Saturday, November 18, 2017

Exponential Functions, Percents, NJHS, CS4All, Big Apple Award Nomination

It seems like just yesterday it was summer vacation, and now here we are, with holiday music playing.  Fellow teachers, we have made it to Thanksgiving week!  Looking over my plans from last December, I really enjoyed what I was doing with my classes last year.  Since my pacing is a little different this year, I'm not in the same place as last year, but I think I can make it work.

8th Grade Algebra 1 & Exponential Functions
Currently, my 8th grade Algebra 1 students are wrapping up their unit on exponential functions, which I have really enjoyed this year.  In addition to the Lunar Rover project, they investigated Decaying Dice, Paper Folding, Human Population GrowthHow to Survive a Zombie Attack(which didn't go as smoothly as I had planned, and are currently working on their final project, where they are analyzing data from five regions affected by the Zika virus, including total population, number of infected people, and weekly growth rate, (1) come up with a mathematical model for the growth of the virus, (2) determine the critical point when half the population could be infected, and then (3) choose a country/region that they feel should receive aid over the other countries and write a formal persuasive letter to the US government with at least three pieces of evidence supporting their argument.  I got it from my Math for America Social Justice PLT.  I launched it yesterday, and they will be working on it next week, and every student was engaged!  I launched it with this video, then we did a notice and wonder looking at a bar graph and scatter plot of Zika data, and then they began their work with their tables, coming up with their models & discussing implications of their models.  I love the cross curricular & social justice connections and am looking forward to reading their letters.  This project is new to me, but I already know it will be one of my favorites of the year.  After Thanksgiving we begin quadratics.

7th Grade & Percents
My field trip to the Museum of American Finance with my 7th graders last week was fun.  I wasn't totally happy with how the Illustrative curriculum was going with percents, so I decided this week they would work on this Store Sales & Profit Analysis project, and they loved it!  Engagement was high and I was able to check in with students one-on-one and address misconceptions as they were coming up.  I had done a modified version of this last year, but added to it this year and love how it came out.

Next week, they are working on their Hourly Wage project (which I do with my 7th graders every year) only this year I took out the suggested careers (because I feel like in the past it has limited them) and they are going to be researching their own, picking one, modeling it mathematically, and calculating hot long they would make in a day, week, year, and how long they would have to work to purchase various things.  I like that I made it more personal this year as it seems to really hook this class.  After Thanksgiving, we will do a little work with similar figures, and then begin our unit on expressions and equations.

This week, we begin sharing info about our new NJHS chapter with our students.  This our first year and I am the chapter advisor.  I was happy that so many students were showing interest.  We just wrapped up the first marking period, and will be using cumulative averages from marking periods 1 & 2 to begin looking at students to invite.  I am really glad that we have been able to bring this program to our school this year.

Memory Makers
I love my elective.  These past couple of weeks, we have been working on making cards & posters showing our gratitude for the people in our lives (friends, family, teachers, etc...).  After Thanksgiving, we will be shifting our focus more on working on the school yearbook (which I am also the adviser for and is new to me this year) and I know things will get busy fast, but I think it will be fun.  I have a good group of students, who are creative, and I know will do an awesome job making the yearbook great. 

CS4All Hack League
This morning I attended a PL for the CS4All Hack League by Games for Change and the Institute of Play and is part of NYC's Computer Science for All initiative.  Myself and the programing teacher at my school went, and even though I was out of my element, I had a great time and learned a lot and am looking forward to supporting him in running a Hackathon at our school next month.  Even though our school isn't fully a part of CS4All, it's nice to be a part of both Computer Science for All and Algebra for All.

Big Apple Award Nomination
Lastly, I was very honored to be nominated for the Big Apple Award this week!  I have never been nominated before, and it was a nice little surprise.  Even if I am not invited to actually apply for it (I'll find out in the winter if I am), I felt very appreciated.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

November Updates

I can't believe that it's been almost a month since I have written on here.  In the graph of the typical emotional pattern teachers go through every school year, we are almost out of survival mode and heading into disillusionment (yay! not)  I actually can't complain too much.  I am feeling mostly pretty good about this school year so far.  Here are some things that have been going on in my classroom these past few weeks...

  • My 7th graders asked if we could continue our Stock Market Challenge on HowtheMarketWorks.  They have really gotten into it, and I am happy that I decided to go with this tool this year.  This week we will go on our first field trip to the Museum of American Finance, which I haven't been to before.  Since doing a stock market project with my 7th grade classes, I have always wanted to plan a trip somewhere too, so I'm glad these are going together.  I will let you know how it goes, the next time I post.
  • My current unit with my 7th graders is all on ratios, rates, percents, and proportions, and I've never fully been happy with how CMP3 works with percents in 7th grade,  so this year I have been supplementing the Illustrative Math curriculum 7th grade work with percents, and, as with all new resources, it's taken some time to flow well.  We have adjusted and gotten into a flow in my 7th grade class, and I think the resources have great potential, so we'll see.
  • I am really enjoying 8th grade Algebra 1 this year.  The lessons and projects have been going smoother (last year was my first year teaching Algebra 1) and I am really having fun with it.  Last week, as part of our exponential function unit, my students investigated decaying dice and today they started a project on paper folding to (theoretically) reach the moon (there is also a great TED Ed lesson on this).  I hope to wrap up this unit by having my students analyze the spread of the Zika Virus, as part of my social justice PLT a Math for America.
  • I've been using Examplars' Classic 3-Level Math Rubric a lot this year too,  which I am proud of.  I've never really been good with using rubrics in the past, but this one has been working out well.  My 8th graders are really familiar wth it at this point, and I hope to keep using it for projects this year.
  • Math Chat Fridays has been going well.  I am so proud of my 8th graders who have already signed up to present.  We have had four students present so far, with two more this week, and the next few weeks have been filling up.  I started Math Chat Fridays after collaborating with the former Living Environment teacher at my school (and fellow MfA Master Teacher) and they are modeled after our own MfA interviews.  Students sign up to do a 10 minute presentation on something that the have done outside research on connected to math. Students have presented on Dr. Who and Probability, non-Euclidean geometry, ties in Olympic swimming (using decimals), and Pascal's Triangle.  Tomorrow's presentations are on cryptography and proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem.  The awesome part is that this isn't mandatory, and students are doing this work on their own.  Any student who presents does get extra credit, so it's a pretty sweet deal, but it's really inspiring to see them talk about complex topics that they find interesting.  This is something I don't think I would have been able to do in middle school, so I am really proud of them.
  • I am almost consistently caught up with grading, which is so much better than I was last year, so yay me!
  • The NJHS Faculty Council and I are all done writing our Chapter bylaws.  This is the first year of our chapter and my first time in the role of advisor, but I am really pleased with the work we have done so far this year.  We will begin selecting members after the 2nd marking period end in January.  I am so grateful for the other teachers who have helped get the ball rolling on this project and I think we will have a great year with it. 
Unfortunately that's all I have time to write about now.  Hopefully I'll be able to catch up again soon!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Glows and Grows

Here we are in the middle of October, and it sure feels like it.  I wanted to take some time to reflect on my own glows and grows of this school year so far...

  • For the most part I have been keeping up with #teach180 on Twitter, where teacher's post daily pictures about what's going on in their classrooms 
  • I started incorporating WWDB puzzles into both grades, as warm ups.  I don't do them every day, but I have done a few with each class, and they are fun ways to get students talking.  I also done a couple of Visual Patterns as warm ups and hope to also include some Estimation 180 eventually too.
  • I've also kept up with the POM and done a 3 Act Task w/ 8th grade and hope to do one with my 7th graders soon.  A template for 3 Act Tasks hat I got from a PL this summer seemed to really help students stay organized.
  • Every Friday, students have either answer a Regents or state test question Warm Up or had a quiz w/ several Regents/ state test questions, as a way to include test prep without it really being test prep.
  • My 8th graders are currently doing their Lunar Rover Proposal & my 7th graders started their Stock Market Game Challenge this week, so both grades are on final unit projects, are they have been coming out pretty good so far.  My 8th graders also completed their Wheel of Theodorus projects and they were really creative.  I am also planning out a potential trip with my 7th grade class to the MoAF, and am waiting for approval from the principal.  I've never been before, but it looks like it would be a good experience.
  • This year I have taken on the role of the NJHS advisor.  Our chapter has been approved, and our faculty team met for the first time this week.  I really think that this will be a positive addition to our school culture.  Right now, it looks like our induction ceremony will be in the late winter/ early spring.
  • MfA has been good so far.  I am participating in a math & social justice PLC and hope to bring at least one project into all three of my classes this year.
  • My Memory Makers (Yearbook & Scrapbook) elective is adorable.  The members are really into it and I love that it gives me an excuse to go to Michaels every week. Our October project are squash books!
  • Since getting our new online grading system, Skedula, up and running only last week, I am still behind in grading (but getting better!) but I did send out my first weekly parent math newsletter email this week, with updates about what's going on in math class, and I am proud of myself and hope I can keep it up.

I know these are probably more important to reflect on, but I am running late to my weekly meditation group, so I am going to just post these on here for now and hold myself accountable to writing about them more in depth soon...
  • Still behind in grading (but getting better especially this week!)
  • Timing of lessons still needs to be tweeked... 40 minutes is not enough time
  • I want to do a better job of using data to make decisions
  • Being that the math team is just me and another teacher, and that we have co-planning time three periods a week, I want to formally set up our math PLC 

Friday, September 22, 2017

First Week Activities, #Teach180, MfA, A4A, Electives, Challenges & Australia!

Happy first day of Fall!  Yes, in just about three hours summer 2017 will officially be over and fall 2017 will begin.  Of course, as a teacher, summer really ends the day we go back to work after Labor Day, so it has unofficially been fall for a few weeks now.  I've been meaning to get on here sooner, but have just been so busy with back to school things, that I am only getting around to it now.  Oh well, better late than never.  So here it goes, my back-to-school post 2017:

First Week Activities & Beginning Our First Units
This year I have it a little easier than last year.  I am only teaching one 7th grade class and two 8th grade Algebra 1 classes (as well as advisory three days a week and the Memory Makers elective once a week).  Two of the three classes I teach this year are the ICT classes.  Since I taught all grades last year, I am looping with my students, so I already knew all the students in my classes on day one, and I am literally teaching half the number of students as I had last year.  After my Algebra for All professional learning over the summer, I really want my focus this year to be on problem solving and positive math norms.  This year, in order to make that happen, I wanted to structure my first week activities to promote both of those things.

Day 1 all three classes did a couple of Build It Get it Together group tasks, which is always one of my favorite ways to start to year, emphasizing group work, problem solving, and communication skills, plus my students got to use the brand new unifix cubes that I got over the summer!  Day 2 consisted of the 100 Numbers Task (again group work & engagement) and our first Problem of the Month (which I got introduced to this summer at Algebra for All) on Touchdown Totals.  Instead of have an optional problem of the week for students, this year I am going for deeper problems that all students will get started on in class, and then have the option to keep working on for the rest of the month and then turn in for extra credit.  My reason for going in this direction was to promote deeper, scaffolded problems, and remind students that mathematicians can work on problems for days, weeks, months, and even years, and emphasize that depth is more important that speed.

On day 3 (aka the beginning of week 2) I formally gave out my syllabus in my classes and I introduced my students to our Positive Classroom Norms from Jo Boaler.  I printed them out and posted them in my room and have been emphasizing them as often as I can.  On Day 4, we warmed up with our first Visual Pattern chat and then worked on the Noah's Ark problem, to again promote problem solving, and creativity and sense-making.  Plus, it was a great assessment to see how different students approached the problem, from using the manipulatives to guessing and checking, to writing full on system of equations.  Day 5 was probably the most boring of the days, since that was the day my students took their baseline assessment, although, I will say, thanks to the new math teacher at our school who introduced me to Zip Grade, before the end of the day, all 64 of my baselines we graded, and I was able to look at the item analysis.  Yes, I think Zip Grade is going to make my test grading this year much easier.

The last five days we began formally working on our first CMP3 units of the year.  7th grade started with Accentuate the Negative (integers and rational numbers), as usual, and 8th grade started with Looking for Pythagoras (the Pythagorean Theorem), since I did Thinking with Mathematical Models with them at the end of last school year.  Even though we are using the CMP3 units, I have been supplementing with other resources, for example, this week my 8th graders did this Illuminations task on irrational numbers and then explored some Illustrative tasks on rational and irrational numbers.  My plan is not to spend too much time on this unit with them (since it isn't a major regents topic) so that we can get to Growing, Growing, Growing and exponential functions.  As for 7th grade, I do want to take this unit slowly since working with integers and rational numbers is a big topic, and I want to make sure that the foundation for these topics is solid.  As for bigger projects, I am excited for the 8th graders to make their Wheel of Theodorus spirals and for my 7th graders to play the stock market.  Lastly, I also started introducing Regents Warm Up questions to all of my classes, so every Friday their Warm up is from an old Algebra 1 regents exam, as a way to get them familiar with the structure and types of questions on the exam.

Another one of my goals this year is to be more accountable on here and participate in #Teach180, and post a picture from my classroom each day in order to inspire and learn from others, and I am happy to say that 10 days in, I have kept up with in on Twitter so far.  Not only have I posted, but I have also gotten some great ideas from other math teachers!  I would encourage any teacher looking for ideas to try it.

Math for America, Math Chats & Algebra for All
Obviously one of the things I was most looking forward to this year (and for the next four years) is being a Math for America Master Teacher.  Not only is this something that I wanted and had to work hard for, but I *know* that it is going to make me a a better math teacher.  We had our orientation a couple of weeks ago, and I had my first PLT meeting this week, and it is already giving me so many inspiring ideas!  My PLT is on Math and Social Justice, and not only do I have some new ways to incorporate social justice into all of my classes, but I am just humbled to be around all of these amazing STEM professionals.  I also started reading For White Folks Who Teach in the Hood, since a fellow MfA teacher in my PLT recommended it, as good read to get into the social justice mindset.

Speaking of MfA, the former Living Environment teacher at my school, and fellow MfA Master Teacher, shared with me something she is doing with her classes this year, and is something I am thinking of brining to my classes.  This year, she will be doing Science Fridays with her students, structured similarly to the presentations that we had to give as part of our MfA interviews, where we present for 10 minutes on a topic that we have researched on our own and found interesting.  Her students will obviously be doing science topics, and I think I am going to have at least my 8th grade Algebra 1 students present on math topics.  She even shared her outline and rubric with me.  I love the idea because it promotes students researching something that they really might be interested in.  I think, for now, it will be optional, since it can be hard to present to your peers in middle school and in math (I don't think I would have been able to do it when I was in middle school), but I think it could really great both for students presenting and the audience.  Not to steal her thunder, instead of Math Fridays, I am thinking of calling them Math Chats and letting students sign up for dates.  I will model for them my own MfA presentation on nonEuclidean geometry and even give them class time to research their ideas.  I think this is going to be great!  

I also signed up for my five Algebra for All professional learning dates this upcoming year.  I really got a lot from the summer sessions, and hope that the sessions during the year are just as great!

Memory Makers & NJHS 
So instead of doing the Math Counts Club this year, I am going with something new and my elective will be Memory Makers, which will mainly be about producing the middle school yearbook, as well as scrapbooking and photography.  I am excited about it because I have always wanted to have a scrapbooking club, but it would be my first time putting a yearbook together, so I have lots to learn.  When students signed up for their electives, Memory Makers was the third most popular choice, which was also kinda neat.  I think it'll be fun.

Also new this year, I will be the advisory for the National Junior Honor Society, which is new to our school this year, so again, lots to learn, but I think it will really add to our school community.    

Challenges this School Year
No school year is ever without challenges.  We lost a lot of great teachers last year, which means we have a lot of new faces this year, including a new assistant principal.  We are still adjusting to being a growing school, in two different co-located buildings.  We graduated our first class last year, who were very successful, but this year we have almost twice as many students graduating.  Our online grading system is still not up and running and most of us got new Promethean Boards in our classrooms, without any training on them.  And, most importantly, we have our students who come to us and deserve engaging lessons, our support, and with the typical challenges of navigating middle school.  We definitely have our work cut out for us this year, but I am confident that we will make it though, and maybe even have some fun doing it.

Last but not least, I couldn't end this post without sharing what an amazing time I had this summer in Australia.  My husband and I went there for two weeks, and what a fun, beautiful, exciting country.  We climbed the Sydney Harbor Bridge, we caught a show at the Sydney Opera House, we snorkeled in the Great Barrier Reef, we saw kangaroos, koalas, and echidnas, we explored the rainforest, we flew in a hot air balloon, explored some amazing cities, and met some even more amazing people.  Even though it was sad to leave, it was a lovely trip, and a great way to end our summer, and come back to work, even more inspired than ever.

I think this school year is going to be pretty fantastic!

Monday, August 7, 2017

A4ANYC, MfA, MTBoS Goals & First Day Plans, Google Certification, 100 Problems, Swimming, & Teach180

A fellow teacher friend of mine posted this on Facebook earlier today:

"Oh Pinterest... its that time of year again... time to get my creative juices going!"

Yes, indeed she is right.  Don't get me wrong, I am loving this summer break, but with many teachers in other parts of the country setting up their classrooms and starting up the new school year, it's hard to resist that spark of excitement that comes with a new school year (especially when technically it is still a month away and there is still lots of time for fun summer non-work-related adventures!)  I have been tweeting a lot more this summer, and I have done a lot of work-related things, but there has definitely been a balance between work and life, which is always the goal (now if only I can make that last all year and not just July & August...)

Algebra for All & Math for America
Last week I finished up the Algebra for All Summer Institute, and next week I have one day of professional learning at the Japan Society.  Overall, the 12 sessions at Algebra for All were really good.  We also have five sessions throughout the school year and then we come back together again next summer.  The sessions were a good balance of content and pedagogy, which was a nice split between between being a math student and being a math teacher.  It made me really excited that I will also be starting my first year as a MfA Master Teacher Fellow (I officially signed my Fellowship agreement last week) and I will continue to grow as a math teacher and learner between the five A4A sessions and the 7+ MfA sessions.  Part of the last week of A4A was planning for the first day, week, and month of school.  September has 15 school days, and as of right now I have half of them outlined.  Since we are going away the last two weeks of August, I have this week and next week to get as much planning for September in before we go back after Labor Day.

MTBoS #SundayFunday #PushSend Goals & First Day Plans
Speaking of the first day, the MTBoS is bringing back #SundayFunday.  I did one of their blogging challenges back in January and found it to be very helpful to "force me" to take a step back and write on here each week.  Last week a lot of MTBoS teachers posed about their goals for the 2017 - 18 school year, so here is mine: problem solving.  I want the focus of this upcoming school year to be all about problem solving.  Going into this year, I will (probably) only be teaching 7th & 8th grade Algebra 1, and I feel good about it - I mean last year I somehow managed to juggle teaching 6th grade, 7th grade, 8th grade Algebra 1, Math Club/ Photography Club, and 6th grade Advisory and all my 8th graders passed the Algebra 1 Regents, so I felt good.  I was inspired by a lot of things at A4A including SVMI's Problem of the Month, the new Illustrative math curriculum, YouCubed's positive math norms, math routines, math talks, and using the mathematical modeling process to explore problems and at the heart of it all is problem solving.  To help support my goal, currently my first seven days of school include: Get it Together problems, intro to our first POM, reviewing the syllabus and positive class norms or Algebraic Habits of Mind, our first math talk,  possibly a three act task, a Week of iMath problem or two, and lastly our formal baseline assessment.  Last year, my students took their baseline on day 4, and this year I moved it back to day 7, especially after reading this article, The Math-Class Paradox.  We won't even look at textbooks until day 8 and I am proud of that.  The nice thing about looping with students is that you already know them and they know you, and since I was their teacher last year, I know what was covered and what wasn't.  My new 8th graders are a full unit ahead of where my 8th graders were last year, and I plan to use that wiggle room that I built in for myself last year as problem solving time this year, so I am excited for the things to come.  I do want to be mindful that saying and doing are two different things, but I am fairly confident going into this year that I can make problem solving in my classes a real priority.

Google Certified Educator Level 2
Last year I decided I wanted to finally be a Google Certified Educator.  I started the Level 1 modules last summer and never got around to finishing them until two weeks ago.  I took the Level 1 certification test and passed.  Then, another teacher in a Facebook group that I am a part of posted about how she dad taken Level 1 and Level 2 back to back and passed, so I decided why not go for Level 2?  As a teacher who has used G Suite for Education for the past six years or so, Level 1 made sense.  Level 2 though introduced me to so many new features that I had never even heard about!  I learned so much, like Google Arts & Culture and Google My Maps, so Friday I went through the modules, and took the certification test and will be going into next year as a Level 2 Google Certified Educator!

#100Problems in 100 Days 
Still loving's 100 Day Summer Challenge!  I appreciate being a math learner.  Something I have noticed about myself is that sometimes (very much like my students) I know how to get an answer, but I don't know how to "show my work" or justify my solution.  I will be working through a problem, come up with a solution, but not necessarily be able to explain that solution or show my process in a way that would make sense to another person - I mean, it makes sense to me, but I doubt it would be fully clear to someone else.  The math teacher in me says to "show my work and make it clear", but the student in me (sometimes) says "if it makes sense to me, and I know it's right, why do I have to?"  It has made me mindful when working with my students that doing math takes work, not just in content, but in practice.  Learning something new has been a pretty powerful experience.

Learning to Swim
Speaking of learning something new, earlier this summer, when I made my Summer 2017 Goals, one of them was to learn how to swim.  Yes, I really didn't know, and decided that this would be the summer to change that.  So I signed up for four one-on-one classes at my local pool, and could definitely could see progress, but I still wasn't fully there, so I signed up for a month-long membership at my local pool, and have been going on my own as often as I can.  I am definitely not ready for the Olympics, but I can happily (and proudly) say now that I can do several laps on my own, even in the deep end.  Like the 100 Problems in 100 Days, this whole experience has really made me aware of what it takes to learn something new, specifically that I needed the support, encouragement, and feedback of a teacher and time to actually practice on my own.  I had to take an active role in the learning process.  I needed the guidance of a teacher who supported me and then I needed to get in the pool on my own and practice, practice, practice.  Also, I was actually in the pool, with my teacher for each of our sessions together.  Learning math, like learning to swim requires supportive, encouraging teachers who can give useful feedback while you are actually doing math.  I would not have made as much progress as I have if I had a teacher who demonstrated for me how to swim and then expected me copy her.  I also would not have made as much progress if I hadn't actually continued to practice swimming on my own.  There are just so many parallels between learning math and learning how to swim and I am grateful that this experience has put me in the learner seat.  If you had asked me two months ago, if I enjoyed swimming, I would have said "not really" because I didn't know how and there was no way I was going into the deep end of the pool, but turns out, I really do enjoy it.  I enjoy seeing how far I have come, building on my skills, and having something to work towards.  My goal is to be mindful of this experience of learning something new all school year and allow my classroom to be the "pool" - where we are *doing* meaningful problem solving, and I am supporting my students, each at their own level, encouraging them, giving them the feedback they need to push their own learning, and at the end of the day, having fun.

Lastly, one of my favorite math bloggers, does something called #Teach180 which is a challenge to post one picture from your classroom each day in order to inspire and learn from others.  It is a no pressure challenge, but I like the accountability, since blogging everyday is unlikely, but tweeting is doable.  I am excited to see where this goes and to see what others are doing.  Making my twitter account professional and public last year really was one of the best forms of professional learning I have done.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Algebra for All, Google Certification, 100 Day Challenge & MfA

Here we are, in the thick of summer break (even though the past two days have felt more like Fall).  As we approach the half way point of summer break, I wanted to take some time to reflect on Algebra for All, and my own mathematical learning, so here it goes...

Algebra for All
Last week we wrapped up week 1 of Algebra for All.  Some of my big takeaways were how can I be strategic during the summarize part of my lessons, using the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Mathematical Discussions.  I am confident in my ability to anticipate, monitor, and connect student work, but need to be more strategic in the selecting and sequencing.  Although I have gotten better and selecting which student work I want my classes to share and discuss, there are still times I simply open up my summary to any student that wants to share.  So a goal of mine next year is to be more mindful of that.  I also want to incorporate more Three Act Tasks into my classes.  

This week we started our first round of electives.  Yesterday and today I had Routines for Building an Algebraic Learning Culture for Struggling Learners with Metamorphisis TLC, and tomorrow and Thursday I have Conceptual Approaches to Algebra in Secondary Mathematics with Bill Jacob.  Next week I have my last two electives, Problem Solving with SVMI and Developing the Habits of Algebraic Thinking and Problem Solving with CUNY Collaborative.  My big takeaways from my first elective is how can I promote mathematical habits of mind and the CCSS MP through math thinking routines?  I already use a notice/wonder routine with my students, so I would like to continue to use that.  I love the "What could the question be?" routine, where you present students with an image or scenario without a question, and they have to come up with what the question could be.  I love this idea and cannot wait to bring this routine into my classes next year.  We also explored the "Which one doesn't belong?" routine, which I enjoyed and think I may even use it on day one in September.  All of these made me think of how can I support my students in making their thinking visible and how can I support their understanding of mathematical structure?  Overall I reflected on the constructivist-transmissionist spectrum and where do I fall, and more importantly, do my actions in my classroom, align with my beliefs?

Google Certification
Finally finished all the units in the Google Educator Level 1 training and signed up to take the certification exam within the next seven days.  After wanting to get certified for the last year, I hope I will finally be able to cross this off my to-do list.

100 Day Challenge
I am finally all caught up in's 100 Day Summer Challenge and I am still loving it!

Lastly, it is kind of important for me to be able to post this this week.  One year ago tomorrow, I found out I didn't get into Math for America and I was super bummed about it.  Looking back, it really put a damper on my whole summer.  I think it's important to recognize that (temporary) failure.  It's nice to be able to look back at that experience and see how far I've come, getting into MfA this year and growing both as a math teacher and math student.  Man, does it feel good.     

Monday, July 17, 2017

Algebra for All, 100 Problems in 100 Days and Edgy Summer Reading

Algebra for All
Today was the first day of the Algebra for All Summer Professional Learning.  I am excited to be a part of the second cohort of math teachers in NYC who are committed to improving math instruction.  The goal of this institute is to have every student complete algebra no later than then end of 9th grade and to provide every 8th grade student access to an algebra 1 class.  As a middle school math teacher, who teaches 8th grade Algebra 1, this is a core part of my teaching life.  The institute consists of twelve days during the summer, five days during the next school year, and five days next summer, and focuses not just on pedagogy, but our own content knowledge.

Today we explored the Handshake Problem and Border Problem, both of which I have used with my students this past year.  Part of this first week will also involve a book study of 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions, which I've been wanting to read, and goes nicely with the other book I am reading this summer, Fostering Algebraic Thinking.  In fact, we even discussed Driscoll's Algebraic Habits of Mind.  Jo Boaler's work on the importance of visual mathematics also came up today.

100 Problems in 100 Days
This summer I am also doing's 100 Day Challenge.  I started last week, and am up to day 35.  I am really enjoying spending some time to work through these problems.  I especially enjoyed working through day 3, day 28day 32 and day 34.  Exploring these problems is allowing me to challenge my own mathematical thinking, and be comfortable with my own disequilibrium.  Some of them have been fun, and some have gotten me frustrated, but I am grateful for the opportunity to do math as a practitioner, and not just the teacher.  Exploring these problems has also made me think of the importance of doing math problems, just for fun.  When I am choosing problems for my students to explore, it is always with a content goal in mind, for example, we would explore the handshake problem during our unit on quadratics because it can be represented by a quadratic function.  There is a specific goal I have in mind... a specific place I want my students to get to.  But does it have to be that way?  Why can't we just explore a problem because it's fun and interesting and not a traditional problem from on exam?  Don't get me wrong, as teachers we have limited time and resources and we must be purposeful with what we bring into our classes, but exploring problems like these just for the sake of stretching our mathematical brains and problem solving and thinking logically and having fun (dare I say it... without a specific, content-driven learning objective on the board) has a tremendous value.  A part of me of me is both terrified and beyond thrilled to try this next year.  How awesome would that be?

The Rebellious Teacher's Edgy Summer Reading List for 2017
Speaking of being rebellious, a colleague of mine posted this list a couple of weeks ago, and since I am always looking for a good book to read (and ways to incorporate social justice into my curriculum), I decided to check it out.  Turns out I had just finished Homegoing, so I decided to read The Hate U Give.  I loved both, and both hit on some petty big, and important issues about race and identity.  I think my next summer read will be lighter, but will try to also squeeze in The Handmaid's Tale before the end of the summer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

MfA, Student Surveys, Summer Math PL & the 100 Day Summer Challenge

I can't believe that it is already July 11th!  Where has the summer been going?  Even though we are on summer break till the day after Labor Day, one of my goals was to keep writing on here (I only blogger three times last summer) so here I am with my first post of summer break 2017:

Math for America
After packing and cleaning up my classroom for the year and saying goodbye to students for the summer, I got some pretty awesome news... I am a Math for America Master Teacher!  Yes, after applying and not getting in last year, I applied again this year, and earned a Master Teacher Fellowship, which I was super happy about.  Even better, the Living Environment teacher at my school also got in, so now our school is lucky enough to have not one, but two MfA Master Teachers, which means great things will happen over the next four years!  Too bad it happened after we had said goodbye to students because I had shared my experience applying to MfA the past two years with them.  I already signed up for orientation in September, and cannot wait to take in all the new learning and experiences to come from other MfA Master Teachers!  I worked hard for this, and man does it feel good to have finally earned this.  One thing I am a little jealous of is that since I just got in, I am missing out on the first MfA Summer Think going on this week. I have been following along on Twitter, and even though I can't participate this summer, seeing everything going on only makes me more proud thatI am finally a part of this amazing group of STEM educators!

EOY Student Surveys
Before the school year ended, my students took their EOY surveys for me.  Unfortunately only 81% of my students responded, but I did get responses from all five classes I taught this year.  I hope to spend some time in my next post really reflecting on what they said and how I can improve for next year.

Summer Math Professional Learning 
I had the first of three math PLs that I am going to this summer yesterday, on Enhancing the Math Classroom: Using Authentic Tasks to Support Conceptual Understanding (6 - 12) and next week starts Algebra for All for 12 days, which I couldn't go to last year because I was getting my Gifted Certification at Hunter College.  I was inspired to start the next year with a Dan Meyer 3 Act Task.  I did at least one with my 7th graders last year, and a couple with my 8th graders.  I think it will be a rich way to kick off the new school year.

I also signed up for The Art of Origami in Your Math & ELA Classroom at the Japan Society next month, which sounds fun.  I also hope to participate in the CAMI summer book club, which starts today.  We are reading Fostering Algebraic Thinking: A Guide for Teachers, Grades 6 - 10 by Mark Driscoll.  Lastly, I want to continue (and hopefully finish) becoming a Google Certified Educator this summer.  It was another one of those things that I started last summer, but never followed through.

100 Day Summer Challenge
Finally, this summer is hosting the 100 Day Summer Challenge, and even though I am slow to start (I was still teaching until June 28th), I finally got into this week, and I am loving it!  Every day from June 1st - September 8th they post a math problem or puzzle.  Like, I said I am behind, but currently up to day 5 and am on a 4 day streak.  I love this idea and wonder how I can do something like this in my classroom?  I already use the Math Counts Problem of the Week in my class, but find that it's always the same students who try it and would love to get more invested.  Since I am 36 days behind where they currently are, I am going to try and do at least 5 a day, which would bring me up to date by next week (yes, I had to do some math there).  I really do think that a essential part of being a good math teacher, is always being a math learner, and this challenge (as well as my MfA presentation last month) force me to push my own mathematical thinking, which is pretty neat.

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:


  • 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 
  • 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!

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.