Friday, December 21, 2012

Another one...

Girl walks in with two worksheets due yesterday. (She wasn't in class due to a concert, came later to take quizzes based on those worksheets.)

"Can you help me with this? I can't find how to do it anywhere."  (Rational functions... I'm pretty sure they're right in our book/notes where they were last quarter.)

Me: "How do you find holes?"
Her: "Is that where the bottom equals zero?"
Me: "No. Go look it up."
Her: "Ok. Oh, and here's my other worksheet. I wouldn't be able to re-do that quiz, would I?"
Me: "No."

Is it 2:15 yet?  I need these kids to go away.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

'Tis the Day Before the Day Before Winter Break. . .

Sometimes I wonder what these kids are thinking.

Today was a kinda crazy day with two assemblies. The freshmen/seniors went to the Holiday assembly first period and my 29-student precalc class was down to 11. (Because the performers had to go too.) The sophomores/juniors went 6th period, which cut that class from 19 to 3. Tomorrow is Grandparents' Day, so anyone with a grandparent attending (or presenting to grandparents) will be gone 2nd - 5th.

I told the precalc kids at the beginning of the week that they had two quizzes to do either today or tomorrow depending on what day they're here (or one each day if they're here both days). One was our weekly Algebra Review quiz and one was a solving triangles quiz using Law of Sines/Cosines.

Everything was fine. Kids who were here 1st period chose a quiz to complete (look how nice I am - I let them pick which one to do!). During my next class, one of the boys from first period stopped in asking if he could miss class tomorrow.  One of the social studies teachers is skyping with some soldiers in Afghanistan, which is awesome. I told him that was fine and asked when he was going to take his quizzes and he got a blank look on his face. Oh. Quizzes?  He left saying he'd ask another teacher if he could miss their class instead.

One of my freshmen told me in the middle of their solving systems quiz that she just couldn't get the graphs right. She just kept trying and erasing and trying again. I don't know if she was angling for some help, but I just told her to put something down... something's better than nothing!  It was a weird situation.

After school a girl stopped in.  She's not one to go out of her way to do math (actually, she tells me quite often how much she hates math and doesn't want to do it... and yes, this is a precalculus student) so I was somewhat surprised to see her here. But then when she started out by saying, "I know you said you wouldn't give us extra points, but. . ." I knew what she was after. She was concerned that her grade wasn't where she wanted it to be and asked if I would give her something to get more points. I told her that's what I've been doing this whole quarter. I also told her very nicely that if she was concerned about getting ready for the exam I'd be more than happy to go over stuff with her or look at old tests/quizzes to help clear things up, but I wouldn't be giving her anything for points.  (A friend of hers who I also have in class was standing in the doorway encouraging her to get help by going over mistakes. Bonus points for that one!) The girl walked out of my room without another word.  I don't think I won her "Favorite Teacher" vote with that one.

One more day.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Precalc Scheduling Stuff

Feel free to move on in your reader... I'm just working through some issues I've been having with what to do in precalc for the next 8 days.

The stuff in pink is what I'd had planned to finish up with in precalc. We've been working through chapter 4 for AGES (since Halloween, I'd guess) and are finally finishing it up. I don't usually test over the whole chapter because it's been so long and choppy (Thanksgiving's in there) and I've done a bunch of quizzes in the meantime.

The problem is that I either have too much time or too little.
1. I can finish up with Chapter 4 stuff this week but that leaves me 5 days with nothing (and I'm not starting exam review that early).
2.  If I start something new (like solving triangles using law of sines/cosines) then I don't have enough time to do all that I want to do with it.
3.  Those last two days before break (the 20th and 21st) we have holiday assemblies which affect 2 of my 3 precalc classes and Grandparent's Day (which will probably affect 2 of my classes also).  That's why I'm choosing not to follow the schedule I have planned.

Now I'm thinking maybe I could skip Inverse Trig Functions (for now), which is 4.7 and go straight to the solving triangles bit, which could take at minimum 5 days. That would get me through the middle of next week and then leave a couple of days for kids who are here to start exam review.

Or review factoring, which they stink at.

Hmm. An option.

Monday, December 3, 2012

The Polls are Open!

I know, we all thought that with November over we wouldn't have to worry about voting for a while. (Or all of those commercials... and phone calls... and mailings!)

But I'd like you all to take a second and make your voice heard.

Edublogs has opened the polls for their annual awards, and Twitter Math Camp is on the list for Best Open PD.  It would really really be cool if it could win!  So please go here, scroll down to Best Open PD, and click on Twitter Math Camp.

Oh, and if you're interested in this awesome opportunity next summer, the date and place have been announced.  We'll be congregating at Drexel University in Philadelphia from July 25 - 28.  Please join us!!

Finishing Up Sine and Cosine Graphs

So last week we started graphing sine and cosine in class.
Day 1:  Filled out a chart of values, noticed things, used Desmos to see what different transformations did.  (I wrote about it here.)

Day 2:  Whiteboards... such a nice easy to way to see who "gets" it!

Day 3:  The kids picked up this picture (after taking a short weekly Algebra review quiz):

I found this in a Sports Illustrated almost two years ago and kept it (and was actually able to find it last week when I wanted to!  That's a miracle in itself.).  On the board, I wrote: "If Jay Cutler's maximum was 100% and minimum was 0%, write an equation that models his week."  I'm sure I could've come up with a much better lead but I was stumped... if you have any ideas please let me know!  It was a more interesting way of picking out the transformations and putting them together to write an equation than a randomly generated graph would've been.  

We decided to use cosine with an amplitude of 50, vertical shift of 50, period of 6 days (I gave them dates for those maximum values that were 6 days apart) and applied a horizontal shift of 0.  But after writing that equation, I told them that, Oops - the graph actually starts with that first point which was two days before the maximum.  So then we had to incorporate that horizontal shift.

It was pretty fun (I thought).  Then I gave them an assignment to write equations for 4 graphs on their own.  

Day 4:  (Today)  So now we're applying their equation writing skills. I put together a list of 10 different cities' average normal maximum temperatures (found on They have to plot these values on a grid and come up with an equation that models that city.  They also have to do it for Cincinnati so that we can compare the two.  

Day 5:  (Tomorrow) We're going to use my new bff Desmos to check people's models.  I'm going to have them plot the data points and enter the equation that was generated by their classmate.  Then I think I'll have them set up an equation with sliders (all you do is enter something like a cos (bx + c) + d  and you'll be given the option to set up sliders) to have them try and fit an equation.  Or something like that.... I'm still trying to refine my ideas.

So what's up for Wednesday?  Tangent and reciprocal graphs.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

What do you notice?

Today in Precalc we started graphing sine and cosine curves.  I gave them these charts to fill out all of the sine, cosine, and tangent values of our favorite unit circle angles.  Then I handed out Sam's  @ultrarawr's awesome graph paper (which I stole while "eavesdropping" on twitter) and had them graph their results.

Then I asked...
What do you notice?

It was fun to hear their observations. They started out a little slow (I don't think they're ever asked anything like this without there being a "right" answer) but after a few non-mathy things they jumped into odd/even, zeros, and maxima.

This was an easy segue into the "correct" terminology of amplitude and period, and the transformations followed from there.

Oh, and it was soooo nice to have the kids make a prediction on what a value would do to the graph (like a vertical translation) and then show it using the Desmos calculator.  Love their sliders!

Monday, November 26, 2012

#Made4Math Monday: Stations

It was kind of a weird day back from Thanksgiving break. We only had two days of school last week and due to some sick kiddos at home, I was there for half of one day. I saw two of my Precalc classes but wasn't able to see the third (after intro'ing new material the previous Friday).

And it was dealing with the unit circle, which they're still adjusting to.

And I want to give a quiz tomorrow.

Instead of giving just a review sheet today, I decided to alter my plans a bit and give the kids more of a chance to talk through problems. I took the five types of questions that I wanted them to review and turned them into stations. Oh, and a sixth station just to practice the unit circle. I printed the problems and glued them onto colored construction paper (just for fun), then glued the answers to the previous station on the back (so answers for #1 were on the back of #2, etc.). I put the problems into some page protectors to protect them (duh). I'll probably make nicer ones and laminate them for next year.

Due to our time constraints, I gave the kids a set amount of time at each station. I knew some of the problem sets could've taken too long and the kids would've missed some sections, so I only gave them 5 minutes per table. This decreased as the period went on and I did some mental math to try and get every kid to every problem.

Here are the links to the documents I used:
 Problems    Answers     Answer Sheet

The kids did well with this; except for a couple of whiners first period I think they enjoyed moving around, and I continue to be amazed at how well they work with each other.

I ended up taking pity on the class I hadn't seen since a week ago Friday... Their quiz is Weds instead of tomorrow. I do have a heart. Sometimes.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sub plans!

I was out for half a day on Thursday because my daughter ended up with a fever at school.  She also had to stay home on Friday but, due to a very generous babysitter, I didn't have to stay home.

I thought we were in the clear until late this afternoon when my son was complaining that he felt hot. I thought he was fine but he found a thermometer (that shockingly worked!) and took his temperature. Darnit.

So thus began my quest to write up sub plans for tomorrow.

Several things are working in my favor:
1.  I have all of my major copies done, so I don't need class sets of anything. Or worse, to have to scramble to come up with an activity and then ask someone to copy it for me. That's the pits.

2.  It's a short week and therefore somewhat more relaxed. We have Weds - Fri off for Thanksgiving.

3.  There's a special program at school tomorrow and Tuesday to address bullying that several of my kids are attending. This is good because two of the most annoying challenging boys in my General Algebra 1 class won't be there.

Still, there was a lot to put together.
1.  I have a feeling that my precalc kids are going to have some issues with the homework I assigned on Friday. They're not very good at applying what they know to new situations.  If I don't show them problems exactly like what's on their homework, they struggle.  So annoying. Luckily, I have a copy of our book at home. I wrote up a video (using Explain Everything) of me talking through several of the problems and posted it to Schoology.
Time spent: 1 hour

2.  My Honors Algebra 1 kids took a test on Friday over linear equations and I'd intended to start working through solving inequalities with them. I'm going to have the sub pass out their notes (a basic outline), have the kids work through it, then give them their assignment. The only work I needed to do for this class was to write up the answers for the notes so the kids can see what they should have done to solve/graph.  (With instructions for the sub not to give it to them for at least 15 minutes.... we'll see if that happens!)
Time spent: 10 minutes

3.  I'm so up in the air with my General Algebra 1 class. They had a slope/slope-intercept form review on Friday and I'd intended to go over it tomorrow and quiz on Tuesday. So now with me being out tomorrow (along with 4 out of my 15 students for the aforementioned program) I don't know that I want to do that. I'll probably just play it by ear when I get there Tuesday. I'll have a quiz ready just in case but have another problem set ready, too.  I wrote up answers for the review for the sub to give out so interested students can check their work.  They'll be working on what could be a fun activity: to graph a set of lines and created a Stained Glass Window.  They like coloring, so it should be ok.
Time spent: 15 minutes

4.  I typed up my actual sub plans. I'm sure I forgot something. I had to look up the room change for my 3rd period class (due to a kid on crutches) and also included a list of the kids that will be missing because of the program.
Time spent: 15 minutes

5.  I tweeted my neighbor at school to ask if he'd print stuff out for me and he readily agreed (good thing, because he owes me big!! :) ). So then I emailed him a link to my sub plans (I put it on a gdoc so I can edit until tomorrow morning if necessary) and attached the notes and answer docs.  I also gave him directions on how to find my seating charts... they're somewhat buried in a filing tub sitting next to my desk.
Time spent: 15 minutes

So, if you add it up, that's almost 2 hours of prep work just to get ready to not be at school tomorrow. Wowzers.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

A Day in the Life (Math Teacher edition)

Want to know what I did today?  Thought so. :)

5:20 - My alarm goes off (my first thought is always "Is it Friday?" I'm usually disappointed.). I get up and shower, get dressed, etc.
5:55 - Hubby and I wake up the kids. He's on his way out the door so it's up to me to get them going from here.  
6:15 - We're downstairs getting breakfast. I've already weathered two temper tantrums and in the next 16 minutes will eat, locate Barbies to take to school, clean up spilled grape juice, and made my lunch.
6:31 - We're out the door. 
6:57 - After a quick stop to drove the kids off at the babysitter, I arrive at school and make my way to my room. In the next 23 minutes, I'll log in to my computer, put away my lunch, talk with a former student about writing a college recommendation, talk with current student about rescheduling a retake, check email, crack open a Cherry Coke Zero, alphabetize a gdoc for teacher down the hall, talk with colleague about Problem-Attic and how overwhelmed she is looking at what we'll have to do next year for CCSS.
7:20 - 7:30 - Homeroom (take attendance, eat a donut brought to me by a student, work on that spreadsheet, and set up my projector)
7:34 - 8:24 -1st Period Precalc (I show the kids some unit circle tricks, go over HW questions, and assign new review sheet. I was planning to give a quiz tomorrow but because of field trip/lack of time, I postponed the quiz until Thursday.  I can't imagine they're upset by that news.)
8:24 - 8:32 - The kids leave and I start to scramble to get ready for Algebra 1 7th period. It's my planning period. 
8:32 -  Unfortunately, yesterday (!) I was asked to take part in an ETR planning meeting for a 7th period student.  I was promised it would be 10 - 15 minutes. 
9:02 - The meeting finally ends and I rush to copy stuff for 7th.
9:12 - I make it back to my 2nd floor room to drop off my copies and grab what I'll need for 3rd period. I have a student who recently had knee surgery and can't do the stairs, so I've had to move downstairs to accommodate. I head downstairs to get the room ready (pass out trig wheels, scissors, get the projector set up), realize I forgot my iPad connector and run back upstairs to retrieve it. I make it back downstairs just as bell rings.
9:22 - 10:12 3rd Period Precalc (repeat of 1st period)
10:16 - bell rings to start new class; I'm late because I have to now gather up my stuff and move back upstairs. 
10:18 - 11:06 - 4th Period Math Intervention. Ive been assigned 5 students who come on a daily basis to get math help ( if needed). Today I helped one girl with Alg1, one boy with geometry,and one boy with Algebra 2. After everyone was in good shape I was able to catch up with grading some Alg1 stuff and then realized that I want to give an assignment in 5th period. I scrambled to find something quickly. 
11:06 - The bell rings. I ran to the math office to get my lunch in the microwave then run downstairs to make copies. Luckily there wasn't much of a line, so I made it back up to eat lunch. Bell rings at 11:33. 
11:37 - 12:27 - 5th Period Honors Alg1. After a warm up and homework questions, I pulled out the Barbies that id hurriedly located (and dressed) this morning. It's Barbie Bungee day! Kids paired up to work in the hall and in my room. Just one casualty: a girl knocks a plant off my desk, so I have to clean up (though she offered). It was nice to see the boy who sleeps every day and not done one assignment contributing. 
12:31 - 1:21 - 6th Period Precalc (I'm thinking that a lot of these kids who have depended on memorizing formulas are going to be sorely disappointed here soon when I expect them to know what something means (like a radian) and then explain/apply it.)
1:25 - 2:15 - 7th Period Integrated Alg1. We start with a warm-up that leads nicely into Slope-Intercept Form, which was today's lesson. I actually had one girl tell me that i needed to make the class harder, because math classes are always hard. Ill take that as a compliment. Then we only had about 7 mins left, so skipped the exit slip and gave them some graphs to do on their own for homework. 
2:15 - 3:25 - School's out! I prepped for Wednesday and Thursday, found my next assignment for Int Alg 1 and Precalc for tomorrow. Then I edited last year's Precalc quiz for Thursday (my goal is to make it more thought-provoking each year), ran copies of it all. A former student stopped in to ask about when we switched x and y, then solved for y to find max/min (no clue what she's talking about... And it wasn't finding inverses). Then I realized that I wouldn't have time to hit a store on my way home (for brass brads for Precalc trig wheels) so I was grateful that Seiler popped in and offered to get some. 
3:25 - 3:50 I made my way to the car and drive home. 
3:50 - Home. I grabbed the dogs and walked up to end of road to get the kids off the bus. 
4:00 - 6:30 - Mom time. I get the kids to do their HW, get a fire started in fireplace, clean the floor from grape juice spill this am. Then I braid Strawberry Shortcake's hair, help with various dressing and undessing of Barbies, and order pizzas for dinner later. Commence random picking up of stuff around the house, go over spelling words with son, and listen to him read his 1-minute passage. (I'm hoping he'll have time to do 15 mins later.  He doesn't.) Then I check out twitter and find a link to other ppl's days. Fun!
6:30 - 9:20 Friends are at the house for church group. This normally involves a quick cleaning of the house after school but the cleaning ladies were here yesterday, thank goodness. 
FINALLY! Time to sit and relax. Luckily I didn't have any pressing schoolwork to bring home, so I sat with my iPad.  Played a little, edited this, and now it's bedtime. 
Less than 7 hours until I hear that alarm again!

Monday, November 12, 2012

#Made4Math: Trig Stuff

We're at the point in Precalc where I'm going to start expecting the kids to *know* the values on the unit circle. Some of them won't put in any more time than we do in class (and it'll show) but many of them will spend some time learning those crazy ordered pairs.

I have a few things that I give them to help out a bit.

1. Trig Wheel of Values
A colleague gave me this a few years back and I think it's a lot of fun. It's a great way to turn a degrees angle into radians and review its ordered pair. And it's cute!

You start with two circles (one with degrees, one with radians and ordered pairs). When you assemble correctly you can see an easy conversion from one to the other. If I happen to get to the store, I usually pick up some of those brass brads to stick through the center to keep the circles together.

2. Today in class we played Around the World (remember playing that in 3rd grade?) with sin/cos/tan values. I let the kids reference their unit circle, but that'll be the last time that happens! I put the cards together on Quizlet, then embedded the deck on Schoology (our online environment). Here's my deck:

3. I'll probably put the Finger Trick for Trig out there for the kids, too. Seen this one?

If you're interested in any of my other random precalc stuff, here's a link to some stuff I put on a couple of years ago. It's not greatly up to date, but it's someplace to start!

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Patty Paper FTW

Patty paper rocked my world today.

Last week in Precalculus we finally started talking about radians. After doing the basics (what is a radian/complementary/supplementary/coterminal) and some not-so-fun angular and linear velocity problems, today we got to what will change my students' lives forever.

The Unit Circle.

Several years ago I started giving them an image like this one to fill out instead of the one above. It's so much more organized.
When we create the unit circle in class, I like for them to know where those darned ordered pairs come from. So in the past I would hand out a notecard for each kid and ask them to trace the 30 degree angle to create a 30-60-90 triangle. Once they realized that the hypotenuse of the triangle was the same as the radius of the circle (1), we could find the two legs of the triangle.  The problem was that to trace the angle they had to be able to see through the notecard onto the unit circle below. I typically would have kids lined up along the back windows with their papers propped up so they could use the sunlight to help them see. Then we'd cut out the triangles and arrange them on the circle so the kids could see that the sides of the triangle were their paths to the ordered pairs.  I thought it worked well (instead of just throwing the ordered pairs at them without any rhyme or reason) but the notecard density and having to cut them out slowed us down.  

Then last year, two classes in to creating a unit circle, I thought about using patty paper instead of notecards.

And thus my life was changed forever.

(btw, here's the post where I wrote about it last year. Sorry for double posting on the same topic.  It just makes me so happy!)

AND I just found a unit circle song that I'd embedded on my blog almost two years ago. THIS IS WHY YOU NEED TO BLOG, PEOPLE!  (If your memory is as bad as mine is, anyway.)

Monday, November 5, 2012

#Made4Math Monday: iPad apps

A couple of years ago the principal at my school decided that she wanted to get a test group of teachers to try out the iPad in the classroom.  (I blogged about it here and here.) After some issues with the first one I was given (issues being that I dropped a bowl on it) I was given another new one last spring.

At that time I wasn't quite sure what to do with it but have since discovered a few uses in the classroom as a teacher-organizational tool.

1.  Three Ring (yes, I used it as a #Made4Math earlier this year)

I love this app as a way to keep track of my SWHHW slips for kids who don't do an assignment. What's even better is that since then they've added parent access.  You enter the parent's email address and they receive notifications when I add something to their child's account.  It's not just picture-taking, either. You can also take a video or add an audio file.

2.  GoodNotes
I've been grading 2 - 3 problems from the Precalc assignments on an almost-daily basis this year. My problem is that when a kid turns in a homework late I'm not sure which ones I graded. I just bought this app ($4.99 in the iTunes store) this weekend and plan to use it to keep track of what I'm grading for each section. I can set up notebooks for each class and within each notebook have a notebook for each chapter.  Here's what it looks like so far:

This is my precalc shelf with an example picture (because you can take pictures of things to pull in your notebook... or import a pic already on your iPad) and my Chapter 4 notebook.  (They have cute designs for the front of the notebooks!)
Within each notebook you can set up pages. You can either write or insert text, highlight, move stuff around, etc. The dark part at the bottom is a movable "hand guard" that gives you a place to rest your hand while writing.  So far I'm pretty pleased with it!

3.  Explain Everything
I've made some "talk throughs" this year for my Algebra 1 and Precalc classes right before a test or quiz. They request certain problems (from a review, usually) that I make a screencast for and work out for them.  The last time I did these I found this app called Explain Everything ($2.99) that was very easy to use.  It's pretty similar to Educreations but what I liked most is that you can record yourself talking through individual slides, then the app will save them all together as one file.  So if you mess up one little thing (not that I would ever do that!) it saves you from re-recording the whole talk. This is one that I made for my Algebra 1 kids who can't add or subtract a fraction to save their lives.

I also recently discovered the finger swipes on the iPad (this is an iPad 3, I think) to scroll between apps without having to go to the home screen first. Awesome.

And this isn't so much school related, but I'm in a couple of fantasy football leagues so I also have both the Yahoo and ESPN app for those. :)  It's all about your priorities, people.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Twittereen!

If  you're on twitter, you may have noticed some different avatars in the past 12 hours or so. For the past 3 - 4 years, people have changed their picture to emulate someone else on Halloween.  It's lots of fun but can get kinda confusing when you're used to associating someone with a picture!  (Like, now you actually have to *read* the username!  Geesh.)

For instance, here's my new one:

meant to be like @druinok.

(Just a side note:  see the purple toenail in the top right?  That's my little girl's. At Walmart this summer I ran over it (accidentally) with the shopping cart and the whole nail came off. Totally nasty.  It's growing back nicely, though! And do you like my blue sparkles?)

The list of everyone's changes (and a chance to vote for your favorites) is here.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

I guess.

There's been a lot of talk lately putting down the teaching profession. Not only do we get summers, weekends, and a couple of weeks at Christmas off, but test scores are dropping and our kids aren't learning anything.

A month or so ago a friend of mine inferred that I don't work full time because I'm home by 3 every day.

I guess she doesn't know about the days that I stay at school until 3:30 and then have to rush to get home by 4 to get my kids off the bus.  (And I'm there by 7 am every day.)

I guess she doesn't know about my 23 minute lunch period which is the only free time I have all day (as she talks about reading a book at her hour-long lunch).

I guess she doesn't know that I can spend 5 hours on a Sunday afternoon grading papers. And still have planning to do for the rest of the week.

I guess she doesn't know that I sit with my computer every night trying to find new/better/more interesting ways to teach my kids.

I guess she doesn't know that I am about to totally reorganize my whole curriculum to fit the CCSS.  And not only reorganize it but reinvent it too. Chances are slim that we'll have many resources to pull from that fit our immediate needs.

I guess she doesn't know that I spent hundreds of my own dollars to travel to TMC12 this summer. And I'll probably spend hundreds more this coming summer to repeat that experience.

I guess she doesn't know that I spent oodles of money and too many hours at a non-air conditioned school this summer to redo my classroom.

I guess she doesn't know that as I'm spending this extra money on my classroom and professional development opportunities, my salary has been frozen for a couple of years.

I guess she doesn't know that I'm basically available for my kids 18 hours a day through email, twitter, and schoology (our online environment).

I guess she doesn't know that I've spent close to $100 this year on various things that the kids are selling at school to help support their activities.

I guess that she doesn't know that when I take a day off (whether it be for a personal day, sick day, or because I have sick kids) it's more work preparing for a substitute teacher than it is to actually be there myself. Calling in isn't the end of it. (Last year I actually took my girl with an ear infection into school because there were some things I had to be there to do to prepare for a sub. And then we went to the doctor.)

I'm not a complainer. I love what I do. I just wish people could respect that and think about what goes on behind the scenes so that their kids are successful and learn.

ETA:  From a comment I received on fb when I posted a link to this...
Unfortunately, even though this is all SOOO true, sometimes non-teachers just don't get it. You didn't even mention the fact that our salaries (even considering summers off) are not equal to other professions with equal amount of education. Or the fact that the legislators who have not been in a classroom other than as a student, keep changing the laws and requirements for everything. And like you- not complaning.....we HAVE to love what we do or we wouldn't be doing it.  My husband always asks me why I don't get grading and lesson plans finished at school. Well.......that is when we make parent phone calls, go to IEP meetings and a million other distractions!

Friday, October 26, 2012

I'm telling!

A funny story from this afternoon:

There's a boy in my 7th period Integrated Algebra 1 class (I'm going to call him Bob) who's pretty bright and is probably only in the class because of his behavior (hate that). I think he gets bored, which definitely doesn't help with his distractability in class. Today Bob asked to sit in a different spot with some other kids and I told him yes, as long as he was quiet and did what he was supposed to do. It wasn't 10 minutes later that I had to tell him to move back to his regular seat.

Apparently Bob wasn't very happy with this and kept making rude comments, so I suggested he go sit in the hall to calm down. And so he did.

After finishing he lesson with the rest of the class, I went and sat down with Bob in the hall. We had a little chat about how he needed to realize that while he was able to not pay as much attention all of the time, there were several students in class who didn't have that luxury. Then Bob started telling me that today was "the last day" he would be sitting at his assigned desk. Bob just couldn't deal with sitting with the boy he was close to; he was annoying and took up too much space. I told Bob that he might not have a choice about that as we have a limited number of options in our seating arrangement. I haven't seen any problems between Bob and his tablemate and really don't see the need to move them. (And it's two boys with the space of 4 desks. Space isn't an issue.)

Again, Bob wasn't happy. He then told me that he was going to go tell our principal to tell me not to sit him by the other boy. Can't you just imagine this freshman boy storming into the office telling the principal that I'm wronging him by sitting him with someone he doesn't want to sit with?! I told Bob he was more than welcome to chat with our principal about that, so he stomped down the hall.

Unfortunately for Bob, the final bell rang about five minutes later and he'd left his backpack in my room. He came back in while I was chatting with another teacher, threw his INB in the storage area (I made him come back and put it away neatly) and took off down the hall.

I can't wait to find out if he was able to tell the principal on me.

On my way out of he building this afternoon, I ran into an Instructional Specialist who has Bob and his tablemate at the same time in a learning lab. It turns out that she's not able to keep them from talking while they're together and they seem like pretty good buds. That was the icing on the cake for me!


Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What is an honors student?

The students in my school district have the option of taking Honors Algebra 1 in 7th grade.  And then again in 8th.  So when I talk about having an Honors Algebra 1 class of freshmen, please remember that these aren't truly our "honors" kids. These are (normally) good, hardworking kids who are put in this class to avoid the "stigma" of being in College Prep.

With that being said, I think I was a bit spoiled last year with my Honors Algebra 1 class.  I had quite a few who were very bright and no issues with getting homework done.  This year hasn't gone so well.  The average number of missing assignments/student is 3.2, and while seven of the kids don't have a missing assignment, one of them has yet to do any work at all. (Except for a plotting points picture that they got on Monday... he's been working on that for 3 days now.)

It's a jovial bunch, but most of them could really care less about how they're doing in class.  So for today's warmup, I wanted them to consider what it meant to be in an honors class.  I asked them to list the qualities that an honors math student has.  Here's what they came up with:

After we generated the list, I asked them to think about how many of those qualities they had. The overall feeling was that no, they didn't fit the bill.  (From their perspective.)

Then I gave them a list of the qualities I would expect an honors student to have.

(I printed this on yellow cardstock and told them to attach it to their INB somewhere they'd see it often.)  I wanted the kids to know that their mathematical ability isn't what makes them an honors student. Sure, it's important, but not as important as their work ethic and their behavior.

Friday is the end of our first quarter, so we basically have one more quarter until we start thinking about scheduling for next year. I hope they'll keep this in mind throughout the next 9 weeks and start working a little harder.  I've told the kids that just because they're in Honors now doesn't mean that they'll stay.  If it's important to them, then the behavior and work habits need to change.

We'll see how that goes.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Solving Equations woes

We've been solving equations in my Integrated Algebra 1 class for the past few weeks, and as a whole I've been pretty impressed with their work.

 There are basically two different reactions:
1. These are too hard! I don't know what to do next!
2. Can you make them harder? These are fun! Can we have some more?

The problem with a couple of my kids who are struggling with the equations is that they can't keep their work organized.

So here's my plea for help: Does anyone have a special template or something that they give to the kids to keep their steps lined up?  Should I give them grid paper and make them write one number in each box?  Unless I hear from some of you in the next oh, 5 - 10 minutes, that's what I'll do.... but if you have any additional ideas after that I'd love to hear them! :)

(I just wrote this up to give to those kids... think it'll help?)

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


My Integrated Algebra 1 class has quite a variety of skill levels. I've got a handful of kids that should be in College Prep but either need a little bit of extra time or have attitude issues and I've got kids that couldn't add 3 + 2 without a calculator.

I've been taking it pretty slow with them (2 days on combining like terms; two days on one-step equations) and was really worried about how bigger equations would go.  I was shocked on Monday when they totally ROCKED two-steppers. All of the exit slips were in the green bin and aside from a couple of negatives, answers were correct.  Today I gave them a quiz on one- and two-steps which I'm hoping will prove to be good scores.

After the quiz the kids picked up a sheet for their INB with other types of two-step equations. We'd really only done the ax + b = c type in class (or x/a + b = c) and I wanted to get them thinking about something like ax + bx = c (combining like terms first) and 1/2(x + a) = c (clearing out the fraction instead of distributing).  I was walking around while the kids were working and saw that quite a few of them were getting the hang of it.

We still had 10 minutes or so left in class, so I grabbed a marker and headed to my whiteboards. I wrote up 5 or so problems (like the ones on the worksheet) and tossed out markers to kids who wanted to work them.  Once they finished it I replaced their equation with another one, just a bit harder. Then another. Then another.

Here's what we ended up with:
Keep in mind, these kids have never seen equations like this before... and yet going from step to step was a natural progression for them. I didn't help a bit. We ran out of time for the equation on the very left side... the girl working on it took a picture so she can finish it up tomorrow just in case it gets erased.  The smaller one squeezed in the middle is from a girl who moved here from Cambodia and speaks little English (although her language is improving drastically).  She obviously took some sort of Algebra and knows how to solve equations, which I'm sure is making her adaption easier.

So I learned a lot today. I can't underestimate these kids and what they're capable of. I need to challenge them and keep them learning (btw, the kids at the board were LOVING this). But I also need to keep in mind the other kids not involved, whether they didn't want to work at the board or were still working at their desk on the worksheet or were embarrassed to say they didn't know how.  

The task ahead of me is clear. Without making students feel dumb or inferior, I need to start differentiating assignments. I want to make sure that everyone gets the knowledge they need to succeed, but I also want to push the kids who are willing and able.  Multiple assignments, here I come!  Now I just have to find a good balance.

Just overheard some student teachers chatting outside my room. The girl who's with a math teacher across the hall said this:

"I've taken every single math class available at (insert school name here) but I came here and I don't know how to explain Geometry to them. I don't know how to *teach* proofs. I don't know to *teach*."

I know it takes time, but that's a little scary.

Calculator Lessons

Things learned on the graphing calculator today:

1.  If you hit the store button it'll save a value for you so you can easily use it later. We were using phi to determine if a person's face fit the golden ratio. Homework was to do the same for their face.  Some of the kids were really freaked out that I had pictures of them to hand out! (Adapted from this activity at

2.  There's a delete button!

3.  If you hit 2nd on/off it will lighten or darken the screen.

4.  To see a y-value in a table you must have an equation in y = .

5. The ^ is your exponent button.

The scary thing is that 3 out of these 5 discoveries were made by my Precalc sophomores/juniors.  If only they played with/explored their calculator as much as they do their phones!

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

My Favorite... (via

Megan Hayes-Golding started a weekly chat a month or so ago called #GlobalMathDepartment. The cool thing about this chat is that it's not just on twitter or gchat.  It's done using a platform called Big Marker which is more of an interactive venue. You can see and hear the presenter and there's a chat option to discuss or ask questions. It's pretty cool.  Here's the link for the presentation; it starts at 9 PM Eastern if you're interested!

Megan asked to to present a "My Favorite" so tonight I'll show a couple of hands-on things I do at the beginning of trig.  So now I'm nervous.

Also, I just had a math teacher friend stop by to ask about INBs! She's going to start using them in her Integrated Geometry class.  Score one for the good guys! :)

Monday, October 1, 2012

#Made4math: Exit slip update

I posted earlier how I was using exit slips in class now (in my general level Alg1). The kids just accept it as something they need to do and I don't give them their assignment until they've turned in their slip.

I have three bins out for the kids to turn their work into; a green, a yellow, and a red (see this post).  I ask them to put their paper in green if they're confident in the answers, yellow if they're not sure, and red if they have no clue.  Several people have asked me if the kids actually do this (or if there's a "stigma" attached to the yellow/red) and I'm happy to report that they do!  That doesn't always mean that the green results are good or the yellow/red are bad, but it's about the kids' confidence level with the material.

These are a couple of yellow submissions from today.  The top paper was pretty good and just messed up one of the negatives (on #4) but she didn't have the confidence to go green. The bottom is a student who struggles and needs a few days to get most concepts... yet she "kinda" gets this.

The great thing is that I use my exit slips to help focus attention on the kids who I know need it. Tomorrow I'll be sure to reassure student #1 that she's doing great and sit with student #2 to work through more problems.

I don't return the papers to the kids and have seen the idea of creating a laminated exit slip to use over and over again... I may go this route if I can be sure the markers (or whiteboard crayons, since I have some) will erase easily.

And for a REAL #Made4Math:  I'm pretty darn proud of this google site that I set up for my precalc kids to do some fractal explorations.  I showed them some of the PBS Nova video in class on Friday and they were disappointed that we didn't have time to watch it all!

Thursday, September 27, 2012


I sat down with one of our tech gurus at school the other day so she could ask me about how I use twitter.  Here's the result:

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Odds and Ends

Just a few things that have been percolating in this teeny tiny brain of mine lately....

1.  One of my precalc kids asked yesterday why synthetic division works.  Although I love doing the process (hate long division!) I'd never really considered why we could do it. To compare the two division strategies, I wrote a problem and worked them out side by side. And you know what?  They're really the same.  Magical.  One of our Algebra 2 teachers here doesn't like synthetic division (because it only works in minimal situations, he says, even though I gave him a document to show him otherwise) and therefore doesn't teach it. Drives me nutso.

2.  We're getting ready to hit complex numbers tomorrow in precalc. Although the kids normally "hate" i's (why is that?!), I've enjoyed delving into the world of fractals a bit the last couple of years.  I set up a google site for the kids to work from and this year will be adding in some paper folding, too. I'm pretty pumped about it.  And instead of having them fill out a paper with what they've learned, I put a gform on the site for them to enter in their information. Coolness.  (I've had these sitting out all week and the kids are dying to make them. Even my general Algebra 1 kids asked if they could do some after their quiz today!)

3.  My birthday was yesterday, and it was a pretty good one!  It was nice to get those birthday greetings on facebook, but the kids at school found out, too, and I ended up with a cupcake by the end of the day. :)  It bled over to twitter, too, so I received some nice greetings there, too. And even an ecard from Sam!  Plus, I got an itunes giftcard from one friend, a piece of cake from another, and a pumpkin Reese's cup from a third. Bonus!

4.  I've used Educreations a few times on my iPad to create screencasts  of me working out some problems that I think the kids might have issues with. Yesterday after school I talked through 5 or so from a review worksheet that the precalc kids had before today's quiz. I posted the video to Schoology along with the answers to the worksheet.  One girl, upon arriving in class today, came up to my desk and was like, "Thanks so much for the video! It really helped." It's so nice to have them be thankful for stuff we do around here!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Organization (#Made4Math)

I found a new website on Friday that I'm going to use for my #Made4Math submission (and this is just a total coincidence because it's a Monday and I was typing this today!).

I've been keeping track of students who don't turn in assignments using Hedge's SWHHW form.  But after having the students fill out the quarter-sheet piece of paper, I wasn't sure what to do with them.  I'd been throwing them in a little crate with the idea of one day sorting them to go so I could talk with parents at conferences about why their son/daughter wasn't doing their homework.  But you all know they were never going to get organized!

Until I saw an app called Three Ring.  It's billed as an app to "Quickly and easily digitize student work and build the resource for authentic assessment in your classroom."  I guess you could use it to take pictures or videos of student work/performances so you have evidence?  Anyway, I'm using it to take pictures of each of the forms the kids fill out (using my iPad, but I think you could do it on your phone, too), and then I can assign it to an individual student (or class, if necessary). It's searchable by student or class.

Here's the link to Three Ring in the app store.

Friday, September 21, 2012


I keep a spiral notebook of all of my precalc notes. I started it in 2004 when we got our new books and have edited through the years by stapling on the new versions.  Some pages have 3 - 4 edits and some I totally skip altogether.

It hit me today how different my notes (and my class overall) are then they used to be.



Same section, same material.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Setting Expectations

I'm not that good at promoting consistency in my classroom. Sure, I talk a good game, but if I try something and it doesn't work I usually move on and forget about it.

I've never used warm-ups on a regular basis in class. I've never done exit slips before. I heard/saw a lot of people talking about both and was envious but had a hard time envisioning how to use them on a daily basis. Why would the kids work on problems that weren't graded?  How could I expect them to work on something that I didn't grade?

Despite these questions I decided this summer (amidst #TMC12 and the decision to adopt interactive notebooks) to give them both a shot.  And so far I'm proud of how I've used both warm ups and exit slips in class.  I'm not as good in precalc at putting up a warm-up question (I need to do something on a daily basis) but I definitely do it a lot more than I used to. And we've had some interesting conversations/explorations when I do give them a warm up. I haven't done any exit slips but I'd like to incorporate them when we start to cover new material (which honestly hasn't happened yet).

In my two Algebra 1 classes (honors and integrated/general) I've done some sort of warm up every day.  A couple of days I've given them a quote and asked their thoughts on it. Yesterday's was a quote from Walt Disney about pursuing dreams; it really sparked some interesting conversations about what dreams they have! (Found out that a student I helped out last year is a competitive ping pong player and has even traveled to China to play!)  I'd like to do something like that weekly; I found a website yesterday that had a lot of good ones on it.

In my integrated class the warm-up has taken on a life of its own; sometimes I feel like we spend more time on it than going over homework problems (which I'm definitely ok with!).  Today I asked them to write down examples of three problems:  one in which you would divide before multiply, one in which you would subtract before add, and one in which you would add before doing an exponent (can you tell that we talked about Order of Operations yesterday?).  Then I let several students write their answers on my tablet pc so I could project them and we could discuss what all of the answers had in common.   I know some of the kids tune out, but questions like that really get the kids thinking and remembering exactly what it was that we were talking about.  I also use an exit slip with these guys; it's a great way to see what they've "gotten" from the daily lesson and if I need to spend more time on it (or with individuals). After yesterday's Order of Ops exit slip I noticed that one boy just wrote down nonsense answers (and put it in the red bin, which means he knew he was having trouble).  I was able to check more often with him today in class to make sure he understood how to do problems and how I wanted him to show his work (even though I told him he could use his calculator for the actual calculations).

Although I sometimes give the students points for the exit slip (2), I often don't. Yet the students still do them without prompting and often ask where the exit slip is if I haven't passed it out yet.

I'm really happy with how things are going so far this year! Hopefully it'll stay this way... and I know that setting consistent expectations is truly the key.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

It's hard for me to imagine.

I had to give all of my freshmen timed tests this week intended to measure their math computation and problem solving skills. I could tell some of my honors kids struggled with some of the questions but overall were fine (not surprisingly). But my general kids? Ouch. This one's typical for my class of 14. I definitely have my work cut out for me this year!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

How fast is Usain Bolt?

Pretty fast.

I gave my precalc kids a list of the men's 100 m world records and asked them to compare Bolt's times with them.  Is he on track?  Is he ahead of the pack? Is he lagging?

They're plotting the points, coming up with a line of best fit, then making some predictions (like what will the record time be in 2015 and when will it be 9 seconds?).  Then I'm asking them to do the same process on their calculator and do the linear regression.

It always makes for an interesting conversation!

The question also came up in class as to how long it would take him to run a marathon. After some fun conversions, here's what we came up with:

67.3 minutes. We know it's not possible, but wow. (The world record is 2:03.38)

Here's the document I gave the kids:

Monday, September 10, 2012

Lesson learned: Don't become an accountant

For the first couple of weeks in precalc we review a lot of the topics they learned last year in Algebra 2.  Domain, range, even, odd, increasing, decreasing, constant, compositions, parent functions, piecewise functions, linear regression. Just typing all of those words bore me. :)

My goal is to review those in ways so that the kids are reviewing them as they apply them.

One of my newly-favorite activities (that I got out of this book) is called "A Taxing Problem". It leads them through writing and graphing several different piecewise functions with different conditions.  First is a strict percentage on what you make (depending on your income). Then comes a little bit of an ease so that you pay smaller percentages on the smaller amounts of money but then as you make more you pay more. (For example, you'd pay 15% on your money up to $22,100, 28% on your earnings from $22,100 to $53,500, 31% on anything $53,500 to $115,000, etc.)  That's a fun function to write!

The next step is adding in a standard $6950 deduction. The kids want to start off by subtracting that from their variable in the previous function, but what if that moves them down a tax bracket?  Everything's messed up.  So they have to figure out how to apply the deduction and still end up in the correct tax bracket.

We've spent two days in class on the problems (one more day than I'd planned) but I've heard so much good conversation and collaboration that I didn't want to stop them.  Several girls told me today that I was making their brains hurt, and one of my "smart" kids said he'd been struggling and asked if we were going to go over the functions tomorrow. I'm guessing that these kids haven't really had to *think* in a class for a while (no offense to their previous teachers, of course).

Tomorrow we're moving on. I'm going to have them figure out if Usain Bolt's 100m world record is really as good as people say it is.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

How to get a class mad at you. . .

(Alternate title: I gave them a problem to work on and they hated it. And me.)

So my precalc class isn't enjoying the problem I gave them to do today... but I've heard some awesome conversations!

Here's what they were given:

"Given f(x) = 1 - x and g(x) = 1/x, how many different compositions can you make out of these functions?"

(I found this problem several years ago and have always given it as a mini-project to be done individually.  Thought that it might be more interesting worked with someone.)

The class started in silence.  They weren't quite sure where to start, but after considering it for a few moments they started talking and writing.

I wandered around offering some suggestions - simplify that... what happens when you do this?... have you seen this before?

Had a very interesting conversation with one girl who was getting frustrated.  She pulled the, "I'm never going to have to do this in the future!" line, so we talked about what skills she was actually working on.
Working with a group
Problem solving (start small, work bigger)
Algebraic skills

I think I won her over (though she told me she was going to become a hobo so she wouldn't have to do math).

Everyone seemed ok by the time they left class. Not giving them a homework assignment helped.


Thursday, August 30, 2012


I'm really liking the kids sitting in tables (formed by my desks together). It really promotes the idea that they can (and should) discuss and work through problems together.

I just need to lay the smack down on the freshmen who are talking constantly.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

INB Update

After hearing about INBs (Interactive Notebooks) from Megan Hayes-Golding this summer at TMC, I'd decided I wanted to give them a try in my Algebra 1 classes.  I was looking forward to the organization that it would provide the kids.

So now we're a full week in, and I'm sorting through my thoughts.
1. I think that after we all get the hang of what to put where (and how to number pages), keeping the INB will be good for the kids. We just all need to get "on the same page". (Ha!)
2.  The tape that I bought before school started is going fast. Geesh! Who knew that a bunch of freshmen would use up a roll of tape in no time?!  I got the cheap ones from Walmart when all of the school supplies came out, and they're obviously teeny little rolls. I'll need to do a little research to see what I should get.
3.  The kids are enjoying the hands-on aspect of the INB.  (They call it "arts and crafts".)  But they've been pretty good about keeping their space nice and neat and cleaning up after themselves.
4. Things take a lot longer to get through when you have to cut, tape, and write in the table of contents. But for someone who had trouble filling a class period at times, that can be a good thing.
5. I still need to get more into foldables.  I've done a few with my Honors Alg1 class but none with my Integrated. It would probably help them more, but I feel like I'm rushing with them. I think I just need to get my feet under me first.
6. I've been keeping an INB for both classes but keep losing track of what's going where in the table of contents. So today I made some big posters to hang on my whiteboard so I can keep track of everything (and help the kids keep a list, too).  This is just yellow paper from the big rolls that are around that I laminated, wrote on with dry erase marker, and hung on the board. Hoping that'll help us all.
7. The left-hand page is currently being used for warm-ups. I think it was Julie who said that was the hardest part of keeping the INB. I didn't get that until now.
8. A boy in my Honors Alg1 class hasn't made it to class yet; apparently he has some anxiety issues and doesn't want to come to school. I've been told he's very bright, so the material we've covered (which most of the kids knew anyway) shouldn't be a problem. My issue was what to do with his INB. I'm thinking that I'll go ahead and print out copies of my notes and tape stuff in for him so he can jump right in with the rest of the class.  But what happens if someone moves in halfway through the year? Just pick up where they come in?
9. I have a special ed aide in my class with me every day 7th period who is so on board with the INBs it's ridiculous. She's coming from an elementary school and I think this is right up her alley (but I'll take all the support I can get!). She said she met with some supervisor yesterday at the Admin Building just to talk about how things were going and told the person all about me and my class and the notebooks.

I've had problems in the past with keeping up with things. I get an idea, jump in, and then it fizzles after a bit. I'm determined not to let this go.

I've been trying to figure out why I've felt so unprepared the past few days after working so much this summer on school stuff... and then I realized that I'm prepping warm ups, notes, and exit slips for my Algebra 1 classes (in addition to keeping the INBs ready to go). Last year I just had the notes.

And so now it all makes sense.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

#hsSunFun: Organization

I realized one day last week that I didn't have access to my folder on the network at school, so I put in a tech ticket and our tech guy came to my room during 6th period on Friday. He did some fiddling (after promising that nothing he would do would lose any of my stuff) then told me he couldn't get it done then and would have to come back.

No problem, I say.

So about an hour ago I sar down to write about my methods of Organization when I realized that all of the pictures that I'd saved on my computer were missing. As in, there were NO pictures on my computer.

And so I started to hyperventilate.

I immediately tweeted about it, and @aanthonya came to my rescue. He suggested I do a search for a picture and in doing so I ended up finding a file with all of my pictures. It was in something called "SyncDocuments" and had my old user name in it (we migrated from a "dot" to "no dot" this summer... as in from "kristen.fouss" to "kristenfouss" and people have had issues with missing files).  So at this moment I'm saving all of my pictures to my dropbox folder (and then moving them to my desktop upstairs) for temporary measures.

So, back to organization. Isn't this somewhat ironic?!

I pride myself on my organization at school. On my computer I have folders set up for each class, a folder for each chapter, and sometimes folders within that. It may take me a minute to get to an embedded file folder, but I always know where my documents are.

As for the paper stuff, I do ok with that. I have a (laminated) folder set up for each class in which I put all of their papers. Within those folders I separate assignments by paperclips... or my favorites, binder clips. I have a 2-drawer file cabinet with multiple hanging files set up for each class that I drop their prepared assignments in (like right now I have all of my chapter 2 notes for Algebra 1 done and dropped in their folders) and I keep a folder in the front of the drawer for any extras that I may have made.

On my side bulletin/chalk board I have folders for each class so that when a student is absent and I've passed something out, I put their paper in the folder with their name on it (so I can tell if they've picked it up or not!).  I made a big weekly calendar on that board so I can write up the daily assignments for each class; I'm thinking of taking a picture of it and posting it on Schoology for kids to reference if they're interested.  We'll see if that ends up being necessary.

About a year and a half ago I gravitated to Google Calendar to keep my lesson plans in.  And I use the words "lesson plans" very loosely... I'm not the type to do the whole objective/resources/whatever stuff.  I write down the section number and title and maybe the homework assignment, so gcal works well for me.  I also really like how you can just move stuff around if something comes up and you need to change the schedule; no more erasing or drawing big arrows in the lesson plan book!

I've had kids mention in the past that I'm one of the most organized teachers they have. I've suffered in that department a bit (since trying to get them more active in class) but I think I still rank up there. :)

My husband just wishes it would make its way home, too.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Two days down...

Oh so tired. I don't know about the rest of you, but it takes me a good 2 weeks to get back in "school shape". I think all the extra sleep hours I stored up from this summer are already gone; who decided that 7:20 was a good time to start school anyway?!

Everything's gone pretty good so far. The QR Code activity that I did in precalc went over well; the kids really for the gist of what we'll be learning this year. It worked out well for the first day, too, since one of my classes had their class meetings during precalc, so they didn't really miss anything.

My Algebra 1 groups (honors and general) started their INBs today; we got twice as much done in honors, though I'm not surprised. Two-thirds of my general class are on IEPs (including a girl from Cambodia who speaks no English). One of our special ed teachers is supposed to be in there on a daily basis, so that's nice. I haven't had any trouble with the kids, but one of them did tell me that his favorite number was 69... because it's his football number. Uh huh. He could be one to keep an eye on.

My precalc classes are pretty unbalanced; I've got 28, 23, and 19. Then today I got an email saying that I'm going to get a new student in my class of 28... so not only is it getting bigger but it totally messes up my 4-desk groups. It was probably irrational of me but I was ticked. (I'm going to blame it on the tired thing.) Still trying to figure out what to do with that extra desk. (I'm totally going to ignore the fact that last year I had 2 precalcs at 32 and 33 and my "small" one was 27.)

Hubby just asked if it was ok if he goes out with a friend tomorrow night... He's obviously learned that I probably won't be awake past 9 pm. :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Homework solution (?)

I think I've decided what to do with my ever-constant homework grading issue.  My problem is that I hate to just give completion credit, but I don't want to grade it because of (1) time and (2) the possibility that it may take the students more practice to get the skills down.

I've finally settled on a hybrid of the two, at least in my Algebra 1 classes.  I have a total of 32 students in my two classes (which I'm pretty happy about!). While they're working on a warm-up each day or checking their answers, I'll walk around the room and give a stamp for completion.  I just bought those cute little guys at Staples (except they don't say Office Depot, obviously). Then after we go over questions I'll collect their assignments and pick 2 - 3 problems to grade.  I'll give 3 points for completion and 2 points per graded problem for a total of 7 - 9 points.

Does that sound reasonable?

In precalc I'm not going to give any completion points, but I'll collect some of the class every day and grade 3 - 4 problems.  I have the kids sitting in groups of 4 and have numbered the groups 1 - 7 so I'll either randomly generate 4 numbers of tables to turn in or pick odds or evens.  That way not every kid is turning in an assignment every day but it's always a possibility (and it's different from class to class; that's important to me so my 6th period doesn't assume theirs will be collected/not).

I know I'm rambling a bit, but I wanted to get this down for my own benefit... while I still remembered and had a plan!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Using QR Codes

I want to preface this by saying that I'm totally stealing this from Megan Hayes-Golding. Please check out her post here!

Megan did this awesome activity where she set up QR codes around her room as a scavenger hunt to help lead her students through the locations of important stuff in her room (like the pencil sharpener and eye wash) as well as some topics they'll be talking about this year.

While I don't really have locations to worry about, I thought it would be fun to put an activity like this together for precalc.  I listed 8 different topics we'll be covering this year (parametric eqs, polar, trig, unit circle, vectors, limits, sequences) and then searched online for articles and videos using those ideas.

I created a QR code for each of the links I'd found (if you use Chrome, there's a QR Code Generator in the store that's super easy to use!), then copied and pasted them onto a word document that I'll cut apart and tape around the room.

My goal is to give the kids a good idea of some topics they'll see this year in a fun way (instead of making them guess what we'll do).

I downloaded a new Pirate font (I do love me some fonts!) and then typed up directions for the kids on top of a treasure map. It turned out pretty cute.

Here's what I came up with!

Now I'll just have to pray that the wireless internet at school isn't acting goofy on Wednesday. Fingers crossed!