Aug 222016

A late in the day #BlAugust post.


Yesterday Jennifer tweeted this at me, and I teared up a little.

And the tweet it refers to is this one:

You see, the High Fives post is one of the most popular posts I have ever written. It was a spur of the moment, almost didn’t do it speech (kind of like the TMC16 speech on overcoming your fears) that has resonated through so many people.

For a long time, I kept track of the people tweeting and blogging about High Fives. I know I missed some. I counted over 20 different individual who tried the High Fiving, and said it changed their classroom culture for the better.

Jennifer tweeted and wrote about it a full year! after I wrote about it. How often does that happen? To me at least, not very often.

To say I am embarrassed and honored by the mentions is an understatement.

To say I am overjoyed by the fact that learners in over 20 classrooms are experiencing something different because I spoke up is exciting and amazing. We need to spread the high five energy.

So, to help more teachers and to spread the power of the high five, I wanted to revisit the video:

My original post: The video is short, only 4 minutes. In fact the last 20 seconds can be ignored as it was an announcement for the conference.

You are doing something awesome. You are walking in my classroom. Be awesome. Connect with your learners. Give them energy, and receive the energy in return.

High five to you all!

Edits added:

After I posted this article Lisa Henry posts about All The Stuff I’ve Stolen From The MTBoS. High Fives are the first thing on her list, and she explains why in a different post.


Aug 102016

Another #BlAugust post! Doing great and creating habits here.


This morning I was walking to the the office across campus, I saw a person standing outside a building looking around. He looked kind of lost, which is not unusual on campus this time of year, so I asked if I could help him. He was looking for the science building, so we started across campus.

Now, it used to be that I would have just showed him where he wanted to go and said goodbye, BUT, I am working hard at being more outgoing.

So, after a moment of hesitation, I reached out and said, “Hi, I’m Glenn Waddell” and offered my hand. He said “Hi, my name is xxxx xxxx” and offered his, and told me he just dropped off his daughter for the R.A. training.

Bells went off in my head, because the last name was kind of unusual, so I asked if his daughter was yyyy xxxx?

Sure enough, it was. His daughter is a sophomore participant in NevadaTeach!

So, because I was willing to shake his hand and introduce myself, I had the privilege of walking across campus with the wonderfully nice person, telling him how much I loved his daughter, and telling him a little more about the program.

You know what. We just cemented a relationship that will last. On a university campus, he randomly bumped into someone who not only knew who is daughter is, but knew her enough to say nice things about her and give him a mini tour of the campus. That is the kind of outreach that will last a long time.

I hope I made that persons day. I hope he drives home thinking about what a wonderful place UNR is, and how supportive NevadaTeach is.

And I learned that shaking a hand and making introductions isn’t that hard (although I know it, and I do it, and I still hesitate so often) and it pays off tremendously.

I made someone smile and feel good today before 9am.

My day is complete.

Now, get back to work, Waddell!

May 282016

I have been searching for a bulletproof, simple, and efficient backup solution for my PC for about two years now. I have tried several different tools, online versions, software versions, and nothing really worked for me. Maybe I was too picky. More like too lazy, really.

image of safe

First off, my requirements:

I have read repeatedly about the 3-2-1 policy of backups. Backblaze has a good explanation of it. 3 copies, 2 onsite in different devices, 1 offsite for security.

I believe this is a minimum backup requirement, and everything I do is to attain it. However, attaining it is a pain in the rear, which is why so few people really do it, I believe. It has taken me about two years before I found something really simple and easy that allows me to reach this goal.

I have two networked hard drives on my desk. One is a 4 terabyte drive, and the other is an older 500 GB drive. The 4 TB is the main drive, and the older one is a redundant backup.

I also have a 128 GB micro SD card in my Surface Pro. Finally, I have two 80 GB iPod Classics.

I require the software to be single purchase, and less than $30.00. That is the limit I placed on the purchasing. I do not want to pay monthly for backups, because I believe it will be a continuous expense over the PhD process and beyond. I also use Dropbox, (and have 76 GB of free storage on it) so I do not need a cloud service backup.

After using CrashPlan, and about 10 other softwares for a couple of months at a time, I have finally found a backup solution that works for my lazy self.

I purchased BVCKUP 2.  Cost for home use is $19.95. Here is why I purchased it.

It’s backups are not encrypted, just simply backed up. The software is TINY! I mean really small. It sits in the system tray, monitoring the computer, and does incremental (delta) backups on my schedule. Currently I have it backing up every 2 hours to the 4 TB drive.

It saves deleted files in a “deleted files” folder. This way, when a file is deleted, it removes it from the folder on the backup, but does not delete it.

Once a week (currently Saturday mornings) it backs up from the 4 TB drive to the 500GB drive.

Finally, the 128 GB micro SD card in the computer has second by second backups. The reason I am not relying on it at all, is that this chip is with my computer. It is encrypted, with my computer. If my Surface is stolen, the chip and the computer are useless because my password is brutal. If my computer breaks, I have it as a backup. However, the category of “stolen” negates this as a reliable backup system.

Last but not least, I have the two 80 GB iPods. These work fabulously as external hard drives. I reformatted them, and use them as backups. I backup to them and take it to work with me. One is always at work, one is in my bag. I swap them out at work.

Finally, I do nothing once this is set up. BVCKUP monitors the computer looking for the drives and the time. Bvckup recognizes when one of the iPods is plugged in and does the backup then and there. It is fast and small enough that there is virtually no hit to using the computer. I don’t notice it at all.

All I have to do is plug in the iPod, and Bvckup does its thing.

I turn on the 500 GB hard drive once a week. Bvckup recognizes it is on, and backups the 4 TB drive immediately.

I spent 15 minutes setting up the program, and now I do nothing but plug the drives in. I have complete peace of mind for all of my PhD files, my teaching files, my program’s files, the grants I am writing, the articles I am writing, etc.

I can break my computer over my knee, it could be stolen tomorrow, and I can have 100% of my files replaced on a new computer in less than an hour after getting home.

This is pretty powerful, and I thought that peace of mind is worth writing about. After two years of working on coursework for the PhD and knowing all along that I could lose everything if I wasn’t careful, I no longer have to worry.

Try it. I think you will like it too. It is completely free for two weeks, no strings attached. That is what sold me, to be honest. After two weeks with dead simple backups, I realized that one little worry was taken off my shoulders.

That is worth $19.95.

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Oct 142015

Okay, it was yesterday, but I was crazy busy and didn’t post it.

Yesterday, out of the blue, one of the learners I had three years ago tweeted this:


This is one of the times that makes me proud to be a teacher. It also makes me proud to know that I have had a positive impact on other learners who didn’t tell me this, but who are experiencing it daily.

Rock on, Cassidy. You make me smile. Thank you!

Aug 152015

At #TMC15 I shared my favorite of the “High 5”. Richard Villanueva is awesome enough to record them all and post, so I will just share the video of what I said. It is short and sweet:

There is the video. I want to stress a few points.

  1. Giving high fives to my learners absolutely changed me. I got 150 high fives every day. How can you NOT be in a great mood getting 35 high fives several times a day, every day.
  2. I am serious. I didn’t teach math. I taught people the subject of math. The high fives was just one step that demonstrated this philosophy.
  3. This was an evolution of my approach that on the first day of class scared me to death. I was freaked out and thinking that it was going to be a massive failure.
  4. I was wrong.
  5. It was the single thing I did all year long that had the greatest impact on my classroom environment, my relationship with my learners, and my own personal attitude.

I wrote about it last year as it occurred:

Before school started: August 10th: School started on the 11th.

After 1 week of school: August 20th

After 1 month of school: August 27th

I finally EARNED a high five from my one holdout: September 10th  : This is the one high five I am most proud of.

That was last year. Then #TMC happened. After #TMC15, several teachers told me they were going to try it. We had several Twitter conversations about it at different times with different teachers. A sample is below. And this is ONLY a small sample of the more relevant tweets.






And here are some captured images from @misscalcul8. Elissastartpic2Elissa2 elissa3  Elissa1 And finally: pic1Elissa    

Let’s pause and reflect a moment.    What effort did it take me to give a high five? Very little. I had to get over my introvertedness. I had to fight my impulse to just stand there and say hi, and I had to make the effort to actually acknowledge each learner one at a time with the motion. I had to grab some hand sanitizer afterwards as I was walking into class. …. 

Yea, that is really what it cost me. That’s it.

Not to diminish the fright / frustration / and uncomfortableness that the introversion creates, but getting over it did not damage me in any way.  

What did I gain? My learners received the one on one acknowledgement from me every day. They walked into my classroom looking forward to the personal contact that went beyond the subject and touched them personally. Learners who were just standing in the hallway saw it and started asking for a high five every day. They recognized that it was something to get and feel good about themselves.

It changed my outlook on the class period. Every period be came a 1st period of the day. Every period was a “good morning” because every period started with 30 to 35 high fives. How could every period NOT be a fresh start, a clean slate, and a new beginning. It changed the class outlook towards me. I wasn’t just that weird math teacher (and I was) who wore strange socks everyday (because I did). I was also the math teacher who treated them like human beings. I also was the math teacher who acknowledged they were weird learners (because they were) who struggled with the ideas (because they did) and who needed the reassurance that if they kept trying they would get it (because they absolutely DID.)  

The cost / benefit analysis there is pretty clear. What it cost me was very little. What I gained was huge. What my learners gained was even greater.  


I am not teaching high school anymore. I am teaching college and the standards are different, the expectations are different, and the stakes are different. Guess what I am NOT going to give up. I think these outcomes are too valuable. It will definitely be a radical departure for the college setting. It is worth it.  


Edit: Some research to back up why it works:   More teachers on board! Yay!    








These next three go together. Wow, the power in these three tweets.




Amy posted on her blog the following paragraph.

High fives at the door. Glenn’s “my favorite” has been popular for good reason. It is simple, but we have already discovered it is powerful. My colleagues and I decided to make it a department thing, and also roped in the two non-math teachers in our hallway. So the 200 hallway is officially the “high-five hallway” at our school. I am surprised by how something so small has already helped me feel more connected to my students, and how the classroom atmosphere gets an immediate boost. You just can’t be too grumpy after a high-five.

Chris Shore said:

High 5’sGlenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs): Glenn was right. Offering the High 5’s at the door does more for my mood and mental preparation for the class than it did for the kids.

Bob, on his blog, said:

GREETING STUDENTS WITH HIGH FIVES – Intertwined with all of the mathy goodness of Twitter Math Camp this past July was a simple and powerful device for student engagement from my friend Glenn Waddell – the High Five.

Each day last year, Glenn met his students at the door to give them a high five – a simple, caring gesture to establish a positive tone for class. I often meet students at the door before class or linger in the hallway for informal chat, but I love the tradition and rapport Glenn establishes here and hope to emulate it.

Lisa, on her blog, was even more positive about the effects:

After five days of being at the door and high fiving students, students are positioning their books to be ready to give me a high five as they approach my class. I have had students high five me in the hall when I am not at my door and walking in the hallway (when I don’t have a class). It makes me smile.

This is only one paragraph of a much longer post by Lisa, but you get the sense right there something amazing is happening.

Stephanie Bower tried it too. Her post says so much about it.

Most of the time, the high-fives give me a chance to gauge the moods of each student in a split-second. (Glenn pointed this out too.) I can tell by the tone of their high-five, the way they return my verbal greeting, and their body language if something is “off” that day.


[And yes, that graphic is golden, and will be stolen and reused. Forever.]

highfiveclub Thank you @conniehamilton.

Feb 092015

Besides the usual quote on the board today, I also have this math pickup line: How can I know hundreds of digits of pi and not know your phone number?  I am featuring a new math love / pickup line each day this week (some days will have more than one). If you want the list, Math & Multimedia is the source.

But anyway, I hate to even call this a #180 blog posting, because I gave up on that at the semester. I just was not focused enough to maintain. I don’t know how people do it. But I do want to share some of the Central Limit Theorem Love I just did.

The exercise is not my own. I stole it from Josh Tabor and I credit him fully with the idea. What you need for this exercise are pennies, chart paper, and some fun dots. That’s it. You need a lot of pennies though. By a lot I would estimate I have approximately 2500 pennies in a bucket. I don’t know exactly how many, but it is a huge number. I emailed the staff at the school and asked for pennies and they delivered. Each year I ask for more, and they deliver more. It is terrific.

Okay, on to the set up. When the learners walked in the room, they saw this:

2015-02-06 10.00.15

The instructions, the left chart paper for x’s, the middle for xbar’s and the right for p-hats. Yes, the scale is completely wrong on the p-hat chart. It should be from zero to 1. I fixed that.

Then, the learners pulled their coins, found the means, the proportion greater than 1985, and we graphed using stickers for the x’s, writing xbar and phat for the other two. At this point, we ended up with some good looking graphs. We discussed if we could tell the mean of the dates from the x graph, we decided we could not, so we OBVIOUSLY needed more data.

Do it again.

After two rounds, we ended up with these graphs:

2015-02-09 12.23.42 2015-02-09 12.23.54 2015-02-09 12.24.02


I did change the 1985 to 1995 by the time I took these pictures from my 3rd period of Stats. The newer pennies the staff gave me pulled the mean up.

I actually tore the “Actual Values” graph down and threw it on the ground because it was so useless. That was the point of that graph. I loved how the other two graphs were so clearly unimodal and symmetric. They fit the idea of the CLT perfectly. The fact they matched was just icing on the cake!

– Using this simulation for the CLT, we then looked at what happens when sample sizes are changed, whether the shape of the population matters, etc. It was very eye-opening.

Then we discussed the reason why, how, and what conditions must occur for one sample to then represent the population. The notes I used are here in pdf format. I am trying something for the end of the year where I post the notes before hand and they are required to read them as homework. I HATE going over the notes in class. So far it is a good experiment.

Next up are some in class problems.

This is the third time I have done this exercise, but only the second time I have used xbars and phats. It is very useful to have those there so the formulas make more sense.

The fact that the formula reads “the population mean is identical to the calculated mean of the sample” is very useful when the learners keep the population mean and the sample mean separate.

Sep 022014



Today was mostly successful for my learners! Yay. I am behind in the book keeping / grading department so I won’t talk about that much. This is always my downfall, and it is so easy to have a conflict of interest between grading effectively and timely, and time spent producing interesting fun lessons that teach! It is worse this year for me because of grad school on top of it.  Enough about the Failure, on to the Success!

AP Statistics

I did a “I have, Who Has” exercise with vocab from Experimental Design and Surveys. It was tough going at first. I screwed up the instructions and suggested they trade cards in the first period. Don’t do that. I think better instructions are:

1. You all have a card with a word, the “I have experimental design” for example.

2. Underneath that word is a definition. It is NOT the definition of the word above, but the definition to a different word.

3. Find the person who has the definition of your word, and then stand next to them.

4. When you are done, you will have a giant circle of definitions.

5. AFTER the exercise is over, I let them take the 4 pages of cards with them. Yes, I made copies for every single learner. Now they did the exercise AND there is a set for them to take with them with which to study.

The biggest problem I had when doing this is the learners looking to me for validation. One class today dove right in and struggled with it and asked me almost no questions. The other class, oh boy. They wanted me to validate every answer. Every time I tried to get them to validate the answers themselves they were frustrated and really tried to get me involved. I finally had to tell the class, “No.” Stop and think about it as a group.

In the end, both classes today were successful, but I wanted greater fluidity. One problem is neither class really had a leader who took charge. It is a work in progress for sure.

 Algebra 2

This was a failure. I did @Cheesemonkey’s Speed Dating (and @mathymeg07 and I typeset files her files too) and was horrified by the lack of understanding of transformations of functions.


By the end of the period they were doing them okay. Not with any fluidity, not with any sense of understanding. I will do this exercise again. Absolutely.

They were frustrated and I was too. They wanted to do a table for every single function. Not good. By the end of class, I heard, “Aha, this is so much easier” and “Okay, I think I am getting it now.”

Next class we really need to get to, “Okay, Waddell, give me your best shot.” Eventually we will get there.

So, my lesson for tomorrow’s Alg2 class is already written. Do today over.

Time to grade more work again. Must get more things into gradebook!

Aug 262014


I have done some things differently this year in AP Stats that have paid off tremendously. I realized it today when I put up a Barron’s flashcard as a warmup and although almost everyone got it wrong, everyone in the entire class could describe the graphs correctly.

2014-08-26 17.07.09

The words; uniform, symmetric, bimodal, unimodal, skewed left, and skewed right rolled off everyone’s tongue correctly with no hesitation at all. They did not have the concept of mean=median, mean>median or mean<median attached to the pictures, but the could and did describe the pictures correctly.  I wrote the words on the board underneath each one of the pictures AND then we discussed how the mean/median relationship would play out. The idea of mean = median because symmetry was an easy one, and once they understood that the mean moved but the median didn’t the answer popped off the board. [note: Simply replacing “less than” with “left of” was an obvious gimme for hold outs. There were also lots of “aha’s” for why the skewed left and right are named as such.]


Why this year and not last year? That is one thing I was wondering about, that is I was wondering about it until I saw someone pull out their summer assignment and use it to help. The emphasis on vocab and front loading the vocab into the summer has made a huge difference in my learners competency and fluency with the words. Now I am just connecting the stats with the words, not teaching all of the words!

This also means I can take a few extra days now in the experiments/ survey stage because I don’t have to teach some things later. That will make a huge difference I think. The learners are, as a group, much more fluid and comfortable with the vocabulary. I think next year I may play with the list and add in more experimentation / survey words and fewer words used later in the year, but that is only to make the first couple of weeks of class easier.

Either way, this has been a very successful first couple of weeks. I will see how the quiz scores play out, but so far so good.

Jun 102014

My friend over at Cheesemonkey Wonders posted a list of Growth Mindset Quotes on her blog, and it made me realize that I do something similar.  Every single day of the year, I put a different quote on my board. They all deal with academics, success, fighting to learn or achieve, or something similar.

I started doing this three years ago, and I did it for myself at first. I just thought I would inject a little thoughtfulness and philosophy into my math class and started collecting quotes to do so. That document is now 26 pages long with nothing but quotes I have saved.

One day, I was lazy or in a hurry and did not put up a new quote. One of my learners actually came back out of my room, stood in front of me and said, “That quote is the same as yesterday’s. You need to fix that.”  At that point I realized my learners were reading them, and did actually care about the quotes I was putting up.

Since then, my learners have told me they enjoy them, they find them inspirational, and one learner actually told me she saw my quotes on facebook because another learner liked it, photographed it and posted it.

Little things matter. Sometimes, they matter more than big things.  With that in mind, here are some of my favorite quotes from my 26 pages.  I will put it below the fold, because this may be a little long.

Continue reading »

May 222014

My Algebra 2 Honors learners were struggling with radians and the unit circle so I broke out the creative guns and went all manipulatives on them. It worked.

The file I used is a PDF I created in Publisher that you can download here from this link.

It is very simple, but very effective. It has a Unit Circle with only the axis marked and 3 triangles with a “finger spot” for holding it in place.


Before I had them cut them out, they wrote the hypotenuse length inside each (which is 1) and the other two side lengths inside as well.

Now the magic occurred. I had them use these triangles with the side lengths written in to tell me the radians and coordinates of the endpoint for each.

All they had to do is move the triangles around, “rotate them” through the angles and use the triangles to document the endpoints.


The connections to “Hey, all we are doing is cutting up a pizza” and “there are clearly 6 pieces of the 30 degree, 4 pieces of the 45 degree and 3 pieces of the 60 degree triangles in the top part of the circle” were immediate.

The harder discussion of the endpoint coordinates were only hampered by the learners that did not follow direction and write the side lengths. Once they had the side lengths in, they saw the connection immediately.

It was nice to be able to have the connections made with the unit circle so easily and now they are all making the unit circle from memory with no problem.