Math = Love: November 2018

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!

Friday, November 9, 2018

Five Things Friday: Volume 22

Blog posts two days in a row - what craziness is this?!? I figured since it's Friday, I might as well keep up my new-found blogging momentum with a new volume of Five Things Friday. These posts are a collection of things I have been up to of late that haven't made it on the blog. Since I've been neglecting this blog so much, I could probably sit down and write a Fifteen Things Friday, but I will try to keep it to just Five.

1. This has been an extra crazy week. We had a professional day on Tuesday for Election Day. Then, the rest of the week has been a bit out of the ordinary. Wednesday, I was displaced by the Pre-ACT being given in my room. Thursday, all the sophomores went on a field trip. Then, today our schedule has been thrown off by a Veterans Day Assembly. This meant our only normal day of the entire week was Monday!

I had to cover all of my beautiful decorations for the Pre-ACT which turned out to be a real pain. The paper would NOT stay up on the walls. Apparently, some of the paper ended up falling off the wall during the actual test. Oops...

Do you know what else happens when you cover up all your decorations? Every single kid who walks into your classroom for the rest of the day has to ask "Are we having a test?" "Is there a pop-quiz today?" "Why are the walls covered?" Given the fact that I've never once before covered the walls, I don't understand why my students automatically equate that with having to take a test.

I do have to admit that I got tired of telling students the real reason for the walls being covered at a certain point and started telling them that I was in a bad mood. As a result, I decided the room was too colorful and I had to cover up the posters to match my mood. I thought they would realize I was joking, but I heard from the chemistry teacher later in the day that students were talking about the fact that I was in a really bad mood.

2. In used Shaun Carter's ZERO! Game with great success to motivate factored form of quadratics. I presented this as a "game day" after we had talked about vertex form of quadratics and standard form of quadratics and BEFORE we started factoring quadratics the next day. It was PERFECT for an Early Release Friday with shortened, 40 minute periods.

I noticed a HUGE difference between how my Pre-AP Algebra 2 classes and my on-level Algebra 2 classes tackled the strategy aspect of the game. If you're not familiar with the game, students must pick a card. A random number generator is used to generate an integer between -5 and 6, inclusive. If that number causes a student's card to evaluate to ZERO, the student's team earns a point. The strategy comes in from the fact that a team may earn a maximum of one point from any single turn. So, if three students have a card that evaluates to zero, the team still only earns one point. So, if a team is clever, they will figure out how to maximize their probability of earning a point each round.

One thing this activity made me realize is that my students REALLY don't have an understanding of how randomness works. I used the random number generator that Shaun created especially for this game and shared on his blog, and students became very stressed out if a number was called twice or (GASP!) three times in a row.

As we have been solving quadratics by factoring, it has been interesting to be able to reference the game that we played and make the connection between what they were doing in the game and what we are doing as we solve equations.

3. I'm really pushing the box method this year in my Algebra 2 classes, so Christie Bradshaw's area model puzzles were a perfect introduction to the box method before we jumped into factoring using the box method!

4. Shaun and I have really been enjoying attending the Tulsa Math Teachers' Circle this school year. We've always loved attending in the past, but it's super nice to live much closer and not have an hour long drive home afterwards! We tackled some fun puzzles at our last meeting. Our opening task was a new one to me.

Take a standard checkerboard and remove two of the corner pieces that are diagonal from one another. You can see in the picture below where we marked them out with an x. Then, take a standard set of dominoes and cover the remaining squares of the checkerboard.

Afterwards, we discussed the mathematics of the famous Fifteen Puzzle. It was a bit mind-blowing.

4. Years ago, I attended a Common Core Workshop where we did an activity involving rope and systems of equations. It was called "All Tied Up In Knots." Well, I finally tried the activity in my classroom with my Algebra 2 students, and it was an awesome introduction to solving systems of equations. There are a few things I would tweak before doing the activity again, but I will definitely be doing it in the future.

I didn't burn the ends of my rope because I'm a major procrastinator and didn't have time to cut the rope until the morning of the activity, so I ended up having to throw all the rope away. In the future, I will definitely burn the ends of the rope to prevent fraying so I can keep the rope and reuse it from year to year.

The goal of the activity was to determine what number of knots was required to take two ropes of unequal lengths and make them the same length. The students achieved this by collecting data, creating a scatter plot, drawing in lines of best fit for each rope, and finding the point of intersection.

5. Sadly, I'm finding that a lot of my go-to review games from the past six years at my old school just aren't working for my new school. Having 30 students in a class is very different from having 10-16 students in each class. One game that has been working well this year has been ZAP. It has become one of my students' most requested review games. Whenever one class gets to play it and another doesn't, I definitely hear complaints.

I love that now that I have the cards prepped, the only real prep is to find a set of questions to use as a review.

Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Four Aces Puzzle - Jumbo Magnetic Version

This isn't the first time the Four Aces Puzzle has made an appearance on my blog. It was one of my very first puzzle table puzzles last year. I especially love this puzzle because it is a completely free download from Earlier this year, the puzzle seemed to disappear from their site, but it is back again! In addition to the Four Aces Puzzle, the site also features a number of other free printable puzzles. It's definitely worth checking out.

This year with 30 students or nearly that many in the majority of my classes, I don't have the extra space for a puzzle table like I used to have at my old school where my classes tended to have more like 12-16 students. For the first couple of months of the school year, I experimented with storing puzzles in a file organizer (the jungle green organizer on the far right side of the cabinets in the photo below) for students to access when they finished early. For my students the puzzles were pretty much out of sight and thus out of mind. This meant they didn't get the attention that I thought they deserved.

My solution to this has been to make large, magnetic puzzles to hang on the dry erase board at the front of my classroom. The first puzzle to make an appearance here was the Equilateral Triangle Puzzle from Puzzle Box, Volume 1 (affiliate link). Frequent readers will also recognize this as the last time I ever actually found time to blog this school year! (oops...)

I found that laminating the puzzle pieces (just printed on regular weight colored copy paper) and placing an adhesive magnet on the backed worked perfectly for posting the puzzle on my dry erase board. I had previously picked up a package of adhesive magnetic buttons at Walmart for some other forgotten task, and they worked great. If I continue to do magnetic puzzles, I will probably look into buying some adhesive magnets online in bulk to save money.

Honestly, it took my students probably three full days before anyone realized that there was a puzzle on the board. I was beginning to think that all my laminating and magneting was a waste. But when one kid found it, it led the entire rest of the class to want to solve it. Then, kids would stay after and play with it which kids in the next hour would notice and then other hours started tackling it.

This puzzle became so popular that I regularly had to send kids back to their seats because seven of them would be trying to solve the puzzle as I was trying to start class!

The other problem I ran into was that students would try solving the puzzle and think their solution was correct, but they had neglected to read the instructions. Of course, this was definitely a problem with my puzzle table in the past as well. How, oh how, do we get kids to stop and read directions on a regular basis?!?

Life has been CRAZY lately (more about that in another post. I promise!) which means that as much as I loved the idea of magnetic puzzles, I never really got around to changing the puzzle out. (Okay. That's not exactly true. I tried changing out the puzzle several times, but there's something about the way that my school computer does things that two of the puzzles I typed up did not work.) This week, though, I finally became determined that I would get the puzzle changed out. I didn't have time to come up with a new puzzle (blame that on my new preps!) so I turned to an old favorite from last year: the four aces puzzles that I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

I'm not sure if my students are intuitive enough to figure out the puzzle without reading the directions or if the kids have suddenly improved at reading directions, but it hasn't really been an issue with this puzzle. The one problem we have ran into with this puzzle, though, is that it's really hard to check a student's solution at a glance. You have to really get close and make sure that each and every card matches up. The easiest way to do this is by comparing the little symbols on each half of the card.

As I have watched students tackle this during the week, I am reminded why I want to do this more often. My goal is to start changing out this puzzle once per week like I used to do on the puzzle table. Hopefully this will help get me back into blogging as I share each week's puzzle with you.

So, the nine squares with the aces are all courtesy of I do not want to take any credit for the actual creation of the puzzle. The only thing I have done and will be providing you the file for today is a printable instruction sheet that can be posted next to the puzzle and a jumbo version of the cards to making an interactive display. If you want each kid to tackle this puzzle on their own, you are probably better off just printing the regular PDF version off the site. I love that the jumbo version helps to promote students working together in a way that I just haven't been able to achieve with the smaller version. 

I have uploaded the instruction page and the jumbo version here. Please still visit the site to give them some support and check out their other awesome printable puzzles!