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#mtbosChallenge – Sunday Summary

August 17, 2014

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Okey-dokey, I’ll give this one a shot too.

3 Things That Happened This Week

  • I helped my friend S move into her new classroom and new school (sniff!). It was a long, exhausting day, but I was glad we got to spend some time together before school starts. She used to be my co-teacher, and we would joke that we spent more hours together than she spent with her husband. I was very proud of her for getting her math certification, but I’m really sorry that she decided to change schools.
  • I found a new song that has been haunting me all week: The Long Grass by Remodeled Music.
  • Since I needed to go up to school for a few hours, I decided to combine several things at once: I needed to fog my house, which means my cat has to go somewhere for two hours, so he came up to school with me (he mainly hid behind my shelves). Since I had to use my car to transport my cat, I loaded up everything that was going back to school except for the astronomy stuff. This means that next week, I can ride my scooter every day. Bringing things back up made me really glad that, for the first year, I didn’t cart a bunch of stuff home. At school, I was able to get the top of my desk cleared off and cleaned; I also got some other things put back in place before I had to leave.

2 Things I’m Nervous About

  • My Astronomy classes. While I am excited about teaching them, I fully realize that most of the students are taking it because it sounds like an easier class than any of the other science options for seniors. This situation means that if I can’t engage them, I’m likely to have some behavior problems because these classes are both pretty big, 31 and 34, respectively. I’m also nervous because this is my first time teaching a science class, and I don’t have that same depth of knowledge that I have in my math classes. It also feels weird to be planning a class where I can’t just make up a bunch of new problems around a given topic the way I can with, say, the Pythagorean Theorem.
  • I started off last year really wanting to focus on learning through problem-solving. I met with a lot of pushback from my students, and, more importantly, they didn’t seem to be learning the math. This year, I really want to do a hybrid approach: spend time doing skill practice, but then spend time solving related problems. The issue is that it’s going to take more time, and since I have no spare time in my schedule, something’s got to give. So I’m nervous about a) what to cut out and b) remaining firm in the face of the pushback from students who aren’t used to being challenged.

1 Thing I’m Looking Forward To This Week

  • I get to see people I haven’t seen since June, and I get to meet our new math teachers.

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Happiness is Playing With Circles

August 17, 2014

When I saw this puzzle by Curmudgeon, I was seriously intrigued.

1990-08
The circles have radius 1, and the seven lettered regions are of equal area. The question is, what is the area of the pentagon?

After doing some algebra, I figured out that the area of the regions had to be \frac{\pi}{4}, but the problem is figuring out the height of the pentagon. Not knowing what else to do, I set it up in Geometer’s Sketchpad. I’m trying to get used to using Geogebra, but I figured I would work it out first in Sketchpad. I’ll put my solution after the “more” in case you want to work it out for yourself.
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My First Five Days Plan

August 17, 2014

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I have had a horrible time the last couple of years with keeping my blog going during the school year. I’m hoping that a regular schedule will keep me on track. (fingers crossed)

Students come back on 8/25, and right now, all I have set for sure is my first two days (I’m on block schedule, so that’s one class day).

PAP Geometry

I plan to do mostly what I did on the first day last year. I will have my desks grouped into fours (I may or may not use the pinwheel arrangement I used last year–I can’t decide). I will use TheHat to randomly sort the students into groups. My biggest concern is that right now, my 5th period (Tuesday morning) has 42(!) students, and I only have 33 desks.

As a 9th grade teacher, I will have access to a Chromebook cart of 30. Assuming they get my class of 42 down to a reasonable number, I still have an average of 31 students per class, so I’m trying to persuade TPTB that I need more than 30 Chromebooks. They’ve said that they will try. In any event, on the first day, I’m going to use the Chromebooks every which way, and since I had so many links for so many different things, it occurred to me to put a post on my class site to walk them through. They will:

  • Enter their student information into a google form.
  • Use another google form to enter their work on my penny floor problem.
  • Have the option to read online an excerpt from one of my favorite books, Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein. I will also have printouts.
  • After reading the excerpt, use another google form to answer questions about the excerpt.

If I have any time left, I’ll talk about the course outline, class rules, etc.

Astronomy

Because my district has formulated an actual scope and sequence, I’m going to have to rearrange things from how I first had them laid out. What won’t change is my first day plan.

Like Geometry, I will have them in groups of four, and like Geometry, we will be using the Chromebooks most of the period (fortunately, I only have two classes back-to-back both days–I’m not sure what the battery life will be). I also set up a new class site, and a post will give them all of the links they need to do the following:

  • Student information form
  • Edmodo setup
  • Blendspace setup
  • Mastering Astronomy (run by Pearson)
  • Desmos

I will then go over the class rules and procedures. When we finish all of that, we will be doing one of my favorite Astronomy introductions, making a “pocket solar system” using adding machine tape.

That’s my first class day planned out. This coming week is all of our inservice stuff. Since I am now officially in two departments, I’m going to have to do some juggling. I had already planned to skip our district math PD because that’s when we astronomy teachers will be getting together, but I found out today that science and math are having their campus department meetings at the same time. That day, I’ll probably need to wear my math hat.

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Astronomy Class Structure

July 30, 2014

I think I’ve got it! After lots of internal debate, I think I’ve settled on how I want to run my new astronomy class this year.

To Flip or Not to Flip–That is the Question

I fell in love with the flipped class model last year for my geometry class, so I’m definitely continuing it for geometry. That’s no big deal–even when I’m not trying some projecty-thing, I can make up new problems for them to solve all day long. Astronomy, though, doesn’t quite work that way. I think I’ve found some interesting problems/activities/”labs” to go along with the textbook, so we’ll see.

Because all of the freshmen teachers are getting them, I will have the luxury of a Chromebook cart in my room, so I plan to make lots of use out of it for astronomy. First off, I wish I could remember who recommended Blendspace, but this has proven to be incredibly helpful. It lets me pull together different resources to supplement the reading they are supposed to be doing. Check out my first lesson!

I will also be using Edmodo to manage everything (Blendspace is also an Edmodo app), and since I figured out that I can use LaTex on the quizzes, I will probably use it in geometry as well. Pearson, the publisher of our textbook, has some good online assignments that the students will be expected to complete.

The Plan

  • Students will be expected to read about two sections of the textbook for each class and write a one-paragraph summary of each section.
  • They will have Blendspace lessons on each section as additional resources.
  • I will not be checking homework. The class day after the end of a chapter is the due date for all homework from that chapter.
  • During class, we will be doing some sort of exploration/project/activity.
  • The day homework is due, I will give an Edmodo quiz over the whole chapter, broken down into the standards. Students can retake any standard they do not get a 4 on. Since I am giving so few quizzes, I will be willing to go back and change a previous six week’s grade should it be necessary.
  • Grades will be weighted as follows:
    • 20% Homework
    • 20% Classwork
    • 30% Quizzes
    • 30% Six Weeks Test/Major Project

I have felt so paralyzed this summer because I wasn’t sure what/how I wanted to teach this class. I don’t know whether this will work or not, but at least I’m not paralyzed anymore.

Comments?

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#5things I Can’t Live Without in My Classroom

July 16, 2014

I thought this was an interesting exercise, so here goes:

    trackball-explorer-pcb-460
  1. My trackball — It gives anyone who tries to use my computer fits, but I adore this trackball (think of an upside-down mouse). IMHO this is the best pointing device ever made, and I am still mad at Microsoft for no longer making them. The one I have at school I bought about 15 years ago when I was still working as a programmer; I also have one at home that I bought on eBay a few years ago when mine was stolen.
  2. WordPress — I love having blogs for different things and being able to keep those blogs separate. I use a class blog to post all of my class materials, and this blog to post my thoughts about my classes, teaching, math, and whatever else I want to share with the world.
  3. Kuta worksheets — sometimes, you just need to give a worksheet. And sometimes, your schedule doesn’t work out the way you planned and you need something to keep the natives from getting too restless. In a perfect world, I could persuade my department chair to get the full software, so I could create my own, but I can’t complain too much about the free ones.
  4. IMG_4691

  5. Magnetic tape — When S and I discovered this stuff a few years ago, our lives changed forever. (**g**) Since my boards are all magnetic, I put this tape on the back of anything I want to stick there. The most useful application has been to stick the tape on the back of display letters for things like the date.
  6. SugarSync — This has been a favorite of mine for a while, but they’ve changed it in some weird and not useful ways. They no longer offer a free version, but if you do try them out, look on their site for version 1.9x — that’s the version I still use (in spite of all of their efforts to get me to upgrade).
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Good Advice For Seniors

July 16, 2014

I am sometimes at a loss when students ask for advice on career/college goals. I read this today from Jerry Pournelle, and I thought it offered some good, practical ideas:

Our neighbors’ house is sold and they’ll be moving, and their boy is entering his senior year at a good high school. He’s interested in technology and will be taking AP calculus and such. Top 15% of this class, so not Cal Tech, and not interested in leaving university with enormous debts. No father in the house, and I’ve known him and his mother quite literally all his life. Took him to lunch at the Oyster House to talk things over.

Interested in technology, not really interested in being a teacher, wants to do something in technology, not sure what. Good at math, but not a theoretical type. I suggested electrical engineering. Not as much theory as physics, but based on good science. Maxwell’s equations are a great example of scientific theory at work doing all kinds of practical things. Chemistry is more empirical, and mechanical is more practical. Electrical, then, but be sure to take chemistry through organic, and biology beyond the non-major survey course. And don’t bother with computer science as an undergraduate. You have to learn how to use the little beasts, but teaching them to do things is getting to be a pretty wide spread ability; better to learn how to build them and design chips and practical stuff on the one side, and be able to think of things you want to teach them to do on the other. Get an EE degree and you can have a job or almost anything you like in grad school, and learning organic chemistry and better than elementary in biology puts you in a good place if you decided to go into nanotechnology.

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Algebra 3 Standards

July 14, 2014

StephReilly (@reilly1041) asked if I could post some of my material from Algebra 3, which gives me something to write about–yay!

a3bookBackground: When Texas went to requiring four years of math, my district decided to add an “Algebra 3″ course. My instructions were to create a class that was beyond Algebra 2 and that could prepare students for college algebra. We picked a great textbook, which I generally followed.

Problem Solving StrategiesI also wanted to have my students practice problem solving, so about twice per six weeks, they had a problem set assigned. These were problems I (mostly) found from Problem Solving Strategies, which is a really great book. I liked these problems, because the math is fairly simple, but the thinking is not. I would give them one class day to work on the problems, and one week to get them finished and turned in.

Here’s what I ended up with for my standards (objectives):
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