Math = Love

Thursday, December 13, 2018

2018's Most Popular Posts

For the third year in a row, I am recapping the year by taking a look at my blog analytics and figuring out which of the posts I wrote during the past year turned out to be the most popular. You can read 2016's post here and 2017's post here.

This will be my 108th blog post of 2018. So, how does this year's blogging stack up to previous years?

Blog Posts by Year
2018 - 108 (so far)
2017 - 202
2016 - 183
2015 - 199
2014 - 214
2013 - 107
2012 - 103
2011 - 3

Blogging has taken a bit of a back seat to life this year as I've been distracted by switching jobs, taking on two new preps, buying our first house, and some other things that I'm probably forgetting. Plus, 2019 promises to bring even more life changes!

The math teacher in me had to graph my blog post numbers using Desmos and look for a pattern. A parabola fit my data with an r^2 value of 0.8897. I guess that means I need to really get blogging next year or this blog might be dead in two years according to this model.

To determine which of my blog posts were the most popular this year, I took a look at the pageviews of each post published during 2018. Here are my top ten posts according to popularity of pageviews.

1. Review of Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club

With over 12,000 pageviews this year, this was by far my most popular post. A follow-up post, An Invitation to Join Angela Watson's 40 Hour Teacher Workweek Club, also landed in the top ten posts, but I'm just including it with this related post to allow me to highlight a greater variety of posts. The strategies I've learned from Angela's course have really changed my productivity in the classroom, and I love being able to share what I have learned with other teachers. The club is once again open for new members, so if you are looking to learn how to get more done in less time at school, I highly recommend that you check it out! 

Inspired by a puzzle I found in a book I picked up at the thrift store, I decided to change up how I normally kick off the school year and engage students with a whole lot of math and critical thinking on the first day. This resulted in the first day of school being full of math talk, cooperative group work, and a much-needed review of the order of operations.  I loved seeing how other teachers took this idea and modified it for their own classrooms on the first day of school. 

Another favorite task of mine is a yearly bulletin board challenge that I post at the beginning of each new calendar year. This was my third most viewed post of the year with over six thousand page-views. The challenge for students is to take the all of the digits in the year (2,0, 1, and 8) and the mathematical operators of your choice (add, subtract, multiply, divide, factorial, exponents, etc) and create a mathematical expression equivalent to each number from 1 to 100. It's a ton of fun, and my students get really engaged every single year without fail. This reminds me that I need to get to work to get my 2019 Challenge printed soon! 

It's no secret that I LOVE decorating my math classroom. And, I love sharing the posters I create on my blog with you guys. So, I guess it's no surprise that the pictures I posted of my new classroom at my new school were so popular here on the blog. 

I regularly post round-ups on Mondays on my blog of the awesomeness I have seen in recent times on Twitter. This is a great way to remind myself of the great ideas I want to use in my classroom someday. And, it's a great way to highlight the amazing work of others that the math teacher community deserves to see. I'm not entirely sure what was extra special about Volume 35, but it had nearly five times the views as a normal Monday Must Reads post. I guess that means you should check it out! 

I guess one of the reasons my blogging volume has decreased is that I no longer have interactive notebook pages to share on my blog. I decided that with Algebra 2 and Pre-Calc classes of 30 kids that I would help save my sanity this year by moving to binders instead of INBs. It has definitely saved me time both in class and out of class, but I do miss how attached students ended up getting to their notebooks. It's just not the same with binders. So, if you want to see some of my most favorite INB pages ever, check out this post! 

I was a little negligent at getting the photos of LAST year's classroom posted until the school year was entirely over. While you will notice some similarities between last year's classroom and this year's when it comes to some of the posters, there are many differences since I went from teaching Algebra 1 and Chemistry to teaching Algebra 2 and Pre-Calc. 

For several years, I got very discouraged while working at my old school because there was absolutely no celebration or even mention of Teacher Appreciation Week. I would log on to twitter to see other teachers posting photos of being showered with free food, gifts, and sweet notes from students. After awhile, I decided to stop being sad and start doing something about it. Last year, I decided to have my students celebrate the teachers in our school by voting for superlative awards. Teachers were voted to categories such as "Most Organized," "Most Inspiring," "Best Story Teller," "Funniest," or "Most Likely to Win Jeopardy." Each teacher's winning superlative was posted on a certificate outside their door for the whole school to read. The teachers loved them, and the students loved walking around to see what award each student had won. 

Last school year, I was really good at putting a new puzzle on our puzzle table each week. This Mixed Emotions Puzzle from The Big, Big, Big Book of Brainteasers (affiliate link) turned out to be the most popular puzzle post of 2018. Want even more puzzles? Check out the Puzzles Tab at the top of my blog! 

Seeing this activity makes me really, really, really miss teaching intro to polynomials in Algebra 1. I created this activity this past year to give my students extra practice with naming and classifying polynomials. I love that this activity is open-ended in a way since there are several possible solutions. There are a few cards that MUST go in a certain place, but students normally don't figure that out without a bit of discussion and trial and error. I think I will have to pull this activity out and use it as a refresher with my Algebra 2 classes as we will be starting polynomials after Christmas Break. 

Friday, November 16, 2018

Twelve Basic Functions Challenge in Pre-Calculus

A few weeks ago, I had my best lesson of the year so far in pre-calculus. My students were engaged like never before, and they became super competitive throughout the activity. They did way more questions than I ever would have been able to get them to do if I had just given them a homework assignment. When they came into class the next day, they begged to do an activity similar to the previous day's activity because it had been so much fun. Yes, students begging to do math. It made my heart smile. 

When students entered the room, they found twelve lime green posters spread around the room. 

Each one of these posters represented one of the twelve basic functions identified in our Demana and Waits Pre-Calc textbook.

Each poster contained the name of the function as identified by our book, a graph of the function, the equation of the function, and an interesting fact about the function.

My goal for this activity was to get students up and moving around the room and talking about the various parent functions. I originally thought about making these posters into small cards for each group to have at their desk, but the copy machine I had to use to do that ended up breaking which put a halt to that plan. So, posters it was. And, I think that ended up being a good plan anyway.

The next resource I created for this activity was a challenge tracking sheet. Each group would have the opportunity to earn up to 16 stamps by completing 16 different challenges. I find that a tracking sheet is necessary whenever I do activities like this, or groups do not end up managing their time wisely or they try to do the same problems over and over and over again. This way, students know exactly what has been finished and what still needs to be done.

After passing out a challenge tracking sheet to each group, I gave each group a ziplock bag containing twelve laminated cards that match the twelve basic function posters surrounding the room.

When I was talking to my husband about my idea for this activity, he suggested that I make the cards double-sided and add a letter to the back to make the activity easier to check. This turned out to be a LIFE-SAVER.

So, you are probably wondering by now what are the challenges?

The idea for this activity started when I was flipping through the textbook and a set of exercises caught my eye. The problems asked students to identify which of the twelve basic functions fit each description. For example, identify "the four functions that are odd" or "the three functions with no zeros" or "the six functions that are increasing on their entire domains." I thought these were AMAZING questions, but I didn't want to just hand them out as a textbook assignment. That sparked the idea for this challenge activity.

Not familiar with this textbook? You are in luck because Pearson has the PDF of this section of the textbook on their website for free! You can find it here.

I especially loved that these questions killed two birds with one stone. They gave my students crucially needed practice with the new vocabulary words we had been learning (even odd, domain, range, continuous, point of discontinuity, bounded, increasing, decreasing, zeros, end behavior, etc.) and it introduced them to a whole bunch of parent functions at once. Some of these were parent functions they were very familiar with from Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. Others (like the logistic, sine, cosine, and greatest integer functions) were completely new.

I typed up the challenges two to a page and printed them and laminated them. I only printed one set of challenges, but in retrospect I should have printed at least two sets so that two groups could be working on any one challenge at the same time. There were a few challenges that students found especially tricky. This meant that other groups had to wait a really, really long time to be able to tackle that challenge since there was only one copy. Given that I had set this up as a competition to see which group could complete the most challenges within our 50 minute period, this meant some students were very frustrated at the groups using the challenges that they still needed.

To kick off the challenge, I gave each group a challenge tracking sheet, bag of parent function cards, and one of the challenge cards (randomly chosen by me) to begin with.

Each group immediately set to work looking at the posters of the twelve basic functions around the room and debating which cards represented the correct answers. When they thought they had the answer, they would send a delegate from their team up to my desk with three things. Their Challenge Tracking Sheet (for me to stamp if they were correct), their Challenge Card (so I could figure out where to look on my answer key), and the function cards that they believed answered the question.

I would flip over the cards that they brought me and quickly compare the letters to my answer key. If they were correct, I would stamp their sheet and let them change out their challenge card for a new challenge. If they were incorrect, I would tell them simply that they were incorrect and send them back to rework the problem with their group.

I didn't really get any pictures of my students in action during this activity because I was CONSTANTLY busy checking students work and handing out new challenges. I overheard so many awesome conversations, and my students were VERY familiar with the basic graphs of the twelve basic functions by the end of the class period! My students were super competitive which was good because it kept any groups from giving other groups the answers which can sometimes happen with activities like this.

I feel a bit weird being proud of this lesson because I don't actually feel like I did much teaching about parent functions. My students did all the learning and teaching themselves. But, those really are the best lessons, aren't they?

Want the resources to run this activity with your own class? I have uploaded the resources to Google Drive as both editable Google Slides and PDFs. You can download them here.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Things Teenagers Say: Volume 56

Today marks a new chapter in the history of Things Teenagers Say. It's the first volume of many from my new school. It will be interesting to see how students at my new school take to this tradition. At my old school, Things Teenagers Say went from being virtually unnoticed by anyone to having almost a cult following by some of my students and coworkers in the course of a few years. It turns out that no matter where you work, teenagers still say some pretty crazy things sometimes. 


Me: What do we call this type of graph?
Student 1: A uvula!
Student 2: I think that's called a parabola.
Student 1: Oh. Yeah. That's what it's called.


Student 1: Why do you look like you're about to go to a baseball game?
Student 2: It's the hat.


Student 1: How tall are you?
Student 2: Tall enough.


I want you to have to use 30 pounds of shampoo next time you have to wash your hair.


He's not a substitute. He's a hero. A national treasure.


You don't learn much information from a puddle of goo.


I can't English today.


I like saying swear words in other languages.


Alligator and chicken are not the same thing.


I feel like I'm actually a decent person...sometimes.


Student 1: We speak American here.
Student 2: Aren't you the president of the Spanish club?


Can the pope have a beard?


Student: Why should I trust you?
Me: I have a degree in math.
Student: I have degrees on my thermometer, but you don't see me showing it off.


Your carrots taste like perfume.


Student 1: I need to get Jesus in my life.
Student 2: You just kicked Jesus out of your life.


How come is it whenever a girl breaks up with me they always cry?


Either my dad is a witch or a pyromaniac.


Monday, November 12, 2018

Monday Must Reads: Volume 48

Happy Monday! I haven't spent as much time on twitter lately as usual, so I know I have missed out on some awesome tweets. But, I decided to go through my twitter likes and see what was worth sharing anyway. And, wow, you guys did not disappoint! Sorry to anyone whose awesomeness I missed during my twitter absence, I will try to make up for it later!

I hope you enjoy this collection of Monday Must Reads and can find a useful idea or two or three to use in your classroom! 

Julia Anker shares an awesome way to bring boxplots to life and give them meaning. This is simply brilliant!

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Have some hula hoops laying around? Check out this idea from A. Morgan. This could be extended to so many different grade levels.

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Speaking of hula hoops, I can't wait to see how Jonathan Lind teaches trigonometry using hula hoops.

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Andrea Perry-Plattsm makes me wish I had a dry erase board in the hall outside my classroom!

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Tori Cox shares a new WODB she created for parallel and perpendicular lines.

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Liz Mastalio continually impresses me with the creative activities she comes up with to emphasize thankfulness among students.

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Peter Drysdale shares a lovely puzzle for combining like terms.

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rupeleMX shares a photo of an awesome interactive activity he uses with his science students. How could we learn to make math more visual?

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Kristen San Filippo offers up the brilliant idea of using bendy straws for end behavior of polynomials.

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I love how creative Elissa Miller is with her geometry classes. Who would have thought of playing Twister with transversals?!?

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Elissa also shares a great teacher hack for those of us who are 1:1.

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Jacob Wagner shares a great summative task for polynomials and rational functions.

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I love how Susan Hewett has students draw an illustration as part of their Frayer Models!

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Stacy Benton shares an easy way to increase student excitement and anticipation!

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I definitely want to find a way to fit Desmos jack-o-lanterns into my curriculum next year! Thanks to Patty Stephens for sharing.

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I love seeing other teachers make creative auctions to use in their classrooms. Check out this exponent auction from Michelle Pavlovsky.

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This Three in a Row Activity from Math with P Nik is brilliant.

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This like terms search makes me really miss teaching Algebra 1! Thanks to Sarah Giek for sharing!

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I love how Grw029 modified the 2018 Challenge to celebrate the Jewish New Year.

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Chris Prystenski's post about Ultimate Tic Tac Toe inspired me to show the game to a couple of students in my class who I caught playing regular Tic Tac Toe in their spare time. So fun!

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Mary Ellen Riley shares a new twist on the traditional system of equations puzzle.

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I adore this "Math is Life" display from Ms. G!

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Mr. Gray shares an absolute beast of a factoring task, and I LOVE it! It is a free download from TES.

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I love these sentence starters from MPS Secondary Math!

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I love how Math by the Mountain modified the 2s-9s challenges to make the dry erase and double sided!

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Todd Feitelson is so creative with 3D printing and implementing the Smallest Positive Integer Contest!

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After this lesson, I imagine Alexis Pleasant's students will never forget the power of exponential growth!

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Until next time (not promising it will be next week since we all know how long it's been since my last Monday Must Reads post...), keep sharing your awesome ideas!