#TMC14 Going Outside My Comfort Zone and Going Forward

4 Aug

#TCM14 was fun, enlightening, energizing, and scary.

It made me step outside of my comfort-zone. I listened. I learned. I presented. I sat in the front row. And I made myself socialize. This time I did not stand by the wall and take it all in, well not that much. Instead I found a seat and introduced myself to someone new. Chit-chat, even where you are from and what session you went to earlier, does not come easy for me. BUT I DID IT!

There were times I wanted a placard that said “Introvert – Ask Me To Join Your Group for ___”. Instead I found someone I knew and invited myself. Because of that, I met a variety of interesting new people and had some great conversations. So a big THANK YOU to all who said “yes, join us!”

Since returning from Jenks, OK I have spent my days on Coursera Calculus: Single Variable class that I have been enrolled in since May! This class has become my full-time job for the summer, and yes, it is hard as professor @robertghrist said it would be in his very first lecture (his words, not mine – I would say challenging). To that end, I have not had much time to digest #TMC14.

I did, however, make plans to “spread the word” about #MTBoS and #TMC. My county hosts an annual required professional development day in late August. I was scheduled to share a worksheet-makeover-activity, but instead I am going to share about #MTBoS and #TMC, I don’t want my session to be a recap of #TMC14 because most of the folks I have mentioned it to don’t know about it and think I am off my rocker – Twitter Math Camp, really? Instead I plan to show Desmos, Mathalicious, Global Math Department, blogs, tweets. I want to capture the who, what, where, how and why. Big aspiration, I realize.

Please, help me out.  I have my own ideas, but how would you answer these questions? (Choose as many as you please)

  1. Who are #MTBoS?
  2. What does #MTBoS do?
  3. Where does #MTBoS hang out?
  4. How can I get involved with #MTBoS?

Technology, circa 1995?

14 Sep

After spending 4 hours this morning getting my required webpages for Algebra 2/Trig and Functions/Trig up, I know there must a better, faster, more efficient way! Really, the sites are so clunky to look at and uploading files requires such an old version of Java that my computer yells at me daily to update! Loading java means I can get a cup of tea and still have to wait, the actual file upload is fairly fast depending on the time of day. The site has a Facebook-esque feel (and I don’t Facebook) and the Administrative team is “grading” us! Grading rubric includes

  • Having a picture related to the subject
  • Course description and course syllabus
  • Announcements created at least weekly
  • Upcoming events posted
  • Use of Web 2.0 tools

Most of this is just fine, it is what I do anyway. We are a sort-of technological school. Well, we at least have Project Lead the Way and a kick-butt Robotics Club. But we are also the School for the Performing Arts (we are getting a new auditorium after 40 years!) and the top-rated high school football player goes here. But looking at the list of requirements, is it what is important to students, and will they use it? I think the most important items for students to have electronically are class notes and class handouts (for when they lose ’em). Our Web 2.0 tools consist of a blog option, online quizzes, and a discussion board. I have tried all three to a huge flop. So, why spend my time working on “check-box” items that the students will not use? I am not.

Speaking of sort-of technological … how about my classroom?


Yep, that is my wanna-be SmartBoard you see. One of my students said it was a ghetto-SmartBoard.  And a parent at Back to School Night asked if I was going to get a real one?  I had one and I was good with it. Colleagues came to me for help. And then I had an opportunity to move to a bigger room downstairs tucked away in a corner out of the fracas. I was supposed to get a portable SmartBoard, but it, like quite a few in our school, was broken. So improvisation. What you see is 3 pieces of white paper with a purple-duct-tape border. I use my laptop, which has SmartNotebook, and a Watcom Bamboo tablet and off we go. I also have a document camera.

Not writing on a board is challenging, but being able to move around the room is awesome! Usually I perch on a stool upfront with my seating chart (I don’t know names yet), but I have been known to wander and lean against the back wall. Being flexible is just part of the job of being a teacher (thank you Honest Soul Yoga)!

#TMC13 in the Classroom

8 Sep

At TMC13 I was a member of the PreCalculus morning session that worked on Inverse Trig Functions. You can read about the fruits of our labor on Sam Shah’s blog.

For the very first day of learning and first task in Functions/Trig (our pre-calc for A/B) my class tackled the first portion of what the group developed at TMC13. Here is what I gave the students: Analyzing Circles On The Coordinate Plane formatted to be taped into the composition book students will used for their notes and classwork.

After a brief discussion on how to use a protractor and going through the directions that set up the rotational system, I set students to work and collaborate in their groups. For the next 75 minutes I circulated around the classroom showing how to use the protractor (again), reviewing how to estimate,  working with students whose answers were WAY off, and clarifying directions.  Most students were comfortable on the “forward problems” but questions began to fly when it came to the “backwards problems”.  Most common misunderstandings were x=0.30 is a vertical line and slope = 1 can be turned into a fraction. Once students had these clues, they were able to complete the “backwards problems”. The sixteen problems presented took most students a full 75 minutes. Only a few completed the reflection questions, so that became their homework for next class. Of those that did answer the questions, very few noticed anything, and the wondering was mostly “why are we doing this?”

We will revisit this activity in a few classes once we learn about the trigonometric functions on the unit circle. At that time we will compare their estimated values to the actual and see if any noticing, wondering, or “ah-ha moments” can be gleaned. I think there will also be a non-candy prize for the student with the closest estimations … any suggestions??

DayOne-ish & Mathalicious

7 Sep

Day 1 of school … do all the administrative crap stuff and with what remaining time left in the class, do math, well. Mathalicious! In my Algebra 2/Trig class I decided to start off the year with the Mathalicious’ PEMDASurvior lesson. In the remaining time after reading the Student Handbook pages xx-xx (specified by period), going over syllabus and supplies, and taking roll, the class began working on the lesson. 

To preview, we looked at the calculator problems and tried to answer without using calculators. This was a great reminder/review that the TI calculators “know” order of operations. In one (of three) class it lead to a discussion that not all calculators, especially the four-function and scientific, have this capability so students need to understand their tools. In every class I managed to stumble into the wrong answer of 24 for “8+4*2” first by randomly calling on a student. I did not say it was wrong, rather I asked if anyone had a different answer, which I had also done for the previous problems with no challenges. That problem our reminder of order of operations and the first student usually wanted to change their answer. When I asked their reasoning for changing their answer, they referred to forgetting to use PEMDAS in every case.

I then had students work on Acts 1 and 2 in their groups. I used this activity as an opportunity to get students to start talking to each other about math, something the higher level students I have are not used to doing. I did not intervene except to clarify directions and I spent most of the time listening to groups discuss (and praising them for it) or prodding the silent ones to talk. I found out that talking in a math class and talking about math is very uncomfortable for many; something we will have to continue to work on! We came back together as a class after about 15 minutes and went over the answers to the right/wrong calculations. Students generally did well with using the order of operations, but struggled a bit when they were expected to work left to right, regardless of the operations presented. Students worked on the rest of the worksheet at their own pace, most finished but some did not. 

The highlight of the activity is the Survivor video clip. I didn’t find if very funny but every class was laughing at the inability of one of the contestants to get across the balance beam. In two classes I paused the video before it was done to have the students work the final problem. I did have to read the operations to them as most were so focused on the video that they forgot to scribe the operations. I turned this into a contest for the first with the correct answer. I had some questions about whether they should use PEMDAS (what have we been studying?) which was a great review of calculating with fractions. Only a handful in each class got the correct solution using ordering of operations. The prize was a composition book, a required supply for class. After 5 minutes of telling students “that is not correct” we watched the rest of the video. The best response was from one of my freshman “Since I did it the right way (using order of operation), I just lost a million dollars?”

For me, looking at the students’ response to whether PEMDAS is a good way to remember order of operations was the most enlightening aspect. Quite a few students proposed “GEMS” … Grouping, Exponents, Multiplication, Subtraction. I had never heard this acronym and found it interesting. I shared it with my colleagues which sparked discussion about  Division and Addition missing and will students be confused if we change to GEMS when they have heard PEMDAS for the past few years. I also made sure I gave some feedback to every student to get them to realize that I am going to read what they write.

I liked starting my school year off with Mathalicious. It made planning for the first day painless and the activities were structured such that if I had 20 minutes or 90 minutes, this activity was still do-able. Even though the lesson is geared towards 6th/7th grade, it was a great way to ease into math for a more advanced class and sparked great discussions.


Murder Mystery!

2 Aug

Last week at #TMC13 I presented Trigonometry Murder Mystery at one of the “My Favorites” session. I used this activity with my Algebra 2/Trig class to review. The activity involves using the basic trig functions (sine, cosine, tangent), Law of Sines and Law of Cosines, including a few word problems.

There are 6 “clues” for the students to solve, each eliminating either a suspect, a weapon or a location. Since the clues did not have to be solved in any particular order, it allowed the students to have ownership by choosing their clue. As the students worked in groups they also had competition and were very concerned about not letting another group see their clue – and I did not even offer a “reward” for solving the crime! I knew this activity was a hit when we ran out of time to complete and the next day students asked to work on it more!

TrigonometryMurderMystery TrigonometryMurderMystery_ANSWERS

I hope you have success with these!

My #TMC13 Experience

31 Jul

Last week I attended #TMC13 in Philadelphia, PA. This three-plus day event was an opportunity for a small group of teachers teachers to get together and share. Here is my recap:

Pre-Calculus Morning Session – in this session we looked at the overall big picture and our “hard-to-teach” topics. Top take-away: Sam Shah’s “Introduction Junction” where each student has a headband with a graph. Students ask each other one question about their graph trying to determine the equation of their graph or create a sketch of their graph. This is a great way for students to get to know each other as well as review graphing.

My FavoritesPam Wilson and the Hole Punch Game. Students work together to solve problems, agree as a group, and get a whole punch on their paper if correct.  Post-it notes with + (could do better), ! (learned, don’t forget), ? (still unclear), lightbulb (that ah-ha moment) … use these to have students do a self-analysis and post around the room. Leave up for teacher to read at a later time. Can use + and ? comments to structure review at a later date. Anne Schwartz – sometimes just listening for 5 minutes to a student is enough. You don’t need to fix everything. Michael Pershan –  check out his blog at mathmistakes.org. Justin Lanier of mathmunch.org making an math-related internet world for students. Michelle – mathematizing the world by looking at every form together: picture, graph, table, equation, verbal scenario. David Weis – student questions fall into three types (1) the “stop thinking” – is this right (2) proximity – you are nearby and (3) the “start thinking” curiosity types. Stop answering (1) and (2) to build mathematical independence  by responding with a leading question or tool and jump on the (3) types to explore. Also wait for the second or third hand to call on so you are not always getting the most extroverted student. Heather – texting Olympics to collect data. Have students text a phrase exactly and another student time. Find the line of best fit. Peg Cagle – paper folding and record # folds, # layers, area of top layer (use area of unfolded = 1) to explore exponential growth and decay. Measure your smallest folded – how many times would you have to fold to be as tall as you? as tall as ___? Anthony Rossetti – the wireless tablet that I covet and Remind101. Me – Trigonometry Murder Mystery … I will post here later but it is also on the wiki.

Max Ray presented on “I Notice, I Wonder” having students write an “I Notice” post-it and an “I Wonder” post-it. This can be used with gallery walks, problems, pictures and more. Similarly Glenn Waddell spoke about “Problem Posing” where you have students pick out the attributes and then work problems by changing one attribute. Justin Aion did a great recap at Global Math last night.

Other great presenters were Karim from Mathalicious. I suggest everyone check it out, some cool stuff that we as teachers do not have time to do ourselves. And Eli Luberoff showed us the Desmos graphing “calculator” that is free and web-based. There were geek-gasms at the powerfulness and ease of his creation. I will be using this tool next year and beyond…

“Making Math Sticky” by Elizabeth Stratmore. Try to make problems simple, unexpected, concrete, credible, emotional and/or storied. One interesting technique we tried was problem solving with your non-dominant hand. I found I thought differently and was definitely slowed down. I will try this in my classroom. Another was to have two people solve the same problem but back-to-back – what a great way to talk and explain a problem!

Megan Hayes-Golding share the Interactive Notebook with lots of examples and ideas of what can be done in an INB. While I will not be doing a “true” INB, I will be incorporating many aspects but not as strictly. I like the matching activity and how to fits in the INB – match type, graph, and parent function of all the Algebra 2 equation types. I will be purchasing tape in bulk.

I wrapped up my TMC experience with a discussion on SBG. I found out I was not alone and there are lots of hurdles that make SBG difficult and for us to develop our own hybrid system. 

Overall, TMC was awesome and I hope to be able to travel to next year’s location, no matter where it is, but we shall see. I met some of the super-stars and found out they are real people. I made friends from all over and can only hope those friendships hold over the school year. I realized how cool it was to be with a group of people just like me and that we are all super-stars in our own way. I may not publish awesome blogs or indoctrinate my top achievers into the unicorn-universe or play ukulele while my students work, but I have my own quiet, super-star ways. I read children’s books to my class – and most listen intensely and will wait after the bell rings for me to finish (The Paper Bag Princess is a favorite). And I do some basic chair yoga moves with my students, which they have nicknamed “moga” for math-yoga, to calm down, transition, or start an assessment. We are teachers and we are super-stars! We just need to find our way of expressing it.

Thanks TMC for helping me find my super-star. What is yours?

So, what are you doing this summer?

8 Jul

I hear this all the time. And it is asked in a way that really says “are you eating bon-bons all summer?” I mean really, I do have a life outside of teaching September through June. And June through August I do the same things as I do the rest of the year, just at a more leisurely pace. Laundry, changing of linens, vacuuming, cleaning bathrooms, grocery shopping, farm market, planning and executing meals all take place. Now, however, I choose one to complete in a day instead of completing it all during Saturday-Sunday. My favorite? Going to the grocery store when they open mid-week! Oh, and I try to take care of all the doctor and dentist appointments during the summer too.

Now that I have been out a bit over two weeks here is some of what I have accomplished:

Rhubarb Pie

Rhubarb Pie

Homemade Granola with Pecans & Crystallized Ginger

Homemade Granola with Pecans & Crystallized Ginger

Peach Rhubarb Pie for July 4!

Peach Rhubarb Pie for July 4!

The project I am working on.

The project I am working on.

In addition to what you see here I have also made a mixed berry pie to take to the neighbors when they invited us for dinner and pizza crust from scratch 4 times.  Pizza on the grill is the best!

I am also taking the How to Learn Math Class and am super-excited to attend TMC13. And hopefully the spouse and I will have the opportunity to get away for a week or weekend or two – it all depends on his job. And, of course, there is SY13-14 to plan. I know I will have a few summer meetings and Mr. W & I are going to reorganize our Algebra 2/Trig curriculum.

So, just because it is July or August, we teachers are not necessarily laying by the pool, eating bon-bons and consuming copious amounts of beverages with umbrellas. Oh, how I wish that was true!