Monday, September 9, 2013

First Day

Today was the best first day of school EVER!

First of all, I waited until this morning to use my free Starbuck's birthday drink. Starting the day with a venti java chip frappuccino instantly puts me in a good mood.

In the past, I've taught 8th grade so once my kids left me, they went to high school and I only saw them if they came back to visit or I ran into them somewhere.  Last year I taught primarily freshman and sophomores so I was really excited that I'd get to see them all again this year.

My morning started with one of my juniors (that I had last year) coming to my room as soon as he arrived- like an hour before homeroom. He helped me get things set up, got some schedules that I was missing, fixed some posters that were falling and then greeted my freshman as I ran around trying to sort out some confusion that was going on.  A number of my kids from last year came straight to my room as soon as they got into school this morning which made me happy. One kid has the job of changing the date on my board every morning...largely because I just forget. So this morning he came in, and immediately changed the board from June 18th (which I never erased) to September 9th. A couple other kids them even went late to their homerooms because their bus was late and instead of going straight to homeroom they came to see me first. Love them.

Every year I think about whether or not I want to play 31derful. Part of me is a little sentimental because it's been my first day activity since my first year but part of me gets bored repeating activities and wants to try new things. So I think about it every year and every year I decide to play...and I'm never disappointed. And every year I remember how great of an activity this is.

This year was no different. I played today with 2 out of my 4 classes (it was a little too challenging for one period and another period played last year with me)

Some things that come to mind from today:

  • My first period that played did awesome. They were freshman that all came from different districts so it got them talking and working with people they didn't know, and they did really well. Out of 6 groups, 2 of them were able to get a solution (which I consider great).
  • Something new that I did this year was to have groups try to explain their strategy in writing once they completed the puzzle.
  • I always tell the groups that Aces are worth 11 and they can't be 1. This is mainly just because that was the way the game was played where I found it. For the past 7 years, I've held firm on this rule but in all honestly I'm not sure that mathematically it makes all that much of a difference. So during my last period, they told me that it would be sooo much easier if Aces could just be 1. I told them to go for it and see what happened. 
  • One kid told me that he was just going to google the answer. I felt pretty confident that he wasn't going to be able to so I let him try. I figured there was no harm, at least he's taking initiative into trying to find an answer. In less than 5 minutes his phone was back on his desk because he realized it wasn't going to work.
  • And a random fun fact: I don't call this game 31-derful with my kids. With high school kids that don't know me I feel a bit cheesy standing up on the first day and saying we're playing "31-derful" so instead it's become the "31-Game"

Perfect 10
Upon meeting one of my other periods I realized quickly that 31derful was going to be too challenging. Instead I switched it up with them and we played perfect 10. Each group deals out 5 random playing cards from 2-9. Their goal is to use as many/few numbers as they can to make problems that have 10 as an answer. Each problem they create gets a score based on how many numbers they used.

So for example let's say they dealt out these:
Some options might be:
  5 + 5 = 10  --> 2 pts
  9 + 5 - 4 = 10  --> 3 pts
  9 - 5 + 4 + 9 - 7 = 10  --> 5 pts
  (5*4)/(9-7) = 10  --> 4 pts

It's a nice game to get a quick idea of where they number sense skills are at. And for kids that hit a wall, I'll walk over and give them a nudge in the right direction. I may pull out the 9, 5, and 4 and tell them that I know for sure these will work and it makes the task a little easier, while still making them think.

Notice & Wonder
My two freshman classes today started first thing with noticing and wondering things about school. It was kinda funny because they looked at me like I was a little crazy when I told them to write down things they noticed. I told them that I knew this sounded like an odd request, but they were free to write down anything at all. They had a little bit of an easier time wondering, which I expected since they are brand new to the school and mostly don't know anyone at all. A number of them wrote down things they were wondering about school so I think tomorrow I'll take some time to talk about some of those things..maybe go over the school map briefly since "I wonder if I'll get lost" was the most frequent wondering. In general though I was happy with it, my goal was to get them going with the idea of Noticing and Wondering so by the time we get to try it with math stuff they'll at least be comfortable with the procedure.

Calendar Math
My geometry class is a group of kids that I had last year and absolutely love. I modified @heatherkohn's calendar math project and am using it with them as an algebra review. Since I had them all last year, I was able to choose problems specifically for them that I knew they could handle. My calendar is a mix of the ones posted by @heatherkohn and @chrisrime (here).

At the moment, I am planning to do this monthly as a year long algebra review. Every month I will hand out the calendar on the first of the month and it will be due at the end of the month.

So I gave this out at the end of the geometry period and gave them about 10 minutes to start working and they made me very happy. They all have their own personal tray in my room to keep stuff so most of them left it there at the end of the period. One kid was doing an awesome job in class so I went back later to peek at his and found all of the other stuff I gave him in there, but the calendar and his work gone. Which means that he voluntarily took it home to work on..on the first day of school. Love.

This is the version I ended up with for September:
I realized today that the pdf saved weird...26 should be -2(4-17) and 28 should have 4(x+30) on the top 
Download the pdf here. Unfortunately I do not have an editable one to share, but check out Heather and Chris's. I made mine using Chris's and just changed some of the problems.

Also during my geometry period I had them set up their ISNs.  I bought notebooks for them because I knew I wanted to get started immediately. So waiting in their tray was a composition notebook, a spiral notebook and a couple other things I was giving them. I loved that they were excited for the composition notebooks because they knew exactly what that meant. Setting them up was so easy. We did the table of contents, made the folder in the back, entered the first 10 pages into the TOC, entered page headings on pages 1-2 and taped in the course guide...all in a span of honestly like than 10 minutes.

And by far my favorite moment of the day was one of my kids telling me that he panicked yesterday trying to find his ISN from last year because he HAD to bring it to school. And he didn't even know yet that he had me again. He was so relieved when I reminded him that I had it because I collected them all last year to hold on to. However, as soon as he started working on his calendar math problems he asked me for his notebook and I had to admit that I had left them all at my apartment because I had too much to carry this morning. I have to make sure for sure that I bring them in tomorrow.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Roommate Problem

I'm teaching geometry for the first time this year and I must admit originally I wasn't all that enthused. I think this is mainly just because I've never taught it before and the geometry that I remember was memorization of endless theorems and two column proofs. I have an awesome group of kids though and I'm excited about that so it's giving me extra motivation to put time into planning things that are great.

This week I sat down to start planning and started to read through the standards. I came things that were exactly why I wasn't thrilled about geometry. Things like this:
From G.CO.9: "points on a perpendicular bisector of a line segment are exactly those equidistant from the segment's endpoint" 
Ouch. Such a terrible way to phrase an idea that's actually fairly intuitive. The last thing I want to do is have kids copy down a definition, then try to explain it to kids that are already turned off, and then give them a sheet of practice problems.

So this is my idea for a task that would address this idea, with a low entry point that establishes the need for the mathematics.

You and a friend have just gotten new jobs and have decided that you will live together.  You would like to find a place to live where you will be an equal distance from both of your jobs.  Use the map to decide where you could live.

these two points are completely random

The first place I'd expect them to go would be to find the midpoint.  In actually creating this task, I might try to make it so that there is a problem with the midpoint..maybe it's in the middle of a highway or lake or something so they would have to find other places that work.

My goal would be to get them to create a segment between the two jobs and then to create the perpendicular bisector, maybe by measuring or folding or whatever they decide.

To add more to the task, I may also put in a stipulation that says you only want to live at most some number of miles away so that they would have to construct circles as well. And ultimately I'd like to have them get on an actually google map, draw in their perpendicular bisector line and search for any apartment complexes that would be on their line. I think I'd try to design the map in a way so that there are a couple on the line to choose from too.

I also think that a great way to start this would be using Have students make predictions and then we could compare their estimates to the line.

I would wait until the end to add in the formal geometry of it. That:

  • the line they used to connect the jobs is a segment
  • the jobs themselves are the endpoints
  • the line of all the places they could live is perpendicular bisector (and why)
  • that all the points on the line are equidistant from both jobs

At this point, hopefully the ideas wouldn't be confusing because they would have informally have already thought about all these things on their own and developed their own meanings already. By discussing the formal language at the end, all it does is assign the vocabulary to things they already know.

At the moment I don't think it's an especially long task or one that's really all that challenging. I don't mind really that though. Unfortunately I don't have the time to draw every single topic out into a week long project so short tasks are ok with me. I think that it does a good job of giving the standard some context and making it relatable which I'm happy with.

So I'd like input on this. Is there anywhere else you could see it going? Any ideas to make it better or include more learning targets? I'm admittedly new to geometry, so apologies in advance for things that are less than's all a work in progress.

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