Thursday, December 23, 2010

The way he thinks. . .

I was driving home this afternoon with my kids after a playdate at McDonald's and a trip to Target.  My son is in 1st grade and likes to do math problems while riding in the car (and who am I to stop him?!).  It's usually something to the tune of. . .

me:  What's 5 + 7?
him: 12
me: What's 7 + 5?
him: 12
me: What's 12 - 7?
him: 5
me:  What's 12 - 5?
him: 7

Good practice, right?

Then I gave him 9 + 6.  There was a pause, so I assumed that he was counting 6 fingers up from 9.  But then I heard him saying "19, 18, 17, 16" before he gave an answer of "15".

So I asked him how he'd gotten to that answer.  I was amazed (and pretty happy) with his response.

He told me he started at 20.  (Because he knew 10 + 10.)  Then he counted back 5.  Why? I asked.  Because he knew that 9 was 1 away from 10 and 6 was 4 away from 10.  That made 5.

Isn't that awesome?

Now, keep in mind that I'm a high school teacher, so I don't know how 6-year old are supposed to think through these problems.  But I doubt that many go about it that way.  I don't think many of my high schoolers would think through it like that!

I can't wait to see what he'll do in the coming years!

Now back to wrapping presents.  I'm almost done (finally).

Merry Christmas to everyone!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Bah humbug!

Oh, I'm soooo not in the mood for today.

It's the last day of school before Christmas (ahem, Winter) break.  Typically this day is a crazy one and I feel like I'm babysitting.  This year, though, things have worked out pretty well so that the kids actually have stuff to do.  It's so hard to deal with a short (2-day) week when you're not going to be back for almost 2 weeks.

Anyway, right now my precalculus kids are taking a quiz.  It was supposed to be on Friday, but we had a snow day on Thursday so I pushed the quiz to yesterday.  However, yesterday we didn't have this class because of a holiday assembly, so on Friday I told them if they weren't going to be here today they needed to see me to take the quiz early.   (Get that?  Quiz was moved from Friday to Monday to Tuesday in this class.)

Two senior boys were out on Friday.  Guess who I saw standing at my desk just as the bell rang to start class!  Those two boys!  And guess what they were saying!  "Do we have to take this quiz?"

I'm tired, I'm grumpy, I'm sick of dealing with kids who won't do what they're supposed to be doing.

You were at school yesterday even though I didn't see you.  If you had questions you could've stopped by.  Yes, you're taking the quiz.  Sit down.  Start working. 

(I was a bit grumpy yesterday, too, so I gave my Algebra 1 kids some non-planned homework when they couldn't control themselves after finishing a quiz.  I'm guessing the completion percentage of the assignment - 5 slope problems - will be in the teens.)

Did I mention that it's Grandparents Day?  So 5 of the kids in class just left to meet their grandparents.

Bah humbug.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

An adventure!

Back in August (the day before the first day of school, I think), I received an e-mail from Tom Sallee, a professor at the University of California-Davis.  (I referenced it here.)  He asked if I would be interested in being a part of a panel that he was trying to put together on behalf of the College Preparatory Mathematics book company to try and figure out the future of math involving technology.


He mentioned Dan Meyer in the e-mail, so I checked with Dan on twitter and discovered that this was a legit (and amazing) offer.  I called Tom, we discussed a little more of what he was thinking of, and I told him I'd love to be there.

The meeting's been set for the first weekend in February in Sacramento, California. (I've never been to California before!)  Tom e-mailed me the draft agenda so I could see what all was going to happen and also asked me to bring some student work to present.

I'll give you all some of the topics later so you can tell me the right answers, but for now, here's what I threw together to show my student work.

Any thoughts?  Good or bad, please.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Diigo Updates (weekly)

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

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Snow unit circle

Just because I think it's awesome....

From twitter this morning:

So then I just had to offer that (in addition to some other options)!

I just got this in an e-mail.
 The accompanying e-mail said this:
I wrote in the coordinates and radian values, because once I started walking through them to get a good picture, my snow writing became illegible.

You gotta love these kids!  I really need to remember to give them opportunities to be creative.

Happy snow day!

It started snowing sometime overnight and we received the long-anticipated calls early this morning.  First the call saying that my kids didn't have school, then a call saying that I was on a 2-hour delay (just prolonging the inevitable), then a third call about 45 minutes later canceling my school day, too.

There's nothing better than a snow day!

I told my classes yesterday that if we did indeed get today off they should check their class blogs for any extra opportunities to learn.  ("You're going to give us an assignment?" some whined... while some other good listeners caught the word "extra" in there.)  I've read a few articles lately about schools requiring some online activities on what would otherwise be a snow day so that it doesn't count as a snow day... wouldn't that be nice?  But I can see the issues with the students who don't have internet access (although they're very few now).

Anyway, I posted a couple of assignments around 10 AM (after my kids dragged me out of bed close to 9).  Right now it's 1:27; there have been 28 visits to the Algebra 2 blog (out of 49 students) and 30 to the Precalc blog (out of 57 students). Basically, over half of the kids have checked out what I posted.  I think that's pretty cool.

I've already had one girl e-mail me her answers for the Algebra 2 assignment.  She's a bit of an over-achiever.

If you're interested to see what I posted for them, here are links to the Precalc and the Algebra 2 blogs.

Photo from Flickr user musicmuse_ca.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Diigo Updates (weekly)

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

Have you seen this?

I just watched this TED talk from Conrad Wolfram about using computers in math.  Have you seen it?

I was watching thinking, "Great!  But what about the test when they have to compute?  And what about when they get to AP Calc but they can't do the computation they need to solve the problems that they'll have to do on the AP Test?"  Wolfram addressed this near the end of his talk, but even he doesn't have a good solution.  He's basically saying that we need a complete overhaul of the whole system.  Everything needs to change.  I can't imagine that'll happen any time soon!


Friday, December 10, 2010

Flashback to Elementary School

Do you remember playing games in elementary school?  Like Heads Up Seven Up and Around the World?

I remember playing Around the World while reviewing the multiplication tables.  I always did really well on the hard ones (like 7 x 8 and 9 x 6) but would blank on the easy ones (like 1 x 5 or 0 x 3).  But it was always fun.

Last year when working on the unit circle values in precalc I was trying to think of some fun ways to review.  What's better than playing a game?  I used Microsoft Ink to make some flash cards with all of the unit circle angles and trig values. The program is great - I was able to flag the cards I wanted to use in the game (like just the first quadrant angles or just the sines or whatever) and it will play them in a random order.

If you don't have a tablet (because I was able to write mine, which was wonderful), there are several different options in making flashcards.  Check out FlashcardExchange and Flashcard Machine!

We played Around the World today in 3rd period (which is always a little wild and crazy) and had a lot of fun.  We'll see how it goes with 1st period on Monday (if they decide to speak out loud!).

A sidenote - A few of my kids in my 3rd period class told me that they haven't "done stuff" in math class since elementary school.  I guess they've just become accustomed to sitting and listening to the teacher and are enjoying actually being active and learning different ways.  Kinda sad, don't you think?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Links Updated!

I'm home again today with my girl and had some free time (ignoring the baskets of laundry upstairs that need to be put away!).  I just finished going through my links on diigo - most of them, anyway - and updating my Algebra 2 and Algebra 1 tabs above. 

Nothing's organized, but there's some good stuff there!

Algebra 2 links
Algebra 1 links 

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Home again!

My little girl told me last night that it hurt to do this.  (And then she swallowed.)  I'm not an alarmist and I usually err on the side of "Shake it off, you'll be fine" but she didn't eat dinner and then fell asleep on the couch.  It was a long night of her waking up in her bed and crying until I laid down with her.  I'd sleep for a little bit then head back to my bed, only to repeat that process 30 - 60 minutes later.  At 4:45 she woke me up because she'd wet the bed and we needed to change the sheets.  It was then that I decided I should stay home with her today.  I actually took her to the doctor this afternoon when she wasn't feeling any better; turns out that they think she has strep throat (has all 4 of the classic signs) and needs to stay home again tomorrow.

Normally that's not a problem.  My in-laws live close and are retired and jump at the chance to stay with the kids.  Unfortunately this week they're 2 hours away with my sister-in-law, who just had a baby.

Now what?

I'm trying to get some activities together for staying home a second day in a row from school.  Today was easy - everything was prepped and ready (I was actually feeling proud of myself at school yesterday for having stuff planned out for a few days!  Assuming I'd be there, of course.).  But now?  Hmm.

I've been doing some searching - I checked out, Sam Shah's virtual filing cabinet, and NCTM's illuminations site.  These are a couple of things I tagged to use in the future.

1.  Another virtual filing cabinet from the blog Take it to the Limit.  I've never seen this one before and added it to my reader!

2.  An idea for introducing the unit circle from Riley Lark.  We just did this in precalc, but I'm trying to make the unit circle more of a discovery thing for the kids (as opposed to the idea of I show, they learn).

3.  Some resources for teaching Algebra 2 kids to graph parabolas on Math Stories.  Again, we just finished these (the plan was to quiz on Friday) but they could be nice little reinforcement ideas as long as he fixes the links.  (Edited to add:  It's fixed!  Just click on the image.)

So here's what I'm thinking for tomorrow.
1.  In Precalc, the kids did a review sheet today for a quiz that was supposed to be tomorrow (and I said in my sub notes that we'd postpone until Thursday).  I'm thinking that I'll write up the answers to the review sheets, ask one of my wonderful colleagues to make copies for me, and then have the kids do a trig cut up in class.

2.  In Algebra 2...  still undecided.  Maybe a review of graphing parabolas and factoring to solve?  Basically, probably just a boring worksheet.  Boo.  I'll keep looking.

3.  In Algebra 1, the kids took a test today on solving equations.  In our next chapter we'll be graphing equations of lines, talking slope, ordered pairs, etc.  I'm going to use one of Dan Meyer's activities for creating a picture from plotting points (they should all know how to plot points, right?) that I found on his Algebra 1 resources (week 10).  Then I'll provide some graph paper and they can make their own design. 

Right now, I'm watching an episode of Hoarders.  I've never seen it before, and I just have one thing to say.  Eww.  (But you have to love the instant streaming from Netflix!)