November 13, 2012

My Typical Day (2012)

I feel like I have abandoned this blog, but a new challenge arose a couple weeks ago (read here). Basically, we are challenged to describe a typical day for a math teacher. Here is my Tuesday (11/13) in a nutshell:

6:00am Second Tuesday of the month means we have our faculty meeting, so I had to wake up 20 minutes earlier today. Wake up, eat breakfast, prepare lunch, get ready for school.

6:45am Left for school only to find that my windshield had cracked over the weekend. Great, add one more thing on my to-do list. School is about 30 minutes away. I go against traffic, so my commute is laid back.

7:15am Arrive at school, drop off lunch, and print off progress reports for 1st hour. Leave stuff in classroom before walking over to the lecture hall.

7:35am Faculty meetings start at "7:30", but I've quickly learned that nothing starts on time here. We went over our new emergency handbook (fire drill, lock down procedures, etc). Our school is implementing a positive behavior intervention, so discipline vice principal went over those numbers (# of referrals). Lastly, we were reminded to get grades done by Wednesday afternoon. 

8:10am Faculty meeting ends, and I go to pick up my progress reports. To my luck, the copier jammed. In a school of 1800 students, 80 teachers..we are down to 1 working copier (UGH!). I unjammed the copier, but my files deleted. 10 minutes wasn't enough time to get the progress reports printed, so I gave up and walked to my classroom.

8:20-9:18am 1st hour is my advanced freshmen (algebra 2) group. About five minutes into class, I hear a scream in the classroom next to mine (in that classroom is a long term sub for a math teacher on maternity leave). I leave my classroom to investigate the noise, and I basically had to yell at these children. I walk back to my classroom, and of course my students are scared (they don't like to hear me yell). Class went on as usual.

9:19-10:16am 2nd hour is my prep, and it consisted of making copies for my classes this week and inputing some grades.

10:17am-12:12pm 3rd & 4th hour, I have the same group of kids for two class periods. And by the way, this class is in another classroom.They are my algebra block class (the lowest level of math for freshmen). I had a drop in observation by our math coach. Things went as usual in that class. I taught writing equations from a table. Students were shown their grades and got their quizzes back from last Friday. At the end of class, I remembered to get caught up on my attendance.

12:13-12:36pm Finally some me time with the colleagues. We have one microwave in the teachers lounge, because our superintendent thought two microwaves wasted too much energy. Let's keep in mind there are about 13 math teachers who use the lounge. We can do the math; lunch can be chaotic depending on how many teachers need the microwave. Luckily today I was able to heat up my food with about half of lunch time left.

12:37-1:03pm On Monday's (Tuesday's when we have holidays on Monday's), we have an advisory period before 5th hour. So off I go back to my first classroom. Today in advisory we talked about making an impact on our community. My kids wanted to focus on keeping the campus clean for this week. We'll see how they do next week.

1:04-2:02pm With no time to set up for 5th hour, I have students pass out bellwork sheets while I write the bellwork problems. My afternoon classes are co-taught (me + special ed teacher), so she passed out progress reports while I passed out last week's quizzes. Taught class as usual (writing equations from a table). We had a group of students struggling, so I made a small group in the back of the room to work with them more one on one.

2:03-3:00pm 6th hour was basically the same as 5th hour. This group is more chatty, so it takes a little bit longer to get our groove. The talkativeness resulted in spending time after school. Sent a student outside as well. I made a small group again and worked with the struggling students.

3:01-3:03pm The class only had to stay after class for one minute, but they kept talking so I had to stop the time five times. It ended up being two minutes after the bell before they were released.

3:04-4:00pm After school tutoring, I had three of my own come in for help and to make up tests/quizzes. I had one student from the neighboring teacher (the one that is out for maternity leave) come in to work on his test corrections as well. Even though there is a long term sub, the students for accelerated algebra see me since I teach the class as well (that adds about 60 students that I am looking out for).

4:01-4:55pm Students are finally gone, and I start inputting more grades and finish planning for accelerated algebra. I make the rest of my copies. 

5:00pm I am finally leaving school, and I am not the last one to leave. There were still about 8 cars in the parking lot. That always makes me feel a little better, because I try not to spend too much of my time at school.

Evening: My cousin is visiting from Peru, so we had the family over tonight. They left at about 8, so I was finally able to start uploading grades in our grade book. Then I took a nap. Watched some tv shows. And now just finished a blog post. Typically I try to go to bed by 11:30pm, but I just had to finish this! Repeat everything tomorrow!

I really tried to keep this brief. Some days I have a lot, more going on. Today wasn't too bad. I would like non-educators to understand that our job is rewarding, time consuming, and not mundane by any means. We are constantly making small and large decisions, but I think that makes the profession all the more exciting.

September 23, 2012

Proportions Activity

This last week in algebra 1, we spent time learning about algebraic proportions. We started by solving algebraic proportions then spent a day working on setting up proportion word problems. For once, we had a cushion day in our jam packed curriculum. So I scoured the internet to find a proportion activity. I found two things:

1) I Want to Teach Forever had a really great activity where students would find their measurements and solve proportions to find the measurements of a statue and action figure of themselves


2) NCTM Illuminations: Measuring Up Activity (the website is down? I can't get it to load but just do a Google search and you should be able to find it). Here is a copy of that worksheet

With my classes, I divided students into 10 groups of 3 students. Each student had their own piece of paper. In their groups, one student was being measured while another did the measuring and the last person was recording. They switched roles until everyone had their measurements.

One class made it to the Measuring Up activity, and we did it as a whole class activity. I called on three volunteers to do jumping jacks, say the alphabet, and hop on one foot for a minute. Then we set up proportions to find how many jumping jacks would be done in ten minutes and then in an hour.

After some reflection, I modified the first activity sheet for next year. My students struggled with converting to feet, so I think having them do it all at the beginning will make the rest of the activity easier to finish. Plus I switched the action figure part first, because that didn't require students to convert anything.
Here is my modified proportion worksheet

September 11, 2012

Classroom Engagement?

Week 4! Woo!

This week's prompt: A syllabus to a course states that "classroom engagement" is 10% of the course grade.

The obvious question is what do you mean by classroom engagement? Is this the same as participation? Or is there is a difference? I think classroom engagement is vague and can be interpreted in many ways. If I were to have this on my syllabus, I would take classroom engagement to mean students are actively involved in the learning process. This means they are taking notes, asking questions, answering questions, going up to the board to show their work, etc. Now I'm starting to think, how would you grade this? That gets trickier. I guess you could stamp notes and check them at the end of the week. I have tracked participation on a seating chart, so that's another idea.

Personally, I would not have "classroom engagement" on my syllabus because it is too broad and not easily measurable. What do you guys think? If you have this on your syllabus, I'd like to hear how you grade it in your classroom.

September 10, 2012

Made 4 Math: Reteaching Solving Equations

Last week in algebra 1, we spent the week learning how to solve equations. I gave the students a quiz on Friday, and as I graded them, I realized some re-teaching needed to be done.

Today I spent the day reviewing how to solve equations using a different method than I did last week. I used this worksheet to help me (I found it online, so I can't take full credit). The first page is all two-step equations. In the first column, I had students translate the math phrases to English. In the middle column, I told students that solving equations is kind of like opening a gift (first someone puts your gift in a box, wraps it up, and ties it with ribbon...then you untie the ribbon, rip off the wrapping, and take the gift out of the box).

Side note: I got the gift wrapping idea from Danica McKellar. I've only read parts of the book, but I plan to do a #MyFavoriteFriday on all of her books as I finish each one.

Back to review, the gift wrapping idea helped! They finally started to see that if we have 3x + 5 = 10, we do the last operation being done to x first. Reverse order of operations. It FINALLY started to click. One student told me it's like you're doing "bottoms up", sure. So in the middle column in addition to writing the inverse operation, I had them write what number goes with the operation. So 3x + 5= 10 would be (1) minus 5 and (2) divide by 3. Last column, they solved.

I created the second page, and they got the hang of this after re-explaining that we do distributing and combining like terms to help us make the equations look like the ones from the first page. For the second page, I only made them solve in the third column.

I think writing out the steps helped my students the most, so next year I will probably start with this activity first when I begin this unit. I think it will really help me have fewer headaches.

Hope this helps!

September 4, 2012

Math Autobiography

Week 3: Why do you teach? Why math? How did you get into teaching? What is your drive? 

We have all experienced that conversation, you know where you meet someone and the person asks about your profession. I never know how to respond. I have two answers, a short one and a long one. I feel out the person before giving out my answer.

Short answer: I wanted to make a difference in the lives of others. I was always good at math in school. I knew a career that involved numbers and working with people would be the perfect job for me. That's why I am a math teacher. I teach high school, because I enjoyed my high school experience

Longer answer: For years (middle school-junior year of high school), I wanted to go into accounting. Seriously. That was my ambition, and I wanted to ultimately be a CFO. Even though I was always good at math, I never really liked math class. This changed my freshmen year of high school. Ms. B was the best math teacher I ever had until then (she was only surpassed by my mentor/"math mom"). I loved all of my high school math classes. Fast forward to junior year. I lost my grandpa, and my outlook on life changed. I lost my ambition to make money and become a CFO. I signed up for the future educators class my senior year, and that class confirmed my decision to go into teaching. One week after graduating, Ms. T (mentor/"math mom") called my house and asked if I wanted to be her teacher's assistant for a summer math program for incoming freshmen. I'm still working with that summer program to this day, but now as a teacher.

And that's basically a good jist of why I became a high school math teacher. It's been a good journey! :)

September 3, 2012

Made4Math: Aztecbook

Today's Made4Math is a getting to know your student activity.

Last year, my principal told me that the first day should be about building relationships and getting to know my students. He suggested I have them write a news article about themselves. That was a good idea...but I thought there has to be something else I can do that involves less writing (hello?! math teacher over here). I ended up creating this Aztecbook. Our school mascot is an Aztec.

As you can see, this looks a lot like the now outdated fb profile page. Since most of my students are familiar with fb, they figured out pretty quickly what to do. I gave them markers and crayons. Some used them, others just used pencil. I let them be, and they enjoyed it. We did it the last ten minutes of class for two class periods...

We are still having schedule changes being done at my school (5 weeks into the school year :/ ). I got two new students last week, so once they complete their Aztecbook, I will upload a picture of the class profiles. I think I'll put them along a wall or bulletin board, maybe add butcher paper? Stay tuned.

August 27, 2012

I Wish...

Week 2 Prompt: What do you wish had been a part of your teacher training or mentoring?

Before stepping into the classroom, I wish someone had told or taught me about...

  • The amount of time meetings take up in your day. I learned this quickly last year. I felt so bad turning away students before or after school, because at least a couple times during the week I had to run to a meeting. By the end of the year, meetings were like okra to me...not my favorite.
  • The amount of email a teacher receives on a daily basis. I felt like at the beginning of my first year, I was constantly checking my email. I was  overwhelmed with trying to reply and read. I don't do that anymore. I wait to read everything during prep or after school. It can wait.
  • How to communicate with parents. I wish we had scenarios or something in college to help us in working with parents. I remember that first parent phone call...I was so nervous! I know it just takes practice, but I still wish someone had stressed parent communication to me in undergrad. Maybe I could have developed an avuncular charm?
  • Print materials at least a day in advance. The copy machine in the math lounge at my school is a vainglorious contraption. The things loves to be the center of's always breaking down! I never won last year. Now I try to print everything I need at least a day ahead of time, otherwise it could go either way with the temperamental copier. 
  • How to be organized with the paper flow. Students turn in work. I grade. Pass back. Repeat. I've been doing less collecting this year, but I still feel like I have sooo much paper. I wish we had learned some tips from our Hemingway-esque college professors.

This is my list for now. I think this would have been longer last year during my first year. I felt so overwhelmed. Year 2, going much better!

August 21, 2012

Proud of My Birthday!

Week 1 Prompt- Take a photograph of something you're proud of...explain what it means to you.

Psh. Easy peasy. Thanks for this topic Math Blogging Initiation team!

Right now I'm most proud of these drawings that are on my filing cabinet right behind my desk:

I'm in my third week of my second year of teaching. My first year teaching was...well not as bad as I expected if that makes any sense. These drawings actually represent one of the most memorable moments in my first year.

It happened during algebra block (two hours of math for students with low math skills). I had a paraprofessional with me in the classroom; he was the one with a sense of humor. One day in March, he tells his station (algebra block is taught using stations) that it's my birthday. So they secretly drew these birthday cards for me while I was teaching in my station. I really didn't know what was going on. At the end of class, I was given my birthday cards AND the kids sang happy birthday to me.

As you might have guessed, it was not my birthday. My birthday is in December, but I just couldn't tell my students the truth after all their efforts. It took a lot of self-control to hold back laughter.

It means a lot to me now, because I see these kids on campus and they say hi to me or tell me that they miss our class. This just helps me realize that I did make an impact my first year, and I hope to go even further this year.

Oh and my paraprofessional is now an official teacher this school year. You better believe I will get him back if I ever have to cover his class!

August 20, 2012

Made4Math: MATHO!

I'm copying @LaurenDeReche's review game theme since I also missed the memo for #MyFavFriday. Without further ado...MATHO!

Based on my experience, this game has been more successful with my lower level algebra class than with my regular algebra class. I don't really know why. At one point last semester, we had quizzes every Friday so we were playing MATHO every didn't get old! MATHO is played just like bingo, the only difference is the name. I actually don't have an electronic version of the MATHO cards but I found this one online

You could also make your own with Word (I just whited out a bingo card, wrote MATHO, and made copies).

Here's my MATHO review that I created for negative and zero exponents. I'll have the slide with all the answers displayed, and students fill in their MATHO cards. I give them about 5 minutes to fill out their cards. Then we just go through each problem. If it's a difficult topic, I'll help them get started on problems or even do the first two together. Candy for the winners!

I like MATHO because it's easy to create (select problems from worksheets or study guides) and takes little planning. Throw in some non-math questions to keep students interested. 

****Shout out to @lmhenry9 for teaching me how to share files! :) *****

August 19, 2012

Ah! Homework!

This week's topic is the ever so dreaded homework debate.My first year teaching I assigned homework almost every night for the first unit. I collected homework and graded based on completion. As the year progressed, I was not happy with the homework load and decreased it to 2-3 times a week. Then I changed my philosophy and wanted to focus more on classwork rather than homework. I didn't see test scores drop because of the change, so I continued that for the rest of the year.

Year two. Homework has now been combined with classwork and both go under the "assignments" grade. Last year I had a "classwork" grade as well as a "homework" grade, unnecessary-what was I thinking?! For this year, I really want homework to be a bare minimum. In algebra 1, they've had one take home assignment in the first two weeks. We do a lot more in class assignments, and I have students grade each other's work. I still collect the assignments, so I can record in the grade book and to identify struggling students. In my advanced algebra class, I have been giving homework because they are doing much better with homework completion (only 1 student is not doing the work). They self-check themselves and turn it in. I have been taking off points for the number of problems missed, but I plan on changing it and base it on completion.

A couple of notes:

  • 68% of the semester grade is based on unit tests and the semester final (per district mandate).
  • My district is moving towards having students' entire math grades based on quizzes/tests/final.
  • The two preceding bullets make me want to eliminate homework completely (if you have done so in your classroom, tell me about it!).
  • Suggested reading: Allfie Kohn's Homework Myth. 

August 16, 2012

My Favorite Lesson Plan Book

Like most beginning teachers, I sought out advice and guidance from the more experienced teachers when I first started teaching. One teacher was really helpful, and she gave me something that looked like this:

It was great a tool, and it did save me during the first unit. But then I got tired of carrying it around and eventually it just stayed on my nightstand. Not very useful at this point. And then OneNote came into my life. If you haven't used OneNote before, you should try it out! Here's a screen shot of my notebook:

I just love how I can see everything. I have tabs for each class I teach (algebra block, algebra 1, and accelerated algebra). I break down these sections by creating pages for each week and within each week's page I have my days figured out. I have all 37 weeks of school at my finger tips. 

As you can see, my planning isn't too detailed...and there's a reason for that. Earlier this year, I convinced the algebra team to create a OneNote for our content team. That one is wayyyyy more detailed, and the one I use more often. We put powerpoints, worksheets, activities, assessments, and lesson objectives for each day into our notebook. OneNote has enhanced our collaboration. It's amazing!!!! 

August 13, 2012

First Made4Math Project!

I actually stole this paper tray storage from a colleague at school. She said she found it on Pintrest, so those who are Pintresters can look there for more directions if need be.

To make your own paper storage you will need:
5 boxes
Packing or duct tape
Spray paint

1) Start with cutting off one of the ends on all boxes. This creates the opening for your paper trays.

2) Stack boxes and then tape sides. I placed tape strips vertically on the sides. I found when painting that it's better to have your tape be side by side leaving no space between strips of tape (i.e. less cardboard showing). I also taped the "back" with horizontal tape strips to join boxes.

3) Lastly, spray paint your paper storage. I live in a desert, so it was easy to do a couple coats in a short amount of time.

And here is the finished product!

I made two of these, and I was thinking of doing an "In" and "Out" paper system for each class period...but then I thought maybe I could use them more as "Absent" papers and designate each box for the day of the week. AH! I still can't make up my mind.

August 12, 2012

Committing to ISN

I need to make it official. I wanted to try one new (feasible) thing in my classes this year, and I decided it would be ISNs (interactive student notebooks). I'm not rolling it out in all of my classes, just one. ISNs will now be part of my Algebra Block class. These kids are low level math students and get to be with me for two class periods everyday. Similar to the Read 180 program, if you've heard of it, I have an aide and we do three stations daily (the last station is the ALEKS program on the computers).

I want to do this. These kids need something more than just regular notes. I hope the ISN will assist me in getting these kids caught up with their regular Algebra 1 counterparts.

ISN starts Wednesday! Can't wait!!!

January 3, 2012

Resources, Resources, Resources!

This was a last minute search for ideas and inspiration. How I never found virtual filing cabinets until now is beyond me. Thank goodness I did! I'm going to keep a running list for myself and hopefully this helps other math teachers as well. :)

Math teacher's oasis Math Teacher's Wiki

Sam Shah's Virtual Filing Cabinet

Sonya Land's Algebra Documents

Some reflections and new goals

I really should have reflected on last semester before now, but it was sooo nice to enjoy some me-time this winter break. But alas, tomorrow is the start of a new semester which means I should really tie up loose ends.

For my first semester of teaching, I honestly did much better than I anticipated. There were only three referrals. No fights in my classroom (an issue at my school). I communicated with parents frequently. I collaborated with other math teachers often. I incorporated other disciplines into my classroom. I read many, many math teachers' blogs (Thank you Dan Meyer, Kate Nowak, Miss Calcul8, Mr. D, Sam Shah...just to name a few) and actually used their ideas in my classroom. And most importantly, I had fun.

New goals for second semester:
1) Take better care of myself (sleep and exercise more!)
2) Figure out a way to keep students engaged while working on ALEKS.
3) Decide my stance on homework (must finish Kohn's book first...).
4) Questioning strategies, engagement in general.
5) Play more games with my regular algebra 1 class.