Archive for May, 2014

What’s my grade?

Posted: May 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

I was intrigued, challenged, inspired, and instantly could not resist the urge to try this.  

I didn’t put grades on their simplifying radicals and radical operations quiz.  I circled errors like I always do, then didn’t write points scored, and copied the quiz (just in case this attempt went south).  We went over 3 examples of student work from the review and found errors and talked about how many points would be awarded if the student was the teacher.  Then, I passed back their quizzes and a colored pencil.  I gave them the task:  grade your quiz.  (the closer you get to my score, the better.  If we greatly disagree, I will divide my score in half).  

It was amazing… who would have thought it would actually work?!?!  Out of 42 quizzes the score I gave and the score they came up with on 41 of them were within 5% points.  1 student actually scored themselves way lower than I did.  Yet, that isn’t the exciting part!  The conversation that took place was breath-taking and stopped me in my tracks.  While it didn’t last as long as I would have liked, they TALKED to each other and some asked their neighbor to help them find their error.  I even had one group get into a 5 minute discussion about one point… one point.  

Normally, I pass out the quizzes.  By the time I pass out the last quiz, half of them are already in the recycling bin.  Not this time… and not the next time, because I think this technique is not going anywhere.  We are at the end of the school year, but I better go out and invest in colored pens for grading next year!  Thank you Learning to Fold!



I use desmos whenever we need to look at functions through graphs, tables, points, etc.  Typically my A1 students just watch while sitting at their desks.  I also have the graphs saved before class; and then just turn on/off graphs as needed.  My students have watched me use desmos, but today was their day.

We did a bouncing ball experiment to get data points so they could find a line of best fit to predict bouncing it from a much higher height.  We are trying to prepare ourselves for Bungee Barbie next week.  I handed out laptops, meter sticks, and tennis balls.  I gave them explicit directions about the experiment but released them once it came to using desmos.

Here is what they discovered:

  • they could zoom in and out on their data 
  • they could type in all points in one table or one by one
  • they could turn off points that they do not think were correctly measured from their experiment 
  • they could graph multiple lines to determine which one was best fit
  • they could trace their line to get their result for the higher height
  • they could email me their results and so I could print their graphs out

I didn’t have one student ask me how to use desmos, but I did have a group ask if they could input their graph in point-slope form or convert it to slope intercept form (as needed with a TI-84).

It was a huge success and I am already looking into getting other investigations for next year!

SBG needing answers

Posted: May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

I am taking the leap next year.  I will continue to teach Algebra 1 Enrichment next school year so I want to “record” some of my thoughts about trying SBG.  If you have feedback, I would greatly appreciate any help from those who have been in the trenches.

I have broken down the lessons/skill I need to teach to prepare my students for the End of Course Assessment (Indiana’s standardized test).  With each skill, I have directly linked the state standard.  Because of the diversity of my student’s knowledge; I, already, and will continue to  tier each set of practice problems based upon their initial knowledge base.  (we currently address moving between knowledge groups every 9 weeks)  I have not worked through whether to SBG each skill or each standard.  If there are multiple skills or objectives in a standard, do I quiz each one or use the umbrella of the standard?  (i.e. how many quizzes are needed for factoring x^2+bx+c, ax^2+bx+c, difference of squares, and grouping method for 4 terms?)   For re-quizzing, I want to create a small stack of index cards with questions.  I could have students pick two cards to re-score their Standard Based Quiz grades.

  • How long do you allow students to requiz for?
  • Should I make students complete practice problems before re-quizzing?
  • How often should I make a “new” standard based quiz available?
  • Do assess multiple standards on the same assessment?
  • How do practice problems, skill quiz, SB quizzes all fit into a grade on the current system?
  • How do you communicate SBG to parents who do not come to back to school night?

Class Survey

Posted: May 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Next week my Algebra 1 Enrichment class will take a survey to help give me feedback on what to change/keep from this year’s class.  I taught these students in a double block.  We were together for 47 minutes in the morning for Algebra 1 and then 47 minutes in the afternoon for “enrichment”.  I tried a few different teaching methods throughout the year during the Algebra 1 section.

  • We tried ISN’s for a semester and a half.
  • We tried typed notes for 9 weeks.
  • We tried differentiated (more like tiered) assignments/quizzes for 9 weeks.
  • We substituted worksheets for whiteboards for 9 weeks.

The afternoon section we utilized the majority of the time to work on

I am tossing around the idea of standard based grading for next year.  I love the idea of knowing what skills they know and what they still need to learn.  Standard Based Grading is exactly the answer to this.  These students are “chosen” because they are a predicted fail before they walk in to the high school.  They lack some basic skills.  I have some that struggle with their basic operations, but are still willing to try.  They are great kids and we have grown very fond of each other.

I am curious to what questions I should include on the survey that would give me the best feedback on their feelings towards math.  I am curious about what methods they feel like were the most effective.  I am curious about what they feel like made them more successful in my class vs. any other algebra 1 class in our school.

So what questions would you include???


Posted: May 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

Today, we celebrated our retiring teachers after school.  While listening to their introductions, I realized all 7 had individually spent 30+ years in our township/high school.  One teacher talked about missing the teachers eating together in the teachers’ lounge.  Early in their careers they had a principal that made it “mandatory” for teachers to eat together.  They were a tight group… a family as many of them refer to their colleagues.  We teach in a culture where the majority of us have only 30 minutes with which we eat at our desks grading papers and writing lesson plans.  There isn’t time to collaborate with each other, let alone eat lunch together.  That is, or we don’t make time!  So how do we get back to the “good ole” days when we had time to care about each other as much as we care about our students?

A1 Mini Projects

Posted: May 4, 2014 in Uncategorized



I am a little late to the party… the MTBOS 30 day challenge that is.  But I am going to try to join the fun.  Thanks to Julie for the motivation.   

On my mind today:  Algebra 1 Mini Projects

This week my A1 Enrichment students take the ECA (state test) then we have 2 and half weeks until the final exam.  That leaves me about a week and half of two periods a day to fill.  We have hit all but one chapter of required material so I will start there and I know I will end with Bungee Barbie.  My students loved it last year so, I will again use Barbie for the Final Exam in the afternoon section.  So what to do with the morning classes?  I think I will lean on Dan Meyer‘s 3-act lessons.  I have been reading a lot about teachers using Mathalicious so I might allow for choice for my students.  The classes are small enough that I could allow different level groups work on different problems.  Now I have one week to figure it all out.  What does everyone do to keep students engaged during the last month of school?


State testing on my mind

Posted: May 2, 2014 in Uncategorized

So you want to be a teacher… so do I.

Next week, the ECA will hit the desks of my redshirt freshman.  We spent the last 9 months learning the new Algebra 1 material.  What makes this a different experience than all the other A1 classes in my building, is that we do more than just A1 material.  We spend a lot of time digging into their past math experiences and trying to fill in the holes left from a lack of comprehension.  I look at acuity data, differentiate new material, use the Aleks program to help remediate, and even reteach when needed.

I have worked harder this year than I have ever thought was possible.  I spent more time reading about methods of teaching math than I did grading or sleeping.  We have tried Interactive student notebooks, foldables, notes with examples, video tutorials, computer games, whiteboards, differentiated instruction, modified “standard based grading”…. do I need to go on?

Whether my students pass or not next week… I know we have been successful this year.  My students have been successful, and I have data to prove it.  I don’t need a score on a state standardized test.  I have seen them grow over the past 9 months and I  know what they can do and what they still need to work on in order to reach mastery.

So next week when the booklet of problems that the state dictates my students should have mastered is opened in front of my redshirt freshman anxious and scared eyes; I already know the results.  I have done some of the best teaching of my career.  I have gotten students to be engaged on a daily basis.  I have gotten kids to learn the math they hadn’t in previous years.  I have even gotten students who on day 1 hated math to smile on the way in the classroom.  I have been a teacher.