Nov 112014
 

On this bright,cheery Veteran’s day I took some time to clean up my reader, delete a bunch of feeds that I don’t read any more, organize the math teacher and other teacher feeds a bit and catch up on a couple of posts that I saved but didn’t have a chance to read yet. Be aware that the following is not a happy one, but a frustrated one. You can skip to the bottom to see the conclusion that is positive if you like.

 

—- Really, I am setting up an argument here in the beginning and middle, the end has a positive message. Totally okay if you skip the argument. —

 

What got me started writing was a statement by Dan Meyer that he followed Peg Cagle because, “she understands the concerns of Internet-enabled math teachers and she also understand the politics that concern the NCTM board of directors.” (via)

I read the link about “understanding concerns” which led me to think about the organizations I belong to and send money to each year. And let me be upfront about this. I am a member of the NCTM and have been continuously since I was in grad school getting my teaching credentials. I am actually subscribed to more than one journal, and have attended a national conference, a couple of regionals, and a couple of institutes. I have had district funding for some of this, but the majority have been paid for by me with my own money. I am critiquing the organization from the inside, not throwing bricks from the outside.

Okay, with that out of the way. I looked up the NCTM and found that they follow only 226 people / organizations. That’s it. Some of them are classroom teachers, but the teachers are vastly the minority. They follow mainly groups, college professors, and reporters.

nctm

But they are a large national organization. They can’t spend the time to read all the chatter from practicing math teachers. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. What about my local groups? Well the Northern NV Math Council does not even HAVE a Twitter presence. None. Scratch them off the list. Is it wrong that they don’t have a presence? No, that is their choice. I joined them in the past and suggested it. They refused because, “teachers don’t have the time for it.” Oh well.

What about the Southern NV Math Council? They do have a Twitter feed. They must follow lots of math teachers and spread the wonderfulness that is our math classrooms? No.

snmath

They follow 83 accounts, very few of which are math teachers. They have only 25 followers. I guess they are only slightly more engaged with the math teachers in Las Vegas than the NNMC is in Reno. But the state organization is doing better, right?

nvmath

No. They follow 83 accounts as well, virtually none of which are actual math teachers. I guess NV is a write off as far as math teacher engagement. I posted this frustration on Twitter, and Lisa Henry shared her state organization.

ohiomath  and I looked up the CA Math Council camath

Seriously folks. If the NCTM is wondering why math teachers are leaving and thinking it is not relevant, these screenshots encapsulate it pretty easily. These are organizations that are pushing to us, but not engaging with us. I only looked at number accounts they followed. Look at their tweet counts. The Nevada Math Council has 36 tweets? The CA Math Council has 552? They have  100,000 math teachers in CA, the birthplace of Twitter and they have only tweeted 552 times? The NCTM has 27,000 followers and have tweeted only 4500 times? Most of which are plugging their upcoming conferences?

But I did say I would look at all the organizations of which I am a professional member. Here they are; the National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics and the American Statistical Association.

ncsm

asa

The NCSM even follows me!? They follow MORE people than the EVERY organization listed above COMBINED! Now we know that following someone does not mean engaging with someone, but it is certainly true that you cannot engage if you do not follow. The chance of the NCSM engaging with math teachers (and look at who they follow, there are many math teachers in the list) is much higher than the NCTM, Ohio NCTM, CA NCTM, and both NV NCTM groups.

The ASA? I joined them to get some additional AP Stats materials through their magazines. They are a specialty group, but they still do a better job than the state general organizations. The general organizations that should be closer to us as math teachers.

 

—- Okay ,the positive that exists after the complaining. —

What really makes this important to me is we are forming a State Chapter of the NCSM. I volunteered to be a member of the committee. I did that a week ago before I thought of doing this comparison, but now I am firmly on the side of participating strongly. NV needs an organization that will engage and lead math teachers. We certainly are not getting either from the NNMC, the NMC or the SNMC. We get ignored and told, but not engaged.

What is odd is the leadership of these groups ARE math teachers. The leaders are people I know (at least in the NNMC) and yet they do not engage? This is a frustrating situation. How many other teachers are frustrated with their local group too?

I am going to send this post to the organizer of the NCSM so she knows where I stand and what I feel the problems are in NV. It appears this is not a NV problem, but a nationwide problem. It is not a problem of “Math teachers don’t have the time” like I was told previously. It is a problem of organizations that are supposed to be leading us, instead are ignoring us.

The new NV Chapter of the NCSM really does need to be a leader. The National NCSM clearly is trying to have more of a leader role than the other groups. I need to do my part locally to make this happen here too.

 

As a counterpoint to my complaining, here is my profile and a couple random profiles. Ilana Horn is a professor of mathematics education (I recommend following her if you don’t.) Dave is a teacher of high school math as well. I just picked them randomly out of my feed. Teachers do have the time. In the vacuum of leadership, we are constructing meaning on our own and further marginalizing the institutions that created the vacuum.

glennilana

dave

Nov 062014
 

I haven’t posted in a while, mainly because I am just so happy with how my classes are going. I will focus on Alg 2 here, because these awesome learners are just knocking my socks off.

I am in the polynomial unit, knee deep in graphing, and increasing, decreasing, relative mins, relative max’s, absolute mins, etc. This is the problem set we were working on today in class:

problemset

Here are the questions I ask (docx format) for every single graph, from lines all the way through sin & cos at the end of the year.

Yes, some of these are going to be Does Not Exist. That is okay. Just because we don’t need to think about asymptotes with cubics does not mean we shouldn’t ask about them.

A little back story before I say something about my learners. I used to teach the textbook. I admit it. I sucked, horribly. My learners did not connect anything with anything and they did not see how to connect topic from one unit to the next. I was frustrated. So I first came up with my list of functions in (h,k) form, wrote it on my board and changed how I approached algebra.

2014-08-10 15.43.46

That was a win. But, then I was frustrated because every time I changed the graph, added an exponent, I had to teach a new set of vocab, but everything was the same; so why was I teaching new stuff? Why couldn’t I teach all the vocab up front, and then just explore the heck out of each function family?

Short answer was, I could. So, I did. That is where the form above came from. I introduced it last last year, and used it and modified it and tweaked it and the learners responded.

Enter this year, this class. I have everything set on day 1. We entered the year thinking about connections and planning our math and discussing end behaviors of lines (wow, that was easy, hey, they are always the same!, etc). Then quadratics, and we completed the square to get vertex forms, and we factored, and saw how intercept, standard and vertex forms were all the same function, and and and.

Enter polynomials.

We have done them from standard form, and done the division to get intercept form, we have broken these guys down every which way. I have tossed them fifth degree and fourth degree polynomials, they didn’t even blink. “Oh, so this just adds a hump to it.” I have explored more in polynomials this year than ever before.

And, since it is a constant review of prior material (“If this works with quartics, will it work with quadratics too? Yes”) I am constantly cycling and eliminating the mistakes my learners made in previous sections and on previous exams.

Which brings us to the problem set above. That is a killer set. The 4th and 5th are tricky, and they struggled. Until one of the class members said, “Don’t all we have to do is distribute them and so it is just a bigger distribution problem?”

Done. And. Done.

Now, of course there is a nicer way to do it. Substitute “u” or some other variable in for (x-3) in the fourth problem so you are multiplying binomials first. It saves time. BUT, it was not necessary to show it. They know distributing, so distributing is what works and they rocked the socks of of it.

So, why have I not been posting much? Because I have been enjoying the heck out of teaching. These learners are taking these ideas and running with them.  And I love it and them.

Oct 222014
 

I just sent this email to my department today. The subject was “If you still assign drill and kill problems”.

I am posting the text of the email without comment. It was spurred by a conversation on Twitter with @DDmeyer and @JStevens009.

Text is below:

Good morning all,

Hate to be the bearer of unwelcome news this morning, but if you are not keeping up with the world of math technology, it is reaching a tipping point of changing what we do. Check out the site: https://photomath.net/ and think about what it means to our profession and our classrooms.

Only around 30% of all kids have iOS devices, but in 2015 when it hits Android and the entire market is open, nearly 100% of our learners will have access to this. For free.

Kuta worksheets? Textbook problems? This type of software will render this type of homework obsolete. Desmos and TI-calculators have nearly done so already.

We have talked about the purpose and need to rethink what homework is for, and the tipping point is rapidly approaching where we really need to make some changes to what and how we handle it.

We need to think deeply about how we can create an environment of learning both in and outside the classroom, because the technology is making outside the classroom a moot point unless we make some changes long term.

Sep 112014
 

Today was my quiet day, only two classes. But, I was busy all lunch upgrading my learners calculators!

2014-09-11 12.28.03  Yes, that is the pile I have done today at lunch. About 5 learners have already come in and picked their calculator up, thank goodness. I am a bit nervous having $1200 of calculators sitting on my shelf, especially when they are not mine!

This is one of the things that we don’t often realize takes up a ton of time. The learners don’t realize that these things have operating systems, and that the operating systems change from time to time. When learners are buying calcs on eBay (which I always encourage because TI=ripoff) the calcs often come with out of date OS’s and are lacking functions that truly make the calc useful.

For example, look at the following two prompts, both come directly off of the TI-84:

TI-84NEWvs.  TI-84OLD

 

Which one of these screens would you rather see when typing in information?  Me too. The left one is much more friendly.  I say at the beginning of my class, every day for the next two weeks, “You want me to make sure your calculator is updated. Please come see me.” We had a 2 minute discussion of what the current versions were the other day when we were talking calculators too.

I think this is the biggest change so far this year on the calculator front. Last year, I had 5% of my learners ask me to update their calcs. This year, I am up to around 40% already. That is worth it. I am really annoyed in May when someone says, “Yea, I knew there was something about updating, but I never bothered.” That person probably is not trying for a 5.

How to make this process easy? For the NSpires, have 2 4 port hubs with cables plugged in. This allows you to shove out updates to 8 similar calcs all at once using the Teacher Software.

For the TI-83 and 84’s you have to update one at a time, but it is fairly quick using TI-Connect.

Oh, and it helps if you have a directory that looks like this: calc directory

All the current OS update files, old update files (bcs the NSpire must be updated to 1.7 before you can take it to 3.9), 83, 84, 84C images, etc. I download all the new files when they update (2 times a year for the NSpires, really TI?)

What a pain in the butt. But it helps my learners.

—————-

AP Stats:

Not much happened today. It was a continuation of yesterday (same content, different period). Tomorrow is my 3 in a row stats day.  I am going to challenge them with some bad graphs and another short relay card race on contingency tables. Then, moving on to 1 variable quantitative stats. Yay!

Alg 2 Honors:

It was an AMAZEBALLS Day.  We did this exercise with one quadratic function. Just one. But the conversation we had was so amazing. I gave then one, factorable function in Vertex form. Then we started going to town. The “wow, look at the connection here” and “oh, I get it why it was this!” and “wow, this is all the same stuff!” was terrific.

The homework was to do one more.  The future of this looks like doing another one. Then, I will give one in standard form, and we will have to teach completing the square. And they will get one that has imaginary roots, and I will discuss imaginary numbers. This one page will get used 200 times throughout the year to deeply understand the functions and the connections between functions.

functionfun  File can be downloaded too.

And the day was awesome because I said about 20 words, and my learners said about 200. I am shooting for a 5% ratio tomorrow.

Sep 102014
 

 

highfiveToday it happened! WooHoo! I was completely excited today. I earned the high five from one of my learners. On the 20th of August, I noted that one single learner had not given me a high five, and in fact that she refused to give me a high five. Well today, after working really hard all period on rational exponent problems, and rocking the heck out of the problems, she gave me a five at the end of class.

She had a giant grin on her face, she was excited because she was making connections and understanding, and she was into it. I finally earned the five because she realized I was not leading them along, I was not tormenting them by asking questions all the time, they were learning BECAUSE I was asking questions all the time.

Yay.

I also had a different learner walk in and tell me she was reading my blog and realized the high fives were a placebo to make them feel good about math. I smiled, told her yes, and high fived her. She laughed.

Did we do content today? Absolutely. Algebra 2 was rocking the rational exponents. AP Stats was starting conditional and marginal distributions. But today was awesome because of the relationships I am building with my learners.

It was a GREAT day.

Sep 082014
 

One of my classes is “Qualitative Research in Education” taught by Dr. Diane Barone. She is a pretty amazing professor so far, and I am really looking forward to the actually doing the research project in this class.

Which brings me to the idea I had for the research. Dan Meyer, in his Keynote at TMC14 was asking “Who is the #MTBoS? Dan was doing a quantitative study on the #MTBoS, and I think he created more questions than he answered.

One advantage to qualitative research over quantitative research is it is more focused on the Who and the Why questions. In tonight’s class we had to present our potential questions, and mine was accepted with no revisions or modifications.

“How are K-12 math teachers using Twitter in their Personal Learning Networks?”

This is just a pilot study, I am not going to go through the IRB to get approval for publication. I think there is absolutely some worthwhile research that can be published, but not in this first class.

I have found research about Library Information Specialists and their use of Twitter, I have found research about technology specialists and their use of Twitter, but nothing about classroom teachers, let alone math teachers.

What do you think? Are you interested in the answer too?

 Posted by at 8:50 pm  Tagged with:
Sep 082014
 

I want to do these in order of their occurrence today because it set the tone for me. I was giving an exam in AP Stats (hence no new info about AP Stats) and at the end the exam a learner handed me a note. It was very personal, but it essentially said “please forgive me if I seem out of it this week, a person close to me passed away this week a couple of years ago and I always have a bad week around now.”

Wow.

I sat there thinking about the struggle this learner has this week, the memory of the passing, and the fact that teaching is not about content but about the relationships. This is a concept that I did not have 8 years ago. I jumped into teaching thinking I could teach math and rock the content like no one else.

Today I know better. Today I know I know content; I am confident in my content; but I KNOW for a fact that all of that knowledge is useless if my learners do not trust me and I don’t trust them. I have not always had that knowledge. I have made mistakes on this issue in the past.

By the way, I thanked that learner for communicating with me. I will watch this person closely to make sure there are no problems. I owe  that much for sure.

 

Alg 2

Then I introduced rational exponents later. I put one question on the board.

“Given that you know what 8^(1/3) means. Given that you know what 8^2 means. What do you think 8^(2/3) means?”

I let them think about it for several minutes.

Eventually, one learner broke it down into two parts, cube root of 8 is two; two squared is 4.

Excellent. We discussed why that works, we discussed what happens if the order is reversed.

Then we rocked some complicated problems I put on the board.

Yes, they made mistakes, but the mistakes made were procedural mistakes. Mistakes about not distributing to all terms, or multiplying fractions wrong, or moving all terms instead of only the term with negative exponent.

I am telling you, this was absolutely successful. I did not approach rational exponents like this last year, but it works. Let them create the meaning.

Never say something a learner can say.

Sep 062014
 

failure-to-communicate A lasting line from the movie “Cool Hand Luke”

I didn’t post on Friday because I gave exams all day. Which is really stupid of me to every every single learner I have an exam. Now I have to sit down and read through and grade all 130 of them. At some point I will figure out how to pace it so I am not killing myself, but evidently that is not now.

But something happened on Thursday that bothered me. A lot. I blogged earlier about the New respect I had for the AP Stats curriculum, and it is true. I do feel that way. But I wanted to see the issue from the viewpoint of my learners.

On Thursday I asked every single one of my AP Stats class this question, in the same way, every time. “You all are AP learners, and you probably have taken or are taking more than one AP class. In your opinion, how many of you feel that the AP classes are harder, more rigorous, and are preparing you for college in a better way than regular classes?”

Period 2: 0 learners raised their hands

Period 3: 2 learners raised their hands

Period 5: 5 learners raised their hands.

This is a sample each period of 32, 35 and 34 learners of a mixture of Sophomores, Juniors and Seniors. A total of 7 learners felt that AP courses were preparing them better for college than regular courses.

What a disconnect.

I told them my story from my grad school experience. They were a little shocked. It may have changed some minds, but I am not sure. What I do know from this is that we have a disconnect between what the adults in my school are saying, teaching and preaching, and what the learners are thinking about the courses we are teaching.

I am not sure what to do about this, but I am going to spread this message to the rest of the AP teachers. It is clearly system wide. We do have a failure to communicate the benefits; the REAL and ACTUAL benefits of AP courses.

Aug 272014
 

Some of my AP Stats learners figured out why I have been high fiving them every time they enter my room. I showed some videos about the placebo effect today, and a couple at the end of class commented on the fact that the high five is kind of like a placebo, because high fives are given for great things, and I do it on entering so it changes their mindset.

They got me. I hope they don’t spread that around, it would start ruining all my tricks.

Nothing spectacular today in class, just finishing some notes on experimental design, blocking, placebo effect and lurking variables. In Alg 2, I gave them a quiz that had them really thinking. They had to graph the 8 parent functions, and then also tell me which ones had all positive y values. Which ones were always increasing, or had a vertex at (0,0).

Some had only one answer, some had 6 or 7 answers, so they had to really think about the words and connect the meanings with the big picture of each parent function.

Great thinking type of quiz. I am excited to grade them.

——

Finally, you know all those AP learners in Stats who ask, “Well, what if it is not normal?” or “why are we assuming that, couldn’t it be wrong?” Yea, I love the too. I learned the answer today in my Non-Parametric Statistics class. You handle them by doing non-parametric tests on them instead of parametric tests (t test, z test, etc).

DOH! Of course. I am excited by this class. Lots of great extension to the Stats content while not being too much work. Unlike the Qualitative Statistics course. That is going to be a ton of work. Oh well, I signed up for it knowing it would not be all fun and games. No reason to complain now.

Aug 222014
 

Wow, it was a GREAT way to end the week. I bought a new framed art piece last night at Ross.

2014-08-22 07.13.23

This corner is absolutely becoming a favorite of mine. I had several learners today tell me they really like it. I can honestly say that eight years ago when  I started teaching I would have never even thought of hanging something like this in my room. Never.

Today, I look at it and realize that without those types of rules, especially the ones like “Say You’re Sorry & Accept Apologies,” “Remember to Laugh” and “Love Each Other” you can’t achieve things like “Try New Things”, “Do Your Best” or, most importantly, “Never Give Up.” The first few years of my teaching were solely about the content, but now I have gotten it through my thick skull that what makes the content actually work, stick, or learnable is the humor, friendliness, and personality that goes into teaching it.

I think I am a better teacher than I was 8 years ago when I started, but most importantly, I think I am a better person because of the realization of how to be a better teacher.

AP Stats:

Today was a little tough. We needed to get through vocab on defining what experiments are. It was tough, and I stopped 1/2 way through. This morning was Senior Sunrise, so my seniors were checked out. They were tired and not focusing.

So, I did some vocab, got through some concepts, and handed out flashcards for Sampling methods and did a quiz-quiz trade and told them there was a quiz on it next class.

No sense brutalizing them with vocab when they had limited sleep. Make it up next week.

Algebra 2:

Still working on parent functions. I think I am also going to give them a Desmos assignment of making their name with equations and domain and range restrictions. The struggle with domain and range is hard, but a half hour playing with Desmos usually solves that.

Thank goodness!

We ended the week with a School Wide Ice Bucket Challenge! Yup, probably 3/4 of the staff on the football field with learners dumping ice water on the teachers, admins, counselors, and custodians. It was pretty cool. We raised a ton of money. The count is not in, but it was school wide, so very well worth it. We also had someone in the school family diagnosed with ALS this year. It was personal. I will link to that video later when we get it posted.