Math = Love: 2016

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016's Most Popular Posts

This blog post will be my 183rd of 2016.  That's a decrease in posting from my 199 posts in 2015 and my 214 posts in 2014.  I guess that's what happens when you decide to get married and finish grad school all in the same year.  Yesterday, I read Jo Morgan's recap of her ten most popular blog posts from 2016.  This made me curious as to which of my posts from this year have been viewed the most.

So, thanks to the help of Excel for helping me rank my blog posts from this year, here are my top ten blog posts of 2016 according to pageviews.

1.  Growth Mindset Mistakes Poster
Given how many posters I have created and blogged about, I guess it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that a poster I created is my most popular blog post of 2016.  This poster was inspired by a quote from Jo Boaler.

Unit dividers are one of the best changes I have made to my interactive notebooks in the last couple of years.  This year, my husband helped me update last year's divider template to make a new and improved one.  

This poster was inspired by some badges created by the ever-inspiring Sara VanDerWerf.  It is one of my favorite pieces of my classroom decor this year!  It was so fun to see so many of my twitter and blog friends download this poster and hang it up in their own classrooms. 

I wrote this post at the beginning of the summer when I was full of ideas for the upcoming school year.  Sadly, I have yet to implement these in my own classroom.  :(  

5. Quadratic Formula Templates
This next template, on the other hand, was classroom-tested and student-approved!  My Algebra 2 students have always had struggles figuring out exactly how to plug values into the quadratic formula.  So, I made this template to use with our dry erase pockets (affiliate link) to help them set up their problems.  It was a HUGE hit!

6. Broken Circles
This summer, I read Elizabeth Cohen's Designing Groupwork (affiliate link), and I went a bit crazy creating printable resources to go along with the activities she suggests.  I ended up using the Broken Circles activity during the first week of school, and it was AWESOME!

7. Combining Like Terms and the Distributive Property Interactive Notebook Pages
Even though I teach high school, I love using cut and paste activities in my math classroom.  I believe that being able to manipulate pieces as you are learning leads to an increase in understanding.  I especially believe this is true when it comes to combining like terms.  Here's one of my favorite INB pages of the year!

8. Translating Expressions, Equations, and Inequalities Interactive Notebook Pages
This post contains more evidence of my love of cutting and pasting in math class!  It also contains a nifty fold-out I created for my students to help them translate between words and algebraic notation.

9. Algebra 1 SBG Skills List - Aligned to New Oklahoma Academic Standards
I wrote this list of SBG skills as the beginning of this past summer.  It was my first attempt at wrapping my head around Oklahoma's new math standards.  After attending several workshops during the later part of the summer, I changed my mind about how I wanted to arrange/word many of these skills.  I continue editing my skills list as the year progresses.  Maybe at the end of this school year, I will do a comparison post where I look at the original skills list I wrote and the skills list I actually ended up using.

10. Zukei Puzzles for Practicing Geometric Vocabulary
I'm a bit surprised that this post made the top 10 because I only published it on December 17th.  This summer, I discovered a set of awesome mathematical logic puzzles created by Naoki Inaba.  The only problem was that all of the puzzles were in Japanese.  To make these more usable, I used the Snipping Tool and Google Translate to create an English version of his Zukei puzzles.  This post was also notable because it finally compelled Dan Meyer to leave a comment on my blog.  Achievement unlocked!  He did say that the title of my post completely undersells the puzzle, so I guess you should check it out!


My take-away from compiling this list is that people like posts that include something to download.  Every single one of these posts included a download I had created.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Quarter the Cross

If you haven't tried "Quarter the Cross" yet with your students, what are you waiting for???  Not sure what "Quarter the Cross" is?  You must stop immediately and read David Butler's blog post about it!  David has created a hundred solutions to this puzzle and made them into a beautiful graphic.  Seriously, stop reading this post and start reading his!  

Want to know a fun fact?  David works at Adelaide University, the same university in Australia that my husband graduated from.  It's crazy how twitter makes the world seem SO much smaller!   

This year, I am teaching a class called "Math Concepts."  It is a class for 9th graders who are not yet ready for Algebra 1.  During the first semester, we worked on basic equation solving, integers, fractions, and decimals.  Fractions were a huge struggle for the entire class, and I have to admit that I did not realize just how many misconceptions they had.  We definitely improved in our understanding of fractions, but I still feel like these students have sooooooo many gaps.  

Initially, I was scared to give my students this assignment because I was afraid they wouldn't be able to figure out how to shade 1/4 of the cross.  At first, they wanted to color in one of the squares.  We had a lovely conversation about how that wouldn't work because that would mean we had colored only 1/5 of the shape.  Soon, a student suggested that we could just draw lines to divide the cross into four shapes.  Then, we could color one of these sections.  Once my students saw what 1/4 of the shape looked like, they started coming up with all kinds of their own solutions.  I shouldn't have doubted what these students were capable of!  

One student was super pleased with one of the designs she came up with, so she kept showing it to other students.  So, a few of the designs are a bit more similar than I had hoped for.  I can't get too mad, though, because it's super exciting to see my students excited about math!   

Here are their solutions: 

I love that even the imperfect solutions give me insights into how my students visualize fractions. I think the bottom left solution in the above picture would be a good conversation starter with students!

Want this awesome sheet to use with your students?  I downloaded it from David Butler's blog post.  He also has a sheet that has one large cross for students to decorate.  I printed these out, but we ran out of time.  I think we may go back and revisit this activity after Christmas Break is over because one of my students mentioned during the last week of last semester that we should do "those cross things again."  I guess that means this activity is a true keeper!

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Ways I'm Staying More Organized This Year

Every school year, I tell myself that "This is the year I'm going to finally get organized."  And, then I fail and find myself saying the exact same thing again the next year.  I'm not sure what's different about this year, but I'm finally feeling semi-organized.  I am teaching in a different school which means a new classroom.  If you haven't been following along, my district decided to combine our middle school and high school into a single building, so I still have my exact same job.  I'm just doing that job in a different building.  Having a new classroom has made it a bit easier to think about new organization systems.  You can see pictures of my new classroom here!

So, here's what I'm doing differently this year.

Answer Key Book

In the past, I've kept my answer keys in a pile.  A messy, disorganized pile.  Whenever I went to grade something, I would have to dig through the pile and *hope* I would be able to find the answer key.  This was not ideal, but I guess I had myself convinced that it wasn't too bad.

This year, in a moment of insanity, I decided I was going to write four versions of each quiz.  My main motivation for doing this was that there is a cheating epidemic going on at my school.  For the past few years, I've known that there were certain students who were cheating their way through my classes, but I never was able to catch them in the act.  Having students in groups of four meant that four versions of each quiz was a natural thing to do.  Since I do SBG and allow retakes, having different versions means that I can easily give a student a retake without having to write new questions off of the top of my head which is how I've always done SBG in the past.  So, writing four versions of each quiz actually helps solve two problems.

It created a new problem, though.  Soooooooooooo many answer keys.  I took a binder I had bought previously for another organization project that I failed at and some sheet protectors from my "I'm going to save a copy of every activity I ever do" days.  And, I made myself a life-changing answer key book.

There are post-it notes to separate my quizzes for each different prep.

You'll also see that I use post-it notes to write myself notes for how to do things differently next year.  
The quizzes are in chronological order, so it's super easy to find old quizzes when grading retakes.  It also helps that each quiz has a code on the top left corner.  The quiz in the photo below is MS1A.  That means it's Version A of the 1st quiz of the MS (Mathematics of Science) Unit.  

This binder lives in a special place in my desk where it is out of sight of students. It saves me so much time when grading, and I know I could never go back to my old system of keeping my answer keys in a pile.

Extra Copies Organization

I'm using these two filetastics (find a similar file system (affiliate link) by Scholastic here) that I picked up on clearance at Mardel to organize my extra copies of interactive notebook pages.  I've done something similar in the past with hanging files in a crate, but I found that my students would take the folders out and leave them on the table instead of putting them back up.  That hasn't been a problem with this new system!  

Each file is labeled with the name of a class and the unit.

Whenever students are absent, I can point them to the folders at the back of the room.  I tell them to take a look at a neighbor's notebook to figure out what they are missing.

This has worked pretty well this year.  Students sometimes get papers out and put them back in the wrong folder, but I don't get too worked up about it because I never have to get papers out of the files myself.

Plastic Sleeves

I'm not totally sure what to call these plastic-y bits of goodness that keep my desk so much more organized during the school day.  Pendaflex calls them "Project Pockets."  Avery calls them "Plastic Sleeves. (both affiliate links).  These plastic pockets are only closed on two sides.  This allows you to easily slide a stack of papers between the two layers of plastic.

I learned about the existence of this organizational tool from my husband.  We originally ordered a few packages for him, and he kindly let me borrow a few to test them out.  Soon, I was ordering more packages because I needed them for my classroom, too!

Here's a picture of part of my collection of these sleeves.  The ones on the left are thicker and much more durable.  They are Pendaflex (affiliate link) brand.  The ones on the right are quite thin, but they do the exact same job.  They are Avery (affiliate link) brand.  When I go to order more, I will probably splurge on the thicker ones, but the cheap ones really do just as well.

These awesome plastic sleeves make every trek to the copy machine with me.  As each set of copies finishes, the copies are slid in a plastic pocket.  This means I can easily stack all of my copies without having to try and alternate the orientation of each stack of papers.  You probably already know that alternating each stack works fine until you need to take out a middle layer!  

I would take a picture of these in action, but it's Christmas Break.  This means that the only thing currently setting in a plastic sleeve on my desk is a set of dividers for our next unit in physical science.

I have one corner of my desk that is designated for my stack of copies.  Each set of copies is in a different plastic pocket which means I can easily flip through all of my copies for the day/week.  At the end of the day, I take the extras from each pocket and put them in my hanging file folder at the back of the classroom.

I don't think I've done the best job of explaining how life-changing these plastic pockets have been.  My desk has always been a mess of piles.  It's still a mess, and there are still piles.  But, I spend much less time each day searching for that missing stack of copies.

Plastic Pockets

The plastic pockets I talked about above were made for temporarily storing documents.  I use them for organizing the copies I am going to use on a given day.  The plastic pockets I'm going to talk about now are made for long-term storage.

They are 9" x 12" and have velcro closures.  They were manufactured by Post-It, and I bought them on clearance.  I did some searching, and you can still buy them online.  But, they want like $10 each for them.  These pockets are awesome, but they are not worth that much!!!

I use these to store all of activities that I create.  Just before Christmas break, I labeled and alphabetized all of my activities from the first semester in my filing cabinet.  Now I can actually find stuff!

I love that I can see what is in each pocket without having to take it out of the filing cabinet!

Graded Paper and Interactive Notebook Organization 

I have a magazine holder that sits by my desk.  It is responsible for holding two important things: graded papers to be passed back to students and my copies of our interactive notebooks.  I'm learning more and more how important it is for everything to have a "home" in my classroom.  

For each different class I teach, I have a pocket notebook to keep the graded papers I need to hand back to my students.  

The inside contains six pockets.  I use a different pocket for each period of that prep.

This pocket notebook is made by Avery.  They call it a Flexi-View 6-Pocket Organizer (affiliate link). 

Technically, I guess I could get away with just using one of these since I teach six periods a day and each organizer has six pockets.  But, I'd worry that it might get a bit too full with all of my classes in one.  Of course, this might be because I'm not always the best at passing back all my papers in a timely manner...

Quiz Organization

My new desk in my classroom has a drawer that is made to hold hanging files.  This is  huge win on the organization front!  I have designated this drawer to hold my quizzes for SBG retakes.  Remember, I write four versions for each quiz to make retakes as easy as possible on myself.  

Here is my drawer of quizzes: 

The files at the front of the drawer are not actually quizzes.  They are file folders with documents that need to be easily accessible.  I keep these files in alphabetical order.  

Behind there, you will notice four "clumps" of folders.  These are the quizzes for each of my four preps.  Each quiz gets its own folder.  They are kept in the drawer in order with the "code" for each quiz written on the folder.  This makes it super-easy to find quiz RF-6 when a student asks to retake it. 

In the past, I would have a drawer that I kept all of my "extra" quizzes in.  Students would have to dig through it to look for a quiz they had missed.  It was a HUGE mess.  And, I would often end up re-printing quizzes because it was just too hard to find something when I went to look for it.  This new system has been a life-saver.  I can always find quizzes when a student needs one! 

So, I realize none of these ideas are revolutionary, but they are working for me!  And, hopefully I've inspired you to get your classroom more organized, too! 

Monday, December 26, 2016

Guest Post: Math Anxiety and Success

Today, I am super-pleased to share a guest post with you from Shana who blogs at Scaffolded Math and Science.  I love stalking Shana's blog because she posts some of the most gorgeous photos of her classroom.  Seriously, her word wall is to die for!  You can also interact with her on Twitter!  Today, she wants to share with you some thoughts on math anxiety.  Take it away, Shana!

Did you know that math can actually hurt? It’s been shown that math can cause actual physical pain in people who are already anxious about it. To be fair, it’s the thought of doing math rather than the actual math itself (I mean, math IS awesome!) but all jokes aside, this is a real thing for some kids, especially those who have failed repeatedly.

I teach high school Special Education Algebra 2 and Consumer Math to kids who have failed repeatedly. I still remember the day my coach kept tossing softballs for me to hit and ball after ball I missed. I could hear the other kids laughing at me. I could see the coach wondering what was wrong with me. I was sweating, I was searching desperately for an excuse to tell myself. I didn’t play softball for much longer after that.

With softball, I could quit. With math, you can’t quit until you are legally considered an adult. There are 2 parts of my job that I take very seriously. The first is to keep math anxiety to a minimum by substituting graded assignments for tests, doing lots of hands-on activities and giving open-notebook quizzes. When math anxiety is coupled with test-taking anxiety, how can a student possibly feel successful? I do give quizzes but also weigh class activities as heavily as quizzes to allow students to find success. I read a quote somewhere during my Special Education training that went something like, “Why would a kid want success when he doesn’t even know what it feels like?”

We display our student work on our classroom fridge to remember what success feels like. I give lots of activities and lots of different types of opportunities to earn points. Very few kids fail my classes. The second part of my job that I take very seriously is taking the mystery and pain out of math so that my students want to go on to take more math classes. When a kid sees a 100% proudly displayed on our classroom wall, it doesn’t matter if that assignment was specifically set up for her to get that 100%. All that matters is that it’s there, it’s felt, and it’s remembered the next day when the task is more challenging.

Thank you, Shana, for sharing your insight into working with special education students!  I know we all want each and everyone of our students to experience the feeling of success. Be sure to check out her blog, Scaffolded Math and Science for more resources!  And, leave her a comment to say thanks for sharing!  

Thursday, December 22, 2016

2017 Challenge Bulletin Board

I am super excited for 2017 because it means it's time for the "2017 Challenge."  Last January, I blogged about using the "2016 Challenge" with my students.

I learned about this challenge from twitter, of course.

It turned out that Jeremy Denton learned of the challenge from Mr. Collins.

After designing a template that would print on 11x17 cardstock (affiliate link) -- my go-to paper for making awesome classroom posters and displays!

I put up this bulletin board last year:

I've edited the files for 2017 instead of 2016.  I also changed the font to my current obsession, Wellfleet!

For each integer between 1 and 100, inclusive, there is a space for students to write the solution.  There is also a space to the right for students to write their name to show who found the solution.

ALL solutions must be verified by me before being added to the posters!

The last page in the file includes the instructions.  Students are asked to create each integer between 1 and 100 using only the digits in 2017.  Repeating digits is not allowed.  Students may use any mathematical symbol or operation.  Files are uploaded here.

One thing I love about this challenge is it encourages students to learn about factorials which they haven't had much exposure to at all.

Last year, it was fun to watch students work through this challenge.  We did not complete it last year, but it is not always possible to find solutions to each number.  The number of solutions that are possible depends on the year!

I look forward to challenging this year's students.  I'll update this post when I've got the new posters hung up in my room.  But, I thought I would go ahead and post this to give y'all a head start to get ready for 2017!

Looking for another challenge?  I highly recommend that you also check out the 5-4-3-2-1 challenge!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Linear Graphs Interactive Notebook Pages

It's Christmas Break!  My Algebra 1 students are almost done with our unit on Linear Graphs and Inequalities.  We've gone through all but the last two skills which are the "Inequalities" part of "Linear Graphs and Inequalities."  I thought I would take advantage of this time on break to share all the notebook pages we have done so far for linear graphing.  Once we've done the pages for inequalities, I will share them in a later post!  

Our unit started out with a divider: 

The backside of the divider has our 6 SBG skills for the unit.

Here's a close-up of my skills list:

Notes on finding slope and intercepts:

This is the first year I haven't shown "The Adventures of Slope Dude" in class.  I didn't have a working projector/SMARTBoard for almost two months, so this affected a lot of how I did things in my classroom.  The majority of my kids had already seen the video in their middle school math class.


My students did NOT want to do algebra to solve for the non-integer x-intercepts!  Instead, they just wanted to estimate.  I guess it didn't help that the examples I picked crossed half-way between two integers, so their estimates always ended up being correct.  Next time, I will make an equation that crosses at something like 1.2.

Up next: interpreting slope and intercepts

Types of Lines (Parallel/Perpendicular/Neither) Foldable:

Full disclosure: we spent an entire class period playing with making parallel and perpendicular lines on our coordinate plane geoboards BEFORE we did this foldable.  So, my students discovered relationships between the slope and y-intercept of these types of lines instead of me just telling them.  In the past, I've been guilty of just telling my students things.  This year, I'm trying to do a better job of helping them to discover these things.

Parallel/Perpendicular/Neither Practice

Things I want to change with this file in the future:
1. Give them nastier equations to rearrange.
2. Pre-type parallel/perpendicular/neither so they can simply circle the correct word.

Forms of Linear Equations (Slope-Intercept, Point-Slope, Standard) Foldable:

I love the circles I gave students to show where values should be plugged into each form.  Every year, I have students who try to plug in values for x and y in the equation, too.

I loved the circles so much, that I incorporated them into my next graphic organizer, too.  That turned out to be a mistake that I need to fix before teaching this again!

I designed this graphic organizer where I could type in some of the information, and students would have to find ALL of the other information.

For example, students might be given a graph.

Or the slope and a point.

Or the slope and an intercept.

Or a table.

We worked together to figure out what we had enough information for at any point in time.

As you can see, I had real trouble trying to fit my fractional slope in that tiny circle I gave myself.  Next year, I think I'll type blanks ____ instead of circles.  They were just TOO small to write in!

Some of the problems required more work than others, especially to rearrange equations from one form to another.  We did this on the back of each card.

Another thing I'm proud of is the fact that I required my students to write a parallel and perpendicular line.  I think a big problem I've had in the past with teaching parallel and perpendicular lines is that we did them for a day or two and that was it.  This year, I'm trying to incorporate them throughout the unit.  This is leading to a much deeper and lasting understanding!

This next foldable was created by my husband!  I wasn't feeling well, and he didn't have any work to do for school the next day.  So, he so kindly offered to create a foldable for me so I could rest.  I really do have the best husband!

We also did a bit of practice examining equations to see how the slope and y-intercepts changed.

Files are uploaded here!