Sunday, December 14, 2014

Crack Kids....

I was not in my classroom some time two weeks ago, and for whatever reason, I had various kids come up to me that I had to record their names. It was a mix of kids I teach and don't teach. I don't know about you, but in those situations, I panic and for the QUIET kids in my class, those who NEVER speak or never engage me in side conversations or never disrupt class or never cause a ripple and fall through the cracks of my attention, I feel time pressured and blank and either can't remember if they look familiar because I've seen them in the halls or if I actually teach them.

I mean, sure, if they are in my class, and quietly in their seats, and in a context my mind links with their names, GREAT! I remember their names. Otherwise, it's a 50-50 shot.

So I was recording names after looking at their faces, and for the ones I didn't know who were just standing there, I said, "who are you?". Well, of course, this one student got all wide-eyed, and her friend who I also taught looked at me, and there was red egg on my face as I slowly realized who she was. I made a joke about it, "well, you are SO quiet! Your homework is now to talk to me in class."

But then I festered on this situation later. Here is what I did in my classes this past week (when I remembered). If time and lessons allowed, I walked up to the ripple-free student in my class and said, "tell me 3 Laura facts" .... or "tell me a Judy fact". That opened up a short conversation and I actually heard their voices that I would not recognize ... yet.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Calculus f and f Prime graph information

Surprise! This is a hard topic for my students. I have adjusted some things and through various conversations I've had and pondering I've done, I came up with this activity that I tried today. This is after a couple of days of activity and discussions and problems related to:

If you see THIS on ____ graph, what does it mean about ______ function?

Here's what we did today for a while. I took it problem by problem and then we discussed it and for each problem I had them draw the "eggnog height vs time" graph after they had ruminated for a while. I also then introduced up and down arrows under the curve to represent "magnitude of rate of change".

In one class, we had a heated discussion about whether when you start or stop pouring, if it's an immediate leap to some rate of change or gradual.

Saturday, December 06, 2014

End of the Semester

I'm loving the switch over I've made from doing a paper copy to a GoogleDocs Form of student surveys for my classes. Now all the survey responses are online and easily searchable/readable without having to find the papers and remember them from years past. 

I also have them do this in class after I discuss "constructive criticism" and "helpful comments" and the fact that I have found previous comments very useful and have even changed how I run class because of some comments. I think that if I didn't have them do this in class, many would forget to do the survey, and I wouldn't have enough information.

Here are the questions I ask:

Useful feedback so far. For example, I recently started uploading my flipped class videos a different way, and I wouldn't have known it was not as helpful if it were not for some comments kids made. I also try to keep my videos short, but some comments asked for my creating extra "showing examples" videos that would be optional. I think that is a useful comment.

And because I just copied this form from the year past and changed the name, I have last year's comments to refer back to to refresh my memory. Win. Win.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sine Graphs and

We have finished all of the transformations for sine and cosine graphs, and soon I want to have an application day where they can write models for various data: blood pressure, tides, weather, oscilloscope readings.... but first I assigned them the following homework:

Think of a city in the world, maybe you want to visit, or it's exotic, or it's far away, or it's a place you have never heard of but searched for online. Then find weather data for a 12 month period for your city. We quickly logged onto and they got accounts and we practiced making/plotting table data and changing window settings and such. They were to come back with their city weather data entered and saved.

The next class, we practiced on paper with "weird data":

I made them just draw a generic sine graph with no axes or numbers around it. I then prompted them for numbers, and then got (say) the "28" for the top x value and the max (71) and min (-31) y values. I made sure to wait until I heard things I wanted before I committed them to the paper.

Then they had to find the amplitude/vertical shift/horizontal shift/period. We talked it through and then got an equation. We did it again for a cosine graph. 

Then we went on the laptops and they brought up their weather data. I asked them to do what we just did to find an equation that would model their weather data. Most importantly, YES they could guess and check, but it would be WAY better to think things through and come up with an equation first and some justification for the 4 key values as we practiced and then play around.

It made for some interesting conversations about "not normal" data points (I picked Timbuktu, Mali, and the year's data had a cold snap for 4 months that should have been hot) .... and about north of the equator and south of the equator cities (one student's data was warm in January and cold in August) ... and cities that were near the equator (all the temperatures stayed basically the same all year). 

My Prague data worked out better than my Timbuktu data:


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Hello (mid) November

I have nothing to blog about, so here I go blogging. Isn't that how it works? Is there a point in every year/blog/person where you start to think of something to expand on and then go, eh, been done, not interesting, navel gazing, ....

Some things I've learned so far this year:

* My "if you want help, you need to ask for it" policy was NOT working for all kids. Shocker! In my mind, I was all, "You're 11th and 12th graders! Ask for help!" But in reality, for whatever reason (apparently, I'm scary??), there were kids that were just fine with sitting there in class or after school and being stuck but not asking for assistance. When I finally picked the brains of some kids, I got various responses: well, I don't know how to phrase the question specifically .... well, you were busy .... well, I feel you judge me .... etc. This has caused me to reevaluate how I run class. Now I purposely stop at each table and kid and ask how it's going. It seems that if I'm the initiator, then I get more responses.

* For precalculus, I have a 100% or 0% quiz I give to the students so they learn the values of sine/cosine/tangent of special angles in the 1st 2 quadrants. They initially have 2 minutes and 10 questions, and if they get any wrong it's 0%. They can take the quiz as many times as they want in a grading period. Usually, this is enough of a motivator for my groups of kids to study. This year, not so much. I had the idea of having MANDATORY 15 minute conferences with me about 2 weeks into the grading period. I made a sign up sheet that basically said: morning, lunch, after school with 3 name slots for each and told the kids they HAD to come in at some point in their time frame. I loved it. This allowed me to talk to kids that would NEVER come in for help. I could see how they were tackling the problems and give tips on speed and patterns and strategies. Of course some kids were already fine, so I could just validate their awesomeness in this arena and move on. I'm thinking of having such a mandatory conference for all my classes (on what?) and all my kids at some point in the year. Am I the only one that hasn't ever done this? Some things I like about it are that I talk to kids I may never talk to in class. I also get to see their thinking and pick their brains one on one on how they are doing. I also get reminded that they are humans and not math-receiving vessels.

* In AP Calculus AB, the learning opportunities NEVER stop. I hear my kids learning AFTER an exam when I make them come in to do corrections one on one. I see them learning when they go through my detailed answer key where I give them extra tips on how to do things and what to watch out for. I sense them learning when they are helping each other through hard problems. Yay math.

* Humans are prone to be happy AFTER something is over and they realize it was not so bad after all. I saw some kids that were in calculus last year, and they are unsettled with the math they are learning this year. They said they "missed calculus" and they were surprised. Hah. I take this more as, now that calculus is over and they saw they were successful, they want that comfort level again because they know how it turns out. Now they are in a new situation with a new teacher and it's an unknown, which everyone knows equals SCARY. I'm guessing next year, they'll be all, "oh, I miss last year's math class!".

* I'm turning 50 this school year. Oy! So that's occupying a large space in my mind. I've decided to make this a year of "trying new things". So far that has entailed going out to eat at DIFFERENT restaurants, ordering a DIFFERENT smoothie than usual, cutting all my hair off into a short cut not seen since 1985, .... that's it so far: food and hair. Go me. 

Okay, maybe I did have some things to blather on and on about.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fraction Remix...

I had about 20 minutes after a test today, and RIGHT before the test, a high school student in precalculus was confused about how to divide 2 fractions, and she couldn't remember the method: "do you multiply the top and bottom?" were words that came out of her mouth.

So. I thought I'd give the following short lesson on why the "flip and multiply" that they seem to spout works.

First I asked them the following questions:

Simplify:   (7/3) / (4/5)

Then after they did that and checked, I asked them to discuss WHY it worked, and "my teacher said so" or some such thing wasn't an option.

Then we walked through the following 4 scenarios:

 So to recap, it basically boils down to seeing how many groups of the denominator fit into 1 unit (that's where the "flip" comes from), and then how many 1's fit into the numerator, and then you combine the 2 numbers and MATH.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Boring Ceiling. Fixed That For You.

Something needed to change. I could no longer stand the travesty that was my ceiling. How could we spend day in and day out under such a boring mess? How was learning taking place? How did we all not just fall asleep under the endless white scandal that was looming over our heads?

After searching the internet for ideas and finding an art teacher that had her kids paint black and white designs ON the tiles and realizing I didn't want to go THAT far, I came up with:

 I am happy with the results. I still need more, as not all kids chose the opportunity. And as a side note ... for all the questions I get about bonus points, you'd think I'd be drowning under a pile of drawings, but, nope. Nada. I am not one for bonus points, and this was a rare instance, but, hah, go figure.