Archive for the ‘Reflections/Review’ Category

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Summer of Conferences: TMC17

August 8, 2017

I didn’t quite mean for it to turn out this way, but apparently I only go to Twitter Math Camp (TMC) in odd-numbered years, so this was one of those years. The last two TMCs I attended (TMC13 in Philadelphia and TMC15 in Claremont, CA), I rode the train because I generally find it a more relaxing way of traveling. Unfortunately, the only way to go by train from Fort Worth to Atlanta was through Chicago (!), so I flew this time. Because I was attending the Desmos Pre-Conference, I arrived on Tuesday. One of my goals for this conference was to force myself to be socially outgoing because I know there are things I have missed out on in the past, so when Heather Kohn (@heather_kohn) offered to lead a pre-pre-conference tour of Atlanta, I signed up for a tour of the Georgia Aquarium. I wasn’t necessarily interested in seeing the Aquarium (although I’m very glad that I did — it was incredible!), but I wanted the opportunity to meet some people ahead of the conference and so have some built-in familiar faces for when the conference started.

The Desmos conference was very interesting. I ended up in a two-person session on Polygraphs with Chris Danielson, and we actually ended up playing the polygraph I created for my Astronomy class — which was great, because it made me realize that I needed to edit the pictures to make the names more readible. We ended up working on a possible polygraph idea for parallel lines and transversals, which I’m definitely going to work on this year.

The other session that I found interesting was First Steps with the Computation Layer. This has kind of been my summer for programming, and I thought it would be interesting to drill down into what makes Desmos tick. It was fun, in a frustrating kind of way, but I’m not sure the additional flexibility is really worth my time investment right now.

Again, trying to be more outgoing, I spent the evening playing games with a table of guys — thanks Chris (@Plspeak), Jonathan (@rawrdimus), Bill (@roughlynormal), and Josh for making me welcome!

Thursday, the actual TMC17 conference began. Here are my recaps and takeaways:

Morning Session: Playing with Exeter Math
I already wrote up how much of a blast I had in this session. Part of the reason I chose this session is because my summer conference load has been pretty heavy and I wanted some time just to play with math. The other reason I chose this was to give me an opportunity to experience math from a student’s perspective — expecially the frustrations that happen when you can’t quite get things to work the way you want. I was very glad I picked this session!

Session #1: “An Object to Think With”: The whole body as a tool for mathematical sense making by Malke Rosenfield and Max Ray-Riek
This didn’t really turn out to be what I thought it was. We ended up making 3-D structures out of rolled-up newspaper sticks and tape. What I found interesting was the way Malke and Max facilitate the session: they started us up very open-ended and added structure as we went along. It was also fascinating how different the three groups’ structures were (my group’s was very free-form). I’m not sure what takeaways I have for my classes, but it was a lot of fun.

Session #2: Expos: Student Presentations in Math Class by Matt Baker and Kat Glass
I really found this session to be interesting because they use student presentations to (a) review before tests and (b) practice giving presentations. I especially liked the rubric that they shared with us. I already do presentations in Astronomy, and I think I’m going to add giving students grades on how they work in their groups on the presentation. Part of me really wants to have my Geometry students do presentations for review and part of me is a little nervous about the time commitments by both the students and me.

Session #3: A Trig Exploration: Exact Values and the Golden Triangle by Rachel Kernodle, Jamie Collins, and Molly Tanner
This was a whole lot of fun! After refreshing our memories of 45-45-90 and 30-60-90 triangles (and the corresponding trig values), we were then given a 36-72-72 triangle and asked if there was any way we could use this to find more exact trig values. Very cool!

Session #4: CO + DE = MATH by Stephanie Reilly and Tamar McPherson
This might be one of the most useful sessions I attended at TMC. One of the reasons I’ve been getting back into programming is because I think there’s got to be some way to correlate the logical thinking from programming with the logical thinking in Geometry. This session may have given me a really good tool by introducing me to Trinket.io. Until my laptop’s battery died, I was able to take their templates and build a tool for finding the third side of a right triangle, as well as one for calculating the distance between two points. I’m definitely going to be playing with this as school gets started!

Session #5: An Hour of Codebreaking by Bob Lochel
This was a fun session to play with different types of code makers and code breakers. The simulation of the Enigma machine especially boggled my mind. I’m not sure how much (if any) I can use in Geometry, but it was a good session.

Session #6: Clothesline Math by Chris Shore
I was so happy they added this session on because this I wasn’t able to attend his earlier presentation. I’m not sure I can adequately convey how much my mind was blown by the simple arrangement of some paper markers on a piece of string. For the initial stages, it was interesting to discuss what was the absolute minimum amount of information needed to fully represent \frac{1}{2}, \frac{1}{3}, and \frac{1}{4} on a number line; and I also enjoyed the discussion generated by placing -x, x+1, and x+2 on a number line containing 0, 1, and x. It wasn’t until we were looking at solving an equation, 2x+9=3x-6 that things exploded. On the number line, we placed 2x+9 and 3x-6 clothespinned together. Chris then had us place 2x and 3x, and that’s when we realized that 2x had to be 9 units away from the equality on the left and 3x was 6 units away on the right. The gap between was 15, which was x. Wild! From a teacher standpoint, Chris also gave us some good words of advice, such as making sure the students not at the board have whiteboards or the equivalent, so they have something to do.
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This post has gone on too long, but I don’t want to forget about my favorite My Favorites:
What Else Can Google Slides Do? by Jennifer Fairbanks
Dynamic Web Sketches by David Petro

Maybe next year, I’ll be able to break my pattern and go to TMC18, even though it’s an even-numbered year!

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Summer of Conferences: CAMT17

August 8, 2017

CAMT (the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching) was being held in Fort Worth this year, and my principal agreed to pay the registration fee for any math teacher who wanted to go. Because of other scheduling conflicts, Brenda and I were the only ones who were able to go. I figured we would probably not be attending the same sessions, since she would be focused on PreCalc and I would be focused on Geometry, and that’s pretty much the way it turned out. What I did not expect to happen was to run into Tiffany, one of my good friends from my UTA Master’s program. We saw each other after the first sessions of the day, and pretty much hung out together for the rest of the conference. I also ran into Anita, a teacher who used to teach Pre-AP Geometry at my school, as well as two or three other teachers who had been there. It was somewhat surreal.

This is my recap of what I learned at CAMT this year:
Session: Making Sense of Geometry by Andrew Stadel (@mr_stadel)
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Even though this session was listed for 6-8, I decided to attend because I have followed Andrew for years on Twitter. It was definitely worth it. One of the things I will definitely use this year is having students guesstimate how a bottle’s circumference compares to its height as a reminder about circumference.

Session: Plick Me! Flipping Geometry by Sarah Ashley
While I have been saying I wanted to use Plickers for a couple of years now, I always seem to find some reason why it’s never the right time. What I appreciated about this session was that she actually had us using the Plickers and showed us how she set things up. She also provided some links to some useful sites, most of which either required iPhones or I already knew about such as Desmos or Geogebra, but she did mention a few I hadd not heard of such as Splashtop.

Session: The Importance of Getting It Wrong by Michele Adams
I’m not sure this session really answered their question of how to get students to persist, but it did have some interesting activities that reminded me why I shouldn’t forget about the Shell Centre for Mathematical Education resources. The activity that I especially want to remember when we hit volume was comparing bottles and graphs of their volume vs. height.

Session: Engage and Motivate All Students by Aaron Daffern
This was one of those sessions where you make a pre-judgement based on your initial impression of the presenter that turns out to be completely wrong. Aaron is an interesting guy. He’s currently a curriculum direcctor for a charter school which he had previously served as principal. One thing he said that really stuck with me was that as principal, he should be able to “walk into any classroom and teach any subject.” I know my current principal also has that philosophy, which (although it can sometimes come across as arrogant) is such a change from having principals stand up and publicly state that they aren’t that good at math (laugh, laugh). Aaron had us model a strategy that I’m probably going to use for my first day classes: consensus rounds. He initially had us come up with three to five characteristics of a good math lesson. At the beginning of the session he had given everyone slips of paper that had three different groupings on it. He then had us find our first group (which got rather chaotic in a room of ~100 people) and come to a consensus of three characteristics. He insisted that each member of the group needed to “own” the list. It was also important that we each write the list down because after two minutes, we regrouped and did it again. After two minutes, we regrouped one last time. By this point, most groups had talked through different ideas, but the main consensus of the whole room for the main characteristic of a good math lesson was “student engagement”. Of course, how we achieve engagement is the tricky part.

Session: Revamping a Classic: Interactive Notebooks Gone Digital by Amanda Packard and Rita Gongora
Although this was billed as a commercial product demonstration, Tiffany and I decided to attend because we thought it might give us some good ideas, which it did. We saw some good uses for OneNote for Classroom, as well as using Google Slides to make a template that students would then use to fill in for their notes.

Session: Breaking Down Barriers – Geometry Redesigned by Julie Kidder and Caroline Robb
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This was a very interesting session. These two teachers are fortunate enough to teach at a private school that let them completely redesign their Geometry curriculum. One of the most fascinating decisions they made was to eliminate Pre-AP (Honors) Geometry as a separate course and put all different skill levels in the same classes. How they then handled the Pre-AP part was to designate parts of their assignments as “Honors”, and students had to accumulate a certain number of points to have their course credited as honors. Students were given a choice of ways to accumulate those points, which also included things such as competing in UIL events. While I certainly can’t implement that sort of thing in my classes, I really did like their lesson design.

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Playing With Exeter Math 2

July 29, 2017

I have been at TMC17 in Atlanta since Tuesday, and my morning session has been “Playing With Exeter Math”. In my group, we have been working on the Math 2 problems, which although I have worked through these before, I have enjoyed thinking about them more indepth.

I have been sitting next to James Cleveland, and he has a knack for asking interesting questions, which really make me think. For example, on problem 33, we have to show that a triangle is isosceles by setting the two distance formulas equal to each other. James realized that once you square both sides, you have two circle equations, and connected that to how we construct perpendicular bisectors by drawing two circles and marking their intersections. It became even more clear when I graphed the equality on Desmos, and Desmos produced it as a straight vertical line. Cool!

We also looked at problem 21, which asked us to divide the shape into two congruent shapes. We conjectured that any shape with a 180° rotational symmetry would have an infinite number of ways that it could be divided. In order to satisfy the conjecture to my satisfaction, I set it up in Sketchpad:
Problem 21

Yesterday, we looked at problem 45, in which the corner of a paper is folded down to the bottom of the paper. The original problem asks us to find the area of the triangle created. It then asks us to find the value of x that would maximize the area of the triangle. Working it out algebraically, we found that for a side length of 10, x would be \frac{10}{3}. This led James to conjecture that it would always be \frac{2}{3} of the length of the side. After a lot of hairpulling, I got the following set up in Desmos that shows this to my satisfaction (I used a slider for t, and the equations were y=\frac{1}{2}\left(t-x\right)\left(\sqrt{2tx-t^2}\right) and x=\frac{2}{3}t along with a parabola to fit the maxima as t varied.):

desmos-graph

Today, which was our last day, I had thought to finish up problem 45 (I added the vertical line at x=\frac{2}{3}t.) Once again, James was working on a problem, but this time, he got almost the entire group intrigued by it. Problem 133 sounds simple: Dissect a 1-by-3 rectangle into three pieces that can be reassembled into a square.

We quickly realized that since the area of the rectangle was 3, that the length of each side of the square would need to be \sqrt{3}. We immediately went to 30-60-90 right triangles, but we couldn’t figure out a way to make the cuts. Finally, about 20 minutes before we were supposed to leave, Annie Perkins figured it out using Sketchpad. This is my re-interpretation of her solution:

Problem 133

I’ll probably write up a full reflection on my experience at TMC, but I wanted to get my morning session experiences written down before I forgot about them.

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Been Away, But Now I’m Back — Reflections on 2014-2015

June 7, 2015

One of the reasons that I haven’t posted anything this year is directly related to one of my favorite tools this year: planbook.com. One of my main purposes for writing this blog is to allow me to reflect on lessons that I have taught, and with planbook, I set up a tab called “Reflection”, that allowed me to do that and have all of the lesson information right there. As far as a year-end overall reflection, I felt that a blogpost would be more helpful, so thus…

In almost every way, this school year was a lot of fun. I had four PAP Geometry classes and two Astronomy classes. My PAP kids were great (I also had about 16 8th graders who were generally adorable), and it was a blast finally being able to teach Astronomy. My schedule even worked out so that I did not have to have “Freshmen Lunch” (35 minutes). With that being the case, I will mention the few minor annoyances just to get them out of my system, and then go on to what I think worked, and what I’m changing for next year.

To summarize:

  • Astronomy is great!
  • Not just a flipped classroom, but a flipped-mastery learning classroom!
  • Canvas is a really good tool for the aforementioned classroom.
  • Having students make a Kahoot quiz for their presentations is a great way to ensure engagement.

{tl;dr}
Read the rest of this entry ?

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#MTBoS Challenge: Sunday Summary

August 31, 2014

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This was our first week of school, and overall, I’d have to say it went pretty well.

3 Days Done

Because we are on a block schedule, I had my A-day classes three times this week.

  • While my first day “Penny Floor” lesson wasn’t quite as engrossing as last year, I think it still went well enough. I definitely liked having all of my links for both my PAP Geometry and Astronomy classes on one page. With all of the various account setups we did in Astronomy, it made things very handy.
  • The math department lucked out on our part of Freshmen Orientation–we just had to take our classes to the auditorium for the three freshmen assistant principals to go through everything they needed to know about being a freshman and staying out of trouble. In my Astronomy classes, I had set up a Blendspace assignment that they were to write a one-paragraph summary over and then take an Edmodo quiz. They were a little shaky getting started (and it didn’t help that on Wednesday youtube wasn’t blocked, but on Thursday, it was), but eventually everyone got done.
  • On Friday, we had our first geometry lesson. Because I am doing a flipped classroom, they had (mostly) all done their notes over Points, Lines, and Planes, so I gave each pair of students a stack of cards.

    Draw What I Say

    The students alternated drawing a card and reading the description to their partner who had to draw what was being described (I stole the idea from Kagan, but I added more cards). There were some great conversations!

2 Things I Wish Had Gone Better

  • One of my students is blind, which I found out about on the Thursday before school started. I generally think things went well, but I have got to get ahead so I can get her material to her Braillist in time for the lessons. As it stands, I’m going to have to improvise something for the next couple of classes and hope that the material I’m going to send in makes it back by Friday.
  • I haven’t really gotten to know much of anything about my students yet. Maybe it’s this way every year, but it sure seems as if I should recognize more of them by now.

1 Thing I’m Looking Forward to This Week

  • After a week of introductory stuff, we are finally going to be starting astronomy lessons! The plan is for them to spend about three class periods researching an ancient civilization’s astronomy and then make a presentation to the class. This is the first time I have had a class doing presentations, so I’m a little nervous.

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#MTBoS Challenge: Classroom Photo

August 31, 2014

MTBOSChallenge_3

This is my 1st period PAP Geometry class working on a “Draw What I Say” activity for points, lines, and planes. I think it’s going to be a fun group–it’s a mixture of 8th and 9th graders.

1st Period

My room hasn’t changed a lot since I moved in last year, so here is a better photo that I took then:

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This is my Sierpinski triangle of student Sierpinski triangles. My plan (if I ever get any spare time) is to do an even bigger one on my back wall.

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Automaticity in Music and Math

August 31, 2014

From a recent post by @cheesemonkeysf:

As music, the technical patterns are boring — up and down, back and forth, crossing and uncrossing, stretching and shifting. But they’re necessary to develop a foundation of muscle memory and motor skills, as well as the habits of mind and of practice you will need as you gain proficiency and advance to building the finer and finer skills of musicianship.

I completely agree (although I come at it from a flute standpoint rather than a piano). There aren’t many things in life more boring than practicing scales and arpeggios, unless it’s sitting beside a tuner and practicing getting every note in tune. The payoff is when you see something like this:

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and your fingers realize that it’s mainly arpeggios. (And the version by Jethro Tull sounds really cool!)

Muscle memory is a huge thing–at least for me. When I was taking the picture above, I got out my flute and attempted to play it for the first time in at least five years. This was an All-Region piece that I played over and over back in 1980-ish, and while my playing was really rough, I could tell that my fingers basically remembered the runs.

All of which gets me back to Elizabeth’s point about our students needing to learn the fundamentals. I totally agree with her that, like Bach, we need to create rich points of entry for our students that can give them a payoff for the skills that they have developed. I’m still working on that.

I do have a story about muscle memory and math, though. I spent 20-odd years as a programmer before I decided to get my teaching certification. Since I was applying to a certification program, I didn’t have to take the GRE, but I did have to take the Texas Academic Skills Program test because they considered my SAT scores to be out of date.

I was studying for the Algebra portion of the test when I hit binomial multiplication. Now this was around 17 years after I graduated from college with a B.A. in math, but I could not remember how to do the problems! Then, I noticed that my hand kept wanting to make tapping motions between the terms–the two first terms, then the two last terms, then the outer terms, then the middle terms. I finally realized what I was supposed to do! My Algebra I teacher, Ms. Prendergast, had drilled us so much on these problems (we didn’t have a cutesy name like FOIL, but it was the same idea — essentially the distributive property), that my hand remembered how to do the problems even when I couldn’t!

Last year, I started out the year trying to teach the skills by using problem-solving, and I don’t think I was successful at either teaching the skills or teaching problem-solving. My approach for this year is something like learning to play an instrument–practice our skills, then try to bring in some rich problems that make use of those skills. The funny part, is that I hadn’t really realized that’s what I was doing until I read Elizabeth’s post. So thank you for giving me a metaphor to hang my teaching on!