Math = Love: Ups and Downs

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ups and Downs

Well, I'm definitely experiencing the ups and downs of the life of a first-year teacher.

Here are a few pictures of things that make me happy. :)

Graph Paper Index Cards.  I ordered these online for 62 cents per pack of 100.  I gave them to my Algebra 2 students for a pop quiz on graphing.  They worked great.  But, I definitely learned my lesson.  Students didn't label anything on their graphs.  Names and equations were written on the back.  So, I had no idea of how I was supposed to orient the index card to grade it.  I just had to keep flipping it around until the graph was correct and HOPE that the student really graphed it correctly.  Lesson learned. 

Stickers.  I picked up these adorable stickers at Family Dollar this week.  There are 500+ stickers in the package for a whopping $1.00.  I put a sticker on the quiz of each student who earned an A.  Students were pretty excited to compare their stickers.  I had one student who kept asking me to give him a sticker...  High school students are definitely not too old for stickers. 


My students love interactive notebooks.  My students love solving problems on the dry erase pockets.  For the most part, my students love coming to math class.  It's a beautiful thing.  They feel compelled to tell me things like "This class makes my day" or "This is my favorite class."

I have several Algebra 1 classes of students who have previously struggled in math.  When these students first came in my classroom, they let me know instantly that they did not want to be there.  Math was not  something that they wanted to be a part of their lives.  I've been going extremely slowly in my Algebra 1 class, and light bulbs are coming on.  With lots and lots of practice, my students are finally getting math.  They look forward to our practice problems because they are a chance to be successful.


One of my students dropped out of school.  The fact that I only have 69 students means that I am able to get to know each one of my students so much better than, for example, when I saw 143 students a day during my student teaching at the middle school level.  I know that his dropping out has nothing to do with me, but I still feel partially responsible.  The last day that he was at school, I sent him to the principal's office.  He wouldn't stop talking while I was trying to give instructions.  After asking him 3 times to talk, I decided to fix the problem by moving him to a different table.  Upon asking him to move, he replied, "That ain't gonna happen."  I'd been working so hard to win over the trust of that class period.  I knew I couldn't let him run the class.  I had to show that I was in charge.  So, I informed him that he would either move to the other table or go to the office.  At this suggestion, he gladly decided to go to the office.  I never saw him again.

I gave my first quizzes this week.  My Algebra 2 students are terribly behind.  They are struggling with very basic Algebra 1 concepts such as combining like terms, integer operations, and evaluating expressions.  After pleading for help on twitter, a tweep suggested that I start doing Algebra 1 review as bellwork so I could move on with the curriculum and start to cover some actual Algebra 2 concepts.  In Oklahoma, students are required to take an End-of-Instruction exam in May.

I tried this, and it really worked.  My students had been complaining that we were doing 6th grade math and not Algebra 2.  I would love to jump straight into Algebra 2, but my students couldn't successfully complete the review sections of Chapter 1.  I think the problem is that, though they are behind in math, they do not realize that they are behind in math.  I have students telling me that x plus x is x squared.  And a negative times a negative is a negative.

I took a chance and skipped the last few sections of Chapter 1 (solving equations and solving inequalities.)  And, I jumped straight into graphing on the day after the quiz.  Though this is still review, this is something my students deem to be hard.  I've heard "I don't like graphing" several times this week.  The students are being challenged, we're moving closer to being able to start actual Algebra 2 curriculum, and the students are still reviewing Algebra 1 as bellwork.  This system is working. :)

I can't change the fact that the students at my school are anywhere from 1-3 years behind in math.  But, I can decide how I will respond to this fact and use it to guide my teaching.  I hope to stay in this town and at this school and help build up our math program. 

My college algebra class is not at all what I thought it would be.  

I MUST find an organization system that works for me.  By the end of the day, my desk is covered with papers.  So many papers everywhere... 


  1. Students think mathematics is a difficult subject but there is a need to teach them in a better way or we can say in a different way like by games.

  2. Sarah - you are doing a great job in your first year! Keep up the great work. Loving your activities and interactive notebook information! Keep reflecting, keep blogging, and most importantly, keep smiling!!

  3. You are doing a great job for a first year teacher!!! I have veteran teachers on my staff who couldn't stand next to you and the ideas you are implementing. I love, LOVE, your ideas and will be sharing your blog with some of my math department folk.

    My Alg 2 students seem similar to yours in that their Alg 1 skills are low. The review bell work is a great idea, too. Any kind of spiral review you can bring will be great.

    Where did you get the graph index cards? I must order some!!