You’ve got a friend…

Have you ever read something that aligns with your thinking so much that you wish that you could sit with down with this person and talk and talk and talk? Well, today, reading one of the assemblage of New Math Blogger Project posts in preparation for the week 4 prompt (and feeling guilty that I didn’t get to doing week 3′s prompt) I happened upon Paul Gitchos blog Second Thoughts. I love it! Ipads in the high school math classroom is his current post, but for some reason his words resonated with me and I read all of his posts. I wish he were in my math department! I wish I could exchange ideas with him on a daily basis — WAIT!!! I can!! If he keeps writing, I can comment! Yay!!

Ipads in the classroom…that’s what I’ll have next year, I’m told. In his blog, Paul lists Desmos as a graphing calculator. Lo and behold, the sliders I want for students to use, to explore with, and so easily accessible!  How else would I have come across this gem?

So here’s the important part of this. KEEP WRITING. All you new bloggers, me included, keep writing. You do have something to add to the discussion.

Keep writing because the conversation starts with writing. To all the silent followers, speak up. The writers are waiting to hear from you. Get the conversation going.

(Did anyone catch the James Taylor/Carole King allusion? From the year I graduated from high school!)

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Hokey Pokey for functions

I admit that I’m not the creative one. My idea of decorating is pictures lined up in a straight line along a white wall. OK, may I’m not that stark but you get the idea. I walk to someone else’s classroom and find all sorts of ideas of how to decorate mine, ideas for better systems for bathroom passes, or whatever. Or the blogging community has given me more ideas than I could ever use. It’s just that decorating and creativity in an artistic sense is not a big part of my DNA.

And with teaching, it’s the same way. I get ideas from everywhere, but mostly from the blogs I follow. Some small ideas, some big, some just twist what I’ve already been doing. So here’s my contribution that’s actually new. I came up with it, all on my own, one day while riding my bicycle.

Prelude: I talk to my students a lot about how we think, how we learn. I memorize students’ names and show them the flashcards I make and make explicit the corny connections that help me remember names. Troy thought it weird that I’d remember his name because there’s a high school in Orange County by the same name that a long time ago I played badminton at  – Troy High School. But I remember his name now. I make my thinking process explicit and visible to the students so that they can (perhaps) learn to think in better ways as a result.

So this is my hokey attempt at getting students to understand and remember the duality between what they have learned previously as “y = ” and the function notation f(x).  The most important part is a slide where I try to emphasize that a graph and an expression are both function rules, both convey the ordered pairs (x,y) but in different ways: Do the function rule on “x” and you will get the “y”; That’s also “f” of “x”! So here it is, sung to the tune of the Hokey Pokey.

Function Rule Song

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Starting Out

This is my ninth year teaching in a public high school. I was in school for like 20 years, and my kids were in school (while living with me) for about the same. Add a couple of years teaching at a private school. You’d think that I’d have internalized the rhythm of beginnings and ending a long time ago, but those pesky years of working in the corporate world must have fogged my brain. Ninth year, and I think I’m actually ready for the start of the school year. Almost. Got two more days.

We’ve got a new teacher in the math department at our high school, and I’m determined to make her first year better than mine. I remember the late nights, the feelings of my own failure, and the few successes as I worked my way into becoming a teacher. I didn’t identify myself as such for four years. I had been department chair for three years at that point! So I really want to have my stuff done so that I can help her out.

This year I’ve cut my dreams all back to one major concept: create a classroom conducive to kids helping kids. This year I am committed to arranging the layout of the classroom to maximize the possibilities for student-student interaction. But I hate taking time to move desks! I have as many as 38 students in a class period — I’d waste so many minutes to move desks every day! I’ve tried in previous years and I find that I don’t often tell students to move desks (“Get into teams”) because it takes too long.

So here’s the solution I came up with. Don’t move desks! (Except on days of individual mastery assessments — and coordinate these across courses.) And use first period only to do the rearranging. Sounds simple, but it took a while to get used to the idea, and it will probably take longer to get used to looking at every day. Collecting things and handing things out will change, too. But I can do this! My biggest question is whether the students can actually get into the desk arrangements OK. In my classroom every desk has right-hand ingress-egress only and all except four have a left-hand arm-rest. A large football player may be limited as to what position in a group of four desks that he might feel comfortable getting into and out of.

And now that this is out there with other people reading my plan, I’m gonna have to follow through!

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First Try

I’m new to this. Hangin’ it all out there in the blogosphere. So we’ll see how it goes. Been lurking and learning for a while — may it’s time to give back. Maybe I have something to give. The name tells it all: expect value out of this on a random basis!

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