Sunday, February 27, 2011

Inspired by the TI-nspire.....

I was SO ready not to "drink the kool-aid" of the fancy what-sa-ma-gadgets that were newer than the TI-84s. I was feverishly searching for talks at the T^3 conference that were not TI-nspire or "navigator" based. I was looking for good calculator activities that would supplement my teaching and help the kids absorb and understand more about the math they were learning. Well, you see where this is going, right? Sip, sip, gulp, wipe the red-dye #5 off my chin.

The first 2 talks I went to were baby/basic/"the on button is here" types of talks about the TI-nspire and the Navigator. Boom, that's all it took. I was hooked. For those of you like me (or maybe I'm the only one left that doesn't know much about these things), here are some basic functions and reasons I'm sold.

1. There are a ton of resources (example) for most (all?) math levels that include teacher notes, student worksheets, programs for your calculator, etc.
2. The students get to explore a topic by playing around with slopes or points or triangles or such.
3. If a student is taking the AP Calculus exam, they can "create new pages" for work for (say) each problem, and then save and refer back to the work as needed (it stays on the page).
4. One of the teacher presenters there mentioned that she has kids referring back to an exploration weeks after they had done it, and it still stuck in their head.
5. The key strokes and such are intuitive (I got the hang of it after 1-2 sessions).
6. Example lessons we worked with: someone had created a program that guided us/students through discovering how slope works. On the calculator was a line with 2 points highlighted and their coordinates showing. The "right triangle" rise over run dotted lines were showing. Above the graph the slope was showing. The kids could grab a point and move it and see what happened to the slope. ..... You know, stuff you probably do anyway, but with maybe a worksheet(s) with them walking through your problems. Now it can all be condensed on the screen and you can be green (ar ar ar). The kids are also asked various questions about the situation. I'm sure you can make up your own questions, but I like the fact that the program is readily available to download to all the kids' calculators. There was also a calculus example where the tangent to the slope was shown that you could move around and see what the instantaneous rate of change was.
7. There are options for calculator pages, graph pages (which talk in f(x) notation), spreadsheet capabilities, scatterplots, .....
8. There is math type availability .... I'm guessing somehow you could also do things on your calculator and then screen capture and cut/paste to tests (??)
9. Cabri is basically on the calculator and easier to play around with (bigger screen) AND the activities and programs prewritten make it more accessible and easier to use daily (rather than find a time when a computer lab is open to take your kids to use Geometer's Sketchpad .... which they've forgotten since it's been a month or 2 since they last saw it).

This is the presenter option where you can see what all is going on in your class. You can make a kid's calculator the "presenter", and they could be doing the key strokes while you're talking.

Anyway, glad I went. I actually bought a TI-nspire and have been playing around with it. I want to download some programs to see further just what's available .... and maybe write a grant to get some class sets for next year.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

A Good Week

I just found out I passed the Computer Science 8-12 teaching certificate test, so that was a great capper to the week. I'm not sure if we'll offer it next year due to a variety of reasons (budget cuts, small school, only put on the upper class-kid's choice sheets, so low enrollment,...), but maybe in the future we can offer it.

Also, we had professional development yesterday, and I went to 4 different math sessions that had good things to offer:

1. Found out the T^3 conference is in San Antonio next weekend. I've never been but am thinking of going. The PD presenter also mentioned some potentially good websites:

She also mentioned that there's this new feature on the calculators (don't know what operating system) where you can push 3 buttons at a time, and it disables the apps and such .... think TAKS test. It seems like an easier way than clearing ALL the memory and apps and then having to reload them. And then to get it back, you somehow link to another calculator and do something basic (forget what). It's called PRESS TO TEST, and you can probably google it and your calculator type to find out more.

2. The "Web 2.0 tools" talk showed some great websites as resources:

this is a "warehouse" of math related sites and on the far right of the table there are videos that explain their usage/power.

3. I went to a "using stations in high schools" talk that just may get me out of my "rut" of doing things the same way all the time.

4. I went to a foldables talk and got some more ideas.

Now off to grade some IED projects to enter for the 6 weeks grades.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

RollerCoaster Week

Ugh! This was the LONGEST week ever: I was cranky, the kids are overwhelmed, I was getting over a cold and coughing "wetly" all week, we started TAKS tutoring during our advisory periods, I had to pick up a cell phone from a stealth texter, we had two meetings that took up morning planning time, and on and on and on.

Then the capper was on Thursday after school when I had students staying for tutoring and retesting of math concepts. I was going along on my merry way, and one of the girls decided to "share" with me, "you know, Ms. ____, in class, we're not laughing WITH you; we're laughing AT you."

Thanks. That basically put the final sour grapes on my week. She was smiling the whole time. She's also the girl that when I'd lost my voice a few weeks ago and was rallying on teaching in a harsh whisper ALL week, said one day, "oh! Ms. ____. Your voice!". Thinking she was commiserating with me, I said/rasped, "I know. It doesn't hurt, though." Then she said, with a pained expression and her hands over her ears, "no. I mean my ears. You're hurting my ears." ....

Anyway. So I went into work on Friday in a miserable mood, grumbling and muttering to myself about the ungrateful little tykes, and I open up this e-mail from a former student:

You have been on my mind. How have you been? I'm at _____ doing my clinicals. I'm level 1 nursing. You would be so proud. thank you I owe you so much you are a wonderful person.

That turned things around 540 degrees! Here was a student that had gotten pregnant her junior year, and somehow figured out a way to graduate and move on with her life and now is a successful nursing student. Love her! And SO appreciate her taking the time to basically make my week end on a great note.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Time For Parallelogram Review...

Well, we had a snow day on Friday, and I got sick, and I like puzzles, and I was trapped at home, and on Monday we're having a "C" day with shortened classes to make up for our lost day and so we don't go off our predestined ABABABABABAB schedule for the rest of the year, so......

This is what I'm having them work on and review so far in our special quadrilaterals unit:

I've checked it a few times, and I THINK I've worked out the bugs, but I guess I'll see how it goes tomorrow. I tried to mix in some algebra review of quadratics and such in there. Hopefully, it'll be a good mix of easy/medium/hard problems.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

What's enough for a parallelogram to appear?

Whew! We've graduated PAST triangles to quadrilaterals in geometry, and now we're cruising. The first day I showed some Internet clips/pics about scissor lifts and pantographs and wood routers that are made like pantographs and such to show parallelograms in "the real world". Then we explored by measuring and conjecturing about the 5 (6) properties of parallelograms. The 2nd day I started with this sheet:

I had a brief discussion with them about what could you "get away with" and magically GET a parallelogram for free if you were creating an object that needed to be a parallelogram. It may be more costly or time consuming to force 2 pairs of parallel opposite sides instead of some other properties that might save you some time or money. Then they discussed with whatever tools they wanted, and then we converged as a class. I made sure to either have them draw a picture at the end as a counter example to the shape being FORCED to being a parallelogram, or we did a "flow proof" to show some were forced.

Today was a crazy day. It started out as 17 degrees F in the morning and up to the 20's during the day, and our city/state had rolling brown outs to be able to handle the load of everyone trying to stay warm I guess. Anyway, at school we were in a ratio of 45:15 off:on electricity practically all day. Sheesh! Thank goodness we have TONS of windows. But BOOOO on the lack of microwaves and coffee pots for the essentials: lunch and caffeine!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Teaching The Sine Graph

I still get requests for the file I used to teach the sine graph WAY back when in the days I taught precalculus (side note: I'll be teaching it again at my new school next year). This is an idea (I forgot where I heard/saw it from) that I wrote up. It involves string, spaghetti, and the worksheet. The kids use the string to wrap around a circle to mark off random angles/marks on the circle. They transfer this to the "linear" xy plane. Then at these angles, they measure the y value on the circle with the spaghetti and transfer that height over to the linear graph. Kids should have prior knowledge of radians, calculator/triangle practice with calculating sine (I forget what else....). Here's the file.