Getting the Spaghetti to Stick

“How’s the school year going?” is a question for August.

The fact that I’m just getting around to it now is telling.

It’s actually been a good year so far, albeit busy. Here are the bullet points:

  • After 5 years of only teaching 9th and 10th grade mathematics, I am teaching 11th grade Algebra 2. It is relatively new to me, though it has always been an 11th grade course for the school. It is the first course that I am technically without a planning partner on, though I have several years of previous curriculum (thanks to the amazing teacher before me – who is now teaching 9/10 mathematics, and to our District) and an amazing student teacher. I am teaching some (at least half) of the students for the 3rd year in a row (which in some ways, is probably not great for them as they are now inheriting all my weird mathematical habits) and many students for the 2nd year (including one who was not in my class last year but whom I spent a non-trivial amount of time chasing around the room). 11th grade is on a block schedule and has oral defenses in lieu of Portfolios. More on that later.
  • Largely because our tests in 9/10 have always had 4 questions, I’ve designed the unit tests in Algebra 2 to be the same. I’m then using variations of those 4 questions on the homework and on our What Do I Know?/Individual Practice Wednesdays. (11th grade has 45 minutes classes on those days. There is not much else I can do besides a repeated structure).
  • 3 weeks before school, our new principal asked for a list of 10th grade students who would benefit from an extra mathematics class. I rattled off a bunch (including 2 advisees who have since dropped out of school, sadness) and one 11th grader who might be an amazing TA. A few minutes later, it dawned on us that it might be more beneficial to have the course be for 11th graders, as the supports at 9/10 are pretty strong. We wrote down a list of kiddos (again, many of whom I’d taught for 2 years). A few days later, it dawned on us (me) that I would be teaching this course. Not an actual complaint as I was mostly able to pick the roster. That being said, I also describe teaching/creating this course (first time for me, first time for our school) as throwing spaghetti at a wall until it stuck. Not surprisingly, the spaghetti that stuck the most were the structures. We spent one day a week doing homework for Algebra 2 and there are some kiddos who can do Estimation180 in their sleep. It was also extremely helpful to just let some of these kiddos spend an extra class period delving further into what we learned in class (there will be an upcoming post on the Desmos Project)

So, that was 3 really long bullet points.

Whatever.

Happy 2018, y’all.

Day 22: The One with Different Ways to Show Negatives

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One of the many changes we’re making to our curriculum is thinking about how to represent negative numbers. We’ve used CPM‘s Algebra Tiles a lot, but this is the first year that we’ll really explore negative tiles, but also the idea of opposite.

Side note: last time we taught this unit,  we used the Interactive Math Program’s hot and cold cubes (hot cubes cause an increase, cold cubes cause a decrease). Which I think was a neat idea, except that CPM’s negative tiles are red, which confused students when we talked about hot cubes causing an increase. This was not helped by a school-wide evacuation in the middle of one of our lessons. We had planned a summative project entitled “Mystery Soup” (how many hot and cold cubes are there? Maybe?) but with all the confusion and our eventual movement away from hot and cold cubes, we all seem to have forgotten what “Mystery Soup” refers to.

At any rate, watching the kiddos think about and represent negatives and opposites has been interesting. This group thought of different ways to show an expression with negatives using tiles. Any time we can get kiddos to talk together, but show their own way of thinking is pretty cool:2016-09-14-08-32-59-2

Objectives: 2016-09-14-18-13-21

Day 21: The One With Simplifying Algebra Tiles and Perimeter Challenges

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Curriculum partner and I sensed that 10th graders and students who had seen more simplifying with Algebra Tiles were getting restless, so we split the kiddos into homogenous groupings. We always try to frame this as letting students challenge themselves with students who need similar challenges.

FASCINATING to watch some of our newer students who frequently hide in the shadows start to step it up (and also to see 10th graders using tiles and expressions in a more meaningful way).

Photo: “We don’t speak any English!” said one newbie (in Spanish). But that didn’t stop them from a) using the tiles and b) saying the names of the tiles in English.2016-09-13-10-45-24-2

Spent about 45 minutes after school with the Littlest Advisee, revising a quiz. It’s a slow process that (currently) involves me reviewing the problems they missed and then them showing me they can do the problem (with help). If they can do the problem, I’ll give them half credit (up from 0, in this case). If they can do a different version of the same problem, on a different day, I’ll bump their score up as if they had just taken the test.

Spent another few minutes helping one of last year’s kiddos with his homework. Compound interest. What is that even? #PleaseHelpCantMath

Objectives:

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Bowtie Tuesday. Because yes:

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Day 20: The One With So Many Algebra Tiles Notes

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Probably worth mentioning that the reason we did an area reading guide was to prepare for simplifying expressions via Algebra Tiles (which names tiles based on their area).

We do a variation of this unit every year and it’s fascinating to see how it changes. This year’s model is based on the “See Variations of Things Many Times” to try it from all angles and expose the kiddos to a couple ways of thinking about it.

Photo: Algebra Tile notes.

2016-09-12-18-12-08Unrelated: It’s always fascinating to see what kiddos remember after a year or so. Some kiddos who were less active last year perked up a bunch and some kiddos just kept on going…

Objectives:

2016-09-12-18-10-00

Day 18: The One with the First Quiz

We just gave our first quiz of the year (though technically the group quiz was probably the first of the year, so I guess this blog post is already a lie).

Thought process is that it’s pretty similar to the group quiz but with enough changed that the kiddos have to prove they know the concepts, but aren’t totally thrown by new, irrelevant things.

Got some solid work, especially from some kiddos who tend to leave their papers blank:


Fascinating also to see where kiddos get stuck. We asked them to draw their own pattern with the point (5,16) and it ended up being more of a stumper than we expected.

Also, the littlest advisee (the same one I spent my 34th birthday chasing around the school in an attempt to get them to do homework) drew me a truck instead:

(To be fair, they did try to take the quiz and they struggle with reading and got very little formal education in their country).

And a quote from another kiddo: “Mister, you look like a – (to friend) – ¿Cómo se dice ‘abeja’? (How do you say ‘bee’?):


Objectives:

Day 16: The One With the Patterns Group Quiz

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We start the week off (from a 3-day weekend, no less) with a group quiz. The idea is that the kiddos seem what the quiz will look like and have a chance to work through it and talk together as a group. They then take a study day, in class, to translate the words they don’t know and make a perfect quiz using a rubric.

Last question on a group quiz:img_8875I’m rather fond of the 4 square (OK, 6 square) format. I also had to chase down one of the kiddos in after-school tutoring to take this photo. Apparently, they’re all using their binders this year. Which is kinda cool (but makes #teach180 weirdly difficult).

Also, after giving 4 sections of group quizzes, I went to a school meeting and then a district meeting. Both worthwhile, both pretty busy. Then I went home and tried to write a meeting agenda until I fell asleep. #TeacherLife

Objectives:

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(Side note: We used the opening to generate norms which theoretically became the rubric for our participation quiz. Kinda sorta worked. Room for improvement next time)

Day 15: More Equations

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We do more practice with using patterns to write equations (using notes that we hastily took at the end of yesterday’s class). It takes me a bit to find the rhythm. One kiddo complains, after the fact, that the work is boring (their group trudged slowly through the 2nd problem). I show them the remaining problems and encourage them to keep their group moving so they can all move on to the more challenging work next time.

Photo: Looking at patterns in order to get the equation.2016-09-02 17.58.04-1

Objectives:

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Day 14: The One Where We Start Equations

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It’s about this time that Curriculum Partner and I realize that we are almost done with the unit. WUT?

The last part of this unit (which is technically continued as part of Unit 3) is starting to write linear equations. We have the kiddos sort different pattern representations and then look at how they are similar and different. I’m wishing we had made the connection to all parts of the equation (not just slope and y-intercept) clearer. But maybe that’s for another day or another year.

Photo: Kiddos used whiteboard markers and sheet protectors to talk about different representations of the same pattern. (I drew the shapes the night before in our first 7pm night of the year. Uy.)2016-09-01 09.06.17

Objectives:2016-09-01 15.26.27

Day 13: The One with the Menu of Patterns

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It’s that time of the unit. Some kiddos are just starting to grasp the basics and need more practice. Some kiddos are getting impatient and rolling their eyes. This is compounded by the fact that many of our new kiddos are still being normed to being students at our school and that the honeymoon period has ended.

We give the kiddos a menu of options to choose from. The default is for most kiddos to start on the same practice one (which both has enough ambiguity to keep it interesting and allows them to keep practicing strong groupwork skills). I wanted to take a photo of one of the kiddos at work and they threw all the graphs into the middle. I’ve also noticed that lots of the kiddos like to staple the little papers we give them together. Go figure.2016-08-31 11.46.03

Objectives:2016-08-31 18.52.47