Friday, December 30, 2011

Almost Over...

These days of enough sleep will soon come to an end. I'll miss the sleeping part, but I won't miss the sitting around on my heiny part. I'm wondering if it almost wouldn't be better to have a week shorter break, and then take those 5 days and sprinkle them around for FIVE FOUR-DAY weeks at various times during the year. Then it would be like mini vacations all the time.

I went to a wedding of an old friend yesterday, a retired math teacher getting married for the first time, WOOT, and not surprisingly, he invited a bunch of other math teacher friends he'd taught with throughout his career. I was chatting with a few, and we happened upon the discussion of administration. A retired woman was commenting on the fact that as the years went on in her teaching, she'd see various administrators come and go, and they got younger and younger and greener and greener and she just had to ride out the tide.

Some other retired middle school teacher's husband commented on the fact that at the various school parties he noticed a hefty amount of alcohol. Ahem.

Another teacher was reminiscing about the days when there would be a "homework hotline" where they were paid $10/hour to sit and wait in the evening for possible student calls for math/english help.

Another retired teacher was mentioning the fact that she now gets paid $26/hour to tutor 10 students at a particular school. I know of another retired math teacher that tutors students in a wealthy district for about $40-$50/hour and for most of the year (half the year?) has about 20 students on his roster once a week. Yeesh. I guess there won't be any shortage of things to do when that time comes. ...

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


That's what I deem this first day of vacation.

It started out with a much needed 8 hours of sleep. Continued on later with a brisk exercise walk in our "freezing" 46 degree weather. Followed by a yummy lunch and 2.5 hour nap. Enhanced by starting a book ("Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz) recommended by a work friend. To be concluded with having friends over with delicious take out from a neighborhood Italian restaurant.

This year has aged me ... or maybe I'm just aging. I don't wear glasses (except for driving), but I've been noticing a fuzzier appearance to the world. I guess that's what 46+ years will do to you. I'm also not getting enough sleep during the school week/year, so I feel haggard. I'm also skipping yoga too much because I feel trapped at work too late (maybe that will be my New Year's resolution: leave on time on Tuesdays). This causes me to feel stiff and achy and stressed. I think I may piggy back that resolution onto another resolution a friend told me about: try at least one new type of drink a month (to get out of her same old same old rut).

I did enjoy two new endeavors this semester. The first was teaching Digital Electronics. Loved it! It's a nice mix of logic and math and breadboards and LEDs and such that you control with your skill.

The second was an online Java course I took (and will continue taking in the spring). It's the AP Computer Science curriculum taught through the University of Missouri. The teacher is great, the curriculum is well laid out. The topic is fun. I get to program again. I even made a version of "green globs" for my final project, and it worked! I love the push I have to actually go through the subject because of the deadlines and grades and tests I have to submit. I know if I just said I'd do it on my own it would be so easy to put it off all the time because I am busy.

All in all, it was a good semester, and MOST of all, I'm going to enjoy my free time by napping and reading and movie-ing and puzzling and such.

Friday, December 16, 2011


This problem makes me happy in its difficulty and challenge. I threw down the gauntlet to my precalculus students. We'll see if they run with it to the finish line or not. Either way, I wanted the smartie smarts to at least know there are some problems out there that require more than just rote brain power.

Friday, December 09, 2011


As always it's just slam-banged and gotten here already. Now it's a scramble to get all things graded and finals written and reviews made and failers cheered on to get their act together and mouths kept shut due to lack of sleep and knowledge that if something comes out of my tired brain/mouth it will be a regrettable snarky comment that won't do anyone any good.

On a positive note, I have this extremely clever 8th grader this year. She's quiet and polite, but every time the timing is right, she comes up with these zingers. For example, today I quickly made up a review sheet for geometry, and it had an answer bank on the bottom. Being the last-minute person that I am, it was all hand-written. Well, as a shock to no one, there were 2 mistakes in the answer bank due to my non-checking of my work. So as their class started, and I handed out the hand-written sheet, I mentioned that there were some "pen-o's" on the sheet (you know, typos, but penos). This class also knows since I've mentioned it several times that I have a pen buying problem, and I'm trying to go through my current bazillion stash before I succumb again to purchasing more.

Anyway, after I said, "pen-o", she said, "is that like wino but with pens?" Then we chuckled and mentioned that I should join PA, "hello, my name is ____ and I have a pen problem."

Monday, November 28, 2011

Not Just For Special Occasions...

In my geometry class, I'm trying to keep their algebra skills fresh (AND exciting!), so lately I've brought back lines: find the equation of a line parallel to ____ going through point ____; find 4 points on the line ______; etc. I reviewed point-slope form, slope-intercept form, standard form.

Well, many students came in for tutoring and were stuck on this problem:
Find 4 points on the line 3x + 2y = 12.

Them: "I don't know what to do."
Me: "How many points on a line?"
Them: "Infinity."
Me: "Yes, infinITE. What do you think is true about this equation and any point on this line."
Them: chirp chirp of crickets.

Me: explanation, showing, bla bla bla.
Them: "oh yea" .... work furiously.
Them: "I'm stuck. I can't find any more."
Me: looking and seeing that they have guessed and checked their capacity of integer valued (x,y) values.
Me: "Just pick an x and solve for y."
Them: "I tried, and NOTHING ELSE WORKS!"
Me: "Decimals and Fractions! They're not just for special occasions."
Them: "Oh, I didn't know you could have non-integer points."

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Eye Contact

For sad work-related issues of not being able to get out of work on time, I often miss my 1 favorite yoga class in the week. It's either that or be the jerk that walks into class late frequently ... so I settle for being the jerk every other week or so. What I love about the class is that the teacher always has a theme or some sort of life lesson she winds through the class. She also changes it up EVERY week. She's also very fit and warm and a good person and makes sure she learns everyone's names.

At the end of class, she stands outside the door, and people always clamor for her attention and want to talk to her as they are leaving, but she always says goodbye to everyone. What I notice the last few times is that the moment I'm leaving, she's engaged in conversation, and though I do get a, "bye," there's no eye contact since she's otherwise engaged. What I also notice is that it started to bug me. ... not in the sense of, "the nerve of the woman!" but in the sense of, "hey, notice I'm a human being amongst the other human beings here."

Then, of course, I noticed that I frequently do that to my students at various times. There are those students that by the very nature of their personalities just force you to pay attention to them. A LOT. Then there are the quiet polite ones that just go about their business, and maybe I may never make eye contact with them (much?). Maybe that may happen in most/all of their classes, and even if it doesn't, it's a shame it happens in mine. I get into the state of, I'm dealing with a class or a question you have or the math of it, and it's a "situation" not a person I'm dealing with.

So today, after each student was finished with their test, when I collected the paper, I made sure to smile and say a quiet thank you and actually make eye contact with each of my students.

Woot! One day of successful eye contact down. A bazillion more days to remember to do this.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Precalculus Trig Function Transformations

We've just finished a unit on transforming trig function graphs:
y = a sin b(x + c) + d.
We did various things and practice, but I think I found my new BFF towards the end of the unit once we were reviewing for the test.

A student was having a hard time looking at a graph of a transformed function and getting the equation. I had some old transparencies that had the coordinate plane on it with radians on the x axis. I also had half sheets of cut up transparencies and a ton of markers. I laid the 1/2 sheet over the graph and had the student draw the parent function of the sine graph (for example). Then she was able to slide the 1/2 transparency any place she wanted to see what the transformed graph would look like (barring amplitude and period changes ...... though I guess we could have used another 1/2 transparency overlayed on that one).

This seemed to help gel in her mind the steps she had to take. I think next year I may give all students such transparencies just to keep and play with for the duration of the unit. .... My 2nd thought was to have pipe cleaners they could manipulate into the shapes and then move those around on a graph.

Also, I loved this particular review question I gave. There was a picture of a (say a potential sine graph) that has been transformed in all sorts of ways. The question was: find 2 possible equations for this graph. I guess a variation question could be: find a sine and a cosine equation for this graph ... or find 2 sine equations and 2 cosine equations for this graph.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

End of the 6 Weeks...

Well, from 20+ failing students down to 3 for now and possibly only 1 or 2 after I grade some test corrections and put in more homework grades. What IS it with certain types of people that they have to hit rock bottom with their grades before they start putting out some effort? I guess it's probably a mix of human nature to get by with as little as possible plus teenage brains plus maybe a dose of "they don't REALLY mean it that I'll fail, do they?", plus an ounce of "math's hard, let's go shopping!".

On the positive side, one of my hardcore, "I hate math, and I probably hate you, and I'm going to be as obnoxious as possible to get some attention" students pulled it together in the last couple of weeks and started behaving semi-politely and actually put out an effort to understand the math and take her retests and learn some geometry. On the negative side, she's also the student that couldn't really with utmost certainty tell me what "8 over 4" really means in terms of life/math/reality. "one half? 2? I don't know! what are you asking?". Oy!

But on the "am I a glutton for punishment?" side, it always seems to be the most gratifying when THOSE kids get it together and pull through and actually learn something. Hah! Forget the nice kids that are always doing the right thing and being polite and being good students! Boring!

.... Just kidding.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Timed Trig Quizzes....

Well, it's towards the end of the 6 weeks (1 more day), and it's the last chance for my kidlets to do their "1 minute / 10 question / know your special radian sine/cosine/tangent angles" quiz. Whew! Most of them have passed, and I think they surprised themselves.

When I first gave it to them weeks ago, they couldn't even get 2 accurate (let alone complete the quiz). Now, they're just whipping them out. I kept saying that I wasn't worried and that they'd rise up to it and that they'd surprise themselves, but it would take work. .... Some of them even surprised me. You can't imagine the whining throughout the process (or maybe you can) .... Why is it timed? Why do we have to do this? I can't do this! This is impossible! Whaaaaaaaa! I'll never pass. Stopppppp! What if I don't pass????

Honestly, I don't remember how long I used to give them in the past ... and like a bad teacher, I didn't look it up. I assumed it was one minute, and now I'm wondering if it was 2 ... but I don't think so. Even my most snail-paced-think-through-everything-twice student was successful. Woot!

The repetition is the key, and it's even good if it takes them longer to pass because that's more time they have to spend memorizing all the angles.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Magic Hand and Transversals...

We started talking about 2 lines cut by a transversal this week in geometry. I had fun with the "magic hand" statement, and it seemed to work with my students. I held up my hand at the appropriate moment and asked them what it was ..... "a magic hand!", and then I placed it over the "4th line" that I had drawn.

I also mentioned that the two lines could be like sandwich slices and the transversal is the toothpick that goes through the sandwich. So when I had them identify types of angle pairs, I could keep saying, "who's the bread? who's the toothpick?". That seemed to help them be successful once the "magic hand" removed an extra line.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011


Eesh. I had to go to a PLTW meeting last week and had a substitute for the whole day. First of all was the planning and me being a last-minute person. I was at school from 6pm - 9pm the night before getting ready ... THEN had dinner. STARVING. Anyway, that told me a couple of things I didn't realize or never stopped to count. I guess it takes about 3 hours every day to plan for the day and make it happen. Then when I added it up, it wasn't too far off.

I get to school at about 7:15 and plan and prep until 9:15. Then in my early off period I do more prep. Of course there are interruptions and such, but sheesh, I never counted it all up before.

But, I really wanted to process the substitute experience, and how you can't plan for EVERYTHING, or maybe it's just me who can't remember everything. I am patting myself on the back because I remembered to tell him my bathroom policy, so there would be no issues. I DIDN'T remember to tell him about my food policy because it's not something on my mind .... and that's kind of ironic because the whole time I was at school that night I was STARVING (in case I haven't mentioned that yet).

I don't mind kids discretely eating snacks in my class as long as it's not distracting, and they clean up after themselves, and they're tuned into me, and it's healthy-ish. If it ever is a problem, I speak with the student and deal with it (which rarely happens). Well, I forgot to put this on my plans, and the substitute had a "no eating in class policy" apparently, and my students were not used to it, and he made some students throw out their food and put away the other food.

Next, I put something in my plans about either him going over the homework key or having students come up and explain. Again, silly me, since I'm such a control freak and always present the key (mostly for time sake), it didn't occur to me he might choose the OTHER option of students doing it. Well, apparently, this took 2 or 3 times as long, and then they didn't have enough class time to do the lesson. The reason I put that in the plans was in case there was a problem that someone needed an explanation for, then the students could elaborate. Of course this was all in my head, and apparently, the substitute is not a mind reader.

Anyway, I heard ALL about this from my students when I got back, and we commiserated. But. I had to tell them that being a substitute is SUPER hard, and they're not treated very nice, and YES, when they're in the room, it IS their classroom.

On an AWESOME note. My 10th grade (on level) geometry class kept informing me via e-mail or after I got back that they had a BIG argument about one of my truth table problem solutions. They were convinced I was wrong and had a big discussion about it in class. YAY! They were actually right, and I love it that they were confident enough in the topic to recognize my mistake as opposed to quietly assuming they were wrong and passively writing down my answer.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sine Curve Application...

Today in precalculus we worked on a "real life" application of the sine curve. Sure I could have done this without a worksheet, and put the data on the overhead, but I like the sheet because it's a different way of differentiating instruction. Everyone can work at their own pace, and I'm free to wander around helping and hinting instead of being trapped up front talking at the class.

This took about an hour. I basically said, "go" and let them struggle. They had various issues:

*amplitude, how do I find that? (I showed them something more familiar to them, and they then figured it out ... say a sine graph shifted up with max of 10 and min of 6).

* period? what? 360? (no ... think about how long the yearly cycle would be)

* vertical shift? now wait a minute lady (think .... look at old work we've done)

* horizontal shift? what the?!?!?!? how? (think .... )

They finally got through enough of the answers, so we talked it through, and then the final what?????? hey, it doesn't go through EVERY point! That bothers me! Make it stop! (calm down. real life is messy. It's a MODEL. We make assumptions...)

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Week from H.E.Double.Hockey.Sticks.....

Phew! I'm still alive, and I didn't damage kids too much, and I'm still reasonably sane. This week was filled with drama and lack of sleep and midterms and bell schedule changes and teacher (me) melt downs and ....

Too predictable to mention, because I'm sure we've ALL had such weeks, and I'm sure there'll be others like it. On the plus side, I'm glad it happened (now that it's over), because I was getting a wee bit worried with so many positive days happening in a row. It's like waiting for the other shoe to drop, and you start getting paranoid because you KNOW it's coming, so you want it to come (sort of) to get this cycle over with.

On the funny side .... and it TOTALLY doesn't apply to me since I love my job, but I found this funny quote:

“Oh, you hate your job? Why didn't you say so? There's a support group for that. It's called EVERYBODY, and they meet at the bar.”
(Drew Carey)

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Questions

In my mind I believe I keep a neutral face when I answer student questions. Most of the time it's okay, but I'm thinking of those times when you JUST answered something 2 seconds ago, and then 5 more students ask in a row the same question. I know, I know, it's human nature, and you're multitasking, and you may have been concentrating on something else when it was answered, etc, but still, MY human-ness makes me roll my eyes (on the inside) and say to myself (on the inside), "for the love of G**, I JUST answered that" all the while .... blank face ..... or to vary it up a bit, a wry smile ... and answer the same question again.

Or those times, when someone asks a bizarre math question (or at least it seems bizarre to me) .... blank face.

So anyway. Today in precalculus, someone was asking a math-related question, and then, I don't know, for some reason, I felt all the other students' eyes on me to see my reaction as I answered the question. It sort of felt like, "let's see how she handles this potentially silly question ... (but I don't know if it's silly because I sort of want to know it, too .... but maybe it's silly ... let me see), so that I know in the future if it will be safe to ask MY question or will she make me feel bad, so I'll just be quiet."

It just hit me again, that the judging of "playing school" goes both ways. We judge constantly how the students are being students, and they judge in all situations if it's okay to learn however they need to learn, or if they have to be on guard about things around you.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it, and they were just staring at me because I looked so tired or it was just a place to rest their eyes.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Real Life Logic

Before I started my logic unit in geometry, I told my students that in their lives lots of people are going to try to sell them things: products, ideas, candidates, positions/views.... and they can choose to be passive receivers of information or they can be critical thinkers with the information and make their own decisions.

Recently, there was a newspaper article that lit a fire under my students, and I thought this would be a good opportunity to put this into action. I copied the article and put line numbers on it, and gave them this sheet:

After our discussion on all things logic, I gave them some quiet time in class to start the article and highlight and think for a bit, and then discuss with each other, and then toss around some thoughts on what the author was trying to sell them. Then they had the rest for homework.

Today, when they got back to class, I took them out into the hall and paired them off facing each other with directions on what to discuss. Then we rotated around (like a rubber band I told them) and got a new partner and discussed the next question and so on. LOVED IT. They were on fire and got a chance to interact with different people than they usually work with and they got to defend their choices and such.

The actual article is not that important to y'all, but I think it helps if it's a wee bit controversial. Before they handed it in, I had them jot down some of their comments about the actual homework:

"long" ..... (I may shorten it to only 4 "conditionals" or so if I did it again)
"I don't see how it relates to geometry" ... so I guess I have to reiterate why we did this and how it's an application of logic
"it made logic have more sense to me"
"it makes the conditionals make sense because we had something to apply it to"
"it helped me actually have to think deeply about the article"
"I think it took too long, but helped with conditionals" (again, I do think 6 is too many)

Thursday, October 13, 2011


You know, in all my spare time, I had to fill the vacuum, so now I'm obsessed with making these:

Which I heard about from (another obsession) and ultimately from this blog.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Stick a Fork In It

I had a nice reminder yesterday that (obviously) our students are not finished products.

I don't know about you, but it's too easy for me to get some idea about a student (heck, let's just say a person), and then in my mind, BOING, that's my perception of them. So any time I see them in the future, that's a label or whatever that comes along for the ride while I'm having my interaction with the student/person.

News Flash. People change. Shocking! Right? And students change constantly. And students are influenced by people and events and occurrences around them. So this person/student that was a noodge or mean or ran with the "wrong crowd" or _________, may not be that person today. Or they may be, but that doesn't mean that your interactions with them or other people's dealings with them won't have a positive, cumulative effect for a future date. I shouldn't "write people off" or (sub)consciously treat them in a certain way because of something I know about them or heard about them because .... they are not finished products.

So that was a nice gentle wake up call to me (along with the good news about a student that WAS running with the wrong crowd but is now making visible steps to break free). See! I'm not a finished product either. Woot!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Extras That Are Saving Me This Year...

You know how you gather tons of teaching advice throughout your career. Some sticks, some doesn't seem to (but who knows, maybe the fact of filtering through the information allows you to take a stand on things valuable to you).

Here is one that always stuck with me, "find pockets of time and use them wisely". This was given in the sense of, "yes you have to grade that huge stack of papers, and yes it will take you maybe 2 hours, and no you probably will never consistently have 2 hours in one shot, BUT, if you find 15 minutes here and 15 minutes there, then the work gets done, and it's ALMOST painless .... because everyone can stand most ANYTHING for 15 minutes." In this way (unless you're using your 15 minutes to rejuvenate), instead of sitting around chatting or surfing or whatnot, then use that 15 minutes to chip away at work that you'll have to do.

Here's how it's helped me this year:
I'm doing lesson plans this year, and I'm keeping up with the online homework calendar and the GradeSpeed updating of homework.

Old Me: oh, I'll do those 3 things after school, or I'll do them on the weekend, or I'll do them LATER. And this was hit or miss successful, and when it was successful, it amounted to a ton of time playing catch up.

New Me (for now .... work in progress): Boom, I just wrote the homework on the whiteboard, let me quickly use 1 minute to put it on the homework calendar and then it's done. ... oh let me SIT for 15 minutes after school and actually write my lesson plans instead of just taking them home for a round trip. .... oh, the students are correcting their homework from the overhead, let me put the new homework on GradeSpeed.

So that's one consistent improvement this year. Here's another one.

Old Me: oh, something unusual is coming up soon or not so soon. Let me write a sticky note, and that will remind me of it when it comes to disrupt my schedule (meeting, e-mail I have to send, conference I have to sign up for). And maybe I'll see the sticky note in time or not.

New Me: Let me put it on my Google Calendar and add several e-mail reminders that will shoot me e-mail periodically to keep it fresh in my mind.

Old Me: wow! look at the pile of p** that is my desk.

New Me: let me put away just 7 things right now. (oh look a smaller pile of p** ... for now).

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Calculator Precalculus

Geometry. Geometry. Geometry. It's almost like I don't teach another class. BUT. I totally teach precalculus, and it's fun to get back to it after a 2 year break.

We're currently learning how to solve "simple" trig equations on the calculator. I make the students purchase a scientific calculator, so that they have one at home and so that when we have "graphing" tests, they can still use this calculator.

Here's what we're currently working on, and I just have to say, still LOVE the answer banks. [note: added later .... eek! error in answer bank on front side. "5.6034" should be "3.8214"]

I'm also going to start the 100% or 0% quizzes soon. I want them to have quick and accurate access in their heads to the sine, cosine, and tangent of all the special angles given in radians (including on the axes). I give them a 10 question (14?) quiz and I take it with them the 1st time. I tell them that I'll give them twice as much time as it takes me, and they have to get 100% or it's a 0%. They can take it as many times as they want throughout the 6 weeks. This forces them to have a super fast grasp of it.

Monday, October 03, 2011


As my husband and I were pulling out of the "membership only big store" parking lot, we passed a Wendy's. There was an advertisement for job openings, both cashier and manager. The manager's position said, "make up to $55,000 per year".

Then I had to pause. That's more than I make after 14+ years of teaching as a Texas teacher. Eeesh!

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Pizza & Circles

We were at one of those membership-huge-quantities types of stores today, and I saw this. I made my husband go back and film it with his cell phone (as I don't have one). Bla bla bla, dark ages, bla bla bla. Anyway, Geometry! Circles! Engineering! Pizza! Woot! (* this seems to work with Internet Explorer, but not with Mozilla hmmmmmm)

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Truth Tables

We're well into our journey of logic in geometry, and we just started truth tables. In the past, I walked them through the 5 basics (conjunction, disjunction, conditional, biconditional, and double negation). We make up funny statements and see how things work. Then IN THE PAST I have immediately stepped into building a large truth table such as: (p or q) --> (~p and q) or some such thing. Shockingly, it was too fast of a leap into the deep end.

I had tried various things such as cutting out each column on pretty paper and moving things around, or working examples with them, or whatever. Not completely successfully. And then this year, I think I got it (after my 10th or 11th year teaching the topic!).

This year, right at the end of class for the basics, I set up a 3 column truth table, where I gave them weird columns for the 1st 2, and I gave them various "T"s and "F"s for the first 2 columns. Then I had them think about what the new action was on the 3rd column.

Example (of 3 column headers):
1st column: (p -->q)
2nd column: ~r and w
3rd column: (p-->q) OR (~r and w)

At first they were all, "what?", but I kept silent and eventually would dole out little clues if they were stuck (like boxing in one color the 1st column header and that same thing in same color in the 3rd column). They FINALLY got, "oh! you're just "ORing" 2 things. Voila! They went to the appropriate basic table and filled in appropriately.

Here's a piece of their homework for that night:

Then, when I started class the next day, we did a "fill in 2 columns" one, and they were okay. THEN I just started truth tables, and it seemed more successful than before. Woot!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Project Results....

Here is the back of the project sheet I mentioned last post. I don't COMPLETELY feel comfortable posting it .... I'm hazy on these copyright laws .... so I'm just showing it to you. AND here are four examples of what my students came up with. They continue to inspire me with their creativity.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Personal Ad Project-ette

It was a day of service last Friday, and I was going to be out with my high schoolers, and leave my little 8th grade geometers stranded, gasping for geometry air. Baby project to the rescue.

A while ago I saw this section in Weight Watchers Magazine where they introduce a new vegetable or fruit or some other healthy food and make it look like a personal ad. Something to the effect of "Hello, My Name is Squash" .... "on weeknights you can find me..." ... "things you may not know about me....", etc. I copied this page on the back of the following sheet:

I didn't get all of them back yet, but holy cow some were funny. One was, "ANGLEina Jolie" whose parents were rays and who had "25 degrees" ranging from accounting to psychology. I'll post some when I get them all back. But those students make me giggle.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Conversation Snippets...

Geometry Class:

Conversation One:

Class: "Are you going to let us have a formula sheet on the test?"
Me: with shocked awe, "No."
Class: Stunned silence as they think I'm kidding.
Me: "Seriously? Three formulas. I know you can handle it."

Conversation Two:
Student: "Are you going to let us use calculators on the test?"
Me: Started a long-winded response on why I'd be doing them a disservice if I let them use a calculator on THIS test .....
Me: glance at the vacant look that is starting to pass over the student's face.
Me: "Do you want the long answer or the short answer?"
Student: "Short answer."
Me: "No."
Student: "Okay."

Conversation Three:

(me walking past a student who I see (or think I see....) stuck on a problem I know is hard from the packet they're working on.
Me: starting in and continuing on being very helpful with hints on how to get started.
Student: politely doing what I ask.
Me: pause.
Student: I wasn't even on that problem.
Me: ..... "did you even call me over, or did I just start helping you?"
Student: "I didn't call you over."
Me: walk on by......

Conversation Four:

(after I explained to my "on level" class how a particular 4 problems on their packet were challenging, so I'd like them to try them, but I don't want them to get stuck on them and then not move on to other problems)
Student: (pushing through and probing on how to be successful on this particular problem) .... "I want to be that student this year that pushes herself to try hard things past my comfort level and go above and beyond."
Me: bursting with pride for her and a big smile and congratulations to her for having that life attitude.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Self-Award-Winning Crank

Oy! Who let ME out of the loony bin? As the week went by I got more and more crotchety and ornery and just generally not fun to be around (if you were a teenager who happened not to behave in a manner I found perfect). I think all the moons aligned and teenagers had to nerve to act like teenagers and as a perfect person who always behaves perfectly, I couldn't abide by the nonperfectness of the young humans around me.

Thank goodness the weekend has rolled around, and I can hole up in my home and reflect on what my options are for buying some patience next week. Maybe there'll be a two for one sale. Maybe I'll get some sleep and store up some patience. Maybe to kidlets will forgive me for snarling at them.

In other news, four school weeks have rolled by, and, no joke, we've already had days off for college field trips, time off to give school tours to visitors, early dismissal for volleyball tournaments, shortened schedules for student council speeches, (upcoming) day off for doing service and for bonding retreats, (upcoming) partial day off for college representative tour. Nope. Nobody here is stressed with the dwindling days to teach.

In funnier news, I heard a joke on Prairie Home Companion today that provided MUCH-needed laughter:
A couple was out celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, and the wife punches the husband in the shoulder and says, "that's for 25 years of so-so sex."
The husband thinks a bit and punches his wife in the shoulder and says, "that's for knowing the difference."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Geometry Diagrams

Last week after we learned more ways to notate a diagram to represent various things (midpoint, bisecting, ...), I handed out the following activity in class.

I walked around a bit until I saw that a couple of problems were done and searched for a mixture of 3 to 4 papers that had mistakes of varying sorts and possibly some correct answers. Then I made sure to thank the students in advance for providing us with a learning opportunity and discussed how you can learn way more from searching for errors than from getting something right the first time.

I put problem #1 on the document camera and made sure that each student's name was not evident, then I asked the class to discuss with each other what were the correct things on the diagram shown and what were things that could be improved or corrected. I tried to use positive language and kept promoting it as a learning opportunity for ALL involved (which, obviously I think it is, but teens being teens....).

We went through a frew #1's, then did the same with #2. Then after I passed back the papers, I repeated the process with a few problems at a time as the need arose.

We especially had good conversations about #4 vs. #8. In number 8 many students wanted to make "T" be 2 different points. In #4, some students thought that if the angles had the same angle measure, then they were "the same angle".

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Week Three

I'm sleepy/tired, but I'm having fun with my students. Highlights of this week:

* one of my 8th graders today was staying for geometry tutoring, and apparently her bra was too tight (ask me how I know). She talked at length about it, but each time she said bra, her voice went down to a whisper.

* one of my 11th graders mentioned that she gives hugs more frequently when she's stressed. I've been getting a ton of hugs lately. Especially since I have her for 2 classes and an advisory.

* my students are LOVING the soldering in the Digital Electronics class. We're each of us feeling like "all that" since we're doing something that seemed unmanageable.

* I'm taking the online computer science course with one of my students. Her current grade is higher than mine (don't ask). She's giving me "fun" grief about it. Game on! is what I say.

* I came up with a good activity that was useful and effective in geometry on the fly today (maybe more later). Good feeling.

* Our school is right by a place that has coffee and cookies, and all the math teachers have last block off. Today we mosied down for a short 15 minute break and yapped and caffeinated before we got back to it.

* I dived into introducing the TI-nspire calculator to my precalculus class (I used the "Scavenger Hunt" activity). The kids thought the calculator was the coolest thing.

Monday, September 05, 2011


Have 2 weeks flown by already? I'm a slave to my agenda and am constantly updating and recreating and SOMEtimes crossing off items on my to-do list. It's all still start of the year EXTRA stuff that has to be done and takes time and "gets in the way of" actual planning of what I need to teach.

I did something crazy. A student wanted to take an online computer science/programming course, and our AP asked me if I thought the student could handle it. Hah! This kid can totally do it, so I said yes, she is self-motivated and can handle the course load. Then the AP asked if I would help the student if she needed it. While my mind was processing the answer, "yes", my mind also thought that even though I took/passed the teacher certification test to teach programming, I haven't actually PROGRAMMED in ages (let alone JAVA programming), and then my mind ran through various scenarios of the student asking me for help and me just sitting there with a stunned look on my face not being helpful at all. So. While these horror pictures were running through my head, my mouth decided that the best solution would be to utter the words, "why don't I take the online course with her?"

Flash forward to this weekend where the bulk of my time has been to do our first real reading and doing assignment. It's a semester-long course given through University of Missouri, and it's an AP CS course like in high school. The instructor has it all neatly and well laid out online. There are weekly assignments and midterm/final tests and forums we need to participate in. But ..... bzzzzzzzzzzzzy.

The positive side is that by January, when choice sheets come around for next year, I'll be in a much better position to show what a programming class would look like.

Did you know that there is an actual Pearson book for AP CS classes? I respect the Pearson books in general because they don't seem as "babyish" as the Holt book I have for Geometry. The one seems great so far.

Am a a juvenile in thinking upon seeing "Cara Cocking"'s name that she totally must have taken a lot of ribbing in school (or her husband did if that's the case).

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Mobiles and Matching

I was SO excited for the 1st weekend to come after school started, so that I could catch up on sleep. Didn't happen. Apparently, my body now thinks it's a great idea to try existing on 6 hours per night or so. BUT this is only in the school year. Go figure. AND I have jury duty on Monday. What's up with that?

Anyway, I had some great projects come back from our summer packet for geometry kids. The kids are so creative. Here are some:

I also did this activity just yesterday with my geometry kids. I like the fact that it's not necessarily a direct match up, so they have to think.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Funny 1st Day Story

We had an all-school assembly before classes started on the first day of school yesterday. Tons of hugs were given and received between returning students and teachers. Before I continue, in my defense, I just want to say at the outset that I got my fair share of hugs. I'm just saying.

At one point, I see one of my former students (I've had her for 3 classes so far, and another this year), starts running towards me with her arms outstretched and a big smile on her face. So, I smile back and open my arms ..... just as she runs past me to greet another teacher.

As she passes me and sees me waiting, she hesitates slightly ONLY slightly as if to say, "oh, awkward", and then continues to go for the OTHER teacher hug.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

First Day Activities

I'm happy with the outcome of my geometry and precalculus day 1 activities. Now we'll see how they pan out. Now to plan/map out the REST of the year.




We "finished" our first "fake week back" at school. And by finished I mean that I'm going in today to continue to get ready for the students' first day on Monday. Things are mostly done, but I still have to make copies and finalize my decision on the first day activity for 2 classes.

I THOUGHT I had a general plan of what to do, but then my friend/dept. chair throws THIS book at me. Oy! There are some great things in there, and once I finally adjust the idea of my geometry day plan and my precal plan, I'll share.

Which brings up another thing that was happening as I planned. I don't know if it's past experience or other reasons for the hesitation, but I printed things out: syllabus, autobiography, seating chart plan, etc. and then I hesitated on making my final copies and getting it done. I guess I've done that enough and made tons of copies, and then realized that it wasn't JUST right or JUST what I wanted. Or maybe I just like the thrill of the last minute. Hmmmm. Anyway, it worked out well this time, because, YES I had to alter the syllabus, YES I had to alter the seating chart (yay! largest class currently is 26 and not 30), YES I totally am revamping my 1st day activity.

Which finally brings me to another funny saying I've seen lately: I have CDO. It's like OCD, but with the letters in alphabetical order - like they're supposed to be.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Last Friday Before the "Fake" 1st Week of School

To relieve my bum's fascination with sitting and surfing on the computer all the time (it's really talented), I went in to school every day this week for a wee bit and unpacked and decided on desk structure (30 kids! Woot!) and stuff. You can see I'm still not done, but I've made headway, and my butt thanks me for actually walking around. You're welcome, bane of my rear.

Here are the unpacked boxes SO FAR:

Here is what I'm trying out. Two students per table. Long rows. No extra room. Oh! and look! More schtuff to put away:

I'm trying to be more organized this year. I tried to put myself on a pen diet last year. NO MORE PEN BUYING. Apparently, my fascination with the show, "Hoarders", .... hmmmm, a little sensitive?

What's this? More hoarding tendencies? And I didn't even buy any pens or stickies this year. Yet.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


This made me giggle. I don't know if it makes me feel super old or super young or what. I'm FaceBook "friends" with several former students. Most of the time it's okay, but sometimes I have to hide all the posts from a particular ex-student because I don't want to know how much they drank or did other things. That's about 1% of them. The rest are just fun to see grow up and explore and get jobs and live.

Anyway, this student graduated HS about 2007, so maybe he's graduated from college right now and roughly 22 years old. His post was:

Is it just me or is the crap that kids are watching now a days really really suck?? I mean what happened to the good stuff??

Hah! "Kids these days"! Does he feel like an old man?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Update ...

I couldn't let it go, and it kept bothering me for a variety of reasons. So I just sent the following e-mail to the person mentioned in my last post.


I was just going to let this go, but it's been really bothering me since last Saturday night at the banquet when you made your extremely offensive remark against a person that happens not to be white.

One, I'm saddened that you think it's okay to blurt such stuff out in public (let alone think it), and two, I'm insulted that you think I must be of a like mind. I'm not, and I don't want you to harbor the impression in the future that I think like you apparently do.


At least I feel better about taking some action.

Okay, back to math ..... I've heard through the grapevine I may have a class of 30 students. Oooh! Now I know (sadly) that this may seem like a nonevent to others, but in a classroom where I'm to use those long tables as "desks" as opposed to actual desks, it's a tight squeeze. It's going to be a cozy year.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Anatomy of a Racist Encounter

You attend a 3-day, 10th annual event because of your husband. You see people you only see once a year, and some people that you see throughout the year. You have nice conversations about a variety of things with a variety of people. You talk with a 78 year old man, CI, about many things, and a couple of times he makes slightly in-poor-taste remarks about people of different ethnicities. You scrunch up your face to show distaste, and he backtracks and conversation goes on. You think to yourself, well, he's of a "generation".

You are at a final-evening banquet sitting with 3 people you see once a year, one of whom you've had good conversations with for 2 days, let's call him DD. The conversation turns to politics - local Texas small town mostly. There are big drought issues and land issues and two of the locals don't agree with how the city has decided to deal with things, and they start in with, "once you become a politician, it seems you become an expert in everything you know nothing about."

Then the 3rd person, DD, interjects an awful racist remark, "oh, like that ____ ____ ____ ____ over in the White House." The other two don't allude to DD's statement and just keep talking. You're stunned into shocked silence and not quick on your feet and still processing the fact that this person has literally let his racism hang out in public airing just like that. The conversation has continued. You're still stunned and really uncomfortable and want to say something, but don't know how or what or with what tone. You're angry with him, and you're angry with yourself for staying quiet. Isn't that the same as pretending what he said was okay? Doesn't that give him another vote of confidence that other people think like he does? You excuse yourself and don't return to the table. The evening ends.

And here's the thing. Now you have one more chink in your armor of trusting that people that you meet and that seem nice really ARE nice. That most everyone you meet that SEEMS human judges others on their character first/mostly and not on their race/sexual orientation/wage-earning. And you wonder when it will come out when meeting new people or talking with people you've known for a while. And what about the other 2 people at the table? Did they think the same way as DD because they didn't say anything? Do I have to wonder about them? Or were they flabbergasted like I was and are wondering the same about me?

And mostly you're still upset with yourself for letting it slide at the time and not knowing the right thing to say and the right tone, so that the person knows that he's offensive, and it is not okay and beneath his humanity. You don't think you can change his views, but you think that you should speak up. You keep thinking about it. You hope you come up with a phrase or two that will be on the tip of your tongue next time. But hopefully there won't be a next time.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

Fun and Apparently Free

One of my goals ("someday") is to be fluent enough in at least 2 languages (ideally tons, but I could start with two). To that end, I dabble here and there and practice. I downloaded (when they were still free AGES ago) the "Learning Spanish Like Crazy" and "Learning Italian Like Crazy" CDs and listen to them in my car. I like both, and I'm pleased with the Spanish one because it's Latin American Spanish which is more relevant for me.

Apparently, some of my students think I know 5 or 6 languages (or maybe they're just humoring me) because sometimes I'll count in Japanese or say a word in German or such just to break things up. If they ask, I tell them how many I've "learned" in the past (in order: English, Farsi, German, Russian, Spanish, French, Japanese, Italian), and I also tell them how many I'm fluent in now (1). Go English!

Let's not fool anyone here. Maybe there's some segment of my brain that remembers these things, but those foreign words/phrases are not making that trip to my mouth. Anyway, as I was surfing the web today and went to the BBC site, I found THIS! Holy cow. There are videos and little dialogs and tests and all sorts of fun things.

I browsed through the French test, and got one wrong, and they linked me to these possible sites. I liked the Ma France one. Oh oh! more things to distract me from doing work.

Sunday, July 31, 2011


You know how certain segments of society are all, "oh no, I need to lose weight. I need to get fit. I need to look more attractive. I feel bad about myself because I'm not thin/pretty/hot/young like people I see on TV/ads/movies." (no names mentioned)

We need a society where the stress is more, "oh no, I need to be more ethical. I need to be a nicer person. I need to do more good for the world. I feel bad about myself because I'm not nice/ethical/good-natured."

Or reverse, instead of, "I'm hot spit because I'm attractive." This needs to be more, "I feel GREAT about me because I'm basically a good person."

Where's THAT parallel universe?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


In the course of making and filling out my school calendar for next year and planning for various classes, I came across these 3 scary months on some official calendars:




Notice the 5 bazillion weeks of state testing. Now of course our state is in the process of switching over from one test to the other, but that just means that we'll have to administer both for the next few years.

I also counted up the actual teaching days I get, and tried to discount for these weeks and finals weeks and other weeks that seem to fall away, and I REALLY hope I'm wrong, but I counted about 140 or so actual days of teaching.

Must go cry now.

Friday, July 22, 2011


Okay, so I'm SLOWLY working through my to do list:

But this is HEAVILY sprinkled with the fun things I've done.

My coffee cup from a paint-your-own pottery place. LOVE the 20 oz. cups:

My agenda book for next year. I found a ton of pictures and sayings and taped them on the covers. Now I just have to make all the calendars for the back section, and I'll be ready to roll.



This agenda book idea worked really well last year, and then towards the end of the year, I looked at another person's book, and she had a running numbered list of things she had to accomplish then crossed out(instead of just higglety pigglety around all pages). I started doing that, and loved it.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

TI-nspire Start Up Worksheet

I've just created a "getting to know you" sheet for my students for the TI-nspire. Again, we'll just be using it for in-class explorations, and I don't expect students to rush out to buy them.

A really nice person sent me a "Scavenger Hunt", and I used that as my inspiration. Of course now that I go through my e-mail to thank her in "person", I can't find the message, so a PUBLIC THANKS to you.

My next goals are to create a teacher sheet for the other math teachers at my school to show them where the resources are, and IF I HAVE TIME (and it seems to be quickly dwindling), I want to create actual activity sheets.

You can find this sheet here. If the graphics mess up, then I'm guessing you know how to adjust them. Preview:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Summer Math Packet Update...

Back in mid June before I went to my workshop I sent out 2 sets of e-mail for summer math work - one to my rising precalculus students, and one to my rising geometry students. I'm still working out how I'll grade these or assess these, since this was a last minute decision, and basically given out via e-mail without any warning to the students to watch for e-mail (long story).

I'm not sure of the fairness in holding them accountable for this work since some may not even get it. What I'm leaning towards is for THIS SUMMER (as opposed to next because I'm sure this will now be a given) is to either give them extra points on the homework portion of their semester grade, or to create an extra quiz grade and assess it that way, and for the students that did not do it, they do not get the quiz opportunity.

Here's my precalculus e-mail:

You can finally breathe a sigh of relief, your summer math work has arrived. You're going to be learning a ton of cool things in precalculus next year, and there are a few things I want you to refresh your memory on: function notation, right triangle trigonometry, and special right triangles.

You're welcome to do these things in any order and at any time over the summer, but I highly recommend spreading the wealth out and not cramming it into one or two sessions. I also recommend maybe ALSO looking at the information and doing the practice once every few weeks, so it has time to soak in and get trapped in your brain cells.

Here are some suggested sites for each of the three topics. Note that they may not be the best for how you learn, so you're welcome to Google search on any of the purple topics on your own. You know if you're successful if you can complete all of the "goals" with great accuracy. By mid July, I will send you some online quizzes for each of these topics. Your job is to take the quizzes and score 80% or better. You can take various versions of the quiz as many times as you like.

Please send me e-mail once you've received this e-mail, and you can e-mail me any time during the summer.

function notation video:
1. be able to evaluate functions presented in function notation for numerical inputs (i.e. find g(7) if g(x) = 5x^3 - 9x + 1)
2. be able to evaluate functions presented in function notation for any expression input (i.e. find h(x^2+1) if h(x) = 4x - 3x^2)
3. be able to find the input that satisfies the output (i.e. find x such that f(x) = 10 if f(x) = 2x^3 - 6)

sine cosine tangent:
1. given any right triangle and a designated acute angle in that triangle, you can set up equations for sine, cosine, and tangent
2. you can pronounce "sin" accurately
3. on any right triangle with angle information given and one side length given, you can use trig to find the remaining 2 side lengths
4. on any right triangle with side lengths given, you can find the remaining angles of the triangle

special right triangles:,articleId-18821.html
1. you can recognize 30-60-90 triangles and 45-45-90 triangles
2. you can quickly place the ratios of sides around either
3. you can find all exact side lengths of a special right triangle given any side

For geometry I decided to make it two-fold: actual math practice, and a project.

Here's the e-mail:

Hello Mathies,

Here is your summer geometry work with instructions included in the document. I'd recommend downloading the attachment instead of just viewing so that the formatting doesn't go all crazy on you. Have fun, and look for another e-mail from me some time in July (as mentioned in the attachment).

Please send me e-mail if you have any questions.

Big Hugs and Big Math,

Ms. D

(here's part of the attachment):

Hello Future Geometry Kidlets,

There are 2 parts to your summer math work (you’re welcome).

Choose one of the following projects to complete. These are due the first day of class, and we’ll share out. I will do the project also and share my results.

1. Go to this link:
2. Click on various parts to see what’s what.
3. If you didn’t already, click on the “learn about pantographs” link under the “CONSTRUCTIONS” part of that page ( Play around with the applet on the bottom.
4. Make your own real life pantograph. Figure out how much larger you make your drawing (give me a ratio and explain how you found it). You can be creative with the objects you use. You don’t have to spend a ton (any?) money. Extra points if you can do this for free.

1. Go to this link:
2. Click on the various links to explore “string art”.
3. Explore this YouTube video: ( and possibly others shown on that page.
4. Create your own string art. Again, you can be creative with the objects you use. You don’t have to spend a ton (any?) money. Extra points if you can do this for free.

1. Go to this link:
2. Click on the various links to explore “origami mobiles”.
3. Create your own origami mobile. You must have at least 6 different origami pieces. Your mobile must balance.
4. Again, be creative with the objects you use. You don’t have to buy origami paper. Extra points if you can do this for free with objects found around the house.

Complete the following problems. You must show all your work. I will send an answer key soon for you to check your work. I will also send a few online quizzes some time in July to make sure you understand the concepts. You can take the quizzes as many times as you want, but you must ultimately score at least an 80%.

Now the chickens come home to roost, or the fat hits the frying pan, or whatever.... I'm off to make the quiz assessments on And I will also do all 3 projects for fun and to see what the various cool math aspects are.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Trips Galore...

I'm finally home after basically 3.5 weeks away: 2 weeks for the Digital Electronics training, and 1.5 weeks for visiting family old and new friends.

POed graciously agreed to meet me while I was in NYC, and we had a walking and talking marathon. She suggested tons of great places to visit: the highline park, riverside park, yotel, gershwin hotel, and YES, the best pizza ever - at Ray's way down south. You know it's a great pizza place when you ask for fresh garlic as a topping, and they pile 2 heaping tablespoons full on top. My husband will be surprised that even I had to scrape some off. I'm very impressed with POed, though, she was not such a sissy and finished all her garlic topping like a champ.

Love her, by the way - she's smart, friendly, caring, and fun to trade war stories with. Here are some pictures from NYC.

Sculpture along Riverside Park:

Another Riverside Park sculpture .... inside was basically living quarters - bed, chair, toilet, ....:

Yotel. This was a robot in the entryway and you could command it to store your baggage in these little drawers. How cool is that?

Highline Park, built along old railroad tracks:

View from Highline Park. There's amphitheater type seating with a Plexiglas window in front where you can watch the street action:

Sculpture from one of the many parks we passed on our trek: