Saturday, December 26, 2015

A book I've read....I'm reading...I want to read

I'm going to try this #MTBoS12days of blogging. Though now it might mean that I occasionally blog more than once per day!

Today's blog topic: A book I've read...A book I'm reading...and A book I want to read

I've read: The Whole30: The 30-day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

As a girl that has struggled with binge-eating disorder for many years, and whose yo-yo dieting all the way through my mid-twenties made it hard to keep off weight, this book really DID give me food freedom. I confirmed what I already knew about dairy (no-go for my stomach), found out that me and Soy don't get along, but...most importantly, I figured out that I am [scarily] addicted to sugar. Whole30 was thirty full days without any sweeteners, whether real or fake, and I was able to get rid of all cravings for sweet treats. Then, upon reintroduction, it was clear that I was an addict. Truly. In a scary way. I know it's not a hard drug, but I felt like a drug addict once I reintroduced sugar. So, I cut it out of my diet again. I tried to explain how important this was in my life to my family, and they GOT it. No cookies at home this Christmas. They have gone out of their way to make sure my (and my wife's) food don't have sweeteners. It has been AMAZING. I kept a lot of what I learned in Whole30 in my everyday food choices, but the wife and I are doing another full Whole30 starting January 1. Join me? Interested in more? Ask me or check out their website!

I'm reading: All Our Names, by Dinaw Mengestu

This is a book I've been interested in reading for awhile, and then someone at my school started a book club and this was our first read! I'm not very far into it yet, but looking forward to it!

I want to read: Furiously Happy, by Jenny Lawson

If you haven't read Jenny Lawson's first book (Let's Pretend this Never Happened), it is hilarious while also talking about her dealing with some mental health issues. I'm looking forward to reading her next one!

ALSO want to read: Mathematical Mindsets, by Jo Boaler

Isn't this a given?

Monday, November 30, 2015

Approaches to Assessment

I thought to myself over this 5-day weekend that I'm really glad I'm the kind of person that wants to keep learning and growing as a teacher. Those are the people I am surrounded with each day. I love getting links to interesting articles (keep sending them, Miriam!) and trying new strategies in class. For that reason, we (Miriam and I in our Geometry Honors class) decided to attempt a different way of grading our most recent assessment.

We read Carmel Schettino's blog about Why Teachers Don't give Feedback instead of Grades, and Why we Should. If you haven't read it yet, I suggest starting there -- though I will also warn you of getting lost down the rabbit hole of amazing math teacher blogs. It still happens to me all the, no shame in that! In short, Carmel wanted to give feedback without a grade after students took a major assessment - and then give students the opportunity (in class) to USE that feedback and make corrections on their work.

Is this how you generally feel when grading?

The process of grading was definitely time consuming. And we "screwed up" right from the start. My class was a few days ahead of Miriam's class, so my students took the Problem Set (what we're calling our assessments...more on this later) before hers. Generally, I have no problem with this. However, we should have given them on the same day so that we could grade together. Especially as our first time using the rubric, I see the importance of this now. It would have been great to be sitting together and helping one another with the feedback to give and whether or not something fell in the "3" or "2" category.

But I agree with Carmel -- students don't look at the feedback if there is a grade attached. Without the grades, they read my comments and used them to try and improve or correct where they went wrong the first time. Students knew we were going to do this the next day in class. I also started class by opening up and projecting the rubric and talking them through it.

Another problem for us is that we don't technically do Standards-Based Grading. When we wrote the assessment, we didn't make each part out of 3 scoring them at the end was tough. Some were worth 6, others 9. So it wasn't HARD, just time consuming. We know better for next time now. If we give larger problems, we will simply make parts of them each worth 3 points to fit into the rubric.

I also think I will read the entire rubric with students again before the next assessment. I want to have a larger conversation about what a "3" means, etc.

Something that was really awesome: Since the rubric separates conceptual understanding and the mechanical skills needed to solve the problems, it was so evident when a student fully understood all the Geometry concepts, but didn't have the Algebra skills to finish solving a problem. One student hasn't been earning the grades he wanted all year and I was able to see that it really was his mechanics that were holding him back. It's awesome to look at it from that lens and see very clearly where he needed to focus his attention.

To sum it up...the rubric did several things that Carmel originally wanted (and that Miriam and I also wanted)

  • Revisions were done in class 
  • Revisions were the students own work (we did tell them that they would be doing these revisions the next day in class and that their only homework was essentially to look-up/study anything they wanted, but to not talk to other students about the problems)
  • Instead of immediately being a summative assessment, it became a sort of formative assessment and allowed for learning to take place DURING the assessment
Changes/Improvements/Other thoughts
  • Miriam and I need to grade TOGETHER next time! 
  • We found that students might not have thought they actually got a problem wrong after taking the assessment the first day -- so they didn't look up anything about that problem. I think we find a way to encourage students to revisit all problems that might be helpful...
  • All problems (or parts of problems) must be worth 3 points to make for an easier time totaling a score at the end

I have some other thoughts on ways to change assessments for next semester....and was inspired by the posts over at Experience First Mathematics (Blake School)  -- but that will have to be another blog post...this one is already too long! 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Unknown Unknowns Project

Quick blog to share info on this project: 

I called it the "Unknown Unknowns" project, since there are many things my students don't know that they don't know....not sure if it's a perfect name...but it made sense to me! 

Here is the info I provided on a handout: 


Get ready mathletes!  It's time to learn some exciting mathematics! This project will require some hard work on your part, but I'm certain you will find the process rewarding.  I have come up with a list of possible topics. From those, we will sign up (I would like no two pairs to have the same topic!) for our topics.

Penrose Tiles
Pascal’s Triangle
Golden Ratio
Bridges of Konigsburg
Knot Theory
Mobius Strip
Game Theory
Math & Music
Voting Theory
Fibonacci Numbers
History of the Abacus
Four-color Theorem
Monty Hall Problem
Math & Modern Art
Zeno’s Paradoxes
Ada Lovelace
Parabolic Ski Design
Math NOT in base 10

The end result of the project will be a ten-minute presentation to our class (such as a Prezi or video).  Your presentation must be done on a computer.  Within the presentation, you must include some kind of activity for your audience to participate in. This could be a handout, quiz, activity, etc. I would also like a formal write-up of at least 300 words with citations. Through the course of the next couple weeks we will have some class time to work. So, be prepared to use that time wisely!

You must have at least three sources (non-wikipedia), and those sources must be cited (APA in text citations and References page). Each project must contain a historical component and images that make sense for your topic.

Timeline of Project Completion:

Monday, April 13 (Period 1)
Tuesday, April 14 (Period 7)
·            Project introduction
·            Topic Selection
Friday, April 17 (Period 1)
Monday, April 20 (Period 7)
·            Research time with Ms. Imhoff in our classroom
Friday, April 24
·            Progress Check (10 points)
·            Must be able to show some research completed at this point
Monday, May 4
·            Projects Due!
o   Turn in written portion and planned student activity
o   Upon request, be willing to show Ms. Reycer   your Prezi
Monday, May 11
·            Presentations Begin!
·            Ms. Reycer will email a schedule of presentations!

This was the timeline I used last year -- will probably try something similar in the Spring again -- but would love thoughts, suggestions, additions, etc! 

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Transitioning to PBL

I have been lucky enough this year to collaborate closely with a teacher new to our school, Miriam (@msinger216). She brings a wealth of knowledge from teaching at Deerfield with Carmel Schettino (@SchettinoPBL). We decided at the beginning of the year to "throw out" the old, traditional textbook and adopt the curriculum that Deerfield has been using (a collaboration between Deerfield Academy, Emma Willard School, and Phillips Exeter Academy).

Whoa has it been a whirlwind!

I have learned (and I'm still learning) SO MUCH.

I plan to post another blog VERY soon about a new way of grading assessments that Carmel developed and that Miriam and I used recently. But right now, I need to just word vomit my thoughts on what we've done so far this year.

  • Fully taking on a Problem-Based Curriculum is HARD. I think it truly takes a master teacher to have it be effective. There are so many small conversations that come out of just ONE problem. And sometimes I feel like I even miss things, though I am doing the problems before the students are doing them. I know that next year, it will be a little easier. 
  • Working ahead is essential. Too often, I find myself scrambling to do problems to know what length to make the next assignment. I know I need to get several pages ahead, and making time for that should be a priority. 
  • Having the FULL support of your administration is so important. There has been some push-back from parents this year. I get that they don't understand what we're doing. In a perfect world, they would try to understand it instead of attacking it because it's not the way they learned math (or their older kids learned it at the same school). If that is an argument against what we're doing, it's not a good one. Students of today are not the same as students of years past. We need them to be nimble problem solvers and critical thinkers that can decide which tool to grab out of their toolbox. 
  • I need to figure out when I think it's important to do something by hand versus doing it in Desmos or Geogebra. There are many problems that are made much simpler by solving them with technology. But, I also value being able to solve equations algebraically. Sometimes I want an EXACT answer versus approximate. But how often is it important? (I really would love feedback on this...will probably tweet about it too.) 
  • Going through these problems myself really helps me to better understand geometry. I have AHA moments in the classroom just like the kids do. And this is just pure FUN!
That might be all for now. Hopefully over Thanksgiving break, I'll blog about using Carmel's rubric and how it went in my classes. And what I learned from it, how to change it, etc.

Do you have thoughts, ideas, suggestions, comments? Please leave them below! You want to collaborate or chat? I'm up for that too! 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Positive Notes and an Interesting Problem

You ever have that math conference hangover? You get about 21 great ideas at a conference and try to figure out how you'll incorporate one/some/all of them ASAP. Luckily, this has happened to me so many times that I would like to think I won't fall victim to it again.

In fact, one of the things the keynote speaker said last Friday was that we can really only expect to change 10% of what we do each year. So, last Friday I made some attainable goals, and instead of writing student narrative comments (that are due on Monday), I thought I'd blog about those goals instead.

I wrote my five positive notes this week - and it FELT GREAT just to write them. Saw four of the students and gave them their cards yesterday and I'll see the other one today. I also decided that I should include adults in this exercise as well. The teachers at my school are amazing and deserve some kudos too! I did write down all my students' names and put a check mark next to those that I wrote notes to this week. I'd like to make sure I write a note to each one of my students before the school year is over!

Doesn't everyone need to hear this?

I used WODB this week in Pre-Calc and hearing the justifications was FUN! I will definitely be doing that more often. 

I have been reading a ton of blogs, and everyday working on how to be a better teacher in a classroom with ProblemBL curriculum. 

Alright. This is short, and more for my own reflection than anything else. And I really need to start those comments....but I'll leave you with a great problem that created a lot of conversation in my classroom this week: 

"Alex is in the desert again, 10 km from a long straight road and 45 km from base camp, also in the desert.  Base camp is also 10 km from the road on the same side of the road that Alex is.  On the road, the jeep can do 50 kph, but in the desert sands, it can manage only 30 kph. Alex wants to return to base camp as quickly as possible after driving on the road to collect a dirt sample.  How quickly can he manage this trip?"

My freshmen in Geometry Honors were working on this problem -- Any thoughts?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Too Late to set 2015-2016 Goals?

I'd like to think it's not too late to set some specific goals for the 2015-2016 school year.

I stumbled upon a blog post (read as: I fell down the rabbit hole of math teacher blogs today) and thought that creating a similar blog would be super helpful!

Classroom Environment/Teaching

  • Greet every student by name, everyday. I want to say each student's name out loud each day. There's something about being directly spoken to. I'd like to think I do this regularly, but I'm afraid there are some students that might not have their name said by their teacher each time they see them.
  • Use sites like Estimation 180 and Which One Doesn't Belong? to get kids talking about math (possibly as warm-ups?) 
  • Create a culture where students aren't afraid of making mistakes in class. (Think of the clip "Making mistakes makes us smarter.")
  • Make the classroom more cozy. It needs posters, etc! 
  • I want to revive my positive notes. In the past, I used to make it a point to give a student a positive note each day. One student per day (or sometimes all five on a Friday because that's when I had time for it.) I'd love to have the positive focus be on their perseverance in math, etc., but I am also happy just giving them some positive feedback for anything I noticed throughout the week. This not only makes the students feel good - it really made me feel good too! 
  • I'm using a brand new curriculum in Geometry this year - and it's fully Problem-Based. So I want to keep improving in my teaching practice where this is concerned (this is probably WAY to general to get a bullet point, but important for me to think about!)
  • My school is using Canvas this year. I want to use this in a way that makes sense to my students and isn't too crazy for me! 
  • Read more Blogs! I just signed up for Feedly, so I have a place to keep all the blogs I want to follow (though I'm looking for more!) 
  • Tweet! Join #slowmathchat more often. Attend Global Math Department Tuesday meetings when relevant. 

What did I get from CCTM?

At every conference, I feel like I get great reminders. What SHOULD I be focusing on in the classroom? What small tips can I pick up that will help my teaching practice?

Today, Mindy and I headed down to the Denver Merchandise Mart for the CCTM (Colorado Council of Teachers of Mathematics) conference.

We started with a mini-session on Twitter - nothing new for us "pro" users, but still great to connect with other twitter users at a place like this!

My next two sessions both focused on tasks that were "rich." They promote productive struggle (thanks NCTM for that phrase...)

The first one directly relates to what I'm teaching right now in Geometry - working with figuring out the set of points that is equidistant from any two endpoints creates the perpendicular bisector of that segment. Definitely gave me a new problem to use next week -- we've been working with points only in the coordinate plane. But, I'm not certain my students would know what to do if I just gave them two points in space. I'm super interested to see what approaches they might take!

Second session felt a little like a sales pitch for IMP curriculum, but definitely brought out great conversations about what the culture of your classroom needs to include in order to have successful student dialogue and to allow students to feel comfortable presenting (and making mistakes!) in class.

My favorite stuff came just after lunch. We attended a BLAST! session (read as: it was only 30 minutes) on Twitter, Blogs, and Networking for Math Teachers. Considering that is the topic of the PLC I'm leading this year, it was super helpful!

Decided to sign up on Feedly to get all the awesome math blogs I love in one place. I haven't used an RSS feed or some such fancy technological contraption since college. I think I just got busy with life and teaching. But there are some amazing MTBoS folks blogging about super interesting things!

Needless to say, I've spent the last hour finding blogs to follow and following a ton more of the #MTBoS folks on Twitter. I think I need to be more vocal on social media this year. Look out for more blogs and tweets from me!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Mission #4: Resources

  1. Explore some websites to use with your students.
  2. Visit some websites for your own professional growth.
  3. Comment on this post about what else you’ve discovered.
The MathTwitterBlogosphere is filled with all sorts of amazing resources. You’ve certainly run across some of them as you’ve browsed blogs and Twitter, but there are always still more to find. Here are a few of our favorites. If you discover others in your explorations please leave them in the comments!
At the NCTM booth we had informational pages on many resources. Check out the static pages and then follow the links below to the interactive version!
These are some sites that are fun for you and your students to engage with:
Here’s a site to share with parents to help them engage their kids in mathematical conversation and play: Talking Math With Your Kids.
Analyze some Math Mistakes teachers have submitted, work with other commenters to pinpoint what the student’s misunderstanding is and brainstorm how to help the student correct the mistake. Learn and share how to help students avoid some of their mistakes caused by lack of conceptual development at Nix the Tricks.
When you’re frustrated with all the mistakes students make, remind yourself why you teach by reading several teachers’ One Good Thing from each day of school. In all your spare time, refill your enthusiasm repository to overflowing by attending Twitter Math Camp.
Are you a first year teacher? Here are some letters to you: Letter to a New Teacher. This is just one of many Math Themed Memes, coined #matheme that people have participated in.
On Tuesday nights the MTBoS community holds Global Math Department meetings via webinar. It’s the department and PD you’ve always wished for. You can attend in your pajamas.
If you’d like a window inside a variety of math classrooms, in two minute clips, check out Mathagogy. And here’s another window inside an even wider variety of (mostly math) classrooms, in full-day recaps: A Day in the Life of a Teacher.
Thanks for exploring with us and keep on sharing!

Mission #3: Organize

So you’re reading blogs! You’re tweeting! Awesome. I knew you could!
Hopefully you’ve found some resources you like and some voices online that resonate with you.
So how do you keep in touch with all of this? How do you keep pace with all of the tweets and posts and ideas that your online colleagues are generating? Let’s talk about tools and time.
But first: Everyone wrangles the MTBoS differently. We all have our favorite tools and methods and apps and haunts. You’ll figure out what works for you. A great first step is just knowing what all is available and possible. The run-down below highlights a few, but you should really get a diversity of opinions from people who you suspect might operate similarly to you. So your first assignment is to ask someone how they stay organized in the MTBoS. You can tweet to them, leave them a comment on their blog, write them an email, or ask them in person. We grant you 100% permission. 😀


There are a number of tools that you might use to help collect and streamline your online feasting.
There are better ways to keep up with blogs that you like than just visiting them on occasion to see what’s new. For blogs that you like, you might subscribe to them by email. Whenever the blogger publishes a new post, you’ll get an email with the blog post pasted right there in it. How conveeeeenient!
You can often find
You can often find “follow by email” button in blog sidebars, like this one on Kate Nowak’s blog.
As you follow more blogs, you may want to have a special place for blog posts other than your email inbox. That’s what an RSS reader is for. Whenever someone publishes a new post, the RSS fairy pushes out magical dustings of…well, I don’t know all of the technical details of RSS. The important thing is that a RSS reader is like an inbox for blog posts. It gathers every new blog post from blogs you want to keep track of.
An RSS reader: an inbox for blog posts. This reader is called feedly.
There are lots of different RSS readers. I use Feedly, Tina uses Digg Reader, and others like The Old Reader. You’ll find one that works for you.
For Twitter, there are many options for reading your feed. You can use the website. On computers, there are two clients that Twitter produces, Twitter and Tweetdeck. Twitter is simpler, while Tweetdeck allows you to have multiple columns. There are also clients that third-party companies have created, like Hootsuite, and there are also a variety of phone apps available for you to keep up with tweets on your mobile device.
All of these are a little different and can be configured in bunches of ways. Find the right combination for you!


Having a MTBoS routine can be helpful. I mean, you’re going to fall into some kind of behavior pattern anyway, so why not take some conscious control over it?
Maybe you’ll have a weekly check-in time. Maybe you’ll look at your Twitter feed every morning. Maybe you’ll have as a goal to read one blog post a week and comment on it. Maybe there’s a regular Twitter chat that you’d like to make a regular appearance at.
Who knows what you will do! You’ll have to figure it out. Get ideas and opinions from others about how they wrangle things, and just pay attention to your own habits and what feels productive, uplifting, and energizing to you. Participating in the MTBoS is not an obligation. You’re doing it for you—for your professional growth and to be a part of a inspiring math ed community. Also, know that if you take a long break from the MTBoS, you will be able to pick things right back up whenever you return, and people will be glad to see you.

Strategies Shared:

Let me leave you with a couple of blog posts by MTBoSers who have shared some thought about their own systems and strategies for managing their online resources and feeds:
Know of one that’s not listed here? Please leave a link on the comments!