Sunday, January 30, 2011

My new conundrum

(I just checked to make sure I spelled conundrum right.  I did.)

I was grading a precalculus assignment last night that involved some analyzation of sine and cosine graphs and equations.  Nothing hard mathematically, but it did involve some thinking (which for some of those kids is hard!).  I noticed as I was grading that there were several papers that had some of the same wrong answers.  I pulled those papers out and compared.

Word for word.  Number for number.  Identical.

The first two I saw didn't surprise me greatly.  But then I kept grading.

Two here the same.

Three here the same.

Two here the same.

From what I could tell, there are three different groups of identical papers.

Here's a couple:

One pair:

 And another:

See what I mean?!

My first instinct was zeros all around.... but then I know someone actually did the work and though I want to punish them for cheating, I also want them to get some points for doing something.  So then I thought I'd see if the cheater(s) of each group will confess, then maybe I'll give the actual doer half credit.

I tweeted out my situation last night and got a few suggestions:

me:  How do you deal with cheating? Just graded precalc assign and had 11 identical papers. Ugh.

From @PamLPatterson: Sorry,hate when they do that. Major assgnmts get referred to our Ethics Council. HW I usually talk w/individually&policy is to give 0

From @mackrellr: I'd go all Judge Judy on em 2 get them to admit their wrongs-like get em 2 confess why you'd even suspect them of cheating.  still, they deserve due process & the punishment (student handbook) should fit the crime..

From @jamestantonGive them completely different grades. How can they complain?

From @PamLPatterson:  I like that idea! Give the first the grade it would be, then progressively lower the scores & observe. Are they jr & sr?

From @misscalcul8Class discussion: compare and contrast group work with cheating. See what they come up with and write a rubric/guideline? Try it out.

From @whiteley:  What is sch policy? Ours - 1st offense = zero + call to parents + 3 hrs detention. 2nd offense in same class = failure for the year.

Here's what our student handbook says:
1st Offense: No credit (zero) on the assignment and parent conference.  A disciplinary referral will be placed in the student’s file.
2nd Offense: No credit (zero) on assignment and parent conference. Student will be referred to an Assistant Principal for additional disciplinary measures, such as Saturday school, and/or suspension from school.
Additional violations of this rule will result in additional disciplinary measures.

I guess I know what I need to do.  Just hate to do it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Things I've Tagged (weekly)

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

Friday, January 28, 2011

Space Shuttle Math

Today's the 25th anniversary of the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.  Do you remember where you were?

I was in the 5th grade and was at a different school for my weekly Enrichment class (which I hated, btw).  The kids from that school got to go watch the launch but we didn't (boo).  They came back just after it happened, told us the news, and then we got to turn the tv on.  (I'm still bitter about that.)  I wanted to be an astronaut so that was a huge deal to me.  And now that I'm a teacher I see the other side of it.  

The kids in my Algebra 1 class are mostly freshman (with a couple of exceptions), so I knew that this event was just something in a history book to them.  I started class today by showing them this video:

They were pretty respectful (especially for them) and listened quietly.  We talked a little bit about it - I told them my background and what a big deal it was at that time.

Then one of my girls was wondering how far up they were when the shuttle exploded.  (Hmm... math anyone?)  The video didn't say, but it did tell how fast they were going and one boy told me that it happened something like 45 seconds into the flight.  We did a little work and decided they were about 23 miles up(though it probably wasn't going straight up... ).  We then did some work with google (and wikipedia) and found out that it was more like 73 seconds.  That changed our answer a little bit. (!)  

The video shows a clip of John Glenn speaking - it turns out that none of the kids know who he is.  (Keep in mind that I'm in Ohio and he was one of our senators for 25 years.)  I told them that he was the first man to orbit the earth "Wasn't that Neil Armstrong?" someone asked.  Then we started talking about orbiting the earth.  How long exactly does that take? 

Before we went about finding out, we made a list of what information we'd need to know.
1.  How fast does a space shuttle travel in orbit?  (17,500 mph)
2.  How far does it go?  (The distance around the Earth.)
3.  But what's the distance around the Earth?  (The circumference.)
4.  What do we need to find the circumference?  (The radius.)

After little more googling we had our answers.

One helpful boy with a calculator did a little figuring and determined that it would take approximately 1.42 hours for a shuttle to orbit the Earth.  Wait.... is that right?  Less than 1 1/2 hours?  No way.

So something must be wrong.  We did a little refiguring.  The space shuttle doesn't travel on the Earth like we do, it's several miles up.  Google to the rescue again - how high is a space shuttle in orbit?  The first resource I found said 115 - 400 miles (quite a range) so we decided to use 250 miles.

More calculations.  

Our new time?  1.51 hours.  Those extra 250 miles don't make that much of a difference when you're going 17,500 mph!

To check (because I wanted to show them that we were doing some legit math and having fun at the same time), back to google.  How long does it take for a space shuttle to orbit the earth?

Answer (from here):  The Shuttle orbits the Earth in LEO at about 17,500 mph. Which means it makes one full orbit about every 90 minutes.  The shuttle crew will see about 16 Sunrises in a day.  

I'm going to consider this a successful class.  Who cares that we didn't get to talk about writing equations of lines?  :)

(PS - I found this interesting:  "Media coverage of the accident was extensive: one study reported that 85 percent of Americans surveyed had heard the news within an hour of the accident."  Nowadays that would be slow (with twitter and the internet and such) but 25 years ago I'm sure that that was fast!)

Monday, January 24, 2011

iPad, anyone?

My first grade son brought home a couple of things from school today.

1.  An invitation to the Academic breakfast on Friday morning for me and my hubby.  I think to be invited, the student has to be nominated by the teacher - isn't that cool?  I'm hoping to be able to take 1/2 a personal day to go.  I'd hate to miss it!

2.  His second quarter report card.  He had all E's (Excellent) except for Math (Satisfactory).  Ugh - a dagger in my heart!  It basically all stemmed from one test that he took and earned a 75% on because he didn't count well.  Hate that!  I can picture him rushing through it just to get done (because when he brought the test home and we talked about it he got all of the answers right).  Oh well.

I had a fun opportunity pop up at school today.  My principal has mentioned a couple of times that she'd like to get a class set of iPads for us to use, and today on our school ning there was an application to be part of the iPad project.  It looks like a select group of teachers will get an iPad to explore how they can be used in class.  I was all over that and got my application was turned in this morning!    One of the questions on the application was about why we'd like to take part and how we'd use it with students;  I'm honestly not sure what I'd do, but I'd love the opportunity to try!  I said that on my app and then gave a link to a livebinder that I threw together with some links showing how people have used them in a math classroom.... think that'll give me a leg up on the competition?  (Here's what I found if you're interested.)

If you have any other suggestions on how to use them, I'd love to know!

(I didn't include using geogebra, which I know would be awesome on them, too.  Assuming they support java.)

Friday, January 21, 2011

Now all I need is a leprechaun.

We had a snow day yesterday and a 2-hour delay today, and coming in for 30 minute classes on a Friday doesn't help a whole lot when you're trying to motivate kids to work.  I'd originally planned on talking about vertex form of a parabola in Algebra 2 (we've been completing the square the past couple of days) but knew it just wouldn't get done today.

So on to plan 2!  After looking for one of those "joke" worksheets to review competing the square I thought I'd try some group work (ala @druinok) via index cards.  I decided to write problems in varying degrees of difficulty... those with an "a" value, those without, those that would result in fractions, etc.  I pulled out my Sharpies to start writing and what did I discover?

I have a rainbow of sharpies.  Isn't that awesome?  So instead of doing random colors a certain difficulty, I decided to take advantage of my colors and made a rainbow.

I'll let the kids decide which level they want to start with - I know some don't need the red/orange and could jump straight to yellow/green.  

And doesn't every rainbow have a pot of gold?  

Mine is completing the square of x^2 + bx + c(and if they can do that, I'll add in an a at the beginning) for bonus points.

I even laminated the cards. :)

Here's the document I'm going to give the kids:
A2 CtS Rainbow                                                                                                                           

(Edited for spelling.  Did you know sharpie is Ie and not Ee?  Did you know leprechaun is leprEchaun and not leprAchaun?  Geesh.)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


I decided that I want to start getting more on my class blogs - especially now that we have access to Youtube at school and can access different videos.

So yesterday in Algebra 2, after covering Completing the Square, I decided to try and find a video to back me up.  I posted this one, which is probably the most boring thing ever... but I honestly couldn't find one I liked any better.

In Precalc today we were graphing transformations of sine and cosine graphs.  Again, I wanted the kids to have an opportunity to see it explained again.  I checked YouTube and this time found nothing I liked.  Zilch.  I had a little bit of free time when no one showed up for tutoring (surprise!) so I made a screencast.  I had some issues with Jing on my computer and couldn't get Screentoaster to work, so I ended up using screencast-o-matic.

Aside from hating hearing my own voice talking to me (how do the kids put up with it every day?!) I think it turned out ok.  And it only took one take!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

There's a new tab!

I love those tabs up top - aren't they just cute?!


I met with Cary Harrod (I don't know what her job title is, but she works at our district office and is in charge of lots of tech stuff) on Friday to help me organize my thoughts before my big California trip in a few weeks.  (!)  I showed her my Livebinder and I guess got her thinking about some math stuff because yesterday she e-mailed me with a math blog she thought I should read.  It was actually already in my reader (The Exponential Curve, if you're curious) and I responded by telling her that there are a lot of blogs I read that I think people at my school would enjoy but I hate pushing things.  I don't want to seem like a know-it-all or anything.

Cary said that if I'd send her a list she'd see about spreading the word.

Yesterday I was checking with Google Reader to see if there was any way I could make a list of the blogs that I subscribe to (never found a way.... if you know, let me know!) so this afternoon I did a lot of cutting and pasting.  I arranged them by types (high school teacher, middle school teacher, college professors, other) and listed subjects taught when I knew.

Here's my list - if you have any others you would add to it, please let me know!  (Or changes.)

I pasted it in a new tab at the top, too.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Things I've Tagged (weekly)

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

Trying something out...

I'm trying to combine a couple of things I just found.

1st:  Using a website called, you can crop youtube videos (found on Free Technology for Teachers, which if you don't read you're really missing out!)
2nd:  A song about pi (from Division by Zero - he has the lyrics posted if you're interested!)

cropped with SnipSnip

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Batman math

A few thoughts as this first semester draws to a close:
1.  I need to get more project-y.  I've done some neato stuff with Precalc (like our geogebra photos project and the Wolfram Demonstration Project) and would like to keep trying to find new stuff.  I've neglected my Algebra 2 classes, though, and need get my butt in gear.  First up:  a quadratic equation project (like what my co-worker Ashley Fago did with her Algebra 2 classes).  I'm hoping to get to conics this year in Algebra 2 (we should be able to) and want to have them make up some facebook pages for each conic.

2.  I had some icky decisions to make today about a couple of boys' grades.  I told my classes at the beginning of the year that they needed to pass 2/3 of the grades that contribute to their semester average (2 quarters, 1 exam).  And then I didn't think about it until today when one of my girls was stressing as she finished up her exam because she had to pass (she'd failed the quarter).  Oh yeah!  Lightbulb.  So I went and looked over the other students' grades just to check that no one had slid through, and I found one.

This boy had gotten a B during our first quarter then bombed 2nd quarter (59%) and failed the exam.  I was facing a bit of a gut check:  do I stick to my guns or go the easy way out and let him pass (based on the computer averaging of our grades).  I stuck, called the dad to let him know, and the boy will fail.  Hate that.

Boy #2 is a charmer when he wants to be.  He's cute and smiles and acts all sweet but I know copies assignments and basically has no morals.  He's bright, though, and usually skates through pretty easily.  He had an A for the first quarter, a B+ for the second, and just barely got a B+ on the exam.  Because of some crazy grade-stuff that's been going on lately at school, we were told that we weren't allowed to give any minuses (A-, B-, C-, etc) as semester averages.  So this kid's grade would've averaged as an A- which I would've had to bump to an A.  Really?  I mean, I caught this kid during the final today trying to get his neighbor to help him on a problem.  To let him get an A would be demoralizing (for me... and I'd hope the other students if they found out!).  So I went back to his exam review packet (which I counted as part of his exam grade) and checked it a little more carefully.  I legitimately found evidence to take a point away, which dropped his exam grade to a B.  His semester grade is now a B+.

3.  Lots of stuff coming up!  I feel like I'm not going to be at school at all this semester (which is tough, but that means it's going to fly by!)
            a.  1/2 day out at the end of January to work with other Algebra 2 teachers to start working on a common exam (yuck)
           b.  1 1/2 days out at the beginning of February to go to Sacramento (I decided that I'm excervous.... excited and nervous.  Get it?)
           c.  2 days out in April to go to the NCTM Conference in Indianapolis (anyone going?)  Just excited about that... not nervous at all :)


I just saw this link on twitter and thought it was cute:

epic win photos - Math Problem WIN
see more Hacked IRL - Truth in Sarcasm

Friday, January 7, 2011

Predicting the Future

I mentioned previously about a meeting that I'm going to be attending in the beginning of February addressing how technology might be used in a future math class.  I'd love some input.

I was sent a draft agenda to preview some of the topics.  If you have any opinions, please chime in!

1.  Building a Vision for the Future:  What will the educational world be like in 5-10 years?
  • What will the structure/curriculum/assessment look like?
2.  Checking Assumptions:  In thinking about this vision, what assumptions are we making about students/teachers/technology?
  • What kind of delivery platform do you see (book/CD/DVD/handheld/mini-computer/laptop/podcast/web-based)?
  • Do you think social networking will change this vision?
3.  Drawing on Expertise:  Who can we learn from that are doing promising things?
  • Within/outside the US
  • Math/Non-math
4.  Specific Concerns:  How might we refine our vision or build on it in light of these specific issues:
  • Curricular forms
  • Teacher Interface
  • Student Access and Opportunities
  • General (more personal experiences of good stuff)

I don't know how much I'll be able to contribute, but I'm really interested in hearing what other people have to say. I'm actually going to meet with one of our district tech ladies - she's got some great ideas but she's also coming from the viewpoint of a former elementary teacher.  That's great for some of the general tech stuff, but we all know how much better different the secondary math world is. :)

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Stage Fright

I detest speaking in front of people.  When I get to a meeting and know I'm going to have to say something, I worry and go over and over in my head what I'm gong to say.  In those few seconds before it's my turn to talk, my heart races and I get light-headed.  Then I say my thing, take a deep breath, and I'm fine.

I guess I just get so concerned about everyone looking at me and sounding dumb.

In class?  Totally fine.  Teenagers aren't real people - who cares what they think?  :)  I am sure that I've looked and sounded dumb every day for the last 14 years.  I've danced and sung in front of classes and (though I can literally feel my face turning bright red) don't care.  But put me in front of one of our faculty meetings and the issues begin.

I bring this up because in my precalculus classes yesterday and today, the kids have been presenting their results from a Wolfram Demonstrations project I'd assigned (I totally stole it from Amber Caldwell here - but I asked first!).  I read through their papers last night, and they really found some interesting demonstrations that illustrated topics we've covered in class this year.  In class I asked them to pick one demonstration and show how it could be applied to a specific problem from our book.  We're talking 2 - 3 minutes tops.

This morning a teacher friend came up to my room - I have her senior daughter in class (she was absent yesterday).  She told me her daughter had stayed home yesterday because she was so worked up about the presentation; the girl was currently in her mom's classroom refusing to come to our first period class.  I felt horrible.  I can totally understand what the girl's going through.  She's a sweet, quiet, listener-type (totally opposite her wild and crazy mother, btw) and has probably been fretting over this since I first assigned the project.

I tracked her down in her second period class and reassured her that I understand her anxiety and asked her to come up after school and just show me what she found - hopefully she's not worrying about it all day.  Poor thing.