Friday, August 31, 2012

Moar New Bloggers!!!

Week two apparently saw an almost equally enthusiastic output from our blogging-challenged! Pardon my lack of commentary, this weekend I have somehow managed to saddle myself with marking ~90 unit tests, ~50 notebook checks, and planning to teach an IB vector unit for the first time. Even still, I am going to go read at least three of these right now and leave a comment. Your assignment is to do the same!

Stephanie Macsata @MsMac622 has a blog named High Heels in the High School. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled 1st Days of School and the author sums it up as follows: "I wrote this post about something I wish had been part of my teacher training. I picked the book First Days of School by Harry Wong because it taught me about setting expectations and teaching procedures, which helped a lot in my second year (and beyond)." A memorable quotation from the post is: "After experiencing year one I knew what I DIDN'T want, but I still wasn't quite sure how to get what I DID want."

Heather Kohn @heather_kohn has a blog named Growing Exponentially. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled 10 years from now... and the author sums it up as follows: "This post is about what students will hopefully be saying at their 10 year reunion about our class, about me, and about what they learned. I summarize my end of year course evaluations and how that all I really want, is for the students to come home after 10 years and say hi." A memorable quotation from the post is: "It would mean the most to hear the students say they liked going to math class because it was fun, they learned a lot, and they know that even though I challenged them, I knew they could all succeed."

Allison Krasnow has a blog named Pi Crust. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Cheating!! and the author sums it up as follows: "In addition to teaching middle school math, I am teaching an undergrad class at UC Berkeley this semester. It's a math methods class for students interested in being math teachers. So, sage blogging teachers...I'd love to hear from you what you believe should be taught in this course. I could blabber on and on about what I think is important, but I bet you can too." A memorable quotation from the post is: "Week 2 of new blogger initiation asks us to respond to the following question: “All new teachers should know about (blank) before entering the classroom,” and instead of answering it, I’m posing it to all of you."

Alex Freuman @freuman has a blog named Math Teachering. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled 5 Things I Wish I had Known when I Started Teaching and the author sums it up as follows: "If I could go back in time and give myself some advice, I would share these ideas with my old self. Hopefully, this will be helpful to some of the newer teachers out there." A memorable quotation from the post is: "I wish I had known that I didn’t have to hit every ball out of the park."

Brielliephant @Brielliephant has a blog named Thriving Not Just Surviving. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled My "Training" and the author sums it up as follows: "This is a list of a few of the first things that pop into my head when I think of all the millions of things I was never prepared for. Though, not to be a negative Nelly, I also have a short list of things I did learn and are thankful for about this year." A memorable quotation from the post is: "I was never taught that being the youngest, and one of the few, available young women teachers would mean that I should be set up with any and every available man by my fellow teachers."

Tad Snaith @TadSnaith has a blog named What Does Math Mean?. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled A Ten Year Reunion (Math Blogger Initiation Week 2) and the author sums it up as follows: "Another "student" added that they always felt that he made them think harder than any other teacher without them realizing. But in fact it wasn't that they "thought harder" but more so they felt comfortable to share ideas and thoughts in his classroom. They always felt trusted, respected, and worthwhile in Mr. Snaith's class." A memorable quotation from the post is: "it was a time in the day where students didn't have to worry about who was the best or who was the worst in math. It didn't matter. Everyone was treated equal."

Lee KT has a blog named Random Expected Value. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Hokey Pokey for Functions and the author sums it up as follows: "I talk to my students a lot about how we think, how we learn. We remember if we connect new stuff to something already in our minds. So this is my hokey attempt at getting students ot understand and remember the duality between what they have learned previously as “y = ” and the function notation f(x)." A memorable quotation from the post is: "I make my thinking process explicit and visible to the students so that they can (perhaps) learn to think in better ways as a result."

Aaron C. @CarpGoesMoo has a blog named Random Teaching Tangents. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled New Blogger Initiation 2 and the author sums it up as follows: "This post was a rambling purge of the back to school blur ... with plenty of references to my inability to efficiently get 'flipped classroom' technology working for me instead of against me." A memorable quotation from the post is: "... and I don’t even care that this was an entire paragraph’s worth of run-on sentence."

Ben Owen @bahowen has a blog named Transformations. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Two days down, 177 to go and the author sums it up as follows: "My post is about the challenges I'll be facing in my classes this year. Some challenges will come from my students, but other will come from the district offices." A memorable quotation from the post is: "It's hard to find the joy in teaching when my employer is trying to replace me with videos."

Jillian Paulen @jlpaulen has a blog named Laplace Transforms for Life. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Calculus &; Cupcakes and the author sums it up as follows: "I wrote about the things I hope my calculus students remember in 10 years, as well as what I remember from my calculus class." A memorable quotation from the post is: "I won’t be so vainglorious as to proclaim that all my students will remember every skill I ever taught them, but I do hope for a few things."

Monday, August 27, 2012

Yet Another Love Letter to the Internet

Reason #9737465849 to get a blog, teachers. If you wait a few days, other people sometimes just do your work for you. :-) Thanks, Timon!


Act 1 - Moon Phases from Timon Piccini on Vimeo.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Let's Hear It for New Bloggers!

It is common knowledge that I love Sam Shah as only one long time blogging buddy can love a blogging buddy. Basically I just love the Shah-ness of Shah, and I make no apologies. The other mastermind (mistressmind?) is Julie Reulbach whose Google Spreadsheet fu is downright scary - who knew? She is full of surprises, that one. They initiated this initiative to 1. give new bloggers a kick in the pants and 2. give the rest of us a way to see the new stuff out there. I was pleased to see that many of them took the advice to name their blog something that doesn't suck. This is long, so get yourself a bag of cheetos or a corn dog or something and settle in. If you read a post that you like - hey - leave a comment! It's free! And it will make their day.

vanvleettv @vanvleettv has a blog named Everything's Rational. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Introducing Standards Based Grading and the author sums it up as follows: "I created a presentation to go through with students and their parents that gives a glimpse into the world of Standards Based Grading. I will use this sometime during the first week of school. Hopefully it will help ease the process of converting to standards based grading in my classroom. " A memorable quotation from the post is: "I wasn’t happy with the way I graded last year and want to do something about it."

Carl Edgren and Hannah Schuchhardt @carledgren, @hschuchhardt have a blog named Teaching Systematically. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Helping Students Become Problem Solvers... and the author sums it up as follows: "We are really working to help kids become problem solvers, not just people who are good at completing math problems. There are 2 things we are starting this year: "Google Days" with an advanced class and more project based learning with all of our other courses." A memorable quotation from the post is: "Sometimes I think that recalling things you’ve learned is like recalling a memory – we are trying to get students to be able to put themselves back into the moment they learned a specific skill or idea."

MathNinjaTeacher @mathninjateach has a blog named The Education of Future Math Ninjas. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Survival and the author sums it up as follows: "This post summarizes my pre-school worries about being a new teacher. Including the fact I am teaching a brand new curriculum." A memorable quotation from the post is: "At 7:05am Monday morning 25ish 9th graders will grace me with their presence and will forever be known as “My First Class Ever.”"

Ms. Philosoraptor has a blog named Normalcurvasaurus. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled What's with all the dinosaurs? and the author sums it up as follows: "The post I wrote for this week describes why I chose the screen name and blog name that I did (and my obsession with dinosaurs). I also briefly described what I hope to instill in my students as learners (and thinkers!) as a prospective teacher." A memorable quotation from the post is: "I want my students to become thinkers, and actually THINK about the mathematics they are doing."

mathtastrophe @mathtastrophe has a blog named mathtastrophe. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Time Is Money - A Fresh Start and the author sums it up as follows: "It's a new year and I need a fresh start! I narrowed it down to two big things that I think will make all the difference in my classroom. A timer and an interactive notebook." A memorable quotation from the post is: "I want students to know that I value their time as well as my own, and I want them to know that in my class we use time wisely."

Beth Ferguson has a blog named in stillness the dancing. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled In stillness and the author sums it up as follows: "Blogging about my school experience is new to me and I’m enjoying the process. I began blogging a few years ago. At that time I blogged to help find my “center,” to quieten myself to recharge. Interestingly enough, I’m finding blogging to be a different experience this time around. " A memorable quotation from the post is: "It is in stillness that my soul finds delight."

Jennifer Kenney @jnnyknny has a blog named Algebra Awesomeness. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Yakking Tracker and the author sums it up as follows: "I created stop lights to use in my junior high classroom to monitor noise level for my groupwork. They look fantastic and will help me to work on my behavior plan this year!" A memorable quotation from the post is: "I like to be able to control the volume on my own."

crazedmummy has a blog named crazed-mummy. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Homework week 1 and the author sums it up as follows: "My post is about the blog name, the repetitive included pictures, and the reason for blogging." A memorable quotation from the post is: " I rarely leave a trail of slime behind me, but I do wear glasses."

loveteachingmaths has a blog named Love Teaching Maths. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Back to school.. and the author sums it up as follows: "Analysing AS results for this year. Setting some personal targets." A memorable quotation from the post is: "If a student is not ‘good’ at a subject then why should we have to break our backs for them to just scrape a pass?"

Paul Gitchos has a blog named Second Thoughts. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled First Day Lesson Ideas and the author sums it up as follows: "I'm working on opening lessons to set the right tone in my math classes, which are Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Calculus. (Is that something like hitting for the cycle?)" A memorable quotation from the post is: "I am trying hard for an introduction to calculus that lets students understand why it was invented in the first place."

Kevin Krenz @kevin_krenz has a blog named Rational Limits. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled [NBI] Focus on culture and the author sums it up as follows: "I did focus on culture during my first year of teaching, but I did it wrong. I tried to build it, alone. This year I want to actively include my students in developing the culture of our classroom from day one." A memorable quotation from the post is: "I can help guide the development of our culture and be intentional about which values are emphasized, but I cannot create it on my own."

Nate Gildersleeve @Mrmacx has a blog named Hard Enough Problems. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled Blogger Initiative Pt 1 and the author sums it up as follows: "This post talks about implementing a flipped classroom and using google forms this year. I'm most excited about using google forms as a feedback tool to help foster a positive mathematical community." A memorable quotation from the post is: "So a student recognized that they were talking the most, but also recognized that they weren’t the ones with the best ideas."

MakingPaperAirplanes @MakingAirplanes has a blog named Making Paper Airplanes. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled New Year Goal and the author sums it up as follows: "Since this is my first year in my own classroom, I am having to set up and organize everything from scratch. It's been a challenge to decide what will work for me, and while I am not afraid to make changes, I want to have at least the basic bones settled before students show up!" A memorable quotation from the post is: "[Organization] has been a constant struggle for me, as I was working out of five different classrooms at two different schools last year."

Angie Eakland @aeakland has a blog named Coefficients of Determination. The first post for the Blogging Initiation is titled r squared equals 1 and the author sums it up as follows: "This is a post about the origin of my blog's name, but it's mostly about the synergy we all strive for." A memorable quotation from the post is: "To me, those 1's come with the synergy created between the art of teaching and the science of teaching."

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Moon Safari



A whole bunch of juniors in high school just left my room, excited to go outside tonight and look up.

I started by showing this:

Which is not all that exciting, granted. It's a table of the day in January 2012 vs how much of the moon was illuminated. The data comes from the US Naval Observatory. I explained what was in the columns and asked them to write down one thing they noticed, and one thing they wondered. Thank you, Math Forum. Their noticings were pretty good: the periodic nature, the numbers of full and new moons in January, the fact that few of the values are repeated. Their wonderings, though, were wallowing in lameness. I was hoping for anything, really, that hinted at making predications past January. But, no joy. This is a direct quote: "I don't really wonder anything about the moon."

Anyway, onward. It got better. I said by the end of class they would be able to predict what they would see when they looked up tonight, and know what the moon was doing on their birthday this year, and would know other days this year when there was a full moon.

They followed some instructions for entering values in a table and making a scatter plot on their calculator. Then sketched the scatterplot, and came up with a function to model it.


Then they were to use their calculator plot of the function to explore some questions:

 - Which days in January had a full moon? A new moon?
(This would seem obvious from the table, but once they have an equation graphed, they forget all about the table! It's kind of weird. I put this question in so they could get their heads around what x and y represented in their functions.)

 - How much of the moon is visible today? Discussion of how we'd have to change the calculator's viewing window to "see" today. Or what we'd have to plug in where in their function. Once we realized we needed to know today's Julian date, I gave them:


 - How much of the moon is/will be visible on your birthday this year?

 - On what days this month should we expect a full moon?

It might have started out slow, but by the end of class they were pretty animated. One girl noticed that there was a full moon on both of her parents' birthdays this year (before she noticed they were 30 days apart.) There were some different predictions for tonight based on the slightly different functions students came up with (some of them estimated a phase shift, some of them calculated it by various methods, and some of them pretended there wasn't one.) So, tonight they will look up and see if their model worked.

Open questions:
1. How to create a better hook/act one to prompt more and more interesting wondering questions? Or if anyone has ideas about realistic periodic functions that would be more grabbier, I'm all ears.

2. Would it be better to get an equation of the sinusoidal function by using the regression command on their calculator? More accuracy would take out some of the suspense "who was right?" but on the other hand, we'd have a more reliable prediction of what they would see tonight, and maybe if I was lucky a few kids would think that was kind of cool.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Week 2 Odds and Ends

I don't have any dramatically awesome lessons to share or anything. I'm kind of reusing old stuff with tweaks, for the most part. I am feeling like a new professional challenge is in my near future. Because in class I'm kind of like: plan the lesson, teach the lesson, assess the lesson…and feeling like I have this shit on lockdown. Not to sound like an arrogant jerkface, but it's year eight and I'm sort of on top of it. Not that there aren't challenges, but I am ready for a new challenge. Seriously the challenges are like: this one kid doesn't try that hard, and so I have a talk with him, and then he shapes up. It's not that I don't love what I'm doing, I'm just temperamentally someone who enjoys a challenge and quickly tires of an insufficient level of difficulty. I am not that interested in administration, so. Either I will keep comfortably doing the same thing, or I will do otherwise. (Monumentally large disclaimer: I teach privileged kids who are very easy to teach in a school that makes my life very pleasant.)

Living overseas is pretty great and the bad parts are not all that bad. I mean honestly the worst of it is, you can't buy all the things you are used to buying, because you live in a third world economy. (Which, you know, get over it, princess. No one is going to die because they can't have a bagel.) It makes you notice how utterly, just, convenient every aspect of life is in the US. For example, you can't be like "I need clean underwear in two hours." It's more like, "I will need clean underwear on Tuesday." And, there are lots of things here that are way better. Dairy, wine, beef, pork, salads which turn out to be some shredded lettuce covered in beef, ham, and cheese, cafes with free wifi that will let you order a coffee and sit there for four hours. I did have a minor crisis in a large hardware store this morning over the lack of availability of telescoping curtain rods. They had 3 meters which were the exact width of the wall I was working with, or shorter ones which were far too short. I bought the 3m ones and am going to make it work. Somehow. I even got used already to using a 2-hole punch/binders instead of 3-hole punch/binders. I mean sure the 2-hole binder situation is floppier, but the 2-hole punch is like KAH-CHUNK-KAH-AH vs the 3-hole punch which makes complete holes through all the pages only when it is in the mood.

It will take me a while to get used to being on the block. I saw my A block last Tuesday, and due to my having to go in person to the bank Thursday morning for complicated Argentine banking reasons, and a holiday on Monday (dear Blessed Virgin: thank you for all the school holidays) I won't see them again until…Tuesday. I'm going to be like, "Hi, my name is Miss Nowak…" 

I did have some fun things happen in class that are probably worth talking about. Last Friday, all the freshmen went to freshmen orientation, leaving me with half-a-geometry classes for two blocks. So, I showed Flatland. I'd prefer to show it to everyone, but you know beggars choosers, and if I'm going to lose instructional time I'd rather spend it on something interesting and cool. This version is very, very well done, and I can attest that it holds the attention of teenagers the world over. At least in the Western hemisphere. It leaves them with the lingering question "what about the fourth dimension?" which is fun to seize upon. In periods, you barely have time to show the movie and that's it. But in blocks, you show the movie and then you still have 45 minutes to kill. So, best bet, start making you a table of vertices, edges, faces, cubes, etc in 0, 1, 2, 3, etc dimensions, and set them to looking for patterns, and wondering whether a fourth dimension exists and what we can infer about it. The verbiage about how you can see a 2D shadow of a 3D object, therefore if there is a fourth dimension we could see a 3D shadow of a 4D object, is very useful. They will have GREAT fun with this, and you will mostly have fun watching them.