Tuesday, January 12, 2016

A Day in the Life



4:00am: The alarm sounds. The cat is already meowing, and luckily the coffee is already brewed (thank you automatic timer!)

4:10am-4:40am: Drink coffee. Read Twitter. Chat with the wife. Read blogs. Snuggle the dog. Get ready to go workout.

4:50am: Arrive at OrangeTheory Fitness. Have an awesome hour workout!

6:05am: Arrive back home to shower, make breakfast, pack lunch, and take the dog (Einstein) to daycare!



7:20am: After dropping off Einstein, arrive at school and take a look at the day's plans. Got to touch base with several teachers, grab a cup of coffee, work with a student who missed class due to illness, eat most of my breakfast (roasted sweet potatoes, arugula, eggs, and avocado...yum!), and still get to class 5 minutes before it started!

7:55am: I walk into my classroom (we have shared classroom spaces and our "home base" is a shared office space), and my Geometry students have already put the problems up around the room and a few are writing down their solutions on the whiteboard (we use a Problem-Based Curriculum, where each day in class is mostly spent talking about their solutions from problems they tried the night before). We spend the hour sitting around a big table and having awesome math conversations! We finished the problems with 5 minutes to spare, so we decided to do a few "WODB" problems. Super fun!

9:05am: This period is an hour of proctoring. This period is one of my off periods - and once every cycle (we run a 7 day cycle), I proctor. This means that if students miss class, teachers can put their assessments in a bin and every period of the day (and even for an hour after school), there is a teacher to proctor for them. No individual make-up schedules are needed -- it's pretty awesome! Since it's the beginning of the semester, no one showed up today, which just means I got to work on my blog and start to make a spreadsheet for AP Test billing (I'm also the AP Coordinator for my school.)

10:05am: Break! We have a break scheduled in everyday except Wednesday (we have late start on Wednesday instead), and often students will come in to get help. I had three today working through some homework questions. I refilled my water and was off to the next class!

10:20am: This is my first Precalc class today, and we're working on a trig unit. We started with a timed unit circle. Students are attempting to beat their accuracy/time from the last time they did it. Everyone made improvements today! We then spent time going over homework and then working on a quiz review at their tables (4 to a table). Students had LOTS of questions, so I was walking around the whole time! (5500 steps today already!)

11:45am: Our community time today was assembly. We had a representative from FCD: Freedom from Chemical Dependency. She was awesome! Played a game of Simon Says (the best I've ever seen!) and related all of it to drug use. They'll be here all week working with our sophomore students and parents and available for all students to talk to during lunch. They also meet with the seniors at some point too.

12:05pm: Office hours. I had 4 students in today working through the Unit Circle in more detail, and one geometry student that was stuck on one of last night's homework problems.

12:35pm: Finally got to heat up my lunch! I decided to stay in my office to eat so I could not be as rushed walking up to the dining hall. (I should mention we have amazing lunch, and it's free for faculty, but I'm currently doing #Whole30, so I bring all my food!) Sidenote: my division head mentioned how much he enjoyed overhearing my math conversation during office hours! Win! While eating, a student stopped by to tell me she wasn't feeling well, so I tried to fill her in on what she would be missing.

1:05pm: Class time! Back to Geometry again. Students were presenting problems at the board, and we had some great discussion about problems. I take notes while students are presenting on who is contributing to class, who is taking notes, and I also write the names of the students presenting solutions and write their solutions. (This is the first year I've taught with these materials, so I think it's super important to write everything down!)
(I asked students if I could take this picture and post it on my blog....then they wanted to know what my blog was. So I might have some freshmen reading my math teacher blog. I don't know how exciting they'll find it, but okay!)

2:10pm: Last class of the day! Starting with a timed unit circle (this is my other Pre-Calc class!) We did the same things as my earlier Pre-Calculus class. 

3:10pm: Technically the end of the day...but stayed in the classroom to work with a student for another 10 minutes. Then came back to my office where I had two more students waiting and worked with them another 20 minutes! 

3:30pm: Tutored a student in Geometry for an hour!

4:30pm: Working on some remaining AP work before heading to pick up Einstein from daycare! Phew! Then home to heat up dinner and relax with my wife. What a day! 

*Update* Left work at 5:30pm after working on AP stuff. After picking up the dog, arrived home at 6:15pm and immediately had to jump on my computer to answer a few student emails and post an answer key I (somehow) forgot to post before leaving work. Phew! Dinnertime?





Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Pre-Calc lesson on Arc Length and Sector Area

I'm trying to stay up-to-date with blogging about things I'm trying in my classes. Again, nothing sparkly or fancy, but it was so much better than standing at the board and giving formulas!

First, we started with this handout: (found in my Google Drive, here - Named "Sector Handout"...as always, if you want this in an editable version, just let me know!)

*Note that I made copies on separate paper...one sided and only gave this side first*

Students did this at their tables. I pushed students to include units and give both approximate and exact answers. They didn't need a "special" formula! They figured it out on their own. 

After we summarized those two problems, I asked students to push themselves to come up with general formulas for both. We wrote them on the board, and several students wrote them down on that paper. Then, I asked students to do the same but in radians. They quickly figured out that the only thing that needed change in the formula was 360 becoming 2pi. (*Note here: I don't have students simplify those formulas, with the exception of S=(theta)*r. I explained to them that simplifying the formulas doesn't help my understanding of them. If they choose to do it, that's fine.) 

Then, I had them put those papers away and gave them the second sheet: 

I asked that they try to write (or even derive again) the formulas without looking at what we just did (I had already erased the whiteboard). They had no problem doing it! Clear to see that there was no real memorization required! 

I had to help students along on problems #1 and 2, but those were awesome too. And they were able to figure them out without me standing at the board and doing examples first. Another resource for you should you want it! 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Intro to Angles in Degrees and Radians

Yesterday, I started a new chapter with my Pre-Calculus students and we were to talk about angles in standard position, negative angles, and coterminal angles - all in both degrees and radians. At the suggestion of a colleague, we decided to change the order we've talked about things in the past.

We used to intro it all together (degrees and radians) and on a bit of a whim, yesterday morning, we decided to intro the major concepts using degrees only, then do an activity to have students more clearly understand what a radian really is, then connect the ideas to radians.

It wasn't SUPER exciting, but it went SUPER well.

Link to my documents (I changed the blank file to a PDF, but if you want the Smart Notebook file, just let me know!) here. (Both the blank and completed notes are there)

What I might change:

  • The smaller the students made their circles in the activity, the less accurate their measurements were. 
  • Also -- I needed to tell them to mark their center (otherwise measuring the radius was quite difficult.)
  • The second time around was SO much better. Since their measurements for the angle were all near 58 degrees, I thought it would be a good idea to find the degree measure of 1 radian...I didn't think to do that in the first class. 
  • I think it would have also been beneficial to talk about the quadrantal angles in terms of radians at this point. When we talked about a full revolution being 2pi, it would have been a good time to hit the others. Next time! 
  • As a note...we shared out their info after the activity and talked about its significance. Was it likely that we all had drawn the same circle? It was a short but important conversation!
Overall, it was nothing fancy, but it went well. I'm trying to take Kate Nowak's lead and post some of the good, but possibly more boring stuff too! (Wish I would have taken pictures! I need to get more in the habit of this!) 



Monday, January 4, 2016

A New Start: First Day Back!

So, January gives us all the feelings of a new start (even if it is in the middle of the school year). It actually works quite well at my school, as our semester ended before break and a new one began today.

My friend, and necessary accomplice in my mission to implement a Problem-Based Curriculum, Miriam and I met this morning to talk about changes/thoughts/moving forward in Geometry.

(Have I mentioned that I love having the same planning period as all the other math teachers in the high school?)

As a result of this conversation/meeting, I started one of my Geometry class periods (the other one doesn't meet today) talking about these important things:


  • We had made a poster of Class Norms at the beginning of the year. We reviewed them and talked about how we had done with them during the first semester. We also toyed with the idea of adding/subtracting (or "multiplying/dividing" as one student suggested..."why limit ourselves to just those operations?") from the list, but decided we were happy with it. 
  • We reviewed the rubric for Class Contribution, so students have it fresh in their minds. 
  • I gave some tips on subtle things they could/should do for improvement (make sure their phones are always put away, leave more room in their notebook for each problem, etc)
  • Talked about a new policy to allow for retakes on Skills Quizzes (and require a retake if the score is 6/10 or lower...would love your feedback on this!) 
Then we jumped into solving some problems. I thought it was worth the 15-20 minutes we spent on it. And students asked great questions, and it helped to bring us back to the idea of us being a community! 

That's my success for the first day back!