TMC17: First Thoughts

TMC17 is come and gone. My friends in the south (and elsewhere?) have already started school again, but TMC happens to land equidistant from the end of our school year and the beginning of the next.  In theory, this should be great and allow me to take full advantage of all the awesome stuff I saw/learned/heard/osmosified and create all these new plans by school start. In reality, life always happens and sometime in September or October (maybe #1TMCthing check in day) I’ll run into my notes and get an excited spark to try something new again.

But this year, I took away two different lessons that don’t require any paper prep so that’s where I want to focus on attention. I am most certainly not an eloquent writer, so bare with me:

  1. Word choice matters. And there are many amazing teachers who really are thinking about how simple word choices affect students and colleagues. It might not seem like a huge change, but sometimes that littlest choices make the biggest changes.  Some examples:

Continue reading “TMC17: First Thoughts”

Systems of Equations Unit Plan

During this years MTBoS blogging initiative, I used the share the love prompt to capture some of the things I wanted to use and remember for teaching the quadratics unit. I am going to try to continue doing something similar to keep links and ideas for other units as well. I am really terrible about keeping all the activities I have used in the past or new things I want to try so this way I have an electronic record and I can share idea with other math people:

We are knee deep into a systems of equations unit in one of my Algebra classes. So far we’ve done the Systems of Equations Launch which I wrote about here. Which led into graphing systems. At the bottom of that post I wrote how I would adapt it next year by adding in some lines that never cross or end up being the same. Since I hadn’t done that with the launch, I used that idea for the warm-up the next day.

I projected a Desmos graph with a few different lines and told them that the battleship path was the red line. They were tasked with estimating mine placement for the other 4 lines.


This quickly brought up the “missing” orange line and the inability to lay a mine on the green path. We discussed possible numbers of solutions to a linear system then I had them sketch ideas for a system that could have two solutions.  Afterwards they did some more practice with graphing to find solutions. And ended by having the students create scenarios were you’d care about the intersection and then write up a problem which would fit that story. I collected them. Some will turn into warm ups or lagged review and some will end up  on quizzes or the end of unit assessment.  I’ve been working over the last few years to incorporate student generated problems. They seem to get excited about the possibility and its improved their problem writing because they want me to use theirs. Continue reading “Systems of Equations Unit Plan”

Pythagorean Theorem and the Distance Formula: Live 3 Act

I was reading twitter when I found Mr. Orr’s 3 Act Task Corner to Corner task. I had just taught the Pythagorean Theorem the day before and the distance formula was on tap for the day. I had a giant thing of string from Algebra’s battleship task, so I thought….why not recreate the scenario in class.

I taped a piece of string from one corner on the floor to the kitty corner  one on the ceiling.  I have tables and a relatively small class ~15 students so I was able to push tables to the sides for the day. When I greeted the class at the door, I asked them to watch their heads. That got a few chuckles until they saw the giant string. Instead of giggles, I got excited chatter. Many were variations on”What is Ms Micaela up to now?”,  but many students were asking each other math-y questions as well. The bell hadn’t rung, I was still greeting in the hall, and already I overheard the question I wanted.

img_0769 Continue reading “Pythagorean Theorem and the Distance Formula: Live 3 Act”

Systems of Equations Launch

After wrapping up our linear functions unit, the students had one day off. When they returned to class on Thursday, each table had been turned into a mini command center. Big sheets of graphing paper were stuck down to the table and an assortment of string, scissors, tape, rulers and three colored dots were at each table.

When students were sorted into teams, they were handed the mission sheet:


I told them they could only use the supplies on the table and at the end of the activity, I’d need a report on where the mines should be laid in the form of coordinates.  And they were off! (Side note, the original question had more information, basically telling them how to solve, so I just erased it which is way the type is a bit crazy. I’ll type up a nicer version for next time with the additions I add at the end of this post).

After we stopped, I took the coordinates and posted each teams on the board. No groups had the exact same answers. They wanted to know if they “won” but I told them they’d have to wait. Continue reading “Systems of Equations Launch”

Quadratics: Sharing the Love MTBoS Blogging Initiative

Explore the MTBoS prompt for the week is to share the love and the resources from other great bloggers. I wanted to do that by collecting some of the blog posts that will help inform the next unit I’ll be teaching (added, bonus, I’ll be able to find them easily when the planning begins in earnest). Algebra 1 starts semester 2 off right with a unit on quadratics. It is usually one of the more challenging ones for my students, but I have grown to really enjoy teaching it both here and in my third year math class which also has a quadratics unit with a bit more depth. Continue reading “Quadratics: Sharing the Love MTBoS Blogging Initiative”

Soft Skills: MTBoS Blogging Inititative

Soft Skills. According to the Collins English dictionary these are “desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge: they include common sense, the ability to deal with people, and a positive flexible attitude[1]”  I like this definition. Mostly because I can say I at least have two soft skills…just not the social people one. Reading Sam Shah’s post from the Virtual Conference made me think a lot about the idea of what soft skills, especially regarding connecting with students looks like. I agree with him that we have some amazing people in the MTBoS that do powerful work and really connect with students.

I don’t buy that you have to be good at conversation and sweet emails to be that person. My bet is that Sam and his readers are all much better at connecting that they realize and also, that their brand of student connection might reach students that the more obvious outward teachers don’t. This might be partially a biased opinion. I am not great at social skills. I am awkward around people. I am terrible at talking about feelings. I am not a ‘friend’ to the students in the way many of the teachers at my school seem to be. I am definitely not bubbly.  I don’t understand even 5% of the references students and adults make to things I should probably know. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have a connection with students. My students know that I care about them, or at least that I respect them and have high expectations for them. I wouldn’t hold those if I didn’t care. I tell them this. And often students who are also feel different feel better knowing that they can count on me without going through the exhausting social protocols. Continue reading “Soft Skills: MTBoS Blogging Inititative”

Student Grouping: My Favorite

My biggest focus as a teach this year is to support and grow student discourse and empower my students to own the classroom. I have always considered getting students to work together and have great discussions a strength, but I’m using that to my advantage not to be afraid to try out crazy ideas since I already have some tools that work. I’m hoping that by June I’ll have more tools and more confidence to share these tools with others.

One simple idea that I used recently might be my favorite way to small group students. I use MARS Formative Assessment Lessons  in my classes quite often. In the high school tasks, a hallmark of the structure is a card sort where students pair up or sort two types of cards, then add a third set, then a fourth and so on. A recent example had students given a large set of cards to sort function or not. Then using only functions, linear or not. And then finally finding rates of change. Another example has students matching words with equations, then added graphs and then tables. The tasks take care to ensure students are paying attention to detail and have blank cards students need to create to finish sets. The FALs also come with great teacher moves, possible questions/misunderstandings and responses. Continue reading “Student Grouping: My Favorite”