Math = Love

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Adding and Subtracting Polynomials in Function Notation Question Stack

My Algebra 1 students are currently working their way through our unit on polynomials.  We have new math standards in Oklahoma this year which has required me to change things up a bit.  In the past, my students needed to know how to add, subtract, multiply, and factor polynomials.  The new standards STILL have them doing all of that.  But, they also need to be able to add, subtract, and multiply functions written in function notation.  We do functions and function notation waaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyy before we ever talk about polynomials.  So, I decided to kill two birds with one stone and combine these two skills.  

I made a question stack for my students to use to practice adding and subtracting polynomials in function notation.  If you don't know how a question stack works, this post explains it pretty well.  Basically, students are given a set of 10 double-sided cards.  Students lay the cards out with the ANSWERS facing up to form an answer bank.  Students choose one card to flip over.  This will be the first question.  When they figure out the answer, they locate that answer in the answer bank.  That card is flipped over and stacked on top of the previous card to reveal a new question.  The answer bank gets smaller and smaller as students work problem after problem.  It's self-checking which means I can target my time to helping the groups who need it most. 

Each group got a laminated page featuring four polynomials and a snack bag with their deck of cards in it.     

The four polynomials: 

Here are the 10 problems students worked through as they completed the question stack:

I tried my best to vary the notation so students would be used to the different ways the question could be worded.  

Here is the answer bank: 

I had my students work in pairs for this activity.  In some class periods, a few students would choose to work alone.  I also had the occasional group of three when the class consisted of an odd number of students.  

Action pics: 

My students were engaged.  There was good group-talk going on.  And, we did lots of practice.

Files for this activity are uploaded here.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Manifest Game by Frank Tapson via Don Steward

I ran across this game while reading Don Steward's blog.  The game is known as "Manifest," and it was created by Frank Tapson.  I posted about another activity from Frank Tapson last week called "How Far Can YOU Climb?"  Quite a few of you tried it out in your classroom, and your students loved it just as much as mine did! 

I created a template for a game board and deck of cards to make it easier for my students to play this game.  

Each student will need their own board and deck of cards with the digits 0-9 on them.

I accidentally forgot to put lines on the 6 and 9 so they could be easily distinguished.  Don't worry, I fixed that in the version I've uploaded at the bottom of this post!

Each person takes their cards and places them face down in the arrangement of their choosing.

Both players flip over their first number.  The player with the higher value wins 1 point.

Next, players flip over their two-digit number.  The player with the higher number wins 2 points.

Repeat for the 3 digit number.

And, the four digit number.

Here are some photos of my students in action.  Can you tell which student chose how to place their numbers at random?!?

Here's a student game where the cards were not placed randomly.

Files for this activity are uploaded here.

Sunday, February 19, 2017


I started this blog post on Friday, but exhaustion won over finishing this post.  Friday started out as a normal school day.  First hour, my Algebra 1 students took a quiz over dividing radicals.  Then, we started one of my favorite units of the year: polynomials.

Second hour, we had our much anticipated egg drop.  It didn't go exactly as planned, but we made it work.  It turns out that if you don't drop the eggs on concrete that ALL of the eggs survive.  Lesson learned!

Third hour, my math concepts students began to work on divisibility rules.  This was going kinda well.  The kids were getting a bit frustrated, but I'm not sure if it was the divisibility rules causing the trouble or the worksheet I had chosen.

Then, everything changed when a student brought something to my desk to ask what it was.  She had found it laying on the floor under the table.  It was a bullet.  Or, at least I thought it was a bullet.  A few of my other students gathered around my desk, and we each took turns looking at it trying to figure out if it was really a bullet.

Once I was 99% sure it was a bullet, I left my classroom in search of the principal.  As I was walking out the door of my classroom, one of my kids started to freak that his fingerprints were now on the bullet.  He begged me to wipe off his fingerprints before I turned it in.

I found my principal after a bit of searching, and he confirmed that it was a .22 caliber bullet.  This was third hour, and my room had been vacuumed during seventh period the previous day.  This meant that the bullet must belong to one of the students in my first hour or second hour.

After questioning each student in my first two classes of the day, the principal announced that if the owner of the bullet did not come forward that we would have to go on lock-down and get the police involved.

Nobody came forward, so we did end up going on lock-down.  Students were not allowed to leave the classroom they were in until the lock-down was over.  This is the type of thing they don't teach you to deal with in college.  How do you comfort students when they are expressing their fears that there could be a school shooting?

We remained on lock-down while the police went from room to room searching each each students' bag and pockets.  This meant that our middle school students missed their lunch period.  Our high school students missed the first half or so of their lunch period.  Students were given an extended lunch period which ended up throwing off our class right after lunch.

I am thankful that my school took this event seriously.  They put our safety before everything else,
I'm especially thankful for this three day weekend to recover from the exhaustion of a day spent on lock-down.  It's an experience I hope I never have to go through again.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Egg Drop Gallery Walk

Teaching a science class this year has me doing more projects than I've probably ever done in all my previous years as a math teacher.  Setting up projects in an effective way has been a definite learning curve.  

This week, my students have been working on designing egg drop devices.  I had students break into pairs and brainstorm three possible designs given a list of allowed materials and project constraints.  They had to draw a picture of each design and label all of the components.  

The next day, I posted these designs around the room.  Each pair of students was given a pad of sticky notes to use to comment on each design.  Students had to share an aspect of the design they liked and a suggestion for improving each design.  This was my first time ever implementing a gallery walk in my classroom. 

I bought a bulk pack of sticky notes (affiliate link) a few years ago, and they come in super-handy for an activity like this! 

This ended up working really well.  Students were giving thoughtful suggestions to help the other groups improve their designs.

Some groups were hesitant to participate because they thought this would lead to the other groups stealing their ideas.

10 minutes after launching this activity, I had an idea that I *really* wish I had had 10 minutes BEFORE launching the activity.  Since each group had made three designs, I wish I had told the groups to rank the designs from 1 to 3 on their sticky notes in addition to giving written feedback.

When students were done rotating, they got their designs off the wall and read the feedback from their peers.

Each pair had to decide which design they would be building from the three potential designs they had come up with.  Then, students had to finalize their plans for the design.

I asked each student pair to write a paragraph describing their final design.  Then, they had to describe how they had used the feedback from other groups to refine their designs.

I hope I structured this project in such a way to make my students think critically about their designs.  I guess we'll see how the egg drop goes tomorrow! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Blank Graphic Organizers for Solving Systems of Equations Algebrically

For our quiz on solving systems of equations algebraically, I let my students choose between solving by substitution and solving by elimination.  I made some graphic organizers for my students to follow that walked them step-by-step through the process of each method solution method.  You can read more about those here.

After that post, I realized that I never blogged about how I modified these graphic organizers to make templates for them to use on their quiz.



My students really appreciated having this template that they could fill out and staple to their quiz.  I only had a handful of students choose to just show their work on their quiz without the template.

You can download these templates here.

These would be perfect to print double-sided and slip into a set of dry erase pockets (affiliate link) for students to use when solving systems of equations problems in class!

Here's an example of the two sets of dry erase pockets I have in my classroom:

The neon set at the top holds 8.5 x 11 inch paper.  The black set at the bottom holds 11 x 17 inch paper.  I bought both sets off of Amazon.  They are super-cheap if you buy the ones sold as "shop ticket holders" (affiliate link).

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Create Your Own Momentum Problem

After my physical science students finished with their momentum quiz, I gave them the task of creating their own momentum problem. They had to pick a subject for their problem and determine an appropriate mass and velocity.  

Some students converted pounds to kilograms to find the mass.  Others just did a google search to find the mass they were looking for.  Some estimated velocities, and others googled for a velocity as well.  

I gave my students the choice of writing a problem that required solving for momentum, mass, or velocity.  Most of my students took the easy route and wrote a problem asking the reader to solve for momentum.  In retrospect, I would require students to write a multi-step problem with one step involving solving for momentum, one step for mass, and one step for velocity.  

Students were also asked to write up a solution to their problem on notebook paper and attach it to the problem.  

Here is what my students came up with:

I look forward to improving this activity in the future if I continue teaching physical science.  I'm taking my chemistry certification test on President's Day, so I'll hopefully be actually certified to teach physical science!