Thursday, September 30, 2010

Let 'er rip!

I really like my school schedule this year.  I have 2 Precalc classes in the morning, then my Algebra 2's  and Algebra 1 in the afternoon.  What's really nice is that I teach 1st period, have my conference period, then teach 3rd period, then have my tutoring and lunch.  Makes for a pretty easy morning, and my afternoon's full so it flies by pretty quickly.  What's bad, though, is that I really have trouble working during my plan period 2nd period.  For whatever reason, I just can't sit and grade....  Right now I have a class of Algebra 2 quizzes from yesterday staring at me.  I know it won't take long to get them done, but I really don't want to do it.  Not a good thing to happen when it's still September!

The Barbie Bungee activity was a success all around.  The kids enjoyed it, did well, and only a few Barbies crashed when we went outside to test predictions.  I had several kids comment on their papers that they had fun and wish we could do more activities like that.  :)  I borrowed a flip camera from the media center and took some video of my classes working.  Here's one of the precalc videos (did one for each class) and the Algebra 2 video (2 classes merged into one video).

Algebra 2:


I uploaded them to teachertube and posted on our class blogs so the kids/parents could watch. I also posted one of them on the ning that we use at school - got some brownie points!  Now I guess the pressure's on to find other activities to do with the kids... but I like that pressure. :)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

New blogs to read!

I found a few new* blogs recently that look very promising... (in no particular order!)

1.  I Hope This Old Train Breaks Down from Mimi in El Salvador

2.  Long Tails of \int_e^r est from CalcDave in Tennessee

3.  Without Geometry, Life is Pointless from Avery in California  (love the name of the blog!)

4.  The Space Between the Numbers from someone (couldn't find a name anywhere... anyone know?)

*By no means are these necessarily new blogs.  Just new to me.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

And the equation is. . .

I don't get why students have so much trouble writing equations of lines.  It's not just my kids, is it?

Yesterday in Algebra 2 we talked about three forms of a line (slope-intercept, standard, and point-slope).  If it were up to me, I'd just do slope-intercept, but standard can be nice when we graph.  Especially when it comes to linear programming.

I know the kids have seen these before (at least in Algebra 1, and I'm pretty sure in geometry, too) and yet the memory level is soooo low.  Instead of doing a plain ol' worksheet today on reviewing them, I made it more of a collaborative activity.  I got the kids in groups of 5 (had them pick a piece of paper from A - E) and then each group was given 6 index cards with different problems on them.  Some of the problems said to write the equation in standard form, some said slope-intercept.  They spent time in their groups working on each problem with support (hopefully) from each other.  During the last 5 - 10 minutes of class I gave them a card with the answers on it.  I think some kids got their problems figured out doing this... we'll see!

Don't you just love those graphing index cards?  I found them at Staples (thanks to @druinok, who posted about them here) and got myself a couple of packs.  These are the 3 x 5s, but I also got a pack of 4 x 6s.  I'm thinking that these would be something good to use when we get to trig equations in Precalc.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

three days, two subs

My little girl woke me up at 4 this morning with a temperature of 102.  My husband doesn't get sick time with his job, so it's always on me to make arrangements when the kids are sick.  These are the worst possible kind of days off - the ones you can't plan for! 

I immediately put in for a sub (we have a neato new way to do it online so I didn't have to wait for a decent hour to make a phone call) and tried to think what I could get the kids to do today without me.  It actually worked out well that because I was out on Monday for the STEM conference my seating charts are still sitting on top of my desk at school.  Normally they'd be hidden in a filing cabinet or not even current.

Precalc was pretty easy - I gave them a list of book assignments for the chapter, so they are to move on on their own.  It should be a review (Inverse Functions) but I guess we'll see about that when I get back tomorrow!

Algebra 2 was the toughest; we just had a test yesterday and are in between topics.  I have the next chapter laid out by day and was going to give them a copy of my plan today.... guess I'll need to go change some dates!  I ended up some of the "practice for the next chapter" problems and then a little activity about plotting real-type data to determine if it's discrete or continuous.  I think they can handle it.

Algebra 1 was the easiest; I already had a review sheet ready for them - we're having a test on Friday.  Staying home today actually gives me some time to get a review game of some sort ready for them for tomorrow.

The funniest thing is that I immediately went to my textbook websites to figure out assignments and such at 4 this morning.  In getting my girl socks and a drink and a tissue a few minutes ago I noticed that all of my teacher editions are stacked on a side table in the family room.  I can only plead that it was super duper early and I was too tired to think about that.... and it also shows me that my dependence on the hard-copies of the books is obviously waning.  I'm obviously comfortable with accessing my resources online!

Hopefully she'll be better tomorrow.  Otherwise, I may have to call in the reserves (in-laws).

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Algebra 1 kids taught me lattice multiplication the other day.  I'd seen it before but never understood it.  I gave my tablet to a girl during class and said, "Teach me." It took her a little convincing to make her believe me, but then she did it.

This is my old-school version of multiplication on the left with Kaitlin's lattice multiplication on the right.  I was skeptical that it would always work, but in breaking down what goes where and what gets combined with what, it does work.  The sad thing is that the kids don't really get why it works.  Lattice multiplication doesn't show the place values that you're using - at least in such an obvious way, I guess.

Oh well.  I'm just happy that they can multiply!  (On paper.  I'd like to keep the other kind of multiplication out of the classroom. Though I did find out last week that I have a student expecting sometime this year.)

I've always wanted to try it.

But I'd probably wimp out at the last second.

Several years ago I went to a workshop where we did the Barbie Bungee activity.  I thought it was fun, a good idea, and then promptly forgot about it.  I don't know what brought it back to mind recently, but I found a link to a Barbie Bungee activity on Illuminations and decided to give it a shot.  (It helps that my 3 year old daughter now has quite an assortment of Barbies!)  It's an activity in linear regression and would probably be best used in Algebra 2 but I'm going to use my Precalc classes as my guinea pigs (though it does legitimately fit as a topic in Chapter 1). 

Here's my typed-up copy.
Barbie Bungee                                                            

I'll have to do a little exploring at school this week to see where we can do the final jump.  There are a few staircases that might be good.... or maybe we could head outside and use the football or soccer stands.  That would be awesome if the weather's nice!  I intend to borrow one of our flip cameras to get some footage... I'll post it if I get anything good!  (Check out Youtube and Teachertube for some examples if you're not sure what I'm referring to.)

Friday, September 10, 2010

It's easier to be here.

I'm registered to go to a STEM Conference on Monday at the University of Cincinnati; my department head sent out an e-mail about it last weekend asking if anyone wanted to go.  I always enjoy going to conferences and talking with people, so I volunteered (never mind that it was just a week away).  Just got the listing of sessions to choose from and I may have a hard time keeping myself busy/interested... there's just so much science involved!  (Yeah, I know. SCIENCE Technology Engineering Math.  Whatever.)  But I'll live.

The good news is that it doesn't start until 8:30, which means an extra hour of sleep!  Woo hoo!

I think it was Wednesday of this week when I realized that I'd have to get everything done at school for Monday by today.... for some reason I was thinking that I'd have the weekend to prep.  It's been a little crazy around my desk for the last 24 hours or so while I tried to get stuff together for Monday (Precalc quiz, Algebra 2 review, Algebra 1 "keep them busy worksheet") and still be ready to go on Tuesday, too.  Whew.

Speaking of my Algebra 1 plans... it's so hard to leave a class like this for a day.  They've been great and we've had fun doing different activities and games.  I'm just not sure what to do with them while I'm gone.  Next time I'm out (for a planned thing, anyway) I'll have to see if I can get something together online.  Monday, however, it's just a plain ol' worksheet.  Or I could try and get a puzzle together from tarsia.  Hmm.  I wonder how they'd do without me here.

Edited to add:  Just got my tarsia puzzle together.  I think they'll like it. :)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

There was a farmer had a dog....

and bingo was his name-o!

In my Integrated Algebra 1 class we've been doing basic operations with numbers...  adding, subtracting, and multiplying. Seriously.  But the kids really need the review, especially when we throw in those pesky negatives!

So today, to have a little bit of fun with multiplying, I made some Bingo cards.  Have you seen the site  Fun.  You type in a list of things that you want in the blocks, and the site creates 10 different bingo cards.  If you have a class of more than 10 kids, you're guaranteed some repeats, but since I have exactly 10 kids it was perfect.  I saved the cards (2 per page) as a pdf, then printed them on cardstock and laminated them.  I was going to make a powerpoint to give the clues (kids find the product) but I couldn't figure out how to get the slides in a random order (so if we played more than once we would get a different result).  I know I've done it before but this new version of Powerpoint confused me.  Oh well.  I ended up just writing all of the possible answers on slips of paper and made up problems as I went.  That actually worked out well; I kept a list of the problems we'd done so the kids could see.  I have one student who works verrrry slooooowly, so he was able to keep up that way, too.

The one thing that I hadn't figured out was what to use to cover up the squares.  But the ladies I eat lunch with (after seeing my laminated cards) suggested I just give dry-erase markers.  I'd never realized that they would erase off of lamination!  It was great!  The kids loved using the markers and they were all engaged in the game.  I'm definitely keeping this set of cards for next year!

The best thing was that (after doing all of the problems... and each game took about 15 different clues) one of the kids said that he was really getting better at doing these problems.  Yay. :)

Monday, September 6, 2010

Directions, anyone?

I just finished grading my first set of Algebra 1 quizzes.  In doing so, I discovered that quite a few mistakes were made in not reading/following directions on the quiz.

So what's my solution?  Send out a tweet.  I asked for help in finding a  following directions activity and received the following replies.

1.  from @ColinTGraham:  Origami is great for that. Cut up the diagrams, separate diagrams from the written instructions - reconstruct. Teaches 1 step ahead.

2.  from @Praxisofreflect:  Here's one (there are a million variations on it):
         and an update:  The one on p. 2 is what I was thinking of - just realized it has more on that document!

3.  from @ColinTGraham (again):  Tangrams is good too because you can move it into algebra too! Sneaky teacher ;-P

4.  from @dandersod:  like this?

I'd found something like Praxisofreflect and dandersod suggested here but it involves speaking out loud and I don't want to embarrass the kids.  Think I'll go with one of theirs instead.

Thanks, all!

(And if anyone else has any suggestions, please comment!)

Thursday, September 2, 2010


I just applied for money to attend the NCTM Annual Conference in Indianapolis - really hoping I get it!  It's not until April, but I wanted to be one of the first in for the money.  I talked 2 other teachers into going with me (not that I had to do much convincing) so it should be a good time.  In 2003 I went with one of them to the conference in Las Vegas - I can freely admit that the location was a big attraction for us.  The conference wasn't great; there were too many people which led to too much waiting for sessions.  We'd sit for an hour or so in a hallway just to get into a 50-minute session.  Sorry, but doing that in Vegas?  Not a good time.  I can't imagine that Indy will be as much of a draw for people and am hoping it'll be organized better.

Our annual Open House was last night and I think went pretty well.  I prepared some slides (mostly for me to remember what I wanted to talk about) and got a pretty good reception from the parents.  Luckily, our network was up (it had been down pretty much all day) so I was able to show them the class blogs and talk about twitter and such.  The temperatures have been in the 90s all week, so although it stunk to be here all day suffering through the heat and then have to come back, it was nice for the parents to have to experience the uncomfortable-ness, too.  I heard many comments about how they feel for us in having to deal with it all day.  So go vote for a levy, people!