Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Turkeys on a Farm, or Road, or Meadow, or Thanksgiving Table

I originally heard about this game on an #alg1chat on Twitter, read about it here from Math Tales from the Spring.  One person called it Ghosts in a Graveyard, and another called it Eggs in a Basket.  It just depends on the season.  

You will need a worksheet with about 5 problems for students to complete.  

Since it's close to Thanksgiving I found some Turkey clipart online and printed them in 3x3 squares, just the perfect size for post-it notes.  

Then I stuck the post-it notes over the Turkeys.

And put the paper through the printer again.

Next, you will need to draw some scenes on the board (or make posters to use more than once).  I used a farm, a road for the turkeys to cross, a meadow, and a Thanksgiving table.  

Give the students the problems to and allow students to work together in their groups to come up with a "perfect" paper.  Once a group is absolutely sure that they are done, check their answers and give them a turkey for each problem they have completely correct.  The students can then place their turkeys in what ever scene they want.  If they want to put all their turkeys in one, that's fine too.  

Once all the groups are finished randomly assign a number from 1 to 5 to each scene.  

For each turkey a group has in a scene, they receive that many points.  The team with the most points wins!!

How did it go?

I felt rushed today because we had an early dismissal with a compressed schedule due to snow.  I wasn't able to encourage students to check their work like I wanted to.  I also wasn't able to go over the answers.  And in one class, only one group finished the problems before the bell rang.  Even with all of this going on, the students were into it.  They liked working together, and some groups were aware of the importance of accuracy.  Now that I have tried the game and know that I like it, I think I will laminate my turkeys and make posters with scenes.  This game is a keeper. 

Monday, November 25, 2013

No More Excuses: I Don't Have a Pencil

This may be the problem that I've been trying to combat for the longest.  I have tried many strategies:

Method 1:  If the students didn't have a pencil, then they didn't take notes.

Method 2:  The students needed to trade something with me to borrow a pencil.  This method has potential.  It didn't work for me because it caused too many interruptions.  First the students would come into class and sit down.  We would start the lesson and I would notice a few students just sitting there not taking notes.  When I found out it was because they didn't have a pencil, I needed to stop class to trade with the students.

Method 3:  Kitchen Utensils.  Read about this idea from "Square Root of Negative One Teach Math".  This worked for a few weeks, and I thought I was on to something.  However, after a few weeks, I had a bunch of broken spoons and no pencils.

Method 4:  Make the pencils free and always available.
I was reading the book, Happy, Happy, Happy by Phil Robertson when it hit me.  In the book he talks about the bible verse Romans 12: 17-21 (see below).  Phil talks about how people were stealing the fish from his nets.  He was threatening them and trying to scare them into not stealing, but it wasn't working.  So, he decided to take the advice of the bible. He caught some men trying to steal his fish and told them to go ahead and take it.  He reasoned with them that if they were stealing it, then they must really need it.  Anytime they needed some fish, he advised those men to go ahead and take some of his.  No one bothers his nets anymore.
I figured if it can work for fish, then it can work for pencils.  I told the students that the pencils were there for them and if they needed one they can take one.  If they would give it back at the end of the period, that would be great.  However, if they didn't have one for the rest of the day and needed one, they could help themselves.
It's not fool proof.  I still have pencils go missing, but it's not like it was.  Last year I would go though about 1 pack of pencils a week.  This year, it's about 1 pack every 1.5-2 months.

Romans 12:17-21

New International Version (NIV)
17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. 18 If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19 Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”[a] says the Lord.20 On the contrary:
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
    if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”[b]
21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Day in the Life #MTBoS Mission 7

My day starts at 4:53.  Why 4:43?  5:00 wasn't enough time.  I always seemed to be running 7 minutes late.  So, 4:53 it is.  

My morning starts with a power outage.  This is the first time ever that I had to get ready for work by candle/flashlight.  As we are getting ready to leave the house, the power comes back on.  That's irony hard at work.  

I drop one of the boys at my parents' house and make my 15 minute commute to work.  My other son is going to work/school with his dad.  Today my husband is working at my son's school.  How convenient.  

I arrive at work 40 minutes before necessary and make copies.  I found that making copies first thing in the morning is most efficient because I don't have to wait in line.  

Today I'm doing a lot of group work and we are using the group role necklaces that I made last year.  You can read about those here.

In Algebra IB we are working on applications of linear equations.  Tomorrow is the test, I'm not sure about this though.    

Since the power was out this morning, I didn't want to stand with the refrigerator open rummaging for something for lunch.  Poptarts it is.  

Throughout the day I get to view these flowers that my parents so thoughtfully bought for me.  Thanks mom and dad!!

After school, I met with two Computer Programming professors from LCCC about making some of my classroom games digit.  We decided to move forward with Bounty Hunter.  In about 3 months their college students will start to program my game.  They are giving me a team of 4, 2 programmers and 2 artists.  I am so flipping excited about this that I am ready to jump out of my skin!!!  The game is about slope so keep reading this blog for updates. 

Seriously, I need someone to just slap this type of food out of my hand.  Poptarts for lunch and now this.  I wish I had time to run today.  

Before putting the boys to bed, we do a little light reading.  

Now it's my turn to unwind, a little zombie annihilating action....

...and I need to keep up with my book club pick this month.  So far so good. 

As I'm starting to fall asleep, I hear the light pitter patter of 3-year-old feet.  My husband is at the fire company for drill so his side of the bed is empty...but not for long.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Quiz, Quiz, Trade

I heard about Quiz, Quiz, Trade from @LizCrabtree.  Here's our conversation:

I loved this idea, but for my first try, I decided to create the problems myself.  My students and are working on one-variable inequalities.  My largest class has 16 students, so I created 16 problems on index cards and the solutions to each one on separate index cards.

To start, I gave each student one problem index card and one solution index card.  The students needed to make sure they could do the given problem.  Once they were set, I took back the solution index card and they were off.  Students were to trade problems with another student and if any questions or problems arise, students are to ask the person they got the problem from.  

For some reason this year, I have students who still ask me first.  No worries, I gently remind them that the student who previously had the problem will help them.  AND, I'm still having trouble with students who WILL NOT TALK.  That's why they ask me first, because they won't talk to each other....yet.  I will break them.  

Here's why I like this activity:
Students know that as they are doing a problem they have to understand it well enough to teach someone else and that takes their learning to a whole new level.  
I've done an activity like this in the past, but the students didn't exchange problems, this activity is better because they get to become experts on so many more problems.
Next time I will have the students create the problem as suggest by @LizCrabtree.  I think seeing a problem as it's created will add another dimension to their learning.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Conic Capture Game

Here is a game to practice writing equations for conic sections.

The set up:

Use this link to get a game board on desmos:  Conic Capture Game Board 1
   I found it useful to put it on Projector Mode.  Press play for the four points that are animated.

Put your class into at least two teams and have them pick a color for their team (green, purple, orange, or black).

The Game Play:
Teams take turns writing equations that will capture points on the screen.  Capturing blue points is good, capturing red points is bad.  Students capture an ordered pair or ordered pairs by having a conic section around it.  

In the screen capture below, the black team captured one blue ordered pair at (4, 0) with a circle.

In this screen capture, the orange team captured 3 ordered pairs with an ellipse.  Two of the ordered pairs were static and one was animated.  

Teams take turns back and forth until there are no more blue points to capture.  Game ends and the team with the most points wins.

The Scoring:

Each blue static point captured is worth 1 point
Each blue animated point captured is worth 2 points
Each red point is worth -1 points.

If a team captures points with one type of conic section, the multiplier for the points is 1.
When a team has used two different types of conic sections in the game, the point multiplier is 2.
Three types of conics --> multiplier of 3

For example:

The black team used a circle to capture 1 static blue point.  1 point with a multiplier of 1 equals 1.
On their second turn, the black team captures 1 static blue point and 1 animated blue point with a parabola.  Since this is the second type of conic section used in the game, the multiplier is two for this round.  (1 + 2) * 2 = 6 total points for this round and total of 7 points for the game.

Formula to determine points earned in a round:  

(Number of Conic Sections used in the game) * (1 * # of blue static points this round + 2 * # of blue animated points this round - 1 * number of red points this round)

Other Things:

Intersecting another team's conic section will lead to a deduction in 1 point per intersection. 

The screen capture below shows a loss of 2 points, because they intersect twice.

Have the teams write down their equations, then the teacher or a designated student will type the equation into desmos, remember to change the equation color for each team.  

Some students may find it hard to see the graph from their seats, printing a copy of the game board for each student will help with this.  

In order to capture an animated point, it must stay within the conic section the entire time.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Edugaming Wrap Up - I'm Going Digital

I love being in the classroom, but I fantasize about being an educational game designer.  Yesterday was the wrap-up day for the edugaming conference.  Over the summer, educators from my IU area sat in on activities and presentations on gaming in the classroom for 4 full, fantastic days.  We created, play-tested, brainstormed, and networked.  Our assignment was to take the games we made back to our classroom, play them, and then share the results on the wrap up day (yesterday).

This was my third year participating in the conference and you can tell I had total buy in because the first time you participate you receive a stipend.  You can only receive that stipend once after that, it's only free food.  So, I participated the past two years out of sheer enjoyment (not financial gain).

The first year I created Bounty Hunter - this game was almost picked up by Muzzy Lane, but the small business grant was not approved :(

The second year, four of us created The Tile FACTORy.  I blogged about that here and here.

This past summer I created Domain Rangers.  I blogged about that game here.

Then there are a few others that I created Like Snakes on a Coordinate Plane that practices transformation of graphs.  I haven't blogged about this one yet.

I'm currently working on a game that helps reinforce polynomial graphs with their end behavior and zeros.

I feel that every game I created would be so much better if it was digital.  So, I looked into that.  With a  $20,000 - $30,000 price tag, I decided to wait.

Now for the exciting news.  The people who applied for the edugaming grant are also computer programming professors at the local community college, LCCC.  They have applied for another grant that allows their programming students to partner with us teachers who have created games and make them digit!  We have set up a meeting to discuss which and how many of my games I want to go digit (for now) and how many students I'll need working on each game.

I look forward to keeping you updated on this endeavor and hopefully have something digital to share with all of you in the near future.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

No More Excuses: I Forgot My Notebook

I decided to share how I take away student excuses.  I'm sure you've heard them all:

I forgot my notebook at home (or in my locker).

I forgot to do my homework.

I don't have a pencil.

I don't have any paper.

I'm not a good test-taker.

I can't take the test, I was absent for the review.

For this post, I'd like to focus on the notebook issue.  When I first started my career and a student would tell me that he forgot his notebook, I would give him some paper and tell him to add the notes to his notebook at a later time.  You know darn well that never happened.  But it wasn't my problem, he was the irresponsible one.  Yikes!  Who said that?  Me?!?!?!

Once I realized how important it was for students to have their notebooks I decided to allow them to go to their lockers to get it but it would count as them being late to class.  This wasn't great either.  Some students didn't care that they were marked late and this gave them an extra excuse to roam the halls.  On top of that the students who needed to be in class the most were the ones who were missing the first few minutes of class.

This year I tried something different.  Something expensive.  I used my entire supply budget on purchasing 3 ring binders for each student.  And they stay in the room.

Everyday, before going to their seats, they are required to get their notebook.  One girl's comment was that she wished all her notebooks were this organized.  Before the end of each class I make sure the students have enough time to put the papers in the right place in the binder and to put all their materials away.  If a student would like to take their binder home, they just need to let me know, and I check to make sure it shows up the next day.  Not surprisingly only three students asked to do just that in the first quarter.  

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fraction Knowledge Without Calculators

I gave a packet to groups of four students, a large whiteboard, and no calculator.  Here's my favorite question in the packet:

What is the best estimate for 12/13 + 8/7.  Your choices are 1, 2, 19, and 21.  The students must explain their answer.

All groups started with finding a common denominator and the exact answer.  Once they saw their answer wasn't there, they started over assuming that they did something wrong.

I made the announcement to reread the directions and recognize that it's multiple choice.  

Then I heard one boy say to the rest of his group that since both fractions were close to 1, the answer must be 2.  He was met with blank stares.  It took him a few minutes to convince two of his groups mates that he was correct.  But one girl was still not sure.  In fact, she sounded annoyed.  I heard her say to the rest of the group that they were guessing and not even trying the problem.  But the group remained patient and tried a different approach.  A different boy in the group wrote the fraction 13/13 and asked her what it was equal to.  Then he wrote 12/13 and asked if that was really close to 13/13.  Perfect.

Here's another great discussion that happened in the same group:

Which show appropriate use of "canceling digits"?  There were 6 choices, here are two of them.



They all agreed that the second one was okay.  But only one thought the first one was okay and asked the rest of her group what the different was in the two problems.  One student wrote the fraction 42/27 and said you can't cancel out the 2s.  Don't worry, she didn't give up and finally won them over.

I love that I decided to take today to complete this packet.  If you are interested, I took the problems from Uncovering Students Thinking in Mathematics.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Domino Effect From Mathalicious

In Algebra 1B we just finished our outcome on Writing Linear Equations.  Yawn!  The students were okay with the lessons, which were mostly chalk and talk.  I guess that's what they're used to and don't question it.  I on the other hand know better.  I know there's great things to come, like Barbie Bungee, and cup stacking, and rope tying.  Anyway, the tests proved my point.  The students were okay with the information for any given day, but talk about something different during the next class and they confuse the two types of problems.

Now we're on to the next outcome which is applications of linear equations.  My hope is that tying these numbers to something real will help and we can go back an retest.  My point of entry here is pizza, more specifically Mathalicious' lesson Domino Effect.  It took about two days and the students did really well with it.  When we started the lesson and the students saw that a medium two-topping pizza cost $13.97 and a medium four-topping pizza cost $16.96, they immediately found the price per topping.  I didn't ask them to do that.  I wasn't even finished talking about my favorite pizza toppings.  It was their natural curiosity that took them there.  I can only imagine if I wrote the two ordered pairs on the board (2, 13.97) and (4, 16.95).  They would look at me and wait.  Because there is no obvious question.  Then again without being prompted they were curious about the price of a plain pizza.

We had some great conversations about slope (price per topping) and y-intercept (price of plain pizza), equations, variable, and even domain and range.

Here's the best part.  The students even developed their own way to find the pieces of a linear equation.  I taught them to find slope, then use vertex form y=m(x-h)+k to write the whole equation.  But from Domino Effect this is what they discovered:

Finding slope is still the same.  (y2-y1)/(x2-x1) and it makes sense.

Finding the y-intercept is new:  To find the price of just the pizza with no toppings you can take the total price minus the price of the toppings.
For the two-topping pizza -->   $13.97 - 2($1.49) = $10.99
For the four-topping pizza --> $16.96 - 4($1.49) = $10.99
with Variables -->  y2 - x2(m) = b   OR   y1 - x1(m) = b

You and I know that it's just the slope-intercept formula rearranged, but they have stumbled on to something amazing here.

When the students and I were in the boring outcome of just writing the equations, and I would give two  ordered pairs and ask for the equation, they were very concerned about which point to plug into the equation.  They would ask me again and again if I was sure they would produce the same answer.  I would show them time and again with both points to help get the point across (pun intended).  Now after this lesson they see that it doesn't matter which pizza you use to find the price of a plain, they will both produce the same answer.  Bingo!!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Code Crackers

The latest issue of Mathematics Teacher is of great use to me.  It was a focus issue on Beginning Algebra.  One article in particular caught my attention Cracking Codes & Launching Rockets, by Teo J. Paoletti.  If you are an Algebra Teacher, you will want to get your hands on a copy of this issue.

The article that I'm referring to suggests starting class by having a discussion about national security.  In particular my students and I had a discussion about a number code that could be used to launch nuclear bombs.  You would not believe the crazy things the students came up with.  Like tattooing a random baby with the code.  Wow.  Just wow.  Anyway with a lot of directing, I finally led them to the two-person rule.  In the article, Paoletti mentions that the two-person rule can be seen in movies like The Sum of All Fears, The Hunt for Red October, and War Games.  I have seen none of these movies, but would love to get my hands on a clip that mentions the two-person rule.

Just like Paoletti suggested in the article, we discussed why everyone in the room could have different ordered pairs, use any combination of two ordered pairs, and still end up with the same line.  Note, for the activity we did in class, only pairs of students had ordered pairs that would fit a particular line.  

After our little discussion I showed the students this:

Nothing piques a student's interest better than a locked box.  "Are there prizes in there?" they want to know.  "I don't know.  It's a locked box." I reply.  

In this particular class we were studying writing lines given two ordered pairs.  I gave each student an index card with an ordered pair on it.  I told them that they each had a partner in the room, but they don't know who it is and neither do I so don't ask.  In order to open the box, they needed to use two of their ordered pairs together to write the equation of a line.  The y-intercept of their line will open the box if that is indeed their partner.  

Here are the ordered pairs that I gave the students and the matches:

(-11, 90) Matches with (14, 190)
(12, 125) Matches with (-8, 140)
(-9, 152) Matches with (-7, 148)
(12, 206) Matches with (11, 200)
(-9, 170) Matches with (-7, 162)
(10, 84) Matches with (-9, 179)
(13, 173) Matches with (18, 188)
(-10, 129) Matches with (16, 142)

The code is 134.

The students kept working with a different person until the resulting y-intercept unlocked the box.  It was great to see the students working on this process over and over without getting sick of it.  

You don't need to have a locked box to do this activity, but if you can get your hands on one I highly recommend it.  It was great to have something physical for the students to try to open.  Especially when they were wrong, they just walked away and tried a new partner.  

I enjoyed this lesson so much I wanted more.  Then I realized that this would work for solving equations with variables on both sides.  Each student would receive and Algebraic Expression.  They work with other people, setting their expressions equal to each other.  The value of x is the code for the box.  Yay!!

Here are the Algebraic Expressions:

9(3x - 1284) + 13236 Matches with -5(4x - 1943) + 3856
7(3x - 421) - 866 Matches with -4(2x + 843) + 7896
-3(4x - 2790) + 16707 Matches with 8(3x + 946) + 8401
7x + 15661 - 11x Matches with 3x - 5(9x - 5055)
3x + 2846 + 25x + 2005 Matches with 8(2x+891) + 3x
25(2x + 384) - 6285 Matches with 14x - 3(17x - 8442)
-9x + 8492 + 20x + 6085 Matches with -8x - 382 + 14x + 16224
4x - (9x - 15072) Matches with 9(3x + 1759) - 35x

The code is 253.


What if the first person a student works with is their partner and they open the box?  What do they do for the rest of the class?  I will need to develop a part-two to this activity that is just as engaging if not more.  

One student allows the other person to do all the work.  I think next time, each student will have to write down the work for each partner and hand it in.  Bummer, I hate more paperwork.  Please tell me you have a better idea.


Label each index card with a letter randomly and write down the matches somewhere.  This way you can easily know which cards are matches.

If there is an odd number of students, you can play along too.  My first partner is always a student who is struggling.  

If you have more than 16 students, break the class into two groups make duplicates of all the index cards and let them know their partner is in that group.  If there are too many students to try to match with you may end up with no one finding their partner by the end of the class.