Lazy Lines: I want them to be straight!

I am trying to identify things that annoy me this year so I can fix them.

Lots of things annoy me: the copy machine breaking down in my desperate need for five more copies, the kid who decides he should sharpen his pencil right as I am summarize the most important idea of the day, the wi-fi network being fickle, etc. I’ll spare you all of my troubles.

One thing that students do (or more like not do) is drawing lines. Anytime we have to graph a line I get really annoyed when they are jagged, look more like a curve, or bent in some odd shape that makes me ponder if students are just completely screwing with me.

Here is my fix: Give students a ruler. Not just for the classroom but ALL THE TIME. No more crummy homework either. No excuses. So, I went to amazon and bought a bunch of little rulers that are pretty inexpensive and plastic so they are less likely to break being shoved into a binder, pencil case, or the bottom of a backpack (anybody have one of those students?)

IMG_20170816_202018 (2).jpg

All 8 designs

The first time we need to graph something we pull these out. I let students pick whichever one they like. They get to keep them. I have pirates and animals so everyone can be happy right?

Now I do not have to be annoyed…..or at least not by line drawings anymore. Those other things I mentioned earlier still annoy me.

Fun Firsts? – First Day Of Classes 17-18

Fun Firsts? – First Day Of Classes 17-18

So a little behind here on #sundayfunday challenge but that is okay because the goal is just to #pushsend.

I will be teaching geometry honors and algebra 2 studies (Learners who have struggled). In geometry I will be doing the same activity to build up a need for geometry vocab I have done before which you can read here. I will also be using my school fever activity that I have used before and you can read about that one here.

I have decided to try and get out of my comfort zone a little and instead of just reviewing how to plot coordinate points with my algebra 2 students, I thought it might be great to try and incorporate some sort of desmos activity instead. I am hoping that this will excite them instead of bore them to death on the first day of class. Students will be using the mini-golf coordinate activity with a few extra slides that I have added/modified at the beginning and at the end to lead some discussion about scatterplots. After being at #tmc17 and being involved in #desmoscamp I really love the idea of pausing and being able to restrict parts of the activity. This will be my first time trying all of this out on a new group of students day 1 but I am thinking it will lead to great success! If you want to see what it looks like and try it out then go here.

Regardless of what you are doing, I encourage you to think of ways to try and take a risk and go for something new. This has made me even more excited for the start of the year!

Engaging Exhaustion – What to do after a quiz

I have always found that it can be tricky to re-engage my students after we take a quiz. With 90 minutes in class, I cannot just give a quiz and do nothing the rest of the block. Lately, I have found it really difficult to get students started up again. I have polled my students why it is so hard to get them working again when they can do such an amazing job at other times and here is what I learned:

  • Students feel mentally exhausted after a quiz
  • Students say it is hard to get started if it is a new topic
  • Students don’t want to do anything else
  • Students want to do something that is not “too hard”

I was trying to come up with different ways to get my students re-energized. While most were done and I was waiting for a few students to finish a quiz, I had students complete this little half-sheet below.


Since others were still finishing the quiz they couldn’t talk to me or each other. The topic of logarithms was something I introduced last class. I did the first problem in each row as an example to show them. The result: Success. Almost every student actually completed it without any moans/groans and it was great to discuss any misconceptions about logs before we moved on with our next topic. Students told me afterward how much they liked that I did the first one since it acted as a reminder and took away the intimidation factor. I need to find other things like this that can engage them. I could even use this to recap something from a previous day.

Scatterplot Suspense

I have been thinking what I want my first days of school to be like and I want to know where my Algebra II students are in terms of how they are feeling about math. Since we talk about scatterplots and how to interpret them, I thought it might be interesting to put up the following grid on the board on the first day:

2z. Graph Yourself Picture

I will give each student a sticker (I was going to have them use their name but then I figured that this way I can keep it kind of anonymous) and have them paste it up where they feel they align.

I think this could work really well

  • I can learn how the class feels about mathematics in a general sense
  • I can incorporate our scatterplot intro in the beginning of the year with a real activity
  • I think students would be willing to discuss when I ask a question like “how many people think math is easy in this classroom?”

I like low-entry first day activities for algebra like this to get kids discussing and then hopefully change their opinions by the end of the year!

Helpful Highlighting

I have been thinking about what I want my first day of classes to look like (I can’t believe it is less than a month away!) and I found a card sort online that I have modified into a worksheet. I already have other activities planned as well for the first day of Algebra II (School Fever!) but then I am going to have students work in partners on some graphs. I am going to have them highlight what they think is the correct graph in the situation and I am not really going to be helpful. I want them working together, figuring out how to work with a partner, and take chances. I want every student to have a highlighter so when if they mess up, they CANNOT erase! I think it is important on the first day of school to let them know that making mistakes is okay and I expect them. I want to focus on praising them for their thinking. I also like that I can have students start using the model types we talk about on day one and get used to using math vocabulary.

You may have seen this somewhere else as a card sort (honestly can’t remember where I got this from so I can’t give credit) but here is my version that I am going to use on my first day with my Algebra II students:

Homework Helper

As I am slowly starting to look through files from last year, I found this worksheet a colleague made that I thought was really great. Students had to check their homework answers by matching them up with the corresponding problem number. This happened to be on properties of exponents but I am sure you could use this for many other assignments. When students did not find a match, it opened up an opportunity for discussion and working with each other ensued. It is getting me to think about how I need to vary checking in the homework every day and do a better job at that this year instead of my standard walk around the room and look at it approach. I actually like my standard approach but I wonder what I miss out on learning from my students if I were to mix it up and try collecting a problem or two every once and awhile, give a homework quiz, etc.

Here is the document so you can see what I am talking about. Do you have a different way to assess homework? I would love to hear it.

Eggcelent Engagement

In order to force myself to blog once a week, I may just pick random things to blog about and I have decided that this is okay since it is my blog and I can do whatever I want right?

One of my favorite units is Probability. I like that it appears really easy and then can crush your soul as you try to figure them out…okay I don’t actually like that part but I do love playing games to figure things out! One activity that we did in class, that turned out to be a huge success, was to watch a Jimmy Fallon video. We watched this one where he plays egg roulette with Bradley Cooper: Jimmy Fallon Egg Roulette

Before I had covered the words and/or I had them watch parts of this and I kept pausing the video asking them what questions they had and then also had them answer questions I had. These include but not limited to:

  • How many eggs are there right now?
  • What is the probability of success (we defined success to be not getting yolk in your face)
  • What is the probability of failure (great way to introduce these terms to because it made sense to the students which one was which and they came up with it on their own!)
  • What is the probability Jimmy smashes an egg on his head? Does it matter what previously happened?

It was interesting that some of my students still struggled initially with the fact that the probability of success changed throughout and didn’t stay constant. Answers like karma or he is on a lucky streak popped up and we talked about the validity of those types of things. All of this even spring-boarded us into the concept of replacement vs. non-replacement with things like a bag of marbles and the probability of drawing one. Students for the next week kept saying things like “This is just like the Jimmy Fallon video so we subtract one each time.”

It was great that one video got them so engaged, interested in the subject, cleared up some misconceptions, and helped motivate some of our other topics. I swear it felt like it took half the class period to watch this video with my stopping to ask questions and facilitate discussion but I know it was totally worth it! I knew watching Jimmy Fallon was going to be good for something! Thanks Jimmy…you rock!