My First Few Days Fall 2017

I am teaching all freshmen this year! I have four sections of Integrated Math I and one section of Honors Integrated Math II. Because they’re all freshmen, they haven’t seen me do the activities I did before for the first days (unless their middle school teachers did them, but I’m gonna just assume not)! School started on Thursday for students. Also, many of the students’ schedules will change in the first five days of school for whatever reason, so I need to be more cautious than before about using things that I’ll reference later in the year and making sure I catch new students up better than before. I will also keep in mind that my first unit is on solving equations with the absolute first thing being distributive property. And, I’m gonna do the same activities in my Math I and Honors Math II class because I think the norms should be the same and they need to learn some of the same things about the class.

I will be doing a lot of the same stuff from last year (semester 1 semester 2) because it actually went well!

And by the time I’m posting this I’ve already had my first two days, so I included what actually happened after those days.

Every day I will:

  • Greet students at the door with high fives (if you haven’t been doing this yet, just try it on Fridays or something – it’s really a game changer)
  • Have a welcome message and directions up on the board to set the tone to look there at the beginning of each class
  • Have students use Sara’s Name Tents

Day 1 (Thursday 8/3): BOY_0a Slides

  • Students can sit anywhere they want.
  • Introduce myself to the class “Hi! I’m so excited to be teaching you math this semester! I’m so impressed at how well many of you have followed the directions I left for you. If you didn’t get a chance yet, please follow the directions on the board.”
  • Demonstrate how to make the Name Tent with pictures on the board and I make my own with them.
  • Take attendance and mispronounce names but apologize profusely. Write down phonetic spellings on the roster.
  • Give homework – Dan Meyer Who Am I worksheet due next week
  • Show Jo Boaler’s Week of Inspirational (2) Math Video 1 about brains growing and changing, discuss for a few minutes after
  • Noah’s Ark from Fawn at Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces
  • Fill out name tent to hand in

Reflection: This went really well! I actually planned out the timing pretty well (for like the first time ever). My honors class was the only one that had multiple groups actually try to work out solutions to show on the boards, but the beauty of VNPS is that if there’s one group that is doing it, eventually there’s 3 and then 5 and then all. We only had about 15-20 minutes to work through it, and many groups were convinced it was 2 or 4 seals, but that was also awesome because then I could alert them to a group that had a different opinion and they could debate it out. It also allowed me to see how students were 1) willing to try to do something and 2) using anything more than intuition to prove their answer. We will revisit this problem later in the year in both classes.

Day 2 (Friday 8/4): BOY_0b Slides

  • As students walk in, they read the board and hopefully follow the directions to sit anywhere and have a writing utensil.
  • Hand out the syllabus and go over it. In the middle of that we come up with classroom rules that I’ll put together from all my classes that night. They need to fill out an information sheet to turn in by the end of next week.
  • For the class rules, what I did was I said “You guys have been in plenty of classes so far in your life, and you probably can think of some class rules that helped EVERY student be more successful. I want you to think for 30 seconds of at least one rule that you think should be in our class. After 30 seconds, you’ll have 2 minutes to talk with your table group to come up with 2 rules. Every group will then share one rule and we’ll see at the end if we need to go around again for more. (Then when they were ready to share) When each table shares, 1) I reserve the right to say no to any rule that’s unreasonable, or goes against school rules, and 2) we will open it up to the whole class to object to or adjust the rule. If a group said something like “Be respectful”, I’d ask them to clarify by telling us what that would look like. 

Reflection: So I had thought that going over the syllabus would take like 10 minutes and then maybe 5 minutes to make the class rules. But then…

So we didn’t get to do Sara’s 1-100 Group activity that I had thought we would do. It’s ok, though, because I think this collaboration was really important. I was really impressed with the quality of their rules. You can see that one class tried to get a little more out of their rules, but I applaud them for knowing what they want.

Day 3 (NOT Monday 8/7 because I have to give MAP Testing now on this day, so probably Wednesday): BOY_0c Slides

  • Refresh our memories on our class rules that we made last week
  • Sara VanDerWerf’s 1-100 Group Task
  • 1-100 debrief
  • Get to Know Ms. Walczak w/Plickers (I may save this for the first time we have a Plickers question to do but we’ll see if we have time)

Day 4 (NOT Tuesday 8/8 because I will still be giving MAP Testing, so probably Thursday): BOY_0d Slides

Friday I’ll have to give my school’s Pre-Test for the classes.

If any class ends early any day I’ll tempt them with Petals Around the Rose.

You might be thinking “whoa Marissa, you are taking a lot of time before getting to start instruction! Aren’t you worried you’ll run out of time to teach?” Yes, I’m always worried I’ll run out of time to teach, but I also know from 4 years of experience that if you do good relationship-building activities in the beginning of the year/semester, it can end up saving you time in the end. For example, I started teaching the first lesson 3 days after my colleagues did last year when I taught Math II, and I ended up being able to spend more time on certain concepts in the end. Trust me, it works. So I’m not that worried. Also, I’m teaching all freshmen and I think they definitely need more transition time. A lot of them are visibly scared right now – we need to establish a safe learning space.

Le départ de l’année est très important pour les étudiants et moi.

Teacher Report Card Results 2017 (Part 1)

I gave a Teacher Report Card survey to my classes about a month before school ended this year. The reason for that was 1) I was gone that day to be at the Western ICTM Conference, 2) I also wanted to give a survey to get some data for my upcoming probability unit and put those questions first, and 3) I have realized over the years that giving it on the last day does not always give me genuine results. I don’t know if a month before is better, but I think it worked. I had distributed it on Google Classroom so I knew which students finished it, but kept the responses anonymous. So over the last month of school I had some trickle in, too.

It was almost the same as mine from 2016. Part 1 Results and reflections follow.

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Averages for the Likert Scale-type questions (first number is score from 2016 and second number is score from 2017):

I think that Ms. Walczak…

  1. Respects each student: 4.77 –> 4.78
  2. Uses language that we can all understand: 4.31 –> 4.48
  3. Tries to see the student’s point of view: 4.26 –> 4.36
  4. Does a good job of treating all students the same: 4.66 –> 4.69
  5. Explains topics clearly: 4.06 –> 4.12
  6. Seems to enjoy teaching: 4.48 –> 4.71
  7. Shows interest in students’ lives: 4.15 –> 4.25
  8. Makes me feel important: 4.32 –> 4.27
  9. Keeps the class under control without being too tough: 4.49 –> 4.52
  10. Has a good pace (not too fast or too slow): 3.98 –> 4.09
  11. Answers questions completely: 4 –> 4.34
  12. Praises good work: 4.58 –> 4.51
  13. Grades fairly: 4.77 –> 4.66
  14. Encourages me to be responsible: 4.57 –> 4.47
  15. Cares about her students: (didn’t ask) –> 4.62
  16. Loves math: (didn’t ask) –> 4.87

So I am actually kind of surprised by these results but then not that surprised. The population I taught in 2016-2017 was very very different than from 2015-2016, in number of students, racial and socioeconomic diversity of students, type of classes, age range, motivation level, outside influences, etc. So I was expecting the results to be pretty different, as well. But then when I think about it I realize that I tried to treat the kids with respect in both schools and did my best in both schools to teach the required content in the best way. I definitely missed the mark sometimes on those things in both years.

This year I also looked closely at every response that had given me a 2 or 1 in a category to find what that student specifically said in the other parts. It was interesting that some of those were my highest praises. I guess students understand that there’s always something to work on. (Or they didn’t understand the scale, but there were probably ones that didn’t understand that went in my favor, too, so it probably doesn’t matter.) Also, two students who gave me lowest scores answered everything exactly the same but substituted the other students’ name into answers (I’m assuming – I guess it could be other random students). I’m not sure if I should still include their responses since they weren’t really answering, but I did anyway.

A lot of categories improved! The only ones that didn’t were “Makes me feel important”, “Praises good work”, “Grades fairly”, and “Encourages me to be responsible”. Those do make me kind of sad. I don’t really know what I did differently that made them decrease, besides “Grades fairly”. The other ones I felt like I specifically made more of an effort on this year, but I guess it didn’t come through.

I was expecting a lower score on the “Grades fairly” because I didn’t have much choice in grading this year. I had to give quizzes and tests using Mastery Manager, which grades multiple choice and numerical answer questions for you and had to take those scores. There was no partial credit on any assessment I gave this year. I didn’t like it but didn’t have any way to fight it. That accounted for 80% of their semester grade and their final exam grade, which is 10% of their final semester grade. The other portion of their grade came mostly from my Reflections in Google Classroom and I don’t think anyone was really arguing about those, but maybe they were. Most got a 100% and if they didn’t they could always go back and fix them. Maybe I’ll write a post on those at some point.

My lowest score, for the second year in a row, was about pacing. To be honest, though, I didn’t have much of a choice on that either. I had to give my assessments on the same days as the other teachers of the courses (or within a day, really). The math department is working on better pacing because we all recognized it was bad with the new curriculum. And once again, “Explains topics clearly” was the next lowest. I am confident that I will improve on this as I continue teaching. Next year I will be teaching one of the same courses, although it will change from regular to honors level. I hope my score improves in this category, especially in the honors course.

My highest were “Loves math”, “Respects each student”, and “Seems to enjoy teaching”. Yay! I would hate to have those at the bottom. I think it’s really important for students to see people enjoying what they do in their professions. I also think that no student will learn if they feel disrespected. In fact, only 4 students gave me my lowest score of 3 in that one! Kind of weird that some of the ones I feel are related to those didn’t get as high of scores.

Overall I am pleased with these results. I feel like it was a bumpy year but I tried pretty hard. I can still improve in everything but I’ve come a long way since my first year.

C’est intéressant de voir ces résultats et les comparer a l’année précédente.

Student Submitted Warm Ups 2017

My process for collecting student submitted warm ups was way better this year than before. I made a Google Form that I posted onto my class website about a month before school ended. I think it gave them 4-5 of each day they could submit for, and I just took the first completed forms. The only difference in the Google Form I’m sharing here and the one I used was that instead of asking for a sharing link, I actually had them share a file from their Google Drive, which I think is just available for schools.

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This next image is the way I viewed the submissions. I had it set so that I got a notification whenever a new form was submitted. I highlighted a submission in reddish-orange if there was something about it that made it so I couldn’t use it (usually that they didn’t fully answer a part of it). I highlighted in yellow if it was good and I just still had to show it. I highlighted it in green after I showed it to the class. Unfortunately it didn’t tell me when students had changed their submission, so that was something I had to check with individuals.
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I was really impressed with what students submitted! I actually only got one Would You Rather…I was really surprised that I got so many Which One Doesn’t Belongs because those are the hardest, in my opinion, to make, but when I asked it was because they liked those the best. I was also super impressed with the explanations that some students gave. There was a pretty low bar for what would be “complete” (see row 12 that just says “It shows math”) but for the most part there were really great, well thought out responses.

J’ai amélioré quelque chose!

#PCMISummer Reflection

I was so honored to be given the opportunity to attend the Park City Mathematics Institute Teacher Leadership Program this summer. I’ve been stalling on writing this reflection because there’s so much to say but I just don’t know what to say. It was all so amazing. I started this post about a week before I finished it so I apologize if it seems disjointed.

Skip this next paragraph if you don’t want to read personal stuff:

I’ll say right off the bat, this was kind of a crazy time for me. I had only been back a week and a half from my Europe trip where I found the STEM room at the Louvre, and I officially start school two weeks after I get back home. Before that, I need to have my new room ready for this Freshman thing that is a week earlier, and have a training six days after I get back. So that put me in a bit of a stressful place. But on top of that, I was stressing about the fact that I have very little time to find a wedding venue to get married in (hopefully) next summer, and had my masters to work on. My phone also decided to break as soon as I got to Park City and I had to figure out how to deal with that (right now it’s being held together with tape). So I will be the first to admit that I was not 100% focused on PCMI 100% of the time. But I am so thankful that I had amazing roommates that supported me and didn’t make me feel bad that I didn’t participate in all the extra fun things that were happening. Shout out to Kayleigh, Arundhati, and Julie! Also, thank you to the staff who I’m sure noticed that I had to get up to get some phone calls and had a few moments where I probably looked like I was gonna start crying because of the stress that I built up in my head. I feel so silly because these are small things in comparison to some of the actual things some people were going through during PCMI, but nonetheless I had some moments that were tough to handle.

And now I’ll get to the actual reflecting:

Morning Math:

It is such a thrill to be able to dive into new math. Bowen and Darryl did an amazing job at making the problem sets. The grouping every few days was also great. I just can’t put into words how energizing it was. That was how I knew that after attending the PCMI Outreach Weekend in Chicago in 2016, I had to apply. I was going home excited about the math again, and it made PCMI so worth it. And that’s just the first part of PCMI.

From morning math, I definitely learned some things about teaching math.

  • Everyone has different experiences with math and I need to make sure that everyone can have access to the math
  • I really like the structure of Opener, Important Stuff, Neat Stuff, and Tough Stuff.
  • Use students’ names in the problems
  • The margins are for jokes
  • It’s ok to go off and explore something instead of going on to the Neat Stuff. Exploring math is fun.
  • Completing the square/difference of squares will work for every factoring problem. Thank you Jim for sticking this in my brain on the second day of Morning Math.
  • The golden ratio is everywhere.

Reflecting on Practice (ROP):

I had remembered ROP from the weekend PCMI, but this was even better. Once again, the visible random grouping was awesome and we even had random grouping from those random groups to go to the whiteboards (vertical non-permanent surfaces). I will definitely be doing this in my classroom. I loved being able to go back to the original table groups and share what happened in the whiteboard groups.

Unit 1: Worthwhile Tasks

  • Tasks should engage students at the appropriate level of cognitive demand
  • Tasks should promote math discussion
  • Tasks should have a low floor and high ceiling
  • In designing tasks, take away some of the scaffolds. The scaffolds might not let the students explore and use multiple entries.
  • I don’t think it’s possible for me to do a rich task every single day. I hope to have a task at least once a month that can call upon several topics and not just the content I just taught the day before. My main concern is that the students figure out that if they just learned something, they probably use it in the problem. I don’t want that to be the case all the time.
  • Sometimes we can give the answer and ask for the question or situation.

Unit 2: Thinking Classroom Practices

  • You can get students in “Flow” by adding challenge (extensions) or adding what they’re able to do (hint)
  • Too much challenge without knowledge causes anxiety, too much knowledge without challenge causes boredom
  • There are some things I can’t control that block my students’ productive struggle (like I have to give all the same assessments as my colleagues and they all have to be on Mastery Manager – multiple choice or numerical answers that are graded automatically for the students), but I need to work to make sure they still have productive struggle (I am thinking I will still ask them to turn in work for me to grade and give feedback and I’m going to try my hardest to convince my chair to turn off the option of having them see their score at the end)
  • The only reasons to ask questions are to probe (Tell me more is my new favorite phrase) or push
  • Doing work at the VNPS, then having students discuss with each other what they notice about other work – that’s cool. I want to be able to have some Level 3 discussions this year

Unit 3: Students as Doers of Math

  • Round Robin is a good technique to have everyone participate
  • I need to work to make sure all my students have access to the math and activities
  • I already knew I needed to work on agency and identity of students, but I am still going to work on it
  • “Disagree with ideas, not people”
  • I want to enforce “No hands up, except to ask a question” better (meaning actually do it more than the first week). And this ties into Benjamin’s (@bwalkerq) idea about having students respond to cold calling with either a response or a clarifying question
  • I want to be deliberate on noticing students participating. I need to make sure each student is engaged. Thinking about a clipboard with seating chart for the week and I actually write notes on it for myself
  • Stop giving students the opportunities to hide
  • Planning EVERYTHING is really important (I have to keep reminding myself of this)

Working Group: Professional Development
I worked with Diana (@teachMcClean) and Natalie to design a professional development presentation. We were all interested in trying to find ways to engage ALL learners (including the ones who are typically disengaged or have always struggled in math). We landed on fun, mathy warm ups. And what do you know, I happen to be pretty into that…So we pretty much adapted my old presentation and made it way way way better. I can’t wait to present it somewhere soon!

I learned a lot about designing a presentation from this. There’s a lot more thought that needs to go into a good presentation. I am notorious for running out of time. We got feedback from two reviewers and one mentioned that anything you expect participants to do, you should allow for more time. It makes sense, because I do that with my lessons, too. But I have to remember that my participants, even though they will be adults, will be newbies at this. Also, one of our reviewers pointed out that Notice and Wonder® is trademarked! I’m sorry Annie, I didn’t know! I’m going to try to go back and catch it in my other blog posts but I don’t know if I’ll find it all. We also had to make a facilitator’s guide as if the person presenting was not familiar with the presentation. It seemed kind of pointless at first, but it made us really have to think through everything and we caught some things that we had to clear up. I like that format – even though it takes long and might seem like a waste for someone that really knows what the presentation is about, it makes everything more intentional and much better.

Other ideas I took home because of PCMI:

  • I really want to do a breakout activity à la Kate (@carterodactyl).
  • Cornell Notes don’t have to be so bad. My school wants us to do them for the AVID kids, and Gabie showed us how to actually do them.
  • It might be worth it to show students a video of a classroom and have them comment on what they see, what they liked, what they didn’t like. I’m not sure about this one 100%, but I’ll keep thinking about it. Interested to hear how it goes for Benjamin if he tries it.
  • Once again, an acknowledgement that there are non-old-white-dude mathematicians is important. I don’t think my new room has enough wall space for all of Mr. Corey’s (@mathmaTikZ) posters, but I do have an extra bulletin board that I might be able to use to rotate them. I don’t have a poster printer, but maybe I can do one sheet of paper for the person and one or two for the description. Then I can talk about them on Fridays like Annie (@Anniekperkins).
  • Vertical Non Permanent Surfaces – need to use more. I can just always have them up (somehow) and allow my students to go to them whenever, but I also need to deliberately have tasks that would make it better to use VNPS. Also, I need to put up little baskets to hold the markers and erasers next to them, like Tina (@TPalmer207) suggests.
  • I think I’ll check out more of Delta Math. Probably to use for extra practice. I don’t know if I’ll require it because I will have a good chunk of kids that don’t have computers or the internet at home. But then again we do have a daily morning enrichment where kids can come in and do homework/ask questions so that does give the kids a way to do it, and there are buses that get to my school in the morning. Still pondering this one.
  • I want to get involved more with the colleges near me and their math departments. I have two small colleges within 20 minutes of my school and another campus for a university – I need to look into if they have math departments. Maybe I can get them involved in starting a math circle. Not too optimistic on this one but it might be worth a shot. Math circles seem amazing and I’d love to participate/facilitate.
  • I might volunteer to be an NCTM article referee so I can get a better idea of the submissions. Eventually I’d like to write something again (was published with a professor in college).
  • I need to find a way to show Hidden Figures in my classroom. Or at least clips. So powerful.
  • An Estimathon is so so fun. I want to eventually make a math night for my community and this will definitely be a part of it (probably not to the same degree but it gives me ideas)
  • I want to co-create my class norms with my students (thanks Becky @BeckyNFTP!). Also, make a big(ger) deal about birthdays.
  • We is smarter than me. I need to check this resource frequently (and add to it if I find something): Particularly Awesome Resources
  • I’d love to do more with Robert Q. Berry III’s #blackkidsdomath but I’m not sure that I can do it justice without seeming, like Kate (@carterodactyl) said, a joke.
  • I can’t wait to use the Math Forum’s Problems of the Week!
  • I need to find a way to get back to Partner Quizzes and maybe Vicki’s Two-Stage Tests.
  • I will definitely be contacting Andrew about teaching students with disabilities. I have a co-taught class this year and still don’t know who the co-teacher is (class starts in a week)
  • Can’t wait to use Adobe Spark to make cool videos. Diana (@teachMcClean), I’m still waiting for you to tell me the catch for how it can be free.

Another fun thing we got to do was shout math chants at unsuspecting Park City residents for the 4th of July! I made a thing with a Zometool. It was random.

Photo Credit: Suzanne Alejandre

I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed PCMI! I hope that some day it works out that I can do it again. I miss all the fun people that were there and hope to keep learning from them!

Je vais utiliser ces choses dans ma classe (j’espère)!


I Found the STEM Room at the Louvre!

So I recently got back from a trip to London and Paris. Every day was incredible. And I found the math and science room at the Louvre (world’s largest museum, in Paris)!

So I now have a week until I leave for PCMI and then I’ll have 2 weeks when I get back before school starts. Where has the summer gone? I still haven’t even looked at my results from my student end-of-the-year survey, and haven’t read any blogs in a while. So I hope to do those things and arrange my new classroom, along with plan for a wedding. 🙂

Il m’a demandé en mariage à la base du Tour Eiffel!


Candy Bucket Probability – Sometimes You Have to Be Silly

So all of my students think I’m the ultimate nerd and that I love teaching and math too much. And I like it that way. I frequently say things like “this is the coolest thing ever” about math stuff and I’m totally serious and just smile as the eye rolls go. I have students come to me with “why are you always so happy?” I guess teenagers just can’t fathom actually enjoying school…

So I was trying to think of a way to introduce my last unit in Math 2 – Probability. I know there are a million great games with probability, but in my searching I just wasn’t finding anything that was really doing it for me. The activities I found were either too long, requiring too many materials, or just not going to work with my classes. I didn’t really want it to lead to any discovery, but I wanted to spark a conversation about experimental vs. theoretical probability. So I decided to do a game similar to Sarah’s Mystery Box and kind of like Connected Math 6th Grade’s Gee Whiz game. I named my game “Candy Bucket”. Creative, I know.

I filled a bucket with various candies. There were Smarties, Starburst, Skittles, and Chocolates (3 Musketeers, Snickers, Twix). In every class the Smarties and Starburst had a lot in the bucket and the Skittles and Chocolates only had a few.

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So after I said to the class we were going to play a game called “Candy Bucket” I had the table in the front separate and count the candies. While they did that, I explained the rules:

  • Students from the front two tables will pick a candy out of the bucket
  • Students from the other tables will be randomly picked to guess what the front tables will pick out of the bucket
  • Students who guess correctly will get a prize (pencil)

We tallied how many there were of each candy and then started guessing. I made sure to be really enthusiastic as the game host. As the guessing went on, we tallied what had been picked. In the class below, they had decided they wanted to separate the chocolates and we ended up with 3 correct guessers out of 7.

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So that was a silly 5 minutes. But then what it did was led to a discussion about why only 3/7 guessed correctly. Statements were made like “even though the starburst had the most, those are small and weren’t picked as much” and “there really shouldn’t have been a milky way picked”. Then we were able to discuss theoretical vs. experimental probability and the factors that made our experiment differ from the theoretical situation.

Yay for context!

Disclaimer: If you do this game, you will have complaints about how you like the front tables more than the back tables. Luckily I do random grouping every week so I could chalk it up to those tables being lucky. Also, just keep smiling and they will smile. 🙂

J’aime bien être absurde avec mes étudiants.

ICTM Western Regional Presentation – Thinking Mathematically from Minute One

Here are my slides and documents from my presentation for the ICTM Western Regional Math Conference on 4/28/17. Please reach out to me if you have any questions or want to bounce ideas off me!

Thinking Mathematically from Minute One Slides

Handout: .docx (editable)       .pdf
Warm Up Sheet: .docx (editable)    .pdf

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Please share with me if you end up using any of the resources that were shared in this presentation. I love to hear how you make these things work in your classroom!