Friday, August 22, 2014

Quick tip for to-do lists

Do you ever feel like you have so many things to do in your classroom before the students arrive that you can't even begin to list them all in detail? I know I do. Add to that the feeling that each time I look up, I see something else that needs to be done, and I find myself overwhelmed. For me, school starts on Tuesday. I stayed late tonight but my principal insisted that those of us who stayed after he left leave together so no one was alone in the building. Everyone else was ready to go at 8:30 and I still had TONS to get done. Even writing a list would have taken too long. My solution? I stood in one spot, grabbed my cell phone, and recorded a video of the room while making a 360. Now, I can look at the 30 second clip on the weekend several times and make sure that I've done as much here at home as I can possibly do in order to make Monday as smooth as possible. So, if you don't have time to write a to-do list, make a to-do video. How do you make it easier to work from home? Mathematically yours, Miss B

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Ways I use dice in my classroom

Sarah H. recently posted a photo of some items she got from a colleague, mostly large foam dice.  She asked how she can use the dice in her trig class.  I thought that was a great question and I decided to write about several ways I use dice in my class.

1. Teaching probability.  Duh.

2. Using this game board.  I can turn a set of questions into a deck of cards and students can play the game.  Everyone in the group does the problem individually, they discuss as a group, anyone with a correct answer rolls.  I'm always amazed at how much more willing kids are to do the same work when I disguise it as a game.  There are 4 versions of the board in this file: with or without directions and either in color or black and white. 

3. Assign meaning to each side of the die by typing up a key.  Students roll the dice and do the associated action.  Examples: operations on polynomials (add, subtract, multiply, divide, classify, factor, etc), trig functions (sin, cos, tan, sec, csc, cot). Here's one I used for quadratic functions that uses 6- and 12-sided dice (though you can easily change it so as not to need 12-sided dice).  Thanks to my best friend for a donation of cool dice from her Dungeons and Dragons days. 

4. This one is still not classroom-tested, so proceed carefully.  I tested it at home and I think it's a green light.  Mailing labels (like Avery 5160) are able to stick to the foam dice I bought at Dollar Tree and also unstick neatly.  That means I could write questions, equations, terms, etc. and print them on labels to stick to the dice.  At the end of the activity, I can remove the labels (possibly stick them back on the sheet for next year) and reuse the dice for a later activity.

5. As a French teacher, I've made a class set of subject pronoun dice by taking a Sharpie to some foam dice.  These big dice (roughly 2.5") are in two-packs at Dollar Tree.  I've seen red, blue, black, and yellow.

Do you use dice in your classroom?  How?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Friday, August 8, 2014

A busy day in August

I don't think I'm the only teacher who ramps up her activity level just prior to the beginning of the school year.  I have about one and a half weeks of vacation time before I have to report back to school.  My parents came for a short visit this week so we could visit and go to the beach, which is much closer to my house than to theirs.  They left around 9am today and I have been going non-stop for the last twelve hours, not my usual summer speed.  Let me recap.

I baked two batches of brownies, a batch of muffins, and a loaf of quick bread for two parties I'm attending on Sunday. 

I did two loads of laundry.

I made curtains for my new classroom's windows.  I'm so thrilled to have a classroom with windows to the outside world, but I also need curtains to block out potential distractions since my room doesn't have blinds installed.  Before making the curtains, I went to school to measure the windows (on the outside of the school, because the building is closed to teachers until the 18th.) 

I took my recycling to the recycling center.  (No curbside pick up in my town and we have to sort recyclables by type.  I'd love to enter the modern era on this.)

I found a new owner for an old side table I had and delivered it to her house.

I won about 5 levels of Diamond Digger Saga.  (Hey, a girl has to have SOME downtime!)
I researched houses for sale and got in touch with my Realtor to schedule a showing of one with some potential. 

I did a mani/pedi so I'll be dolled up for my cousin's wedding tomorrow.

And, I'm about to make three cards: one for the wedding I'm attending tomorrow and one for each of the parties I'm attending on Sunday. 

Shew!  It's crazy how busy I become when I feel summer slipping away.  Next week, I need to fit in a kayaking trip one day since I haven't been this season.  I'm also going to go through several boxes.  I'm on a continual quest to purge my house of things I don't need or want, especially since I'm trying to move to a new home. 

Do you find your level of activity changes during the summer?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Monday, August 4, 2014


When I was a student, I loved shopping for school supplies.  In fact, I liked it much more than shopping for back-to-school clothes.  My mom instilled the importance of getting a good deal, so I wasn't one of the kids with the Lisa Frank collection or fancy (and banned) Trapper Keeper.  But, I always carefully chose my notebooks and binders to coordinate with the subject.  Math class was always green and I remember in tenth grade that I managed to find a binder in each color of the rainbow for my seven classes.  Once I selected my favorite pencils and pens (in high school, Bic Velocity), I  labeled everything before the first day.  There was also always a box under my bed with extra supplies in case something ran out during the year.  You could say I was a little obsessive.  :)

It's no surprise, then, that as a teacher I love choosing, organizing, and labeling my school supplies.  When I started using Interactive Notebooks last year, I knew I wanted them to be color coded.  Everything I use for my classes is color coded pink/purple, green, blue, or red.  So, I decorated my notebooks last year using scrapbooking papers and washi tape.  I was back at it today and so happy I remembered I had some cool Parisian-themed papers, even if they don't match the color scheme.

The ruler washi tape measures accurately.  How cool is that?  97 cents at Walmart!

This mathy paper is my favorite.  I bought a 25-sheet pack and I'll be sad when it's gone. 

My homeroom got the boring one.  I liked the pink leopard print paper I used last year much better.

Isn't she adorable?  I'm glad I remembered I had this paper and so glad Mom bought it for me a while ago.  This will be for French I.

What do your notebooks look like? 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Friday, August 1, 2014

TMC Days 3 and 4- July 26 and 27, 2014

This is my third and final TMC recap post.  If you missed the first two, you can read them here and here

I finally got into the evening social scene on the last night (silly introversion made me sit out the first few nights) so I didn't get this post written up right away.  Forgive me; some details are now a little fuzzy!

Saturday began with some announcements and our final day of morning sessions.  My team pulled together our quadratics lesson rather nicely, I think.  You can see all of the lessons on the TMC webpage

"My Favorites" were numerous the last two days.  Let's see if I can recap them all. 

Jenn (@Fibanachos) encouraged us to say, "Show me another way."  She demonstrated a part-whole relationship diagram rectangle and how to use factor/product triangles with formulas. 

Pam (@pamjwilson) went through many favorites: chalk talk, Making Thinking Visible, thinking routines, 2-minute assessment grid, writing with highlighters under black lights, ghosts in the graveyard (from Tales from the Spring), Grudge (from Nathan Kraft), and Plickers.

Max Ray spoke about enCompass, happening at Drexel next week. 

@heather_kohn shared some strategies to help ELL students such as having students take turns reading a question, making a comment or asking a question, clarifying and giving positive feedback.  She said doing this in partners instead of large group can promote literacy. Cut and grow was another strategy in which students take a response (theirs or a canned one) and cut it apart to make space to write in more details. 

Andrew (@Froynboy) had the most clever seating idea I've ever heard of.  He assigned each desk (and therefore each student) a 90s hip hop star, complete with picture.  He grouped the artists logically and would sometimes call on a table by playing a snippet of one of their songs.

Cindy (@johnsonmath) is better known as the "Conic Card Lady."  She shared her philosophy with us all.

Meg (@mathymeg07) showed some ridiculously awesome Word shortcuts that I totally need to set up before I get back to school.  She uses macros to "teach" Word some often used math speak.  For example, she has word autocorrect pi/2 into mathematical notation.  How awesome is that?

Then it was time for Desmos and Eli Luberoff (@eluberoff).  He told us about some awesome new features coming to Desmos really soon and let us play with a new lesson.  I'm most excited to hear that regression is coming soon.  :)

In the afternoon, I went to Chris Shore's (@mathprojects) session on his nationally recognized lesson, "Princess Dido and the Ox Skin."  It combines a need to know area, perimeter, and circumference plus conversions between units. 

Then, I had volunteered to lead a flex session about interactive notebooks.  It was really informal, just getting people to share what their successes and failures were and getting neophytes the opportunity to ask questions of those with some experience.

Then it was 5 o'clock and back at the hotel, we finished the Ox Skin lesson. 

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That's me, fourth from the left, in the green dress.  Thanks, Hedge, for the photo that I stole from your Twitter page!  I promise we weren't making crop circles! 
After the encircling of the hotel with the "ox skin," we headed back inside where I plopped down on the floor with a whole bunch of other "serial INB" people as Julie dubbed us!  That's right, we're so serious about this conference that we continue it in several sessions "after hours."  Around 10:00, I finally went up to my room. 

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Photo stolen from Julie's Twitter page.  Thanks, y'all, for posting the pics!

 The next day, we finished up with about 90 minutes of additional My Favorites. 

Sebastian (@s_speer) shared several number sense games he uses with his middle school students.  They will be posted to the wiki.  

Anthony (@aanthonya) talked about Stats Mafia and absolute value blackjack.  I love that he pulls out a green felt table for his seniors to play on!  

Hannah S. talked about her method of collecting cell phones when students shouldn't have them.  First, she hands them an envelope.  They are to write their name on the envelope and seal the phone inside.  If they refuse, she gives them a card that basically says they understand that they will face further consequences and accept those consequences.  

Jasmine (@jaz_math) shared her "Tabletop Twitter" questions for opening the school year.  She also does a Quadrilateral Traits dating game to summarize characteristics of quadrilaterals. 

Bob and Shelli talked about Stat Key.  Hello, stats units everywhere.  This is a great resource as data is already there and it's possible to quickly switch between several representations.  

I shared my love of the True Colors Personality Test and how it helped me know what kinds of activities would most appeal to my students. 

Dylan: "Deep problems have few steps but one insight."

Glenn wanted us to buy our own domain names.  I understand his point about it making you seem like a true professional instead of a hobbyist, but a few hundred dollars a year is not worth it to me. 

Chris Shore shared his Ox Skin lesson.

Elissa (@misscalculate) shared her "two nice things" which I feel compelled to do next year.  Anytime someone says something unkind, they must immediately say two nice things about that person.  If they say, "But there aren't two!" then they get to come up with four.  Elissa also suggested taking card sort activities and things that are similarly difficult to store and placing them in small plastic tubs labeled by unit.  This needs to happen pronto in my room.  I've hesitated to spend the money.  

Sam (@samjshah) shared his school's math and science journal.  If I thought I had the time to organize this next year, I'd be on it.  

John (@jstevens009): "There is no right answer, no wrong answer, only answers that lack justification."  

Finally, I had the chance to witness the world freehand circle champion in action.  Thanks for sharing your skills with us, Alex.  

Lisa closed the session with an emotional speech and announced that next year we'll be meeting up at Harvey Mudd College outside Los Angeles!  See you in CA!!!

What was your favorite part of #TMC14? 

Mathematically yours,
Miss B

Headbands (Hedbandz) for the classroom

Made4Math...on a Friday!
It's kind of funny to me that "Hedbandz" ever became a game that people pay for since I remember playing it years ago with a Post-it stuck to each player's forehead.  I suppose the lack of set-up time and ability to reuse the cards gives it some worth.

If you're not familiar with the game, each player has a mystery card that they're trying to guess by asking the other players yes/no questions.  You win by guessing your card correctly with the least number of questions. 

If you look around the internet, there are plenty of teachers who are using this game in their classrooms.  MaryJennifer, and Sam have high school math versions.  For the past couple of months, ever since we played the real version at youth group, I've been looking for something to inexpensively replicate the reusable headbands.  I knew I could use strips of construction paper, but they would have to be replaced each time we played the game.  I thought about stretchy elastic headbands but thought they might be really uncomfortable.  I almost got cheap sunglasses and put Velcro dots on the bridges but decided I didn't want to have to Velcro each set of cards, nor did I want to invest $30 for this game.  I kept cruising Dollar Tree for ideas.  Yesterday, I happened upon 3 packs of foam visors. 

This has to be the simplest #Made4Math ever.  Take a visor, add a paper clip and a card, and you're good to go!  $10 for a class set is within my budget.  Totally dorky?  Yes, and I think that's probably part of the charm.  If the students wear them like visors are supposed the be worn, the taller students are going to have to tilt their heads down so the shorter students can see the cards.  Better is to wear the visors upside down (think "tiara") and the cards will be almost vertical. Similar visors are on Amazon here

A silly mock-up, but you get the idea.

I know I'll use this for several topics in math and in French.  Two sets of cards are in the document below, one for graphing linear equations and one for vocabulary related to functions and equations. 

How could you use this game with your students?

Mathematically yours,
Miss B