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!


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: 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: 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!

Buliding Up Geometry Vocab

made4math_smallHere is an activity I made that I am going to use for geometry. I plan on using it the second day after we do some critical thinking the first day. I am totally fine with the students not knowing vocabulary at this point but it is interesting to see what they know as well as how they can communicate. What is great about this though is that you can use it as your first day geometry activity as well.

Here is how this works….

  • Each student pairs up with someone. One of the partners receives one of the two pictures from belowdrawing activity set 1. You are not allowed to show your partner the picture! (Note: I have two pictures so pairs sitting right next to each other cannot just listen to another pair’s discussions.
  • Students put up some sort of a divider in-between each other
  • When it is time to start one partner will draw the picture while the other student must only give directions and is not allowed to use hand gestures.
  • After some time I give the second set of pictures shown below and have the students switch roles. I usually pause before the students switch roles so they can talk about general strategy or things they thought were effective in at least getting them close to the pictures that were provided.

I think I read someone else doing this on a blog or something after they learned material so I made it my own. I actually like doing it before as it is fun to watch students squirm to explain how to draw something geometrical. I use this to springboard into the fact that we need a common language and it is hard for us to do something like this if we are only using words. Geometry, and math in general, has its own language and it can be really cool…but if we are all now speaking it the same way then it makes life difficult. Just like if you were in a language class and kept conjugating verbs incorrectly when you speak, it makes everyone kind of cringe. That same applies to this class as well. It makes sense for the kids as to why we need to then learn what a line or a point is and how to talk about them. I also hear students say things like “draw an equilateral triangle” and I ask where they have heard and how do they know it is equilateral. (Usually get something like “because it looks that way”) This helps me stress the importance of vocab and that they must precise on their definitions!

I also like to then do this a few weeks later (kids keep asking to do it all year because they think it is fun and probably don’t realize it lets me listen and focus on which students have mastered the vocabulary) and it really helps me assess my students in an informal way. Here is the second set that I give when the students switch…though this is much tougher mostly because one of them has a plane. The circle one seemed to be easier. I hope that if you use this, that your students will have as much as mine did. I am sure my honors kids this year will also enjoy it. Drawing Activity Set 2Of course, you can always make your own pictures and use whatever makes sense for you. It was easiest for me just to draw the two figures on a piece of paper, and then cut them in half and boom…easy instant lesson that hits a lot of things I want!

This can also be a great first day geometry activity that motivates learning the terms. SO MUCH FUN!


First Day Algebra II – Will you catch the fever?

made4math_smallMy First Made 4 Math Monday Post! I have obtained many ideas from this so hopefully I can start contributing something as well!

I can’t believe that it is almost the end of July and school is right around the corner! I am excited and nervous all at the same time! I kind of already have my first day for algebra II planned out since I am going to use something similar to last year. I still have no clue what I am going to do for honors geometry but I do have some ideas rolling around in my head. Anyways, for anyone reading this, you need some background info about my algebra II class. It is a lower level class (but that doesn’t mean the kids are any less awesome and I requested to teach it!) and we start off the first unit on models. Understanding how to use the calculator and introduce our basic info before we cover all our different units on linear, systems, inequalities, quadratics, exponentials…you get the idea. I love and I keep referring back to this stuff throughout the entire course. So, here is my plan:

  • Stand outside and greet all the students at the door (I do it everyday and they like it and it helps me with classroom management).
  • Have something projected on the board saying welcome and to grab the worksheet at the front of the room. I have them get started filling out your info sheet via Dan Meyer with some edits of my own for my personal preference. (It sets the tone that they have to start working right away and I expect that everyday they walk in).
  • After the first 5 minutes of class (making sure no one else is late) I very briefly introduce myself and welcome them to Algebra II.
  • I now get into my mode and I tell the students that in order for me to work here I have to let them know of a medical condition I have. I say that I have to take medication for it everyday otherwise it could be contagious. I took it today so it is okay but if you need to go to your counselor and switch out at the end of the period I will let you. (Their faces are totally scared and freaked out…so much fun for me). I say that we are going to look at a worksheet to discuss what I have and answer some questions.
  • I pass out the worksheet (link below) and I tell them I have SCHOOL FEVER! (I am really loud and full of energy so just pretend all of that explodes here). Some sigh in relief, some laugh, others just think this is weird and question if I have a teaching degree….
  • I quickly give all the kids numbers by having them number themselves off (hence the reason they have a box for it on the worksheet so we don’t have to play the I forgot my number game). I talk about how I am infected and lets say that after each moment I can infect one other person. I use the random number generator from the calculator and I project it on the board so they can see. I briefly explain what the random number generator does (I use the randint function on the nspire but I believe it is on the 83/84 as well) and then use it to find my first victim. Actually, I lied. I have the kids predict how many people they think will be infected next but since I am the only infected and I can only infect one other person they all say 1 since it seems obvious to them.
  • The person who is infected now has to stand up and say their name and a few random facts they want to share. I hint that they can use the worksheet they started on in class. I don’t pressure if they don’t want to say a lot. It helps me gauge who is willing to speak up and who will need some helping along. It is interesting to see what some say….and I use this way to take attendance so I don’t have to do the boring roll call that infuriates me to no end since I don’t like wasting time in class doing annoying things. Anyways, they keep standing so we can see the infection spreading. (Most have been sitting all day getting rules and procedures lectured at so this is a nice change of pace I hope…or I am the worst teacher ever for making you stay standing…whatever.)
  • Next, I have the kids make a prediction again, ask some kids to volunteer what they predicted, explain their reasoning, etc.
  • We do the random number generator again except I have it pick 2 random numbers since 2 people now are infected.
  • The new people stand and they tell us their stuff, I check off the attendance and we keep playing. The fun is when you get to someone that is already standing. Are they infected again? (No, since you can’t get school fever again if you already have a fever…which makes sense.) If the same student keeps getting infected I will crack jokes like you hang out with really sickly people.
  • It is also interesting to see that many students think the pattern doubles but then it doesn’t and it throws them leading to great discussions.
  • When you finish with everyone in class we then make a quick sketch. (SPOILER ALERT…..It is a logistic graph and one that many students have not seen before and every time we see a logistic graph someone yells out SCHOOL FEVER!!!! I also discuss stuff about carrying capacity with populations from my science background).
  • We then go through the rest of the questions taking input from students and letting them run the discussion. I just write down thoughts and answers on the computer.
  • If there is time leftover I let them continue working on their info sheet. This is their homework for the night as I tell them that I really want to know about stuff they like and things they do. Knowing who they are will better help me figure out how to make my class better for you.
  • I like that a lot of students last year asked me what were doing the next day. My response: “You will just to have to be here to find out.”

Overall, I really love this. The kids are not bored and think I am nuts. (If you watch when I teach then you would know that I am always bouncing off the walls and 10 times more excited than I should be about things but I think it is contagious!). Either way, I really hope when they go home and talk about their first day that I am mentioned. I want my students to be talking about math and hopefully having positive feelings with it. I truly believe that when kids are doing math on the first day, we are off on the right foot. I don’t think giving them equations to solve and say “we need to practice our algebra skills…here we go” is something that would work for me. I am not that type of person. Eventually I will do some practice with that but later. We need to start off on the right foot, especially in a math class where many students have already made up their mind that they hate math before they even walk in my door. Can I say that everyday we have some amazing exciting activity? No. Can I say that I will try and give you as many activities as possible to enhance the learning? Yes. I tell this to my students up front and be realistic with them. If anything, that seems to work with lower level kids who have been beaten down before. Honesty is the best policy. I loved that at the end of the last school year when I asked what were some of the favorite and least favorite things we did, a lot of students mentioned this first day as a favorite. They liked it and I think I totally hooked some of them in.

By the way: I totally stole this idea from a colleague of mine that presented it at a workshop I attended last summer. I modified what she did and put my spin on it to make it work better for me…so there is no way I would have made something this amazing by myself. I think I also did something like this in my high school calculus class…I believe it had to with points of inflection or something but that was awhile ago so I am a little fuzzy on those details. This helps me late out what I want to do and I also hope that someone can find this useful. Good luck on your first day!