Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Algebra 2 Concept List

This is very much a work in progress.  I took the list of the objectives from my Adv. Alg 2 book and listed them based on what I have covered in the past.  I still have to find corresponding sections in my Alg 2 book, as well as the Ohio Standards.  I also decided that since we will be heading to the Core Standards in 2011-2012, I would also match them.  Haven't gotten that far yet.  Also, I haven't put them in any order yet.  There are a couple I am thinking of taking out - haven't gotten there yet.

Background info:
Adv Alg 2 is our students on a track for Calculus if they stick it out.  Alg 2 is our college prep/"regular" students.  In Ohio, all students will have to take Alg 2 or an Alg 2 equivalent to graduate, starting with our upcoming freshmen (class of 2014).  They also have to have 4 credits of math.  Our current sequence is Alg 1, Alg 2, Geom, Pre-Calc, Calc.  We may have some other options (Sr. Applied Math, Stats) as a 4th credit.

Please offer comments here and feel free to check back to see how my shaping is going.

My Alg 2 Concept List - work in progress **Revised July 16th.  Mainly ordereing of topics and matching to Ohio Standards changes.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

21st Century Math Day Two

Well, I did get a few things out of today.  It was not a complete loss.  I will highlight what I think was worthwhile to pass along.

The morning started out rather promising.  We began by talking about clickers.  :-)  In Youngstown, we have Turning Technologies who is one of the first companies to do this sort of thing.  Since they are local, most districts (including mine) have at least one set somewhere.  I should add that I have used our set in our building a couple of times about 5 years ago or so and I know where they are and you can bet your bottom dollar that as soon as I get back in the building I will hunt them down and hide them in my room since no one is using them.  What did we learn about it - well, we learned briefly what they were and that you can use them for multiple choice assessment and they get instant feedback.  We learned a little about the software for the Turning Point ones and that's about it.  I think many are using them as an assessment tool, or for review before tests.  Wish I had more to offer but I don't.  I think I'll have to research more on this one - but if anyone out there knows of more uses, please comment!

Then 2nd year teacher was back with his OGT prep tips.  He does a Question of the Day for the first five minutes of class.  He goes over the answer from the previous day, passes out little slips with a place for Student Name, Date, a place to circle the multiple choice answer, and a place for the work for a short answer/extended response question, and the kids answer the question on the paper while it is projected on the SMART Board.  The questions he uses are from the released items from previous years.  He makes a new file each week.  He changes the order of the questions for each period.  For example. let's say 1st period does Question 1 Monday, Question 2 Tuesday, Question 3 Wednesday, Question 4 Thursday, and Question 5 Friday.  2nd period then may do 2 on Monday, 3 Tuesday, 4 Wednesday, 5 Friday, and 1 Monday.  3rd period might start on 3 Monday, etc.  You get the idea.  That way it's harder to cheat from period to period.  His 9-12 classes all work on the same bank of questions. 

He does this for about 12 weeks beginning in mid-late November until the week before the test in early March.  Each week he posts a tally sheet with how many points each student has (so it's a competitive thing).  What I thought was awesome about how he does it is he uses an excel spreadsheet to grade them (except for the short answer/extended response) and keep track of student points.  What he did was set it up to put in the answer to the question at the top of the sheet.  Then he has a student aide enter in the multiple choice answers into the spreadsheet.  The spreadsheet grades it.  If a student is absent, a - is entered and he/she gets no points.  Then, the spreadsheet calculates how many points the student has earned so far and he has it rate where the student falls on our rating scale (accelerated/advanced/proficient/limited/basic) based on the percentage of points he/she has earned (following the percentages from the state).  For the short answer/extended response (which he gives one about once a week), he grades them using the rubric provided by the state in the answer key and enters the points in the spreadsheet.  So at the end, he has a projection of how his students will do.  And he's been pretty accurate in his estimates - in fact, in the two years he's done this, his students have done better than the projection (passing percent wise) on the OGT.

As far as credit - he uses the points to add on to their lowest quiz grade of the 9 weeks as bonus.  So, if the student earned 26 points during the 9 weeks and their lowest quiz score was a 70/100, it would become a 96/100 (he actually said 70% and 96% - he does his grades kind of different.  Most of the people in my school, myself included, do points earned/total points = grade.).  It's the only extra credit he gives.  I could see modifying that by saying that 0-5 points is ___ extra credit, 6-10 ___ extra credit, etc.  I don't want it to be a huge sway in their grade.  I'd have to play with it first once I see how grades work with the new homework plan some of us are working on .

Anyway - I thought it was a great idea and I am going to use it.  It takes care of OGT practice, you don't do those dumb workbooks all the time, it gives extra credit which kids are always wanting, and it's not a ton of work.  He's supposed to post the excel worksheet and if you're interested in it, let me know.  I'll get you the info on it.

Then we had the local rep for SmartEd Services in to show us the new SMART Notebook tools.  They were cool and I really hope we're getting them and sent an email to the tech coordinator about them.  Most of the rest of the day was in the computer lab.  We did go through videos (oh joy) and worked with some Google drawing program (I forget the name - I pretty much ignored it and read dy/dan instead since that seems to be where my Math Teacher Tweeps seem to think is the best place to statrt).  Then we did some other stuff in the Moodle which I pretty much ignored and continued perusing dy/dan among other things.  She gave us time at the end to look at what we wanted to, which I continued to do.  :-)

I did express a little on the feedback form my disappointment.  She did ask for suggestions of topics to improve it for next time.  But I really ended up doing most of that in my reflection paper.  I had to write it today when I got home because (a) we only have a week and we leave for the weekend Thursday and (b) I wanted to go through things while it was fresh on my mind.  I hope I wasn't too mean but I hope I got my point across.  You can see it below.

Reflection Henry

Well, that's pretty much it.  Please comment and/or catch me on Twitter (@Mrs_LHenry).  Thanks!

Monday, June 21, 2010

21st Century Math? Day One

Well, y'all wanted to hear about my class.  I had thought about tweeting about it later, but there are so many questions that ir raised with me that I figured I was better off blogging.  Please feel free to either comment and/or tweet me (@Mrs_LHenry).  I would really like to have discussion on some of these points.

I am not totally sure what I was expecting to get out of this class.  I guess I expected to learn some new software/websites/programs to help teach math better.  Here's how my day went:
The first two hours were spent between the housekeeping stuff, all of introducing ourselves, an update on the Core Curriculum, and being told that we should have a web presence and having PowPak and Moodle introduced to us.  We had also spent time with Pow Pak and Moodle in my 21st Century Tools class last week.  Then a second year teacher presented for about an hour and a half about how he uses the SMARTBoard - really the SMART Notebook software - in his instruction.  This was one of the two worthwhile things to me from today since I will have one in the fall and it was the first time I had seen anyone really using the software.  More about his presentation in a moment.

After lunch, we went to the computer lab.  I had high hopes after being lectured to all morning.  We registered for the Moodle for this class and the instructor proceeded to lead us through the websites on the Moodle page.  We spent about 45 minutes on virtual manipulative websites. I was thoroughly bored.  Most of the manipulative stuff was geared towards middle school and although there was stuff marked for high school, I guess I really didn't see the value of that.  Then we worked through a tutorial of GeoGebra that the instructor had printed out for us.  I had worked briefly with GeoGebra in another class about 2 years ago, so I was glad to have something to work through.  There was a cool activity on showing the slope of a tangent line to a function and calculating the derivative that I will use with my Calculus class this year.  (Second worthwhile thing today)  Then the instructor proceeded to lead us through the OGT Success website and somewhere in there she also took us to the ORC website - which have been at just about every county training I have attended for the last 4 or 5 years.  Another waste of time. 

Tomorrow we are supposed to hear from 2 year teacher and how he does OGT (Ohio Graduation Test - our 10th grade test students have to pass to graduate) practice in his classroom, a representative from the company that makes the SMARTBoard is supposed to talk to us, and we're in the computer lab in the afternoon again and we're supposed to talk about using videos (You Tube, Teacher Tube, etc.) and who knows what else.

I am sorely disappointed with the course so far.  Again, I am not totally sure what I was expected from "Teaching Math in the 21st Century," but I can say that I expected to learn about things that I have not really done before.  I guess in my mind, "21st Century" means that we are using technology to help enhance our instruction and I expected to be doing more with the 4 C's (critical thinking and problem solving, communication, collaboration, and creativity and innovation) they keep referring to.  I am having a hard time finding "virtual manipulatives" to be something new.  We've all used manipulatives in the past and although it's cool to be able to see them on the Internet and use them on the SMART Board, I just can't get excited about it.

Even as I reflected on 2nd year teacher's presentation about how he uses the SMARTBoard in his class, I am really struggling.  Pretty much everything he showed us was basically putting up the same old notes that many math teachers do, but it's on the SMARTBoard and sounds or videos or different effects were added to make the presentation different.  That's 21st Century?  It seems like to me you're taking 20th Century Math and putting it on the computer.  How is that different than what I do now?  How is that going to better engage my students and get them to take more ownership in their learning?  How is that going to make be a better teacher?  I just don't get it.  I'm not seeing anything radically different.  Am I missing something?  Please enlighten me if I am.  What is Teaching Mathematics in the 21st Century to you?

Please comment or start a discussion on Twitter.  I really am struggling with this today.  Thanks in advance.

Reflection on my 21st Century Tools Class

Here is my paper on my class from last week.  Feel free to read and comment. 

Reflection Henry

Friday, June 18, 2010

Mid-Career Crisis

Well, I have finally up and done it.  I have started blogging.  I suppose this was bound to happen.  I suppose I ought to give a bit of an introduction and why I'm here, but it will take some time.  So, I'll start with the homework issue that we started with last night.

I have taught for 18 years - all but one at the high school level.  I spent last year (08-09) teaching 7th and 8th grade math and I had also taught 8th grade math earlier in my career at a 7-12 high school.  I have never been really happy with how I've done homework.  In reality, there are a lot of things I'm not happy with at the moment (hence the title), but I'll get into those over the next few weeks.

I had started on Twitter in the fall and winter, but got away from it in the spring - things had gotten too busy and I just hadn't really "figured it out."  Couldn't see what the point was.  Boy do I see it now - crystal clear!  I tried to jump into conversations and I guess I never figured out how to make it work right for me.  Looking back, I now see that I wasn't looking at the right time or at it in the right way.  But I digress.

My tech coordinator was impressed with my reaching out to him in the spring in terms of being willing to guinea pig stuff, so much so that he ordered me a SMART Board (which I now know is on its way and will be in my classroom for fall).  We will have a new school in the fall of 2011 and all the classrooms will have SMART Boards.  I want time to figure it all out.  So, once he told me that I was getting one, I started to look for any PD I could find.  The county offers several 2 days courses and I signed up for 2 - "21st Century Tools" and "Teaching Mathematics in the 21st Century" (or something like that).  The week I started 21st Century Tools, I started playing around with Twitter again.  Little did I know that we'd be talking about it in class the next day.

So, we went over Twitter and blogs and a few other things day one and I was trying to find everyone's blogs and get them loaded into my Google Reader (something else we learned a little about).  Plus, I started followng stuff on Twitter. I jumped into a conversation about homework.  Like many others, this has been a big struggle for me.  I have always done homework by grading based on completion - usually 5 points, but I've done 3 before.  All points mean you completed pretty much all of it.  I have done partial credit based on how much was done but in recent years, I've pretty much given half credit for partially done and no credit for not really doing it or just giving answers.  I hate when students just give answers.  Doesn't help them or me. 

This has been the system I've used most of my teaching career.  Lower level classes (like my Math 1) I grade HW daily.  College prep classes I tend to grade "randomly" - which usually means 1-2 times a week and many times on the 2nd day of a topic.  It kind of works for me but I've never been totally happy with it.  It places too much emphasis on doing homework for their grade and there's just too much copying.  I don't really feel like they are getting it.  Like many things I am finding that I do, I am just not happy about it.  It's time to make a change.

So after our hour and a half long conversation on Twitter last night, I was just so thrilled with all of the discourse.  I'm not going to get into it all - others have summarized it much better.  Check out the post at I Speak Math or My Web 2.0 Journey to get a summary of it.  All I know is that I walked away with so many ideas floating through my head and an email from my Twitter friend with her policy that I am seriously thinking about trying, not to mention this wonderful feeling that something great had just taken place.  In my 18 years of teaching, I have never had this kind of discourse before.  I still was on such a high this morning - a morning after euphoria, if you will.  The conversation was so intellectually satisifying and I felt that there were others out there struggling with some of the same issues that I am.  And I just want to learn from these great people.

I know I could be doing much better in the classroom.  I can explain math well.  There are better ways of going about the business of learning.  Someone said in my class today that we tend to teach the way we were taught.  I was taught like many were - go over the homework problems, learn a new lesson, do new homework problems.  And I had great teachers who could explain things well.  But is this the best way anymore?  I'm getting a SMART Board in the fall and I need to figure out how to use it.  There are so many things I could be doing in class to be a better math teacher.  I want to be a better math teacher.  I just don't know how to get there.  But - Twitter is going to help me get there in some way, because it has connected me with some pretty neat math teachers.  And I need to learn from them.  I'm just past halfway (potentially, depending on what STRS does about when you can retire and at what percentage) in my teaching career.  I'm at a crossroads.  I want the fast car/gorgeous man/fill in the blank of your favorite mid-life crisis object here.  But it's a lot harder to make that happen.  Can an old dog learn new tricks?  Stay tuned...