Loving Local – Shoutout to Illinois Bloggers

I was sick last week and failed on getting my second #mtbosblogsplosion up so I have to prevail on this one! I like the idea of picking people’s blogs and reflecting on them. I decided to focus on Illinois bloggers since I am one of them. Annie Forest (@ has been trying to highlight some Illinois bloggers so I thought it would be awesome to pick some of them and read some of their posts to see what I could learn from them.

From @mrsjtweetsmath I read her post about how to restart 2nd semester. I have so many things that I want to change and I always fail with my grand plans at getting everything because I tackle too much. My one focus is going to be student focus so I am going to be a lot stricter on phones and focus on my classroom management. Once that is under control, then I can pick something else. I needed this reminder to just fix one thing at a time.

From @JDaomath I read her post about social justice in mathematics. You can tell this is something she is definitely passionate about. I have done scatterplots but I never thought to include something like what she did. This has the wheels turning and I think I need to incorporate something like this at least once 2nd semester. (Small goal = at least once!).

From @kirk_humphreys I read his post about changing his look at assessments. I gave my honors geometry students a project with quadrilaterals that was really fun (I could definitely blog about that next). I haven’t done a project for my algebra II class like this yet so his quadratic water fountain problem has intrigued me. Not sure what I want to do but I think I need to find some form of a project to get them to show me what they have learned.

There are so many amazing Illinois bloggers but this is just a few of them that caught my eye and got me thinking about things as I start 2nd semester. Check them out!


Super Survey

At the end of the school year, I always give my students a survey to hear their thoughts about what they liked about our class and what the disliked. I tell them to be honest (they don’t even have to put their name on it) and I always get some really useful feedback.

I was reading some of their thoughts and I was really amazed that I stuck with doing an opener almost every day when the students walked in for some consistency and many of them said that it really helped! A few said that we should break away from that once in a while (even though I know I did but maybe not apparent enough or needs to happen more often).

I have put the survey I used this year below. I would be curious to know if anyone else uses something like this or maybe has better questions I should be asking? I kind of like that is open-ended for them. I am thinking of trying maybe some smaller ones at the end of the quarter to maybe get some more feedback and try to make some changes during the school year too.

Grueling Grading

With some time this week having Monday as a professional day and today as the ACT day, I have had some time to think about stuff so I figured…why not blog?

I have been thinking about grading lately since I had a huge pile of papers to catch up on over this weekend (don’t worry, I am all caught up as of today!). These are just some ponderings that I don’t really have the answers to:

  • Green Vs Red Pen
    • Does it matter if I grade in a positive color versus a negative one?
    • Are student’s self-esteem lowered if they see a bloody red paper versus one that looks like St. Patrick’s Day came way too early this year?
  • Stickers on students paper
    • If I start the beginning of the year putting them on papers, students seem to like
    • If I don’t start at the beginning of the year, nobody asks for them
    • If I start doing it and then stop, they complain and what their sticker
    • Is a sticker worth my time? What benefits does it really have?
  • Positive Vs Negative points
    • If I put a +4 on a problem versus a -2, does that make a difference?
    • Will a student actually look for their mistake if I do one way or the other?

Are students more or less inclined to read my comments I spent a lot of time doing if any of the above are followed or not followed? Maybe I need to explore more of this but just a brain dump for right now…


Contemplating Comments

Block scheduling, grad school, new books for courses, new students, life….I feel like I have so many reasons why this school year is especially grueling for me. I always feel like I am playing catch up and with break, I finally feel like I have some breathing room. Hopefully I can keep it up with a post a week…I actually put it in my calendar as a task. For some reason, that seems to help me get things done when an alarm is going off telling me to do it now! A new year is right around the corner and new resolutions…like staying on top of blogging and grading! Speaking of grading….

This stack of tests/quizzes are staring me down from across the room and as I pretend to grade them (make the answer key and then get distracted to do something else) I wonder how useful will they be to my students….

  • Will they remember what they were thinking two weeks ago?
  • If I make note of an error will they bother to look at it?
  • Can students remember how they tackled a problem if it has been two long?
  • Will writing a lot of comments be helpful or just clutter the page?
  • If I went over how to do all the problems in class be more or less beneficial than writing comments?

Michael Pershan’s (http://rationalexpressions.blogspot.com/) has been exploding with feedback discussion and it has been making me think what would be most helpful to students? Generally, I give the feedback asap so that way it is still fresh but I wonder how much effort I should put in over break if they might not even remember what they did in the first place. Are these comments going to help anyone but me?


Awesome Things This Last Week

I am so bad at this keep on top of blogging thing. My life has been so hectic that I can’t wait for Thanksgiving because I will have a few days off of school and I get to spend some time with family which is always great!

1. We had parent teacher conferences last week and again tomorrow. I can’t believe the number of parents that told me how I am doing such a great job and really want to find out ways to help their child succeed. It is so great when we can all work together.

2. My geometry students rocked their geometry test. We did an awesome review activity the class period before and I think that helped solidify concepts for many of them (I totally have to blog about that!).

3. I didn’t have school today so I got to get caught up with some grad school things as well as some papers that needed to be graded.

4. I got an A in my midterm for my discrete math grad class. I am hoping the final in less than two weeks goes just as well!

5. Two students from last year bought me a taco….why? Because they thought I was a good teacher from last year and I deserved one! It was hilarious and awesome at the same exact time. This is why I teach….to get tacos!


I hope that whoever is reading this is finding some good things going on in school/life as well. I think we can all get caught up in the negatives sometimes that it is hard to see the positives. I need to focus on those as I truck through this crazy year with way too many things going on. How do some people handle being this busy all the time? I am always reading others blogs and wonder how they can keep posting? Life always seems to get in my way!

Students Think I Am Weird + Lots Of Fun Problems = First Week Of School


This week’s challenge is to talk about how the first week of school went so here we go!

This school year is different since we are on a Block Schedule but here is what happened on each day. My first week started the week of 8/25.

Monday: Prof. Development Day so I won’t bore you with those details.

Tuesday: More Prof. Development and then freshmen run through their schedule (literally running) and we get to meet them for a few minutes. They have 6 minute periods with no passing period time (so that makes sense right?). I feel so bad for freshmen who show up right when the bell rings to leave and they are huffing and puffing. To entertain them, I put a problem up for them to solve and discuss while we waited for more to show up. Then, I talked for one minute about what to expect the next day…”Expect to be learning and thinking. This will be your favorite class this year and you will have to wait and see why starting tomorrow.” I let them take guesses at the answer for the problem and then I tell them I will reveal the answer tomorrow. I love that in a short span of 6 minutes (even less since most arrive and then RUN away) I can sucker some of them in waiting for the next day. Since all my freshmen are in geometry and geometry honors, this square problem is perfect. Here is the problem below. Tweet me @jomalleyiv if you think you know the answer!

How many squares are in the figure below?

How Many Squares In The Figure

Wednesday: This is a gold day and I teach two sections of regular geometry and one section of honors geometry on this. (G for gold = geometry so I can remember when I am teaching stuff!!!!). When students walk in, they are instructed on the board to grab the worksheet at the front of the room. Everyday, they have an opener to grab so I like to start the routine immediately. It is an info sheet they fill out while I am waiting for stragglers. I let them go for about 5 minutes and then I put this problem back up on the board and I have them all take a guess and write it down. Then, I have some kids offer up answers and we discuss (usually someone counts all the rectangles). We talk about the answer and some other things that will reveal the answer so I won’t add anymore onto that. Then, we did the activity that I have posted about in the past here: https://functionsarefun.wordpress.com/2013/08/12/buliding-up-geometry-vocab/. After that, we used that motivation to talk about points, lines, planes, etc. Not the most exciting “lecture” but they were eager to learn from our “game” that we just played so I think it was okay. We even got to talking about the segment addition postulate. I let them try some problems and they figured it out by themselves!

Honors geometry was similar. I did the same geometry vocab game and the same square picture. After we talked about points, lines, and planes I gave them some t/f and always/sometimes/never questions for them to discuss in their groups. What is awesome about this group in particular, is when I say I want them to discuss they ask how and what they should say and then do it. With regular, they need more guidance on how to work in a group (I have all students in groups of four) but these students jump at the chance to discuss and debate. It is pretty awesome.

Thursday: Blue day so I teach two sections of Algebra II Studies (lower-level). I start with School Fever and it is a success as it has been in previous years. I blogged about it before here: https://functionsarefun.wordpress.com/2013/07/29/first-day-algebra-ii-will-you-catch-the-fever/. Then, I gave them a whole bunch of graphs that I hand-drew different models on and they had to highlight the model that would be appropriate for the situation (some examples were time vs. distance, time vs. height, days vs amount of water used). I like that I force them to use a highlighter because you can’t erase so it forces them to stick with something even if it turns out to be a mistake in the end. It was great and we had some awesome discussions. We then did a little algebra practice and the day was over…so fast!

Friday: See my geometry kiddos again. I am getting tired of typing at this point but we did more practice (in both classes) with points, lines, and planes. I had a lot of problems for them to try and practice/struggle with before I would jump in and help. We talked about unions and intersections with points, lines, segments, and rays. I gave them highlighters and had them color in the parts we were talking about and it seemed to really help make a big difference. Lots of practice this day but they seemed to enjoy the time to gain these skills and work together. I did not do much talking and I loved that.

This year will definitely be interesting and a lot of hard work but I really have amazing kids in all my classes and I am so excited to work with them this year!

I survived my first week!


I know it is Monday but I am going to pretend like it is Sunday. If I would have thought about it earlier, I would have taken pictures of my classroom so instead I will be doing a 3-2-1 summary.

3 Things I Noticed This Week

  1. I have awesome students! I know that I have only met them once or twice but they seem great and I am excited to work with them.
  2. Teaching for 90 minutes can sometimes not feel like enough! I actually ran out of time in Geometry so I feel a bit behind! CRAZY!
  3. Google Classroom is pretty cool! All my classes are using it and it seems to work really well once I figured out how to set everything up.

2 Things I Am Nervous About

  1. Pacing: Am I going to fast? Too slow? Will I fit in all the curriculum? Right now, I am more concerned about making a connection and making my students feel good about doing math.
  2. Geometry has an entirely new book so we are piloting it and I am freaking out about it. I have never been this nervous about a class in terms of curriculum this way. I know it will work out in the end so I think I just need to take a deep breath and keep on trucking!

1 Thing That Is Awesome

  1. My curricular teams (geometry, geometry honors, algebra II studies) are all amazing! We all work really well together and give each other multiple ideas. These people are making my life better and helping me stay on track with everything. I can’t wait to see what the rest of the year brings for us.

I think I should later this week try and post about my organization and some activities I am working on to make teaching for 90 minutes doable without completely boring my students!