If you are looking for something to do with your algebra students this week, you might enjoy this little Christmas tree project I made up for my students to do on Friday. It involves writing the equations of the 19 line segments making up a Christmas tree. I am also going to have them write the domain values for each line segment. This assignment will lead into the linear art project I do each spring where the students will be required to come up with their own drawings and equations.

Christmas Tree Project

## Monday, December 13, 2010

## Monday, November 22, 2010

### Speed Dating (I promise this is really about math)

I got this idea from Kate Nowak over at f(t) and I had been wanting to use her idea for one of my test reviews this year. I did change it quite a bit but I am sure she will recognize it as her original idea. I have been trying to come up with a creative way to review for tests this year for each and every single test. It has been a chore, but with a little help from my friends in the edublogging community, I have managed to pull it off.

When students arrived in my class this morning, the desks were arranged in pairs so that the desks were facing each other. I had 6 pairs in each row for a total of 15 stations. I told them to sit wherever they wanted and they naturally sat with their best friend, but it was no big deal, because they would not be sitting there long.

I passed out the test review which I had prepared in advance. It had about 24 problems on it. As we began the review, I told the partners to work #21-24 and gave them 5 minutes. I started my timer and walked around the room giving assistance. After five minutes, I showed the correct solutions, let them fix anything they missed and then told them that one person from each group would now be rotating to the next set of desks.

For the first rotation, I said the person with the shortest hair should move to the next station. I then picked another 3-4 problems and gave them a time limit. My next rotation was the person with the longest first name had to move. This went on and on until we finished the review. The other ideas I had for rotating were student with most siblings, person with earliest birthday, person with shortest last name etc. The students quickly picked up on the fact that what we were doing was just like speed dating. I'm not sure how they know about speed dating, but I said I guess you could call it speed dating if you wanted to and they got a big kick about who all was "dating" who during the test review.

This activity ensured that they worked with many different partners. By keeping them guessing which problems we would do next, it kept them from rushing ahead and not being able to work as a team with their partners. The timer is also an important part of the review, because for some reason, it really helps keep them on task and get the problems finished when they see the time ticking down on the smartboard.

When students arrived in my class this morning, the desks were arranged in pairs so that the desks were facing each other. I had 6 pairs in each row for a total of 15 stations. I told them to sit wherever they wanted and they naturally sat with their best friend, but it was no big deal, because they would not be sitting there long.

I passed out the test review which I had prepared in advance. It had about 24 problems on it. As we began the review, I told the partners to work #21-24 and gave them 5 minutes. I started my timer and walked around the room giving assistance. After five minutes, I showed the correct solutions, let them fix anything they missed and then told them that one person from each group would now be rotating to the next set of desks.

For the first rotation, I said the person with the shortest hair should move to the next station. I then picked another 3-4 problems and gave them a time limit. My next rotation was the person with the longest first name had to move. This went on and on until we finished the review. The other ideas I had for rotating were student with most siblings, person with earliest birthday, person with shortest last name etc. The students quickly picked up on the fact that what we were doing was just like speed dating. I'm not sure how they know about speed dating, but I said I guess you could call it speed dating if you wanted to and they got a big kick about who all was "dating" who during the test review.

This activity ensured that they worked with many different partners. By keeping them guessing which problems we would do next, it kept them from rushing ahead and not being able to work as a team with their partners. The timer is also an important part of the review, because for some reason, it really helps keep them on task and get the problems finished when they see the time ticking down on the smartboard.

## Tuesday, October 19, 2010

### Around The World Partner Activity

One of my goals for this year is to find new ways to increase student engagement. I'm not a huge fan of homework. I'm never sure who is actually doing the homework. Is it the student, or a friend, or maybe even a parent? I like to actually witness them practicing the skills they have been learning but I get bored of book work or when I use them too frequently. I have been trying to do an activity every 5-7 days where the students have an opportunity to practice what they have learned over the previous week. I like self-checking activities and I like activities where everyone has to be engaged. I prefer partner activities, but will sometimes do activites that require groups of four.

Here is an activity I tried this week called "Around The World". I learned this activity from a co-worker who used it a lot when she taught middle school math.

I made 16 cards with one or two problems on each card like this.

I cut apart each card and glued the card to a piece of colored card stock. I put the question on one side and the answer and steps to solve on the back.

I then arranged my desks in pairs. I used 13 stations for this particular activity. I placed the problem cards in a sheet protector and placed one at each station. My coworker hangs her problems around the room. Doesn't matter how you do it. I wanted my kids seated while they worked, and she doesn't mind them standing up all over the room.

I then gave the students two minutes to line themselves up by birthday. They had no idea why they were doing this, but when they were done, I used the order to assign partners. Each partner had to go to a station with a blank piece of notebook paper, calculator, and formula chart. The instructions were to work the problem they found at each station. Compare answers with each other and then check their answers on the back of the problem card. They had two minutes at each station. Every two minutes I would give them the signal to rotate and they all moved to the next station. I made them go in numerical order through the stations.

Knowing they were on a time limit seemed to keep them on task. They students seemed to enjoy getting to get up every few minutes to move to the next station. There was a little silliness going on, but I didn't mind too much. Overall, I feel I got more work out of them than had I just slapped a worksheet on their desk and said "Due by the end of the period, get busy".

Here is an activity I tried this week called "Around The World". I learned this activity from a co-worker who used it a lot when she taught middle school math.

I made 16 cards with one or two problems on each card like this.

I cut apart each card and glued the card to a piece of colored card stock. I put the question on one side and the answer and steps to solve on the back.

I then arranged my desks in pairs. I used 13 stations for this particular activity. I placed the problem cards in a sheet protector and placed one at each station. My coworker hangs her problems around the room. Doesn't matter how you do it. I wanted my kids seated while they worked, and she doesn't mind them standing up all over the room.

I then gave the students two minutes to line themselves up by birthday. They had no idea why they were doing this, but when they were done, I used the order to assign partners. Each partner had to go to a station with a blank piece of notebook paper, calculator, and formula chart. The instructions were to work the problem they found at each station. Compare answers with each other and then check their answers on the back of the problem card. They had two minutes at each station. Every two minutes I would give them the signal to rotate and they all moved to the next station. I made them go in numerical order through the stations.

Knowing they were on a time limit seemed to keep them on task. They students seemed to enjoy getting to get up every few minutes to move to the next station. There was a little silliness going on, but I didn't mind too much. Overall, I feel I got more work out of them than had I just slapped a worksheet on their desk and said "Due by the end of the period, get busy".

## Tuesday, September 28, 2010

### Appointment Test Review

One of my good friends at school shared this test review activity with me. She says she always has great results and good student participation so I was eager to try it for myself.

It works like this. I had the kids draw a clock on their paper that looked like this.

I then had the entire class stand up and told them they would have 2 minutes to make 4 appointments. They needed to make a 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock appointment. They could not book the same person twice and they were to sit down as soon as they made all four appointments so I would know who was finished. In each class there were several who still needed appointments after everyone else was finished, so I just told them I'd place them with a group for the appointment that they were blank on.

After their appointments were made, their clock looked like this.

After everyone was seated, I instructed the students to go and meet their 3:00 appointment and work problems 1-8 on the test review. They could work anywhere inside the room. Most just pushed desks together and worked like this.

After about 10 minutes, I called time and told the students to meet their 9:00 appointment to do problems 9-18. We continued this process until the reivew was either finished or we ran out of time. The kids had a blast and asked if we could do it again sometime. I really enjoyed seeing the 100% engagement and most of the students were great about helping each other and not just giving answers.

It works like this. I had the kids draw a clock on their paper that looked like this.

I then had the entire class stand up and told them they would have 2 minutes to make 4 appointments. They needed to make a 12, 3, 6, and 9 o'clock appointment. They could not book the same person twice and they were to sit down as soon as they made all four appointments so I would know who was finished. In each class there were several who still needed appointments after everyone else was finished, so I just told them I'd place them with a group for the appointment that they were blank on.

After their appointments were made, their clock looked like this.

After everyone was seated, I instructed the students to go and meet their 3:00 appointment and work problems 1-8 on the test review. They could work anywhere inside the room. Most just pushed desks together and worked like this.

After about 10 minutes, I called time and told the students to meet their 9:00 appointment to do problems 9-18. We continued this process until the reivew was either finished or we ran out of time. The kids had a blast and asked if we could do it again sometime. I really enjoyed seeing the 100% engagement and most of the students were great about helping each other and not just giving answers.

## Monday, September 27, 2010

### A Warm-Up Solution That Works For Me

This year I am doing something that is really working well for me. At our school we are required to give daily warm-ups. If you don't count them for a grade, most students will not do them. If you do count them for a grade, they are a pain in the rear to collect and grade and record. Last year, I took them up every Friday and gave a completion grade for them, but even then, the task of looking at over 150 papers every weekend in addition to other assignments that needed grading became too much for me.

This year, I have been working hard to encourage my students to keep neat and organized notebooks. They have a warm-up section, a note section etc. After each warm-up I will say, now, make sure this warm-up has the date on it and make sure you place it in your warm-up sections. During the notes, I constantly remind them about the importance of the date, title, etc.

So I came up with this idea, or I stole it from someone, I can't remember which, of giving Binder Quizzes.

The Binder Quiz serves two purposes. I am able to grade their warm-ups without ever taking them up, and two, I get to see who is keeping their notebook in good working order.

We take a binder quiz the day before every major exam. In the quiz, I ask them all sorts of questions like, "On Sept 17, what was the answer to warm-up #1, or on Sept 20, what was the title of your notes, or In topic 2-1, what was the answer to example 3.

They have 5 minutes to complete the quiz. If their binder is in order, they will finish in about three. If they have to dig through their back packs to find their papers, it is impossible to complete in 5 minutes.

Here are two examples from the same class. One person who keeps up with their stuff and one who has never brought his binder to my class one single time.

I can not begin to tell you how much this Binder Quiz has helped me this year. I am no longer stressed about grading warm-up and overall my kids are doing better than ever about keeping a neat and organized binder where they can quickly find their resources when they need them.

This year, I have been working hard to encourage my students to keep neat and organized notebooks. They have a warm-up section, a note section etc. After each warm-up I will say, now, make sure this warm-up has the date on it and make sure you place it in your warm-up sections. During the notes, I constantly remind them about the importance of the date, title, etc.

So I came up with this idea, or I stole it from someone, I can't remember which, of giving Binder Quizzes.

The Binder Quiz serves two purposes. I am able to grade their warm-ups without ever taking them up, and two, I get to see who is keeping their notebook in good working order.

We take a binder quiz the day before every major exam. In the quiz, I ask them all sorts of questions like, "On Sept 17, what was the answer to warm-up #1, or on Sept 20, what was the title of your notes, or In topic 2-1, what was the answer to example 3.

They have 5 minutes to complete the quiz. If their binder is in order, they will finish in about three. If they have to dig through their back packs to find their papers, it is impossible to complete in 5 minutes.

Here are two examples from the same class. One person who keeps up with their stuff and one who has never brought his binder to my class one single time.

I can not begin to tell you how much this Binder Quiz has helped me this year. I am no longer stressed about grading warm-up and overall my kids are doing better than ever about keeping a neat and organized binder where they can quickly find their resources when they need them.

## Saturday, September 25, 2010

## Thursday, September 16, 2010

### Self-Checking Practice Activity

Thought I'd share an activity with my readers that I have been using for the last couple of years. This activity is called a Star Chain. When you are tired of doing boring book work or worksheets, but your students still need a little extra practice, try a Star Chain!

Each student will get 12 problems of anything you'd like to practice. For me, it was solving linear equations.

Next, have students cut the problem cards apart.

After the cards are cut apart, students will pick any card they want to begin with. I usually tell them to pick the one that looks easiest to them. They work the problem and then find their answer at the top of another card. They tape the cards together. Continue the process until a chain is formed. If they do all the problems correctly, the last problem will match the answer at the beginning of the chain.

The next day, we connected all the chains and strung them up on the ceiling. I'll probably leave them there until the fire marshall gets me!

It's simple to make your own star chain on any topic! All you need is 12 problems with 12 UNIQUE answers. Just delete my problems and add your own!

Star Chain Solving Linear Equations

Each student will get 12 problems of anything you'd like to practice. For me, it was solving linear equations.

Next, have students cut the problem cards apart.

After the cards are cut apart, students will pick any card they want to begin with. I usually tell them to pick the one that looks easiest to them. They work the problem and then find their answer at the top of another card. They tape the cards together. Continue the process until a chain is formed. If they do all the problems correctly, the last problem will match the answer at the beginning of the chain.

The next day, we connected all the chains and strung them up on the ceiling. I'll probably leave them there until the fire marshall gets me!

It's simple to make your own star chain on any topic! All you need is 12 problems with 12 UNIQUE answers. Just delete my problems and add your own!

Star Chain Solving Linear Equations

## Sunday, August 29, 2010

### Get to Know Your Teacher Quiz

I got this idea from KFous over at My Web 2.0 journey

Tell the students you are going to give them a pop quiz. After the initial groans tell them that it is a multiple choice test about you!

Make up 5-10 questions about yourself with some multiple choice answers. Here are a few to give you some ideas.

1. Why is the number 3 important to Mrs. H

A It is the numbers of years she’s been teaching

B It is the number of children she has

C It is the number of times she’s been to Disneyland

D It is the number of piercings she has

2. Why is the number 25 important to Mrs. H

A It is how old she is

B It is the number of years she has lived in New Braunfels

C It is the number of her students who got commended on last year’s TAKS test

D It is the number of years she’s been married

3. Why is the number 13 important to Mrs. H

A. It is her lucky number

B. It is the number of years she’s been teaching

C. It is the number of times she floated the river this summer

D. It is the number of times she has been to Fiesta Texas

4. Why is the number 0 important to Mrs. H

A It is the number of sisters she has

B It is the number of times she has been to Schlitterbahn

C It is the number of dogs she has

D It is the number times she has flown on an airplane

5. Why is the number 1 important to Mrs. H

A It is the number of children she has

B It is the number of years she has taught at Canyon High School

C It is the number of times she has been to Schlitterbahn

D It is the number of tattoos she has

There will be lots of laughter during the quiz and you can use it as a chance to let your students know a little more about you.

At the end ask the students to choose five numbers and tell why they are important to them. They can either be funny or serious. I plan on filing their answers in their folder that we made the first day of school

I am doing this activity tomorrow and want to use the website Poll Everywhere to have the students text me their answers. I just need to go in and play around with the website and figure out how it works!

Tell the students you are going to give them a pop quiz. After the initial groans tell them that it is a multiple choice test about you!

Make up 5-10 questions about yourself with some multiple choice answers. Here are a few to give you some ideas.

1. Why is the number 3 important to Mrs. H

A It is the numbers of years she’s been teaching

B It is the number of children she has

C It is the number of times she’s been to Disneyland

D It is the number of piercings she has

2. Why is the number 25 important to Mrs. H

A It is how old she is

B It is the number of years she has lived in New Braunfels

C It is the number of her students who got commended on last year’s TAKS test

D It is the number of years she’s been married

3. Why is the number 13 important to Mrs. H

A. It is her lucky number

B. It is the number of years she’s been teaching

C. It is the number of times she floated the river this summer

D. It is the number of times she has been to Fiesta Texas

4. Why is the number 0 important to Mrs. H

A It is the number of sisters she has

B It is the number of times she has been to Schlitterbahn

C It is the number of dogs she has

D It is the number times she has flown on an airplane

5. Why is the number 1 important to Mrs. H

A It is the number of children she has

B It is the number of years she has taught at Canyon High School

C It is the number of times she has been to Schlitterbahn

D It is the number of tattoos she has

There will be lots of laughter during the quiz and you can use it as a chance to let your students know a little more about you.

At the end ask the students to choose five numbers and tell why they are important to them. They can either be funny or serious. I plan on filing their answers in their folder that we made the first day of school

I am doing this activity tomorrow and want to use the website Poll Everywhere to have the students text me their answers. I just need to go in and play around with the website and figure out how it works!

### Ice Breaker activity-Name Reflections

This activity called Name Reflection. The materials you will need are markers, colored paper, and scissors. I allowed 15 minutes for this activity on the third day of school.

Step One: Have students fold a piece of colored paper hamburger style

Step Two: Have students write their name IN CURSIVE along the bottom folded edge.(Warning: many students today do not know how to write in cursive. You will either have to do it for them or get them to help each other with this step)

Step Three: Cut along the curves of the cursive writing. Be careful not to cut the bottom folded edge.

Step 4: Unfold and decorate!

Step 5: Be Prepared to be amazed at the creativity of your students!

Step One: Have students fold a piece of colored paper hamburger style

Step Two: Have students write their name IN CURSIVE along the bottom folded edge.(Warning: many students today do not know how to write in cursive. You will either have to do it for them or get them to help each other with this step)

Step Three: Cut along the curves of the cursive writing. Be careful not to cut the bottom folded edge.

Step 4: Unfold and decorate!

Step 5: Be Prepared to be amazed at the creativity of your students!

### Ice Breaker Activity-Bio Pyramid

This first activity works great for the first couple of days of school when you have lots of administrative tasks to attend to. It will take the students approximately 10-15 minutes to complete the entire activity.

Give students a copy of the Bio Pyramid. and have them fill in the information. I then had them cut them out and glue stick them to a pre-prepared place on my wall.

Note: Do not copy the bio-pyramid instructions two sided. Just give them the bio-pyramid. I put the instructions up on my smartboard.

Materials I used were scissors, markers, and glue sticks.

Here are the finished products. Added Bonus: Your room is well on its way to being ready for Meet the Parent Night!

Give students a copy of the Bio Pyramid. and have them fill in the information. I then had them cut them out and glue stick them to a pre-prepared place on my wall.

Note: Do not copy the bio-pyramid instructions two sided. Just give them the bio-pyramid. I put the instructions up on my smartboard.

Materials I used were scissors, markers, and glue sticks.

Here are the finished products. Added Bonus: Your room is well on its way to being ready for Meet the Parent Night!

## Monday, August 23, 2010

### Meeting Your Blogger Friends in Person

Jonathan at jd2718 was one of the first bloggers to welcome me into the edublogging community when I first began writing my blog. I believe he was the first blogger to link to my blog and even went so far as to recommend Math Tales From the Spring to others. It was very humbling because up to that point, I had no idea that anyone actually read my blog. I was using it as a journaling tool to help me work out things in my head both professionally and in my personal life.

This weekend, I got the privilege of meeting Jonathan while he was in this area doing some volunteer union work. I was so excited to get to meet my blogging friend and show him our neck of the woods. It was great to have him make the short drive over to Paradise, Texas from San Antonio. I tried my best to show Jonathan what life is like in a small Hill Country town. I enjoyed taking him to the places my friends and I like to hang out. I wish I could have shown him more but the heat was brutal and there is only so much you can do with a heat index of 107!

I had a blast and I hope he did too. Hopefully this is just the beginning of meeting my other blogger pals. If you are ever in the San Antonio area, let me know. I love to show people around, or at the very least give you a few pointers on things to do.

## Wednesday, August 18, 2010

### For Math Nerds Only

Math Teacher Mambo ordered herself a new clock for her classroom that I am envious of.

I have a great clock in my classroom that I posted about when I first began blogging called the Nine's clock. It is soooo cute. Each hour contains only nines and if you work the problem, you will come up with the hour.

Since I love my 9's clock so much, I started thinking about buying a new clock for my classroom. Here is an entire selection of math nerd clocks. Enjoy!

I have a great clock in my classroom that I posted about when I first began blogging called the Nine's clock. It is soooo cute. Each hour contains only nines and if you work the problem, you will come up with the hour.

Since I love my 9's clock so much, I started thinking about buying a new clock for my classroom. Here is an entire selection of math nerd clocks. Enjoy!

## Sunday, August 15, 2010

### 1st Day Parent Homework

A friend shared this idea with me a couple of years ago and I love it. She sends home a paper titled "1st Homework Assignment" and she asks parents to email her the answers to several questions about their child. This way, she already has their email in her address book and she doesn't have to enter it in manually.

I've been doing this for several years now and it works like a charm. One thing I have noticed is that parents don't really read the assignment and instead of emailing you the answers, they will send the completed form back with their child. I don't really mind, because at least they put their email address on the form and I have it for my records.

Anyway, I print all these emails out (or the completed form) and they go into my CYA folder that I talked about here.

Anyway, here is what my 1st HS assignment looks like.

First Homework Assignment

Algebra I

Parents and Guardians,

I am excited to have your child in my Algebra I class this year. Your child’s first assignment is really an assignment for you. Please send an email to me at *********** with the answers to the following questions. If you don’t have access to email, please just fill out this form and return it with your child.

1. My child’s name is ________________

2. My child is in _________ period.

3. My name is___________________________________

4. Relationship to student_____________________________________

5. Address________________________________________________

6. How would you like to be contacted between the hours of 7:30 and 5:00? ________________________________________________________

7. Email address_____________________________________________

8. Will you be using Parent Connect to check your child’s grades and attendance?

9. Does your student have any special needs in the classroom you would like me to be aware of? (seating preferences, health issues, difficulties in learning math, etc)

I've been doing this for several years now and it works like a charm. One thing I have noticed is that parents don't really read the assignment and instead of emailing you the answers, they will send the completed form back with their child. I don't really mind, because at least they put their email address on the form and I have it for my records.

Anyway, I print all these emails out (or the completed form) and they go into my CYA folder that I talked about here.

Anyway, here is what my 1st HS assignment looks like.

First Homework Assignment

Algebra I

Parents and Guardians,

I am excited to have your child in my Algebra I class this year. Your child’s first assignment is really an assignment for you. Please send an email to me at *********** with the answers to the following questions. If you don’t have access to email, please just fill out this form and return it with your child.

1. My child’s name is ________________

2. My child is in _________ period.

3. My name is___________________________________

4. Relationship to student_____________________________________

5. Address________________________________________________

6. How would you like to be contacted between the hours of 7:30 and 5:00? ________________________________________________________

7. Email address_____________________________________________

8. Will you be using Parent Connect to check your child’s grades and attendance?

9. Does your student have any special needs in the classroom you would like me to be aware of? (seating preferences, health issues, difficulties in learning math, etc)

## Friday, August 13, 2010

### Effectively Managing Your CYA (Cover Your A**) Folder

If my dear readers can handle one more post on classroom management and beginning of the year procedures, I have one more tip I'd like to offer.

I try to get my students to do as much of my administrative work as possible. One of the things I do on the first day of school is to have my students make their own hanging file folder.

On the first day, I pass out a student information sheet, class syllabus, calculator contract and a Parent Homework Assignment (I will explain the Parent Homework Assignment in a separate post.

I then give my students a hanging file folder and a post-it label for them to put their name on. I then have them attach the label to the folder, place the info sheet inside the folder and collect them. They are already in alpha-order because I seat my students alphabetically on the first day.

The next day, they bring back their Parent Homework and Calculator contract and those are placed into the file. Now my filing system is set up for the rest of the year. All major tests go into the file along with any other CYA items I might accumulate. Things like discipline referrals, special ed modifications, emails from parents. Anything at all that you feel might be helpful.

This system takes very little effort on your part. I stole this idea from a dear friend of mine a couple of years ago and I don't know how I made it before I started doing this!

## Thursday, August 12, 2010

### Effectively Managing Seating Charts

I'm still getting a lot of hits on my blog from people who are looking for classroom management ideas so I though I'd throw out another tip for managing your math classroom.

Here is the best method I have found for managing seating charts. Get a piece of card stock,some small sticky notes, and a plastic sheet protector like the ones shown above. Cut the little sticky notes in half and place them however your desks are arranged. I usually have 20-24 students per class, but I put 30 little stickers on the seating chart for the new students who will move into the class throughout the year.

Write your students names on the little sticky notes in the order you want them to sit. As you change your seating chart up throughout the year, you can move the sticky notes all over the place. I am able to use the same sticky notes for the entire year. If the student changes classes, no big deal, just move them to the appropriate sheet. As long as you keep your seating chart in a plastic sheet protector, it should last the entire school year.

When making your seating charts for the school year, consider numbering your desks instead of putting names on the desks. It is much less time consuming and easier for the students to find their seats especially when you have several students with the same name.

I number the students on my roster in alpha order. As they walk in, I give them their number and have them find their desk. This number also becomes their graphing calculator number. If I move them to a new seat later, they will also change calculator numbers to match their new seat.

I keep my students alpha order for about 3-6 weeks for three reasons. Number one, I pass out so many things that need to be signed and returned that my life is a whole lot easier if they are already in alpha order when I pick them up. Secondly, having the students in alpha order helps me learn their names faster. And lastly, returning graded work to students is so much easier when they are in alpha order.

## Wednesday, August 11, 2010

### Effectively Managing Make Up Tests or How Not To Lose Your Frickin' Mind

I am in the zone! The list making, organizing, idea generating zone, get ready for school zone.

As I think about how I want to manage my math classes this year, I can't help but think of one problem I have every single year. See if this sounds familiar.

You give a test. On test day, say you have 10 people absent. Do they come in and make up the test right away? Uhhh, not in my classes! Some serious reminding, brow beating, and sometimes even phone calls to parents have to happen before I can get my darlings to come make up a test.

Here is how the conversation will go when they finally make it in to take their test.

Student: "Mrs. H, I'm here to take the test I owe you."

Mrs H: "Which test are you wanting to take?" (we've taken 3 tests since the one they missed)

Student: "I don't know what it's about. It's the one you gave me a zero for in the gradebook."

Mrs. H: After discerning which test it is that this student owes me, I begin to look everywhere for the test. It's here somewhere I know! Can it be under one of the piles on my desk? Did I file it? Oh Sweet Baby Jesus, where did I put that

&$%# test??????

After searching frantically for the test for a good 5 minutes or so, I give up and say, "Why don't I just print you out another one. Go sit down and I'll be right with you."

Student finally takes the test and then it is time to find the #&%$ answer key. Same frustrating scenario unfolds as Mrs. H scrambles to find the answer key.

Not this year my friends! I have an idea! Now, I'm sure all of you already have a great system for situations such as this and if you do, then why haven't you shared it with me yet?? I've been dealing with this issue every single year! So here's my idea.

I bought a 1.5" binder like this

Then I put all my answer keys to my quizzes and tests into sheet protectors like this.

Then I bought some dividers which have pockets like this. I put one after each test.

So now, when a student is absent on test day, I am going to put a blank copy of the test they missed with their name on it in the divider. It will be right there along with the answer key!!!! Brilliant!!!! I'm so excited about my idea. Now if I can just manage to not lose the %$#@ notebook!

As I think about how I want to manage my math classes this year, I can't help but think of one problem I have every single year. See if this sounds familiar.

You give a test. On test day, say you have 10 people absent. Do they come in and make up the test right away? Uhhh, not in my classes! Some serious reminding, brow beating, and sometimes even phone calls to parents have to happen before I can get my darlings to come make up a test.

Here is how the conversation will go when they finally make it in to take their test.

Student: "Mrs. H, I'm here to take the test I owe you."

Mrs H: "Which test are you wanting to take?" (we've taken 3 tests since the one they missed)

Student: "I don't know what it's about. It's the one you gave me a zero for in the gradebook."

Mrs. H: After discerning which test it is that this student owes me, I begin to look everywhere for the test. It's here somewhere I know! Can it be under one of the piles on my desk? Did I file it? Oh Sweet Baby Jesus, where did I put that

&$%# test??????

After searching frantically for the test for a good 5 minutes or so, I give up and say, "Why don't I just print you out another one. Go sit down and I'll be right with you."

Student finally takes the test and then it is time to find the #&%$ answer key. Same frustrating scenario unfolds as Mrs. H scrambles to find the answer key.

Not this year my friends! I have an idea! Now, I'm sure all of you already have a great system for situations such as this and if you do, then why haven't you shared it with me yet?? I've been dealing with this issue every single year! So here's my idea.

I bought a 1.5" binder like this

Then I put all my answer keys to my quizzes and tests into sheet protectors like this.

Then I bought some dividers which have pockets like this. I put one after each test.

So now, when a student is absent on test day, I am going to put a blank copy of the test they missed with their name on it in the divider. It will be right there along with the answer key!!!! Brilliant!!!! I'm so excited about my idea. Now if I can just manage to not lose the %$#@ notebook!

## Saturday, March 6, 2010

### The Claw

I don't teach the FOIL method of multiplying binomials to 9th graders. I firmly believe in the power of the distributive property. This year, I stole an idea from one of my new colleagues who calls the distributive property "THE CLAW."

You have to picture drawing the little arrows from the first term of the first binomial to the first term of the second binomial and then the first term to the last term of the binomial. That completes the overhand claw. Then we take the 2nd term of the binomial and repeat. All the while I am very dramatically walking around the room making "claw" movements with my arms. The kids were cracking up and repeating "The Claw, The Claw." There was absolutely no confusion whatsoever during the lesson. We went from problems of the form 3x(x^2 + 2x + 5) to problems of the form (3x + 5)(2x - 6) to (x + 2)(x^2 + 3x + 8).

There was lots of humour in the lesson and most the students were engaged, although quite loud with many of the kids shouting, "The Claw", "The Claw" as they worked the problems.

As each new class came in, they would say, "I heard we're learning something called "The Claw" today. That's right, students were apparently in the hall talking about algebra! Pretty cool!

You have to picture drawing the little arrows from the first term of the first binomial to the first term of the second binomial and then the first term to the last term of the binomial. That completes the overhand claw. Then we take the 2nd term of the binomial and repeat. All the while I am very dramatically walking around the room making "claw" movements with my arms. The kids were cracking up and repeating "The Claw, The Claw." There was absolutely no confusion whatsoever during the lesson. We went from problems of the form 3x(x^2 + 2x + 5) to problems of the form (3x + 5)(2x - 6) to (x + 2)(x^2 + 3x + 8).

There was lots of humour in the lesson and most the students were engaged, although quite loud with many of the kids shouting, "The Claw", "The Claw" as they worked the problems.

As each new class came in, they would say, "I heard we're learning something called "The Claw" today. That's right, students were apparently in the hall talking about algebra! Pretty cool!

## Tuesday, February 16, 2010

### Similarities and Differences-A Smartboard Activity

If you have a smart board in your classroom, here is an idea I used today which worked wonderful. I think you could adapt it to a wide variety of lessons. I was introducing polynomials and monomials today in Algebra I and since it is their first exposure to these topics, I wanted to give them a good background before I just rushed into teaching multiplication properties of exponents.

I put up a slide that said "Monomial" on the left side and "Polynomial" on the right side. In the middle, I put about eight or nine algebraic expressions that were either monomials or polynomials arranged in a column.

The directions at the top of the slide said to slide each expression to the appropriate side of the board. I had no shortage of volunteers who wanted to come to the board and "slide" an expression to the appropriate side of the board. The students absolutely love playing with the smartboard and got a big kick out of doing this. After we had finished sorting the expressions, I was able to ask some critcal thinking questions like "What would you say the difference between a polynomial and monomial is," or "How would you define a monomial and polynomial based on these examples." The kids seemed to enjoy the discussion and correcting each other on their ideas.

I think the idea of sorting things based on similarities and differences is an important concept and allows a mental folder to be placed into the brain so new concepts have a place to land. So many times we skip this introductory step in learning and our students suffer for it.

I think this smartboard activity would work great for so many things. I had a few ideas today like putting linear equations in standard form in the middle column and sort them based on positive slope/negative slope or maybe positive y-int/negative y-intercept.

How about sorting different functions to determine whether they are linear or quadratic?

Maybe use it for function transformations. Which functions will produce a stretch or a shrink. The possibilities are endless and it needn't be a time consuming activity. Ten minutes is plenty to sort and then have some type of discussion.

If anyone else has an inspiration, I'd be glad to hear it.

I put up a slide that said "Monomial" on the left side and "Polynomial" on the right side. In the middle, I put about eight or nine algebraic expressions that were either monomials or polynomials arranged in a column.

The directions at the top of the slide said to slide each expression to the appropriate side of the board. I had no shortage of volunteers who wanted to come to the board and "slide" an expression to the appropriate side of the board. The students absolutely love playing with the smartboard and got a big kick out of doing this. After we had finished sorting the expressions, I was able to ask some critcal thinking questions like "What would you say the difference between a polynomial and monomial is," or "How would you define a monomial and polynomial based on these examples." The kids seemed to enjoy the discussion and correcting each other on their ideas.

I think the idea of sorting things based on similarities and differences is an important concept and allows a mental folder to be placed into the brain so new concepts have a place to land. So many times we skip this introductory step in learning and our students suffer for it.

I think this smartboard activity would work great for so many things. I had a few ideas today like putting linear equations in standard form in the middle column and sort them based on positive slope/negative slope or maybe positive y-int/negative y-intercept.

How about sorting different functions to determine whether they are linear or quadratic?

Maybe use it for function transformations. Which functions will produce a stretch or a shrink. The possibilities are endless and it needn't be a time consuming activity. Ten minutes is plenty to sort and then have some type of discussion.

If anyone else has an inspiration, I'd be glad to hear it.

## Sunday, February 14, 2010

### The 10-24-7 Rule

One useful thing I learned in professional development this summer was the 10-24-7 rule. The rule says that in order to get information to go from short term memory to long term memory, a new concept must be practiced within 10 minutes of learning, again within 24 hours and then again within 7 days. I have tried my best to put this into practice this year. I made several posters for my room illustrating the 10-24-7 rule, not only to remind me, but when students start to complain about homework or warm-up problems, I point out the posters and tell them I'm just trying to help them process the information from their short term memory to the long term memory.

This is not a novel concept, but students must practice something on their own or summarize the concept in words or pictures within ten minutes of learning. There are so many strategies to accomplish this. It might be a homework assignment, it might be cooperative learning, it might be a quick write, or simply having a student summarize verbally what was learned. For the 24 hours, I try to do a warm-up (Do Now, Bell Ringer) every day to practice the concept learned the previous day. For the seven days, I try to include review problems on my assignments that cover material learned the previous week. For some reason, students don't take these problems seriously. I think in their brain, they say, oh this is just a review problem, I'm going to leave it blank, or just guess (since a lot of them are multiple choice TAKS type problems). The way I've solve this is I now include these review problems on unit tests. I keep telling the kids not to skip the review problems because they'll see them again on the unit test. Some take me seriously and some still haven't gotten the message.

With all the distractions a teenagers faces it is sometimes a miracle they learn anything, but for me, the 10-24-7 rule has been a very effective way to help my students retain information. Try it, you'll like it!

This is not a novel concept, but students must practice something on their own or summarize the concept in words or pictures within ten minutes of learning. There are so many strategies to accomplish this. It might be a homework assignment, it might be cooperative learning, it might be a quick write, or simply having a student summarize verbally what was learned. For the 24 hours, I try to do a warm-up (Do Now, Bell Ringer) every day to practice the concept learned the previous day. For the seven days, I try to include review problems on my assignments that cover material learned the previous week. For some reason, students don't take these problems seriously. I think in their brain, they say, oh this is just a review problem, I'm going to leave it blank, or just guess (since a lot of them are multiple choice TAKS type problems). The way I've solve this is I now include these review problems on unit tests. I keep telling the kids not to skip the review problems because they'll see them again on the unit test. Some take me seriously and some still haven't gotten the message.

With all the distractions a teenagers faces it is sometimes a miracle they learn anything, but for me, the 10-24-7 rule has been a very effective way to help my students retain information. Try it, you'll like it!

## Saturday, February 13, 2010

### Gender Separation?

By now, I am hoping many of you have read my post about my

I've always noticed a huge difference between 9th and 10th grade boys and sometimes you start seeing more maturity during the second semester of the freshmen year for some boys. So I think the 10th grade year might be a good time to end the separation.

Might it be the case that both sexes could learn better if separated into gender groups? I don't know the answer, but we were enjoying kicking the idea around for awhile. What do you all think?

who are now working great and whose grades are improving now that a certain little 14 year old heart throb has withdrawn from my class. One thing my daughter and I were discussing tonight over several glasses of wine is whether or not this situation might make a good case for gender separation in core classes at certain age levels. I'm thinking maybe 7th, 8th, and 9th grade?love-struck freshmen boys

I've always noticed a huge difference between 9th and 10th grade boys and sometimes you start seeing more maturity during the second semester of the freshmen year for some boys. So I think the 10th grade year might be a good time to end the separation.

Might it be the case that both sexes could learn better if separated into gender groups? I don't know the answer, but we were enjoying kicking the idea around for awhile. What do you all think?

## Saturday, February 6, 2010

### The Power of Love (or lust) is Now a Scientifically Proven Fact!

If you read my post yesterday about the Power of Love, you will appreciate this article sent to me by my friend Riccochet! Because it was so short, I'm just going to cut and paste into this post. I'm sorry that I don't know the proper ettiquette for giving credit for the article so I'll just give you the link to the story HERE.

Now I finally know why my 3rd period class has such a high failure rate! Their IQ's have been severely impacted by a 14 year old siren!

**Men suffer from significantly reduced mental agility after a conversation with attractive women, a new study suggests.**

Dutch psychologists had males and females talk to strangers of both sexes and tested them on word games before and after the interaction. When men spoke to men, or women conversed with either sex, their mental abilities remained unchanged. However, a man gets markedly dumber after he talks to a woman -- and the better looking the woman, the stupider he becomes.

The researchers posit men can't help but mentally exhaust themselves trying to pick up an attractive woman.

This is why, if you value your money, you should never even look in the eyes of the cocktail waitress at the casino, the bikini model at the boat show, etc.Dutch psychologists had males and females talk to strangers of both sexes and tested them on word games before and after the interaction. When men spoke to men, or women conversed with either sex, their mental abilities remained unchanged. However, a man gets markedly dumber after he talks to a woman -- and the better looking the woman, the stupider he becomes.

The researchers posit men can't help but mentally exhaust themselves trying to pick up an attractive woman.

This is why, if you value your money, you should never even look in the eyes of the cocktail waitress at the casino, the bikini model at the boat show, etc.

Now I finally know why my 3rd period class has such a high failure rate! Their IQ's have been severely impacted by a 14 year old siren!

## Friday, February 5, 2010

### The Power of Love (or is it lust?)

I teach one class of algebra I that drives me crazy. Nothing like what my good friend Pissed Off Teacher is going through, but it's enough to make me crave a strong margarita at 9:30 in the morning.

In this class of 9th graders there are 14 boys and 3 girls. That is there were 3 girls. One of the girls withdrew from school yesterday to enroll in a private school. That leaves 14 boys and 2 girls. For an entire year, I have dealt with all types of mischief in this class. One day during the passing period, I entered the room to find one of the boys had put hand sanitizer all over the door handle. I have lots of running, horseplay, getting out of their seats, loud talking, strange bodily noises, and on and on. A lesson that takes 15 minutes to teach in my other algebra I classes, takes 30 minutes to teach in this class because of all the interruptions. On top of that, only about 25% of the class passed for the semester. Isn't that terrible? A 75% failure rate! See, Pissed Off, there are worse things than being the 60% teacher!

I cannot get these lovely children to do a bit of homework. I call home, I send letters, I counsel. I do everything I can possibly think of but no matter what I do nothing changes. I've resigned myself to the fact that whatever we do as a class is all they are really going to do.

But today something strange happened. I was teaching the lesson and I looked out and every single person was writing down the examples on the hand out I had given them. I didn't believe it so I took a stroll around the room in between examples, and sure enough EVERY SINGLE student had written down the first three examples.

I stopped them all right there and declared that the entire class was going to get 5 bonus points on that days assignment because I was so excited that the entire class was on task.

Here is where it gets interesting. This one boy (who is quite outgoing) says to me, "Miss don't you get it?" I said, "No, get what?"

He said, "That girl, that cute one with the curly brown hair isn't in our class anymore. I just couldn't think straight when she was in here. She was so hot that it just took my breath away!"

Immediately all the boys began talking at once. They all chimed in agreeing with the first boy. I heard comments like "She made me dizzy every time I looked at her." And "I just couldn't stop staring at her." This went on and on for about 5 minutes with nearly every single boy making a comment on the mesmerizing powers of this young lady.

By this time I was cracking up. I said, "You mean to tell me that this is why you boys have been acting like idiots since August. Do you mean to tell me that all this foolishness was just to get this one girl's attention?"

The first boy piped up, "Yeah, pretty much."

Now, I don't know if anything will get better or not on a permanent basis, but I sure did enjoy the fact that for one day every single person was learning.

In this class of 9th graders there are 14 boys and 3 girls. That is there were 3 girls. One of the girls withdrew from school yesterday to enroll in a private school. That leaves 14 boys and 2 girls. For an entire year, I have dealt with all types of mischief in this class. One day during the passing period, I entered the room to find one of the boys had put hand sanitizer all over the door handle. I have lots of running, horseplay, getting out of their seats, loud talking, strange bodily noises, and on and on. A lesson that takes 15 minutes to teach in my other algebra I classes, takes 30 minutes to teach in this class because of all the interruptions. On top of that, only about 25% of the class passed for the semester. Isn't that terrible? A 75% failure rate! See, Pissed Off, there are worse things than being the 60% teacher!

I cannot get these lovely children to do a bit of homework. I call home, I send letters, I counsel. I do everything I can possibly think of but no matter what I do nothing changes. I've resigned myself to the fact that whatever we do as a class is all they are really going to do.

But today something strange happened. I was teaching the lesson and I looked out and every single person was writing down the examples on the hand out I had given them. I didn't believe it so I took a stroll around the room in between examples, and sure enough EVERY SINGLE student had written down the first three examples.

I stopped them all right there and declared that the entire class was going to get 5 bonus points on that days assignment because I was so excited that the entire class was on task.

Here is where it gets interesting. This one boy (who is quite outgoing) says to me, "Miss don't you get it?" I said, "No, get what?"

He said, "That girl, that cute one with the curly brown hair isn't in our class anymore. I just couldn't think straight when she was in here. She was so hot that it just took my breath away!"

Immediately all the boys began talking at once. They all chimed in agreeing with the first boy. I heard comments like "She made me dizzy every time I looked at her." And "I just couldn't stop staring at her." This went on and on for about 5 minutes with nearly every single boy making a comment on the mesmerizing powers of this young lady.

By this time I was cracking up. I said, "You mean to tell me that this is why you boys have been acting like idiots since August. Do you mean to tell me that all this foolishness was just to get this one girl's attention?"

The first boy piped up, "Yeah, pretty much."

Now, I don't know if anything will get better or not on a permanent basis, but I sure did enjoy the fact that for one day every single person was learning.

## Wednesday, February 3, 2010

### Gettin' Lucky

So yesterday we were learning to factor trinomials of the form ax^2 + bx + c in my math models class. I've taught this topic so many ways, but I have come to realize all of the little "tricks" to help them are useless, because the following year, they can't remember the "tricks". So in order to help them really understand the process, we are doing good old fashioned guess and check. This process was murder for my MMA kids because if they can't arrive at an answer within a few steps, they immediately proclaim "This is way too much work miss, " and you lose them for the rest of the lesson.

Anyway, on each problem, I would write out the possible factorizations and I was getting each row to check a different possibility. The first example went well and our second answer choice was the correct answer. On example two, the first answer choice ended up being the correct answer and I proclaimed, "wow, it's my lucky day!" "I can't believe I picked the right answer on my first try!" Then on example 3, I accidently did the same thing, I picked the correct factorization as my first guess (even though I really didn't want to). I then proclaimed in a very dramatic voice (because I was trying to keep their attention) "I can't believe I got lucky twice in one day!" A hush fell over the room and then laughter ensued. The whole class was beside themselves with laughing. It took me a few minutes to figure out what in the world was so funny. Then one brave student said, "Miss, think about what you just said."

I'm not sure how much they really learned yesterday about factoring. I can see that I will need to spend several more days on the topic. I'm going to try a little group activity today to avoid another "boring" lecture and hopefully more slips of the tongue.

Anyway, on each problem, I would write out the possible factorizations and I was getting each row to check a different possibility. The first example went well and our second answer choice was the correct answer. On example two, the first answer choice ended up being the correct answer and I proclaimed, "wow, it's my lucky day!" "I can't believe I picked the right answer on my first try!" Then on example 3, I accidently did the same thing, I picked the correct factorization as my first guess (even though I really didn't want to). I then proclaimed in a very dramatic voice (because I was trying to keep their attention) "I can't believe I got lucky twice in one day!" A hush fell over the room and then laughter ensued. The whole class was beside themselves with laughing. It took me a few minutes to figure out what in the world was so funny. Then one brave student said, "Miss, think about what you just said."

I'm not sure how much they really learned yesterday about factoring. I can see that I will need to spend several more days on the topic. I'm going to try a little group activity today to avoid another "boring" lecture and hopefully more slips of the tongue.

## Monday, January 11, 2010

### Linear Art Project for Algebra I

For the last two days my algebra I students have been working on a Linear Art Project. Here is the basic idea. Construct a picture of at least 20 line segments that includes at least 5 vertical, 5 horizontal, 5 lines with postitive slope, and 5 lines with negative slope. Sketch the picture onto graph paper, number each line segment and then write the equation of each segment and give the appropriate domain and range for each segment. Some of the pictures have been quite amazing (with 50 or more segments)and most students have really put themselves into the whole process. Some had trouble getting started, but once they did, they were able to complete the project fairly independently. I probably should have made them complete it at home, but I wanted to supervise their work and I'm counting it as their last test grade of the grading period so I didn't want a bunch of kids taking zeros on it just because they didn't feel like doing it, and then having to explain why they are all the sudden failing my class to the parents. The way it is working out now, some who had 65-69 are now going to pass because they have done so well. I have been especially amazed to see how some of the boys have really gotten into this project.

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