Sunday, August 26, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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

Friday, August 24, 2012

Freshly Minted New Math Bloggers Week 1

Hi everyone! Courtesy of Sam Shah's New Blogger Initiation, here are 15 freshly minted blog posts by new math teacher bloggers. Please take some time, check them out, and comment! As those of you who blog know, those comments sometimes really help keep you going - they let you know that you're not alone in this great Math Twitterblogosphere and they also encourage you to keep blogging! So take a few moments and help these new bloggers out. Thanks!

David Price (@compactspaces) - Compact Spaces
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "First NBI (and ever!) post" and the author sums it up as follows: Since teachers have offices but no fixed rooms at my school, a major concern of my mine is how to build a strong classroom culture (and smoothly running classroom) without the use of four walls. Thus one of my goals is to figure out some portable ways of incorporating things like rules/norms, student work, and supplies into the structure of my classes. A memorable quotation from the post is: Goal: Start to figure out what “mobile solutions” I can use to make my classes run more smoothly and create the classroom culture I want.
My reactions: I take for granted that I have a room of my own. I appreciated the concerns he shared because they are concerns that I could relate to, even though I have just one classroom. 

Sarah Educating (@saraheducating) - Sarah Educating
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "Old habits die hard?" and the author sums it up as follows: In this post, I talk about how one of my goals this year is to do better at providing students with useful, timely feedback about their learning, despite my issues with procrastination. One of the ways I want to do this is to lead students through self-assessment of tests (and maybe other projects?) more often. Why? I've done this a bit in the past and I think it can be a really powerful tool. A memorable quotation from the post is: Why yes, Parent Trap was my favorite childhood movie!
My reactions: Some interesting ideas. I really appreciated that she put a disclaimer before she described what happened in her classroom. There are a lot of times I read blog posts and I think it's a good idea, then when I step back and think about how it would work in my classroom, I realize it's not possible. Then I wonder under what circumstances the author did it. Those of you who do SBG may want to read this post and think about what she does with her classes.

Mathaholic - Confessions of a Mathaholic
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "Analytical, Numerical, or Graphical?" and the author sums it up as follows: The post is about my adopting graphing calculators into the precalculus curriculum and embracing solving problems using multiple methods. A memorable quotation from the post is: But while I used to look at the graphing calculators as a crutch to critical thinking skills, I now see it as a useful tool in allowing the student to use numerical and graphical methods to solve problems.
My reactions: Interesting thoughts. I have taught for 20 years and I have used a graphing calculator most of the time in my Algebra 2 classes. My emphasis has always been on the analytical and knowing how to graph/do the process by hand, However, the author brings up some very valid points - ones I had not thought about before. S/He has given me something to think about.

Kristin Elix (@mathchica) - 7th Grade Math Mania
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "My Most Prized Possession From My First Year" and the author sums it up as follows: Last year was my first year of teaching and I prided myself in my ability to form lasting relationships with my students. This post is an example of a result of forming a positive relationship with one of my students who was very quiet at the beginning of the year. I formed a relationship with her that I feel is lasting and I know I've made a difference in her life, simply because I took the time to smile at her and show her I care! A memorable quotation from the post is: While I want to teach my kids math, I also want to teach them how to be kind, caring, respectful young adults and I want to show my students that they are wanted, loved, and appreciated, and that I will always be there for them.
My reactions: I keep a "smile file" of letters and notes like this. I can see why it's so special to her.

Emily Steinmetz - Crazy in Math
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "Try, try, and try again..." and the author sums it up as follows: Two ideas that I am trying to work through without annoying my students. A memorable quotation from the post is: I hope I am better at these two ideas than most people are at their New Year's Resolutions....
My reactions: She is using math buddies in a different fashion than I have heard of before. It's an intriguing concept to me and I hope that she blogs more about it later in the year.

Jill Gorneau - Prepared To Be Wrong
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "Focusing on what comes first" and the author sums it up as follows: I decided to post about a new focus for my lessons for the year. I attended a Dan Meyer workshop over the summer and I've been mulling over how relevant the Three Act Lessons are for my adult students. I picked up so many tidbits from Dan, and this post is my conclusion on how I can best use his insights for my students. A memorable quotation from the post is:  Ask Dan how his wife’s knitting is coming along from that trip.
My reactions: It's always good to see someone else's reactions to someone or something you have seen before. I think it will be interesting to see if she gets a similar or different reaction to the 3 Act Lessons than teachers of teenagers have.

Joe B (@forumjoe) - lim joe→∞  
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "New Beginnings" and the author sums it up as follows: It's about my blog, my objectives and why I've created it. A memorable quotation from the post is: It was Mathsy, it was nerdy and it was appropriate for me. It signified growth, it showed that I’m getting older, do I get wiser at the same time? As my age approaches infinity, does my wisdom? I loved the sort of questions this title signified.
My reactions: It's neat to read how people chose the title of their blogs. If I could change the title of mine (which at this point I can't), I think I'd choose something shorter. Regardless, the title fits me. :-)

Katrina Hamilton (@klwarsin) - Lady Leibniz and the Galileo Girls
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "Experimentation" and the author sums it up as follows: I'm switching to standards based grading. This post focuses on why I wanted to change from what I did and how I'm going to introduce my new policy to my administration, my students and the parents.  A memorable quotation from the post is: In the end, for my students (and most parents), it was about the final grade, NOT the fascinating, mysterious, totally awesome math (or physics) we'd been studying.
My reactions: I was in the spot she is now 3 years ago when starting Standards Based Grading. It sounds like she has thought this through and I hope she does well with it.

Kate (@fourkatie) - Axis of Reflection
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "What's in a name?" and the author sums it up as follows: A blog was born, it was named, and then it languished. In response the new blogger initiative I shared how I picked the name for my blog and why I decided to blog over a year ago and what got me actually blogging. A memorable quotation from the post is: I felt that I had been lurking and reading and benefiting from the marvelous mathtwitterblogosphere and that perhaps it was time to contribute something back to that community.
My reactions: I have "known" Kate for quite a while on Twitter. I'm glad to see she's reviving her blog. Thanks for sharing why you named it what you did.

Leslie Billings (@leslie_su76) - mslcbillings
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "Begin as you mean to go on" and the author sums it up as follows: This post is about first day/week goals. I look at specifics for my two classes, then summarize with a generalization. A memorable quotation from the post is: The only way to make sure it happens is to start with it right away, first week and don’t let up.
My reactions: I like her thought about how she doesn't want to begin with administratia because that would imply that's what the year will be about. It's a great thought and makes complete sense to me. Now if I can only figure out what I'm going to do with my kids day one...

Bruno Reddy (@mrreddymaths) -  Mr Reddy Maths
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "My First-Week-Back Goal: Hook, Line and Sinker" and the author sums it up as follows: It's the happy-ending story I tell pupils on their first day of secondary school to help them believe they can realise their potential. A memorable quotation from the post is: I get all Michelle-Pfeiffer on them and sell them something they never thought they could afford…to dream huge.
My reactions: This is a neat visualization process. Very nicely done.

Mary Watson (@mkwatson) - Reality Squared
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "Excited Exhaustion" and the author sums it up as follows: This post is a summary of my feeling about my first week so that in the future I can look back and remember all the great things that happened this week and help me focus on what needs to happen to help next week go a bit better. A memorable quotation from the post is: One day, I hope I can pay that forward for another new teacher.
My reactions: I am SO right there with her right now. I am probably the least prepared at this point in my 20 years. It usually takes me 3-4 weeks to find my school groove.

Brendan K (@tinmousetrap) - TinMousetrap
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "A Goal for The First Week of School" and the author sums it up as follows: I have a goal this year to avoid rushing through course expectations, policies, and procedures as a 'file-it-away' formality. I would love to have different outlines for different class that carefully reflect my expectations for them. No more 'cookie-cutter' handouts! A memorable quotation from the post is: As for my other classes during the first week, my goal is to provide a more authentic vision of my expectations.
My reactions: Another newbie to SBG. He has some solid goals for the start of his year.

Dorrie Bright (@hwalksintoabar) - h walks into a bar
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "Within these walls" and the author sums it up as follows: Anticipation and creating space (creating space and anticipation?) A memorable quotation from the post is: Gratitude for process.
My reactions: Dorrie is teaching Physics in a new space to her that needs transformed for her needs. Looks like she has some neat stuff and I hope she'll post some pictures.

Bernt Jolicoeur (@brentjolicoeur) - Reflections & Transformations
The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled "(NBI) Improvements to Make This Year" and the author sums it up as follows: I've tried to summarize my personal goals for improvement this year. I have also touched on some of the other week 1 prompts in my initial blog posts I think. A memorable quotation from the post is: My primary foci of change for this year revolves around this key theme. (I have no idea??)
My reactions: Brent sets three goals for himself this year. They sound very similar to goals I set for myself every year.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pre-School Funk 2012

Well, it's back and worse than ever. The pre-school funk. The one you get about 2-3 weeks before school when you realize that summer is coming to an end and it's time to go back to work. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy teaching. Some days, I can honestly say I even love it. Most days I can say that I like it, and that's a good thing. But I have enjoyed my summer and I love not having to work.

I can certainly pinpoint reasons why it is so bad this year.

We had a wonderful trip to Johnson City, TN in June for the Monte Carlo Nationals which included a trip to Bristol Motor Speedway for a tour and laps around the track.



Twitter Math Camp. Enough said.

Well, maybe not enough. As awesome as Twitter Math Camp was, I honestly think it is what is having such a profound affect on this year's funk. I guess it's for two reasons. One, as much as I hate to say it, I am experiencing such a let down after TMC finished. For a week, I did NOTHING. Most of that was I had done a lot in the days and weeks leading up to TMC in addition to Mommy duties. I am finding at this point that I am missing my friends a lot. It was so wonderful to be together with people that I have conversed with online for years and who I feel "get" me. It was phenomenal to have the conversations we did - about teaching, about math, and about life. I have never been in a group of math teachers who "get" how I feel about teaching and mathematics. It was great to feel "normal" and in a group of like-minded individuals and I miss them all immensely. I am grateful for their presence in my life and I am glad to know that they are only a tweet away.

But there is a second reason why I am experiencing such a let down. As I approach this school year, I am feeling awfully inadequate. I have been reading what others are doing as they start school and I look at what I am planning and it feels so mundane. I am struggling to figure out what math I want my students to do the first day and I see everyone's great ideas and find myself frustrated that I can't come up with something as good. Then I reflect on how my class tends to go and, again, I look at what everyone else is doing and what we shared at TMC and think about how mediocre my class is in comparison.

Now, before you all think that I am having myself a huge pity party (which I am to an extent), I also know that I don't totally suck. I realize that when we blog about stuff we share our good stuff, but also that we don't do the good stuff every day. Kristen Fouss taught me that when I visited her class 2 years ago. However, with Common Core, there is certainly the pressure to change how we teach. I am encouraged by Mrs. H (Math Tales from the Spring if you're not familiar) that I can make changes even after teaching for 20 years. It doesn't change that I am nervous and scared about it, though. I also know that good teachers aren't afraid to beg, borrow, and steal whatever they think will work for their classroom and adapt it accordingly. I've done that the last two years in particular and I am getting rather good at it. It doesn't change that for once, I'd like to come up with a good original thought and have others be able to use it as I have done with their stuff.

I wish I had favorited the tweet that had the link to a short article I read last week. The article was addressed to veteran teachers and one of the things that stuck with me was about enthusiasm. It made the point to not be overenthusiastic the first day because that's not what you (as a veteran teacher) are. It shows you are trying too hard - which is oftentimes what first year teachers do. As I have been looking at first day posts (this one by MissCalcul8 sticks out - I really like this by the way), I have really liked some of them but I keep coming back to "this is not me." But what is "me" at this point? I'm not sure. Some of the stuff I have seen I have really liked, but trying to make it work in my classroom doesn't make sense - I'm a 40 something teacher with 20 years experience, and, let's face it, we aren't exactly known for being "hip" and "current." My twist on "Call Me Maybe" probably wouldn't come across real well. In fact, I'd be more afraid that it would come across as being a has-been trying to hold on to her youth (which I'm not).

Which brings me back to my funk. I'm not a teaching has-been trying to hold onto my early teaching years. For that matter, I don't want to revisit my young teaching years (for the most part). But I do want to be the best teacher I can be. There is a part of me that knows I cannot let go of how I have taught in the past. I still think that showing students examples and letting them work through them with guidance in the classroom is an effective way to teach mathematics. It may not be the best way all of the time, but I still think it's more effective than some will give it credit. But how much? What is the right balance? Where do I begin in making changes without completely going overboard?

I guess I better figure out the answers soon. Students come a week from Wednesday and I go back a week from Monday. There isn't much time left in vacation. Although, really, at this point, vacation is a loose term meaning I'm not at work. Honestly, the real work starts this week with prepping my room and beginning lesson plans for the upcoming year. So long, Summer 2012. I will fondly look back upon you often this year.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Math Bloggers: Need Help?

Sam Shah has put together an amazing challenge for new math bloggers. It was so amazing that he got almost 200 respondents (who knew there were that many people wanting to blog about math teaching?). There are about 10 of us who have offered to help out by featuring these new bloggers on their own blog. I am one of these "experienced bloggers."

Like Sue VanHattum, I also wanted to offer help. If it weren't for the encouragement of many in the math twitterblogosphere (such as Julie, Kristen, and Shelli), I wouldn't have gotten very far. So, like Sue, I am going to offer some help for up to 5 new bloggers who need some encouragement. If you have questions and would like some answers from someone who's been there, post in the comments, please. I'll take the first 5. You can then email me at lmhenry9 at gmail and I'll answer them.

Meanwhile, I look forward to hear what you all have to say!

#globalmath Presentation on Review Games

Thanks to Megan Hayes-Golding, we have been meeting on Tuesday evenings at 9 pm Eastern as a "Global Math Department." The Global Math Department is primarily teachers from grades 6-12. who teach math. Last week, Megan presented on Interactive Notebooks. This week, Julie Reulbach presented on Foldables.

I have agreed to facilitate the September 11th meeting on Review Games. I am going to do this "My Favorites.." style. What that means is I will give the mike (and screen if you wish) to whomever has a review game to share. You can sign up for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, or however long you need. Keep in mind that the meeting runs between 45 minutes and an hour. If you are interested and willing to present, please complete the Google Form below before September 7th, so I can get the presentation organized. Thanks!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Revised SBG Scale

I have been pondering this on and off over the last week, and even though I am on vacation, I need to flesh this out some more. I started revising my SBG scale and I am stuck. I have posted twice about why I am changing this summer (here and here). I have figured out what changes I am going to make, but I am struggling finishing it up. Here is what I used to do and what I am going to do this year (same document):

I took most of my descriptions from Lauren DeReche's post - I liked the simplicity and clarity. I hope that will help clear up some questions. However, as I have looked at people's descriptions, they have been using a 4 point scale and I'm just not comfortable with doing that. So I am sticking with my 5 point scale. I am struggling with what to name level 4 and 5. At the moment, I have "Mastery" for 5 but I am considering "Master" for 4 and "Expert" for 5. The "Limited," "Basic", and "Proficient" all came from what we use in Ohio for the state test scores. The upper two levels are "Accelerated" and "Advanced." I didn't like those for what I was doing here. The 4.5 level, I think I am going to call ____ Plus (whatever I name the 4 level). I only give the 4.5 if they make one minor arithmetic mistake but have the concept.

Please help! I need names for 4 and 5 as well as confirmation that my descriptors make sense. As always, leave what you got in the comments. Thanks in advance for your help!

Monday, August 13, 2012

#made4math Monday, August 13, 2012

I'm on vacation when this posts, but I did manage to get a #made4math done before I left.
In June, when I left school, I had talked to my principal about not using a textbook. She was very supportive but would like me to watch the paper usage. In fact, she'd really like me to work on teaching them how to take notes and she likes Cornell Notes. So, I had tweeted looking for help. Enter my good friend Shelli to the rescue! They do AVID at their school and Cornell Notes is an integral part. She had posted this great post about how to use Cornell Notes and included a bookmark for students to use. Well, like so many other #made4math posts, I've taken her idea and improved it....

First, here's my file:

I used other fonts that didn't save well - obviously take and modify them as you wish. I have two classes this year - Algebra 2 and Math 2. The ones you will see are the Algebra 2 ones.

1) Modify the file as you wish - with your contact information, etc. I got the SMART Questions from this website (several of you have pinned it - this is the actual website).

2) Print on cardstock.
As you can see, the card stock does warp a little when it comes out of the laser printer.

3) Cut. I have the file set up for 1/6" margins on either side of the 2 1/2" textbox. Enter my Fiskars 12"x12" rotary paper cutter. I cut at 5 2/3" and 2 5/6" (approximately) as marked on my guide below in blue.

So, this is what you have:
Shelli had you hole punch them and you're done.

But, wait, there's more! I got a new toy!
It's a Purple Cow 13" Hot and Cold Laminator. I got mine at Pat Catan's (a local craft store) for $30. As you can see, I got a great deal! So, continuing...

4) Turn on laminator. Put bookmarks into lamination sleeve and laminate.

5) Now cut and hole punch and you're done! I was not as precise as I'd like when cutting. I will have to do a little better on the rest of them. The top and bottom don't matter as much - it's the sides that should be nice and clean.

And there you have it - nice, LAMINATED Cornell Notes Bookmarks that should last. Again, a little time consuming, but they look great! (Yes, I'm a little biased, here, I know.)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

My Weekly Diigo Links (weekly)

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

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Teaching in an "On Demand" World

Call me old fashioned, but I think we have lost sight of "real time." I know to some of you, this is going to come off sounding like a rant, and if you feel that way, then I apologize for being a little self-indulgent.

(Commence Rant)
I understand that we are in a digital age. DVR, Hulu, and the like lets us watch our favorite television shows whenever we want after they are broadcast. I can upload the pictures I just took of my kids to Facebook, Twitter, etc. to show all of my friends. For that matter, I could have just taken 50 pictures of said children and upload them all, good, bad or indifferent. I get emails from USA Today telling me the breaking news (including spoiling all of the good stuff in that is going to broadcast in Prime Time Olympic coverage). I think we have gotten way too spoiled with all of this.

Not everything can be so immediate. Twitter conversations can be read at any point in time, but it does lose a little when you are replying to a tweet 18 hours after it happens. Regardless of the time lag, I'm still glad when people do respond later on. Sometimes it helps me find something I missed. There are all sorts of interactions that happen online at scheduled times, like #mathchat or the Global Math Department meeting. As much as I'd like to take part in these, there are other things going on in my life that may preclude my involvement, so I miss them. I might be able to go back and find an archive of #mathchat or maybe at some point, whoever is doing the Global Math Department meeting may decide to record it and upload it to the internet, but it won't be the same as interacting in real time. Twitter Math Camp was a phenomenal experience, but like any other in real life conference, if you can't attend, you miss out. Maybe someone will be wonderful and blog about their experience at the conference and if you're really lucky, it got taped and posted on the internet, but again, if you couldn't make it, you missed it.

As much as the digital age has connected us, I think it has also caused us to lose sight of the most important connection - the human connection. I mean the face-to-face, real time connections we make. We have become so accustomed to on demand stuff that we have forgotten that there is this thing called real life that should take precedence. And this attitude has permeated society. I watched last night and this morning as hours before the actual announcement of Mitt Romney's Vice Presidential running mate it was revealed who it was going to be. Whatever happened to the element of suspense and surprise?
(End rant)

So how does this relate to math education? After all, that's what I blog about here... As I think of the nature of learning mathematics, it takes time. Mathematics is not always neat and pretty. In fact, it can be rather messy for many students. In a culture of immediacy, how do you develop in students the perseverance that is often necessary to be successful? If students are looking to work the problem(s) quickly, get the correct answer, and move on, and they don't, how do you keep them going without them giving up? How do you get them past the instant gratification they are constantly seeking? That's the larger issue I see through all of this. As adults, we know that we can't always get what we want quickly. If we think hard enough, we can recall what it was like before the internet and cell phones (well, most of us anyway). These students don't know anything else. How do you blend both worlds successfully?

Sunday, August 05, 2012

HS Math Teacher Survey

I have to admit I am stealing from Julie Reulbach here. I, too, want to know who's teaching what at the HS level. I have to admit it is for selfish reasons - I cannot keep straight who is teaching what with the changes and new additions to the Twitterblogosphere. To be honest, I am looking for support for myself with Algebra 2 and I'm sure there has to be others of you as well. So, please, take a few moments and fill out the survey. I have left it open to anyone with the link, so if you want to continue to follow the results, you can. If you want to go back and look at the results - here's the link.