Sunday, June 16, 2013

Relief Vs. Disappointment and What Other People Think of Me.

The other day my son couldn't decide between two different toys that he wanted to buy with his report card money.  I took both of them, hid them behind my back, and told his to pick one of my hands.  When he did, I showed him the toy and asked if he felt relieved or disappointed.  He was disappointed and then knew exactly which toy to purchase.

This happened to me a few weeks ago.  We are starting a Freshman Academy in our district next year and I have been selected to be one of the math teachers that teaches 3 freshman classes (Algebra 1A and CP Algebra 1).  When my department chair asked what other courses I wanted to round out my schedule, I didn't hesitate and told him Algebra 1B.  He looked at me and asked if wanted Pre-Calc or Trig.  Nope, I love Algebra 1B.  Are you sure?  Yes.  Right then I felt relief not disappointment.

Why have I been teaching these classes that I don't even like for the past 13 years??  Then I figured it out.  I taught them to impress other people.  It especially happens at math conferences.  One of the first questions you ask other teachers is what level of math they teach.  And there's a corresponding level of respect that follows.  It seems as though 'bad' or new teachers are 'punished' with the lower lever courses.  You have to work your way up the ranks in order to earn the right to teach the higher levels.  So all this time I've been worried that other people would think I'm a bad teacher if I only taught Algebra 1.  But who gives a flip?!?!?  I have been sacrificing my happiness to impress other people and this shows a lack of maturity on my part.

When I see you at the next NCTM conference and you ask what courses I teach, I will confidently tell you Algebra 1!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Online Resources

I know many of us no longer use textbooks and finding or creating resources is a pain.

I just came across the website and it is great for Algebra 1 and below.
This site generates a new worksheet every time, which is perfect for SBG.  I wish you could combine different topics to customize a sheet.  Unless I didn't figure that part out yet.

I also use the free stuff from KUTA, but I would like to check out the paid version one day.  Kuta makes a good looking worksheet and provides enough room for students to do their work.  Because I only use the free version, I am unable to generate different problems each time.

Plus, I use easyworksheet, but it's not the prettiest thing.  This website is great for customizing your problems.  It has multiple choice, mix up the problems, and starting number options.  However, I just hate how it looks.

Our district uses  It isn't free but it is geared toward the standards.  It was created as multiple choice. Although you can hide the multiple choice answer, sometimes the questions no longer make sense.  For example, Which of the following is an irrational number?  But there are no choices because you hid them. has an awesome generator for solving equations, systems, and quadratics.  I don't feel it leaves enough room for the students' work, but that's the only drawback I can see.

What are your favorite online resources?

Monday, June 10, 2013

2012 - 2013 Top Ten

Last year before summer break I did a top ten list and I felt that it forced me to reflect and narrow down my best efforts.  Why not do it again this year?  In no particular order:

1.  I took ownership of my own professional development

It all started last summer, when I started taking part in #made4math and #MyFavFriday.  Those two things alone made me want to do, create, and share things that other teachers would find interesting.  Really, why have a blog and participate if you stuff sucks?

2. I found what I'm really passionate about.

I determined that I love Algebra 1 and Sophomores.  Why did it take me 13 years to figure this out?  I loved Geometry, Pre-Calculus, and Calculus as a student, so I would love them as a teacher too, right?  Wrong.  I've been forcing myself to enjoy teaching these courses, but the truth is that I don't.  My forte is teaching the struggling student.  Teaching these students gives me a sense of purpose.  The gifted students don't need me, give them Khan Academy and they'll be fine.  I find little satisfaction in teaching a talented student.  My satisfaction lies in the struggling student who now believes he can do it, and I had a part in that.  

3. Teachers Pay Teachers

I decided to give a chance.  I signed up in October of last year and thought it would be so awesome if I could earn even $20 for my stuff.  Almost $500 later, I am astounded.  This extra money has been a god-send and helped me pay for a course for my son that I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise.  WooHoo!!

4. 101 Questions - Super Mario Bros.

I have tried to submit to previously, but felt that I was just embarrassing myself and gave up.    But once I made this video to get my students thinking about linear relationships, I decided to submit again.  I'm so excited that I created the top video of all time (so far).  I knew Super Mario Bros. was a hit!!

5. Foldables

This is the first year that I have tried foldables.  Some teachers seem to believe that foldables are just a fancy graphic organizer, and they're right.  That's why they work though.  In previous years, my students would take notes on something and in a later class I would tell them to refer to those notes.  But they couldn't find them OR they didn't remember taking those notes.  But now when I say Take out your Writing Equations Foldable, they find it and they find it quickly because they stand out, they are colorful, and best part of all - they remember making them!

6. My Colleagues

My department is like no other.  We all get along so well, it's crazy.  Even parents have noticed and said to our principal, "They play so well together!"  Every year we design and sell a Pi Day Shirt as a fundraiser.  The students go crazy for them.  This year we organized and hosted our own 5k race: Run 4 The Numbers.  In the summer we all get together with our families for our annual math picnic.  

7.  Small Classes

My Algebra 1 classes are small.  I mean ssmmaall.  Like 11, 13, and 10 students in each of those classes.  I really know these students.  I know them well.  I know how to motivate Suzie, and that Johnny needs extra time, little Mikey needs quiet to be able to think, and if little Betty is allowed to think aloud she'll say something amazing.  Some of their parents are now of a first name basis with me because I'm able to communicate with them and remember them.  

8. Not Direct Instruction

I don't do direct instruction much anymore.  It seems that when I'm not well prepared for class, that's when I have to use direct instruction.  Yawn....  Because I took control of my own professional development (see 1.) I have more tools than just direct instruction.  I like my job so much more now that I don't expect myself the be the sage on the state every. single. period.

9. Gaming

This past year is the first time I've really used games in my classroom.  Well, games that aren't get-the-question-right-and-then-you-get-to-do-something type of games.  We've played Bounty Hunter, The Tile FACTORy, and Snakes on a (coordinate) Plane.  

10. Getting Inside their Heads

I have done more "fluff" stuff this year, than all my other teaching years combined.  By fluff I mean things like my prompt poster, and mission statement posters.  Things like that.  Referring back to number 7 on this list, this is part of the reason I know some of these students so well.  And it's not as scary or fluffy as I thought it would be.  

What I Learned from my High School Social Studies Teacher

Back in high school there was this Social Studies teacher (Let's call him Mr. A) that made teaching look easy....almost too easy;  like ...