Filed Under (Uncategorized) by on April 5, 2013

It was a great adventure to be part of Christopher Danielson’s trial-run #MiSC Functions course, but it was also a great challenge for me in a few different ways, and a great source of growth.  This post is my attempt to sort all that out.

First, I feel like I need to apologize for falling off the wagon towards the end.  Throughout the two weeks, my experience kind of looked like…

 Early days: Wow!  This is so exciting!  And all these people whose blogs I read are a part of it – I’m not going to have anything to offer, they’re all so much more experienced then me… No, no, I’ll just do my best.  This is all about personal growth, right?  And they’re all great, supportive teachers who are all about self-improvement and know that you have to start somewhere…  It’ll be fine!

 And then I carefully revised and obsessed over each post I made… even when it was just my introductory bio.

 Mid-way through: Holy **.  I’m way out of my depth.  I get it… but I get it at such a lower level than these other folks.  {{{Reads thoughtful post several times over trying to make sense of it}}}.  I don’t know what questions to ask to clarify what they’re saying… I know I could get there with more time and hand-holding, but I’m kind of drowning here.

 Towards the end: Overwhelmed avoidance, made easier by a perfect-storm of work and personal stuff that came up and took over my life.

 And so here I am.

There’s no question that I learned – I learned a lot!

1)      I better understand functions – what they are and how they’re defined.

2)      I better know what I don’t understand about functions, including just how many different types of functions there are – from the more obvious, everyday functions that I have a decent handle on, to ones involving much more complex ideas and components than I have perhaps ever considered.

3)      I experienced, in a way I hadn’t for a long time, how my students must feel when things are moving too fast.  Because as best I can tell, my experience with the class was that the depth and pace of the discussions moved too fast for me – just when I was starting to get a handle on things, everyone else was jumping leaps and bounds ahead… and I couldn’t quite find my way there.

If it’s not clear through all this – I’m really, really not trying to say anything negative. Christopher put together such a well-considered, thoughtful, student-driven experience – this is all about me.  I jumped in the deep end, with lots of enthusiasm, but unfortunately, not quite enough background (the middle of the pool might have been a better entry point :).  But the good news is, I’m better for it.  It was a great experience of challenge with math that didn’t end in frustration and self-doubt.  Which is significant, given that much of what I remember from my time as a math student is feeling confused, and with no confidence that understanding would come.  The opposite was true in this case – I have every confidence that I can get there… it’s just going to take a lot more than this one experience. So thank you to everyone who participated, for giving me this opportunity and a safe place to belly flop! (Is my pool metaphor coming through there?  Hopefully it makes sense… it’s been a long week…)




Filed Under (assessment, homework, in class, reflections) by on October 19, 2012 and tagged , , ,

I seem to have been eaten alive by school recently (feels like I’ve said that before…hmmm…)

So, a quick update is in order:

  1. Both the kids and I continue to love the fact that they have the answers when they do their homework.  They’re asking good questions in class, and are taking the responsibility of homework as practice seriously!  I loved this post about a teacher who gave kids the test answers… and their job was to justify them!  I’ve thrown a lot of new teaching strategies at the kids over the last few weeks, so I’m making myself hold off, but I really want to try it sometime…
  2. 7th grade pre-algebra hit a big wall when we had to simplify variable expressions… and I totally wasn’t expecting it!  But I’m hoping now that we’ve (finally!) gotten comfortable with that, solving variable equations won’t be so bad (and they’ve seen 1-step equations before, whereas they were totally thrown by the notion of combining like terms).
  3. My 6th grade class is sailing pretty smoothly, and it’s a pretty strong group.  I’m not loving our curriculum, so I’ve been working hard to find ways to make the content both more interesting/engaging and more challenging for them.  When we were working with primes the other day, I borrowed this great idea from Kristen and we used the Sieve of Eratosthenes, which was a good challenge for the kids and really helped drive home the distinction between prime and composite numbers.
  4. I’ve used lots of other great blog-land ideas lately, as well – we played Fawn’s modified version of the block game in both my classes, and it was a hit!  Such a great way to keep kids entertained while they get some much needed practice.  After going through a few dozen index cards on math scavenger hunts in both classes, I got smart and laminated a bunch, so now we’ll have them whenever we need them!  I created two separate circles of cards, because it’s already become very apparent that being able to differentiate them is really useful for the students (sometimes I let them self-select, other times I just assign them to one or the other).
  5. On the SBG front, I really appreciated the idea I got from somewhere I can’t find right now to structure quizzes in terms of proficiency – in simplest form, it would be 3 questions – 1 basic question that is foundational, 1 question that demonstrates proficiency when solved correctly, and 1 challenge question that takes it up a notch.  I hope that makes sense outside of my own head… It’s Friday evening and I’m still at school because we have a fundraiser tonight (at which there will be pie!  Yay, pie!  Boo, 12 hour day at work on a Friday!)


Filed Under (assessment, in class) by on October 6, 2012 and tagged , ,

Today was the first time I had the 7th graders try grading their own quizzes.  The set-up was:

- Come in, place any supplies you brought under your chair, and your quiz is already at your seat.

- I passed out colored pencils for marking, and 2 copies of the key to each table of 4

- Mark each problem as correct or incorrect, and if incorrect, write a sentence explaining where you went wrong and what you should have done.

- At the end, I had them write a statement to me about how they did (strengths and challenges) and then identify where they thought they should be on the scale for each of the 2 learning goals included in the quiz.

How’d it go?

Pretty well, all things considered!  I definitely need to double-check myself when making answer keys (I had 2 mistakes… oops!), but they followed directions well and it led to some great conversations with a few kids – one girl shared how she feels really comfortable with the material (much of it has been review for her so far, she’s new to our school), but felt like her stress over taking a quiz made it so she didn’t show how well she knew the material.  This is why I want to do things this way – without the framework we’ve set up (assessments as opportunities to demonstrate knowledge, etc), would she have thought of it that way?  Would she have been comfortable talking to me about it?  Would I have understood what she meant?

We also had a (too brief) class discussion about why we take assessments.  On Monday, after I’ve entered grades and I hand back the quizzes to be filed by each student, we’ll talk about how to move forward from here, and I’ll introduce the notion of re-assessments.

What to do differently next time?  I think I’ll create a guided sheet for making corrections – I definitely need to do more specific teaching about how to think about their incorrect answers and determine where/how they went wrong.

Verdict?  I’m glad I did it, and the students were definitely open to it, and I think it provided some good insight for both of us!





I thought I’d share some of my adventures with interactive notebooks lately – alas, I didn’t remember to take pictures of student notebooks last week, so you’ll have to make due with the files themselves (linked below to the shared folder).  On the whole, notebooks are going really well – we’re using binders in 7th grade, and composition books in 6th – and by all appearances, the students are enjoying them for the most part.  Occasionally they take a little too long, and I’m on the verge of banning markers because people keep using them for body art, but mostly I’m really glad we’re using them and I feel like they’re doing what they’re supposed to: helping students process and organize information in meaningful ways.

I’m most proud of the one I designed myself to help my 7th graders solidify their understanding of adding and subtracting integers.  We’d used Tanton’s Piles and Holes, and cheesemonkeysf’s Life on the Number Line, and they were finally starting to get comfortable, but still needed some practice.  So I created this example, and then had them create two of their own:

I think the best thing about this was the buy-in – who doesn’t want to play with blue dudes?!  So for the kids who were pretty solid, it provided reinforcement and a bit of entertainment.  But for the kids who were still a bit shaky, there were several, “I get it now!” moments as they walked through the steps and created their own number line sequences.  In the future, I think I will break this out much earlier – probably as an introductory activity.  But this time around, we used it right before making our integer operations foldable, and I think (we’ll find out on Monday when they take a quiz…) it really helped them solidify their understanding.  The file is here as a .pdf and .ppt (with only mild formatting issues).

Other foldables we used were my adaptations of…

Julie’s GEMS foldable (my 6th graders loved it!) – which I modified because I wanted it to just have 4 doors to make it easy to glue into notebooks - my files are here as a .pdf and editable .ppt - though not all the formatting survived upload (and I recommend just using the first page and not trying to print it double-sided if you value your sanity :)

- Sarah’s (at Everybody is a Genius) integer operations foldable - which I created based on the pictures she posted - my files are here as a .pdf and editable .ppt - the formatting is really messed up on that one, alas.  We also filled it in a bit differently than Sarah did – I’ll take pictures next week and add them to this post.

- In 6th grade, we used Sarah’s (at Math = Love) 1-step equations foldable – I added some hand-written titles to her template, and when we were done the whiteboard-version looked like this (sorry for the less-than-ideal image quality):

What I really liked here was that the class as a group generated the content – for each one, we would work out the example problems, and then work together to turn our methods into the “rule”.  As a result, the contents are (hopefully!) even more meaningful to the students because they wrote them based on their experiences.  Of course, it also means they’re not quite as concise as others I’ve seen, but hopefully the other benefits out-weigh that :)

Sidenote: I do the “filling out” of a lot of notes and foldables on the whiteboard rather than with my document camera simply because my document camera is tethered to my computer in the back corner of my room, and I hate being trapped back there rather than able to see how students are doing and answer questions easily as we go…

P.S. I think it is safe to say that my math classes would not be going nearly so well if it weren’t for all the folks in the mathtwitterblogosphere who so generously share their knowledge and resources.  Thank you!