Friday, September 27, 2013

Brought to you by the letter, "V"

Apparently, for now, there are only 24 letters that are "safe" in the alphabet as it is used in a high school setting. I used to toss about all 26 freely as I broke my bonds from the variable "x". X is overdone, I thought! Who made "x" the boss? Let's start sprinkling the other 25 neglected letters, I blithely demanded.

Well, starting last year, the letter "D" brought some giggles. As in, "okay students, find the "d" in this equation." TEE HEE HEE! Ms. _____ is looking for "d"! Oh my word, REALLY. THAT'S a thing now? When did that become a thing?

So this year, I stepped lightly around the "d" landmine so far. Go me! Successfully navigating the other 25 letters. No problem. ... Update: Problem.

Today in Digital Electronics, we started talking about Ohm's Law ... V = I*R. There's a nice helping tool where you put the 3 letters in a triangle and cover up the letter you are solving for, and the remaining visual tells you whether to multiply or divide to find your solution.

First problem, let's solve for voltage. "Okay kidlets, cover up the V ..."


What?! Oh my God people! Okay, is there a sexual reference for I? For R? Are there other taboo letters no one has told me about yet? Should I assign that as a homework assignment: free association of making EACH letter a "thing"?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Precalculus Matching Game...

Today my precalculus students were starting their journey of being able to quickly visualize the "special triangle" standard angles by matching 3 sets of things: angles in radians, angles in degrees, and graphical representation of the angle in standard position.

About 7 years ago or so I first did this activity. And in my most-likely last-minute planning that year, I didn't have baggies to store the 36 cards, so I made up something like this:

Okay, exactly this, because this is the actual "envelope" where the students would store their cards. I folded up a piece of scratch paper and bent in the sides and shoved the 36 colored cards in the packet. That year and that school I thought that kids would try to be "funny" and maybe take out one of the cards, so that the next class would not have a matching set. Who's the jerk cynical teacher that doesn't trust their students? ME!

Anyway, then it became a thing year to year and class period to class period that they would sign their name to the envelope. It was kind of fun to read over the names each year and see if I remembered the students.

Anyway, flash forward to this year. Different school from that first year, and about 7 or so years later. One student when she was signing the envelope said, "hey, my step-aunt's name is on here". I asked if she went to that school I taught at (since maybe it was just a similar name), and she said she did. Fun Coincidence! Or a case of .... look how old you are, you taught my aunt!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Reference Triangles

I had this idea to use string, masking tape, and dry erase markers so the students could explore reference triangles for the first time. I had a bunch of embroidery thread left over, so I gathered supplies:

I had my kids rip off a piece of masking tape and poke a hole through it to thread the string through then tape it to the desk. We discussed spacing issues and such, and they drew circles (eventually they were happy with them after a few erasings).

Then they drew the xy-plane with the origin at the center of the circle. (OCD note: do you SEEEEEE the pen with the cap off! It's drying out, people. CAP THE PEN!)

Then I had them get out their scientific calculators that I had them buy, and we explored sin(20), sin(380), sin(-340) and they noticed things. We then did (on the calculator) sin(160) and sin(-200). They discussed why the values were the same. Then they started moving the string around the circle.

We talked about how it didn't matter how you got there, you still got the same reference triangle (which I kept defining and bringing up) .... no notes yet. We talked about x, y, and r. We explored when the sine/cosine may be negative. I had them draw some more using their fingers and string and dropping of the perpendicular as references for their pens:

We explored when the sine value would get bigger and why.

THEN we went to notes:

I think they liked the novelty of drawing on the desks. Hopefully, the tactile aspect of creating the reference triangles will stick in their heads.

Sunday, September 22, 2013


Oy! I've kept my thoughts to myself, but I've been conflicted EVERY TIME I "hear" this term come up in various posts and tweets and such. But today I just read a post claiming certain group think, and it has prompted me to post.

Maybe I'm not part of this MTBoS. Maybe I am. I don't even know. I blog. I teach math. I share resources. I find resources. I look at tweets. Here are the thoughts that go through my stubborn, ornery, contrary head every time I see those 5 letters:

* Don't tell me what to think.
* Don't speak for me.
* I don't feel that way.
* I feel excluded.
* Am I missing something.
* Am I not part of the cool kids skipping around enjoying their time on the Internet.
* No one invited me.
* Why is there a need to yell "YIPPEE" look at us so often.
* This is having the opposite effect I think it's intended to have.
* I want some chocolate.
* No. Wine. I want wine.

Maybe I'm in the minority. Maybe people didn't invite me to parties as a child, and these are the after effects. Maybe I feel awkward in a large group. Maybe I need to mull things over myself, and keep my mouth shut.

I guess mainly, I'm thrilled that there are so many teachers that are willing to allow me to peek into their classrooms and thinking and teaching journey. That's enough. Anything more, to me, is just drawing a line in the sand and potentially making people feel excluded whether that intention was there or not.

Or maybe I have no idea what I'm talking about, and I'm the only one that scrunches her face at such a "thing". Anyway, here's a sweet picture to calm me down.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Teaching Radians

Since I was testing in another class the other day and was BORED from not chatting with kids and teaching, I had some time to prepare more than an hour in advance for teaching precalculus. I tried 2 new things this year to teach radians, and I think they're keepers for me.

First I had compasses and protractors and had them make 3 different circles in their notebooks. Then they measured the radius of each and recorded it. Then they "carefully" used a ruler (my compasses are the orange cool ones with a ruler on them) to "wrap around the circle" one radius length. Then they measured the angles.

We talked about how we're human, and it will be off, but we noticed the numbers were similar. Here's the page of my notes.

The next thing that worked was a table. I made them create a table with 3 columns, angle in standard position, degree measure, radian measure. One row at a time, I would give them one of the values, and they had to figure out the other two, and then we'd discuss it and their strategies. The highlighted portion is what was given to them.

I liked this because it's all ordered in one table, and they can absorb it and see connections and such as opposed to my last year's notes where I sloppily just did a few around the page and put all the information on the graph.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

CS First Assignment

This year I have a stacked class of CS1 (11 kids) and CS3 (4 kids) students. In CS1 I did the same first assignment as I did last year (a packet that walks them through graphics and has them create their own original picture). I basically only help them when they get stuck or when they want to do specific things NOT explored in my packet (like various colors or polygons).

This year, after being inspired by our art teacher who hangs up the kids' work around campus and most times has an "artist's statement" to go along with the picture, I decided to do the same thing. After my students finished their assignment, I asked them to type up an artist's statement about their experience and challenges and such. Loved their responses. Here are 3 samples.

Also, here is a disclaimer about my school. I teach at a public school. We are roughly 60% F.and.RL, 60% Hisp (not necessarily from the same pool). There is a strong culture of working hard and doing your best. It is a small school, so no one is invisible (for the most part). I teach girls. I mention all this so that when I show samples of my students' work you can understand what background they have that allows them to do things.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

You Know You Need More Sleep When ...

... you think of something you MUST do and CAN'T forget, so you decided to send yourself an e-mail to remind you to do this tomorrow. As you are writing the e-mail (and list some other things to do), ..... you forget the original thing you needed to remember to write down so you could remember to do it later!

Oy!Okay, I finally remembered after I walked around, but seriously folks.

In other news, I'm coaching an FTC team this year for the 1st time (for me). Woot! Do I know anything about robots? Not yet. We had our "sort of 3rd" meeting today, and the students are eager, so I'm thrilled about our upcoming adventure. There is a nice, seasoned coach from another school that's being very generous with tips and guidance and such, so that will be of great help.

In other, other news. I actually signed up to run a February Marathon. Have I mentioned that? Well, I have to people at school. Several Times. Hah! I've caused them to take up running ... away from me when they see me walking towards them to mention THE MARATHON I am training for. Sounds all fancy and such ... but really, I'm only still doing a 5k and building up my time so I can do a 10minute run / 1 minute rest. I'm currently at 5:1. I guess you have to start somewhere.

Sunday, September 08, 2013

First Day Report

In my Precalculus class, I did end up using the activity mentioned here. I decided to have 2 different pictures for my 2 different periods, the ISS and another cool one of a bridge. I had them spend some time wondering and such, and then I had them write one of their comments on a sticky note and we posted them in the hallway around the pictures.

Some of their comments were goofy, but I did hear some intelligent ones. If I do this again, I'll give them more time and mention at the outset that once they start thinking more and more about the pictures, they may develop more intricate wonderings. As it is, I don't think I gave them enough time or direction to get to the potentially cool thinking.

Here are some sample responses for the ISS picture:
* The ISS is a place where astronauts of different nationalities collaborate and study in space together.
* The ISS was engineered using math.
* On the ISS, astronauts suffer severe weight and muscle loss.
* Has anyone died in attempting to live out in space?
* I know that astronauts line in the ISS.
* Do you have to stay in your jumpsuit throughout your stay at the ISS?
* There are clouds.
* How many mathematicians were involved in creating the ISS?
* How much energy is required to run the ISS?
* How often do they see the sunrise or sunset?
* How exactly was this assembled?
* Does the ISS orbit Earth in a circle or ellipse?
* What happens if someone dies while they are in the ISS?
* Will they build more?

Okay, now that I read them again, there are some cool questions and wonderings. I guess if I did this again, I may on the SECOND pass have the class explore their thinking on some of the questions and get MORE questions from them.

Here are some sample responses for the BRIDGE picture:
* What is the bridge's purpose being under water?
* Does the highway ever flood? What happens then?
* What prevents water from overflowing onto the road?
* How much math was used to make this bridge to keep back the water?
* Underpass slants down towards middle of bridge. Water needs to be level to stay in one place, but bridge looks higher than grass and trees.
* How did they hold the water back when building the bridge?
* Why is the white structure almond-shaped? Why not rectangular?
* Did the builders drain the water in order to build this?
* Is there animal and water life safety nets under water in a safe distance from the bridge?
* How did the idea of the bridge start and what was the first step to build it?

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Piecewise Functions...

Hello School! We meet again!

I did the first day activity previously mentioned, and I will blog about it, but I'm more excited about how we did piecewise functions today in precalculus. During the previous class we walked through an IRS example and discussed how taxes were calculated and what the graph may look like, and we did a simplified version of it and ended up with a step function for the rates. I went online to find current information.

Today, we learned 3 skills, and I think the color coding went really well. I could refer back to it for each skill, and they could see what parts went where.

Here's what the notes looked like.