Sunday, May 27, 2012

My Diigo Bookmarks (weekly)

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

Thursday, May 24, 2012


School is almost done - it's time to reflect (in another post) and make the #summerlist:

1) Twitter Math Camp!!! (If you're not familiar - check here) In prep for TMC, I'm starting work on the Exeter Problem Sets. @druinok and I will be putting the schedule together and getting the organization done as soon as the dust begins to settle here from the end of school. I am really looking forward to this - going to meet over 20 (at current count) of my tweeps! July 19th can't get here soon enough.

2) Revamp SBG. I had made revisions last summer and I will be tweaking again. I definitely don't think I'm going to do the teach 3 - quiz 6 - teach 3 - quiz 6 that I did this year. I haven't totally decided how it's all going to work yet, but Common Core's organization will play into it.

3) Tweak Bellringers. I have already started thinking about this and will continue to ponder this.

4) Adjust Learning Targets in Algebra 2. This is happening because of Common Core. I'm looking at following the order and structure set up here. This year will be a transition year since Algebra 1 was not taught under Common Core. We'll see how it plays out.

5) Set up Math 2 for SBG. It looks like (as of right now), I will be teaching Math 2 (think Geometry without the proofs) in addition to Algebra 2. I last taught it pre-SBG and pre-blog. Lots of stuff to think about here - I've made changes in grading and how I teach.

6) Recharge. It's summer, isn't that a given?

Update on Logs

I am just about done grading the exponentials and logs quizzes from today and my students did about the best they have ever done in the years I've taught Algebra 2. Here are a couple of things that I did that worked:

My version of Log Wars (with a reference to the loop for logs from Amy Gruen)  - both of these worked amazingly well with my students. I could see that they understood what to do and could show me how to get the answers. My Advanced Algebra 2 students wanted to play Log Wars again.

Kate Nowak's approach to the Log Laws was also helpful. Students are still struggling with them, but struggling less than in years past. Still gotta work with this one some more to get it where I'd like.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

My Diigo Bookmarks (weekly)

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

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My Version of Log Wars

Today in Algebra 2, we did my version of Logarithm War. For the uninitiated, here is the post from Kate Nowak with her version. With my Algebra 2 students, my goal was to have them practice solving for x in a logarithmic equation. If you've read my blog as of late, I have been very frustrated with their lack of arithmetic skills, especially with regards to powers lately.  What I did was have them get into pairs and grab whiteboards. There are 36 cards (so if I had an odd number of students, there could be a group of 3 and still divide the piles into equal numbers) and they were divide the cards into equal piles. Each student was to work out their problem and the person with the highest answer got the cards. If they were equal, they were to lay down another card face down and then a 3rd card face up, which they were to work out to determine the winner. Winner of each pair at the end of the period got a blow pop.

Here are the cards I used:

Thoughts from today -

  • As usual, my Advanced Algebra 2 students were the most enthusiastic about this. They were certainly the loudest group of the 4. 
  • Pairs in two of my classes thought the winner of the "hand" should be who got their answer correct first instead of who had the highest answer. Thoughts for a variation, maybe? I didn't want to emphasize speed today but accuracy instead.
  • Most everyone participated. I had one pair in one class who didn't do more than maybe 4 pairs. "I already knew how to do it," was one of the students' comment in that pair. That student took away practice from his/her partner which wasn't helpful to him/her. :-( Even my lowest ability students did participate (although, again, maybe not as much as I would have liked, but at May 17th, I'll take whatever I can get).
  • I was able to get around and help many students who needed help getting started. Once they got going, they were involved and it worked well.
  • However, in all of my regular Algebra 2 classes, they stopped after going through the pack once. My last regular Algebra 2 class had a couple of pairs who kept going and in my Advanced Algebra 2 class, they kept going until I told them to quit. I could add cards and make a larger pack, but I'm not sure if I'm going to head there.
  • Overall, it was a good activity and worth doing.
I should also add that I used Amy Gruen's Loop for Logs as a teaching aid for changing from logarithmic form to exponential form. It works very well and I am grateful for this great idea. If you haven't checked out her blog before, there are lots of good things there - stop and take a look!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Bellringers - Next Year

As the year is winding down, I start to think of things I want to change. Last summer, one of the things I wanted to put together was some sort of organized bellringers/warm-ups for students to work on when they got into class. Although I like having a theme for each day, my students really don't do the bellringers as I would like. So, of course, that means some tweaking.

I am still going to keep to my Testing Tuesdays/Thursdays I think. I think it is the best way to expose my students to OGT style questions and since the OGT was done in March, I have been using practice ACT questions on those days. This website has been very helpful. I would like to have a better way to ensure they actually practice them and I am considering having half sheets of paper for students to work them and turn in. Maybe that will get them actually doing them...

I am debating still what to do about Mondays and Wednesdays. I may still keep Mental Mondays - I like the brain teasers and trivia questions I have put in front of them. They do make them think, but again, I don't think they take it as seriously as I'd like. What We've Been Doin' Wednesdays may also stay or become some sort of a flex day. The biggest issue is getting them to actually do the problems.

I think the biggest change I am going to make is on Fridays. With just having finished radicals, it is incredibly apparent that their basic math skills are sorely lacking. I still don't get how students do not have a concept of what a perfect square is, even after (re)explaining it and giving them a list (plus telling them how to re-create the list). If the list isn't in front of them, many cannot come up with perfect squares. It also bothers me immensely how calculator dependent students are for basic integer operations.

So, here's my solution: Fact Fridays. Students will come into class on Friday and get 5-10 index cards with basic facts on them - all four operations with integers, perfect squares, perfect powers they should know, square roots, cube roots - whatever facts they ought to be able to recall quickly. They are to go up to another student, or once I've done attendance, me, and he or she will show the student a fact. Either they can answer it (I'll put the answers on the back) and get the card, or they cannot and the quizzing student keeps the card. The student with the most at the end of a set time (probably 3-5 minutes) will get a (candy) treat. I'm not 100% sure on this, but this is as far as I've hashed it out. Any comments or suggestions are welcome.

I realize that students have become this way because of the lack of emphasis of having basic facts memorized in the previous (Ohio) curriculum and the tendency of previous teachers to emphasize the use of the calculator when a student is stuck. I'm certainly guilty of the latter. At this point, I want to encourage the fact fluency that the Common Core State Standards for Mathematics is pushing. I'm hoping to be a part of the solution rather than perpetuating the problem. I hope this helps.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

My Diigo Bookmarks (weekly)

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

Sunday, May 06, 2012

My Diigo Bookmarks (weekly)

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

Friday, May 04, 2012

A Broken Record

My Advanced Algebra 2 students had their quiz today. It had some rational expressions and some radical expressions on it. My Algebra 2 students are working on radical expressions. It continues to boggle me why these students cannot retain material. We did multiplying binomials - and a few still struggle with this - but when it comes to multiplying two radical expressions like (2 + sqrt 3)(4 - sqrt 3) - a majority of them forget to distribute both terms in the first parentheses to both terms in the second parentheses. I just don't get why they had it at one point (or close to had it) and now they can't remember to distribute. Does it have to do with the fact that they weren't taught it until May of the Algebra 1 year? Does it have to do with how it was taught to them at that point in time? I don't think I did anything majorly different in how I taught it back in December and January, in fact I had given them some additional practice in a different way that I described here. And don't even get me started on perfect squares. When simplifying radicals, they are sometimes choosing numbers that are not perfect squares (like 8). I'm sitting here trying to figure out why it still isn't sticking with them. Is it me? Is it them? Is it a combination of both? Or does it have to do with that it's May 4th and they don't want to work very hard at this point? Or all of the above?

If it's me - I am trying to figure out what to do differently next year. Although I still don't know what I am teaching, I am hoping that I am still teaching Algebra 2. Next year's group will have been exposed to more material and in (hopefully) a better manner, so maybe that will help. But if I'm the one making the mistakes - I need to figure out what they are and make serious improvements. I have taught 20 years and I have never seen so many students not be able to retain and/or transfer concepts like this. I know I have made some changes in how I do things but I thought they were for the better. When I do some of the different things I have done this year, students are more involved in class. They seem to be working through the problems (although they are still asking a bunch of questions). So why does it seem worse and not better?

I have blogged about this before (see here, here, here, here, and here). I know I sound like a broken record, but it is really bothering me. How do you get past this? I am also concerned because my last unit with them will be exponentials and logarithms and I am counting on them to remember the exponent rules we talked about earlier in the year as well as some of the powers (like 5^2) without going to their calculators all of the time. I am already sensing I am going to be fighting an uphill battle with them during the last few weeks of school. I know that I am more frustrated about it because it's a Friday in May and it is Prom today on top of that, so I have spent most of today dealing with students who don't want to do anything. But regardless of when it is, it is still an issue and I need to figure out what to do about it. I've got nothing right now.