Sep 152014

I can’t believe I did it, but I missed a day. I did not post on Friday. I don’t have a real excuse, other than tiredness. I took a nap after school on Friday because I was running chains for the varsity football game. After doing it two games on Thursday I was beat by the end of school on Friday. That I took the nap in my classroom with the lights off just shows how tired I really was! Thankfully the custodian didn’t come in. That would have given him  a heart attack.

A quick recap from Friday to get caught up, and then today in a different post.

On Friday in AP Stats I did “bad graphs”. This is always a fun day, because we look at graphs and they learn what NOT to do. I tell them that if I ever see a graph that is 3D, or violates the Area Principle, or bad axis labels I will stop reading and return ungraded. We looked at lots of pics. Here are some examples:

road sign graph-01-01 voting_methods 3-D graph Bush-cuts-625x461 changing scale changing scale2 courses CUSD growth daily oil production genetest29 infoweek11-24 japan-world no scale quakeroats


And this is the assignment we did: Ch 3 – Analyzing Bad Graphs

This was fun day, but still informative and useful.

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 When learners are buying calcs on eBay (which I always encourage because TI=ripoff) the calcs often come with out of date OS’s and are lacking functions that truly make the calc useful.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.


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 092014

fire-142514_640 via

With three sections of 32, 34 and 35 in AP Stats  I am trying something different this year with teaching calculator skills. Instead of teaching the skills as I go like I did in previous years I switched it up and burned a day. It was not wasted though, it was highly productive. I have learners with Nspire’s, TI-83’s, TI-84’s, TI-89 Titaniums, and  Casio’s in my class. This variety is killer with a large class. If I had to teach how to do a 1 variable stats on all platforms as I go, class would grind to a halt pretty quickly.

With that in mind, I decided to do something radically different. I burned the day of content, and instead focused on “can you find these commands on your calculator don’t worry about what it means just find them.”

Calculator fill in blank instructions DOCX format

Calculator fill in blank instructions PDF format

I am okay with burning the day because I promised the class when one of them said, “But wait, I forgot how to do a 1 var stats!” my response would be, “Then I am here at lunch for you to show you.”  I will not spend any time in class teaching how to use the calculator, we will spend time in class USING the calculator.

In addition, I added some materials to my site for AP Stats:  for calculator help: 

There are links to video playlists, video searching, as well as some good resources for using the different calculators.

Will it work? Only some time will tell.

I know that I will be busy updating calcs over the next few weeks. That is super important.



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.”


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.

Sep 042014

questionmark via

Before I get into yesterday’s classes, because I don’t have a ton to say about them (they were a repeat of Tuesday’s classes, essentially) I learned something last night about AP Statistics in my “Applied Research Design and Analysis in Education I” also called “Non-Parametric Statistics 1” class.

What I learned is that AP Stats is absolutely a college level, advanced as heck, class. This class has two pre-reqs, neither of which I have taken. On the first day of class we did binomial stats, and last night we did Chi-Square Goodness of Fit. Next week we are doing Chi-Square test of homogeneity and independence.

That’s right. In the first three weeks of a 700 level class (that is the highest level that UNR has, I know that numbering schema’s differ from Uni to Uni) we are only covering topics that are taught in AP Stats. After 2 pre-req classes. That I didn’t take (thank you Dr. Quinn for that most excellent advice). I think the 4th week is where half of the content is new-ish.  The vocab and structure used in “Qualitative Research in Education” has also been a nice review of AP Stats vocab so far.

If you ever doubt that AP Stats is not a college level class, throw those doubts away. Bury them. Ignore them. AP Stats is absolutely a fantastic class for preparing learners for college.


On to my classes. Just a quick update to the AP Stats exercise of “I have, Who Has” from my last post.

Three tweets radically changed how I will be teaching this and using this technique in the future:

Much better instructions, and I will be doing that in the future.

As for my Algebra Learners, who were frustrated with the whole speed dating exercise last class class? They rocked it out of the park and were excited at the end of class.

They are coming along I think.

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 282014

Algebra 2:


My learners blow my mind. I assigned my Honors Algebra 2 learners to write their name.

Seriously, all they had to do was write their first name.

In Desmos. With functions.

Heh, I am evil, right? It gets worse. They had just taken a quiz, so we only had about 10 minutes left in class. I showed them how to create an account on Desmos to save their work. I showed them how to type in a function. I showed them my name in Desmos. And then I showed them that if they scrolled down on the main Desmos page, they would see, well, they would see some amazing art created by learners like themselves.

That is it. That is all the prep, instruction, training, or anything else you want to call it, that I gave them. They had to take this bare bones instruction, write your name, and run with it. I never showed them circles, ellipses, or any other function. They learned it all themselves. Here are samples of what was shared with me:

skylar24 cloe10

Skylar = 24 functions, Chloe = 10 functions


janine35 gentry17


Janine = 35 functions and Gentry = 17 functions

Pretty representative. I did not say they had to use any special functions, just write your name. And I want to point out, I never showed them translations. They figured that out themselves by working with Desmos for ONE SINGLE DAY! Nice.

Then I started looking at the functions each person used. I noticed something very interesting that Chloe did. She only used 10 functions, but the “e” was especially interesting. You see, she did BOTH a domain restriction AND a range restriction on the same function.


See what she did there? Mind Blown. I am still stunned by the creativity she used with Desmos. When I asked her why she did both her answer was, “I was just trying stuff until it worked and looked the way I wanted it.” Genius. Necessity is the mother of invention.

Anyway, we finished up by rocking translations. They already had the main part of translations down because they played with Desmos. That was awesome. They are still trying to make things complicated, but I am almost finished breaking them of the assumption things have to be difficult.


AP Stats

I am short 40 books so far this year, so I need to do things to get my learners doing problems without the book. One way to do that is Relay Cards. This is how I play the game. I hand out problem 1. Everyone gets the same problem, so they can discuss it, but they have to write their own.  I use a magnet to hang the answer I previously made on the board. The learners can come up and read the key after they have tried it. Their answer must be the same as my key in meaning, not in words (usually. Sometimes it has to be exact, as in the probability section.)

Once card one is done, they come to me for card 2, and so on.

Having the key on the board keeps me free to answer questions and help while I hand out the new problems and double check the accuracy of the previous.

I just finished a set for Experimental Design.  I have other sets (created by Shelli Temple (@druinok) almost completely).

03 Relay Cards for Conditional Marginal Probabilities

Ch 6 – Relay Cards – normal models

These are a great way to get the learners talking about the stats, writing and working with stats, and the teacher does nothing but help, coach, and assist learners learn.

I like this activity greatly.

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.