Wednesday, January 20, 2016

My Favorite Things

My favorite:

I have written before about my favorite apps to use in class - read about that here.  Explain Everything and Plickers serve such different purposes that I can't choose just one as my favorite.  They work well in tandem.  Although, next year when my freshmen have their own Surface tablet/PC, I may move away from using Plickers.  We'll see.

On a completely different note, cleaning my whiteboards before I leave work on Friday is my favorite organizational tip.  It keeps the boards cleaner throughout the week, and it helps me feel ready to start the week when I arrive Monday morning.  In fact, last week I was out of the building Thursday afternoon and Friday, and my students noticed how messy my boards were.  5 minutes or less, and a less stressful Monday? Yes, please.

Read about other Math Teacher favorites here

Saturday, January 16, 2016

A Day in the Life

I'm linking up with #MTBoS to tell you about one day in my life.


The date was Tuesday, January 12.
We had a scheduled faculty meeting/delayed start for students.  90 minutes of meeting to receive our great new Surface Pro's, learn about them, go over other necessities for the month ahead, and get to our classes.  As the bell rang, we were released...

 And the day was off to a hectic start.  What had been completely manageable snowfall at 7 in the morning had turned into icy slush by 9:30, when students were arriving.  There were several minor accidents, one kind-of-serious accident (the student was just fine and at school!), and hundreds of students who felt that they did not belong at school on this winter day.

I listened patiently for five minutes, then launched into A Block's lesson.  At my school, we have year-long blocks, so I see my classes for 85 minutes every other day.  Yes, I love it.  Ask more in the comments.

A Block, Algebra 1 Freshmen, were learning their 3rd method of solving systems of equations.  I enticed them to pay attention by teasing the activity for next class (a scavenger hunt - blog post coming soon!).  They focused, they seemed good with the concept,  and all went well.  Except we ran out of time to make their adorable foldables.  Next class...and a later blog post.  I'm real proud of myself on this one.  I used math to create it in Word and everything.

Systems of Equations Foldable

C Block entered the classroom as I was attempting to sneak a snack (I am 6 months pregnant, and baby can make me 'hangry'.)   Of course, when school is delayed, the schedule gets all mixed up.  B Block students keep trying to come to class, and I send them away.

C Block is also Algebra 1 freshman, which is strange to me.  I never teach 2 sections of the same material back to back, so I keep feeling like I'm repeating something I just said.  I mean, I am repeating, but to different students, and it messes with my brain.  C Block is smaller and way more talkative, but we still make it through the notes with the same promise of an activity next class.

It's lunch time!  I talk with other teachers about our new computers and the right our students seems to feel exists around snow days.  As my husband lovingly reminded me, he has 'never had a snow day at work.  Or a delay.'  Good dose of reality.  28 minutes later, I'm back in my room as the bell rings.

B Block Calculus enters my room.  We have been working on optimization problems using derivatives.  The great news is that they understand the concept of writing an equation for the parameter to be optimized, and once they have equations they can differentiate and solve for critical points.  (Unless the algebra gets hairy for them).  However, they really struggle with writing the equations.  So today, we practiced just writing equations, over and over for different problems.  I think it helped.

Finally, it is my plan block.  Another teacher has a class in my room, so I head to the Intervention Specialists' room, which is open.  I get worksheets printed for the next day, finalize my notes for the next two days, and then start working on sub plans for Friday.  The Math Department is headed to another local high school to learn about their use of technology.

At the end of the day, I am able to go to Mass, which is offered every day at our lovely Catholic school.  Then I head home, a 40 minute drive.  I typically have some work to finish up in the evenings, but thanks to a productive Christmas break and last weekend, I am able to rest this evening.  Which is nice, because my back and ribs are being stretched by baby at the moment, and I just want to sit against soft pillows.  Early to bed, early to rise, and another day will be upon me!

Whew!  Thanks for hanging in there! I hope you found something informative in all of that!
What is your day like?  Any suprises in my day?

Thursday, January 7, 2016

#MTBoS Blogging Initiative

 MTBoS Blogging Initiative

I, Mrs. MathMilla, resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom up and share my thoughts with other teachers. I hope to accomplish this goal by participating in the January Blogging Initiation hosted by Explore MTBoS.

You, too, could join in on this exciting adventure. All you have to do is dust off your blog and get ready for the first prompt to arrive January 10th!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Exam Review Project

Ok, I will just start by saying that I love this project.  It's one of my favorite activities of the year!

So, the details:
  • Our exams are coming up.  A week or so before the exam, I give my students a review packet.  For my Calculus students, I just given them practice problems.  My Algebra 1 students are given practice problems and a review of each unit we have covered.
  • I assign students groups of about 3 people.  Each group is assigned 2 or 3 problems from the review.  They start by solving those problems and carefully checking their work.
  • Each group uses an iPad to record a tutorial video in Educreations.  This is a free app (iPad) or website (PC/tablet).  It makes videos in the style of Khan Academy, recording students' writing on a 'whiteboard' and their voices as they explain the problem.  The videos average about 2 minutes.
  • The tutorial videos are collected, checked, and posted on their class website.  Students can then view a short video to explain any problem on their review worksheet.
 Most of my students really enjoy this project.  Some are a little embarrassed to record their voices, but because we work in groups, they can contribute to the group in other ways.  They love watching their peers' videos, which gets them listening to math for an extra hour or so.  They make up intros and outros (Is that a word?), they rap the steps to solving the problem, they make a celebration page when they finish the problem.  It's great fun.

It does take some time to grade the videos, but the way I see it, my students are getting a good review, doing a project, and helping each other prepare for the exam all at the same time.  It's worth watching 100 videos.

What are your greatest Math projects?  How do you help prepare students for the exam?

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Function Auction

I pushed my Algebra 1 students through our introductory chapter on functions quickly.  It's a lot of review for 90% of them, there's not much actual computation to do, and in the past students seemed to understand the concepts pretty quickly.  So, after a few whirlwind days of notes, we were ready for an activity.

Today we reviewed for their unit test.  The first half of class, students worked on a review worksheet in groups.  It went better than most other reviews - many students asked each other very good questions, and because it was low pressure (AKA not part of a game), students took their time to check their notes and help their peers understand.

Near the end of class, we had a function auction.  I was so grateful to Sarah at Math=Love for the idea at just the right time.  The students loved it!  They were so determined to find the actual functions that they pulled out their notes and compared techniques.  The auction portion took longer than I expected, even with only 9 relations to bid on.  One group had an interesting strategy - they decided to bid on several non-functions for the opening bid just 'in case' they were wrong and it was actually a function!  Once other groups started driving up the price for them, they abandoned the non-functions. 

Overall, it was an activity that I will use again.  The pace and excitement did not lend itself well to review as a class, but groups did a great job of helping each other understand.  They had to make sure everyone was on the same page, or a bid paddle might go up without the whole group's consent!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Why do we have to learn this?

Calculus, that is.

I'm teaching 'basic' Calculus and AP Calculus this year, both for the first time.  My AP kids have been great and very easy - they love procedures, get things memorized, and generally do well on everything.  They ask good, specific questions and they help each other.

My regular calculus kids have been a struggle.  They had a not-so-great year in Pre-Calculus last year, with a teacher who was new to the school and new to the level of students and new to the material.  They did not learn a lot.  That's ok.  I'm willing to work with that.  Honestly, I think Pre-Calculus should only be a quarter or semester only, and we should not beat kids over the head so much with rational functions.

My problem with this class has been their attitude.  I have a 'change your words - change your mindset' bulletin board in the room that my students are quick to point out to each other, but their attitudes are not changing.  Everything is so hard, my examples are so hard, and then my examples were too easy and the homework is so hard.  They actually do ok on tests and quizzes, because they can learn the material.  But class is a struggle.  It really tests my patience.

These 28 seniors will probably all go to college next year, and most are anticipating needing some form of calculus for their major.  I studied Engineering and I worked as an engineer.  So at some point, they will realize that 'because you use it in Engineering and Sciences and Business' is not technically true.  But right now, related rates and implicit differentiation is new and therefore confusing, and they don't want to learn it.

So, my response to 'Why do we have to learn this.'
1) You don't.  It's not an 'everyday' type of math.  You can get through life and be entirely successful without it.
2) Studying calculus helps you practice abstract reasoning.  Beyond being used in traditional STEM fields, this is of utmost importance to lawyers, communications majors, journalists, teachers, and EVERY PROFESSION I CAN THINK OF.
3) Yes, it may be needed for you to earn your desired post-secondary degree.  Perhaps you will even use it in your future career, if you are one of the lucky ones. (And you choose a theoretical career)
4) You can see the beauty of math and by extension appreciate the beauty of our world.
5) By taking calculus in high school, you see wide-ranging applications which may spark an interest.

Maybe I'll make this into a poster.  Then when someone asks I can just point to it. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Poof Books

I have found a few uses for poof books.  My students are amazed by the small book they are able to make.  I like being able to refer to a specific page in the book as we solve problems.

I use poof books in Algebra with solving systems of equations - our 3 methods fit perfectly in the 3 'pages' inside the book.  I also used them recently with Absolute Value Equations and Inequalities.  They were great!

I created a template for this book, so I could type in the 'rules' for dealing with absolute values.  We do spend a good amount of time discussing why these absolute value problems have 2 parts to their solutions.  My students are pretty good at understanding the big picture...And then they try to solve problems on their own.  They forget to isolate the absolute value bars.  They forget to follow the 'rule' for changing the absolute value into two parts of their solution.  And they just assume that if one part is x > 3 (for example,) that the other part will always be x < -3.  Sorry kids, not that easy.

So, we made a poof book.  It has a page each for dealing with =, </≤, and >/≥.  Then the back lists the STEPS FOR SOLVING.  We refer to these most.

Overall, I'm happy with the books.  Except any time we use any guided note aid, students want to use them on the test.  Sorry kids, just you and your brain on this one.

If you've never made one, be sure to check out some directions for poof books here.

An inside page.  I type the rule, students write an example.
The back cover - step by step!

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