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!

Shading Struggles

I worked on graphing inequalities with my students earlier this year and they have a very difficult time determine which side to shade. The idea of a test point makes many of them groan because of two different reasons:

  1. It requires extra work
  2. When substituting numbers, they sometimes get confused with negatives and do it incorrectly.

While struggling through, I decided this year to whip up this worksheet:

In my mind, this was going to be a quick review of shading since I knew some were struggling…little did I know this was going to blow up in my face (Boom). What I thought might take them 5-10 minutes was taking much longer and many were confused. Only after many seemed even more confused, I realized that the main thing that threw them off was that their was no coordinate grid. The students who liked the test point idea had no clue what to do. Vertical and horizontal lines also through some of them a curve-ball because we had not practiced as many of those at this point. Because it was not what they normally saw (always given a 10×10 grid and said to graph) they were confused.

Even though it was horrible at first, we talked through it and they made lots of progress. This ended up marking the turning point for the class as the day many students started having that light-bulb moment and went on to having much success on the chapter test. It is funny how things that seem easy to me can really take a long time for some students to grasp but getting them out of their comfort zone can really make a big deal in helping their understanding when it is all said and done.


Domain + Range Pictionary Game


I was productive today and made a binder for the class I taught over summer school. I put all the materials in order of how I used them, with corresponding answer keys, so that I can look back over it if I ever teach this class again or want to snag an idea from there. I like having everything in a binder because it makes it so easy to flip through and look at everything you have done. Then, I can always find the corresponding activity in my electronic files.

Anyways, one of the activities I did that made me laugh when I looked at it again was a domain and range pictionary springboard motivator activity. I am sure I stole this from someone online but I have no idea who…not trying to steal your work but it is awesome! Before I even talked about domain and range I cut out the pictures below and gave each pair of students a little pile of them. I then had one student describe the drawing while the other student had to attempt to draw an accurate picture. The only guidelines I gave was that they had to only use words and could not use any hand gestures. I had the students put up a divider and face each other so they couldn’t see what their partner was drawing for an extra challenge.

This was so much fun for the kiddos and I enjoyed watching them struggle to explain to their partner what to draw. We talked about it afterwards and what strategies worked/didn’t. The things that came up included the following:

  • Vocabulary: Increasing/Decreasing, Max + Min, Zeros, Intercepts, etc. We talked about how knowing the correct definition helped.
  • Strategy of just plotting points. Some students said they tried just telling their partner to plot a whole bunch of points and connect with a curve. I picked one of the continuous graphs and asked if you could name every single point. Most students said yes and listed all the integer ones. It was great to clear up the misconception that their are an infinite number of points. Some students were still a little mystified at that concept but I think by the end of the course they got it. This was only day 2…
  • Students brought up that you had to stay within the certain x and y values….BOOM. Gotcha….now I was able to introduce domain and range and talk about how we use this in math to only denote certain values. They said that makes sense…so then we moved on to doing some examples.

I love things like this that even though it is not “real world” it makes my students see a need for this. I have just realized that I could use this to motivate the discussion of basic graph vocab with my lower-level juniors at the beginning of the school year….YES. I could just modify a few and make some graphs that would make sense for them.


Pythagorean Theorem Jungle Hideout Practice

Summer school is over and I have a month before school starts up again. With going to block scheduling, I have been thinking a lot lately about how I will keep my students entertained. For me, a juicy problem that has multiple entry points with multiple paths to a solution can keep me busy for quite awhile….but I know students don’t always see it that way. I don’t like doing activities for the sake of doing activities but I do see the value in students being able to practice their skills in a way that doesn’t seem to be another worksheet.

Below is something I used last week to have students practice their Pythagorean Theorem skills. They all said they already knew this before so I wanted to see how much of this was true as well as let them to show off their ability. I believe the original idea of this is something Dan Meyer once used and I modified to fit my needs.

As students walk in, I give them all a card from a deck. I only used all the 2-8 cards and students wondered what they were used for. They kept asking and all I did was smiled and said “you’ll see”. They hate that….and yet it builds anticipation so they secretly love it. When it was time for the activity, I had students go to the appropriate problem (either 2-8 depending on their card they received earlier), and begin. When they answer the question, they had to then find the next question and answer that one. All the problems are multiple choice while I walk around the room monitoring progress. At the end of the document, I put the answers to the correct route that I carry with me. I usually put them up before class or since I share classrooms, while the students are working on their opener or some other task. It doesn’t take long to tape 12 problems up around the room.

To add to the suspense, I tell them that they have to find me in the “Jungle”. I tell them how I grew up and it was hard to find places for hide and seek because I am so tall and that a jungle helps me since their are a lot of tall trees. They all laugh, think I am weird like any other given day, and then get to work. I also have them keep track of their work and make a big deal about turning it in so they will actually show all their steps and blah blah blah. You get the picture. Keeps them moving, on task, starting at different spots, and finding out if they are correct or not. Lots of things I like about practice all rolled up into one little package.