Sunday, March 30, 2014

Week 8 Reflections - Thanks for a great activity, Zach & Steve!

I finally got to my trig verification unit and I was super excited to use the activity my colleagues (from Twitter!) shared about a few months ago.  (See the post here)

A few notes about how I did it:

  • Student had already done simple verification problems and had worked with identities for about a week before today.  The night before, they watched a short intro video where I went over different strategies and approaches to consider.  They did not see any problems worked out, just the intro.
  • I made 2 copies of each identity, and I made one of my own so I had 6 identities, 12 folders. I have 6 tables so that's why I made an extra one.
  • I also gave each group a stack of sticky notes and on the left side of the verification, they had to write the identity used or the algebraic step needed to move to the next part.
  • Once they think they had it right, they called me over and I either approved them, gave them a few tips/suggestions (for example, if their sticky notes didn't use the proper vocab or terminology needed), or if they didn't have it right I gave them some tips and went to the next table.  Once approved, they snapped a picture of it (for accountability purposes; one person in each group had to email me their set of 6 pictures), marked their group off on the board (I forgot to take a picture of this, but I just made a table with their group names on the left and the problem colors on the top and they got to put an "x" in the box when they were done - it made it a fun competition, too), and then they traded out for a new color.
Things to change for next year:
  • There were 2 identities that were much shorter than the others, similar to the ones we had done at the beginning of the unit.  I want to change those to make them longer/harder like the rest.
  • I purposely did not really give many directions.  I just told them they had six "trig challenges" to do and told them to get a folder.  I only had one group all day that didn't really understand what to do.  I was hoping for them to notice the "verify" that would start the problem and then all the equals signs and the fact that the right side never changed.  I don't think I will give detailed directions next year, just check in with the groups individually and make sure they are on the right track.
Overall thoughts
  • The students seemed to love it.  We now have 3 more days of just practice with these before they have their assessment.  I'm looking forward to how it will go tomorrow in class.
  • This was the most engaging, interactive, and active 54 minutes we've had in a while. The period FLEW by!
A few pictures from the day...






Sunday, March 23, 2014

CUE14 - Notes and Reflections (Thursday)

I had the privilege of attending the annual CUE conference in Palm Springs this last week/weekend.  Here are my notes and thoughts from the sessions I was able to attend.


1. Free Software Tools for Common Core Mathematics - David Thornburg

  • Fibonacci - I already do a lot with Fibonacci and the Golden Ratio in my Math Analysis class - here are a few more ideas to try out next year
    • Actually show the geometry from the spiral with the area of the square with side length from Fibonacci series. (google search fibonacci spiral for images)
    • Make google spreadsheet with formulas in it to automatically calculate the ratio as we continue down.  Instead of just telling the students what the ratio is, start putting the numbers in the series in, and see what they notice.
    • Awesome --> If you come up with another sequence that is Fibonacci like, meaning that the next number is the sum of the previous two, it ALSO converges at a ratio of 1.618
      • QUESTIONS- WHY IS THIS TRUE?!?! Ask the students that!!
    • This activity meets all eight of the standards for mathematical practice
  • Knights of knowledge- collection of two minute videos to get students thinking.  See website here
    • Now has a Chrome web app you can add to your browser
  • Geogebra. Use it.
  • MIT site- scratch
  • Wolfram- 
    • Mathematica
    • Wolfram alpha
    • Wolfram language and system documentation center

2. 7 steps to flipped professional development using interactive agendas - Laura Conley
  • @Lconley86
  • See article here
  • See slides here
  • What is flipped pd?
    • Teacher centered. Teachers are asked ahead of time what they would like to learn (based of technology use in the class). A lot of times they didn't know what they needed so she would give them suggestions about what would be good starting points. Smaller groups, not a huge room a time. Broke them into content area groups
    • Technology rich and interactive. Teachers are sent email ahead of time with links and what accounts they need to have created, what logins they need, and what they should have downloaded, etc.
    • Promotes active learning.
    • Values teachers time and input.
    • Facilitated
  • What is it NOT?
    • It's not watching videos ahead of time
    • endless talking by presenters
    • not the same every time
      • what are the principals goals?
      • What are the teachers goals and needs?
      • Who is the facilitator?
      • What are the different levels of technology usage that you will be encountering?
      • interactive agenda (she uses thinglink, sample here)
      • Make background image with Piktochart - Infographic made in piktochart and saved as jpg and then put into thing link
      • Agendas sent BEFORE pd
        • They are sent ahead of time so people know what to expect and can ask questions ahead of time.
        • Even the agenda is used to model how teachers could create something like this and use it in their classes
        • Search her name on thinglink to see some of her interactive agendas
      • Make sure when creating agendas and timelines you always make time for teachers to PLAY!!!
      • Modeling- begins before the actual pd day. Teachers actually need to do it themselves
      • Relevant
      • Teachers needs
      • Remember - less is more!!
      • Give "take aways"
      • Unique for each group and dept
      • Evernote
      • change course as needed
      • Remember your students are a great resource
      • Time
      • Tech problems
      • Continue modeling
      • Create ahead of time
      • She uses Socrative
        • Check out space race thing on Socrative
        • Students do not need to log in with Socrative
      • use exit surveys
      • Actively listen to follow up
      • Know change is possible
      • Create change

3. Deeper learning through online communication and collaboration
  • What is deeper learning?
    • Rigor
    • Critical thinking
    • Applying to real world situations
    • Being able to teach and share things with someone else
    • Not teaching to the test
    • When a student learns something beyond just the content, able to apply their knowledge from other classes to what they are learning. Internalizing the information
    • Knowledge that is transferable
    • Deeper learning =content mastery + 21st century skills
  • 21st century skills
    • Critical thinking
    • Creative problem solving
    • Communication
    • Collaboration
    • Motivation and self regulation
  • See rest of notes online

4. KEYNOTE#1 - Dan Meyer
  • What is your edtech mission statement?
    • Tools that will help me
      • Capture perplexity
      • Share perplexity
      • Resolve perplexity
  • Perplexity is not boredom or confusion.  It is not engagement. It is having a notion, knowing it can be answered and wanting to get it answered
    • A bunch of tools that do what he wants, with explanations
    • TIP: J key will move to next article in feedly
    • TIP: Social bookmarking (diigo)
    • TIP: YouTube to download them off YouTube and without comments or ads
    • TIP: Call my own google voice number to leave a voice message about something I want to remember but can't write down at the moment
    • Document camera
    • Keynote. Cover things up from pictures with white rectangles to make them more perplexing
    • Blog and twitter
    • The classroom is an unforgiving place to teach. Put your stuff online to test it out first
    • with math. With your discipline. That's how students resolve it.
  • He used to...
    • Start with the objective ... The ones who finished first got to do the perplexing things...
    • Now he starts with perplexing things... And then helps get you unperplexed.
    • "You'll be tested on this stuff and that makes it important" argh!
    • "Today we are going to ask about..."
    • Matt vaudrey starts with daily doozy. A question! A perplexity!

Thursday sessions I wasn't able to attend but wanted to:

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Week 6 Reflections

I just realized I skipped Week 5.  It has been a crazy couple of weeks!


Today I made 25 dinners for the next month (I do once a month-or-so freezer cooking) which was a lot of fun but also kept me on my feet on my "day off".  It is worth it though, because it will save me so much time during the week.  Plus, I got to try three new freezer recipes today and the first one (we sampled!) turned out fantastic.  If you are interested in any of my easy freezer meal recipes, check out my online recipe book here and go to the freezer meal plan!

I presented a webinar with on Tuesday afternoon - you can check out the archive here.

I'm heading to CUE in Palm Springs on Wednesday of this week and looking forward to a great few days learning and sharing!  If you are going to be there, let me know so we can try to meet up!


Let's see...

I made a change to one of my students' blog posts this week and I think I'm really going to like it.  Normally the students do individual blog posts where they create their own problems (sometimes word problems, sometimes just math problems) given certain qualifications, and then solve and explain them step by step.  It's been working really well and a great way to apply, analyze, and evaluate the math concepts.  However, I get a little overwhelmed with grading them sometimes and decided to make a decision to ease my grading load.  What started as a purely selfish decision actually turned into a fabulous learning experience for the students!  I had them partner up and TOGETHER they made the problem(s) that they would put on their blogs (one student would "host" the problems, the other student would just link to the "host" blog).  The beauty of this (besides cutting my grading in half) is the collaboration that it requires.  After I went over the requirements in class on Friday, every single student was engaged, communicating, collaborating, arguing, suggesting, and otherwise completely involved in the 20 minute time period given to write and solve the problems.  It was fantastic!  When the students do the posts by themselves, there is some form of collaboration because I ask them to share and check each other's work, but with this they HAD to work together and TWIRLS (think, write, interact, read, listen, speak) in order to get the job done.  I'm definitely considering making more of the blog posts "partner" ones - and NOT just because of the selfish grading reason!


My "internal" flipped class is going fairly well.  Last week was a tough week because we got off of routine - the Common Core Units of Study we have to use from our district wasn't ready for us, so Wed-Fri we just kind of "made do" and it turned into a nightmare because without routine, my students in that class go crazy.  Thankfully, we reset and refocused on Monday of this week and they were back in the swing of things within a couple of days.

I really like the way that the Common Core (or at least how our district is doing it) approaches a lot of the math topics.  For example, this unit we are solving equations, but the unit starts off with the students thinking about an "unknown" and using mental math to "solve" very simple equations.  Then we delve into simple one-step inverse operations, and then into two-step equations.  However, before just teaching them procedures, we had them do something called the "number challenge" where someone would come up with a problem - they would plug a random number into their calculator, and say "I am multiplying/dividing my original number by ___.  I then add/subtract ____ to/from the result.  My final answer is ____".  Students then had to figure out what the original number was.  It was a fun game and started off with just guessing and hoping they were right.  However, students soon figured out how to work backwards with inverse operations (even though they hadn't learned them yet) to solve the puzzle.  It also reinforces what we are learning this coming week, which is that the order in which you solve an equation is important (must add/subtract first).  It just seems so much less procedural than the way that we have been teaching it the last few years.


Today I had a former student (I think he graduated 3-4 years ago) post on his Facebook wall the following comment - it made my day!

Just wanted to say thank you to Crystal Kirch, years later and I'm still using her math binder she made us create but what can you say great teachers leave a lasting impression. Still to this day she's my favorite teacher I've ever had

And another occurrence this week that just makes you smile...

For pi day today, my fourth period kids came in singing "happy pi day to you" (to the tune of happy birthday) and presented me with a mcdonalds apple pie.
This is the same class who, after I mentioned offhand on Monday that I get lonely during lunch sometimes now that I don't have the same lunch as the rest of the teachers in my building, had 17 of the 35 kids come in on Tuesday during lunch (right before their class period) just to "hang out and keep me company"
Here's to another great week!  (That will be easy considering it's pretty much a two day week since we have the CAHSEE -CA High School Exit Exam - two days and then I'm gone two days for CUE!)

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Week 4 Reflections

Math Analysis
My students took their Unit N Test this week and ACED it.  Seriously, I made a note to make it a more challenging test next year, even though I thought it was challenging to begin with.  Here are a few activities that I did that I think were really helpful.  You can see the Unit N tab of for all the resources.

  • Every video assignment included optional "extra videos" for those students who needed to see even more examples.  They were there for the students to go back to at any time.
  • Every day in class we did "kinesthetic" angle practice with our arms.  It started with just drawing angles, but then we did coterminal angles, reference angles, etc.  I think this helped with the mental visualization of what we were doing.
  • Besides the kinesthetic visualization, we also did a lot of other visualizations in terms of trig function values and quadrants.  Instead of fully solving problems, we put them up there and talked about what we knew about the quadrants and where the answers would lie.
  • Before just giving the unit circle to my students, they had to derive it and come up with the values themselves.  I wanted them to see the unit circle as just 3 special triangles reflected in multiple quadrants; thus, it's not something crazy hard to memorize.
  • When we got to concept 9 (finding angles given trig function values), we talked a lot about logical answers.  For example, if the values had a radical 3 in them, the only logical place for the angle to be would either be the 30* or 60* reference angle.  Thinking through what makes sense and what is logical was very helpful.

I got to meet with a student who has been struggling all year with the content and the structure of the class.  He showed great progress on this last test and just working with him individually for about 20-30 minutes was really meaningful.  I'm looking forward to seeing him continue to make strides in the right direction.

Another student who failed every test 1st semester but now is finally spending the extra time he needs (he came in as a much lower student than his peers).  He rewatches videos, asks a lot of questions, and is just deciding to be fully engaged in their learning.  He just got an 84% on this test.  An 84%!! Wahoo!

I'm finally starting to learn more about the absolute awesomeness of Desmos.  I have to give a shoutout to my awesome twitter PLN who responded with some amazing Desmos creations that I'm going to use later in the year with Math Analysis.  It is already added to my summer to do list when I have time to tinker. If you are a math teacher and haven't checked out Desmos... you are missing out!

CCSS Course 1
My afternoon class is seriously magic.  It's been so amazing to see the students engaged in their learning - and really learning the material!  I will admit, having only 27 students and 1-2 aides every day is definitely helping.  They have their test on this unit on Tuesday, so we will see the results of this crazy asynchronous month of learning.

My other CCSS class is still another story. I just can't seem to figure out what it is... is it the 7 more students?  Is it the individual student personalities in the class? I definitely sense less respect (for teacher and peers) with 3-4 specific students that I think is draining the entire class environment.  Not to mention a student stole an iPod this week. I know who it is and have great hopes that it will be returned by tomorrow after many discussions with the class about honesty, integrity, and doing what is right even after a mistake is better than making 2 mistakes by continuing to lie.

One change I made is that starting Friday, all students went to the END of the assignment chart and started working backwards.  The last 10-12 items on the assignment chart are all review for the whole unit.  I did this because some students were so far behind that I'm hoping they will at least be able to understand part of the concepts by doing them in the review.  We'll see how they do.


Well, a little short and sweet this week, but that's how it's been lately.  Life is good, Grayson is growing and will be walking any day now (and only 9 months old), and I'm just trying to find rest and balance.  March is a crazy month heading to Palm Springs for CUE in 3 weeks and a retreat the following weekend... heading into a week off for spring break!
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