Saturday, June 20, 2015

Calculus Concept Map

This past semester, I did an online course related to this (link):

and I learned things I will use in my math classes. Of course I waited until the last minute to finish the course and was then furiously reading/skimming the online tests (since I had done the physical copy reading but had to click things for credit) before the district mandated deadline, but I digress. 

I highly recommend it (not the last minute stuff, but the book). Unlike some other PD that speaks a good game of, "oh yes, you can use this for any school subject. Math? Of course!" and then proceeds to not provide useful examples of ideas or validation that it has been used effectively in math, this book actually had genuine math examples of various HS subjects.

One of the sections involved Top-Down Topic Webs. Quotes:

"Teaching students to organize ideas in a systematic, visual graph improves their ability to remember what they read."

"Many students become overwhelmed by too much information, focus excessively on details, and lose sight of the big picture when they read."

"Students often have difficulty connecting material taught from day to day and week to week."

This all is confirmed by me when I recall various things my kids said about calculus:

"Oh, why didn't they just call the class derivatives and integrals?"

"Wait, I get mixed up on the difference between ...."

So with all this in mind, I created a Concept Map for AP Calculus AB:

 I'm sure I will edit it somehow, but for now I'm happy with it. I plan on handing it out the first week and continually referring back to it, so the students always have a clear idea of the big picture. Now maybe I'm the last person on this knowledge boat and maybe everyone is already doing this. If so, then it is a well-kept tidbit, and I don't know the secret hand-shake.

Saturday, June 06, 2015

Summer Excitement

Things I am excited about for this summer:

1. Getting enough sleep.

2. Continuing with the Kayla Itsines (here) exercise program. I started in January, and during the school year, I could only get myself to do one full round in the mornings, but I still feel stronger, and there is an insulated 6-pack in there somewhere. I just know it. Come out, come out, wherever you are.

3. Get serious about the Amanda Bisk (here) stretching routine. She made some new-to-me comments about why stretching your muscles is important - boosts circulation, balances your nervous system, ... during the school year, I was not able to carve out daily time to do this, and now I can.

4. Going to APCS training with Maria Litvin (well, we are not going together, but I have heard she will be there ....). Our APCS class "made" for the following year. I'm going to have a mix of newbies and kids who took CS1 with me. For that reason, I am going to flip the class. Lots of work, but hopefully way more useful.

5. Going to Rochester, NY for continuing ed on DE. Whew! This time around, I won't be the slow person in the room, and I may even further my skills and things I can bring back to the students. I've never been to Rochester, and I hear it's beautiful.

6. Doing solo studying of drawing. I started art lessons in May, and have to take the summer off due to fun travel, but I LOVED it. All the classes were/are differentiated, and I'm interested in pen/ink drawing, like this and this. We were taught out of the "Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain" techniques, and it was/is so fun.

7. Continuing to improve my Spanish. I started to take classes in January, because my attempts at solo study always got pushed aside for other more pressing tasks. With the classes, I had homework and I didn't want to be THAT student in class that was unprepared. We talked every week for 2 hours in class while we were learning. There were also Happy Hours where we had to only speak Spanish. I am also learning via Rocket Languages (which I love). I had used this program to learn a bit of French this past year, and found it effective. I then signed up for the 14 lessons of Spanish, and now that I'm near the end, I wish I had gotten the reduced price for buying all 3 at once.

8. Taking this online Python course. A former student made me aware of the 9 week free course, and now we will be virtual classmates..

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Calculus Final Project

If I were in Harry Potter World, I would expand time between when I teach Volumes of Revolution and the AP Exam. This way, I could do a hands on project to actually embed the knowledge in the student brains. But alas, I'm just stuck with regular old days and a time-crunched teacher and students who are teenagers. 

This year, I had my students do this project for the days they were in class. 

It's the first time I've done it, so I made notes in my document for when the inevitable things went wrong this year that I want to improve upon for next attempt of this project:

You'll be shocked to learn that students can't convert between ruler tick marks and decimal numbers. SHOCKED, I tell you. You will also be floored by the fact that directions are for "other people", when you are doing a project, you should just keep asking about the next step.

Anyway, I liked how they turned out:

It was a good mix of freedom for their creativity, an in-depth practice of regression and degrees of polynomials and piecewise functions and graphing. It was a sad awareness of just how shallow some of the students' knowledge was of how to find a volume of revolution. I don't have a grading rubric (everyone is a winner!), but I think I may add one next time.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Mystery Grid Puzzle

As part of my year-end activities, I made this Mystery Grid Puzzle. I figured it was a way for my students to be careful, be observant, and be artsy all at once. I found a pixelated picture I liked, and then slapped a grid over it. Here is a copy if this sound intriguing.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Advertising Idea

My CS1 class is finishing up their original Greenfoot games, so I had them make advertising flyers to "sell their game". They had to have screenshots, descriptions, customer reviews, and developer bios.

I love how creative the students are. I'm thinking I want something like this to be my first day activity next year for the math classes. Maybe something to the effect of "selling math" or "math as a movie" (pick your genre) and have various necessary spiels they have to include. ... Something to think about over the summer. (Who's the GREAT photographer?)

Thursday, May 07, 2015

End of the Year Calculus Project

Whew! That's done. We celebrated Cinco de Mayo by having an AP Calculus AB exam. Aye yai yai yai! After the exam it's a mix of attendance and other issues for students, and every year I have done slightly different things. This year, I wanted to revisit "projects". I had an awful time the last time I did this. Granted, I let the kids have free reign with their time, and shockingly, some chose to waste it (who would have thought), and this resulted in the most memorable string of e-mails from a parent who claimed it was all my fault a student got a bad grade and the kid would now not get into his choice school and his life was ruined and what kind of monster was I? So you can maybe see why I hesitate to do a project. 

Flash forward to this year. I wanted to do a project (because I never learn), but I wanted a Volumes of Revolution project. My specs:
* Must be cheap.
* Must be done only in class with no homework.
* Must involve creativity.
* Must involve calculus.
* Must be fast.
* Must be original.
* Must pull some other math topics from bygone years.
* Must use technology.

And voila! Here are the benefits (I hope) of this project:
* Involves scratch paper and tape/scissors and MAYBE pretty paper.
* I believe it can be done in 2 or 3 block schedule classes.
* Students create their own functions.
* They have to calculate the volume of revolution.
* They have to know how to calculate the radius if given the circumference.
* Regression website! Desmos!

 So I give you THIS. Let the fun begin.


Thursday, April 23, 2015

Limits ... I have reached it!

We are done with our limits unit, and I made some changes (thanks Meg Craig!). Our summary day was today with a mix of everything. Here is the sheet the students worked on to see what they understood. I like it because it has a mix of algebraic limits, graphical limits, limits they have to draw graphs first for, piecewise functions .... HERE it is. Let me know if you want a word document copy.

 Funny story about #15. I actually had a problem there and had put the answer in the answer bank. Then I started pasting and changing the graph for #14, and then realized later that the #15 problem disappeared. So, since there was only 4 minutes until class started, and I had to make copies, I came up with THIS #15.