Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Getting Ready for Geometry

I am about to meet students from 8 sending towns in my freshman Geometry class.  One thing I really HATE spending time on is doing all the basic Geometry vocabulary review.  For some students it is nothing new, some others need a nudge or two, and then there are some who need a bit more.

Most of all, I am the one who gets bored.  It feels like we could be doing so much more.

To that end, I have developed this activity and tried it out on some fabulous volunteers at the #mathtweetup2016 that happened this past Monday in Boston.  They gave me some really helpful feedback.  Thanks so much you guys!!!


 It has taken me longer than I care to admit to tweak it and get this post written:  I can give excuses about son returning, hubby taking a vacation week, and lastly Dropbox going all weird on me.... But it is still August, so now I can say I have officially participated in the Blaugust challenge!



 These are the links to the vocabulary words, the images, and the teacher instructions.  Please feel free to add to the images page.  These are ones that I grabbed fairly quickly and one that Elissa Miller (@misscalul8) posted today! 

Norma Gordon (@normabgordon) also suggested  a sentence scramble:  it is a way to help groups work together (Each member of the group has some words in an envelope. Together the students have to show and share out their words until each student in the group has a complete sentence.)  The Sentence Scramble may be a way to BEGIN all this...Introduces working together, etc.  And then as a follow up, do it with the geometry vocabulary words the next day or the day after, just to be sure the vocabulary is sticking.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

TMC16: Just TRY to Explain It to Those Who Ask

Having just experienced my 3rd (and I believe BEST) Twitter Math Camp, I feel as though I should have some profound insights to share.  I don't.

Instead, I want to write a letter to myself (kind of like you may have done at camp or at a church youth retreat), to remind myself of the things I learned, the people I met, and maybe even some of the "ah ha!" moments I had in those 4 days.  This post is FULL of links to all sorts of things so I can find them easily.

Dear Tina,

First thing: please remember what you said to people when they asked you where you had been that week in July.
Me:  "I was a Twitter Math Camp!"

Them: "Hunh? Math Camp?  What did you do, sit around and do math problems?"

Me: "Oh that would have been cool! I didn't get to do much of that...maybe a little on patterns and stuff."

Them:  "So what DID you do?"

Me:  "Hmmm, hard to describe.  First we got to spend a day with Desmos!  We got to find out all the new things they have added to the graphing calculator.  You know Desmos, right?  The online graphing calculator that is free? And they also have built Teacher Desmos, a site that is full of activities that are made by Desmos staff, or created and shared by other teachers, OR you can make your own! They had JUST finished creating Card Sort for Activity Builder the night before and we got to try it!"

(Noting the glazing over of the eyes, I add...)

"They gave us cool socks!.....And a pencil.....oh and a Desmos STICKER!"



"No, really, TMC was the BEST professional development I have ever been to:  all 4 days of it!"

Second thing:  Remember all you DIDN'T get to tell people when you came back:

A.  The morning sessions of Rehearsing Instructional Activities Together with David Wees, Jasper DiAntonio, and Caitlyn Ruggiero (I can't find her Twitter page!).  We worked specifically with an Instructional Activity called Contemplate then Calculate. (You can see more of this if you click on the link above then look for that title and click again. EVERYthing they showed us is shared there.  Unbelieveable.)

What I like best about these morning sessions?

First it ties in perfectly with the problem solving strategies I have been working on with my students for the last two years thanks to Max Ray-Reik and the crew at Math Forum, something I learned at the first TMC I went to.
Second, it ties in perfectly with the Number Talks I started doing with my students last year thanks to Chris Harris from my 2nd TMC (and who persuaded me I really could do this with HS students), and Kristin Gray, and Crystal Morey (who co-led a fantastic on-line Number Talks book study last fall).
Third:  It ties in perfectly to the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions book study that several members of the SSVT Math Dept are doing this summer. I got to see the 5 Practices in action at one of the sessions thanks to Tony Riehl and Kerry Gruizenga.
Fourth: It can be done in 15 mins using just about any interesting problem you can think of that can have multiple strategies for getting to an answer.

Side Note: no one I sat with understood what I was talking about when I said that "Contemplate then Calculate" sounds like what the "detectives" on Mathnet (from Square One TV) used to say: "To Calculate and Cogitate" or something like that. (You have to be REALLY old to get all the references to Dragnet, Car 54, etc in this show.  The puns and literary references are to groan for.  Go find and watch the episodes.)

B.  I need to remember to work in time for students to reflect on their work.  I was made more aware of the importance of this in Pam Wilson's session, "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall".  She not only shared the different ways you can work students reflecting in to your lesson plan, but also ways in which YOU can reflect on YOUR teaching.  Awesome stuff.

C.  The discussions, the friendships, the safe space to be vulnerable:  how can I capture these and explain to others?  (see Hannah's post or Annie's post)

Back to the First Thing:

Them: "So you had a good time?"

Me:  "Yes. You really had to be there.  It is going to be in Atlanta next year.  If you are a math teacher, you should go."

Now the Last Thing: This is the message that came from Key Note speakers (Thanks Dylan Kane), session leaders, and casual conversations:  It is OK to fail.  It is OK to fail more than once. It is in the failing that comes the learning.  Failure is just one step closer on the path to success. (restated from poster)
Remember all this, Tina!

Yours,
Tina




TMC16: Just TRY to Explain It to Those Who Ask

Having just experienced my 3rd (and I believe BEST) Twitter Math Camp, I feel as though I should have some profound insights to share.  I don't.

Instead, I want to write a letter to myself (kind of like you may have done at camp or at a church youth retreat), to remind myself of the things I learned, the people I met, and maybe even some of the "ah ha!" moments I had in those 4 days.  This post is FULL of links to all sorts of things so I can find them easily.

Dear Tina,

First thing: please remember what you said to people when they asked you where you had been that week in July.
Me:  "I was a Twitter Math Camp!"

Them: "Hunh? Math Camp?  What did you do, sit around and do math problems?"

Me: "Oh that would have been cool! I didn't get to do much of that...maybe a little on patterns and stuff."

Them:  "So what DID you do?"

Me:  "Hmmm, hard to describe.  First we got to spend a day with Desmos!  We got to find out all the new things they have added to the graphing calculator.  You know Desmos, right?  The online graphing calculator that is free? And they also have built Teacher Desmos, a site that is full of activities that are made by Desmos staff, or created and shared by other teachers, OR you can make your own! They had JUST finished creating Card Sort for Activity Builder the night before and we got to try it!"

(Noting the glazing over of the eyes, I add...)

"They gave us cool socks!.....And a pencil.....oh and a Desmos STICKER!"



"No, really, TMC was the BEST professional development I have ever been to:  all 4 days of it!"

Second thing:  Remember all you DIDN'T get to tell people when you came back:

A.  The morning sessions of Rehearsing Instructional Activities Together with David Wees, Jasper DiAntonio, and Caitlyn Ruggiero (I can't find her Twitter page!).  We worked specifically with an Instructional Activity called Contemplate then Calculate. (You can see more of this if you click on the link above then look for that title and click again. EVERYthing they showed us is shared there.  Unbelieveable.)

What I like best about these morning sessions?

First it ties in perfectly with the problem solving strategies I have been working on with my students for the last two years thanks to Max Ray-Reik and the crew at Math Forum, something I learned at the first TMC I went to.
Second, it ties in perfectly with the Number Talks I started doing with my students last year thanks to Chris Harris from my 2nd TMC (and who persuaded me I really could do this with HS students), and Kristin Gray, and Crystal Morey (who co-led a fantastic on-line Number Talks book study last fall).
Third:  It ties in perfectly to the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematical Discussions book study that several members of the SSVT Math Dept are doing this summer. I got to see the 5 Practices in action at one of the sessions thanks to Tony Riehl and Kerry Gruizenga.
Fourth: It can be done in 15 mins using just about any interesting problem you can think of that can have multiple strategies for getting to an answer.

Side Note: no one I sat with understood what I was talking about when I said that "Contemplate then Calculate" sounds like what the "detectives" on Mathnet (from Square One TV) used to say: "To Calculate and Cogitate" or something like that. (You have to be REALLY old to get all the references to Dragnet, Car 54, etc in this show.  The puns and literary references are to groan for.  Go find and watch the episodes.)

B.  I need to remember to work in time for students to reflect on their work.  I was made more aware of the importance of this in Pam Wilson's session, "Mirror, Mirror on the Wall".  She not only shared the different ways you can work students reflecting in to your lesson plan, but also ways in which YOU can reflect on YOUR teaching.  Awesome stuff.

C.  The discussions, the friendships, the safe space to be vulnerable:  how can I capture these and explain to others?  (see Hannah's post or Annie's post)

Back to the First Thing:

Them: "So you had a good time?"

Me:  "Yes. You really had to be there.  It is going to be in Atlanta next year.  If you are a math teacher, you should go."

Remember all this, Tina!

Yours,
Tina




Saturday, July 16, 2016

What I Learned at Twitter Math Camp Today (and it had nothing to do with math)

Today our youngest son leaves for the Middle East via Paris. He is 26.  He is an archaeologist and will be doing a dig in Israel.

 I am in Minnesota at Twitter Math Camp, he is in Massachusetts.  I had to say goodbye to him two days ago.

I am fearful for him.  Horrible things have happened in France.  Horrible things have happened in the Middle East. I shed a lot of tears last night after I called him, and again this morning when I listened to a "theme song" he posted on Facebook about heading to the Promised Land. I am afraid for his safety.  Europe and the Middle East are NOT a safe places for Americans and if I had my druthers I would beg him not to go.  

But that is no way for either of us to live.  

This afternoon I had the opportunity to hear Jose Vilson, keynote speaker at Saturday's TMC16.  His talk was titled "Race, Math, and What We're Not Talking About".   There was SO much about his talk that is important, but what really hit me, what really knocked the wind out of me, was this:  

Jose's wife was fearful for his safety.  She was fearful of him coming to Minneapolis, the place where a black man, Philando Castile, was shot by police just a couple of weeks ago.  She was fearful for him, a black man, coming to this city because horrible things happen to black men in Minneapolis.  I am guessing if she had her druthers, she would beg him not to come here.

But that is no way for either of them to live.

And this is what I learned at TMC16 today:  While I have been shedding tears for my handsome, smart, clever, youngest son who will be traveling OUT of the safety of the United States of America, other mothers and wives are shedding tears for their sons and husbands because they are not safe IN the United States of America.  

Tell me, where is the justice in that?

This is no way for anyone to live.  

Now I have more that I need to figure out.  Things that are MUCH more important than how I will teach quadratic functions to sophomores.  I am hoping that this community which is so passionate about math and the teaching thereof, will help educate me. I am hoping that we can join together into a larger and larger community which will create a place where people of all colors and all religions are safe, and where mothers and wives will not have to shed tears because they are fearful for the safety of their sons and husbands.


Thursday, June 23, 2016

PreCal Wrapped Up

I am following up on my shout for help.  My Pre-Cal students had been working like crazy people as we tried to finish up the curriculum and they came through with flying colors.  As a result, I wanted to make their final exam time a bit more fun, but still really educational.

I put the call out to the MTBoS and as usual they had some grand ideas!  I also chatted with the other PreCal teacher to see what she thought of this idea of creating a game or activity.  We both agreed that our students frequently come to us with areas of weaknesses.  We decided that we would focus this game idea on those areas that needed the most remediation throughout the year.

The topics were

  • Positive/negative/rational exponents (switching forms, identifying equivalent expressions)
  • Factoring - Quadratics and sums and differences of cubes
  • Radians and degrees on the Unit Circle: being able to convert from one to the other quickly
  • Parent functions and their transformations
The kids did a great job!  I shared the handout in my previous post.  Here is how they were scored.

And here they are playing the games.

"Mathletics: a Factoring Game"

"Forehead Graphs; Transformation of Functions"
(A student from a different group suggested they call it "Skin Graphs", which I
thought was hysterical, but for some reason they didn't go with it.) 

"M4th Fish:  Exponents"
A  Go Fish game where they tried to get all 4 equivalent cards.
Later they made it into just a match was good enough!


Radian-Degree Matching Game
This game had a bonus round:  after you made 3 matches, you got several
tries with the green cards to see if you could match the coordinates
of your purple degree/radian cards.
I gave them one 80 minute class to do most of the creating.  The second 90 minute class to "test drive" it in their own group and get the rules written up.  Before the class was over, they had to hand their instructions to another group who gave them feedback on the clarity of the rules/instructions.  Edits were made.

On the day of the exam we had 90 minutes.  That meant time to play 2 of 3 games, time for each group to get feedback from the others, and then 25-30 mins for them to type up and submit their reflections.  Worked out pretty well!

Things they all commented on:

  • They wished there had been time enough to play all 3 games (not sure how to work this in next year.  Maybe let the group that reads the instructions also do the "test driving" and provide feedback?)
  • They really enjoyed working on these topics and reviewing them. ALL agreed these were areas they had struggled with or forgotten about and felt more comfortable with them by the end of the exam time.
  • They were incredibly grateful to have done this and not a paper and pencil exam.
This was a really special class.  They worked so hard all year and even in the end, they put effort into creating AND playing the games.  I am going to miss them SO much!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Looking for Feedback on PreCal Final "Exam"

This year I have an option of giving a paper and pencil final exam, or using 2 days plus the 90 minute exam window to have them do something else.  They are SUCH great kids and have worked SO hard this year, I am opting for the latter.

A few weeks ago, I tweeted out a call for what to do and got some fabulous suggestions:






The result is I am going to sort of do a combination of these.  They have seen several activity builders, they have done card sorts, but they have not yet seen WODB.  I will show them Mary's site on WODB and explain how it works.

Then I will give them this paper and let them go at it. 

The topics I am thinking of all have to do with skills that we had to spend more time on than I feel we should have, thus we didn't get as far as we should have in the curriculum:  
  • negative and rational exponents (switching between forms) 
  • logs and exponential functions (switching between forms) 
  • factoring quadratics and sums/diffs of cubes 
  • transformations of functions
  • radians to degrees (switching between forms)

For any of you who read this, I would love some feedback.  Can we get this done in 2 eighty minute classes and then play them AND reflect on them in a 90 minute block?  (I am expecting that they will assign themselves homework if necessary.)  Can you think of other areas that you find yourself having to review again and again (that they SHOULD have dealt with in Algebra 2?).

Thank you to all who take a moment to read and comment!

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Read This Article

This article was tweeted out by @MrVaudrey.  Go read it before you do anything else.

There is nothing more I can add except that I second Jim Doherty's (@mrdardy) thought:

“I hope I never become the teacher who stops learning.”

Jim became involved in the Math Twitter Blogosphere a few years ago, midway in his teaching career.  I met Jim at Twitter Math Camp, where I believe we were both first timers, and coincidentally, had both been teaching for 27 years (I took an 8 year break to raise my tribe of boys, and tutored during those years, so I am not counting them!)

I have learned SO much from becoming part of this on line community.  It has changed the way I teach, changed the way I question students, and changed the way I think about learning.  I have always enjoyed trying something new, but it was exhausting trying to do this for the 5 DIFFERENT courses I was teaching for most of my career (I'm down to 4 different courses this year: Yippee!).

The MTBoS is the most wonderful group of professionals ever to grace the internet.  They share resources as well as ideas.  They toss out thought provoking tweets.  They write insightful blog posts.  They organize professional development (go look up Twitter Math Camp) and charge nothing for it. They hand out virtual hugs.  They find the best places for cupcakes!

I will retire in 6 years.  But I want to make the most of the time I have left in the classroom. And so, like Jim,

“I hope I never become the teacher who stops learning.”