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!

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? ;)