all about pi. I've been scurrying around all morning (while doing "hall duty" for the OGT) trying to make sure I'm ready. It didn't help that I was only here half-day yesterday because I had to take my kid to the doctor.  (His finger was swollen about twice the normal size and turning green. I thought I should give in.)

The majority of what I'm doing today was stolen from shared by Jessica (@algebrainiac1) at a Global Math Department meeting a few weeks ago. I adjusted/added a couple of things.

I'm setting up the following stations:

1.  Given 7 different size triangles, use yarn to measure their circumference and diameter. Find the ratio.  Then average the ratios.  How close are you to pi?

2.  Look up your birthday in pi.

3.  Read an article about Albert Einstein (it's his birthday today!). Then try to draw a perfect circle. I'm providing a half sheet for them to draw on and a circle printed on a piece of laminate for them to check to see how well they did.

4.  Complete a word search using phrases dealing with pi.

5.  Read an article about using tau instead of pi and then fill out a unit circle with tau values. (I'm only giving this to my precalc kids.)

6.  Eat a pi cookie (if you sing a pi song).

Saturday, March 9, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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Friday, March 8, 2013

Yucky Friday :(

It hasn't been that great of a Friday yet and it's only 10 AM, so I'm really hoping things change.

First period precalc was fine. We started talking about vectors yesterday, though, and I've been doing too much of the talking. Hate that. But how else do you get through the basic terminology/notation/operations? Next week will be better because we'll start using the vectors.

I had to go to an IEP meeting during second period. (My plan period is from 8:28 - 9:18. It is seriously the worst time to have off because that's when parents can come in for meetings. I've been to more IEP meetings this year than ever!) The student in question is much brighter than he acts but has quite an attitude. Yesterday he refused to put away one of those little finger skateboards. I asked him twice, then told him that he needed to give it to me. He refused, saying that he would rather be written up than give it to me. Not a problem. I started to write him up and noticed him still playing with it. After telling him that even though I was writing him up he needed to put it away, he got belligerent and I had the special ed teacher in here with me escort him to the office. The mom at the meeting was upset that I hadn't let her know, even though this was 7th period yesterday and I knew I'd be seeing her 2nd period today.  She calmed down, though, and told me she'd "deal with him" later.

Then I messed up, which makes me feel bad. A friend of mine across the hall has a rough 2nd period class - there are a couple of boys that really act up and she's had a tough year with them. After my IEP meeting I was finishing up some things in my room when I heard a lot of commotion from her room. I wanted to make sure everything was ok, so I went over just to pop in. She was fine, but one of the boys was making some rude comments about her needing some mental help... and he just kept talking. I said something to the effect of, "Why are you being so rude? I don't even know you but I'm getting a bad impression." Probably not the best thing to say. He kept going off so I escorted him down to the office. (They weren't surprised to see him, so I'm sure he's a frequent visitor.) I just feel badly that I interfered in something that wasn't my business but I didn't want her to have a rough time and no help.

I apologized to her, but I'm going to head over with some chocolate here in a few.

Hoping that today gets better!

I can't end it like this. Some good stuff:
1.  I've worn sweatpants all week to school (it's our "OGT Training Camp Week"). And had a snow day on Weds.
2.  Next week because of the OGT I'll have a 2-hour period each morning to sit in the hall and give breaks to those people who have sophomores testing. And get a lot of work done during the day (which means no taking papers home to grade!).
3. My Intervention class is a weird variety of kids all working on different math topics. But they get along fantastically and we have a good time.
4. My precalc kids did horribly on their weekly review (this week was exponent rules). The good news? I decided that I'm going to make them do them again next week so I don't have to make up a new review for them. Less work for me! I'll replace their quiz score with next week's.
5. I apologized (again) to my friend across the hall and took her chocolates. She's not mad and thinks I'm dumb for feeling bad.
6. Next week is pi day and I found out today that Graeter's celebrates it by selling $1 pies.
7. I'm feeling better now.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Snow Day!

It seems like it's been years since we've had a snow day. Oh, wait. It has been years! And then yesterday a miracle occurred. The snow that was predicted actually came... it didn't start until 10 pm-ish and continued through the night. Everyone knows that it's all about the timing, right?!

After being rudely awoken by my 6-year old at 8:30, I sent a tweet out to my classes:

Do some math on your snow day! Send me a pic of you doing math in the snow. Make a unit circle, calculate the diameter of a snow man, etc.

Tweet or email me your pictures before midnight. And have fun!

(I also posted it on schoology (our online portal) so that everyone had a chance to see it... not just those on twitter.)

It took a few hours (I guess they got to sleep in!) but then I started receiving some pictures. You gotta love when kids do math on their day off!

Here are some of the entries:

I did this a couple of years ago, too. 

I'm bummed (but not surprised) that none of my Algebra 1 students did anything.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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Monday, February 25, 2013


Without going into too much (well any, actually) detail, I wanted to share this quote that a friend sent me a week or so ago that I've been thinking about a lot lately.

I have a formula for knowing if a next step is the right one for you:

If you feel both excited and scared, that is it. If you're just excited and not afraid, there is no challenge, no stretching, no initiation; you are still in your safe zone, and growth is unavailable. If you're just afraid, there is no positive motivation. Why walk through a fear unless there is something you are walking toward? But if you are simultaneously turned on and frightened, do it and watch your growth skyrocket.

Alan Cohen

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Polar Graphs


Polar Graphs 2013, a set on Flickr.

The results of the precalc kids' polar graphs. They turned out really neat!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Playing with Polar Equations

It's been fun the past few days to show the precalc kids what their calculators can do. We started with parametric equations were fun to play with, and now we've moved on to polar equations.

I found a parametric equation that produced a heart after a quick google search on Valentine's Day. Some of my precalc kids embellished it a bit.

I don't always do a lot with the polar equations, but this year after I discovered that desmos would graph polar equations (and you can add sliders to help you show the different options on the rose and such) I thought it might be fun to take some time and investigate.  On Friday I gave them this worksheet that has some really cool graphs on it.  I edited it so that the kids couldn't see what the graph would produce. Lots of oohs and aahs were heard!

Then last night because I had oodles of spare time on my 3-day weekend (ha!) I sat and typed this up. (I stole borrowed a lot of this from this worksheet I found online. Don't let the comic sans font dissuade you from checking it out.) I figure we'll spend a couple of days on it in class, and their own polar equation design is due on Thursday.

I was talking with some friends last night... it was nice to have a "3-day" weekend, because it really gave me a 2-day weekend, as opposed to the normal 1-day weekend that we all usually get. It's not just me that dedicates Sundays (or in this week's case, Monday) to school work, right?

Saturday, February 16, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

What to do?

I'm reaching the end of my rope with my Integrated Algebra 1 class.

Aside from one or two boys (depending on the day) their behavior isn't that bad. If you walked in my room you'd mostly see what looks like good things going on. Either we're reviewing old material or learning new stuff. Kids are quiet. (Except for that one kid... but you know.)

The problem?

They're not listening. They look like they're listening. They act like it. When I ask a question people raise their hand to answer.  But nothing's going in.

Today we had shortened classes because of a 2-hour late arrival (for inservice). On Monday we'd started some exponent rules (short cuts, I called them) and I wanted one more day today to review them again.  Kids were saying this would be the easiest quiz.  Awesome! I thought.

Before I passed out the assignment, I asked everyone to look at me. I told them that instead of doing the whole worksheet that I was giving them, I wanted to them to do one side only. I showed them which side and even told them what it said at the top (while walking around so everyone could see). I told them that if they didn't hear my instructions I was going to make them do the whole assignment.

I passed out the papers.

As I was doing that, at least five kids asked me if we were doing the whole thing.  Really?!

I told them yes.

Right now 7 out of 17 kids are passing.  And it has me wondering what I'm doing wrong.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

From the mouths of seniors

This morning in precalc:

A senior who's been slacking and now realized he has to start working or he'll have to take the final exam: This isn't even bad, Mrs. Fouss. I like this.

Me: You sound surprised that it's not bad.

Student:  I am.

And then he went on to tell me that I probably shouldn't grade yesterday's quizzes because "literally" everyone got like "a 20%" and it'll make me look bad if I give them all bad grades.

But then he told me that we'll have to Skype next year when he's in college because he'll miss me.

You win some, you lose some.

Monday, February 11, 2013

What is a perfect man?

Because I can't resist sharing these...

Last week's quote:
"Perfect numbers like perfect men are very rare." - Rene Descartes

Some of the more interesting responses:
She is saying a perfect man is rare and she relates it to the variety of perfect numbers. She obviously never had a boyfriend.

I am no expert on relationships, but from my ranting friends, I think that perfect numbers are less rare and more reliable than "perfect" men. At least perfect numbers never change. Men may seem perfect at first, but then they always end up changing.

Perfect #s are rare and so are men who haven't been infected by psychotic women.

If there's a so called "perfect" guy I feel like he'd get really annoying really fast.

Perfect men aren't rare. It's just that some girls don't look in the right places. Guys do it also. People's expectations are sometimes too high since everyone has flaws, it's hard to find that "perfect person".

This is not true. There are plenty of perfect men, ______ for example.

Here I am.

Except for me.

Agree! Men as a gender are not perfect as many women have pointed out. Men as a human race are also imperfect.

This quote is not talking about men as a gender. it is saying men as in all humans. Humans all have imperfections. In the real world, numbers usually do not work perfectly. In my experience in construction, no matter how perfectly something is measured and cut, the board rarely fits perfectly. According to numbers it should, but it doesn't. This shows how numbers are rarely perfect.

I agree with this quote because a perfect man is very hard to find, like perfect numbers. You only come across these things if you're lucky.

I disagree because there are lots of attractive boys I know!

It's a lie, all numbers are perfect so if all numbers are like men, then all men are perfect. Boom.

And one to finish on. . .
I disagree because Hannah Montana once said "Nobody is Perfect" and that is totally true.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Planning for Next Year

A few years ago I didn't put too much thought into what classes my precalc kids should take next year. It was either AP Calc AB or Advanced Math.  The kids with As and Bs went to Calc, the ones below that went to Advanced Math.

Case closed.

And then the school decided to complicate things and added in a few more choices. In addition to the old Calc (which was AB, I later learned), we now have AP Calc BC. AP Stats was also added as a possibility.

The decision between AB and BC Calc causes me much stress. Next year will be the third year we offer it. The first year it was late in the year and I had 6 - 8 kids in Precalc that really stood out so it was easy to recommend them. I'm happy to say that they all did well in BC.  Last year I thought about it all year. I had a few that were clear-cut choices and some that I was on the bubble with. My no-thought-involved kids are doing well; the ones I really had to think about are not.

So now I'm worried. And there's an extra wrench in the plan.  Three years ago the district started offering Algebra 1 to 7th graders (which I still think is crazy). Those kids are now sophomores in Precalc. Some of them I think could handle BC, but then there's the idea of what do they do as a senior? We don't have a multi-variable calc, so they would probably have to do an independent study. The others I'll recommend for AB as a junior then they can take BC/Stats as a senior.

I put together a google form (love them!) for the kids to fill out to indicate their choice and a few details why. I even added different questions depending on their answers.  Have I indicated how much I love me a google doc?  :)  I agree with most of the kids preferences, but there are a few students that I don't agree with. Guess I'll get to have some fun conversations tomorrow!

Here's the form I used.  Feel free to answer questions to get through it if you'd like. I'll just throw out your responses. :)  What I love is that I can sort the kids into what class they'd like to take and I can also share their responses with the AP Calc teacher.  That way she knows what's coming!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Solving Systems Foldable

We've spent the last several weeks solving linear systems in my Integrated (General) Algebra 1 class. Graphing was ok although you'd think they never graphed a link before. Substitution was a train wreck. Elimination went pretty well as long as they can get the whole adding/subtracting negative numbers thing down.  I've been giving them a lot of word problems here lately and most of the kids are now able to write the equations for the system, then use elimination to solve.  I'm pretty happy with that!

I compartmentalize a lot in this class. We learn a couple of skills, review, and quiz. No big unit/chapter tests (if you don't count the exam). But for systems I thought it might be nice to try and pull everything back together.

Ok, so you can graph/use elimination. But can you decide when to use what?

We're quizzing tomorrow on elimination/systems of inequalities. And then I think I'll spend the next few days on the process of making the decision of which method is most appropriate for the system (and then solving it).

I was shopping around for a foldable for the kids and their INBs today when I visited msmathwiki (organized by my friend and fellow TMC12-er Julie Ruelbach).  There were several systems foldables linked there that I checked out and liked @druinok's the best. But I wanted to edit it a bit. So I emailed and Shelli, in her infinite generosity, sent me the word doc.

Here's what I ended up with:

The outside

The inside

Here's the pdf.  (Shoot me an email if you'd like the editable doc!)

And just for fun, I made copies on some pretty pink paper. The boys'll love it.

Monday, February 4, 2013


Last week's Tweet Me hashtag was #WhyILoveAHS.  I thought I'd share some of the funny responses.

  • I have teachers who care about my education and help me learn!
  • I love AHS because everyone can find something they like and everyone feels welcome.
  • Sports and friends
  • Mrs. Fouss!!! < 3
  • Football and baseball
  • Donkey basketball!  (That was from me.)
  • Because I can dress crazy.
  • Because of our awesome swimteam!!!
  • It's a great learning environment
  • Basketball and because it's so easy
  • I have made so many new friends, and I love Mrs. Fouss!  
  • I have a love for bugs and AHS is filled with plenty! No. . . I am just kidding. I actually like AHS because I like the music programs and sports games.
  • Because I love school.
  • Because I get to see friends and Mrs. Fouss!
  • Because our lunch food on homestyle chicken tenders day tastes good.
  • I can practice cockroach smashing.
  • All the students and staff work hard to ensure that success is shared by all.
  • My house is more boring & I < 3 my teachers and friends.
  • Because cats!
    • retweeted by @Jesse
    • favorited by @sophie
    • @sophie No.  (from @Daniel)
    • @Daniel Yes. (from @Sophie)
    • @Daniel @Sophie C'mon guys, peace & love. #don'thate  (from @Darcy)
  • Because @Mikey is here.
    • RT @chet: "Because Mikey is here." You too big guy. (From @Mikey)
  • The giant cockroaches and the smell of sweat and fear!

My quote for the week was one by Albert Einstein.  One of the funny responses I got:
"Albert Einstein was a light in a dark world. He enlightened his followers through  many scientific equations. He also got bad grades because he was bored. His hair was a demonstration of a bad haircut."

I'd used a Disney font for the quote because it was something about using your imagination.
Another response:

Some of these kids really make me laugh.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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

Monday, January 28, 2013

No Hatin'!

I've had a great year so far. I've been super busy with school work and trying to change how I do things on a daily basis (which if you read this ever, hopefully you've seen that). My classes are good; I'm really enjoying my precalc kids and the Algebra 1 classes have their ups and downs (don't all freshmen?).

I'm normally laid back - unless kids are disrespectful - and like to have a good time in class. I think the kids see that. I've formed good relationships and the kids feel comfortable in here. But I'm not a pushover.  At least that's how I see it.

I use pizza boxes to set up barriers between the kids while they take tests and quizzes. They're not big fans and say it always makes them hungry to stare at the pizza.  The kids have taken to write little comments on the boxes (grrr). The other day while I was putting them away I saw this:

Honestly, that bothered me. Is treating the kids like humans a bad thing? Should I not show interest in their lives? Should I not ask how their weekend was or what plans they have for their birthday? Should I not try and laugh and joke and basically make my day more enjoyable?

And then, of course, I tried to figure out who would've written it.  It's a girl. It's probably one of my precalc kids (because the Algebra kids love the attention).  That narrows it down to about 35.  But then, it doesn't really matter. It's not going to change who I am or how I deal in my classroom. If me saying hi and asking how someone's day has been makes one person feel better, then it's worth it to me.

I ain't gonna worry about the haters out there. 


Saturday, January 26, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Update on Quote Board

So two weeks ago (during exam week) I re-did the boards at the side of my room.

Here's the before and after:

I decided that I was going to put up a quote every week and give the kids a chance to give me feedback. Here are the options I gave them:
1.  What do you think this means?
2.  Do you agree? Disagree?
3.  How could this apply to your life?
4.  Find something out about the source.

They were to write their response on a post-it and stick it to the board. To help encourage some participation I offered one "bonus buck" per week.  That's quite a motivator for these grade-hungry kids.

The results?  They love it. Here's this week's board after one class.

I also created a "Tweet Me" board just for fun. I'm putting up a prompt for them to respond to -  this week's is #ILoveWinterBecause.  And they definitely had some opinions!  (I'm going to take down the one that a boy put up about girls wearing yoga pants.)

So that's a good thing.

Monday, January 21, 2013

#Made4Math Monday

So this isn't too mathy, but it's a cute AND EASY way to make a scarf!  (Plus, it's called an infinity scarf, so that counts, right?)

I saw a friend of mine at church wearing a green scarf yesterday that I loved... she said that she had made it (and she's not crafty) and had found the directions on #pinterest.  So this morning I rounded up a couple of old tshirts that I knew would never be worn again and gave it a shot.  (Just so you know, I chose not to use my favorite NKOTB shirt from high school. Gotta save it for 80s day at school!  Or 90s.)

It's really easy. You cut across the shirt to cut off the arms and cut along the bottom to get rid of the hem. Then it's just a matter of cutting horizontal strips about 1" wide, leaving a margin of an inch or so.

Once you've done this you pull on each loop, which stretches it out and curls it up. Gather the non-cut section together, tie it with a piece of the shirt (I cut it from a sleeve) and voila!  Done.  These directions might help you out a little more.

Here's my girl with a finished product:

And because we had time, we ran over to the closest Goodwill store to buy a few more shirts (pink, orange, green, and blue). Can't wait until they get out of the dryer so I can make some more!  (I've got this one in mind, too.)

I'm not a scarf-wearing girl, but I think they look so cute when other people have them on!  I think it's all about having the confidence to pull it off.  I'm going to give it a shot tomorrow!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

My Weekly Tags (weekly)

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

Friday, January 18, 2013

New Students

A new girl moved to school and started school this week. It was actually pretty good timing because this is the first week of the semester, so we were starting new notebooks and the transition was pretty easy.

She moved to Ohio from Texas, although from what I understand she's originally from Louisville (her grandma is an art teacher at my school and gave me a little background info).  This girl was taking pre-AP classes at her old school and has been placed in our honors level courses. Seemed appropriate.

We were finishing up our Linear Systems chapter this week; before exams we got through solving via graphing and substitution, so all we had left was elimination and inequalities.

The girl didn't have her homework on Monday, which didn't give me the best first impression. Now don't get me wrong; she seems very nice and is pleasant (and quiet, which is a nice change from some of the kiddos in here!) but it didn't get her off on the right foot work-wise.  On Tuesday it seemed that some of the kids were having issues with the elimination (a lot of it due to those pesky negatives) and I gave them some more practice.  With just a short amount of time left in class she approached me and said, "I don't get this. Can you walk me through it again?"  I understand that she's new to school and just getting used to us, but I really wished she'd spoken up earlier and had more time to get help.  The girls she was sitting with did help her out some, so at least that was a good thing.

On Wednesday we graphed systems of inequalities. Because we've already graphed inequalities, this was just the next step of comparing two on the graph to identify the doubly-shaded region. I went through a couple with the kids and let them start practicing. Again, near the end of class she approached me and told me she hadn't graphed equations of lines so wasn't sure what to do to graph the inequalities.

This surprised me. After finishing the first semester of Algebra 1, she hadn't graphed lines?  I'd love to see the curriculum she was working with this fall.  She'd only left me a couple of minutes, so I showed her how to graph something in slope-intercept form, talked about when to use dotted vs solid lines, how to know what to shade, and when to flip the inequality.

I didn't check homework yesterday so I don't know if she persisted in it or not.  But at the end of class yesterday she asked where she could get some extra help. (We have math teachers every period of the day as tutors, plus an after-school thing on Tues/Thurs.) She sounded interested in the after-school sessions, though she's an aide for her grandma and could use that time also.

So, today was our quiz.  Right before we started, she came up to me and asked if she could take it on Tuesday instead. She said that with moving and starting school this week she didn't have a chance to study last night.  I'm not one to give kids extra time like that, but I have a feeling it was more academically-based than what she told me. I told her yes, but this is the only time I'd allow it.

I'm wondering if this girl's been placed in the correct class.  Aside from missing some material in the move from state to state, I'm wondering if she's the type of kid that is going to do something about it.  I guess time will tell!

Thursday, January 17, 2013


We started simplifying trig expressions this week in precalc. This is only my favorite stuff all year.  I know it starts out difficult for many of the kids (especially because they're just learning their identities) but after a couple of days in I've been really happy with the discussion I've heard.  They work SO WELL in their groups that I'm ticked I didn't do this last year.  And a few of the kids have even admitted to me that they kinda like these kinds of problems!

(When we went over the first assignment, I asked the class what we should do for a particular problem.  At the exact same time, two girls said, "Cry."  I had to admit it was pretty funny.)

I think some of the kids get frustrated with simplifying because they see that it's so easy for me, so the first day I tell them why. Aside from the fact that I think these types of problems are fun, I also have spent two weeks a year, three times a day, for the last 15 years working these problems. I would hope they'd be easy!

Today one of the kids decided I needed a challenge so he found a problem online to give me.  Here it is:
I admit to having no clue where to begin. I thought about power-reducing formulas and half-angle formulas and got nowhere. Then I tweeted the problem and got some help from a bunch of people who decided that it wasn't actually an identity. After tweeting at the student, he gave me the link to the problem where I discovered that you're given that a + b + c = 180.  So that changes things.  (I'll use that as my excuse tomorrow).  But many thanks to Steve, Glenn, Marshall, Nik, Matt, and David for trying to help a girl out!

It led me to an idea, though. I'm thinking maybe I'll have the precalc kids come up with what they think is a tough identity to simplify and see if they can stump me.  I tried something like it last year and got some good results, but I didn't incorporate the "Stump the Teacher" challenge.  We'll see.

The best moment of the day came in my general Algebra 1 course 7th period. There's a girl in there who is from Cambodia, and she's honestly amazing. She knew very very very little English when she started in August, but her math skills were (luckily) great and she did awesome. She's the perfect student: she does her homework every night (and usually does extra problems), she is always concerned about why she gets a problem wrong, and she is able to laugh at herself when she does something silly.  (Actually, it's usually an "Oh my goodness!" reaction.)  But today she walked into class as I was talking to the special ed teacher who's in here with me. The girl said something to me that I didn't catch, so I asked her to repeat it. Her comment?  "Mrs. Fouss, you look beautiful today!"  Oh my gosh, how sweet!

(This is what she did for our last homework problem today... think anyone else in this class would've had an inkling of what she was doing?! I felt bad because it was just  "read the graph" problem and she went way beyond. That would certainly be a language issue.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Guilty Pleasures

There are three things I really like about being a teacher.
1.  Pens.  I love buying new pens in the summer! But I must've done a stinky job of it this past year because I don't have any that I like right now. Time to go shopping!

2.  Laminating.  I don't know what it is about the laminator but it makes everything so nice and shiny. I spent some time with it today. :)  (And will probably have more to do tomorrow!)

3.  Fonts.  Oh my gosh, have you seen  Thousands of them for free!  I just spent some time there, too. :)

Aside from the pen fetish, I really had a point to make in relationship with laminating and fonts... I swear.  We're in the midst of exam week, which is one of my favorite weeks all year. It's like a lot of stuff around here - there's a ton of prep work to get ready (exam reviews, exams, etc.) but once it's here it's all on the kids. Yesterday we had our first period exam (prefaced with a 40? minute review where the kids crammed like crazy!) then 35 minute review periods for the rest of the day. By 2:15 I was bored to death. I'd gotten stuff organized and copied for the next couple of weeks, I did a couple of sudoku puzzles, I read a book for a little while, and played online. Whatever I could do to keep myself occupied!

Today hasn't been any better timewise. We have a 2-hour optional review time first thing in the morning (Yes, optional. I'm sure you can imagine how many students are here studying! Ha.) followed by a 100 minute exam which was my plan period, followed by another 100 minute exam (they're working right now). This schedule will repeat for the next two days... and then we have a work day on Friday on which I'll have sooooo much to do. Not. (Not that I'm complaining!)

One thing I did actually do yesterday was look up some new quotes to put on my side board. I've had the same ones up there all year and need a change.  I found a website called BrainyQuote that I took some from, copied them on word documents with some cute fonts (ahem), and colored and laminated them this morning. My original plan was to post them like I did first semester, but now I've found so many good ones that I'm thinking bigger.

Several weeks ago I read a blog post where Rebeckah Peterson described how she put the name of a mathematician on their board when they start a new unit. The kids fill in information about that mathematician as they find it for extra credit. I loved the idea and thought about starting it next year, but it also got me thinking about doing the same thing with quotes.  So now I'm considering posting a quote each week (?) and asking the kids to post their thoughts on it. Do they agree/disagree? How is it relative to their life? And what can you find out about the person who wrote it?

If I do this, a couple of details I need to work out....
1.  Do I do one per course? Or one for everyone?
2.  I've got bulletin board paper covering my chalk board right now. Do I let the kids write on it and recover it often? Or do I take it off and just let them write on the chalkboard? (Yuck. Hate chalkboards.)  But I could keep up my cute boarder.
3. We also have an online portal I could use to let the kids give me feedback. Do I just do it instead? But it would be nicer to be able to see what other people are doing in class. OTOH, this way I see the results by class (because I have 3 precalc classes of kids).

I use this blog a lot to just get my thoughts down "on paper". I hadn't even considered using the chalkboards until I typed it, and I think that's they way I'm leaning right now. But if you have any input, I'd love to know it!

ETA:  Trever Reeh suggested I try Wallwisher. I think I could embed it on Schoology.  Thoughts?

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Find the area of. . .

I hope everyone had a nice restful holiday break. I did, but I also spent quite a few days sacked out on the couch with what I think was the flu. Is it sad that I was happy not to have to do sub plans while I was sick?

We (along with most of the area, it seems) headed back to school today. We have 3 days of regular classes to finish up the semester and then exams next week. You know how kids have trouble remembering things over a weekend?  Try a 2-week break and then an exam over a semester's worth of material. Sometimes it gets ugly.

With three days this week, I didn't want to give my precalc kids that much free time to work on exam reviews. We'd finished up before our break with law of sines/cosines, so I'm taking two of these days to work on area of triangles. It's a nice way to ease back into school, I think.

I started out by giving them these two triangles and asked them to find the area.
They whipped through the first one easily and most kids automatically drew an altitude for triangle #2, found its length, and used that for the area of the triangle.

In 3rd period (my second time through) I then gave them this and asked them to find the area. (Assuming that A, b, and c were known values)
Despite having just done this (with numbers) some of them were a little unsure. I advised them to repeat what they'd done in #2 but leave the letters.  I have to admit - I'd never done this myself before to derive the area formula. I'm embarrassed at how easy it was and how I should've made them do this years ago!

If you work through it, the altitude has length of csinA, so when you plug it in to the 1/2bh formula, you get an area of 1/2 bcsinA.  Voila!

The second area formula (Heron's) isn't so easily derivable (though I tried on my own). But at least we got one in!

I usually like to spend a few days working on some area problems after we talk about the formulas, but with my limited time for the next couple of days I can't do that this year. Instead, I'm going to give the kids the 6 problems I normally hand out for them to work individually and have them work them as table groups. I don't want to take a lot of time to grade them, so I copied a spinner with 7 sections (because I threw in a toughie at the end) and am going to have them write their answer in the 7 blocks. That way I'll be able to see all of their answers at a quick glance.

I'm wondering if I can get even lazier and make this even easier on myself. :)