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Showing posts from 2014

Day 70 - Exploring Exponents

I remember thinking about how to teach certain concepts last year at EdCamp LA. Meeting twitter acquaintances like John Stevens, Jed Butler, and Matt Vaudrey, I finally got the sense of the scale of the power of the Mtbos. They were able to fill in a few gaps with engaging lesson ideas.... and they are just 3 of MANY math teachers in my PLN (are we still using that acronym?).

Before EdCamp, I didn't know what I didn't know. Now I know, or almost know, and it is both awesome and overwhelming at the same time. Make sense?

Anywho, it is almost time for EdCamp again and the same question I had then is still milling around my brain. How do I make everything interesting, fun or filled with problem based learning goodness? Can all topics from our traditional (read not common core) curriculum be made into engaging lessons?

I hope so.

But then chapter 8 rolls around every year.

Yes it closes with exponential growth and decay, but it opens with this:
So again, the question stands. How d…

Geometry Students' Vlogs

My geometry students recently did their 2nd video blog. I assign them each a different proof and they create a diagram and explain how to prove. See two of my favorites from this year and the prompt below.



Tips for making video blogs and embedding (Links to an external site.) 1. Must be typed, including diagram, symbols and tick mark notation (I suggest using Google Drive's Drawing App) 2. Must use a screen capture tool like jing that will record your voice and your typed completion of the proof 3. Must be embedded in your blog 4. As always, creative title and 1-2 sentence introduction

Day 65: Space Race

I have had "make fun review game for algebra kiddos" on my to do list all week. I have a few review games in my back pocket thanks to the Mtbos (White-board stamp game, Solve-crumple-tosszombie grudge, speed-dating), but I wanted something new.

In usual fashion, I procrastinated. I came in this morning thinking that we would play zombie grudge or have a color war, but instead, inspired by Rockstar Math Teacher, I used Socrative.

In 15 minutes, I had a worksheet transformed into a Socrative quiz. In class, they used white boards and we did the space race option which randomly teams up the students. As usual, the winning team got to raid my prize barrel.

I was genuinely surprised by much fun the students had with this activity. Who knew that watching your rocket ship inch its way across the screen could be so motivating?

If you want a socrative that reviews solving systems, including special cases and word problems, import with this code: SOC-14218779

Day 61: Hawaii

There are many lessons in Algebra that in typical math teacher fashion, I just love. Wind-Current rate-time-distance problems are one of them for me.

Usually I present a few examples and tell a (true) story of how I have used this knowledge outside of my math teacher role... in my real life... out in the REAL WORLD! They ooh and ahh. They question that I have a real life. *sigh* They listen attentively to my telling of how on two separate occasions I have won the Half-way to Hawaii game.

I don't know which airlines play and which do not, but every time I have flown to Hawaii, they play the game of finding when the plane will be half-way there. The captain gives you the rate of the plane, the distance, the time the plane took off and the rate of any tail or head wind. Of course, there is an element of chance involved in the game. Speeds aren't constant the entire flight, but I use my algebra skills to make my educated guess. I have been lucky to win twice. My students are eager…

Day 56: Kids like Cookies

Any lesson that ends with eating cookies is a winner.

We scratched the surface of the Double Stuffed Oreo question today in my Algebra classes. We made the double stuff assumption, solved the system and tested it with the Triple Double data.

Multiple students said things like, "I'm questioning my entire childhood!" Oh drama. #middleschool

My handout.

We really just scratched the surface of this. I am in awe of how thoroughly this question has been investigate by...

Chris D.
Chris L.
Dan A.

Day 55 - Mindfulness Reminder

Coming back after Thanksgiving, I decided to use the spare ten minutes of class time usually dedicated to homework review to do what my kids call "yoga". Really, we do a bit of stretching in our seats and I lead them in a brief mindful meditation. I know it is ambitious to expect 13-year-olds to refrain from giggling while also telling them things like, "just focus on breathing" or "pay attention to the rise and fall of your chest as you breath slowly," but my students are awesome. I of course have to give consistent reminders to close your eyes, but overall they are quiet, calm and engaged in the exercise.

Today while finishing our meditation, I shared with them the story The Station by Robert J. Hastings:
“The Station"Tucked away in our subconscious is an idyllic vision.We are traveling by train, out the windows,we drink in the passing scenes of childrenwaving at a crossing,cattle grazing on a distant hillside,row upon row of corn and wheat,flatland…

Finally Fun in Geometry (Days 50 & 53)

Last Wednesday was fun thanks to an early morning lesson reboot. Usually in Geometry I give the following directions on a review day:

 "Do these review problems with a partner and ask for help as needed."  
Instead, I copied the same problems on separate papers to quickly make a game of Solve Crumple Toss (it went well in Algebra; again thank you to Kate for the idea). The goal, reviewing key topics from chapter 4 (diagram-less proofs, detour proofs, perpendicular bisectors, coordinate geometry, oh my!), was the same. The execution made for a much more engaging, dare I say fun, class.

Today's reboot was not last minute (go me!), because earlier this month I saw Julie's blog post about Jessica's Dance-Dance-Transversal idea. Then Justin tweeted that Kate posted the power point and I was set! I love the Mtbos!

Anywho, the kiddos had fun dancing and everyone knows their angle relationships.

I am no longer feeling bad about my geometry class being boring... well at l…

Day 48: Writing Linear Equations Review via Solve-Crumple-Toss

I can't thank Kate enough for sharing Solve-Crumple-Toss. It was a hit last year with square root equations and again this year with writing linear equations. What I love especially is how determined they are to get the answers accurate so they can take a shot.This is a great way to review for a test and have class be fun. #joy

I also heard, "Hey Mrs. Galvan, why do you have so many '90s songs about basketball?"

Link to handout - Copy each page on a different color and cut apart.

Day 47: Transversal Tape in Geometry

Geometry continues to be the class that isn't fun.

Don't get me wrong, I have a great rapport with my students and we laugh a lot in class. I tell stories. We have lots of inside jokes. I also try to mind their social-emotional wellness. We discuss mantras that promote growth mindsets and I lead them in mindful meditations and stretching from time to time.

Oh, and they get to create and reflect via their math blogs.

Still, not a lot of games or prizes. No Zombie Grudge.

Today was enhanced a bit: they got out of their seats to do Andrew's Transversals, Tape and Stickies.

I am looking forward to trying Jessica's Dance, Dance, Transversal the week before Thanksgiving.

Not to be repetitive, but 135 forty minute class sessions each year to teach a rigorous, proof based course AND have fun is a challenge... but I can fit it in. Engaging lessons are not optional just because my students are highly motivated and have decent attention spans. When I am losing steam and in doubt,…

Geometry Video Blogs

I think my favorite outcome of the 1:1 program at our school is the ability for our students to make videos. I assign each of them a different proof, they recreate the diagram and explain it using jing. This assignment gets them to master a proof enough to teach it. I would assign this even if my students didn't create individual blogs, however, I love how these posts punctuate their portfolios as interactive, comprehensive examples of their learning.

 If you are thinking about assigning something like this to your students, take a look at my Video Blog Tips.Here is one of my favorite's from this most recent round for proving triangles congruent. The prompt is below the video.

You can also see it on Denise's blog here.

The Prompt:

Video Blog Post Requirements 1. Must be typed, including diagram, symbols and tick mark notation (I suggest using Google Drive's Drawing App) Use "reveal rectangle"Put each new step in a new slide in a presentation 2. Must use a scre…

Spaghetti Lab

My algebra students are finishing a unit on writing linear equations. Their culminating project is an experiment. They balance special cups outfitted with pipe cleaner hooks over a strand of spaghetti. Then, they carefully add pennies to the cup until the spaghetti strand breaks. They record the number of pennies and repeat the experiment with 2, 3, 4 and 5 strands. They use the data to explore the concepts of a scatter plot, best fit line, writing equations, slope and intercept. They will use their equation to make predictions and consider how thicker spaghetti or heavier pennies would affect the experiment.

The energy in the room today was great. They love trying to see who can get the most pennies. Today definitely fulfilled my ongoing goal of having fun in math class. #joyful

Here is a video of students conducting their first round:

Here are two examples of their blog summaries (these are from last year):



Digital Portfolio Action in Algebra

Day 44: Scatter plotting in Desmos

I remembered last year's reflection on this lesson at 5am. I heaved a sigh, skipped a shower (tmi?), skipped making coffee and quickly made a few small improvements.

Normally, I ask aloud for students' shoe size and height in inches (I am still in search of reliable questions to ask students to illustrate direct and indirect variation; please share!). This year I made it a google form.

This didn't take long and was an easy way to add a bit of variety and 1:1-ness to my lesson. Around 5:30 am, I made a discovery that was a real lucky break:

You can paste a table into desmos and it will plot the points!


I am sure everyone else already knew that as I am famously late to knowing things, but this really made my day.

The rest of my lesson was the same as before.

I have been trying out socrative in class. I need more practice. Last time, I couldn't figure out how to show a nice bar graph distribution of the responses in the moment. This time, I made it open…

Day 43

So I am reading Elizabeth Green's Building a Better Teacher which in part discusses a style of teaching math in which students get to talk through concepts rather than taking notes while teachers stand and deliver. The teachers doing this call it "This kind of teaching" or "TKOT." I like David Wees' summary of TKOT here. Also, my pedagogic goals have focused in recent years on engagement. As such, I am striving to play more games and do more problem based learning (PrBL) tasks in class. Thank you MtBos!

This means that my brain is aflutter every night at bed time. I can't fall asleep until I make a mental plan to improve my plan for the next day. Overall, I haven't been getting a ton of sleep, but my lessons are improving.

However, I am still struggling in two areas. One, I am overwhelmed by possibility. I get stymied by the sheer amount of materials available online. Though a lot of the lesson I find are good to illustrate a concept and not that gr…

Boring Lesson Made Fun: Color Wars

Last night I went to bed dreading my lesson plan for today's Algebra class. My agenda was going to say:
1. Go over homework
2. Notes: Standard Form Equations
3. Guided Practice: Standard Form Equations
4. HW: Worksheet on Standard Form Equations

Even with my cute stories and getting kids to do most of the talking and problem demos, my plan would have made for a boring day in math.

On the way to work this morning, I came up with a game. Since they already know how to manipulate an equation, instead of announcing a new form of a linear equation and lecturing on how to achieve this form, I gave them clues and made it a game.

Students worked in teams of 4. Each team used a different color of 3 by 5 cards (hence color wars and it also made sorting the results easier). Each group member had a job (which I made up while my first period class students were turning their desks).

I told them to rewrite the given equations according to the clues.

After the 2nd one, I added that x had to come…

Forgot to have fun in Geometry (Day 39)

So last year I began making a concerted effort to have fun in class... and while I made clear progress on that front in Algebra, I have been less successful in geometry. Yes, my geometry students create digital portfolios and complete engaging projects and tasks. Yes they use geogebra....
...but we don't play enough.

It is quite evident that they desire to do so. I have a handful of students this year in geometry that had me last year for algebra. These kids are wondering when we are going to play zombie grudge and I am giving them lessons that look like this:

That agenda just screams fun!
Remember my excuse to be boring though. With our school's schedule I only have 135 class sessions that are 40 minutes each. That has to cover a rigorous proof based course (We use Geometry: for Enjoyment and Challenge) and allow time for assessments. My colleagues are regularly confounded that I have any time to blog, use geogebra, or generally do anything other than teach, review homework a…

Stacking Cups

Yesterday's algebra class was great. We definitely fulfilled my goal of having more fun in math class. The night before last I had read an article linking curiosity with increased learning and engagement. Then yesterday's class illustrated that point perfectly.

We are finishing up our unit on graphing linear equations. There are many resources available online to support this concept, so many that it was very difficult to choose. I used Dan's stacking cups. Me being me, I made a handout.

I was so impressed by what seems like such a simple idea... a stack of cups... holds rigorous concepts that my students were determined to figure out. While they got that the lip height was the slope pretty easily, they wrestled with the y intercept. I resisted the urge to tell them and instead told them to measure total height for one cup, then two cups to be sure their rule worked.
They were engaged for the entire class period. I heard kids debating the concepts. The curiosity to learnin…

Digital Portfolio Action: Summaries of an in class task

My students have been working on graphing linear equations. We start off using intercepts method and then use slope-intercept. We started the lesson Not So Fast from Mathalicious as it was a great way to build from writing and evaluating expressions to interpreting slopes and rates. They give the fee schedule for determining speeding tickets and have students figure out fines for different speeds in different speed limits.

They actually never graphed the equation on paper but jumped right to Desmos to compare the current speeding fine equation with their recommendation.

I have said this before, but what I love about blogging in math is they get a chance to discuss their reasoning in depth which is a plus for open ended problems like this one. We could share aloud in class. That contribution  though would easily blend in with the class. Instead, by blogging, their polished responses stand for them to look back upon over the course of the year.

Take a look at a few of their posts:


I have even more respect for 180 Bloggers

While I was not officially trying to start a 180 blog... more like I was planning on blogging occasionally, I still take a photo of my agenda everyday and photos just need to be published. Hence, my thought to blog occasionally became a secret goal to blog daily, or almost daily. This wishy-washy goal for blogging resulted in almost a month of zero blog action. I can't just blame the weak goal setting - like all of us, my free periods are spent helping kids, planning, meeting, eating, making lists online, making lists on post-its and especially implementing standards based grading for Algebra.

Things have improved on the SBG front. I used to grade assessments a page at a time. Now I grade one student at a time which I think helped to make grading the unit 2 tests go faster. But because part of my plan involves frequent skill checks that need a quick turn around for grading and because I am still learning how to use Active Grade, I can't call myself an efficient Standards Based…

Day 11, 12, 13 & 14: Growth

Last week was busy in Algebra. I realize that I haven't written much about Geometry this year, so perhaps soon, but for now, I am happy to relay that my 3 Algebra classes are going well with one complaint: Standards Based Grading is taking a lot of time. Grading is always the "one thing" that teachers tend to wish they didn't have to do. Often I hear, "I love being with my students, but the grading is killing me!" I love seeing progress and seeing what they have learned, but like many teachers, I too wish it would happen faster. This year, it seems that I made it take even longer with my choice to give standards based grading a go. Maybe I am doing it wrong? :(

Here is my method: I keep a spreadsheet  with students' names down the side and the skills across the top. Each time I see an error, I mark in the appropriate skill column. Then I consider the number of errors vs the number of opportunities and give each skill a score out of 4 (which for the unit…