Math = Love: January 2016

Monday, January 25, 2016

Password Review to Practice Vocabulary

So, I've been in the processing of trying to clean out my drafts folder in blogger.  Most of these drafts are just titles that were meant to remind me what I should get around to blogging about.  Sadly, I don't remember what a lot of these titles are even referring to, so they've been deleted.  It's crazy how much stuff you forget about your day-to-day experiences of teaching if you don't write it down.

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder since last school year.  I do remember what it was supposed to refer to because I was smart enough to take pictures for the post!  :)  This isn't a new or novel idea, but that could be said for most of the stuff I post here.  It's actually based off games/tv shows like Password or Million Dollar Pyramid.

Last year, I gave my students a list of vocab words that they needed to know for their semester tests.

Here's an example from my Algebra 2 class:

Since I knew many of my students would not practice these vocab words on their own, I decided to devote part of our review time in class to vocab practice.  I typed up the vocab words they needed to know in a quick table.

Algebra 1 Words:

Algebra 2 Words:

These were cut apart and paper-clipped together to make decks of cards.

I put students in groups of 4.  Each group formed 2 teams of 2 that were competing against each other.  The cards were shuffled.  One student picked up the pile and tried to get his/her partner to say as many of the words as possible within one minute.

Rules:  You can't say what the word starts with.  You can't say what the word rhymes with.  You can't say how many letters are in the word.  Believe me.  Teenagers will try ALL of these things!

Tally up how many points the first team got.  Switch teams.  Repeat.

The first time I tried this, I had both teams going at the same time.  I found that my students wanted to listen to the other team for practice.

We played a few rounds of this, and it was awesome to hear their vocabulary improve as the game continued.  Students would overhear other groups describing things and use that to alter their descriptions later in the game.  Some came up with hand motions to represent the different vocab words.  I allowed this, but you might choose not to.

The best thing about this activity was it got students talking and describing.  I was able to just walk around and eavesdrop.  I learned a lot about what my students did and didn't understand.

So, this isn't new or novel, but I thought I'd share anyway since someone might be able to use it.  :)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Quick and Easy Review Games

There are the days when I spend hours crafting an awesome practice activity for my students.  Then, there are the days where I show up to school and need to figure out what all 3 preps are doing for the day during my 53 minute planning period.

Today, I want to share two ideas that I've used this year that can be thrown together on the quick.  They've both been stolen from other teachers, so I'll link to my inspiration.

Four In A Row - Inspired by Fawn Nguyen

* Find a pre-made worksheet for your topic online that has an answer key.  Print double-sided with the answer key on the back.  
* Make a quick table with the number of needed questions.  My worksheet had 26 questions, so I made a table with 25 boxes.  (Want the template for 25 boxes?  Click here!)  I didn't like the next-to-last question, so I told students to mark that one out and change #26 to #25.
* Put students in pairs.  I usually let them choose their own pairs.
* Each pair of students needs a worksheet/answer key, box template, and dry erase boards to show their work.
* Students decide who goes first.  This person chooses a question for both students to work out on their dry erase boards.
* Once both students are done, they turn over to the answer key and check their answers.  If the student who chose the question got it right, they get to write their name in that question's box.  If the student who chose the question got it wrong but their partner got it right, their partner gets to write their name in that question's box.  If both students got the question wrong, the box gets marked out without any names written.
* The other student gets to pick the next question.
* Play continues until one player gets their name four times in a row.  

Risk - Inspired by Julie Morgan

I've done a paper-based version of RISK before, but this was my first time using it with dry erase boards.  I played this with 5/6 of my classes on Wednesday.  Each class proclaimed that the game was fun and we should play it again!

* Come up with a set of practice questions.  You could write these yourself ahead of time.  Come up with them on the spot.  Copy them on the board from a textbook or worksheet.  Or, do what I did, and use Problem Attic (an awesome, free source of assessment questions!) to choose a bunch of questions related to the day's topic.  The great thing about the last option is there is an option to generate the questions as "Overhead Style."  You'll get a PDF file with one question per page to display with your projector.

* I put my students into groups of 2 to play this game with the hope that it would encourage conversation.  The pairs did result in lots of conversation, but I noticed only one student in the pair would do any of the writing.  So, you need to decide if you're looking for conversation or if you're looking for 100% participation.

* Have students/groups set up their dry erase boards.  I drew this picture on the SMARTBoard to explain what goes where.  I had each student start out with $100 on the right hand side of their board.  Their risk went in a specially designated box in the upper left corner.  And, they had to write their answer in the remaining space.

* Give the class a question and time to work it out.  I give students a warning of 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 to remind students to have their answer AND their risk written on the board.  When time is up, I make all the students hold up their boards so I can scan them.  I'm looking both at their answers AND their risks.  I require my students to risk at least $1 on every problem.  They can risk up to the amount they have, but no more.  If a group risks everything and loses, I give them $10 to get back in the game so they don't try and sit there and do nothing because they've lost.  The great part of this game is you can make up the rules to fit what your students need.  

* Work the problem out together.  If students got the problem right, they add their risk to the right-hand column.  If students got the problem wrong, they must subtract their risk in the right-hand column.  

* Repeat for as long as you have time.  My groups get super competitive and usually don't want to stop.  I tried stopping the game once because the bell had rang, but my kids begged for the last answer to be revealed so they could compare their scores.        

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

My Favorite: Coordinate Plane Geoboards


Today, I want to share my favorite new way to help struggling students with graphing linear equations.  At the end of last year, I was asked to provide a list of resources I would like in my classroom.  One of the things I asked for was coordinate plane geoboards.  [You can read about the rest of what I got here.]  I asked for twelve of them, thinking that each pair of students could share.  Now, I'm regretting that because I wish I had enough for every student to have their own.  

These have been AMAZING.  My kids have really enjoyed using them, and so many of the problems I've had in the past haven't been an issue this year.

Since I started teaching, I have always had a few kids who would "graph" by plotting the y-intercept and drawing a random line through it.  Guess what?  You can't do that with a geoboard.  You have to have at least two pegs to make a line which means they HAVE to use the slope to find another point!
I also used to have students who would mess up on their slope and not realize it.  For example, they would go up two and right one at one point instead of up three and right one.  The line looks *almost* right, and usually, they would be fine with this.  With the rubber bands, my kids know that if all the pegs are in the right spot, the rubber band will lie smoothly.  There have been so many times when a kid has asked for help because the way the rubber band is laying has told them that something isn't quite right with their graph.

Since the x-axis and y-axis are movable, not all of my kids have graphs that look exactly the same.  This leads to some awesome conversations that I never had when I just let my kids graph their lines on the dry erase boards.  It also means my students can graph equations that wouldn't be possible to graph on our dry erase boards.  I love watching them move the x-axis and y-axis as they work.  It gives me hope that when they get to Algebra 2 that changing the window on the graphing calculator won't seem so weird.

Now, these boards do present a few problems.  You can't graph fractional intercepts.  Instead, we just have to graph the other points and check that the rubber band does cross the axis at the appropriate place.  I warned my kids the first day we used these that the first time someone shot a rubber across the room that we would put them up, and I would hand out a packet of graphing worksheets instead.  This seemed to do the trick.  I never had anyone flick a rubber band (to my knowledge).  I did get hit by a rubber band once, but it was a complete accident.  I bought cheap containers (5 for a dollar) at Dollar Tree to store the rubber bands and pegs in.  This helped A LOT, but I still had to pick up a lot of blue pegs out of the floor.    

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Long-Awaited Announcement

So, some of you have been asking me a very specific question lately.  And, I've been ignoring you.  Sorry 'bout that.  It wasn't that I didn't want to answer; I just didn't think it was my news to share.  But, now that my fiance has let the cat out of the bag on his own blog, I figure I can share it with you guys here, too.  :)

Let's backtrack.

In August, I blogged about the fact that I am going to marry my best friend and fellow MTBoS member, Shaun Carter.  In December, we attended his (successful!) visa interview at the US Consulate in Sydney, Australia.  I kinda let you guys know about this in a January update because we were able to finally set a wedding date after the visa was approved.  I say "kinda" because I was intentionally vague in that blog post in regards to who exactly was getting a visa...

Now that Shaun has blogged about the fact that he's moving to America SOON, I can let you all know that Shaun is moving to Oklahoma.  He has left his maths teaching job of six years, moved out of his house, and gotten rid of almost everything he owns to move to the United States and marry me.  I'm so blessed to be marrying an amazing guy who is willing to take the scary step of moving to the other side of the world to be with me.  I'm looking forward to a lifetime of grand adventures with this handsome guy.  We're so excited to see what God has in store for our future.  God has already shown us that He is capable of far more than we ever thought possible.  He brought together two people from opposite sides of the globe.  Two people who have a passport or think they'd ever need one.  One of those people (me!) had never even been on an airplane.  (For the record, I've been on a grand total of 20 airplanes in the last ten months.)  God has been teaching us both that our "comfort zones" are self-imposed and have no bearing on His will for our lives.  And, from personal experience, I can say that stepping out of my comfort zone has been an exciting, amazing, and fruitful adventure.      

I also want to let you know that Shaun has started a new blog to chronicle his move to America and the start of our life together.  He has named it "Dropping the S" since his job title will soon be changing from "maths teacher" to "math teacher."  He's still keeping his teaching blog, but he wanted to create a space to keep his family and friends in Australia updated with what we're up to in America.  If you're interested in the more personal (and less math-y) side of our lives, you're welcome to follow along, too!  You can read his first post here.            

Friday, January 15, 2016

Things Teenagers Say: Volume 37

Time has gotten away from me, and I've been neglecting to fill you in on the crazy things teenagers say in my classroom.  Sorry about that!


Previous Volumes:
Volume 01 | Volume 02 | Volume 03 | Volume 04 | Volume 05
Volume 06 | Volume 07 | Volume 08 | Volume 09 | Volume 10
Volume 11 | Volume 12 | Volume 13 | Volume 14 | Volume 15
Volume 16 | Volume 17 | Volume 18 | Volume 19 | Volume 20
Volume 21 | Volume 22 | Volume 23 | Volume 24 | Volume 25
Volume 26 | Volume 27 | Volume 28 | Volume 29 | Volume 30
Volume 31 | Volume 32 | Volume 33 | Volume 34 | Volume 35
Volume 36


Student 1: Do old people hiccup?
Student 2: I don't think they do.  I've never heard an old person hiccup.
Student 1: I'm going to google it.  "Do old people hiccup?"
Student 2: Why don't you look for videos of old people hiccuping on Youtube?
Student 1: [Searches Youtube]  All I can find is videos of babies hiccuping.  I don't think old people hiccup.


Student playing Scattergories: "I put ham, but I don't think ham is a dairy product."


Math bought the alphabet like Dish bought DirecTV.


Oooh!  I love the distributive property!  I eat the distributive property on my pizza every morning.


It hurts me when you read these out loud.


Student: Oh man!  I wish I was a goat so bad.
Me: Why?
Student: Then, I could do goaty things.


You need to tweet about the wrong-doings of your students.


Vegans just pretty much eat chips.  And bananas.


I don't want to pay attention.  I want attention to pay me.


Why don't you go gurgle some peanut butter?


You type very quickly.  You've got that blogger's touch.


Student: Once you get married, can we call you President Carter?
Me: No.


No offense.  But, I was really hoping you weren't going to be here yesterday so we could finish the movie.


Guys, after Ms. Hagan gets married, we're going to have to call her Mrs. Hagan.


Poker is just Yahtzee with cards.


If you ain't a Justin Bieber fan, get out of my life!


Student: Are you clearing your throat to get our attention?
Me: No.  I have a frog in my throat.
Student: But, you're a vegetarian.


Student 1: Did you really bring a blanket in here?!?
Student 2: Yes.
Student 1: I had to stop what I was saying just to address the fact that you brought a blanket to school.


Someone said my shirt looks like "Homeless meets Where's Waldo?", but I like it.


If the graph looks like an EAR, it's not linEAR.


Student 1: If the heat isn't back on tomorrow, I'm going to stay home under my blanket and watch facebook.
Student 2: Watch facebook?
Student 1: All facebook is anymore is videos.  You practically just watch facebook.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

A Day In The Life

Today, I present "A Day In The Life of Sarah Hagan."  Yesterday, I wrote down every single thing I did just for you.  I know you're just dying to know how I spend every waking moment of my day.  Oh, you're not?  Well, I guess I did it for the #MTBoS 2016 Blogging Initiative, then.  

This is long.  You have been warned.  If you make it to the end, I will be very impressed.  I'm not sure my life is that exciting.  But, in the interest of being comprehensive, here we go!  

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

4:45 a.m. - Alarm goes off.  Hit snooze a couple of times.

5:00 a.m. - Finally drag myself out of bed to Skype with my fiance.  Let's just say American time zones and Australian time zones don't always play nice with each other.  We just remind ourselves constantly that it could be worse.

6:55 a.m. - End Skype call.  Start getting ready.  This means getting dressed, eating breakfast, brushing my teeth, packing a lunch, tidying up my house, and resetting the thermostat.  I made waffles for dinner the previous night, so I just had to heat up a waffle in the toaster and make a glass of chocolate milk.  I also took my last day of antibiotics for my sinus infection and pneumonia.

7:35 a.m. - Leave for school.

7:40 a.m. - Arrive at school.

7:44 a.m. - Arrive in classroom.  Immediately turn on heater.

7:45 a.m. - Head to teacher's lounge to put lunch in refrigerator.  Talk to coworker who is making copies.  Stand in front of heater in teacher's lounge to warm up.

7:47 a.m. - Turn on computer and open up a million tabs in Chrome plus SMARTNotebook.  Personal E-mail.  Blog E-mail.  School E-mail.  Gradebook.  Blogger.  Tweetdeck.  Box.  Yeah, I think that'll do for now.  

7:49 a.m. - Get distracted by Tweetdeck.

7:50 a.m. - Send a text to the handyman my landlady uses to ask if the plumbers actually fixed my bathtub because it seems to still be leaking.

7:53 a.m. - A student stops by to ask a question about missing statistics work

7:54 a.m. - Answer two blog e-mails

7:56 a.m. - Get distracted by Tweetdeck.  Again.

8:00 a.m. - First period starts with the pledge of allegiance and a moment of silence.  I'm lucky to have planning period first hour to let me get stuff done and ready for the day.  I don't have a ton of stuff to get done today because I was on top of things the previous day!

8:07 a.m. - Make a SMARTboard file for the day with the needed supplies for each hour.

8:09 a.m. - Become very agitated that the time my computer is showing is wrong.  Decide to change the computer time to the correct time to make recording all this stuff easier.

8:10 a.m. - Design a poof booklet for my students to use to practice finding x-intercepts and y-intercepts with their calculators.

8:21 a.m. - Read texted reply to my plumbing issue.  The plumbers did come yesterday.  They took apart my faucet, realized they didn't have the part it needed, and put it back together again.  Should have it fixed by the end of the day.

8:22 a.m. - Type up a set of notes to instruct my students how to find the relative max/min of a function on their graphing calculator.

8:31 a.m. - Walk next door to the teacher's lounge to collect my copies and use the paper chopper.

8:33 a.m. - Fix the green posters that will not stop falling down.  Ugh.

8:34 a.m. - Browse Twitter some more.

8:37 a.m. - Print Algebra 2 Quiz for tomorrow

8:39 a.m. - Decide I should make a poof book for my students to practice finding max/min using their calculator.  This one goes together much faster than the last one!

8:43 a.m. - Back to the teacher's lounge to pick up more copies.  I'm so lucky in that my classroom is right next to the teacher's lounge.  I don't have a printer in my room, so everything I print goes to the copy machine in the teacher's lounge.

8:45 a.m. - A coworker stops in to ask how I am.  We talk about how cold it is.  Then, we discuss grad school since we are both working on our master's at the moment.

8:47 a.m. - Put away all the copies I have made today (and yesterday) in their trays.  Clean off my desk.

8:49 a.m. - Type up two post-it notes of "things teenagers say" from the past week.  I write these on post-it notes as they happen, and then I transfer them to a blog post draft every few days.

8:51 a.m. - Make an answer key for yesterday's Algebra 1 quiz.

8:53 a.m. - Bell rings to end first period.  Turn on SMARTboard and greet students as they enter my classroom.

8:54 a.m. - During the passing period, I decide to try and get my Algebra 1 quizzes from yesterday graded for 3rd hour so I can pass them back.

8:58 a.m. - Second period starts.  Walk my students through more graphing calculator practice.  It takes my students almost all period to work through the six practice problems.  Decide to put the quiz I had planned off until tomorrow.  Tell myself that I need to be patient because learning how to use the graphing calculator is not simple.

9:50 a.m. - Passing period.  I tell myself that I'm going to get some more quizzes graded.  But, a student rolls in my room on her self-balancing scooter board (or hoverboard).  She insists that I try it out.  I refuse, at first.  But, the student assures me that she will hold on to me, and I won't fall.  I hesitate some more.  Then, she starts to list off all of the other teachers who have given it a try.  By now, a crowd of students has gathered to watch me try.  After a quick tutorial and a couple of failed attempts, I stand up on the scooter board.  Not knowing what to do, I just stand there.  Scared to death, I try to get off.  But, this just results in me spinning around in a circle.  The student instructs me that I am going to have to actually lift my feet off of the board to get off.  I do this, and I am so thankful to be back on the ground!

9:55 a.m. - Third period starts.  Algebra 1 works through a set of notes on writing the equation when given the x-intercept and y-intercept.  Then, they take a quiz over writing equations given a table or two points.  While students are quizzing, I take the chance to grade my fifth hour's quizzes from yesterday.

10:47 a.m. - Passing period.  I take advantage of this time to grade sixth hour's quizzes from yesterday.

10:52 a.m. - Fourth period starts.  My stats students work through running two simulations using a random number table.  A bunch of students were absent the previous day when we learned how to do this, so it takes much longer than I intend.  Originally, I had planned to have students do one simulation and then take their quiz.  Half way through the first simulation, I realize my students are going to need another practice problem.  So, I print off another practice problem while students are running their 20 trials on the first simulation.

11:44 a.m. - Lunch starts.  I decide to grade yesterday's quizzes from seventh period before I do anything else.  Then, I follow my daily ritual of putting my lunch in the microwave, running to the faculty restroom, and then coming back to take my lunch out of the microwave.  While I eat my lunch, I read blog posts in Inoreader and browse Twitter.  One of my favorite lunch-time readings is FiveThirtyEight's Significant Digits.  It's a daily (and often humorous) summary of the numbers in the news.  This is probably bad to admit, but many days this is the only news I read.

12:00 p.m. - Start coughing incessantly.  As kids start trickling in my room, they keep asking me if I'm okay.  I insist I am, but I just can't quit coughing.  Decide to make a key for the Algebra 1 quiz my students are taking today.

12:15 p.m. - Set my trash can out in the hall for it to be emptied.  Check a few students' solutions to the 2016 Challenge.

12:20 p.m. - Fifth period starts.  Algebra 2 again.  This class gets farther than my morning class.  While students are taking their quiz, I grade some quizzes from third period.

1:12 p.m. - Passing period.  This time, I make a key for today's Algebra 2 quiz.

1:17 p.m. - Sixth period starts.  Algebra 1.  After students take their notes and are working on their quiz, I take advantage of this bit of extra time to send out my #Teach180 tweet for the day and tidy my desk.  I go to throw a piece of trash away and realize my trash can is still in the hall.  The student who is employed to empty the trash must not be here today because my trash can is still full.  I take the trash liner out, tie it up, and set it in the hall.  I bring my trash can back in and place a new liner in it.

2:09 p.m. - Last passing period of the day.  One of my students who really struggled last semester is one of the last to leave.  I take a moment to tell the student how impressed I am with how hard he is working this semester.  I tell him that it makes me so happy to see him turning in quizzes covered in work instead of blank quizzes.  This means I can show him exactly where he went wrong instead of not being able to give him any feedback at all since I can't read his mind.  I actually start tearing up while talking to this student.  I really am so proud of him.

2:14 p.m. - Seventh period starts.  I give my student aides a few jobs to do.  This is my last Algebra 1 class of the day.  While they are taking their quiz, I start writing my daily blog post.  Today's blog post was about x-intercepts and y-intercepts.

3:06 p.m. - Last bell of the day rings.  As soon as the last student leaves the room, I lock the door and head down the hall to the special education classroom.  I'm supposed to be part of an IEP meeting that started at 3:00 p.m.

3:24 p.m. - The meeting wraps up.  I head back to my room to finish the blog post I started earlier.

3:30 p.m. - Send an e-mail to the blood drive coordinator re: potential dates.

3:36 p.m. - Forward a STEM Day e-mail to my colleagues with an explanation that I won't be at work that week due to my wedding, but I think our students would love it if one of them took it on.

3:43 p.m. - Reply to a kind e-mail from a coworker who is thanking me for having my students write letters.  She received some lovely notes from students, and she treasures the feedback.

3:46 p.m. - Print the next three Algebra 1 quizzes.

3:48 p.m. - Time for an afternoon snack!

3:51 p.m. - Send an e-mail confirming that the Tulsa Zoo will be visiting our Public Library tomorrow for Story Time.  I'm in charge of this.  Hopefully, we have a bunch of kids show up!

3:52 p.m. - Prepare Algebra 1 notes for tomorrow.  Students are required to interpet the meaning of the slope and y-intercept of a graph or table.  I decide to modify some notes from the previous year.

4:26 p.m. - Pick up my copies from the teacher's lounge.

4:28 p.m. - Make a to-do list before heading home.

4:31 p.m. - Shut down my computer.  It's crazy how many files I can open in the course of a single day!

4:34 p.m. - Leave school.

4:42 p.m. - Pull in my garage at home.

4:43 p.m. - Check the mail.

4:44 p.m. - Stand in my bathroom for awhile while I inspect the job done by the plumbers.  My bathtub is not leaking.  That is a good sign!  Turn on the water.  Turn off the water.  It leaks.  Keep standing there, waiting for it to stop leaking.

4:49 p.m. - Send my fiance a message to see what he's up to.  Climb under my electric blanket for a few minutes to get warm.

5:02 p.m. - Wash a sink full of dishes from the previous night's waffle making experience.  My dishwasher doesn't work well, so I just wash all my dishes by hand.  It's not fun.  Though, my fiance convinced me to start wearing gloves while I wash dishes.  I think it makes it slightly more fun, and my fingers don't get all wrinkled.  The best part is I can pull the gloves off when I'm done and have dry hands.

5:31 p.m. - Go through the day's mail.  Decide what to keep and what to throw out.  I ended up throwing it all out.

5:33 p.m. - Put on a load of laundry.  When my hot water tank started leaking this past weekend, I put down a bunch of towels to catch the water.  They now need to be washed.

5:36 p.m. - Take a few minutes to read some blog posts and visit Twitter.

5:44 p.m. - Start writing this "A Day In The Life" post.

6:49 p.m. - Rotate laundry.

6:52 p.m. - Decide I should probably do some more dishes.  I've been putting them off for ages. I also decide to eat a little something for dinner.  The mixed nuts I snacked on after I got home were not going to be enough.  I wasn't really in the mood to cook, so I ended up heating up another waffle in the toaster.  So what if I've had waffles for 3 out of the last 4 meals...

7:20 p.m. -  Time for a shower.

7:37 p.m. - Check Twitter again.  Think I'm obsessed?

7:43 p.m. - Decide I should probably answer a few more e-mails.  Click on an e-mail that says I've been tagged in a post on facebook.  Get distracted by facebook.  Spend the rest of the evening browsing the internet.  To do list forgotten.

9:20 p.m. - Bed time.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Finding X-Intercepts and Y-Intercepts

I am so behind on my Algebra 2 notebook.  Keeping up with notebooks for Algebra 1, Algebra 2, and Stats this year is killing me.  Actually, it killed me last year, too.  I need to get in the habit of gluing my notes in the notebook while my students are doing the same.  That just hasn't happened yet.

So, I realize I have a lot of notes to get caught up on and post to this blog.  But, I'm just going to jump in where we're at this moment.  We are learning about all the things our graphing calculators can do.  First up: finding the x-intercept and y-intercept of a graph.  These instructions are written for using a TI-84 because that's what I have a class set of.

As I was typing these up, I did a quick google to find if I could find something already typed up.  Nothing looked pretty enough to just print and glue in our notebooks.  But, in the process, I did learn a new way of finding the y-intercept using the calculator.  When I was in high school, my teacher taught us to always use the table on the calculator to find the y-intercept.  Y'all probably already know this, but you can also use the Value Option from the Calculate menu.  This was news to me!  I put both options down for my students.  Giving students multiple solving options is something I'm trying to do a better job of incorporating in my classes.

Another thing that throws my students off is the fact that they are rarely asked to find the y-intercept of a graph on their end-of-instruction exam.  Instead, they will be asked to find the roots, solutions, or zeros of an equation.  I really try to drive home the fact that anytime they are asked for roots, solutions, or zeros, they are really just being asked to find the x-intercept.

I told my students to draw a box around this fact, star it, add exclamation points, or anything that would make it stand out in their notes.  They noted that the way I had boxed it in on mine looked like the state of Oklahoma.  I joked that I had done that on purpose because the state of Oklahoma was requiring them to know this fact.

My students really struggled with the left bound and right bound instructions, so I shared with them a tip I learned from @druinok.  She has her students place the cursor as close to the point as possible and then click the left arrow a few times for left bound and the right arrow a few times for right bound.  My students thought this was the best trick ever.  It really cut down on the mistakes they were making.

If you think you could use these with your students, I've uploaded them here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Universal Letter Writing Week 2016

Friday, we participated in one of my favorite activities of the year:

Universal Letter Writing Week

I started this tradition during my first year of teaching.  I was researching ideas for student council when I came across the fact that the second week of January is Universal Letter Writing Week.  I excitedly began envisioning tables set up in the hall with letter writing materials.  My student council kids were not impressed with the idea.  So, I decided I would make it happen in my classroom instead.

This has taken different forms in different years.  Some years, we've written a letter each day as a warm-up activity.  This year, I gave them the task to write three letters on a single day (and a quiz, too)!  The first letter they wrote was to a teacher in our building.  The second letter they wrote had to be to someone who works in our school that is not a teacher.  And, the third letter could be to anyone they wanted.  Some wrote letters to friends, family members, or another teacher off the list.  I intentionally did not put my name on the list of teachers students could write to, so three students chose to write me a letter as their third choice.  I thought that was very sweet!  

The best part about letter writing is the origami envelope that we fold the letters in to.  This makes the letters stack really nicely to be delivered to the recipients.  Plus, my kids just really enjoy folding paper.    

January is the type of month where it's easy for teachers to get depressed and overwhelmed, and I know that a few nice, thoughtful words can make a huge impact on a teacher's day.  I think our kids need to be pushed at times to show their gratitude.  I know many of my coworkers have kept these letters from previous years because I've seen them in their classrooms.  It's always fun to deliver the stacks of letters because everyone knows exactly what they are since this is my fourth year doing this with my students.    

This is the type of thing that would be great to do with students any time of the year.  It doesn't have to be the second week of January.  Just declare it "Letter Writing Week" at your school.  Or, "Letter Writing Day."  

Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 Challenge Bulletin Board

New semester means new changes in my classroom.  /Let's just say this change has some of my students excited and some of my students annoyed.  Excited about a new challenge.  Annoyed at the fact that the sticky note board is no more.

After a semester of students putting a sticky note (with their name on it) on the board each time they made a perfect score the first time on a quiz, I had a bulletin board with a BUNCH of sticky notes.

One good thing about having student aides?  I didn't have to take all of these down myself!!!

So, what's gone up in its place?

The 2016 Challenge.  Because, it' know...2016.  The goal is for students to create the numbers 1-100 using only the digits 2, 0, 1, and 6.  Students may add/subtract/multiply/divide, use parentheses, exponents, factorials, square roots, or whatever their little heart desires.

I first learned about the challenge from this tweet:

A comment on that tweet led me to this blog post by Mr. Collins about the 2015 challenge.  

I, of course, had to type up my own version to fit on American sized paper.  My mom bought me a package of 11" x 17" card stock a while back that I have put to good use in my classroom.  I decided that printing the challenge on this larger paper would save my sanity when it came to hang it up.

Here's what the finished product ended up looking like:


Each number has a space to write the equation and a space for the student who found the solution to sign their name.

And, here are the instructions:

So, it's been one day.  And, I'm super impressed by the response I've gotten from my kiddos.  Let's just say I'm not used to seeing kids huddled around my bulletin boards with their calculators having heated discussions.  I could get used to this!

Here's the results thus far:

The first page has been almost all filled in.  The other pages still have a while to go.  But, that's a good thing.  I know the progress will be MUCH slower from now on.

If you have access to 11 x 17 paper, you might be interested in the file I made for this.  I've posted it here as an editable Publisher file and a PDF.  For the Publisher file, you'll need this free font: HVD Comic Serif Pro.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

New Semester - Time to Reflect!

Tuesday was my first day back.  Monday was the first day back for my students, but life intervenes and you have to take a day off every once in a while.  I was so proud of myself for making it through the entirety of last semester without catching any sicknesses.  Unfortunately, I ended up developing a sinus infection and pneumonia over break that meant I missed the first day back.

Palm Trees in Sydney, Australia 

I was able to spend 12 days of my Christmas break in Australia with my fiance and his family.  It was so weird experiencing Christmas as a SUMMER holiday!  Being sick almost the entire time was definitely not fun, but I still had an amazing time.  The time to leave and come back home came way too soon.  Leaving was made a bit easier by the fact that my fiance and I got some good news on the visa front, so we've been able to finalize our wedding date for this March.  Guys, this means I'm getting married this year!!!  

The Obligatory Sydney Opera House Picture ;) 
Since I still wasn't feeling 100% when I came back to work on Tuesday, I took it easy and gave my students tasks that they could work on without a ton of help.  First, I had my students fill out a reflection sheet.  There were three parts.

Six Word Reflections.  Students were asked to summarize 2015 in six words.  They were also supposed to write the six words that they hoped would define 2016.  The six word limit was inspired by the six-word memoir movement.  My kids had a lot of trouble with the six word limit.  A lot of them interpreted it as "six phrases" instead...  

Keep/Change/Start/Stop Times Two.  I've blogged about this form of reflection before here.

The first one was for them to decide what they wanted to keep/change/start/stop in 2016.  This could be about school or just about their personal life.

The second one was for students to reflection on changes they would like to see in our class.  I personalized mine to say Ms. Hagan should...  This was my students' chance to speak up about how they felt about how my class is structured.  I warned them that if they suggested something like "stop teaching us math" it wasn't going to happen.

In reading through their responses, I found that I much preferred to read their own Keep/Change/Start/Stop reflections because it gave me a glimpse into their present life and their future aspirations.  Most of the suggestions for me centered around wanting us to do less work.  Sorry guys.  Free days and movie days just aren't my thing.

I've uploaded the files here if you can use them for something.  If you download the editable version (Publisher), you'll need these free fonts: Comic Zine OT and Gigi.  I've also uploaded it as a PDF.

After the reflection sheet, I handed back semester tests to my students.  The semester test was made up of released end-of-instruction questions from the state of Oklahoma.  I made sure to pick out questions that covered what we had learned first semester. It was 100% multiple choice, and I gave students a cover sheet to record their answers on for easy grading.  When I handed them back, I kept their cover sheets and just returned their problem sets and work.  I then gave them a blank cover sheet and instructed that that they could use any resource to redo their semester test.  This could mean working together, researching problems on the internet, etc.  They were also given the percentage they made on their semester test to let them know what percent of their answers needed to be changed.

Some of my classes got together in groups and worked diligently.  Others just sat there like bumps on a log which frustrated me.  I guess I did give them a two week timeline to get these turned in, so it's partially my fault.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

#MTBoS Blogging Initiative

I, Sarah Hagan, resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom up and share my thoughts with other teachers. I hope to accomplish this goal by participating in the January Blogging Initiation hosted by Explore MTBoS.

You, too, could join in on this exciting adventure. All you have to do is dust off your blog and get ready for the first prompt to arrive January 10th!