Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Looking Forward...

On a brighter note, I am looking forward to my next unit in Algebra thanks to Pinterest and all of these wonderful blogs that I following.

We will be solving equations and discussing slope. I plan to teach solving using the door flaps fold for a step by step process, over and over. I can't wait to introduce SLOPE DUDE! Majority of my Algebra class is boys and they will love SLOPE DUDE because they loved SLEEPY MAN.


I am finding the section on circles quite overwhelming. There are so many relationships, theorems, and formulas. Is there anything out there that provides an organized overview of circles??


What happened??!?!?

"What happened?" is the question that just seems to resonate in my brain. My Algebra 1 kids bombed their test. I had such high expectations. All I want to do is cry....

A few tears later...

Alright, I will figure this out and we will come back stronger and better.

Game plan:

  1. I gridded student responses (right/wrong) against names.
  2. We have tutorials 7:30 am to 8 am and 3:35 pm to 4 pm. Starting tomorrow afternoon, I will have students that missed certain questions attend tutorials on a certain day. Example: All students that missed number one will attend morning tutorials Thursday. A revised question will be a half credit towards the original test grade.
  3. I plan on the students completing an in depth revision for each question by identifying properties, writing explanations, and justifying their solution. I use the Cornell notes systems as a guide for organizing the process.
  4. During class I will give what I call quiz strips. These consist of two to three problems. I create two to three sets of differing questions. Purpose: Students cannot cheat, but they can collaborate and teach each other about the concept.
  5. I will administer accumulative quizzes. These quizzes focus on several concepts at once with a few questions.
  6. We will retest. This method of repetitive practice and accumulation has proven true with my juniors in Algebra 2. There's not a function that they cannot transform or a transformation they cannot read. They love transformations of functions.
  7. OVERALL: I am focusing on my level of questioning. I have several versions of Bloom's Taxonomy printed and posted around my classroom to help prompt and remind me of the higher level of vocabulary to use.

Looking for...

I am looking for strategies in Algebra 1 to build fluency in the foundational skills. Game ideas, practice methods, anything???


Monday, February 11, 2013

Algebra Review Game

Monday's seem to be my worst day of the week. I give a weekly grade report to students, and, it never fails, there are certain students that throw fits, argue that they turned assignments in, or dispute every grade given back. My classes are not hard, but the key is-don't miss class. Many of my students have picked up on this. Anyways, I was determined to make today a high energy, fun day. I did and it was a great day. My favorite was, surprisingly, my Algebra 1 classes.


We reviewed for tomorrow's test by answering questions as a team competing with other teams. I wrote down 3 sets of the same problems on different colored paper and gave each group a set. We used marker boards.



How it works:

The students may choose to work together or split up the questions and work individually. Once they solve the problem, a student raises their hand and I come around to check. If right on the first try, they get three tokens. If incorrect, I usually provide some guidance or show a incorrect step. For the second attempt, if correct, they receive two tokens. If incorrect, try a third time for one token. Today, all of my students answered it by the second round. I made sure to monitor and provide verbal cues.

THEY LOVED THIS!!! We all had so much fun.

In the beginning, I tried to keep exact track of the number of attempts; however, they got so into it that it wasn't worth the concern. It turned out to be better to reward them for their effort and energy than to try and focus on the specifics.

My 5th period played the game right and took their time solving and collaborating. (Mostly girls.)

However, my 8th period (all boys) figured out how to cheat the system. My policy for the game is that I have to see your work. I'm much more observant than my students give me credit. They figured out that if they solved and answered correctly, then they could quickly show another teammate how to correctly answer the question to accumulate points faster. At first, I was going to deny them this strategy, but I then saw them teaching and collaborating on strategies. A class that usually struggles with engagement was blowing my mind with enthusiasm and hard work.

I really enjoyed this activity because of the diversity it produced with the learning. I had some students teaching, and others learning from peers. I saw a lot of different strategies used to solve the same problem, heard debates over which method is better, and observed a classroom full of pride and determination.

I'm very excited to see how we do on the test tomorrow.


Saturday, February 9, 2013

My method is not alone...

I had a parent ask me if their child ever has homework. I thought about it and answered "rarely." This year I have adapted a new method in practice and grading. I discovered that the battle of homework with today's students uses more energy than it is worth. Therefore I make homework 15%, quizzes 25%, and assessments 60%. Students quickly learn that they need to understand the material because I give a lot of quizzes and many differing forms of assessments.

I introduce a concept and put it to practice with five to ten problems that I monitor and grade the instant a student is finished- problem to problem or overall. I call this a double check process. If a student misses the problem I circle it and have them correct it. If and when I catch a student copying, I tell them to think for themselves and I closely monitor their work. If I think a student may have copied an answer; because I see no evidence of an attempt to solve, I ask the student how they got it. Most of the time, I am surprised. I learn a new method to solve that does not involve my extensively written out process. Sometimes I ask to see how they think. I love to learn and understand their methods.

They only receive partial credit for the corrected answer; however, I deduct four to six points per incorrect/corrected problem.


  • This method provides a student with instant feedback and a chance to learn from their mistakes and get the correct answer.
  • All of my papers are graded on the spot. I don't spend hours grading hundreds of papers later.
  • Problems instantly correlate with a specific concept.
  • My students confidence goes up with a since of ownership in the process. They love to know how they did and calculate their grade in the process.

Quizzes are where concepts accumulate and I incorporate what I have been told is a "spiral review." A quiz will consist of several questions that span differing concepts requiring my students to pull together their knowledge and skills. These also are a double check. I am more specific on the double check and points here. I use the quizzes to build my students towards confidence in their independence. Then the exams are a one time try just like the EOC. I grade them straight forward without curves. My students panic at first until I remind them that their Journal is there as a major grade in case of a low test grade.


The only area that I really struggle with is how to do test corrections/revisions. I want to develop a method that is thorough and worth the time. Suggestions would be appreciated.


I have noticed my students confidence has gone up and they take pride in their hard work in my class. They walk in, grab their journals, and are ready to go before me. I feel that my students are learning very well.

This topic was spurred on by a blog i have read recently by Math = Love.

Math = Love: A Very Good Day :)


Sleepy Man!

This was the most ridiculous thing I thought I'd ever seen, until... it worked!!!

My student's would consistently ask me-

"What's a negative times a negative?"

"What's a negative divided by a positive?"

I tried explaining, demonstrating, etc. Then I remembered something I learned at a workshop-"sleepy man"

This is what the student's can quickly draw and then use their finger to cover up the signs in their problem and the sign left over is the result. negative*negative is positive, positive/negative is negative, etc.

Additional strategy:

The tic-tac-toe image where the positive run diagonally and the rest are negative. No matter which row, column, or diagonal you use, the result is always the sign left over.

My students like sleepy man more than tic-tac-toe.

My goal with journals is to provide my students with a resource to create confident independent learners. And sleepy man was a huge step for a minor concept. :)

Caution: Some students confuse this with adding and subtracting integers. Any suggestions on how to distinguish the difference?


Algebra: Cartesian Coordinate Plane and Domain & Range

These two are foldables inspired by ones that I found on MathEqualsLove blog and on pintrest.

I used a square piece of paper two create both with a grid in the middle.



My students find the positive negative shorthand ordered pairs helpful. My students write them on assignments, quizzes, and tests.


The "left to right" and "bottom to top" method has been the best approach I could find for domain and range. Another hands on technique we use is the box method.



Box method:

We use post-its, foam squares, or colored paper squares to physically box in the boundaries of the funciton. If it has an arrow, you can not contain it. Then I bridge them over into drawing the box around to determine boundaries. I have used this in tutoring and in my classes and the students responded well to this.

Any other ideas out there? I'm always looking to improve and expand.


Tuesday, February 5, 2013

My Math Journals...

I was at a coffee shop with a fellow teacher and we were planning and sharing. I love collaborating with teachers like me. Nothing better than the exchange of creative engaging ideas. Anyways, we have all of our stuff spread out across the table, and people kept giving us strange looks. I sometimes forget that what I do and how I do is not usual norm. To me, these journals are normal, but to an outsider I just look a little crazy... I suppose.

I put just about everything into a composition book- tutorial logs, parent contact, student information, special education, workshop notes, ...
When I go to any training I always have my journals with me to quickly reference and makes notes. I forget it's not normal when I pull out my over flowing composition book and bottle of glue. I believe I'm what they call a kinestetic learner, but I'm not sure... :)


Monday, February 4, 2013

All you need is....

All you is...

  • Composition book- I prefer these because they last longer and have the feel and appearance of a book. It is easier to encourage the students not to tear out the pages
  • Blank paper-this is what I use for my classes, it's cheap and I can purchase in bulk
  • Scissors-I teach high school and found that the smaller scissors the less time spent in their hands
  • Liquid glue- lasts longer, holders better, and cheaper. I buy glue by the gallons and store it in a rinsed out detergent bottle with the thumb press dispenser to make for a quick refill station.
  • Pencil-it is a math class, and this is to deter messy mistakes and scratch outs. (I also have giant erasers in the supply baskets, "for big mistakes" and for the students that never have an eraser.)

Now, this is just the basics. You can fluff a journal with decorations, colored paper, and markers. I have a student that has fully outfitted her journal in duct tape decor and takes it home each night to write over her notes in color as a study technique.


Saturday, February 2, 2013

Geometry: Angles in Regular Polygons

I really think the interior angle pattern is important and fun to teach. I used an extra long piece of paper. This is a standard note taking strategy for my classroom. I can expand the space for note taking from one page to three by simply folding a piece of paper in half. I have also discover a trick: have students glue in most all notes as a pocket that opens to the spine (so papers will not fall out). This not only provides additional space, it also conserves glue.

Geometry: Polygons

I am a high school math teacher in the state of Texas. We use the CSCOPE curriculum and I am in Unit 7. I count the Unit pocket as page one.
Now on my page two-Polygons:
1. Fold the paper in half (short fold) and then unfold.
2. Fold the edges in to the center creating the shutter fold, then unfold.
3. Take the right side and fold three times to the left, then finish by taking the left and fold once to the right.

Now after spending the day at a local symposium I have heard some differing opinions on polygons. For example the one on the cover with two intersecting sides. I have come across what is called a complex polygon in my research, but have had several colleagues disagree. Please share your thoughts.

Unit Pockets

I have tried the table of contents in the past and failed. I have discovered a different method that works as we work.

I start each unit with what I call a "unit pocket". At the end of each unit I collect the journals and quickly grade them while the students test. I count these as a major grade (test grade). This is meant to help support the students and it adds value to the journal.

The unit pocket has the name of the unit on the front and is a place where students can store their assignments and the unit test.

I have seen some journals use tabs to divide units, but tabs wear and tear and eventually fall off. I have found that these pockets are naturally easy to find by the way the paper wears. For my teacher journal I use a piece of duct tape towards the bottom to also provide a quick reference.

Steps to make a pocket:

  1. Take a new page, turn the page to your left.
  2. Take the top left corner and fold down to the spine.
  3. Place a thin line of glue ONLY along the bottom and up the left side (short strip).
  4. Turn the page back to the right, the folded piece will stay in place at the spine, and smooth.