Math = Love: 2020

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Goals for the 2020-2021 School Year - PANDEMIC STYLE

Earlier this month, I shared the files and inspiration behind my 2020-2021 lesson plan book. One of my new pages for this year is a goals page. I decided I wanted to pick 5 priorities for this school year and commit them to writing. My plan is that once per month, I will reflect on how I'm doing and how I can further improve.

So, what are my goals for 2020-2021?

1. Google Classroom
2. Parent/Student Contact Log
3. Blog Regularly as Reflective Practice
4. Stop Reinventing the Wheel When I Don't Have To
5. Desmos Computational Layer

I'll elaborate on each below.

Google Classroom

This is my third year using google classroom. Each year, I've tried to use it effectively. But if I'm honest, I only really used it to send out assignments when I was unexpectedly absent OR to post answer keys to study guides.

Maybe it's cheating a bit to set this as my goal this year because I don't really have a choice in the matter. I MUST master google classroom this year. We are teaching face-to-face, but we frequently have students quarantining after being exposed to COVID or because they are exhibiting symptoms. Sometimes these quarantine periods can last up to 24 days. Students need to know exactly what they are missing when they can't be in the classroom with me.

It is my goal that my Google Classroom classwork tab for each class will represent a comprehensive list of what we did EVERY DAY of the ENTIRE SCHOOL YEAR. Does this do away with my need for a lesson plan book? No, not at all. My lesson plan book's purpose is to provide me an "at a glance" view of what each course is doing each day. It's a place to write notes to myself about what went well and what needs to be overhauled in the future. I will say that when you get three days behind in filling out your lesson plan book, though, that google classroom then provides an excellent resource for remembering what you did each day!

We're currently 14 days into the school year and my google classroom is still up to date, so I guess I'm doing good so far. I've learned some lessons about using google classroom effectively, but I will save those for my first goals check-in post.

Parent/Student Contact Log

Parent contact is an area which I can definitely improve upon. It's probably one of my weakest areas. I often wait until parents contact me, and I know I need to be more proactive in my approach. This year I'm teaching almost entirely juniors and seniors, so I'm hoping I can also be more proactive in communicating with them to hopefully avoid having to do as much bad news communication with parents.

In the past, I tried to keep a paper-based parent contact log. It did not work at all. I would fill out a page or two, and then it would sit collecting dust the entire rest of the year. As soon as I forgot to log a single conversation, I would decide that it just wasn't worth it to keep logging conversations since my log was no longer 100% comprehensive. This is one of those areas where my perfectionism flairs up. If I can't do it perfectly, I just don't want to do it at all.

This year I tossed all my old (blank) parent contact forms and have taken a digital approach. I don't let myself archive any emails from my inbox until I've added them to my contact log, so that's forcing me to stay of logging things as I strive regularly for inbox zero.

I based my digital log off of a log my school required us to keep back in the spring when we were first experiencing distance learning. I don't want to share too much until I make sure it actually works.

Blog Regularly as Reflective Practice

When I first started blogging as a student teacher, I was constantly reflecting on my teaching practice. I talked about what was going well and what was going not so well. Somewhere along the way, my blog posts shifted into "Here's a cool puzzle!" or "Here's a printable activity I made for my students." That shift isn't a bad thing. It probably resulted from just gaining confidence in myself and my teaching skills.

But, like everyone else in the teaching profession right now, I'm feeling like a first year teacher all over again. I don't have perfectly polished digital activities to share with you that you can implement tomorrow. But, I do have built and my reflections on what worked well and what didn't work at all. This year, I want to focus more on blogging to share these reflections. For it's through the writing of these reflections that I get a chance to learn from these lessons. And, hopefully you learn something, too.

Stop Reinventing the Wheel When I Don't Have To

I don't have to make all my own activities. I don't have to make all my own videos. It's okay to borrow and adapt resources from others. It's okay to borrow them and not even make any attempt to adapt them at all. I didn't write it as a goal on this list, but my number one goal for this school year is to SURVIVE. I have three preps this year. Even though I've taught each of them before, I've never taught any of them in the midst of a pandemic. I've never taught any of them using only digital resources. I've never taught them to students quarantined at home.

I need to remind myself that I am still a good teacher even if I am relying on the work of other teachers. So this year, I will create resources when I feel inspired, and I will adapt and use the resources of others when I need to.

Desmos Computational Layer

I've played around a tiny bit with Desmos Computational Layer, but I know I have SOOOOOO much still to learn. As I make my own activities this year, I hope to become more proficient in CL. I've already learned a bit this year that I'm super excited about. But, learning this little bit has shown me how much more there is to learn. I'm hoping to share one tiny tidbit of CL I've learned each month when I post an update on how my goals are going.

I'll be back next month with an update about how my goals are going. I'd love to hear about your goals for this school year!

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

New Puzzle: Only 'Takes' and 'Adds'

I did a lot of thinking this summer about how I wanted to incorporate puzzles into my classroom this year. Over the last few years, puzzles are one of the things I've become known for sharing on my blog. Hello, I have an entire page on my blog dedicated to all things puzzles.

There are so many excellent puzzles out there in the world, but my favorites for the classroom are those that involve pieces to manipulate. I love putting magnets on the back of each piece and hanging the puzzle up on my dry erase board for students to play with throughout the week.

We've been teaching face-to-face since school started back in late August with required social distancing and no shared supplies/materials. This means I have to rethink my weekly puzzle station since it often involves an entire group of students congregated at the dry erase board while manipulating the same set of puzzle pieces.

Someone on twitter suggested mini laminated versions of each puzzle that get sprayed with lysol between uses. But, I'm at the point this year where I feel like I already have too much on my plate and something like sanitizing puzzle pieces on a daily basis might just send me past my tipping point.

So, I'm currently on a quest to build myself a new collection of puzzles to post in my classroom that students can solve that don't involve any pieces to touch and manipulate.

Since I have many students this year who I also taught last year, I went ahead and made a no touching sign to hang under my puzzle of the week sign. A blog commenter suggested awhile back that I try matte finish Krylon spray to keep my laminated stuff from having an annoying glare. I finally tried it out, and I am super impressed with the results. 

Check out the difference between the no touching sign I sprayed and the puzzle of the week sign I didn't. 

This week, we'll be testing out the concept of no touching puzzles with Brian Bolt's Only 'Takes' and 'Adds' puzzle from Mathematical Cavalcade (affiliate link).

I reworded the task a bit to make it easier to turn into a poster. Write down the digits 9 to 1 in descending order. Make 100 by adding only addition and subtraction signs.

For example: 98 - 7 + 6 + 5 + 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 = 100.

How many ways can you find? Can you make 100 using only 4 signs?
I love this task for several reasons. First, I appreciate the fact that there are multiple solutions. When I solved the problem myself, I found it pretty easy to find A solution. It was much more difficult to find a solution using only 4 signs. There was a nice bit of logical thinking that I had to go through to figure out how to organize my work to make finding a solution more feasible. I also really appreciate that the task provides one solution as an example. This prevents having to specify, for example, that concatenation is allowed.

Want to print a copy of the puzzle for your own classroom? I've uploaded the file here.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Monday Must Reads: Volume 65

Wow! It's been a long time since I last sat down in April to put together a Monday Must Reads post. I usually take a break from these posts during the summer, but the craziness of this pandemic meant an extra long break this time. Anyway...I'm excited to be sharing with you today some of the awesomeness of other teachers on twitter that has been sitting in my Twitter likes for the last five months. I hope you find some inspiring ideas to use in your own classroom. There are a ton more digital ideas than normal in this Monday's round-up, but I guess that's to be expected.

Check out this open middle math problem from Stephanie Minor. I LOVE seeing how teachers are incorporating critical thinking tasks in their virtual classrooms. I have so much to learn about being an excellent digital teacher,

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Need to type a weird symbol into your Desmos activity? Druin recommends I am definitely going to need this site this year. I couldn't figure out how to get the degree symbol the other day, so I just ended up writing out the word degrees.

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Druin also shares a great teacher hack for taking attendance through a Desmos activity.

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Looking for a prompt to help you get to know your students better? Check out this one from Todd Feitelson. That student response is priceless.

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Benjamin Dickman shares a fun bit of trivia that I'm going to save for when we get to logarithms this year in Algebra 2.

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Lisa Navarro Garcia proves that teaching virtually doesn't mean that you have to give up the train game.

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Mary Williams shares some great slides from a Desmos activity with credit to Luke Walsh and Carole Pryor. I LOVE the emoji slide.

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Lisa Biber shares an excellent idea for getting students to engage more in google meets.

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I really like this idea for a Zoom game from David Butler.

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David Butler continues to inspire with a new take on the numbers game he created seven years ago. I think this would make a great game to play collaboratively with students during distance learning.  Even though I've never met David in person, he inspires me to be a better teacher with each idea that he shares on twitter. I admire how he always shares the process he goes through to solve a math(s) problem or create a puzzle. Too often, we just share our shiny finished products and not the beautifully messy path that got us there.

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Mark Kaercher
shares an idea for using the Desmos graphing calculator to teach students to solve multi-step equations. As long as the graph doesn't change, they have done a valid operation to both sides of the equation. Brilliant!

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Alyson Eaglen highlights an excellent breakout room structure from Miranda Lambourne that incorporates some math history into the classroom in a fun way.

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Want to teach your students to play SET? You MUST check out this Desmos activity from Greta Bergman. It is AMAZING.

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Mr. Q shares a great math find in a newspaper article from 1978. Can your students spot what is wrong with this alleged prime?

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Anna Vance shares some brilliant Google Classroom ideas in this thread. I am definitely stealing her idea of having a "Template" classroom. Be sure to check out the entire thread for even more awesomeness and examples.

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Allyson Klovekorn demonstrates how to use Jamboard to allow students to participate in a Which One Doesn't Blog (WODB) activity. The virtual sticky notes are an idea worth stealing/borrowing!

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Looking to get your kids interacting on Zoom/Google Meet more? Check out this number scavenger hunt idea shared by Casey. She claims she got the idea from someone else, but we're going to give her the credit for sharing it with all of us!

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Looking for some interesting data to analyze? Check out Erick Lee's latest data collection project involving grocery store receipts.

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 Love fun fonts? Love math? Check out this find shared by algoritmic.

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Liz Coleman shares that the cooperative counting to 10 game works well via video-conferencing as well. Good to know!

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Needing to rethink manipulatives this year? Check out this idea from Lauren Bohm.

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Need an example of a bad graph? Check this one out - especially the edit from Miss Neutrino!

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I'm glad that Jo Morgan shared this old textbook find since I missed it the first time around.

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I love this warm-up question from John Rowe.

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Madeline Gorley shares a great idea for helping students stay organized during this strange time of distance learning.

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Teaching calculus? Check out this Which One Doesn't Belong activity from Howie Hua.

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Don't teach calculus? That's okay. Howie also shares a great fraction task that might interest you.

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How cool is this hundreds table from Emma Bothma?!?

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This columbus cube tower shared by Amy Castle looks like a fun origami project. I'm adding this to my list to make someday.

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Keith Anliker shares an idea for using balloons in chemistry class.

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Jshm shares a lovely scientific notation task.

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Amy Hogan shares a statistical valentine.

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Can you tell how long it's been since I've done a Monday Must Reads post. Here's another Valentine's activity from Nancy Fitzpatrick. This one involves area of irregular objects.

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I like this idea from Tracey Nesrallah to survey students weekly about their favorite activity.

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Matt Enlow shares an interesting function task.

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Cathy Yenca shares a great idea for reusing a getting to know you activity at the end of the school year as well.

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I'm really liking this logarithm task from Amy McNabb.

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Until next time, keep sharing your awesome ideas!

Friday, September 11, 2020

Five Tiny Wins

It's Friday. I'm not really sure what day it actually feels like, but it definitely doesn't feel like a Friday. At the same time, I'm sooooooooooo thankful it is Friday because I'm experiencing a level of teacher exhaustion that I didn't really know existed. Seriously, I don't think I was this tired last year when I had a crying newborn who woke me up a million times a night.

Teaching math in the midst of a pandemic is definitely not for the faint of heart. Today I want to take a chance to focus on some tiny wins from the last couple of weeks. 

Win # 1: (More) Organized Baking Supplies

After thinking that I should label all my containers for years, I finally did it. I also splurged and bought a few new small containers to match the rest of my modular rubbermaid containers. So far, I'm using one for baking soda and one for salt. I'm not sure what to use the other two for yet, but it makes my heart happy that all the containers come up to the same height now. I originally bought my first set of these containers at Walmart, but it appears they have been largely discontinued. I had to order my newest containers from Ace Hardware of all places.

The labels aren't pinterest-worthy or anything, but because I used freezer labels (affiliate link) I can easily change out the labels if the contents change without any sticky residue left behind. And, now when I have people over and they want to help out in the kitchen they don't have to guess which container is flour and which is powdered sugar...

Win #2: A Welcome Back Card

Inconveniently, I had to miss the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth days of school because my toddler decided to bring home some daycare germs (thankfully not COVID) and infect the entire family. Luckily, my district allowed me to work virtually from home for three of those days which meant I only had to use one sick day. But missing so many days of school right at the beginning of the year was very stressful and not at all ideal. One of my students (who I also taught last year) was so excited when I came back that she made me a little card. 

Win #3: Business Card Pockets

We were each given an Amazon gift card at the beginning of the school year to buy something for our classroom. I used part of mine to purchase business card pockets (affiliate link). I'll update you guys with pictures when I actually use them, but I've got big plans to organize my wall of cabinets in my classroom. My plan is to put an adhesive business card pocket on each cabinet door. Then, I will cut cardstock to business card size. This will let me slide in a label to each business card pocket that says what is stored in that cabinet.

Win #4: Artful Math

My copies of Clarissa Grandi's amazing Artful Math books arrived! She graciously sent me a copy of The Artful Math Activity Book (affiliate link) and The Artful Math Teacher Book (also an affiliate link). I already got a digital sneak peek earlier this year, but I'm excited to dive in and make some beautiful math art. Hopefully things start to return to normal soon so I can start incorporating things like this into my classroom once again. 

If you haven't checked out Clarissa's beautiful website,, stop everything and do it now. You will be blown away by her creativity! Also, you can get a free chapter of her book for joining her mailing list. Keep an eye out here for a full review of these books once I spend some more time making some math art! 

Win #5: Learning to FINALLY use my Crockpot

I'm FINALLY learning to use my crockpot. I've had it for years, but I have only ever used it a handful of times. I've decided that with all the craziness of this year that I owe it to myself to learn how to use it so I can make life easier on myself. I've been scouring recipe books and the internet for easy crockpot recipes. I'm hoping to gain enough confidence that I can start inventing my own recipes, but that's quite a way off in the future. 

I decided to make my first crockpot meal of the school year on the first day of school. I was so paranoid that I would forget to put things in before I left for school, so I ended up setting my recipe binder and the crockpot out on the counter before I went to bed the night before. It worked! It was such a nice feeling to walk in our house after a long first day of school and smell dinner cooking away. I still had to boil a pot of pasta (and honestly - it took all my energy to get off the couch and make that pot of pasta), so I was super thankful that the rest of the meal was taken care of. 

Being sick threw off my crockpot plans for the past couple of weeks, but I think I'll try a new recipe this coming week. 

So, those are some of my tiny wins for the last few weeks.