This is my daughter. She decided to go out for 8th grade Volleyball. While she didn’t make the team, she was asked to be a manager. She attends and participates in practices and on game days, she travels with the team and helps to keep the score book. What that means for me is between her schedule and my son’s schedule (piano and flag football), Mom’s taxi has been running an awful lot in August and September.

Now, while that doesn’t have to do with my classes, it does have to do with why I haven’t had the time or energy to blog. So, here’s at least a quick update of what’s going on in my classes.

Things I am really happy about in my classes:

- The use of organizational folders in all classes. Thanks to Sam for sharing this! Although many days I am barely getting stuff run off in time to put them in folders, it is forcing me to work on thinking ahead so that I can get the folders ready to go in time. It also forces me to think through all parts of the lesson and to make sure I have everything in there.
- Working on doing more #lessonclose activities. This was not in my original list of things I was working on this year. Shelli had blogged about her “ring-o-prompts” and I printed them out and created my own in August. I thought I would put it on my desk for when I was looking for ideas for exit ticket prompts. I have been haphazardly using them, but I am using them more than I did in previous years. I kind of got away from #lessonclose this past week (something about barely being on top of stuff), but the visible reminder is there and I am trying to include the close more often.
- Switching of groups every week in Algebra 2. We switch every Wednesday, which I really like because then there is a little break in the middle if group members are not working well plus I don’t have to add making groups to my weekend list.

Things I would like to improve:

- Math in Your Life: I have students bring something in that is math in the “real world” and they explain a little bit about it. They just did their second one on Friday and I was out of class, so I have yet to see what they came up with. Many of the first ones were restaurant receipts, so they were banned this time around (and probably will be for the year). I definitely need to work on this idea and will need to think about tweaking the directions as we go on this school year.
- Utilizing students being in groups better. This is not something I have done much in the past. Need to figure this out better.
- Time management. Right now I am barely on top of things. It seems like I just get caught up and cannot get ahead. Personal goal for me in the next week is to be working to get ahead so I have more time to think about what I’m teaching for longer than a day.
- Twitter / blog involvement. I haven’t really been on Twitter and I miss it a bit. I need to get back to reading blogs for it helps me think of better things to do in my classroom (and in some cases, take the activities as is and use them!). I need to make a regular time to do this.

Some of my desired improvements may depend on me gaining a little more outside of school time. With running the kids and going to their activities, my outside of class time has filled up a bit. I am hoping to get a better balance in the next week or so. At least 8th grade volleyball ends in a little less than a month and hopefully by then, I’ll be much better settled.

]]>Well, I did this today. Still not totally sure about it, but I did it.

Also got lovely new VNPS over the summer. pic.twitter.com/tfyQjoI11z— Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) August 3, 2016

I’ve never really done group work well or consistently. But, with a nudge / inspiration from Alex Overwijk, I am going to work through this.

@lmhenry9 @MaryBourassa @fractallove314 if you make a small change tend to resort back to “old” self so make it so different that at the 1/2

— Alex Overwijk (@AlexOverwijk) July 28, 2016

@lmhenry9 @MaryBourassa @fractallove314 end it still looks different 2/2 pic.twitter.com/W7giWHqU75

— Alex Overwijk (@AlexOverwijk) July 28, 2016

So, here is my question –

How do you do groups in your (high school) classroom? How do you balance instruction (which I will need to do because it’s Algebra 2) with appropriate group oriented activities? Please either tweet me (@lmhenry9) or add it in the comments. Any and all help is appreciated.

]]>Tomorrow, kiddos come to school. Here is my classroom 2015-2016 edition:

Here is the doorway into my classroom. I will be doing my best to high five my students as they enter my classroom.

View of my classroom from the door when rounds one and two of classroom setup were done.

Similar view after round three finished up today. This is our second year where we have a school wide theme. At the end of the school year, our cheerleaders ask students to submit ideas and take the top or best three to the student body to vote on. This year, our theme is “Hollywood Red Carpet, Warriors are Stars!” Two of the bulletin boards have red fabric with gold stars on them, the other two have images of Hollywood on them.

Front of the classroom. Place for the date and a quote on this dry erase board. Above it is the YET poster from Sarah Carter. In fact, I have several from her poster page. Below that is a quote from the gentleman who was in charge of Webelos Camp at Seven Ranges – “Knowledge is earned, not gained.” He uses it with the boys with observation games (my favorite is Four is a Cosmic Number) to encourage them to not give the answer away when they are doing observation games.

My desk and computer. Also where I post our “I can” statements as we are supposed to each day.

Windows. On the top – the Three Essential Rules of Algebra courtesy of Glenn Waddell (the link to the posters are under the picture of them). Below are the Team Cups posters from Sarah Carter. I have added the actual cups besides the posters since this picture was taken.

Facing the back of the classroom from the front. On the left bulletin board, miscellaneous quotes. I am not 100 percent happy with this board and may very well change it. On the right, I have the hashtag #mathfail and have several posters from Sara VanDerWerf’s Math Wall of Shame. I have been shamelessly pulling stuff from Sara’s blog.

Cabinet side (and you can see my door to the hallway). Above, kid friendly versions of the Standards for Mathematical Practice. On the cabinets, the class Group Work Norms posters from Sarah Carter.

What I decided to do was not only assign each group a color, but give them a name as well. I was struggling on Saturday to come up with 6 movie names that were related that I was happy with. I ended up with the first six Star Wars movies since that’s what I came up with on Saturday. (Of course, this morning I thought of Disney or Pixar movies, but I had already done these by then.) I have clear acrylic 8″ x 10″ frames (I think I may have gotten these at Target, but tonight I had to go get one more since I was short one and went to Walmart where they were $1.87 each) with each card in them. I have laminated these so that they will last for the year hopefully. Idea for the acrylic frames is from Julie Reulbach. Font is Star Jedi.

Side view. Behind each group name is the INB caddy for each group. For tomorrow, there are glue sticks, tape, scissors, markers, and a deck of cards in them. This is way more than I usually put in them, but I was trying to get everything together to save time. Next to the caddy are the green, yellow, and red cups.

View of my classroom at the end of the day.

Close up of a finished group. Notice the addition of the folder. I have a folder (color coordinated by group) with each group’s materials for their INBs inside. On the outside, a post it with the class period. I have been wanting to do Sam Shah’s organization folders ever since I read the post when he published it in February, 2015. I even bought the folders before school started last year but never did it. As I was deciding to put students in groups and then decided to name the groups, it made sense in my brain to color code the groups, especially if someone really didn’t want to be a Star Wars movie group. So this group could be the purple group. When I had purchased the folders, I bought six different colors so it was pretty easy to make sure I mounted the movie information to different colors of card stock.

I was trying to minimize time in line getting materials tomorrow and when I thought about it, using the folders made sense. The only thing students have to pick up then is their yellow card stock page for their name tents with feedback that I have also stolen from Sara VanDerWerf. What dawned on me today is that at the end of the period, I can can students put their name tents into the folders. This will help me in a few ways. One, I will not have to take time to write down who was in what group during class time. I will know from whose tents are in the folder and I can write down the groups outside of class time. Two, I can take the folders home with the name tents in them so that I can write the feedback and have them together for the next day. Third, it will allow me to quickly get students their name tents back the next day. Win for me!

So, that concludes my tour around my classroom for 2016-2017 aka all the stuff I’ve stolen from the MTBoS. Thanks to everyone for the inspiration!

]]>(This post is very much a post about me. Very unlike me. I won’t be offended if you move along to read something else.)

You see (if you didn’t go and watch), at that moment, not only were people applauding our phenomenal crew who put together and performed the song, people were applauding me for having created this space we call TMC (paraphrasing the words on the slide). I don’t deal well with this part of doing TMC at all. I never have. The public recognition makes me uncomfortable, because this isn’t about me. It’s never been about me. Don’t get me wrong, I do honestly appreciate the recognition and all of the recognitions large and small that people have said or done over the last five TMCs.¹ But I don’t do TMC for the recognition.

So, why do I continue to organize TMC? After all, I do have a full time job, have two children who keep me hopping once school is over for the day, and other things that keep me busy also. Quite simply, it’s because I want to continue to learn from you all. I want to be the best teacher I can be and I aspire to be at least close to as good as I believe each of the teachers who are involved with the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere or who have attended TMC is.

I am struggling at the moment, quite a bit for me for it to be T minus 4 days until students. I broke my rule of not working on Saturdays to go up to school with the hope of getting all of the work done for the remainder of the week ahead done. I got everything done for the first day and that was it. I left disappointed. Still so much to do. And then I was listening to the TMC Party Anthem on the way home. And I was listening and Nathan was admitting that he wanted to steal all of your lessons, I was reminded that I feel exactly the same way. As I am getting ready for the start of the year, I have already incorporated an activity that Tony Riehl shared with me, stolen 3 or 4 things from Sara VanDerWerf (seriously, if you haven’t been to her blog, you have to check out what she does!), ~~pestered~~ asked Jonathan Claydon about how to redo Algebra 2, and that’s just what comes to mind at the moment.

I keep organizing TMC because then I know I’ll be able to learn from you each summer. You each inspire me to be the best teacher I can be. And because I know how awesome you all are, when I don’t reach my expectations (which are pretty high in and of themselves), I feel like not only am I letting down myself and my students, but you all as well. But I also know that as I stumble and struggle, all I have to do is reach out and you’ll be there.

Addendum: Well, all that and I can’t wait to see my friends each summer. I need to see y’all to renew and re-energize.

¹ For the record, I still use the wonderful Tervis cup that someone got me at TMC12. I never figured out who that was. So, whomever you are, thank you. There was never any way to properly thank you for thinking of me, so this will have to do.

]]>

It wasn’t without struggle.

I’m finally ready to hack my Alg2 curriculum to pieces & I find myself stalling. Doesn’t help that my computer chose to have probs now.

— Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) August 3, 2016

@stoodle I’ve taught Alg2 like 19 of my 24 years and mostly the same order / “way.” Really struggling with the final doing the change.

— Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) August 3, 2016

@stoodle And I can’t figure out why I’m struggling with putting it into a new order. I was so there at TMC16 & now, well…

— Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) August 3, 2016

@stoodle I have the ideas in my head, I think it’s just the physical doing of it that I’m stuck on. I just need to do it.

— Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) August 3, 2016

@lmhenry9 You can do it! Just open a new document and start writing for half an hour about the order you think it should go in.

— Mattie B (@stoodle) August 3, 2016

And with some pushing from Mattie and Sam (but I can’t seem to embed his tweet), I finally got around to working on it Friday morning.

So, here is my new (and improved, I hope!) Learning Target list for Algebra 2:

I look forward to reading your comments.

]]>@lmhenry9 how much do you do with your INB? I do a bit of @rawrdimis’s thing but I need to tweak

— Mattie B (@stoodle) July 24, 2016

This had started from a tweet I sent out looking for suggestions about what Elissa Miller had requsted: a unit summary sheet for the end of each unit in her class’ interactive notebooks (INBs for short).

Continuing our Twitter conversation:

@stoodle @lmhenry9 what tweaks are you thinking?

— Jasmine Walker (@jaz_math) July 24, 2016

@jaz_math @lmhenry9 kids were …sloppy with them. Didn’t see the point. I need more structure (but I’m not a foldables guy)

— Mattie B (@stoodle) July 24, 2016

@jaz_math @lmhenry9 also I assign homework so it’s difficult to leave in the room

— Mattie B (@stoodle) July 24, 2016

@lmhenry9 @jaz_math do you have homework?

— Mattie B (@stoodle) July 24, 2016

@stoodle A lot. I’m more like @rawrdimus than all the foldables.

— Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) July 24, 2016

@stoodle @jaz_math I don’t have hw in them. Maybe I’ll blog about mine this week.

— Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) July 24, 2016

And here we are.

First of all, I should share Jonathan Claydon‘s INB posts. Go here first and read through it as well as the updates (at the top of the page). I’ll wait.

Each year begins with its own composition notebook. Students are told to have one the first day of school and I specify that I want the plain covered (not Justin Beiber or One Direction) composition notebook with 100 pages.

Inside the INB is the table of contents. Rather than number by pages, I number by learning target. This way, my students don’t have to worry about using the exact number of pages that I do (not everyone writes the same size). I got this file from Shelli and tweaked it to work better for me.

The next two pages have my Class Information and Standards of Mathematical Practices. I took my class information file and had it print in booklet form so that I could have it on half sheet (5 1/2 inches wide by 8 1/2 inches tall) pages. It is stapled and then students tape it into their notebooks. The Standards of Mathematical Practice foldable is from Kathryn Belmonte and you can find more information about it here.

After those pages come the rest of the INB. Each unit begins with a set of pages like you see above.

On the left side, students adhere (glue if single sided, tape if double sided so they can flip it over to the left) the learning targets for the unit. I use standards-based grading, so after each learning target is a series of boxes where students can record what they have earned as well as add their mastery stickers when they have earned them.

On the right side, students use two pages to create a pocket. The way it happens is the top page is folded from the upper right corner to the margin. They place a small piece of tape where the top page meets the inside margin. Then they place 3 pieces of tape that have half on the top page and half on the bottom page (by folding): one piece on the right side vertically, and two pieces on the bottom horizontally. Students can put their warm up pages in the pockets or practice problems for the unit into the pockets.

Students also adhere a tab with tape on the right page (they actually use one piece on the top side and one piece on the bottom side). The tabs are originally printed on card stock and then laminated. Then I cut them out.

I think the original idea for tabs may have come from Sarah Carter at Math Equals Love. I am considering doing something like this that Sarah blogged about earlier this summer but I haven’t totally fleshed it out yet.

After those unit pages come individual learning target pages. Generally, stuff on the right side is either notes or information I provide students in terms of how to do something. Stuff on the left side is mostly examples, but may also be stuff they do. Every page has a heading and we do it the same way for all pages. Upper left corner is the learning target number (i.e. LT1). Middle is the title – a shortened version of whatever the learning target is. Upper right corner is the date we began the pair of pages. It’s not always the date we began the learning target because sometimes we have multiple pages per learning target.

I don’t do a whole lot of foldables. I do them sometimes and I tend to stick to a couple of formats that work for me. I pretty much do everything in Word in landscape with two columns and narrow margins so that everything comes out as half sheets of paper (5 1/2 inches by 8 1/2 inches). I tried at first creating everything as full sheets of paper and then printing 2 per page but things didn’t always come out as I liked. If I were to switch to Google Docs, I would have to use tables and I haven’t had the motivation or patience to rework stuff. With two new(er) preps to me next year (and new since I’ve been doing INBs), that may be motivation to try GDocs.

Here is another set of INB pages. In this case, you can see on the right side, students are filling in notes that give guidance of what to do. I do try to set up those pages so that students have to fill in at least part of the notes so that students are doing something other than just listening to me. Examples that we did either individually or as a class are on the left. This is where there may be a difference in how many pages a learning target takes up (depending on how large someone writes).

In this example, I had students adhere two pages on the left side. The top page is what I call “hinge taped,” which means they place two pieces of tape on (in this case) the left side so that they can flip the top page over to the left and see what is on the back of that page as well as what is below. When we are hinge taping a page in, I usually wait until the end of their writing on both sides of the page before having students tape it into their INBs. It makes sure they can read their writing on the page and don’t have as much difficulty writing.

This is the last set of INB pages we completed for the 2015-2016 school year in Algebra 1. Anytime we are doing graphing, I provide graph spaces as a part of the notes that they adhere into their notebooks.

As far as class flow, generally what I do when we are putting pages into our INBs is first have students write in their table of contents. I project using a document camera focused on my INB so students can see what to write. Then we set up the two pages with the heading (LT, title, date) and if anything is getting glued down (because it’s single sided), we glue it down. Hinge taped pages get added in later in the lesson. Then we’re ready to go.

I don’t do notebook checks. I hated notebook checks in school and I would rather spend my time doing other things than notebook checks. Plus, I honestly don’t want to factor keeping a notebook into their grades. I don’t require students to leave them in the classroom. If I assign practice problems for outside of class, they may need their notebooks to help them.

So, that’s how **I** do interactive notebooks. It’s what has worked for me and generally seems to work for my students. I know that others do it differently, but I think, in the end, what matters most is that it works for your students.

Dylan Kane, quoting Steve Leinwand in his keynote talked about how we as teachers should be changing 10% of what we do in our practice yearly. No more, no less. Without further ado, here are things that will be in my 10% this year (and a few things I am bringing back):

- As I’ve already mentioned in my last post, I am going to bring more real-world mathematics into my classroom. Denis Sheeran talked about I See Math. I am going to be more conscious of what I see in my world that may be interesting mathematically and/or to my students. I am going to make a more deliberate effort to include the real world in what I teach.
- More Desmos! Right now, that won’t be hard since I have hardly used Desmos in my classes other than in lesson presentation. I am going to create at least one activity in Activtiy Builder this year to use with my students. Spending time working with other teachers was helpful and having the awesome Desmos Team Members to ask for help and guidance was useful to me. Hopefully it will be the push I need to move forward with this.
- Working on vertical conversations. Tracy Zager, in her keynote, talked about having conversations with other grade bands. I don’t have a lot of an excuse here. I teach in a K-12 building and can walk over to our Middle School or Elementary School and have conversations. I need to work on learning from our teachers. I haven’t quite figured out how this is all going to work yet, but I am going to make an effort to connect with at least one teacher in both the Middle School and Elementary School on a somewhat regular basis.
- Finish revising my Algebra 2 curriculum. I have been talking with Jonathan Claydon about this for several weeks. I have been pondering his Algebra 2 curriculum for a year. Even though I wasn’t teaching Algebra 2 last year, ever since we talked about his redoing Calculus at TMC15, I have been
~~pondering~~enamored with doing something similar with my curriculum. With going back to Algebra 2, I have the opportunity to do it. I was able to spend some quality time going over my curriculum specifically with Jonathan and attended his session at TMC16. This will happen this year. Watch this space for details as they arise. - Be more active on Twitter. (I also blogged about this in my last post.) Sara VanDerWerf in her session proposed a new professional development model:
- Every day
- with at least one other teacher
- 5 minutes unforced reflection
- unforced choice

I have done a couple of things already to move forward on this. One, I have created an Algebra 2 list so as I am reading Twitter, I have a focused list to look at for Algebra 2. Two, I am going to make an effort to communicate with a couple of Algebra 2 teachers daily as Sara suggested.

- Corollary to the above – make a more concerted effort to read blogs and to blog. I have gotten away from this and need to make it more of a priority. I have to remember that I don’t need hours to blog, I just have to sit down and do the reflection.

I have a couple of other things I would like to do as a result of my experiences at TMC16:

- Get my digital resources under control. Once I get my notes in Evernote cleaned up, I need to make a decision on whether to keep Evernote Premium or switch to Microsoft One Note. This is something I need to do asap. Watching Sadie and Elizabeth so effortlessly take notes has inspired me to get my stuff together on this. Looking at Elissa‘s notes on sessions on her blog also has inspired me to do this. So, first, get my stuff in order and then, work on using whichever program I am going to use better than I currently am.
- I need to stop getting caught up in everything else and spend time with the people that matter to me. Jami and I live 90 minutes from each other and we say every year that we should go to dinner and we never do. This will happen this year. My parents live outside of Detroit and it is rare that Jamie and I get together. David now lives 2 hours or so from me. Sheri, Jason and I are going to go to a Buffalo Bills game this fall because we think it would be fun to go together and the Bills are between where we both live. I need to make plans to stay in touch with the people who matter to me, whether it is in person (as I can do with these three) or by sending a note or a DM. I should be spending time and communicating with the people I care about, no matter where they are.

So, those were my take-aways from TMC16. There are other small ones, but these are the ones important to me. I hope that those who attended TMC16 had some good takeways as well.

]]>Here are some of the notes I made of what caught my attention:

- Students learn when they care about answering the question and they care about you.
- Don’t separate what you do every day from what you do every day.
- You asked the question, I’ll provide the (mathematical) tool you need.

Over the course of the day, I figured out some things about myself as a teacher. I think that I have been standing at the precipice of a cliff trying to convince myself to dive into the pool of water of really integrating the real world into mathematics.

(from https://movingonuptotheeastside.wordpress.com/tag/beach/)

I think I have been standing close to the edge for at least 5 school years. I had been doing really well with trying things for a while, but the last couple of years, I have looked down from the top of the cliff and pretty much backpedaled. This year, I think I backpedaled rather quickly. It took going to Sara VanDerWerf and Morgan Fierst‘s session about learning to ride a backwards bike that I realized what happened this year.

And as Sara is sharing this, I realize that this is what happened to me. The last year has been more stressful on me personally and professionally that I did exactly this. Rather than trying to engage in the community and remain connected to something I value highly, I retreated and went back into old ways.

So, being at TMC makes it difficult to figure out what I want to do this year. Steve Leinwand has said that a teacher should change *at most* 10% of what they are doing each year. It is tough to figure out what is going to be in that 10%.At this point, here’s where I am:

I need to remain connected. Sara VanDerWerf talked about how our Professional Development is broken and that our Professional Development needs to be

- Every day
- with at least one other teacher
- 5 minutes unforced reflection
- unforced choice

So, I tweeted the following earlier:

Current frontrunner for my #1TMCthing is to find another Alg2 teacher to tweet w/ daily for 5 minutes as PD. Thanks to @saravdwerf @msfierst

— Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) July 16, 2016

Looking for an Algebra 2 teacher who is willing to engage in short daily twitter conversations around teaching math. #TMC16

— Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) July 17, 2016

The second tweet got a lot more response (probably because it didn’t get buried under everyone else’s TMC16 tweets).

@lmhenry9 me me me

— Mattie B (@stoodle) July 17, 2016

@lmhenry9 I’ll be teaching it A LOT this year! I’d be game

— TOrpen (@TooTallTrees) July 17, 2016

@lmhenry9 yes to this

— Jennifer Fairbanks (@HHSmath) July 17, 2016

@lmhenry9 algebra 2 = math 3? Always willing to chat

— Alex Wilson (@fractallove314) July 17, 2016

@lmhenry9 Sure!

— Jonathan Schoolcraft (@jschool0218) July 17, 2016

@lmhenry9 Meeeeeee!!

— Anna Blinstein (@Borschtwithanna) July 17, 2016

So, it looks like I have some people willing to work on this with me. We’ll have to see how it goes.

So that’s one item. The next one is probably the really big change for me. Getting back to where I began this post, I need to actually move off the precipice this year. It is time that I dive into the water that I have admired for a long time and actually work on bringing in real-world mathematics into my classroom. I am confident that Denis’ session is going to help me get there. I would like to set the goal of doing at least one real-world integration per unit. I’m not still 100% how this is all going to work out, but I would like to commit to moving forward on that. Here’s hoping that the next two days will help me figure that out.

]]>

After our kickoff to the morning, we separated ourselves into groups based on comfort / ability level with Desmos (beginning, intermediate, or advanced). At first, I thought I may be a beginner plus but not quite advanced, but once I saw the document that Michael Fenton created, I realized that I was a solid intermediate. After some discussion of where to head, Julie Reulbach made the point that if I went to intermediate, I could end up helping others whereas if I went to advanced, I would be pushed and would be learning from others. I definitely wanted to be pushed a little bit, so I went to advanced and promptly figured out I was over my head. But I stayed anyway.

What I figured out (in addition to learning a few new Desmos things), is that when you are a beginner level Desmos user, you are using Desmos primarily as a tool. You are making Desmos create things that you can use. When you move into intermediate, you begin a shift from making Desmos do something to telling Desmos what you would like it to do. You actually begin to shift into programming Desmos but you probably don’t realize you are making that shift (or maybe you do realize it). Once you are in advanced, you are pretty much full on programming Desmos to do awesome things.

For pretty much my entire 24-year teaching career, I have been wrestling with the same question – how much of the mathematics is it important to do by hand versus doing the mathematics with technology. (I blogged about this in 2013.) One of the things I realized today as I was learning more about Desmos is that what Desmos allows us to do as teachers is to give visualization to mathematics. By giving visualization to mathematics, our students are able to see a perspective that is more concrete than the abstract symbolic manipulation that sometimes Algebra appears to be. Where I think I can best use technology (and specifically Desmos) is to help my students have a better understanding of the mathematics.

Michele Torres submitted a graph to the Desmos Potluck which Michael Fenton shared with us today. It was a series of graphs that were all (equivalent) trigonometric expressions. Because they are all equivalent, the graphs all lie on top of each other, which allows students to check to see if they are working through the steps of a trigonometric proof correctly.

MIND. BLOWN.

So simple, yet so powerful.

So I am going to use Desmos in the ways that will help enhance my students understanding of mathematics. I’m going to work on showing them how they can use Desmos to check their algebraic work. I am going to emphasize how algebraic and graphical approaches are both important and how they are tied together. I am going to try to put together some activities in Desmos to help develop and strengthen my students’ understanding of mathematics. Not everything, all at once, but one step at a time.

Thanks Dan, Christopher, Michael and the whole Desmos crew for a great day. Thanks Eli for having such an awesome, powerful tool at our disposal. I am looking forward to more great things.

]]>As I was weeding, I thought to myself, I don;t hate the thistles that much. They come out of the ground easier (although I can never seem to get the full root structure). What I really hate is, well, I **hate** dandelions.

Dandelions are a bugger to get out of the ground. You think you have the root and as you pull, you don’t seem to have it all. Since I waited until early June, ~~some~~ many of my dandelions had gone to seed. So, now I’m trying to pull out the dandelions and not get the seeds into the ground. UGH. Did I mention I **hate** weeding?

I’m kind of at the same point with my teaching. I know there are things I do that I shouldn’t do as much as do (I’m looking at you, direct instruction), but when things get busy or difficult, I go back to what I know I can do and am comfortable doing. But that’s not always the best thing to do for my students.So, at the end of the year, I had decided to get back to doing things that were helpful in my teaching practice. Those things included doing some reading of education books, reading blogs, and being involved on twitter (whether it was lurking or interacting with others). I have several books I would like to read this summer, but I chose to begin with The Classroom Chef (mainly because John Stevens had asked me to read it and share my thoughts).

As I dug into The Classroom Chef, I found myself convicted by it. Yep, I’m that teacher that tends to lecture more than let the kids figure it out. As much as I keep saying that I want to change, I never seem to fully make the changes. Sometimes, it’s just easier to let the weeds grow and try to clear them out later. As I continued to read, I found that I was already doing some of the things that John and Matt recommend (the appetizers section in particular). But as I got to the entrees section, I found that I definitely wasn’t doing these things. I knew that going into reading the book. As I look forward to a new teaching assignment next year (I will be teaching Algebra 2 and Senior Applied Mathematics), I also know that for Algebra 2 in particular, getting students to that *boom* (as John and Matt call it) is a challenge.

One of the things that really resonated with me was on pages 110-111 where Jamie Duncan shares about how she got to making the changes. Particular statements that really struck strong chords:

You just have to be committed. … I just made a commitment to learn, to be better,

and I’m following through.(emphasis added)I used to try to make math easier for my students … I always modeled the “best” way to solve a problem using tools that I knew made sense. Students mimicked what I did, whether it made sense to them or not. I was trying to protect them from struggling, but I was sheltering them from the actual learning process itself, which created a repetitive cycle that I was not aware of until now.

My kids can solve problems, but what

isproblem-solving? Simply put, it is what you do when you don’t know what to do.

And as I read her testimony, I felt inspired and awful at the same time. She put into words exactly where I am at today. Reading her story helped me to see a little more clearly that I could do this. But at the same time, I felt awful for not empowering my students to be better mathematicians and problem solvers. This year, I have a unique (for me) opportunity. I will have mostly the same students I had last year and I will have the opportunity to help them be better mathematicians and problem solvers. Maybe I can correct some of the errors in my teaching.

One of the things that I have struggled with as long as I’ve been active in the Math Twitter Blogosphere is how much of this to incorporate into my lessons. Do you totally scrap everything and just do all of these wonderful things that people do in their classrooms? Or do you add things in as it seems appropriate? What’s the best way?

I’m visiting my parents this weekend. I went to Orchard UMC and the scripture was a familiar one: Matthew 13:24-30. If you’re not familiar with the Bible, I’ll summarize. Jesus told many parables (stories that have a point) and this is the Parable of the Weeds Among the Wheat. A farmer scattered good seed in the field. Overnight, an enemy came in and scattered weed seeds among the wheat. (I learned today that the weed was called Darnell and it looks an awful lot like wheat until it’s time to harvest it) As the wheat and the weeds grew, the farmer’s servants noticed the weeds and asked the farmer if he sowed good seed. The farmer noted that an enemy sowed weeds. The servants asked if he wanted them to pull up the weeds and the farmer said not to because they may end up pulling up the wheat also. He wanted the weeds left alone until harvest time when they would separate the weeds from the wheat. The weeds would then be tied up and burnt and while the wheat would be stored in his barn. Part of what the pastor talked about in his sermon today was about not pulling the weeds out of our lives. Just leave them alone. Dandelions have some good properties – they have some medicinal properties, their leaves can be good to eat, and they can bring good nutrients to the soil (more details here if you’re interested).

So what does this parable have to do with my weeding? For me, I guess it says that you can’t just weed everything out at once. As I weeded, I noticed how much dirt and other stuff it brought up. At the time, I didn’t care because I was trying to clear out patches so I can eventually plant some flowers or other plants there. But if I had some flowers already planted there, I would have to be very careful in my weeding so that I would only pull the weed up and not the flower I wanted to grow.

I had a brief conversation with my cousin’s son a week or so ago. He just finished his first year teaching mathematics in Austin. He is a graduate of the UTeach program. We talked about how his first year went and I asked him about how his classes went. What I found interesting was that he used some direct instruction in along with other activities. Maybe what I am perceiving as weeds can be beneficial. Not that I want to keep a whole garden of weeds, but having some may be helpful. Trying to find the right balance will be the challenge.

Addition: John’s response to my post.

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