Thursday, August 31, 2006

Radian Technique

Last year my kids struggled with visualizing the placement of radian angles in standard position. They either had to convert (say 7 pi / 6) into degrees and then draw the angle accurately, or they just shook their heads at the crazy things their teacher asked them to do.

Over the summer my retired teacher friend mentioned that he used to teach the pi/6 and pi/3 parts by having them look at the clock and noticing that (say) from 3 to 9 (moving counter clockwise as a positive angle does) there are 30 minutes. Break that into 6 parts. They notice that's on "the hours" 2, 1, 12, 11, 10. Then the kids go back to their unit circle and place dots all around signifying the "hours" and those are the pi/6 separations. Then they go from there. Similarly, from 3 to 9 counterclockwise (a full pi), if we want to break it into 3 parts (pi / 3), that's every 10 minutes.

I had great success on Wednesday with them accurately placing the angles without converting. Woot. Woot. Hopefully, it'll stick in their heads better this year.

I also didn't do a great job last year with having them memorize thoroughly (and "get") sine and cosine of any multiple of 45 degrees or 30 / 60 degrees. They still had to work at it without immediately being able to answer. This year, I'm going to laminate page size unit circles. Then everyone gets laminated 30-60-90 and 45-45-90 triangles that have the side lengths and angles in degrees and radians on both sides and that fit nicely on the circle. Then we'll do an activity where they will place the reference triangles on the circle for various angles I give them. Hopefully, this will allow them to later on picture in their heads the height/placement of the reference triangle and quickly be able to recreate sin 135 or cos 5pi/6. We'll see.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Start of the Year

Right now after 10 days of school, I finally can place student names with faces (if they're in their seats in their period). Soon, hopefully, I'll even recognize and name all of them in the halls (out of context).

My homework policy of having them correct their work in a different color in class (I grade on completeness), was taking too long (15 minutes or so sometimes), and I was rushed and couldn't get through the current lesson. I figured out that they were dawdling and taking forever to get out their homework after the bell rang, and then they were talking too much and joking with their friends (some of them), but then we had to wait for everyone to be done. So. I have now brought in a timer, and when the bell rings I told them I won't remind them to get out their homework, I'll just start the timer and have the answers on the overhead. After 5 minutes I'll turn it off and take questions for at most 5 minutes. Any unanswered questions, they can write on their homework, and I'll answer it there. They are partly graded on their complete "grading", so hopefully this will be successful.

I'm still getting to know the kids and their abilities. I know I have some very bright ones, so I'll have to find more time in the day (hmph) to find extra challenging problems for them.
Anyone have any extra time they'd like to pass my way? I know we all just sit around and daydream most of the day.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Growing Pains

My class sizes in order are: 31, 19, 30, 24, 28. In my first class I already have chatters that just WON'T BE QUIET. I've done seat changes, I've done the stern teacher look, I've waited patiently. Today, I think there will be some field trips outside the door (either for a discussion, or maybe I'll just leave them there). In my 3rd class (gee, it happens to be the 2 largest classes) one of the problems is that they all know each other and have had math class with each other forever, AND it's right after lunch and they're hyped up on FDNVs (an acronym I just saw sprinkled all over a memo indicating that Texas will no longer allow the selling of FDNVs for fundraising during school hours .... "foods of diminished nutritional value").

I love my last period class - sweet hard-working slightly-goofy kids. What a nice way to end the day. I also am quietly thankful that 2 of my duty stations are completely hassle-free, and I can get work done while I'm monitoring hallway doors.

In other news, it's starting again/already where someone who has had me before is now in another teacher's math class, and it's just too ________, and it's not _______, and they wish _________ (fill in the blanks). Invariably as the year goes on, they get used to the new teacher and actually like it and all complaining is forgotten, so now I just have to reassure them and mention that they have to get along with and learn how to be successful in a variety of teacher's classes.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Math Autobiographies

At the start of every year, I have my students write a math autobiography: tell me about yourself, tell me about good/bad experiences with math, tell me about good/bad ... effective/ineffective experiences in any previous class (no teacher names), etc. I like this because I learn something about the kids, and I learn about what their take is on how they learn best.

This year I learned some interesting things. I have an 11th grader who has moved around various countries and has been homeschooled up to this year and is a wee bit apprehensive about public schools. I have a girl originally from Jamaica who is tired of being stereotyped and has some strong words to say about how people treat each other. I have a creative child who put her autobiography in the form of a fairy tale. I have a student who wants to enter the air force and got his first ride in an aerobatic (or jet??) plane this summer. I have a few students who are brand new to our school. I have (already!) a pregnant student. And as usual, I have funny, fun, studious, laid back, intense, happy, apprehensive, unique students.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Already Behind

Sheesh, 2 days into school, and my to-do list never seems to be completely accomplished. Oh yea, and then there's the actual prep for "teaching". I guess it's all the initial set up of the year: organizing the online grade book, starting your lesson plans, setting up the room, teaching the students your procedures, learning all their names, striving to remember your 4 extra duties and when you're supposed to be when, waking up at 4:30am every day from bad dreams and then not falling back asleep, getting all the proper furniture in your classroom, so that you're not tripping over computer wires or overhead wires, etc.

Then I never cease to be amazed at how frequently my first impressions of a student are way off. For example, a girl that I thought yesterday was a "toughie" and "sullen" turns out on the 2nd day to be the sweetest quietest mild-mannered girl with a "tough" exterior. I guess that's a good example of waiting and seeing and being able to be nicely surprised by all the nice kids I'll meet.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Inservice Week Over

Our first week back at work is over, and I think I have a pretty good start on things this year. We have 5 new (out of 20) math teachers, and I'm wondering if we'll ever level off. I've already seen some of my kids who are working away on a project at school, and I've seen a ton of other friendly faces. That's one of the nicer aspects of going back, seeing work friends that you don't see over the summer.

Here's a picture of the wedding cake my husband and I made for my sister-in-law. Pretty snazzy if I do toot my own horn (or really my husband's horn since he did the constructing while I made the royal icing and rolled out the marzipan and put on the flowers and such ... and of course helped make the EXTREMELY delicious fruitcake base that even the Americans liked).

It's modeled after a Mayan Temple since she's an anthropologist and studies bones found in/near them. We found cool chocolate rocks to sprinkle around the base. We (he!) used a toothpick to put creases in the shape of stones in the icing. And voila! A wedding cake.

Monday, August 07, 2006

whew. But not WHEW! yet

It's practically the last day of "teacher" summer as Tuesday (tomorrow) is our first day of inservice (lasting a week) before we start back with the kiddies. For about the last week or so we've been inundated with my husband's family that have come for his sister's wedding (which was yesterday, so most of the chores are over). ... I don't care how nice people are, it's still challenging to have houseguests for a bazillion days. Currently there are a total of 7 people sleeping at our house. Okay, I say "sleeping" but that doesn't include a certain someone who seems to be getting up at 3am and not falling back to sleep and is looking forward to having bags under her eyes for the start of school.

And this wedding thing. It was nice and all, but I still feel it's uncomfortable to be a voyeur at a pretty private-seeming (at least to me) moment. All these emotions are out on the table and the future bride and groom are getting choked up and professing all sorts of love for each other and it feels invasive to me.

On a funny note, my husband's brother's girlfriend is a hoot, and she also wanted to see if she could fry an egg on the sidewalk (this being steamy hot Texas to a Canadian). We cracked an egg on the pavement in front of our house. I didn't feel it was a terribly hot day (98F or so), and it was cloudy at the time, so it felt cooler. The egg white ran and basically disappeared. The yoke did "cook" after about an hour or so, and there were then all these attractive (fire?) ants feasting on the buffet. Our laziness (or something) has the egg still out there 2 days later, and most of the yolk is gone. Yum.