Friday, November 30, 2012

My Centroids Lesson Keeps Stalling Out Right Here

and I don't know how to fix it.

The kids and I literally stared at each other for ten minutes over this. I wanted to take them all outside and drown them in the pool. (I know it's not their fault, though, obviously.)

I don't have any other good way to come at this, though. Other options for asking relevant questions seem too ambiguous for this age group. Applications of triangle centroid are thin on the ground, or at least I haven't thought of any yet.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Day in the Life: Dulce Edition

The alarm goes off at six but I’ve already been up for an hour, lying in bed, composing an email I probably won’t send. Sometimes I have to get things out of my head, but it wouldn’t help anybody to actually send the email.

I have also already blown my nose approximately fifteen times. It also feels like there's an invisible toothpick jammed up each nostril and poking me in the back of the nose. I’ve had a cold for six weeks. Also springtime allergies. Also it turned into a sinus infection. It took a week of mucking around in the Argentine medical system, but I finally got some antibiotics yesterday. I am hopeful for some relief, finally.

Get up. Turn on coffee maker. Shower. Eat two hard boiled eggs and an avocado and a tomato. I don’t really eat meals. I eat ingredients. Also, some days I only eat round foods.

By the time I am ready at 7:15, it’s time to go. I walk 25 minutes to school. I could ride my bike or take a taxi, but I prefer to walk. There are jacarandas and blooming jasmine and ambush-watchdogs (behind gates) on the way that can only be appreciated at a walking pace.

Once the crossing guards are in sight, I take off my headphones and put my game face on. I smile and say “buen dia” to all the guards. The one at the gate takes my ID card and scans me in. Once in the high school, I check my mailbox (empty) and walk up to the fifth floor, hola’ing kids along the way. They are half asleep and I startle them. Unlock classroom. It’s stuffy. Open windows. Turn on computer. Grab water bottle to fill up at the fountain.

Stop in colleague’s classroom to report the mean and median score of the Geometry unit test I finished marking last night (80 and 80.) His were a bit lower, so we agree to meet at C block to compare how we marked the proofs.

Check email. Realize that there are about six I need to respond to, that I didn’t get a chance to yesterday. Feel bad about it but don’t have time now.

Set out compasses and rulers for A block, project homework answers. They walk in with their various gaits. There are twelve of them, all elbows and messy hairdos. They take out their notebooks and their massive pencil cases. (What is it with pencil cases at this school? The most epic pencil cases.) They compare their homework to what’s on the board while I roll around on a chair and answer questions.

The bell rings at 8 to kick off A block. Today they are continuing to practice basic constructions, and then solving some problems using them. For example, practice constructing perpendiculars and bisecting segments. Now construct a square whose perimeter is the length of this given segment.

Two of the students were gone last week at a soccer tournament in Quito, so I sit with them and work through the minimum to get them caught up to the class.

I tell L that he needs to get to work, or I’m going to mess up his hair. We all find this hilarious.

I demonstrate an angle bisector construction, and they complete that part. Practice a few times, then figure out how to construct an angle that’s exactly 30 degrees, and exactly 45 degrees. S is the first to figure out how to make the 30, and can’t be dissuaded from blurting out the solution. He pronounces it “tree-angle.”

8:45 We move down three floors to a computer lab, to do the Geogebra parts of this lesson. The kids login, open the file, and get to work. I ask C to please login to the projected computer, because she needs a little extra accountability when she’s on the computer. When anyone needs something demonstrated, she gets to drive. They are able to work at their own pace, following instructions on a handout, learning the tools on Geogebra that are the equivalent of the constructions they just practiced upstairs.

9:30 The bell rings to end A block, I remind the kids that the assignment can be found on Day 2 of their unit calendar. They all say goodbye and wish me a nice day. Kids are very polite here.

Fifteen minute break. (Terrible) coffee. Answer two emails. Edit the lesson for B block (since I did it yesterday with G block, and it needed some improving) and print out copies. Drop off a test with the resource teacher for a kid to finish later in her class.

9:45 B block starts. The IB book we are using for Precalc has the answers in the back, so the kids already know what they had trouble with from their assignment. They discuss with each other and ask me a few things about interpreting box plots.

They get to work following calculator instructions on the printed handout. They are using real data from four years of Lincoln graduates (GPA’s and SAT scores), sequences, and the cumulative sum function, to make cumulative frequency tables and cumulative histograms. I roll around and help them with their calculators. I mostly sit with the two kids who have Nspires and show them how to do the equivalent things, since I only made TI-84 instructions. One girl has a Casio, and I don’t even. Once everyone has completed up to certain checkpoints, we stop and I pseudo-randomly select kids to share their answers.

10:40 Realize I never sent the attendance from A block. Check email and realize the secretary has already asked for it twice. Damn. It’s been a while since I did that. Send it.

11:00 We are done with the lesson but there are 20 minutes left. Some of them choose to start their homework and some of them choose to talk off-topic.

11:20 Bell rings to end B block. English teacher friend S sends me a gchat that just says “EEAAAARLY LUUUUUNCH” (meaning to eat now during C block, which we both have free, and not wait until the high school lunch time after C block) but I have to go talk to the other Geometry teacher about those tests first. Luckily the discussion is brief.

11:30 Walk down four floors (this is a very vertical campus) out the building, to the building with the cafeteria. The school feeds us lunch for free every day. (They have to, by Argentine law.) I make selections by pointing, while a member of the food service staff screams at me. I choose a portion of casserole made out of chicken that I recognize from yesterday, (POLLITO?! QUE MAS?!) a scoop of steamed zucchini and eggplant, (VERDURAS?! QUE MAS?!) and a piece of spinach quiche, (ESPINACA?! QUE MAS?!) nada mas.

I sit with S and three other (all male) high school teachers for a very academic and higher-order thinking type discussion. They all happen to be Canadian, so conversation is punctuated with “Ohhh yaaaa”s and “soh-rry”s. I mention the impending resolution of my sinus infection, but T thought I said “size reduction,” which R interpreted as breast reduction surgery, so I was treated to R’s theories on what types of plastic surgery are and are not acceptable (hint: breast reduction is not.) I let him go on without correcting the misunderstanding. Then we invented a theoretical dessert made of a pot cupcake, a vodka-soaked gummy bear, sprinkled with crack cocaine.

There is no water at the table, just empty pitchers. The school is efforting to do away with disposable plastic, and in the transition from toss-away bottles of water to the pitchers, they are still working out the kinks.

S and I leave right after we are done eating, so we have 40 minutes to walk to Starbucks and back (You always have to ask for the cup sleeve thingie. The word is “mangita” or if you forget, “cosa”+gesture.) The walk is uneventful. Construction workers yell things at us. The weather is very, very nice.

I find the other Geometry teacher and show him how I do the triangle centers unit, and give him all the documents for it.

1:00 Start of high school lunch. Enter the Geometry test scores in my excel spreadsheet gradebook. Write two quizzes for later this week. Intend to answer emails. Make the mistake of opening twitter. A student comes to make up a quiz. Next thing I know, the bell is ringing to end lunch.

2:00 The bell rings to start D block. At 18 students, this isn’t my biggest class, but it’s the most rambunctious. And full of Brazilians, so I REALLY don’t know WHAT they are saying. But they are teaching me one new Portuguese word a day. Today is “obrigada” which means “thank you” though I’m certain I botched the spelling.

Approximately half the class is seated, the other half is standing around in clumps, having animated chats, testing to see how long I will let that go on. I project the homework answers and the agenda and start walking around with my gradebook checking homework. At which time, it takes the rest of them approximately ten seconds to get ready for class. They have basically the same lesson as A block.

2:45 We head down to the computer lab. But before we leave, I demo where to find the tools they will need. Because of that, they will have a much cleaner Geogebra experience than A block did. On the way down, I let the office know that the class is moving.

One nice computer lab thing I started doing this year: put in checkpoints that I am supposed to initial. But the super speedy workers who get there first, I deputize them to help kids lagging behind, and they are allowed to initial the checkpoints for me.

3:20 Mid-term progress reports are delivered. In envelopes, that the students are supposed to take home. Once I start passing them out, the last few minutes of class are a lost cause. One student thanks me for the nice comment I wrote him.

3:30 Bell rings. End of classes.

3:40 IB teachers’ meeting. I count precisely zero agenda items that pertain to me. Soooo glad I came. Soooo relevant to my life. But our IB coordinator runs a tight meeting. We are out of there in 15.

4:00 Finally get to those emails.

4:30 Make a list of what I have to accomplish first thing tomorrow: update Edmodo, fill out the textbook order for next year for my classes, go sign some documents in the mansion (the equivalent of our district office.) I don't teach the first two blocks tomorrow, and if I don't make this list I will waste the first many minutes of the day in my undercaffeinated stupor.

4:35 Head off campus! No school-related activities planned tonight.

Bonus for hard core f(t) fans: this is what I looked like today. This is right inside the front gate.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Benefit from My Hours of Frustration


There are some questions below to go with it that don't suck. No further comment. I am so sick of this lesson.

Open the Geogebra File Triangle Inequalities.ggb. (Follow the link from Edmodo, or go directly to You can use the sliders to change the lengths of two of the sides. You can also change the position of two of the segment endpoints. Side AB will always measure 10. Use the sliders to generate four different sets of side lengths: two that can form a triangle (you will know for sure if it turns purple,) and two that can not form a triangle.
Can a triangle be formed?




1 Using the given lengths of AB and BC below, find the shortest possible integer length of AC, and the longest possible length of BC.

Shortest possible AC
Longest possible AC







Answer this question without using Geogebra. I have three pieces of wood. The pieces measure 4 cm, 9 cm, and 11 cm. My friend has three other pieces that measure 5 inches, 8 inches, and 2 inches. Will we each be able to create a triangle? Why or why not?

Monday, November 5, 2012


So, one of my Geometry sections has 1:1 tablets. We have a set of twenty we are piloting this year, and I believe the intention is to go school-wide next year. I got chosen for this because, you know, I have a reputation.

I had become accustomed to the capabilities and limitations of the classroom tech available at old school. We regularly used a set of Dell notebooks on a mobile cart, and the TI-Nspire Navigator system. So I was at expert ninja level with those tools. I could use them inside and out, I had smooth ways of getting kids proficient with them pretty quickly, I was well-versed in what I could expect kids to figure out vs what I had to demonstrate carefully and repeatedly, and I could use them to actually you know make instruction better than it would be without them.

Starting with new-to-me hardware (Acer Iconia Tablets) and software (Windows 8) has been a frustrating exercise in back-to-novice levels of crippling ignorance. It's back to the first days with the Nspires, where it's impossible to anticipate where the tech will say "no," and no lesson plan survives first contact with the students. The simplest thing, "Take a picture of one of the proofs you just wrote and email it to me." turns into twenty minutes of troubleshooting cameras that don't work, and picture files we can't find in order to attach them, and how to login to your school email account. Meanwhile, my favorite smartass has already sent me an email with the subject GREETINGS FROM DEH OTER SIDE O DEH ROOM, and has spent the intervening twenty minutes taking selfies and is starting to get disruptive because I haven't given her something else to do.

But, shoot, I guess we just all have more things to learn here, che? I have been very consciously modeling what I like to think are productive behaviors, for example Cheerful Curiosity in the face of unexpected technology hiccups and also Not Throwing Any Tablets Out the Window nor Any Children Either for That Matter.

Having one section with tablets and two without, though, are some nice built-in experimental and control groups, don't you think? We're starting triangle centers this week, in conjunction with which I normally teach compass and straight-edge constructions. So, I'm thinking the tablet section will learn the constructions Geogebra-only, and the other two sections will learn them compass-ruler-pencil-paper-only, and we will see what we get. It begs the question if I can possibly fairly assess them all the same way, and if not, can I really draw any conclusions from this little mini-experiment. And I know it's not a real experiment, it's just like preliminary poking at experimentation. But whatever. I make my own fun.