Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Some of the discussions happening in my class this week...

Here are some of the discussions happening in my math classroom this week:

7th grade: "How should cities address excessive force by police?"  (Good Cop, Bad Cop) and "How much should states spend on schools and police?" (Police, Academy

8th grade/ Algebra 1: "Do social networks make us more connected?" (Connected)

All three of these address high school level Common Core math standards, and will result in either a Socratic Seminar or some sort of debate where students will have to defend their argument using evidence from their work, as well as outside resources.  Yeah, I am pretty excited to see where they go with it.  Mathalicious is definitely one of my favorite and most used resources of the past two years!

Saturday, March 11, 2017

March Updates

So here we are in March, and ask any teacher, March is rough.  No days off.  Spring Break is still weeks away.  The weather hasn't decided whether its still winter or spring (here in NY this week we has a gorgeous, warm, sunny Thursday, followed by snow yesterday).  Oh yeah, and throw in the marking period ending, grades being due, bulletin board needing to be updated, parent-teacher conferences, state tests coming up and losing a hour of our precious weekend time (thanks Daylight Savings, NOT), March is pretty miserable.  I didn't want too much time to go by without reflecting on here, so here goes...

6th grade
My 6th graders finished up their Engineering Design Coke Projects this week.  It went much smoother than last year's and I am happy with how everything turned out.  We are doing a super short mini unit this week on decimals and percents, and starting our last unit before the state test on algebra, Variables & Patterns.  After the state test, we'll work on our last 6th grade unit, Data About Us and they'll do their Data to Make a Difference project, which I enjoyed last year.  I'll probably combine it with what I am currently doing with the 7th graders now, Samples and Populations, since it is a lot of the same work.

7th grade
Like I said, my 7th graders are currently wrapping up Samples & Populations, which is kind of fun.  I always used to skip this unit, but it's a short one, and has led to some interesting lessons, including comparing steel & wooden roller coasters, and Counting Trees, which was supposed to be a homework, but they were so into it, I decided to go with it and gave them class time to explore it.  Our next unit will be Thinking With Mathematical Models, which is typically the first 8th grade unit.  As stressful as it is, it's nice teaching all three grades because I have all the freedom to teach whatever I want, and teaching all three grades at once has given me a lot of insight into what skills/ topics I can bring down into the lower grades.

8th grade/ Algebra 1
Finally my 8th graders, which got their high school acceptance letters this week, and I am proud to say 68% got into Specialized High Schools, are working on Say it With Symbols, which has been a nice review.  I am feeling pretty confident about the Algebra 1 regents in June, and this week we got a class set of TI 84 graphing calculators!  I have my formal observation with them this Wednesday, and we'll be exploring whether social networks make us more connected from Mathalicious, and I am looking forward to it.  I'm turning it into a mini-project also, because I think after doing the math behind it, they will have a lot to debate about.  Since they are not taking the 8th grade math state test in May, the science teacher and I decided to give them a mock Algebra 1 regents one day and a mock Living Environment regents the other day.  Speaking of regents, I've been giving the 7th graders performance tasks from constructed response Algebra 1 questions, and most of them have appreciated the challenge, so I am happy about that.

Math Club & Photography Electives
We have four more meetings of the Math Club elective.  The students are currently working on their gold level project, which we should be able to wrap up in time.   We will be switching electives in April after Spring Break, and instead of continuing with a new group for Math Club or doing another round of the Harry Potter Elective like I did last year, I've decided to do a Photography Elective, which I am looking forward to.  The spring elective cycle is only seven weeks long, so it is much shorter than the first cycle.  I can't wait to share my passion with them and see what they come up with.  A lot of students have already said that they were interested, plus it will be nice to go out when the weather is nice and take photos.

March Math Madness & Pi Day
Since Ten Marks is not doing a Math Madness this year, I decided to do my own using masting Khan Academy skills as my tracker.  I'm doing it with all five of my classes, and as expected one of my 6th grade classes blew the other classes out of the water.  Week Two ends tonight, so we'll see how it ultimately shapes up.  Pi Day is also coming up this week, although I haven't decided what to do yet.  I can use last year's activities with my 6th grade classes, but would need something new for 7th & 8th grade.  Any ideas?

Project-Based Learning, Standards-Based Grading, & Math for America
Three of my professional goals moving forward are to do at least more round of PBL with all of my classes.  I've done some great projects this year, including the Stock Market Game & Road Trip Project with my 7th graders, the Coke Project with my 6th graders, and the Lunar Rover Challenge with my 8th graders.  I'd love to plan out at least one more for each grade.

We started a new marking period this week, and another goal of mine is to tag every assignment to a standard and track in on our school grading website.  So far, I've been good with it, and I hope to keep it up.

Lastly, I am applying to Math for America Master Teacher Fellowship again.  Applications are due at the end of April.  I was hesitant at applying again, but I decided to give it another shot.  Lots of work to do for the application, but it's all worth it if I can get in.  I reached out to my three letters of recommendation this week, and think I will use the lesson I will be doing with my 8th graders as my lesson design task.  I know it's far away, but I am already thinking about what I could do for my ten-minute presentation on my own math exploration, should I get an interview.  Any ideas/suggestions would be great.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Logo Transformation Project, Fundamental Counting Principle, Coke Project, 3 Act Tasks, & Einstein's Puzzle

Just have time for a quick update before I head over to a Paint Nite event with some friends, as I work to maintain a balanced work & social life. Teaching five classes across three grades this year has me in a constant state of being behind (especially when it comes to grading) but I must say, I have been pushing myself out of my comfort zone and trying lots of new projects and activities with my classes this year, that I am proud of myself.

8th Grade/ Algebra 1 Geometry
Today my 8th graders started their end of unit assessment performance task on geometric transformations.  I was inspired by this Transformation Summative Assessment Project from Equation Freak and this logo transformation mini-project.  They were really into it during our double period today.  Later on this week we will start Say it With Symbols, and this Friday I will do my first 3 Act Task with them, Coin Counting!  I am nervous since it will be my first, but I've been wanting to do one for a while.

7th Grade Probability 
My 7th graders will be exploring the Fundamental Counting Principle this week with Pair-Analysis (and this TED Talk on the Paradox of Choice... hmm maybe there's a Socratic Seminar in there somewhere?) and VA-NITY PL88, both from Mathalicious, and then on Friday I want to try the Yellow Starburst 3 Act Task with them.  Look at me trying two different 3 Act Tasks in the same week ;)  I read through Confessions of a MS Math Teacher's blog post on it here, which led me to their post on their first attempt at a 3 Act Task using The Price is Right, which would fit in nicely with our unit on probability, since we've analyzed Wheel of Fortune twice so far this unit (both again through Mathalicious).  Next week, hopefully we will explore the probability of bottle flipping (which every MS teacher is probably familiar with this year).

6th Grade Geometry
My 6th graders started their Coke Engineering Design project this week, which, ironically, has a connection to 3 Act Tasks, that I just learned about this week, even though I did the project last year.  I do think that I am going to push back their presentations until after mid-winter recess in two weeks, instead of rushing them to be done next week.

Math Club
This week in math club we took a crack at Einstein's Puzzle (which probably wasn't made by him) and other logic puzzles, which they all enjoyed.  Engagement was really high, and I was really proud of the students who hadn't solved it yet, and didn't listen or watch when we played the rest of the TED Ed video with the solution because they wanted to keep working on it.

So I am excited for the next two weeks and then get to breathe a bit and enjoy mid-winter break.  Work hard, play hard, right? ;)

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

G & T, Hidden Figures, The Game of Set, and the 2017 Challenge

I just finished reading what was my only post last February, which is important to do every once in a while I think because it helps to remind me where I was, where I want to be, and how far I've come.  Just have time for a quick update today, so here's what's been going on in my teacher life this week...

Chancellor's Conference on Designing Instruction to Challenge Students
Yesterday I shared and learned at the Chancellor's Conference on Designing Instruction to Challenge Students.  I presented with our 2nd grade teacher, on using project-based learning in the classroom.  She shared her 2nd grade architecture study, and I shared about some of the PBLs I have done, including the Coke Project, Fraction Cookbook (6th grade), Stock Market Game, Road Trip Project, (7th grade) and Lunar Rover Proposal (8th grade/ Algebra 1).  It felt good to share with others, but I would have also liked to be able to visit some of the other tables of schools that were sharing to learn from them as well.  Plus the keynote speaker was Sally Reis, who was truly inspiring, and we sat two rows behind Joe Renzulli, which was the G & T teacher in me, was super excited about.  She mostly talked about the SEM, which brought me back to my Hunter days, last summer.  Overall, I am really glad I went, because even though sadly, the math breakout session in the afternoon wasn't very informative, the morning session really inspired me and reminded me why I enjoy what I do.

Hidden Figures
Thanks to a wonderful DOE promotion, I will be taking my 7th & 8th graders to see Hidden Figures this Friday for free!  I saw it on my own a few weeks ago, and left feeling just so proud to be a math teacher and a woman.  I've been wanting to do more about mathematicians this year, and this was a great opportunity to begin.  Tomorrow, all three classes will be researching Katherine Johnson and Christine Darden in preparation for Friday's trip.  The science teacher and literature teacher will be coming with us, and I found some other possible ways we could incorporate the movie into our classes: A Hidden Figures Lesson Plan, Let's Start a Movement for Hidden Figures, and Hidden Figures and the Journey to Celebrate NASA's Black Female Pioneers.  I can't wait to share this movie with them!

The Game of Set
After reading Math = Love's post on the game of Set (which I have never played) I was inspired to learn how to play myself and loved the challenge so much,  I introduced it to Math Club this week.  They enjoyed it too, and I would love to do more with it, so I will be looking into that.

2017 Challenge
Lastly, also inspired by Math = Love (she really is inspiring), I introduced all my classes to the 2017 Challenge, even though I was a few weeks late, and boy did they take it and run!  I should have known better than to make it a competition between my five classes.  In fact I got so many responses the first day that I had to revise the challenge to be that the numbers 2, 0, 1, and 7 must be used in that order (although they could be combined to form larger numbers, like 2 and 0 could be 20, but they must come before the 1 and 7).  I will say more about that later (and maybe even post some photos of my bulletin board), but my kids loved it! Thanks for the great idea, Sarah!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

My Failures as a Math Student

So of course after I posted my week 4 post for the MTBoS Blogsplosion blogging initiative, I thought of some more failures of mine, only this time not as a math teacher, but as a math student.

Failing One of My HS Math Regents Exams
Growing up, I was a fairly good student.  My parents always emphasized the importance of getting a good education and I got good grades pretty easily.  It was right around 8th grade, when all of a sudden, these good grades I was getting started to slip, particularly in math.  That was also the year that I wasn't just taking 8th grade math, but also 9th grade (Sequential 1) math after school.  For the first time in my life, math wasn't coming easily to me anymore.  But I get through it, and did well on the Sequential 1 Regents that June, which meant that in high school, I would be taking all freshman classes, except for math, where I would be a year ahead.

My failure came in my second year of high school, when I was taking Sequential 3 (again a sophomore taking a Junior year math class) and I got lazy.  I wouldn't say my behavior wasn't typical.  I was a sophomore in high school whose priorities wasn't really school.  Also, by now, I had gotten used to math just not really making sense, so why put in the extra effort for something I just wasn't going to ever understand (or need)?  And that June, I failed the only Regents I would ever fail... Sequential 3.  And it broke my heart.  That was definitely a wake up call.  All my friends would more on to pre-calculus the following year, but I might not.  Luckily, I was able to get into pre-calc with the expectation that I would take the Sequential 3 Regents the following January.  And boy did I put in work for it.  I don't remember what I got on it, but I passed and I had learned my lesson.

Failing the Math Content Praxis
I continued to struggle with math in high school and college, which just always meant that I had to put more work into it than other subjects.  Even in college, being a psychology and sociology major, I ended up taking math and science classes all four years in college because I wanted a Bachelor of Science, not a Bachelor of Arts.  I even took classes that were part of the math major sequence.  But I got through it.  The irony of all of this is that at the end of college I would be accepted into the NYC Teaching Fellows, as... you guessed it, a math teacher.  I was able to pass all my certification exams (including math) easily and I became a certified 7th - 12th grade math teacher.

Last year, I was introduced and fell in love with Math for America.  From the moment I went to their first open house, I knew I wanted to be a part of their organization.  So, I applied.  Being a middle school math teacher and being certified 7th - 12th grade, that meant I had to take the Math Content Praxis Exam, which I hadn't ever taken, since NYC uses another exam for teacher certification.  Every free moment last Spring was spent studying number and quantity, algebra, functions, calculus, geometry, probability, statistics, and discrete mathematics.  I even got in touch with my old math tutor from college to work with me for a few sessions.  And I failed.  My heart was once again broken because I wanted to get in so badly, and wasn't going to be able to because of a math test.  I was a failure.  Luckily, I still had a small window to take he test again before the application was due.  So, again I went back to immersing myself in all of it, and went in, still feeling shaky, but knowing that I was giving it my best shot.

The day of the test, I felt more confident with my answers.  I paced myself better, and when I didn't get a preliminary score at the end (it's a computerized test) felt good that at least I hadn't already failed.  Sure enough, a few weeks later I got my score, and I had passed.  And damn, it felt good.

Both of these experiences stay with me because they are both living proof that I am a tough cookie when it comes to mathematics.  They also make me sensitive to the students who may be sitting in my classroom who feel like failures themselves sometimes, or simply have a hard time passing a test.  I wanted to share these experiences because the best math teachers are also math learners, and sometimes that comes with failure.  But that's OK.  I am always mindful that if I had let my early failures in math shut me down, I would, quite literally, not be where I am today.