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

July 16, 2014

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

  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).

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.


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):
Read the rest of this entry »


How MTBoS Has Spoiled Me

July 12, 2014

As I mentioned previously, I should get to teach Astronomy this coming year (I’m a little nervous because I just found out our principal was fired). Based on my math teaching experience, one of my first steps has been trying to find other astronomy teachers so that I can swipe learn from their experiences. So far, the only blogger I have found hasn’t blogged anything since 2010.

This whole search has really made me appreciate my fellow math bloggers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences, successes, failures, and emotions! I won’t be able to make #TMC14 this year (my travel dollars were spent going to Europe), but I will be with you in spirit.


“Borrowing” Ideas for 2014-2015

July 9, 2014

Misscalcul8 has some great ideas for next year that I’m going to swipe borrow:

  • Make my own important formula sheet and give to students at beginning
  • Start geometry with sketching and drawings and labeling

I like the idea of a “Draw your best right triangle” contest.

I’m also glad she reminded me of @crstn85’s Test Correction idea.

I think I’ve outgrown LiveBinder–I’ve got so many links, that it’s really slow to open and search–so I think I will also borrow an idea from Dan Meyer (I think) and switch to Delicio.us


Trying To Be Productive

July 8, 2014

I’m trying to find a balance this summer between leisure, house projects, and school stuff. My thinking is to do either a house thing or a school thing during the week, and enjoy the weekends guilt-free. Today, I continued work on my new Astronomy class, setting up the basic calendar for the first semester. Ideally, I want to flip the class and have them do some sort of activity during class, so I think tomorrow, I’ll start working on that.


Clinometer Project

July 7, 2014

This was a really fun project (for me, at least). I’m actually pretty proud of the clinometer that I ended up making. I took a basic protractor graphic and added the degrees and instructions.


I bought a bunch of hex nuts to use as weights. I had enough that if students wanted to keep their clinometers, they could.




Here’s the hall pass I made. I suggest making them BIG (3 to a page) and brightly-colored.


I thought this was a really good project. As with the mirror project, I think I’m going to have them just measure in centimeters/meters. I also want to try to find another angle of depression location.

Obj. 42 Elevation and Depression Exploration


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