Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Filming Yourself

As part of my national board certification, for 2 different entries, I have to tape a 15 minute segment of my class and analyze it to within an inch of its life. Even if you don't need to for any other purpose, I highly recommend taping and watching yourself (though I'm entirely sick of that 15 minutes of my life since I've watched it over and over again and can be like that annoying person at a show, "Oh, here's where she says this. Here's where they do that.")

I noticed things I would not otherwise have noticed. When I question kids of varying abilities, I reword my questions (subconsciously?) based on what I think their skill level is. Like I don't think some kids can handle a question asked some way and may need help. That's obnoxious and robs them of the opportunity to show what they know.

I also notice that when I was helping a student in a small group activity, I was bodily in the way of this other polite girl's desk, and so basically the whole time I was helping this one kid, this other poor little child couldn't do her work because BIG HOVERING teacher was in her space. Of course she was too polite to say anything, so for 5 minutes she just quietly sat there. Then when you see me moving off to help another group, boom, she starts doing stuff.

I think if you can get the right group of nonjudgmental/helpful teachers together and they each tape their own class, maybe others would have insight into questioning technique or wait time or such. People with fresh eyes will pick up on things you may not be aware of.

Of course when I invent a 26 hour day, then I'll have time to get that all organized.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Speed Teaching

Right after the winter break, I finally sat down to see where I was with BC Calculus. I know I was behind from last year for a variety of reasons (new block schedule, new book, starting 2 weeks later), and I finally needed to see how far. Yeesh. I listed all the topics left, found how much time left, "did the math", and realized that if we get on the speed train of math, we can just about fit everything in with a week or 2 to review in April/May..... if I forego test days, review days, practice days, state testing days, kids-out-for-anything days. Very unrealistic. And most likely if I forego giving-them-time-to-absorb days.

I'm consoling myself with the "fact" that a lot of it is cumulative, so they'll see skills again even if we don't formally talk about it. I'm also helping the speed by every class making "skeleton" notes where students fill in blanks as I talk and the pictures or graphs are already drawn to save time, and the practice problems are already listed to save time, etc.

So far in 5 (6?) block classes we've covered antiderivatives, Riemann Sums, area, definite and indefinite integrals, FTC, u-substitution, ln(x) derivatives and related integrals. I'm also spiraling homework, and their optimization "test" is a problem that they have to keep attempting for homework until it's perfect. Maybe I'll do a few of those.

I'd better assess in some informal ways to make sure things are sticking, otherwise what's the point of cramming the stuff if they don't learn it.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Funny Kid

Students were wacky today. Just goofy and chatty and such. In my 1st period AB Calculus class - chatty chatty chatty. While they were doing work, some of them started going off and talking in text message code: someone would say out loud, "LOL", and then they would all chuckle. Then someone else said, "ROTFL", and then chuckle, chuckle, etc. Oh my. I quieted them down.

Then. I have a unique, well-liked, has-his-own-band student who often stares off into space like he's writing his own music or thinking artsy thoughts. Well, today he was wearing 60s style pants, and after their big chucklefest died down, he had gotten up to get a tissue, and someone says, "Nice Pants," all sarcastic like, and then everyone chuckle, chuckle. And then I said something about, "oh, if the rest of you have to be such conformists and wear only what other people tell you is okay ..... ". And then this 60s pant kid pipes up jokingly, "well, if you don't like my pants, then I'll just take them off." We all laughed.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Conics Continued

I wanted to start my parabola lesson with paper folding to create a parabola. I'd done it before with other classes, and it went well since it was something different. This year I wanted to add an extra "twist" and experimented on my 3rd period (guinea pig) class .... (we don't LIKE being your guinea pigs).

Previously, they would draw a line on a piece of paper (directrix) and a point (focus) and then start folding the line over to lay on top of the focus many different times, and then the resulting pattern emerges as a parabola. Done. Move on to notes. This year I wanted to actually have them plot some of the points that were on the parabola, so after each fold, they were to use their ruler place it perpendicular to the directrix, through the focus, and make a dot where it intersected the fold.

Oh my goodness. Confusion city. Some kids got it, but lots didn't, so I just moved on and chalked one up to experience. But I think I heard the funniest line so far. One girl who has been struggling with math all year and is not getting the draw-the-dot-on-the-fold directions shrugs and funny-resignedly says, "even paper confuses me in math class".

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Human Ellipse

Earlier in this winter January week in Texas with 60 - 70 temperatures, I was staring out my classroom window and remembering one event in my high school years. I don't remember the class/teacher/activity-purpose. All I remember is that one day we got to go OUTSIDE during class. This memory has lasted 26 years or so. So I related this to my 6th period class, and after their clamoring I promised we'd do something mathy outside some day.

Well, we started conic sections this week, and Friday was going to be a wee bit disrupted from other things, so I thought we'd go outside for part of the class and build a human ellipse to start off the unit. I had a long stretch of nylon yellow rope that I tied into a loop. Two students were the foci, one student was the pencil. Those 3 were inside the loop. The foci stayed fixed, and the "pencil" moved around while keeping the rope taut. The rest of the students were the "pencil traces" and moved to the "pencil's" spot after she left it.

We made 3 or so ellipses and I prompted them first each time about what they thought would happen if the foci moved in or out. We discussed circles. We got some sun. I think they have a sense of the ellipse properties now for when we get to them.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Extra Practice Calculus Worksheets

I keep forgetting to mention this great resource I found at NCTM one year. If you know of the Pizzazz worksheets, it's sort of like that, but for calculus (ooh, aah). It's published by Nasco, and called "Calculaughs Joke Worksheets", by June Oliver - who apparently was/is a calculus teacher and made up a variety of joke practice sheets for derivatives, mean value theorem, integrals, etc.

I've already used them when I want to come back to a topic after we've moved on. It's a nice way for the students to refresh their memories. I LOVED the types of questions on the MVThm sheet. I could never find enough satisfactory problems elsewhere for my kids to practice with. It also gave me some ideas on other types of activities I can have for that topic.

Here's a link I found: http://www.enasco.com/action/search?catalog=math&q=calculaughs&x=0&y=0

I'd also love to hear of other such resources for precalculus or for calculus ... even for algebra 2, because it's nice for the kids to refresh their memories on OLD topics.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Nature Break

Over winter break we went to Red Rock Canyon: Death Valley:

Death Valley:
And Zion National Park:
Every place was more stunning than the one before, and we had many hikes and long nights of sleep and surprisingly tasty dinners in small towns.