Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

A few weeks ago a friend of mine at my church talked me into running the Thanksgiving Day 10k with her in Cincinnati.  I started running last January and have done a couple of 5ks but running more than 3 miles at a time wasn't part of my training process.  After talking with her about it, though, I tried to up my miles and got to 6+ a couple of times so I figured I could do the race today.  (She actually had to back out last week due to some health issues, but I ended up running with some other friends.)

I bought a Nike+ watch this summer that helps me to keep track of my mileage/time/pace.  Once I got it calibrated it's been pretty spot-on with the distance, so I was shocked when I checked it after the race and it showed me that I'd run 6.5 miles (instead of the 6.2 that a 10k consists of).  Honestly, I was a little disappointed.  That throws off all of my runs for the past 4 months or so!

This is what I get from nike:

I was just looking online, though, and found a google website called Gmap Pedometer.  I know google has all kinds of sites out there that I don't know about, but this one's pretty cool.  You can enter in your route and it gives you your distance.  What I think is the coolest is that it will also show you the elevation change in your route.  Here's the link for the race route today. 

Know what?  Google said it was a 6.5 mile run, too.  I'm glad to know that my whole running career hasn't been built on a lie! :)

(And then I came home, ate Thanksgiving dinner, and took a nap.  Ahhhhhh.)

Monday, November 22, 2010


I know I don't have quite the readership that Sean and Kate do (but I'm amazed that people actually read my ramblings!) but I just wanted to let you all know that they've put together a survey about math blogging/tweeting/ commenting/whatever-ing.  This is the link to Sean's post about it, and here's a link to the survey itself.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Dipping my toes in the water

The SBG water, that is.

It's all over the twitterverse - teachers using SBG in the classroom to assess/grade differently.  I thought about it this summer but then decided I wasn't ready for it.

After all of the factoring nonsense that has been going on in precalc, though,  I decided to give it a shot.  Yesterday in my 3rd period class I gave them a 16-question factoring quiz that covered five types of factoring that I felt were important to know:  GCF, trinomials with a = 1, trinomials with a not =1, grouping, and differences of squares. The kids pretty much freaked out when I told them they were taking a quiz but were reassured to hear that they had the opportunity to make up the missing points on future quizzes.  I graded the quizzes and made a note on which type of factoring they were having trouble with. 

I based their grade on how many of the types they did well on the quiz.  There were only 2 students (out of 29) that got all of the problems correct;  everyone else has 1 - 2 (or 3 or 4) types of factoring methods to brush up on. 

My plan is to give them 4 factoring problems every few days.  If a student only needs to re-do the GCF part, then that's what they'll get.  If they're good with the GCF then they'll no longer have to quiz on that method.  At the end of the quarter (hopefully) every student should have a perfect score for this grade.  If they don't, I'll just continue this on until they do get it.

We'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Factoring, Schmactoring.

So it turns out that a great deal of my Honors Precalc students can't factor.  Sure, they can do a GCF or a quadratic with a leading coefficient of 1, but throw in a value for a and they're sunk.


We got new books for last year and the Honors Algebra 2 book was supposed to be really tough.  It's a college text that the HA2 teachers were excited about teaching out of and thought the kids were really learning a lot more, which excited me as a precalc teacher.  That could cut out half of my curriculum!  What freedom that gives me!

Until I find out that they can't factor.

I refuse to spend class time re-teaching factoring, but it's something they have to know.  Someone at school reminded me the other day of Livebinders, so I collected some resources and put one together for factoring ax^2 + bx + c.  Hopefully that'll help me from having to re-teach.

I'm thinking that I'm going to start giving them short factoring quizzes.  Once they get 100%, they're done.  We'll keep re-doing them until everyone has 100%.  Now I just need to find some good factoring practice for them.

To be totally off topic, my precalc kids are currently working on a dot-to-dot puzzle from this site.  It's a nice change of pace!  And the simplifying logs one is really challenging for them.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

How long is too long?

We met on Tuesday (election day) with some of the math teachers from the other high school in my district.  Part of the time was spent looking at the new standards that are coming out (Ohio is adopting the Common Core State Standards) and part was spent playing with the TI-NSpire  (that was fun!).

What really struck me from that day was a comment that an Algebra 2 teacher from the other school made.  We were talking about the differences between General, College Prep, and Honors and how we could differentiate using the new standards.

What she said was this:

"The only difference between my general and my college prep is that they get to use notes on their tests and quizzes.  Oh, and they only have 20 homework problems assigned per night while the college prep gets 40."

I was like, What?!  (In my head... I wasn't going to say it out loud.  She's an imposing figure.)  I think 40 problems per night is outrageous.  I figure these kids fit one of two categories:
1.  They know what they're doing.  40 problems isn't going to change that and it just becomes a major chore.
2.  They don't know what they're doing.  40 problems isn't going to change that and could just reinforce bad habits.

Am I totally off base here?

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

My comeback

I was a little irritated yesterday with the number of students that were out.

In thinking of the excuses that my absent Algebra 2 kids would offer in trying to get out of taking our quiz tomorrow, I decided that if they weren't at school to receive their review worksheet, I'd send it to them.

At the beginning of the school year I had all of the kids fill out a survey for me (using gdocs) that included their e-mail addresses and their parents' email addresses.  I downloaded the info into an excel spreadsheet and it's been invaluable in quickly accessing information about the kids.

So yesterday afternoon, after seeing who was absent, I sent each one of those students (and their parents!) the following e-mail:

Hi everyone!

I thought since maybe you all were sick today that you'd like the review assignment to work on before Wednesday's quiz.  I'd hate for you not to have the review done before taking the quiz. :)  If you're having trouble opening the attachment, I'll put a blank copy on the blog, too - just look under the Documents tab.

(I'm sending this to your parents, too, just in case you don't check your e-mail in the next 24 hours or so.)

I will post all of the answers to the blog, so please check them!  (

Mrs. Fouss

I attached the worksheet to it and also put a link to it on the class blog.

Now they have no excuse.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Monday blahs.

So it's Monday  morning and I'm a little irritated.

1.  My kids were in sloooooow motion this morning which made us run late.  Not like I-walked-in-school-after-the-bell late, but we missed my goal departure time of 6:33 by 6 minutes.  Whatever.  (Yes, 6:33 a.m..  That should be against the law.)

2.  My son forgot his pop-tart breakfast at home and I had to give him some of my lunch (banana and granola bar) to eat.  They normally eat at the sitter's.  Who cares that he ate a healthier breakfast than he'd planned;  I'm now missing half of my lunch.

3.  I was curious about the 8 empty desks in my room first period (normally there's only one) and asked what was going on.  Turns out it's senior skip day.  Really?  In November?  C'mon.  The kids have tomorrow off (teachers have inservice) for Election Day, so I guess they decided to take a 4-day weekend.  Irritating.  The kids that need to be here the most in precalc weren't.  The test on Thursday should be fun.  I'd planned to play Jeopardy with them on Wednesday...  now I don't wanna.  And I feel like I'm acting like a teenager in pouting.  Bleh.  Oh, and it's not like the kids are actually "skipping" - they've all been called in by Mom or Dad.  Mark my words - I WILL NOT DO THAT WHEN MY KIDS ARE SENIORS.  You skip, you pay the consequences.  Go to school, darnit!

4.  That beautiful sun that I enjoy so much is shining right in my eyes, but I'm too lazy to get up and close the blinds.

5.  My radio is officially dead so I've been listening to a great local radio station online ( if you're interested) but today it's not loading.  (I had to resort to my Bon Jovi pandora station.)

6.  I'm really not looking forward to this evening.  My daughter has her first dance class (which she's so so so excited about) but that means I get to sit and wait with my first grader for an hour.  Then we go to his karate class for half an hour.  Then I get to take them to get their flu shots.  Not looking forward to the crying/whining about that!

This may be a 2 Cherry Coke Zero day.  I normally limit myself to one.

Is it Tuesday yet?