Saturday, August 21, 2010


It has been a crazy week.  I picked up a class at the last minute for this week.  It was offered by The University of Akron and The Akron Chamber of Commerce and it was titled "Opening Doors to STEM in the Workplace."  We are supposed to get a nice stipend, 2 hours of graduate credit (paid for!), and they fed us lunch every day (good eats all week!).  It was WELL worth it in spite of the timing.  I got a much better understanding of what businesses are looking for in employees. Oh - and at some point, there is a great WCYDWT about CFL and why they are designed in a spiral vs. the original design of 2 upside-down u-shaped tubes. No time to think that through right now (not teaching Geom now) - more about that later.

What troubles me now from this workshop is that the last couple of years I have gotten away from doing the application problems in the textbook because a) students don't tend to do them anyway and b) there has been such an emphasis on getting the content taught for state testing/getting them ready for the next course or college.  After talking to several business people, I now understand that application is key for people to be successful in the business world as well as problem solving.  So, now what?  The obvious answer is that I need to incorporate application problems into every concept or as much as possible.  I am thinking that when I have my practice problems list for my students that there will be 2 parts to each assignment - problems where they practice the concept, and 1 or 2 application problems.

The reason for the title of this blog...
Which brings me to issue #2 on my mind at the moment - school.  It is now 10 days until I have students in my classroom.  I have no planning done other than Day One.  I got the SMART Notebook file done for it and that's it.  I have done nothing this week.  Granted, it's been a busy week for me.  I had Girl Scout meetings three of the five weeknights this week and DH had a meeting on one of the other nights.  We are winding down in summer and the kids are realizing that they will be getting less time with Mommy, so they have wanted more of my attention this week. But in addition to all of that, I think I'm just stuck. Paralyzed with fear and nervousness about setting up my lessons using the SMART Board.

For my 18 years of teaching, I have taught using a chalkboard or overhead projector.  Put up all the notes by hand.  No big deal.  I have my own notes on what example problems I want to use and definitions that I want students to know and other important notes that I want to make sure I pass along to students.  But how do I set up these slides to put up on the screen for them?  Do I put everything up on the screen and use the cool shade to pull down as I go along?  Do I just put the basic notes (definitions, procedural explanations) in and the example problems up and write on the SMART Board to show the solution process?  Do I go through the SMART Gallery and the Internet and see what I can find that someone else has done and modify it or just start from scratch?  Do I go find "creative" stuff on the internet from You Tube and Teacher Tube to integrate in? And on, and on, and on go the questions in my head.

I can't put it off any longer.
That's the bottom line.  I am stuck in my head but I cannot wait any more.  I have to start tomorrow or Monday.  I have four sets of slides to create.  I know that I hate when the presentation slides have everything on them and the presenter reads them to you pretty much verbatim and maybe adds a comment or two.  I don't think that's what I want to do.  But given the visual nature of mathematics when explaining processes, I know I have to have stuff up there (either already on it or a start of it).

The dumb thing is, I have really looked forward to having the SMART Board.  I couldn't wait until I had it.  Now that I have it, I'm paralyzed as far as what to do with it.  But I need to figure it out and fast.  Next year at our new school, everyone will have them and people will be looking to me for some help and advice since I will have had one for a year and I want to be able to give them good advice.  At least I'll understand their inital fears of it due to what I am going through at the moment.  But now I have to get past it.  I don't ever remember having these kind of feelings about using technology before.  I have always just jumped in and figured it out.  Not sure why I am at this point at the moment. Regardless, it is now time to move forward.  Any advice and swift kicks in the rear are welcome... :-)

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Working on the To-Do List

Well, I am slowly chipping away at the before school To-Do List. First up was the first day presentation of stuff.  I started off trying to do some of the cool stuff that @msgregson did in hers, but since I was still trying to figure out the program, I backed off after getting tremendously frustrated at times.  Maybe once I get quicker with it.  I haven't done seating charts yet, so that's not in there (but there is a page for it).  The second blank page is for the answers to my Day One Quiz Prezi.  Also, on the contact info page, there is a link to my high school's webpage so I can show them the easiest way to get to my webpage (if you really want to see it, DM me on twitter and I'll get you a link - I don't want it linked to here).

Day One PDF

So what's next?
Now I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to put together my SBG explanation.  I haven't decided if I'm going to use Prezi again or just stick with the Smart Notebook software.  Plus, I'm trying to figure out exactly what I want to put in it.  Thoughts or suggestions from anyone on what to put in/how to organize it?  Please comment. Thanks!

Friday, August 13, 2010

Concepts Lists DONE!!

Well, it has been a long couple of days, but I am now done, done, DONE with my concept lists.  Calculus was an absolute bear.  I am working with a new book (the Finney, Demana, Waits, and Kennedy 3rd Edition Media Update which is for AP Calc - 2010 copyright) so I am trying to sort through that plus figure out just how many learning targets I need.  So with some starting help from @praxisofreflect (her post with her concept lists is here), I was able to get it done.  She had already typed up what she felt the learning targets should be from the same book and I began with that and culled it down to what I felt were the essential things I would be testing.  Unlike with my other classes, I think there will be more than one question per learning target.  Also, unlike my other classes, this concept list will be more in flux than the others.

So, here they are at their current states.  Algebra 2 is actually for 2 classes - Advanced Algebra 2 and Algebra 2.  It's pretty settled.  There may be some last minute tweaking at the beginning of each chapter, but I anticipate very little of that.  Math 1 will have a new book and curriculum.  It is somewhat settled and there will be tweaking as I set up each chapter, but not a ton of it.  Calculus also has a new book and there will be more tweaking for it as I set up each chapter.  Please feel free to review them all and offer any comments and suggestions.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Day One Quiz

I had the realization last night that I am just about three weeks away from having students in my classroom.  I am slowly plodding away at stuff (I do have concept lists done for 3 of my 4 preps and I got my open house paperwork in as well as got my website updated) - but there is still so much to do.  Like @Fouss and @jamieryske, I am going to do a Day One Quiz with my students.  I've attached mine below.  I think (for the first time), I am not going to spend all of Day One going over the Class Procedures/Rules sheet.  I'm still going to collect their information and get books out as well as do my Interest Inventory sheet (although I am going to tweak that and will attach it later).  I haven't decided what else I am going to try to accomplish day one.  Part of the problem is that we have a "temporary" homeroom on the first day and that changes the lengths of the periods for some of my classes (but not all) and we won't have a good idea of what that will be until that day (don't get me started....). 

So - here is my first day quiz: Day One Quiz

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Math 1 Concept List

I need help again.  I have done my Math 1 concept list.  Some background on Math 1:
  • These are students who are lower level freshmen and not totally ready for Algebra.
  • This is a new textbook for this course (McGraw Hill's Algebra Concepts and Applications).  It was chosen because we use the Geometry Concepts and Apps by the same publisher for Math 2 and we wanted to be working on Algebra 1 skills with these students.
  • Ohio standards for 9th grade are basically all Algebra-related.  Actually some of the 8th grade standards are also Algebra related.
  • This will be the first group of students who are required by the State of Ohio to have Algebra 2 or its equivalent to graduate.
  • These students will take Algebra 1 at some point (either next or after taking Math 2).
I know these students will not get all the way through my concept list.  I can't even reasonably say how far I think they will get.  However, I have gone through the book and made my list and done some beginning organization.  I don't like how they have inequalities at the back after quadratics - that made no sense to me.  Also, there were other concepts that were later in the book than I would have put them, so I have done some reorganizing.

I have not taught Algebra 1 in some time, let alone the basic level of it, so I need some help. Some issues I am looking for feedback on include:
  • Is it really worth teaching them the operations with rational numbers (fractions, mixed numbers, decimals)? When they get to any standardized test, they will have calculators available to them that will deal with the fractions, not to mention they've already seen (but probably struggled with it) the concepts multiple times.
  • They integrated in probability and data analysis stuff in the 1st 5 chapters - leave it as is or pull the sections out and lump them together?
  • They have adding/subtracting for rational numbers and equations in one chapter, multiplying/dividing rational numbers, equations, and the rest of solving equations in the next.  Leave it as is or put the rational number stuff together and the equation stuff together?  ***I really need input from those of you who have taught Alg 1 skills before - I have an Alg 2 perspective here.***
  • As we get to the later stuff (anything after graphing) - what becomes most important to teach?  Do I do systems of equations? Radicals? Exponents/factoring?  Once again, these kids will head to Algebra 1 and 2 and will see this again - I want to expose them to what material I can and give them a good solid foundation so that when they see it again, they can have greater success than had they just jumped into Algebra 1.
Please address anything in the comments.  If you want to download the file from and make your own tweaks, please feel free to do so - but rename the file when you save it and let me know how I can get it from you.  Thanks!

Math 1 Concept List
*** I have updated this on 8/8 after the comments.  I'm still looking for suggestions.  Thanks!