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!