Plain Practice – A last minute idea that was not half bad

The other day in my geometry honors class, I had to teach special right triangles. I knew that I just needed time for them to practice and didn’t have time to create some type of interesting way for them to practice. I grabbed a couple of worksheets to bring with to class. I decided at the last minute to make copies of the answer keys. As students worked on the practice problems, I placed my answer key copies up around the room. To my surprise, my students were working really well and only asked me a question when they critically needed it. My last block of the day would probably have kept going if I didn’t stop them to move onto something else.

One thing that made this more effective than I thought was also having two worksheets. One was simple practice with the special right triangles and the other was tougher with application problems. It was nice that students could use this and differentiate a little. Allowing them some movement didn’t hurt either. I think that I just need to give my students time to work and ask questions and I don’t always need something flashy and exciting to help them learn. I was feeling kind of bad about this and now I feel, even though I could still always update the worksheets for next year, that it was pretty solid and the students seemed pretty strong on the homework that I assigned. I needed to write this to remind myself of these things.

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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!

 

Marker Magic – Practice @ The Board

Trying to get back into blogging now that grad school is completely over and I don’t feel like every minute of my life has to be scheduled!

Going off of the MTBOS 2017 Blogging Initiative and talking about a “My Favorite”… the first thing that came to mind is my favorite way to get students up and practicing. Their are days where I just need students to practice some skill (solving inequalities before break comes to mind) and I need to know how they are doing. Their are lots of ways to get this done but one way my students enjoy (and by enjoy I mean they don’t complain and will do it for a reasonably amount of time before they get bored) is standing at the whiteboard. Not just one or two of them, but all of them at the board at once. Thankfully, my rooms have three walls of whiteboards so I can fit a bunch of kids nicely. (In my larger classes I give some of them mini whiteboards and then trade off who is sitting and who is standing).

I usually prepare a bunch of problems ahead of time with their answers on a piece of paper (though I have just made them up off the top of my head before) and I read the first problem out. They all write it down and then begin working. I stand in the middle of the room and get to watch it unfold and see who is struggling immediately and who is flying through the problem. I encourage students standing next to each other to assist as if they were sitting and working together in their groups.  It is a great way for me to see a snapshot of everyone’s abilities. Then, we repeat with another problem. A cool thing I learned throughout the years doing this is that when I say something out loud, students actually have to know how to write it correctly and helps with understanding (less than, log base 2, etc.)

To make my life easier, I always have markers and little erasers sitting around the room before class so we can grab them ahead of time. I also only have the standard color markers (blue, red, black, green) for students to use and use a purple or orange marker for myself in case I need to write something down to show a student something.

It is surprising to me that once a student gets out of their seat and everyone is at the board, they are more willing to try and work on something instead of just another problem on a worksheet. This works especially for my lower-level students. Try it and see how it is different than just using mini-whiteboards!

Dividing Daredevils

With my regular geometry class, I wanted to have an activity that they can get started with right way on the first day of school. I came up with them dividing shapes into similar figures using this worksheet below:

I think some students will divide into four congruent shapes while others will divide into four similar shapes. It can generate discussion about what the difference is and motivate some discussion on how these will be two huge concepts for the rest of the year.

Enjoy your remaining summer while it lasts!

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.