Monday, June 26, 2017

Glows and Grows from Year 10 and Goals for Next School Year

Here we are at last, the last "week" of school ("week" being actually only 1.5 days since we are off today and our last day is Wednesday). What a year it has been!  Busy for sure, but we made it.

Wednesday will mark the end of my tenth year as a teacher, which kind of blows my mind because I can still very clearly remember counting down the hours until I was no longer a first year teacher, and now fast forward a decade, and here I am.  I had my EOY meeting with my AP this past week and I thought it would be fitting to share my own glows and grows from this past year, and my goals for the upcoming school year:

Glows:

  • I survived planning, teaching and assessing 5 classes across three different grades, not to mention planning and running an advisory, and an elective class
  • 100% of my 8th graders passed the Algebra 1 Regents exam and the mean score was an 87.  I had these students last year in 7th grade too, and I was proud to see them graduate this past week... they will definitely be missed.
  • Facilitating one of the challenges at the STEM Family Fun Night at the NY Hall of Science last month was a lot of fun and something I am looking forward to continuing in the future
  • I enjoyed mentoring a new teacher (and a half) this past year (see Grows below)
  • I included more Mathalicious, MAP, and Desmos work in my curriculum this year across all three grades
  • I followed through with my assessment schedule this year, starting with a Baseline, three Interim Assessments, and an End of Year exam, in all three grades, all with exams I created using released 6th, 7th, and 8th grade Algebra 1 Regents questions (see Grows below).  Although we haven't gotten the state test scores back yet, I know all my 8th grades did well on their Regents exam. 
  • I participated in the Spring 2017 NYC Teaching Lab Demonstration Cycle and am considering applying for the Teaching Lab Fellowship
  • I shared at the Chancellor's Conference on Designing Instruction to Challenge Students in January 
Grows:
  • I was consistently behind in grading, giving student feedback, and updating my bulletin boards this year
  • I feel like I did not do a good enough job supporting my lowest level students in class this year.  I taught both the 6th and 7th grade ICT classes this year (with a co-teacher) and it was challenging to support my lowest students during our regular class time.  This is not something that is exclusive to teaching at a G&T school, but it was definitely a challenge for me to give every student what they need (including my time and attention that they all deserve)
  •   Although I enjoyed mentoring a new teacher this year (and then another new teacher half way through the year) it was hard spreading out my time equally, especially when we only had opportunities after school to do so.  Trying to keep up with my own planning and grading and then making the time to support my mentees was a challenge.  Also, both of my mentees were not math teachers, so although I could share with them my own experience, content-wise, I'm sure I wasn't as helpful as I could have been.
  • Our elective schedule was fuzzy this year at my school.  We were supposed to have smaller cycles, but ended up having one long first session, and then one short cycle at the end.  I did the National Math Club for my first cycle, and then Photography for my second, and with everything else I was planning for, these (as well as advisory) were never a main priority since they were not everyday classes.  Although we did reach the Gold Level in Math Club again, we didn't participate in any math competitions this year (last year we went to two) and didn't participate in the St. Jude's Math-a-thon.  In advisory, we also didn't do a service learning project this year and student-led conferences were only OK.  Although I did the best I could, I know I could have been doing more in each of these. 
  • I didn't do as much cross-curricular collaboration this year as I would have liked
  • Even though I followed through with an assessment cycle, I don't think I used the data from it as effectively as I could have
  •  I only went on one trip this past year, and it was only with my 7th & 8th graders, to see Hidden Figures through a DOE promotion
Goals for Next School Year:
  • To continue my 100% Algebra 1 Regents passing rate, with a higher mean score, or at to at least have no score lower than an 80
  • To use data more effectively, by using Student Profile, EOY Student Survey data, and possibly SchoolNet.  I am also thinking about adding another interim assessment into my assessment calendar.
  • To give my students more effective and timely feedback on their work
  • Better curriculum planning and homework, especially focusing on the the Common Core Math Shifts - focus, coherence, and rigor
  • Use Math for America Professional Development Resources to support our small professional learning team
  • This summer I will join the Algebra for All initiative, and I hope to be able to bring things back into my classroom
  • Be more strategic and thoughtful in planning with my grading system to make sure that I plan for equal opportunities for students to demonstrate their learning
  • Possibly find outside teachers to collaborate with on projects
  • Embed more inquiry problem solving into my curriculum using Illustrative and NRICH tasks.  I also hope to have my students participate in Global Math Week in October and the Global Math Challenge in November.
  • Lastly (for now) I would like to continue to work on becoming a Google Certified Educator, which is something I started doing last year, but didn't follow though

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Math State Test & Regents Scoring, EOY Exams, STEM Family Fun Night, Teaching Lab w/ Mathalicious

So blogging on here has been on my to-do list for a while.  I can't believe that it has been more than a month since I've written anything (although I have jotted down lots of ideas on post-its since the last post) and even more so, I cannot believe that it is already June 4th and there are only 14 1/2 teaching days left this year!

Since my last post at the end of April, my 6th & 7th graders took their state math test for the year, my 8th graders took a mock Algebra 1 regents (which they all passed), I scored 6th - 8th grade math state tests for eight days, I started my last units of the year with all three grades, and (not related to work) I got married last weekend.  So it's been a productive few weeks.  

Math State Test & Regents Scoring 
Math state test scoring went well.  It's a week of very long days, but the per-session is good, and it is one of the best PLs I go to every year, so see how NY state aligns test questions to standards and rubrics.  In two weeks, I will also be scoring Algebra 1 regents exams for six days, like I did in January.  Again, the days are long, but the learning is really relevant to my teaching, and it's a great opportunity to collaborate with other math teachers.  As for test prep, it was minimal again this year, only about a week of station work, which I was happy with.  A resource I discovered and used with my 7th & 8th graders, and they seemed to enjoy was Math Caching by Math Bits, which was a fun scavenger hunt they have online for topics ranging from basic math to differential calculus.  It offered a good review, and students were engaged.

EOY Exams
Last week my 8th graders took their last test of the year before the Algebra 1 Regents next Tuesday.  Everyone passed again, and the average score did increase slightly.  The range of scores also increased (on the mock exam the scores ranged from 66 - 95, on their EOY exam the range was 72 - 100, which I am happy with.  Since it was my first year teaching Algebra 1 since the switch to Common Core, there was a lot of trying out new things, and I am lucky that I had these students as 7th graders last year.  My 6th and 7th graders will be taking their EOY exams this week, and I feel like the 7th graders are already in a much better spot now than the 7th graders last year.  They have already finished the first 8th grade CMP3 unit, Thinking with Mathematical Models and are currently exploring Desmos Functions Bundle, which the 8th graders didn't even get to until a few weeks ago.  I was originally worried that some of the 7th graders this year wouldn't be able to pass the Algebra 1 regents next June, but now I am thinking that it could happen, which makes me happy.  We still have lots of work to do, but I like having that goal for myself. 

STEM Family Fun Night @ the NY Hall of Science
Earlier in May, I got an email from the Queens North Field Support Center asking if I would be interested in facilitating an activity at the NY Hall of Science's STEM Family Fun Night (my former principal had recommended myself and the science teachers at my school).  We had explored all of the events the week before, and then on Thursday May 25th, I co-facilitated Using Music to Communicate Like a Computer with a fellow STEM teacher and it was a lot of fun.  Some of the tasks, I will be able to do with my students next year, and overall it was a great collaboration experience.  I already told them that I want to do it again next year!

Teaching Lab Spring 2017 Demo Cycle w/ Mathalicious
The most recent PL I attended just this morning was the Spring 2017 NYC Teaching Lab Demonstration Cycle, which I was introduced to about a month ago from a former colleague of mine.  He had reached out to me because he knew how much I love and use Mathalicious in all of my classes and it was going to focus on using Mathalicious in class.  Today was the first of a two day PL, following an inquiry cycle of learning.  We explored new content using one of their tasks together (led by the founder of Mathalicious himself, Karim Ani), then chose a lesson to try in our classrooms with our students in the next two weeks (I am going with Wage War with my 7th graders) and collect evidence of student learning, and when we come back together in two weeks, we are going to reflect and discuss and ultimately adjust and repeat.  I am super excited for it!  I even decided to expand it and make it their final project of the year (exploring how much should companies pay their employees) and either having them put together a presentation with evidence from the math, as well as additional resources or doing one last Socratic seminar for the year where they debate and justify whether or not the minimum wage should be raised.

I did this task earlier in the year with my 8th graders during our unit on systems of linear equations, but it also falls in perfectly with the unit on mathematical modeling that we just finished in 7th grade.  Karim also suggested, for next year, (since I already do so many Mathalicious tasks with my classes, maybe having students chose one of the tasks to explore further and go deeper in, as an end of semester PBL, which sounds awesome, and am definitely going to try and do next year!  Can't wait to share out how my students do!         

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Circles, Systems of Equations, & PL opportunities

I've been meaning to write on here for a few weeks now, so rather than let another day go by, here are some things going on in my classroom recently...

Area & Circumference of Circles
Last week my 7th graders explored circles.  It's kind of a random geometry standard in the 7th grade CCLS, and I wanted them to go beyond simply calculating area and circumference, so we explored these three tasks from Illustrative: Eight Circles, Designs, and Stained Glass.  We also explored the Penny Farthing from the MAP.  They all led to some interesting conversations about perimeter and representing units with pi, and a number of students used ratios as opposed to straight conversions, which I didn't even think to use (I love it when they do that).  Definitely going to do more with circles next year.

Systems of Linear Equations: Standard vs General Form
My 8th graders began their second to last unit of the year before the Regents exam, It's in the System, and I am really enjoying it so far (it might be one of my favorite 8th grade units).  We had an interesting discussion last week about the difference between the standard form and general form of a linear equation.  The standard form being, Ax + By = C and the general form bring Ax + By + C = 0.  From what we have gathered, there are benefits to using one over the other, but why is the standard form more common than the general?  Why make the distinction?  Definitely a conversation to be continued.  I also found this Linear Systems bundle from Desmos, which I had used before, so I am excited to have them explore it this week.

Spring 2017 NYC Teaching Lab Demonstration Cycle
Earlier this week, a former colleague of mine, sent me a message on LinkedIn about this free Math Demo from Teaching Lab in June, because it was going to use content from Mathalicious, which I love, so I signed up.  It is two days of Math PL, including an inquiry cycle of trying out the material with my students, and then analyzing the student work.  I am excited, but the only potential downfall is that my 7th graders already explored the problem they are using, Coupon Clipping, earlier this year and it doesn't fit into what my 6th or 8th graders will be doing in June.  When I signed up, someone from Teaching Lab reached out to me and suggested pairing me up with another teacher in Queens, so see them teach it and then analyze their student work, which is a possibility.  Hopefully all goes well and I am able to attend this PL.

The NYC Math Lab
Speaking of teaching labs, I also applied for the NYC Math Lab in July.  I have never gone before but it looks like a good opportunity to connect with other math teachers in the city and analyze our practice.

The Teachers Guild Fellowship
My AP sent me a link to the Teacher's Guild Fellowship, which I had also never heard of before but sounds exciting.  According to their website, "Throughout the one year Fellowship, you’ll design an innovative solution, share it across your school or district, and be a part of a cohort of 10 exceptional educators from across the U.S. who believe in the power of teacher ideas to transform education from the ground up."  I felt really supported that she thought of me, and I think I am going to apply because I would love to do something to support strong math education.  Applications are due next month.    

Math for America
So, once again, I have submitted my application for MfA.  This year, the whole application process will occur before the end of the school year.  I am nervous, especially because it was rough when I didn't get in last year, but I am glad that I decided to try again.  Now we play the waiting game to see if I get an interview again or not.  Part of my reapplying, involves me continuing to explore something I am excited by and continue to learn about in math, so I am currently reading Taming the Infinite: The Story of Mathematics From the First Numbers to Chaos Theory, by Ian Stewart.  I wish I had time to read more at a time, but with work and life, I can only read so much at a time.  There is just so much math out there!  Some of the topics in the book have been beyond my understanding, but it has introduced me to other ideas, such as spherical geometry, which totally goes against the idea that a triangle's angles add up to 180 degrees.  Again, another conversation to be continued.

Test Prep & Photography Club
Next week we go round two of state testing, so my 6th and 7th graders will be doing test prep this week.  I usually do a combination of station and math lab work to keep it interesting.  At least it's only week of test prep, then three days of testing, then we go back to our regularly scheduled programming.  It's crazy how fast this year is going.  Tomorrow is my first Photography Club meeting, and I am excited to do something different.  As much as I love Math Club, it's always good to change outlets everyone once in a while, and I am excited to share my creative hobby with my students.  So far 24 students have signed up.  Our electives meet on Mondays, so this cycle is only seven weeks long (although don't get me wrong, it's kind of nice knowing that there are only seven Mondays left in the school year) ;)

Saturday, April 1, 2017

April, Roller Coasters, Ian Stewart, Photography Elective, and G & T Math Curriculum

It's refreshing to finally be in April.  Yes, teachers, we made it though March, and indeed we can begin to see the glimmer of summer on the horizon.  Before I left my classroom yesterday, I did a bit of Spring cleaning and cleaned out my classroom closet, and very happily went home with nothing to grade, since I was all caught up on all my grading for all five of my classes (I know, it's a teacher miracle!)  Here are some things that have been on my mind (and in my classroom lately)...

Roller Coasters
Anyone who knows me, knows I am not a fan of roller coasters, but being a middle school teacher, I know that they can be a great hook for students.  This year, I've actually been able to bring them into both my 7th and 8th grade Algebra 1 classes.  With my 7th graders last month, they analyzed data & statistics on steel & wood roller coasters and created a mathematical argument for which was faster, using measures of center and spread.  This week my 8th graders did this lesson from Illuminations where they determined the time it takes a roller coaster to reach the bottom of it's tallest drop, used tables and graphs to analyze the falls of different roller coasters, and created their own roller coasters and provided an analysis of it's fall.  Not a bad way to do some math during the first round of state testing.  We also learned about the Physics of Roller Coasters, and of course watched some first-person roller coaster videos.  One of my 8th graders even asked if he could bring in his Google Cardboard one day this week to watch some virtual reality roller coaster videos, and of course I said yes, because I was curious.  Both of these activities led to great engagement and discussions.  Sarah at Math=Love posted this last week about Marble Roller Coasters, which looks fantastic.  Both of these were new additions to my curriculums this year and I am looking forward to adding to them in the future.

Ian Stewart 
Looking to deepen my own mathematical knowledge, over Spring Break, I want to read one of Ian Stewart's books.  Not sure which one I want to read yet, so any suggestions are welcome.  

Photography Elective
Next week is the last week of Math Club for the year.  The students are finishing up their gold-level projects and we will have a small celebration.  When we get back from Spring Break, I will run my first Photography elective.  Students haven't signed up yet, so I don't know who'll be in it, but many students have expressed an interest and I am looking forward to facilitating it.  My goal is to have gallery show in June showing off all their work.  I am looking forward to this creative outlet.

Gifted & Talented Math Curriculum
In beginning to think about next year, my principal suggested looking into Project M3, which comes from the Renzulli Center at UConn.  I was not familiar with it, but would love to visit a school that has experience with it, or chat with a teacher who has used it.  I must do more research into it.  I am currently using CMP3 as my main curriculum, and supplement with other resources from Mathalicous, Illuminations, and MAP.  Like I said, I must do more research.

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!