Monday, December 31, 2012

Tops of 2012

Since it is the last day of 2012 and there are a few others doing the same, I thought I would add to the "Top Blog Posts of 2012." Some of these are websites, some are blog posts, but all are on my favorites list for 2012. So, without any further ado, here are my top initiatives/blog posts of 2012:

Top Three Math Twitterblogosphere Initiatives:
Best PD Ever - The single most thing that has affected me this year is Twitter Math Camp. This is my summary post on TMC and it contains links to everyone's posts about their experiences. If you are interested in attending TMC13 in Philadelphia (July 25-28, 2013 at Drexel University), visit our website.

Welcome to the Math Twitterblogosphere - A collaborative effort coordinated and put together by Sam Shah was one of many great things that came out of Twitter Math Camp 2012. If you are new to our piece of the internet, it is well worth your time checking it out if you haven't already been there.

A Day in the Life (of a Math Educator) - Put together by Sam Shah and Tina Cardone, this was a series of posts done by mostly math ed bloggers on a typical day in our lives. Personally, it helped me to see that I am not alone in my daily stresses and it was good to get a chance to blog about all I do in a day.

Top Ten Blog Posts (in no particular order):
My Favorite Friday: My Go-To Reviews - Square root negative 1 heart Amy Gruen's blog! I have borrowed/adapted several things from her over the last year or so, including her go-to reviews. Many of the things I have used from her blog are from earlier years, so since I am sticking to this year, this would probably be my most used idea from this year from Amy.  Take the time to go back through her archives - she has great stuff!

Ghosts in the Graveyard (New and Revised) - Math Tales from the Spring is another of my favorite blogs. I have also borrowed/adapted many of her activities over the last few years. Kim and I seem to be on the same wavelength at times and I have a ton of respect for her. I have adapted this one (blogged about it, too) for my own classroom.

Resources for New Teachers & A Rant - I really like what Mathy McMatherson does in his blog. He is most definitely wise beyond his teaching years. I was/am flattered to be included in his list of resources for new teachers and have been to (and rely on) many of the resources he lists. Take the time to read the post rather than just skip to the end to get to the resources.

#Made4Math August 6th - Another great thing that has come out of the Math Twitterblogosphere is #Made4Math Mondays (which is on hiatus while we are all busy, but it is compiled at the Teaching Statistics blog). Kristen Fouss is another of my favorite bloggers (I've even had the pleasure of visiting her classroom twice!). I totally stole her first day Gform from this post and liked it MUCH better than doing the paper one I have done over the years.

My #Made4Math 2: Student Center - Totally stole this one from Megan. Great way to keep everything organized and it keeps students from asking me for so many things. The only down side is that my 7th graders in particular tend to abuse it. Well, that, and I tend to run out of pencils quickly. Still thinking that one through. Otherwise, I love it!

Classroom Management - More Like Anger Management - I love Hedge! I can totally appreciate her ADD style - there are days that my mind totally bounces around like that. She has some great organization forms and ideas here that I totally need to adapt (assuming I actually sit down and do it at some point).

Picture Frames to Jazz Up Station Work - Julie does some absolutely amazing things with her middle schoolers. This is one of the things I was able to steal and adapt for my own classroom. Again, a great organizational technique for stations.

Two Things Are Better Than One - I adapted this one when I taught piecewise functions earlier this year. This post laid out how Maggie taught piecewise functions with her classes and it was very helpful for my students as well.

Made4Math Monday: The Best Formative Assessment EVER - Terrance Banks has a great video to show how to quickly do a Formative Assessment activity with your students as they walk out the door (the post was even inspired by me, bonus!). I did try this with my students, but the post-its won't stick to my board... but I still like the idea.

Use Sticky Note Templates to Get Organized - I think I found this one via pinterest, but it was very helpful in printing my own post-its with graphs on them for my students to use as Terrance showed in his Formative Assessment post above.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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Sunday, December 23, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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Sunday, December 09, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Please Support TMC

As I have previously blogged, I was part of the planning team for Twitter Math Camp 2012, which took place in St. Louis this past July. Two of the participants nominated Twitter Math Camp for the Edublog Awards for Best Open PD.

It is an honor to be nominated for the award, however to receive the award, you have to earn the most votes. Voting is open from now until Sunday, December 9th at 11:59 pm EST. I would appreciate it if you would take a few moments to go vote for Twitter Math Camp for Best Open PD by clicking this link. You will need to choose Best Open PD from the drop down menu, and then select Twitter Math Camp (3rd from the bottom).

Thanks for taking the time to vote. Maybe I'll get the opportunity to meet you in person at Twitter Math Camp 2013, which will be July 25-28, 2013 at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA!

Sunday, December 02, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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Sunday, November 25, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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Monday, November 12, 2012

A Day in My Life #DITLife

5:10 am So, it is Monday morning and my alarm goes off as it does every work day. I really don't want to get up. I was up too late working on stuff for today and I am tired. I snooze the alarm a couple of times.

5:25 am I crawl out of bed and start my day. I begin getting ready for school and head to the family room to check email, Twitter, and Facebook. Today I don't have to get lunches ready since both of my children are buying their lunches - yay!

5:55 am I eat a quick bowl of cereal and finish getting ready for work. As I finish getting ready, I can hear my daughter stirring and am silently praying that she doesn't get up before I leave.

6:15 am I am now in the car - earliest I've been in a week or two and I made it out before my 9 year old daughter got up - double win! I begin the 25 minute drive to work and start to think through what's ahead in my day. While still on the road, I call home for the first time to try to wake my husband.

6:40 am  I finish the drive to school and park in my usual spot next to one of our Social Studies teachers. I walk into my classroom, drop my stuff and head to the office to sign in. I hurry back to write a class-wide reassessment on multiplying polynomials and factoring for my Algebra 2 students that at this point I think I am going to give on Tuesday. I head to the teacher's lounge to make copies for my 7th Grade Financial Literacy class later on and drop off the assessments to be copied in the office. I return to my classroom and write on the board what my students are learning today. I then put together the opening slide for my students and begin prepping my station activities that I had put together the night before.

7:15 am One of our special ed aides stops in after she arrives and we discuss the plan for my Algebra 2 class for the next couple of days as well as what we're going to do about a student in my Math 2 class who needs to make up an assessment from Friday. We chat about the football game Friday night and she shows me the signs she and her daughter made in support of our undefeated football team. Once she leaves, I continue prepping the station activities and call home again.

7:30 am Students start heading down the hall, but no bell. Seems like there's a problem with them this morning. My first period class, Math 2, begins entering the room. At 7:37 am, still no bell as there should be. So I go ahead and start announcements and take attendance. I hand back their assessments from Friday and we head down to the computer lab to work on ALEKS. We arrive at the lab to find it locked. I send a student to the office to get it unlocked and about 5 minutes later, the principal comes to unlock the door for us. Students spend about 30 minutes working on practice problems based on what they need to work on. Meanwhile, I finish the last of my station prep and find the lemonade stand website online that will work without me circumventing the Web Filter for my Financial Literacy class.

8:30 am My first period class heads out the door to the bell, which is now working. Second period enters and are already wondering how they did on Friday's assessment. I had forgotten to pull down their first nine weeks grades and as a couple of students check their grades and comment there's no change, I confirm that I haven't updated grades yet. I hand back their assessments, expressing my disappointment in how they did as a class and reminding them that they needed to practice more than they probably did. I also remind them that factoring is a key skill they will need throughout Algebra 2 and their mathematics courses and that it is important to their success. I announce that we are going to work through 6 stations, 5 minutes a piece, and everyone is re-assessing tomorrow unless they already earned a 5. As students are getting their supplies for the stations, I am readjusting groups since 5 students are absent today, which throws off the groups I had already set up based on how they did on the assessment. I assign students to groups and they are off and (mostly) working.

9:05 am Now that students are in their second station activity, I am realizing that I grossly underestimated the time it would take them to work through the station activities.  I make the decision that they will work through 3 stations today, 3 tomorrow, and re-assess on Wednesday. It is important to me that they practice this thoroughly so that they will do better and have a stronger grasp on the skill. I announce as I am moving the last station around that we will re-assess on Wednesday and continue practicing the stations tomorrow.

9:20 am Second period is coming to a close and students are cleaning up. They leave and my third period class enters. Third period is pretty much a repeat of second period, except that I tell them up front that we are reassessing on Wednesday. I also have three absences and decide not to adjust the groups, feeling that the absent students will have a better chance for success if they are integrated into existing groups.

10:15 am Third period finishes and I head down the hall to meet my 7th graders. Normally, I would bring them to my classroom, however today, I am taking them to the computer lab, which is in the hallway between the high school and middle school. Mainly I am doing this  because the school nurse is doing vision screenings today during my class. Rather than trying to have lecture on new material or an in class activity down in my classroom (which is a rather lengthy distance from the middle school office where the screenings are taking place), I decide to have students work in pairs or threes doing the "Lemonade Stand" game as a part of our discussion on supply and demand and as a transition to discussing about setting prices tomorrow. This group does pretty well with this activity and work the entire period. However, a little more than halfway through the period, the middle school principal comes over the PA system and announces that it is time for our monthly building fire drill. While she is announcing this, I am quickly checking for where I am to take my students. Then off we go. My students handle it very well. We return to the computer and finish our activity.

11:08 am The bell rings and my middle school students are off to class and I am off to lunch. I stop in the office to drop my stuff, duck into the bathroom, head to the cafeteria to get my lunch and head to the lunchroom. Lunch discussion revolves around the football game Friday and plans for this coming Friday's game and other light hearted topics. I really do enjoy the people I have lunch with.

11:35 am Back down to my classroom to set up for my fifth period class. Students begin to enter class around 11:44 am. A couple of my students express their concern about how they did on the assessment Friday. This is now the third time going through this for me and it goes a lot like the other two periods. This is also my smallest class and it's a little easier to get around to touch base with each of my students to see how they're doing with the material and just generally how they're doing. This class also has the largest range of ability. I have some very strong students academically and some very weak ones as well. If I have to say a class is my favorite, this one would be it this year. They have some real fun personalities and I do enjoy them.

12:35 pm Stations are winding down in my fifth period class and I bring out the dice for a couple rounds of "Polar Bears Around an Ice Hole." I've been doing this with them for several days now and many of my 17 students have gotten it. 2 more get it before the end of the period. I think it's running its course and I'll have to bring something else out to pique their curiosity. Maybe I'll bring out Set next.

12:42 pm The bell rings and off goes my fifth period class. My sixth period class enters and this is the last class I teach of the day. This class goes much like the other three went, but I can see that several students aren't putting forth the effort they really to be to improve. This is my largest Algebra 2 class and I'm not able to make it around to touch base with as many students as I'd like to. One of the students asks if he is coming down during seventh period (my planning, his study hall) to get help as we had discussed on Friday and I tell him that I'm not sure if I'll get down to get him, especially if he's not taking the class work time very seriously (which he doesn't).

1:35 pm Sixth period is out the door and I am right behind them, heading to the office to read the afternoon announcements. There are a lot today and it takes quite a bit of time today. I drop the announcements off in the principal's office and head back to my classroom. We are supposed to meet as a department today but I am dreading it. I really feel like I am pushing my two colleagues to meet and that they don't contribute much, let alone want to meet in the first place. My senior colleague comes in and says that my other colleague is "tied up." He asks what I've got today and I ask if I can pick his brain a bit, since I don't have a lot more time with him. He will retire at the end of the school year. We talk (well, mostly he does) about student work ethic and motivation and how to keep students reaching for the level that we feel they should be achieving. It's nice to know that some of the frustrations that I have had with the group of students he now has he is having as well. He and I share a lot of the same viewpoints and I know he is a solid teacher. I left our conversation feeling like I am not in a bad place and that I am doing okay merging old and new. We finish talking about our upcoming evaluations and I realize that I have not signed up for which class my principal is going to evaluate me in. So, off to the office I go to sign up and decide on Thursday when I am introducing graphing quadratic equations, vertex, and axis of symmetry. I decide to go with my 5th period class.

2:20 pm I am heading back to my classroom to get some work done. I work on finishing my note sheet for Thursday and go to get it to send to copying. I do take a break in there when students are dismissed (at 2:30 and 2:35) and monitor the halls briefly. Once I get the first draft, I realize I want to make some changes and head back to my classroom to make them. I reprint the sheet and get it from the teacher's lounge and take it to copying. I head back to my classroom and wrap it up for the day.

3:08 pm I get in the car and head towards home. It is raining and the drive is not particularly fun. I am thinking through my day and thinking of what is yet to be done today. Mondays are incredibly busy in the evenings for us.

3:33 pm I pull into my driveway, take in my school bag, and stop at the bathroom. I grab snacks for my children and snack for choir. I get back in the car at 3:40 and head to get my children at their bus stop at their day care. On the way, I make three phone calls - pay the paper bill, check in with my husband, and chat with my mother.

4:00 pm My children get off the bus and into my car. We head to church for choir practice. When we get to church, both kids bring in their back packs. My daughter starts on her math paper and my son gets our his reading book to read his story to me. He reads rather quickly and gets bored. He heads off to play with another child who is waiting for the start of choir. My daughter is struggling a little with her paper and we work through the problems. She finishes her paper at 4:33 and heads into choir. On my way out, one of the other moms, who is also a Girl Scout Leader, catches me and we talk about an upcoming Girl Scout event that will be on the agenda of our meeting later.

4:40 pm I am now home and typing my agenda for this evening's Girl Scout Leader meeting. I also check email and play a little on Facebook before dashing back out to get my kids.

5:30 pm I pick up my children and drive through McDonald's for dinner for the three of us. We head home to eat. When we get home, we find out that McDonald's screwed up my daughter's dinner order which upsets her. She is now off her ADHD medicine, so who knows what the evening will hold... We eat and my son gets ready for gymnastics. My husband gets home at 6:10 to pick up my son to take him to gymnastics. My daughter and I leave at 6:20 to head back to church for the Girl Scout Leader meeting.

6:30 pm We arrive at church to find that we aren't supposed to be in the atrium - someone else is. However, they want to be in the basement, where we were booked. We agree to swap spaces and all is good. My daughter is not willing to work at the table I want, but she says she'll work on writing her spelling words at a different spot. I remind her that she does not get her iPad until the words are done. My meeting starts at 6:45 and I start it pretty much on time. Surprisingly, we get through the agenda in an hour and I spend time talking to new leaders at the end of the meeting, setting up an evening meeting with the newer leaders after Thanksgiving. Throughout the meeting, I have to check on my daughter, who is not working on her spelling words. Once I'm done, she still doesn't have them finished and I am angry with her.

8:00 pm We head home. I change my clothes and sit with my daughter until she finally finishes copying her 20 spelling words 3 times each. While she was working on her spelling words, my husband and son came home. My husband hasn't eaten so he heats up dinner and deals with my son while I am sitting with my daughter trying to get her to finish her spelling. While she is working, I am checking my email and finally skimming Twitter. I think as I am skimming that I really ought to trim the number of people I follow - there's a lot to catch up on from 6 am, when I last checked Twitter. She finally finishes at 8:45 pm. She heads to bed. I tuck my son in and finish supervising my daughter getting ready for bed, tucking her in just after 9:00 pm.

9:00 pm I sit down on the couch and join my husband. He's watching the football game but he changes to Dancing With the Stars. I finish looking at a couple of things for school tomorrow and start blogging this (I didn't look to see when I started). I am now finishing this at 10:57 pm and will finally crawl into bed about 11:15 pm to get up tomorrow and do it all again. Instead of meetings, laundry awaits. :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Factoring Practice #made4math

I had blogged last Thursday that I thought my Algebra 2 students would do pretty well on their factoring assessment on Friday. Guess I shouldn't count my chickens before they hatch... It's not that they did badly, for they didn't, but they didn't do as well as I had hoped and expected. I really want them to have a solid factoring foundation as we proceed through the year. A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take the math placement test that many colleges use to decide where students place into college mathematics. One of the biggest things that struck me was how many problems used factoring as a part of the process in solving the problem. Now that I have seen that, I want to make sure my students have that solid foundation in factoring. I decided that I would hand back their assessments on Monday and then set them up into groups of 4 (and some 3s) to work through 6 stations for 5 minutes a piece.

Here are the 6 stations:

Station 1 - Correct their Assessment
I have set the groups up so that at least one person has mastery of factoring (or very close if I didn't have enough in a class). I want them to actually rework the problem(s) they have missed so they can figure out what they did wrong.

Station 2 - Multiplying Polynomials
I used something I found in the Row Games Box Files I have access to. I have adjusted it for time.

Station 3 - Factoring using GCF
I have a match puzzle that I am using here. Students will have to factor the problems and match them to the answer to create a 3x3 square.

Station 4 - Factoring x^2 + bx + c
I set up a Four in a Row Game - students will play in pairs. They will draw a card, factor it, and then mark their initials on the card where the 2 factors are. First to get four in a row wins. This file has 2 different cards for the same set of factoring problems. The factoring problems are on page three - top half goes to page 1 and 2 cards, bottom half goes to page 4 and 5 cards.

Station 5 - Factoring ax^2 + bx + c
This came from @algebrainiac1, who responded to my tweet after their assessment with several ideas. This game is called "Old Poly" and I am assuming it's based on "Old Maid." Directions are on the first page. I did leave a full page of blank Old Poly cards if you wished to add cards.

Station 6 - Factoring by Grouping (2 and 2)
I did an "I have, Who has" for this one. I think @algebrainiac1 had suggested it also. I did add the directions at the end.

Hopefully, this will help students review the concepts well before reassessing, which will be on Tuesday. I hope this helps someone out. If you cannot download the files via box, feel free to email me at lmhenry9 at gmail dot com and I'll be happy to email you the word document(s).

Monday update - I originally thought it would take them 5 minutes a station. I underestimated the time. These can mostly be done in 10 minutes. 15 minutes would probably be better. For Old Poly - I have way too many cards and would probably adjust that number down in the future.

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Thursday, November 08, 2012

One Down, Three to Go

Last Friday marked the end of the first grading period. Sometimes, it really amazes me how fast the first grading period sometimes goes. Other times, it seems like it takes forever. I am still trying to figure out where this year fits in. It certainly has been the busiest first grading period I have had. It was not until the last week where I actually felt like I had a small amount of breathing room. Of course, that breathing room is starting to get swallowed up again as I rest a bit this week. We had conferences Monday after school and I have been spending most of this week in the evenings just trying to relax a little bit instead of pushing so hard to work on lessons. I can definitely say that I feel burnt out a little bit and it's only the beginning of November.  I am looking forward to Thanksgiving Break here in a few weeks for some much needed R and R.

There have been lots of exciting things going on. Our school's football team finished the season undefeated. The last time they were undefeated was in 1978 and we won the state championship that year. This weekend is the second round of the state playoffs. Good luck to our boys!

I wish I could say exciting things were going on in my Math 2 class. I really feel like I am struggling with them. Geometry is not my favorite material to teach to start with, and I just really feel like I am struggling to engage them. I have them first thing in the morning. It is an interesting dichotomy of students. I have some students who have struggled in their mathematics and are turned off to the idea of math period. I have some students who are special needs and can get the mathematics with a little help. These students work hard and give me good effort daily. It seems rare that I can get everyone on the same page. We are  finishing up parallels and transversals and will be doing slope next. Then we get into congruent triangles. Not quite sure what I am going to do there to improve this class. Lower ability classes have never been my strong suit and I really wish I could figure out how to teach this class better.

In Algebra 2, we are finishing up factoring. I cannot believe how well the students have done through all of it. It was very gratifying to hear several students say today as we played the review game that they were looking forward to the assessment tomorrow and that they were confident with how they would do. The foundation laid by their Algebra 1 teacher last year  has made a significant difference. I see two things that have been helped by their previous teacher - an instilling of an expectation that they are to work and the content foundation that was laid for these students. I cannot believe how much difference there has been this year. I have not had to teach some of the concepts that I have had to in previous years. Students came in knowing what they should have, and when that happens, it is much easier to briefly review and move on to what I should be teaching.

Next up in Algebra 2 is graphing quadratic equations. I am debating how I am going to introduce it to them. They have seen the basic shape from when we did transformations. I am debating whether and how to use the Dan Meyer classic "Will it hit the hoop?" or something with Angry Birds like Sean Sweeney did or in another fashion or something else. I know when we start graphing quadratics, they won't be able to find the equations that the parabolas form, but it can give some interesting motivation. I've got some thinking to do before Monday....

In one of my Algebra 2 classes, I have quite a few highly motivated and intelligent freshmen. There a few of them who pride themselves on being able to come up with correct answers and maintain a 100% average (and are highly competitive as you might guess). One day last week I brought out the dice and shared the "Polar Bear Game" with them. If you are not familiar -
The name is the game and the game is in the name and the name of the game is "Polar Bears Around an Ice Hole." Like petals around a rose, how many polar bears do you see?
They don't all have it yet, but several of their classmates do. It's been fun to watch them struggle a little - especially since they are not accustomed to struggling. I think the best moment was when one of the other freshmen (rather intelligent, but not in "their circle") watched for 2 rolls and on the third roll had figured out the riddle/answer correctly. He was the first one to get it. After that, several other students have started to watch and have gotten quicker than a few of these high-achieving students have. It's been cool to watch. Guess I'll have to find something else to try with them here in a few weeks or so... (Suggestions are welcome!)

Sunday, November 04, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Transformations Unit

Last year, I shared the transformations matching cards I used with my Advanced Algebra 2 students. With teaching transformations for the first time to all Algebra 2 students, I have revamped my lesson and cards. Thanks are due to @druinok for her help in hashing out what I was doing with this unit.

I'm working with F.BF.3:
Identify the effect on the graph of replacing f(x) by f(x) + k, k f(x), f(kx), and f(x + k) for specific values of k (both positive and negative); find the value of k given the graphs. Experiment with cases and illustrate an explanation of the effects on the graph using technology. Include recognizing even and odd functions from their graphs and algebraic expressions for them.

After discussions with both @druinok and our pre-calculus teacher, I decided to hold off on the f(kx) portion. @druinok shared that in her state, they don't do the horizontal stretches and compression in Algebra 2 and our pre-calculus teacher said that until you are working with a periodic function, the horizontal and vertical appear to be the same. So I will wait to bring in the f(kx) part until we get to graphing sine and cosine later this year.

I began very similarly to what Rebecka Peterson did by introducing parent functions to my students on day one. Here is what I gave my students:

(I don't know WHY the graphs keep showing up wrong, but they do. It looks right in Word but I can't get it to show correctly.)

It went way quicker than I anticipated - it only took about 20-25 minutes from start to finish. I haven't decided if in future years I will start into the notes following this or what to do to not leave so much open time on day one.

The second and third day, we worked through this packet:

 (Like the last one, still having issues with the graphs. Not sure why.)

The second day, we got through the first two pages of the packet. I had students work through the three graphs and descriptions and we did the summary piece together.

The fourth day, I had a meeting. I left an activity that their Algebra 1 teacher called "Around the World." I've done this as a scavenger hunt before. Here are the pages I used:

I had a brainstorm for my fifth day activity. I didn't feel real comfortable coming in after being out the day before and having them start into the assessment activity. So, after going over questions from the practice problems and the Around the World activity, I had students make "appointments" like in the Appointment Test Review activity that Mrs. H blogged about. Then I had students make up 1 or 2 equations for functions that they transformed (depending on how much time was left in class). The only guideline I gave them was that each equation had to have at least 2 transformations. Then, when they met with each appointment, they exchanged equations and had to find the transformations. This went pretty well for many students, although some still had some difficulty coming up with the transformations after they made up their equations. Most students went with two transformations. I collected their cards at the end of the period.

On the sixth day, I had students do the Transformations Matching Cards as their assessment for the activity. I had them work in pairs and allowed them to use the note pages. Rather than have them complete 5 sets like I had last year, I had them work through 3 sets. Students are matching pictures of the graph with the description of the transformations and the equation of the graph. I had students work with the five parent functions they graphed on the first day. Many of the equations came from what they generated on the 5th day. Here is the what I gave them:

They did very well with the assessment - I am sure part of that is that I allowed them to use their notes and their cards with the parent functions. Possibly next year I would allow them to work in partners but without notes, but still with the parent function cards. Overall, i am pleased how this unit went.

All of the files I used are shown through - they are in docx format and you are welcome to download and adjust them as needed. If you are having trouble, feel free to email me at lmhenry9 at gmail dot com and I'll be happy to email you a copy directly. I hope this helps someone out.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

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Friday, October 26, 2012

The Current State of Teachers

I am not one to espouse politics or be "rah rah teachers" in public, but I have to say that I am getting sick of being put through the ringer. As I have been reading blogs and taking stock of my own situation at the moment, it seems pretty clear to me that most teachers I know seem to be more strapped for time and stressed than ever. I have taught over 20 years now and I am barely a day ahead in my planning. Even when I was a first year teacher, I don't think I was this close in my planning. I have noticed that many teachers who have been blogging a while have a lack of blog posts, or a lack of posts of stuff that is going on in their classroom. I'm guessing that this isn't due to the lack of great things going on in their classes, but rather from a lack of time to blog about it.

Teachers have been under fire in the media and by politicians for some time. Granted, there are some who have been fighting it publicly. but for the most part, you don't see teachers fighting it. I don't think it's because we are willing to accept the additional work and stresses and criticisms we have been placed under. I think it's because we are conscientious workers who honestly try to do the best we can for our students and because of that, we are busy trying to make sure we are doing the best possible job in our classrooms. And with the remaining time, we are busy trying to keep things afloat at home and in our own lives. It's not that we don't care and that we like being criticized - we don't. But we are just too busy trying to do the best we can to stop and comment.

I can't quite put my finger on why everyone is so busy/stressed/strapped. Is it because of Common Core? Well, not everyone is transitioning yet. Is it because we are all trying to be really awesome teachers and incorporating all of the great stuff we have found in blogs and on Twitter? Well, even my colleagues who are not reading blogs or tweeting are busy and stressed. Is it because we have had more stuff added to our plates? Possibly - I can say that is true at my school since we are doing more with less staff, but I'm not totally convinced that we have had that much added to our plates (but we have had stuff added). Is it because of increased family responsibilities? Maybe. Is it a combination of all of these things? Well, for me it is, but I'm not sure for everyone else. But something has changed this year.

I wish there was some way to promote, convince, make our case public or something. I think a lot of people still think that we have an 8 - 3 job and have summers off plus other vacations during the year and we have it easy. The reality is, we don't. I spend from 6:45 am until 3:15 pm in my school most days, plus usually at least an hour or two each night in planning or grading or researching for lessons as well as an additional 2-3 hours (minimum) on Sunday getting ready for the week ahead. I'm sure that many of you do the same. Don't even get me started about summer. Although we're not at school and working, I am still thinking about and reading and researching for my classes next year. Yes, I do get time off, but it's not as much as people may think. I think the worst thing for me this year is that I am stealing time when my kids are playing together (and not arguing or tearing the house apart) trying to get stuff ready for the next day or two. All of this adds up. It wears on your mind and eventually your body. It's a minor miracle that I haven't gotten sick yet this year - I'm just waiting for it to happen given the pace I have been keeping.

So, what am I going to do about it? Well, I guess I'm continuing to try to get more than 2 days ahead in my class planning. I keep telling that once I reach that point that I'll feel a bit more comfortable. Haven't gotten there yet, unfortunately. I'm going to try to do nice things for my fellow teachers, even if it's something as small as sharing a kind word or a small gesture. But beyond that, I can't really say what I'll do. I feel so helpless to get off this darn hamster wheel I am on. Try as I may, I just can't seem to get into the planning groove I have had in years past. I am striving to get there, but failing. So, I'll do what I know I can do: try to get ahead and try to be as positive as possible. Maybe at some point, I'll feel like I have the energy and the time to defend my choice of profession as we continue to be attacked. But for now, I am going to do what I know best: affect change where I can make a difference.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What a difference a year makes

I am going to be brief, but I have to say I am amazed at how well my Algebra 2 students did with functions so far. We had an assessment Friday over operations, composition, inverses, and piecewise functions (including absolute value). Traditionally for me, this has been a section that students have struggled with. I am pleased to share that they did well on their assessment. Most scores were 3's, 4's, and 5's - most of them in the 4-5 range. 

When I taught these concepts and checked how they were doing with it, they were doing fairly well. I was trying to figure out what was different - why they were doing so well. I know I shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth, but I needed to know what went RIGHT after so many years of struggling. I can only pinpoint a few things:
  • this group of kids has been under the old curriculum a longer time (not buying this one... last year's group only had one less year and they did horrible)
  • I've been highly influenced by the Math Twitterblogosphere and I finally figured out how to explain it well. :-)
  • We had a different Algebra 1 teacher for the first time in 5 years.
In reality, I know that a good part of it is due to the 3rd bullet point. I'd like to think that I've made a lot of good changes since last year, but the reality is, the only major change I made was in how I did piecewise functions and maybe in some of the questioning and wording that I did of explanations. These students have come to me knowing much more than previous years' groups. Now, again, part of that may be that this group of kids may have had teachers who have taken the curriculum we were under seriously and pushed these students to learn the material well. But I think a good part of it is due to their previous teacher.

Their previous teacher was a first year teacher last year. Sadly, he is no longer with my district. He and his new wife have settled in a different area based on where she was able to find a teaching job and he was able to find a job closer to her. I totally get that - I was there once also (took me 5 years to get in the same place as my now-husband). Family has to come first. But I am still sad that he isn't my (direct) teaching colleague anymore. Now, don't get me wrong, he was not perfect. But, he did a great job with teaching the students I have now. His classroom management was quite good for a first year teacher. He held his students to high standards and they achieved them, and retained a good part of the information he taught them. Did they all remember the information right away? No, but with a little reminding, they remembered pretty quickly that they had been taught functions and they understood the notation. 

Quadratics are up next for us and I had hopes before finishing grading papers that I may be able to skip the multiplication of binomials and polynomials. I still have quite a few students struggling with it. However, I am confident with a little more practice, they'll get it again. It is amazing what a difference a year makes. A different teacher, who truly cares about teaching and teaching mathematics to the best of his ability, makes a considerable difference. I am hoping that his successor is as good of a teacher as this first year teacher was. I'll be curious to see how my former colleague develops as a teacher. I am confident that if he continues on the track he began as a first year teacher, he will be a great teacher. I am grateful that my students had him last year and that his students came to me well-prepared.

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Piecewise Functions

Piecewise functions have been something my students have always struggled with. They don't always get they are taking parts of the function and graphing them on the same graph. They'd like to graph the whole graph of all functions on the same graph or they don't have an idea where to get the points to graph. So, I am changing up piecewise functions this year based on some suggestions from the Math Twitterblogosphere.

The first thing I did was introduce piecewise functions via Mathalicious' Domino Effect lesson. (shameless ad - I've met Karim and had wonderful conversation with him. He and his company are doing some great things to help teachers. It is worth the money to subscribe and have access to the lessons. Go check it out. I'll wait. :-) ) I had used this at Hedge's suggestion - she had used it in her Algebra 2 classes to introduce piecewise functions.

On the second day, I adapted what Maggie has done with her PreCalculus students when introducing piecewise functions. She created an investigation where the students graphed the individual functions and cut out the pieces needed and put them together on a graph. What a great idea! Granted, right now we are working with piecewise linear functions, but the idea is fantastic. So, I took her idea and modified it to fit what we were doing with piecewise functions. Here is what I came up with:

I should add here that the graph is larger and has the printed axes on it - for some reason, I can't get it to show correctly when uploading to either box or scribd. If you want the file, try the updated post or send me an email at lmhenry9 at gmail dot com.

We only had time to work through the first two functions, We did the first one (mostly) together as a class, so that students would understand how to put them together. Once the first one was complete, we talked about what a piecewise function is and how it is created. We discussed the domain restrictions and why we cut out the individual pieces. On the second function, we talked about how to determine which x-values to use in the table and they walked through the process. When it came time to cut out the functions, students asked how to determine where to cut the graphs and we discussed the domain restrictions again. Here are some samples of what my students did:

When the kids returned on Monday, we went over the last question and discussed how to deal with the more open-ended domain. I then went over 2 piecewise examples with them without doing the formal cut-and-paste. With the remaining 20 minutes, I had students work on 5 problems in class. Most students got through all 5 problems and I was surprised that not only did they have very few questions on how to start, but that they were working successfully on the problems they attempted.

What a difference compared to previous times I have taught this concept! In the past, I have not even broached this topic with the regular Algebra 2 students, only the Advanced students, and even then, they have struggled with it. What a huge difference - students actually seemed to understand what parts to graph and to put it together on one graph. I am really pleased with how this turned out. Thanks Hedge, Mathalicious, and Maggie for all the great parts to this lesson!