Saturday, January 18, 2014

Giant Cookie is our Pi Day Tradition; What's Yours?

I am not a pie maker or eater. Pies are just something I didn't grow up on. Tragic, I know.

A wonderfully brilliant educator I know introduced me to an amazing recipe for a giant chocolate chip cookie. This was a tradition when she taught all the students I am currently teaching now years ago. She would make a giant cookie each month celebrating their birthdays. I've started a new tradition for them in high school. We have giant cookies with ice cream and games in celebration of Pi Day.


Kindergarten? No, I Teach High School Math!

Ok, so, funny story. My students love telling this one to newbies. We were running out of glue. (I store glue in a detergent bottle with one of those neat little spouts that make refilling glue pretty easy. However, from experience, I would invest into one of those hand pumps that screw onto the Elmer's gallon of glue. Much easier.)


I went to Office Depot and grabbed my usual bottle of glue and snagged 12 packages of giant white construction paper on clearance for $1.64 each. Awesome find!

I am checking out and the cashier stares at my selection and says, "Man, you do a lot in kindergarten."

Awkward pause. I reply, "I teach high school math."

His eyes widen and he then calls me "Bizarre."

Not the first time I have been called this. I just smile and say thank you!


Why my students call me the Journal Wizard?

The nickname Journal Wizard was given to me by a student my third year of teaching. This student was notorious for always getting whatever we were doing-folding, cutting, glueing, writing, etc. WRONG! Now "wrong" isn't something I would point out to him. Success in my classroom was extremely important to him. I would quietly walk over and show him how to troubleshoot his mistake and determine a new way to complete the journal page using his current materials.

Journal Policy: Student's have to make do with what they have. If they tear their notes or mess up, they have to make it work; that's my policy.

So, with this student, there was never a mistake that we couldn't fix. By the end of the year, the student became a master of troubleshooting journaling mistakes.

This year, I did run across a very challenging issue. The binding of a student's journal fell apart. How? She fiddled with it until it did. Little fart did it, denied it, and I watched it happen. Again, the policy is that we always make it work.


Challenge: Thread the cover and pages back together.

I found some hearty red thread and a strong needle (ended up going through three needles).

I started threading the pages and cover together keeping a loose connection.

When finished threading together, I pulled the cover tightly to the pages and tied it off.

I did have to push through the outside binding cover. Luckily, the student is a huge Red Raider fan and loves the stitching on the outside.

The entire process took me about two hours. Moral of the story for my students: We gotta make it work! (Trust me, they quote me on this.)


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Graphing Ordered Pairs

I wanted to touch base on graphing ordered pairs and tie in a little geometry. I found this book while on a trip in California and the kids love it!!! There are a variety of pictures and it's not just a connect the dots. There are basic geometry questions and a thorough check on graphing ordered pairs skills.
As soon as I scan and upload the PDF, I'll let you know!
There's an excellent foldable for a more in depth look at the coordinate plane. And I believe Math=Love has typed it up.
The format and variety of graphing ordered pairs is great for the students. And I can keep a check on those geometry skills.

Success!!! Simplifying Algebraic Expressions

I have found that I have success in teaching when I am able to present a concept properly to the students with full definitions, correct vocabulary, and examples outlined with strategy. I leave nothing questionable or allow something to be called "that thing". I have also learned that if a strategy, method, object, concept, term etc., has a name, students learn, relate, retain, and apply them more.

This technique is very easy for me in Geometry. Geometry is my specialty to teach; however, Algebra 1 has been a nightmare.

Key problem: I teach kids how to do the math and then they ask me WHY?

And I can't answer them because sometimes I don't know why. I never questioned what I was taught; it's just how you do the math. This needs to change.

My goal this year has been to raise my skill level in teaching Algebra 1 to my skill level of teaching Geometry. It has been slow. I am extremely behind. There's no excuse. And I'm freaking out! But there are positive results. My students understand and use what I have taught them. Some of the most difficult concepts for me to teach, have become easier and more approachable. I'm beginning to see the flow of Algebra 1 and how it builds upon each concept. With Geometry, it just clicked. The struggle I've had with Algebra 1 has been the sequence. I've asked, and I couldn't find an answer. This year, I decided to pick up the textbook as my core resource pulling in CSCOPE materials, EOC prep materials, and other supplemental materials.

This is a look at our journal for the first semester. We haven't even made it half way through the journal!

Here's one area that has kicked my tush every time I try to teach it: Simplifying Algebraic Expressions. When it arrived on the horizon, I spent a large amount of time researching other teachers' strategies. I typed up my journal page pulling information from the textbook along with thoughts found on Math=Love. I liked how she took the time to define each part and show how the term can be expanded and seen in different ways. This made a difference, and answered several questions from students throughout the unit. The definition of combining like terms was referenced multiple time. For instance, a student wanted to change the exponent when adding x and x to x squared. I refered the student to the definition followed by guiding questions.

Another strategy/activity I loved was "Sorting Like Terms". A colleague of mine writes pairs of terms on cards and students have to decide on Like or Unlike and justify.

Here's my journal page on Simplifying Algebraic Expressions.


When we got to the example adding distribution into the mix, we discuss the operations behind distribution and combining like terms and then determine the proper order based on GEMDAS.

And I love when some student says "you do the parenthesis first". That drives me crazy!!!!! We analyze that comment and what it really means in relation to GEMDAS and what operation distribution represents.

Instead of dropping one practice assignment on my students, I have three different assignments spread out over a week that we keep going back to. This helps them review and retain the skills of combining like terms. I want them comfortable and confident with this skill. Kuta Software has multiple practice pages and at different levels. There skills are improving!!



Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Identity Properties

The hardest, worst page in the journal!!!! I have to show my sarcasm sign to my students after I say this.



Reason: To justify and give that "understood one" meaning and a mathematical reference.


Review of Divisibility

We reviewed methods of divisibility earlier in the year in Pre-Algebra.

I like to share different ways to think about divisibility and prime numbers. Students tend to choose a method use it. I enjoy watching them share and teach each other. (The more different the approach, the deeper the knowledge will become.)


Distributive Property

We had reviewed the Distributive property earlier in the year.

My students love distributing the b and making "ba+by" and distributing the c to make "ac+dc".

Another part of the distributive property is reviewing its use in mental math. Some of my students have fun using the strategy throughout the year to beat others that use a calculator.


Commutative and Associative Properties



I have found that even after defining these two properties, students do not really recall or understand them. I added these four practice problems and focus the guiding questions on which method would be easiest or most appealing for mental math.

After we worked through the above problems, students were able to identify the properties when asked and even identified them when they were applied later on.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Translating from Words to Math

This year, we worked on translating from words to math at differing levels. We began with the basics earlier in the year.

Writing Variables and Expressions







Then we defined and compared expressions to equations on a journal page.

Next, we practiced writing equations with basic terminology.

Writing Equations



Then we added some more operation and words to our arsenal of writing algebraically.

Translating from Words to Math

(This page brought in square, square root, cube, absolute value, and multiple steps.)