Day 22: The One with Different Ways to Show Negatives


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


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



Bowtie Tuesday. Because yes:


Day 19: The One with the Windows


I keep forgetting (or just denying) that Afternoon Me is the Worst Me (as the cool kids say).

We did a reading guide, which went slowly in some classes, just right in some classes/groups, and was a struggle in others. Now wishing I had been harsher and a bit more vocal with the participation quiz aspect.

Student work (from the afternoon, but still some solid work)

At any rate, I liked the opening. We showed them a bunch of windows and asked them how many there were. Almost every kiddo was talking or writing:

Teacher confession: after 1 class, a colleague pointed out that there were different numbers of small windows in each cluster, so my initial calculation of 900 was far greater than what many students calculated as about 768 windows.

Also, we cleaned almost all of the papers (except notes) out of the math section of our binders. Maybe this is the organized year. (Dinna hold yer breath.)

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’?):


Day 17: The One With the Review Day


Having just given a group quiz, Curriculum Partner and I spend the next day giving the kiddos some structured study time.

We often joke that in a different world, in a different school, with different kiddos, this day would look different. Our kiddos would take their group tests home and figure out the answers and study on their own. So many of our kiddos don’t have those study skills or don’t have someone at home who can help support those study habits (though they have figured out how to send me messages through our school’s grading system, which is pretty cool) or have to work hours that put public school teaching hours to shame (one of my advisees has such a schedule and I tell him not to do anything in advisory except homework, but then he does the binder organizing and the poem reading anyway).

But we aren’t, so we have our review day.

The review day has changed the most of all the days of our 3-day testing cycle and that might just be because our student body changes throughout the years.

We currently start off by explicitly pairing the kiddos with someone who speaks the same language (Sorry, Russian speaking advisee singleton) but is at a different level of English. We have the kiddos make a dictionary and translate the words they don’t know. They then use the rubric to grade their own quizzes and make a perfect test (we’ve had them do this separately, but they kind of bled together this time and I’ll take it, I think). Then, then check for periods and capital letters, which aren’t a thing yet, apparently.

They all put their quizzes in their binders, so here’s the rubric, the task card and some extension problems (“Make up your own problem for the test,” I said. It’s a start anyway):2016-09-07-18-54-51

Gotta say, though, I was more impressed with this kiddo’s note sheet, largely because he took the time to write everything out, translate it, then write it again for a specific example:


Objectives (in which I basically made the kiddos use their notes. #MathsHairDontCare):2016-09-07-18-54-19

Day 16: The One With the Patterns Group Quiz


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



(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


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


2016-09-02 17.56.31