Math = Love: February 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

Middle School...Day One

Well, I have officially survived my first day of middle school.  And, I can say that the middle school experience is distinctly different than high school.  Today, I focused on getting acquainted with the new school as well as starting to build a rapport with the students.

My cooperating teacher loaned me a book to read to give me some insight into the lives and minds of middle school students:  Not Much Just Chillin': The Hidden Lives of Middle Schoolers.   

The Highlights of Middle School
  • I got the opportunity to help a student open his locker today.  I actually ended up having to do the combination three times before it would open.  That's something that didn't happen at the high school level.
  • I also had my first experience working with students who are hard-of-hearing.  During two class periods, there is an interpreter.  I ended up getting a little flustered while helping one of the students for the first time.  Because though I was talking to the student, he was looking at the interpreter.  It was difficult for me to see how much the student was understanding.
  • One girl adamantly refused to let me help her with her homework.  Her reasoning:  her sister who is in high school can explain it in a way she can understand.  When I asked her if I could try to explain it, she said that my explanation wouldn't be as good since I didn't know what she called a popsicle when she was a baby.  Umm...   
  • One boy decided that he and I should have a secret handshake.  So, if having a secret handshake had been on my bucket list, I could have crossed that off after today.     

Sunday, February 26, 2012

8th Grade Here I Come...

This past week marked my last week at the high school level.  Some of the kids found out that it was my last day, and they were not happy.  I was continually asked why I had to go.  One girl told me that she didn't want me to go because she was just now starting to use me as a resource.  "How am I going to get caught up with my work if you're not here to help me?"  It was great to here that I have made a difference during my student teaching.

After seven weeks, I can say that I love working with high school kids.  Friday, some of the math teachers were giving me their last tidbits of advice for the future.  Several told me that they hoped I liked middle school because they knew that they could never teach middle school.  I've also been told that I will either be cut out to be a middle school teacher or a high school teacher, but I can't be both.  I guess only time will tell.  But, I'm hoping to learn to love middle school students, too.   

I believe my new cooperating teacher and I are going to get along very well.  During this second half of my student teaching, I will have many more responsibilities.  Since I will be planning more lessons and teaching much more, I hope to have more useful and informative posts.  I will begin by observing his classroom.  But, I will soon take over five periods of 8th grade pre-algebra.

My main goal will be preparing these students for their state math test at the end of the semester.  So far, most of my teaching has involved introducing a concept for the first time.  However, these students will have seen all of these concepts previously.  I believe it will be an interesting experience to teach these review lessons, especially because I did not see how the lesson was initially taught.

Monday, February 20, 2012

M&M Scatter Plots

Last week in Algebra 1, we used M&M's to create scatter plots.  

Goals for the lesson:
  • Be able to define what a scatter plot is
  • Be able to find a line of best fit
  • Be able to recognize positive correlation, negative correlation, and no correlation
  • Review positive and negative slope
First the students were given a sheet of graph paper and a handful of M&M's.  After drawing an x- and y-axis, I had the students scatter their candy over the graph.  Jumping straight into vocabulary, we talked about how the scatter plot had no correlation.  

No Correlation

Using the Creative Pen on the Smart Board (set on smiley faces--it was the closest thing I could find to M&M's), I created a sample scatter plot.  Several students took turns coming up to the Smart Board and drawing a line of best fit.  Building upon the students' discussion about how we could draw lines going all different ways, I introduced the idea of no correlation.  

Then, I modeled positive correlation on the Smart Board using the Creative Pen again.  After a student came up and drew a line of best fit, we discussed that the line of best fit would have a positive slope.  (Slope is one of the most-tested topics on the state testing in April.  Thus, we are taking any and every opportunity to review slope!)  

Positive Correlation

Students then worked with their M&M's to construct scatter plots with positive and negative correlations.  To check their understanding at the end of the lesson, each student chose one of the three possible types of correlation and rearranged their M&M's to reflect that correlation.  Then, as a class, we looked at the scatter plots of several students to see if we could figure out what correlation they had created.  

Negative Correlation
After having each student write what they had learned about positive, negative, and no correlation as an exit ticket, the students finally got to eat their M&M's. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Week in Review

It's hard for me to believe that this will be my last week at the high school level.  I'm working my hardest to get over an annoying cold during this three-day weekend so I'll be able to enjoy my students for my last four days.  

Last week was an off-week.  

Monday.  Snow Day.  

Tuesday.  Valentine's Day.  Too much candy = Hyper Students who would rather do anything than concentrate on their math assignment.  

Wednesday.  The students had zero energy or motivation.  I attribute this to it being the day after Valentine's Day.

Thursday.  AKA the day before a four-day weekend.  

Friday.  Professional Development Day.  Two of the math teachers presented a ton of great ideas.  Now, I have all these ideas floating through my head.  Venn diagrams made out of hula hoops and post-it notes.  Poof Books.  Using Smart Responders as a formative assessment.      

Redefining Failure

The more time I spend working with high school students, I wish I could travel back in time and change how my students were taught to approach math.  I have so many students who choose not to participate or share their answer with the class for fear of being wrong.  For them, it is better to sit silently and never understand than to speak up and potentially be wrong.  

As a math major, I have written many, many proofs.  Last semester, I took a class where we proved all of the most important theorems that allow us to do calculus.  Unlike math, writing proofs never came easily for me.  When asked, I often told people that I chose to major in math because there is only one right answer.  Well, as you likely know, proofs are an exception to that rule.  There is no one right way to prove something.  There are long proofs, short proofs, elegant proofs, and gadget proofs.  However I soon learned that the best way to finding a proof that worked was to just start trying.  Some days I would spend hours writing down mathematical statements, trying to find connections.  Instead, I would find myself surrounded by crumpled notebook paper.  With each failed attempt, I learned more about the problem.  I gained new insights to further guide my attempts.  And, eventually, I would usually discover the right combination of mathematical statements to get my proof rolling.  Looking back, it is those proofs that I am most proud of.   

A few weeks ago, I came across a passage in a book (If You Want to Walk On Water, You've Got to Get Out of the Boat) regarding this topic of failure.  John Ortberg writes, 

"Failure does not shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you.  Sir Edmund Hillary made several unsuccessful attempts at scaling Mount Everest before he finally succeeded.  After one attempt he stood at the base of the giant mountain and shook his fist at it.  "I'll defeat you yet," he said in defiance.  "Because you're as big as you're going to get--but I'm still growing."  Every time Hillary climbed, he failed.  And every time he failed, he learned.  And every time he learned, he grew and tried again.  And one day he didn't fail."  

How can I create a classroom culture where failure is not looked at as a defining feature but as an opportunity to grow?  Math is learned by doing, by trying, by making mistakes, and by trying again.  But, how do I get my students to try?     

Monday, February 13, 2012

2 more weeks!

It's hard to believe that I will be at my first placement for only two more weeks!  In my experience, the days and weeks go by so much faster as a teacher than as a student.  Though I will be sad to leave my first placement, I am very excited that I will be getting to experience a middle school classroom for the second half of the semester.  I will be responsible for teaching five sections of pre-algebra.

It's amazing to me how attached one can get to a group of students in a matter of weeks.  It seems like I'm just now starting to build those relationships with my students.  Students are opening up to me.  They are starting to trust me.  Though the students were wary of me at first, I'm afraid that when I leave in two weeks that they are going to think that I have abandoned them.  They will especially think this if they discover that I have left them, students at one of the roughest high schools in the city, to student teach at one of the best schools in the city.  

In other news, the search for a teaching job is ongoing.  So far, the majority of the job postings for math teachers in Oklahoma have either been in the Panhandle or along the Red River.  Since I want to stay a little closer to home than that, I am polishing my resume, cover letter, and application packets as I await more job postings.  My cooperating teacher told me that I would know what type of school I wanted to work in.  How does that work?  How am I supposed to know if I'm cut out to work at an urban, suburban, rural, or charter school?  

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Slope Foldable

I found that my students in Algebra 1 were having trouble remembering the different formulas for finding slope.  Before starting our last lesson over finding the slope from an equation, I wanted to come up with a way to review the different methods for finding slope.  Having seen some examples of foldables on Kate's blog, I used her template for a 3-door foldable.

Here are the inside flaps of the foldable:

The foldable made the perfect resource for students to use on their homework assignment.  When students would ask for help on a question, I would first ask them what type of information they were given in the problem.  Once they had decided if it was a graph, two points, or an equation, I was able to direct them to use their foldable to find the correct formula.