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!

How I Sold #Plickers To My Admin

I realized recently that I didn’t have a post dedicated to how I use Plickers in my class. I had how I make sure each student has a card. I also have how they are used in my warm ups. Then, I mentioned that I plan out my Plickers questions when I’m unit planning. But I recently had a conversation with my admin about it and they were completely sold. This was basically what I talked about in the conversation:

So I have about a little over 100 students this semester, last semester I had 120. I know that to some of you that’s not a lot, but to me that was a lot a lot. I had been used to no more than 70 students because I had been teaching in a small school and/or on block scheduling. So I had been trying exit slips at the beginning of the year, like I had done in my previous schools, but it just wasn’t working. They became a chore, and plus with only 50 minutes I kept not being able to fit them in. So now I use Plickers as an exit slip. I also use it before practicing, and in the middle of practicing. So there are many days where I’ll use Plickers 3 or 4 times in a period.

The great thing about Plickers (besides that it’s 100% free), is that it’s immediate feedback, for me and the students. So when I put up a problem, sometimes I’m feeling pretty confident about how it was learned and I expect something like this:

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And instead I get this:

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What happened?

So now I can know that everything I thought was wrong, and I can go over it with the class! Or, I can now group up students and talk to them about what they did and how we could get the right answer. I actually do the second option a lot. I make sure I meet up with every single student, so sometimes I’m talking to a few of them at a time about how they worked out a problem and what they could do differently. I’ll also meet with the ones who got it correct and see if I can extend their knowledge in some way. It’s really cool that I get little meetings with every single student because of their Plickers response and it’s a regular part of the routine now.

Another thing I’ve started to do this quarter is add the “I don’t know” option to all my questions. I never use Plickers for a grade, so the “I don’t know” keeps some the students from lucky guessing. I really stress that I’d rather them be honest about not knowing than guessing for the problems I put up. I still have a couple that insist on guessing, anyway.

Also sometimes it’s important (to me) to have questions like this to gauge how the class is feeling.

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Sometimes my district’s pacing calendar doesn’t let me, but I try to do what my students need/want in terms of practice vs moving on.

And there you have it! #Plickersforever

Je peux parler de Plickers pour toujours.

My Unit Planning Process

This semester I’ve refined a unit planning process that has worked pretty well for me. I’m not particularly proud of it or anything. It’s not some monumental thing, but it’s helped me stay ahead enough that I don’t feel like I have to be working on planning 24/7. It also helps me see the whole unit and how the different sections relate (or don’t) so that I can teach the sections better.

A few things first: I am new to my school this year and I am not really in a place where I can make waves, like suggest making a change to the assessments or curriculum or even suggest analyzing assessment results. I was pretty down in the dumps about it at the beginning of the year but I’ve learned to deal with it. I’m kind of on my own little island (like I was last year when I was one of two math teachers in the school), but I get weekly rations of food that I don’t like but have to eat to survive. Anyway, I’m given the one quiz and test for each unit from the department chair and the assessments are all taken on Mastery Manager. The computer grades these assessments and there is no partial credit given. I am also given the tentative dates of these assessments and the sections in the textbook that go along with them. I didn’t even hand out the textbooks this semester, though.

So with this in mind, here’s what my unit planning looks like for my Math II class (my other class is pretty cookie cutter because it’s from the community college but the process is similar):

  1. Create my unit notes packet. This semester, 99% of what I am teaching are topics I’ve taught before! This meant I already had notes pages made and just had to refine them and put them together. These are really minimalist and have only a few examples for each topic. And say what you want about notes packets but it works for me. Maybe I’ll write more about them one day.
  2. Make an extra practice worksheet for each section that has answers included and scrambled (à la Meg’s NTMs). This is usually adapted from the textbook’s extra practice materials. They don’t always get used, but are nice to have. 
  3. Make Plickers questions for the unit. I take the questions usually from the ExamView Test Generator that comes with the textbook because they’re easier to find multiple choice questions. I make 2-4 questions per topic. I use these usually as exit slips and also as checks at the beginning of class and I try to spiral the content through the unit, too. A little more about how I use Plickers here. (Just now realizing I don’t have more about Plickers on my blog and that boggles my mind…will have to get on that…)
  4. Create a review Quizizz. My students have gotten used to the review Quizizz and I know that some go back to it for extra practice. A couple others in my department have also tried it and love it, too! More about how I use Quizizz here and here and here.
  5. Write worked out solutions and type an answer document for the review packet that comes with the test so that I can post them on my website.
  6. Search my saved Evernote links and the MTBoS Search Engine for great activities that I can do during the unit. Also find/make one or two review games I can do before the assessments. Revise packet if necessary (and if I haven’t made copies yet). More on the MTBoS Search Engine here.

I like the consistency of this semester. However, I have noticed that this semester has been so jam packed with topics to teach that I sometimes don’t get time to do enough of step 6, or use what I find in step 6. As I’m planning my last unit of the year (Probability), I’ll be making sure I incorporate more than just what I have from steps 1-5.

Je suis heureuse que j’ai un système maintenant qui fonctionne pour moi.

“Why do you have us do things that aren’t for a grade?”

This question was recently asked of me by a student when I was collecting warm up sheets for the week. I do not grade their warm up sheets, but I do respond to every Free-Write Friday and usually comment on another day’s warm up. I would never stop doing this because it has been amazing how much I have learned about my students through the warm up sheets. 

I don’t know if my response was a good one. All I could think of in the moment was, “These help you think more mathematically, and I collect them to know more about you and so you can get feedback from me.” I also could have talked about how their grade, in my opinion, should be a reflection of their math knowledge, so grading things like warm ups and practice for completion wouldn’t be good feedback in their grade.  

Sometimes I have a hard time motivating my students, especially the new ones, to do classwork when it’s not for a grade. Some of them say that I’m the only teacher they have that doesn’t put a grade on everything they do. I know that at least some of the other math teachers don’t grade everything because I’ve asked them, though. I think students sometimes feel that they need some sort of reward for their efforts. I say that their efforts will show when they take their assessment. I think some of them need some time to adjust to that. 

Do you grade everything? What would you have said to my student?

Une question difficile. 

Similar Triangle Building (Not a Good Activity)

I’m posting about this activity that wasn’t really a good activity (some may even say it was bad) because maybe someone can use it and make it better.

I’m teaching a similarity unit that is very boring. Ratios/Proportions, Similar Polygons, Proving Triangles Similar, and Proportions in Triangles. No mention of transformations, no scale factor, no area/volume…and on top of that my students have never seen anything about congruent polygons. So I was looking back at my old geometry files (yay for finally teaching something I’ve taught before!) and I adjusted my notes packet and printed that for the kids. They love that their notes are all in a packet. But every day was just notes and practice, notes and practice, notes and practice. I was so bored. Kids were bored (truth: some were probably thinking this is normal). So I remembered my old activity where students discovered the triangle congruence theorems and thought I could possibly make that activity work for similarity.

It didn’t really work…Here were the problems:

  • Building the triangles takes sooooooo long. I wish I had read my old post more carefully and believed that it would take so long. I cut it down to 4 triangles and had groups of 3-4 and it still took about 35 min just to build all the triangles. Why does it take so long?
  • I didn’t have a lot of color paper to use so it was hard to see the cutouts on the board.
  • I had two different groups so there should have been proportional sides. I only told that to my last period for some reason, so the other periods didn’t really get why triangles were similar
  • It’s a lot easier to see that triangles are the same than see they are similar – you just kind of have to guess and a lot of them didn’t trust their intuition that we could rotate and dilate (probably because it wasn’t ever discussed)
  • Once one triangle was put up for my SSA example, the other groups would just make the same one that they saw so some classes ended up thinking SSA made similar triangles

IF I was to do this again (which I don’t think I will), I would:

  • Not have students put up their triangles until the very end
  • Demo building the triangle (only thought of this in my last class)
  • Use color paper
  • (Maybe) ask kids to specifically check for similarity – congruent corresponding angles and proportional corresponding sides. This takes some away from the discovery but would make it less of a guessing game. It would also take more time.
  • Plan for it to take a lot of time

Here’s the files just in case they’re useful to someone:

Similar Triangles Discovery.docx      Similar Triangles Discovery.pdf

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