Archive for August, 2010

Introducing Radicals

August 30, 2010 1 comment

I’m sure as a teacher you have video clips you love to use in class.  I love this one.  I show it when I am introducing radicals in Algebra I and reviewing radicals in Algebra II, Geometry, and Pre Calculus.  I did have to edit it.  Warning:  Do not show the original in class.  It contains profain language.  Here is the edited version.

I also like showing this in class because it either helps me seem semi-hip or ultra-dork.  I don’t mind claiming either one.  This video also makes a great introduction if you want to do a cross curriculum project with another teacher in the English department.  I have shown this video and then asked the student to pair up with another student in an English class and write a math poem.  (I know, ultra dorky, but I love it!)


August 22, 2010 4 comments

I normally am not in favor of promoting paid services on my site, but I found one well worth it.  (The free version is great too.) I am teaching an Algebra I co-taught class this year.  I am struggling with keeping the students engaged and interested in math that is often too difficult for them.  I also am working with a level of students whose basic math skills are lacking.  I needed a resource to motivate my students and work on skills while pushing my students towards mastery of the Algebra 1 standards and the End of Course test…enter Mangahigh.

Mangahigh - Online Learning games

I stumbled upon the website  It is free!  There is a paid level subscription that my school graciously decided to purchase, but the free version works great too.  The website includes the best online math games I have seen in a while.  I have to admit that I spent 15 minutes playing “Save our Dumb Planet” and “Flower Power”.  The games are fun and teach relevant skills.  My favorite part is that the games and lessons adapt to each individual player.  If a student continues to answer questions correctly, the level of difficulty increases and if not, then it will decrease.

Mangahigh - Online Learning games

As a teacher, I can assign different lessons and goals for each one of my students.  The students compete against each other but also as a group against other schools.  I brought the mobile lab into my classroom last week and introduced my students to the website.  Each student went through two different lessons multiple times until they each earned a bronze medal.  I would hear things like, “I’m only 10 points behind you.  I’m going to do the lesson again so I can be in first.”  (I love healthy competition.) 

The students played the games when they finished the lessons.  I watched students ordering decimals and fractions who previously had little motivation to do so.  We spent 90 minutes on Mangahigh that day and the students never tried to leave the site to search the internet or go to inappropriate sites.  They were on task the entire time.  Here is the magic:  I logged in to check their stats today and more than half of my class (these are Algebra 1 repeaters) logged into Mangahigh at home or in the library to play the games and try the lessons again on their own time.  Math on their own time…Crazy!

Categories: Algebra 1

Permission to Teach

August 18, 2010 1 comment

Dan Meyer has a great post about cheesy, forced math problems in the textbook.  I am struggling this semester with my Pre Calculus class and making it relevant.  (The rigorous part is not a problem.)  I did the typical maximizing volume of a box problem already.  (I know, it’s only the second week.)  Now, I’m on the hunt to make transforming functions applicable to daily life.

I strive to make as much relevant as possible but I don’t want to force anything in class that is not natural. I actually stood up in front of my Pre Calculus Honors class yesterday and started the lesson by apologizing for it not being entertaining or ‘fun’ like some of my Algebra II lessons the students had me for last year. One of them laughed and said, “Mrs. C it’s ok. It’s Pre Calc. We knew what we signed up for and it wasn’t ‘fun’ activities. We want to be ready for Calculus next year. That’s our goal with this class. You teach, we will learn.” I almost cried. I feel like my students lifted a weight off of my shoulders. I will not use this as a license to lecture the entire period or assign 30 problems from the book.  I will still strive to be creative and relevant, but I refuse to fill my curriculum with contrived math and fluff.

(If you have any great Pre Calculus resources that are relevant and rigorous, I’m always willing to take a handout. 🙂

Categories: Uncategorized

Everyone Can Be Super

August 14, 2010 5 comments

“Everyone can be super! And when everyone’s super —- no one will be.”

                                                                  Syndrome, The Incredibles

There seems to be more honors classes this year then any other year I’ve been teaching.  And of course, why wouldn’t there be.  Every teacher wants to teach an honors class and every student wants an honors credit.  The problem is that not every student has the drive to work at the level required to be successful in these classes.  This is going to be an interesting year. 

As a parent, I hope my own sons will work hard and strive to take higher level math courses, however, I never want to place them in a situation that is not right for them.  I had a conversation recently with a parent and I expressed my concern for the placement of her son in my honors level class.  Her response was, “I know he will struggle, but all his friends are in that class.”  That is exactly the right reason to take a more rigorous math class.  (Sarcasm)

I’m not sure how to solve this problem.  As a school, we have investigated eliminating all Honor classes and creating Honor contracts.  Personally, I am researching the best placement techniques for incoming 8th graders.  I have to admit, I am at a loss.  The State of Tennessee is helping us out on this matter.  To earn an Honors Diploma, a student must earn a minimum score on the ACT.

I struggle with the fact that I want more students to take higher level mathematics (PreCalculus, Calculus, Statistics), but not at the risk of watering down our curriculum or standards.  This is one way that I think SBG (Standards Based Grading) has helped.  It provides an opportunity for the struggling students to learn the material at his or her own pace and reassess.

Categories: Uncategorized

Advice From a WalMart Cashier

August 9, 2010 1 comment

Walmart - Save Money. Live Better.

I was at WalMart tonight (not my favorite place) doing my last-minute, get ready for school shopping.  I had a full cart and was extremely frustrated and tired when I realized that the shortest line had 4 people in it.  I had spent the previous 10 minutes running around the store, pushing an overloaded cart, looking for disposable plastic containers.  (They don’t sell them at my Walmart.)  I finally gave up after the second employee I ran into said, “I don’t think I’ve ever seen those.” 

The woman in front of me in line had two school aged children.  This is the conversation between the cashier and the two children:

Cashier:  Are you ready for school to start?

Little Girl:  No.

Cashier:  It starts tomorrow, right?

Little Girl:  Yes.

Cashier:  You know, you need to do good in school so you can choose what you want to be and what you want to do with your life.

Little Girl:  Your job looks fun.

Cashier:  Well, it is an easy job.  <Pause> Study hard.

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  I wanted to invite this cashier to my class tomorrow morning.  I am teaching an Algebra I co-taught class this year for the first time.  Some of these students failed Algebra I during their freshman year.  I’m not sure how to motivate them, but I’m sure this cashier could help.

Categories: Uncategorized

The Advantages of Blogs

August 4, 2010 6 comments

I taught a seminar on incorporating Algebra into the 6 – 10th grade curriculum today.  The session took a turn when I mentioned where I get all of my resources.  At the end of my prezi I give credit to some great bloggers.  I feel like my teaching has gone to the next level because of people like Dan, Kate, and Shawn.  (There are too many to mention.  Sorry if you got left out.)  These teachers, who I have never met challenge me to be great.  They inspire me and provide me with useful and relevant curriculum. 

My focus in my session was the actual math but quickly morphed into a session on edublogging.  Most of the math teachers had never heard of blogs or even knew they existed.  I heard stories of the frustrations of searching google blindly for lessons and finding inadequate material.  I really believe that good blogs are the solution for this.  I hope I can contribute a small fraction with this blog.  I shamelessly promoted my own blog but encouraged them to use it as a springboard to find other blogs.  My hope is that these teachers take their professional development into their own hands.

After arriving home on a presenting high, I told my husband that I am so blessed to teach in such an excellent school system with such open-minded teachers.  (I promise I’m not kissing up to any administrators that may stumble upon this.)  I have taught at schools in the past where you followed the textbook, closed your door, and made your students work silently from beginning bell to the end bell.  New ideas were never shared or talked about.  Planning centers or break rooms were only a chance to gripe.  This is not the case at my school.  Every teacher I spoke with today was excited about the prospect of blogging and anxious to find new material. 

So, to my fellow bloggers, get ready.  The masses are coming.  They will find the online blogging community.  They will discover how awesome it is to share ideas and learn from others. 

Now, if I can just convince them that it is cool to tweet about math.

Categories: General Tags:

First Day / Mrs. C by the Numbers

August 1, 2010 9 comments

I borrowed this idea (ok stole it) from another teacher.  It is my first day activity and I love it.  I used to dread the first day.  I have the students grab a Senteo device when they come in the room.  I tell them they are going to take a quiz on the first day.  (They moan.)  You could still do this activity without a senteo.  I prepare a quiz on the smartboard ahead of time.  I have 8 – 10 multiple choice questions that include items such as:

Why is 2 important to Mrs. Caldwell?

  • It’s the number of times I went to Disney this summer.
  • It’s the number of children I have.
  • It’s how many years I’ve been teaching.
  • It’s the number of times I’ve seen Inception.

The kids answer the questions and then we go over them and I reveal the correct answers.  I include some personal like the one above (I have 2 kids) and some funny (#33 the number of Friday Night Light’s episodes I watched this summer).  My students seem to enjoy getting to know me in this manner.

I then make an assignment out of it.  I tell them to pick five numbers and tell me why those numbers are important to them.  It can be funny or serious.  They have to turn this into me.  I always ask for volunteers to share.  It is amazing how open and vulnerable my students will be with this activity.  I found out things I don’t think they ever would have told me if I had assigned an essay or fill in the blank page.  Here are some of the things my students have revealed:

  • 5:  The age I was when my mom died.
  • 3:  The number of step moms I have had.
  • 8:  The number of siblings I have in my family including step brothers and sisters.
  • 25:  The number of hours I work per week.
  • 4:  The number of weeks each year I get to spend with my dad.

Of course, not all of them are this heart wrenching.  Some of them are cheesy and contrived, but I read each one personally.  I go into the first day of class knowing that each one of my students wants me to know something about them.  Each one of them wants to be recognized as unique and having their own set of problems.  This activity provides a chance for all of my students to reveal something about themselves and an opportunity for me to make a connection with them.

Categories: General Tags: ,