First Day Plans

Its the Saturday before school starts and I didn’t finalize what I was doing for one of my classes until well into my second cup of coffee of the morning. I’ve had geometry planned for a while. I was easily able to select The Marshmallow Challenge for them. Partially because I taught half of them last year and didn’t do a wonderful job of establishing group working norms, and partially because it is one of my favorite start of school activities.

Geometry Day 1: The Marshmallow Challenge

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For those of you unfamiliar with the task, you give your students 20 pieces of spaghetti, a yard of tape, a yard of string, and a large marshmallow. They have 18 minutes to construct, with their groups, the tallest free standing structure that they can. The catch is that the marshmallow needs to be on the TOP of the structure.

I like this activity for three reasons:

  1. It pushes students through the phases of group dynamics quickly. They move from the “oh hey, its kinda awkward working with these people I don’t know” to “hey, you, yeah, what’s your name? Ok [insert name] hold this pasta for a sec so we can tape it” to  “OH MY GOD WE ONLY HAVE 3 MINUTES LEFT WHO HAS THE MARSHMALLOW?!?!?!”
  2. I really get a feel for how my students think through a task. These towers have varied from elaborate to simple tri-pod-like.
  3. The debrief possibilities are endless. There is a wonderful Ted Talk by Tom Wujec that I use every year I do this challenge. Spoiler alert: Kindergartners are better than most adults at this challenge. Its a GREAT launching point for talking about the prototyping process and how we can mirror the practice in a mathematics classroom.

AFM Day 1: String Structures

This is the ideas I re-discovered after some of my morning caffeine boost. I had saved this image in Evernote filed under my “MTBoS” & “Group Work” tags”

Screen Shot 2017-08-12 at 9.00.32 AMI can’t remember what the exact instructions were for the construction, but I know what I am going to make them:

Your group has been given 2 yards of string. Your task is to create each of the shapes shown using only your group members’ hands to maintain the structure. Each group member must play an active roll in creating and maintaining the shape. 

Once your group has created a shape, call Mrs. White over to document your awesomeness and then start another shape.

So it goes without saying that I have no idea how this activity will go as it is my first year trying it. But I have hopes for how it will go. For most of my students in AFM they have, as one parent put it at Open House yesterday, “a fair amount of unpleasant mathematical baggage.” Something that feels overtly Math-y isn’t a very user-friendly start to the school year for them. So I want something that feels un-math-y but that falls into the Math category of geometry–I have found that my AFM students tend to have pleasant memories of geometry, so I’m using that.

I am going to give my students 20 minutes to try and construct as many of the shapes as they can. We’re then going to debrief and create some class group work norms. I then want to do a Talking Points activity from my morning Twitter Math Camp session, Talk Less, Smile More.

Things I left out of this plan because the 3rd cup of coffee is just now being consumed and my brain takes a while to wake up on the weekends:

  • My classes will be doing Sara VanDerWerf’s Name Tents because it is the most amazing “get to know your students and help the name-forgetting-teacher learn your names” thing I have ever found. I haven’t finalized the questions I’ll ask each day.
  • I will be sending my students home with one assignment: To complete a student info sheet (which includes preferred pronoun so I can add that to my roster) and log into the web-based tools we will use this year: Canvas, Desmos, DeltaMath, GoFormative.

Goals, The 2017-2018 Edition

So as I sit here at the kitchen table, listening to my husband read “The Going to Bed Book” to my little kiddo I have 9 more wake-ups until I greet my first students of the 2017-2018 school year. This year I’m teaching AFM (year 4 of this) and Geometry (first time teaching it) and I had a to-do list a mile long for the summer and I feel as though I only got through the first 200 yards. I’m freaking out a little. But when I start to freak out, I do what I think most teachers do, I make a plan.

So here’s my plan for my mental sanity as I venture in teaching a new course and re-vamping an older one:

  1. Go to bed early. To those of you who met me at Twitter Math Camp, I managed to Screen Shot 2017-08-05 at 6.26.47 PMstay up until 10:30 every night so that I could be social and meet the lovely internet people who have helped me along this teaching journey. But that’s WAY past my bed time. I’m the human embodiment of  “Grumpy Cat” when I don’t get my sleep. Don’t believe me? Well my daughter can make the “Grumpy Cat” face, she had to have learned it somewhere. I’m guessing it was from me. My goal is a 9:30 bedtime. Last year I made the misguided goal of having 30 minutes of device-free time before bed, that didn’t happen. And I’m okay with that. I like my Twitter time.
  2. Instructional Routines. Find the ones I like and stick with them. Okay, so I’m REALLY bad at being a little ADD with my teaching practices (and blog posts, bear with me). Last year I feel into some, in my personal philosophy of teaching, bad practices of teacher-centered routines. It was a lot of “I Do, You Do, We do.” I fell into that pattern because I was sleep deprived (see goal 1) and I had 3 preps. So I felt like 2 of them never got my full attention at any given time of the year. I could make excuses. But I’ll just say, I know I need to do better to be in my happy teaching place. Designing a new course from scratch I think is going to help keep me accountable for establishing these routines. So I have high hopes. Here are my chosen routines:
    • #VNPS, Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces. Well, in my classroom, with all its windowed glory, the vertical part is not going to work. So I’ll be using #HNPS. Horizontal Non-Permanent Surface. I bought shower board this week and had them cut into 2×3 foot sections and will get to taping the edges next week when the “OMG ITS ALMOST THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL” stress hits me and I need a mindless task. The goal here is to make students mathematical thinking visible and a group effort.
      • A KEY subsection here is visibly random grouping. Students need to know that there is no rhyme or reason to their group assignments. I am going to do new groups on Mondays because I know I’ll never learn names if I can’t get students in the same seat for at least the first week of school.
    • Debate Structure. I went to Matt and Chris’s TMC morning session, “Talk Less, Smile More” which was on using debate structures as a method of increasing student talk and engagement in a task. I mean, have you met a teenager who doesn’t like to argue? Yeah. I didn’t think so. The cliffs notes version make a student pick a side (or give them a side) then have them provide their justification of the form “My Claim is______, and my warrant is _____.” I was pleasantly surprised how having that sentence structure made me feel less introvert-y and willing to participate in a room filled with strangers. I was sold.
    • Desmos Activity Builder. I’m holding myself accountable to making/using more of these. The students always love them. We have great conversations. I think I just get caught up in trying to make them look “Desmos Bank” worthy. This year I’ve vowed to get over that. Just make stuff that works for my class. I’ll make them fancy and pretty when I have time.
  3. Stay on top of my Web-Based Things. Yeah, okay that sounded vague. But I don’t know how else to describe making sure I make Delta Math and GoFormative homework well in advance so I don’t get stressed, and keeping my notes and note keys up to date on Canvas (our online learning management service). I was bad at this last year. So I have structured an hour into my lesson planning block–I have from 11:15-1:30, I know I’m lucky to have that time and I need to use it better.

And that’s it. I read somewhere you shouldn’t try to change more than 10% of your actions at any given time to ensure success. I’d venture to guess this is more like a 15% change. I’m keeping my guided notes problems from years past. I just plan to make them debatable instead of “here you do this.” If the problem doesn’t feel debatable, I’ll make it #HNPS. If I’m feeling super Desmos-y I’ll make them an Activity Builder. I’m not re-inventing the wheel, just giving it some new tread. Or maybe some new rims? If I’m feeling like an overachiever I’ll go for the spinner rims  upgrade and use that Desmos Computational Layer magic and “live dangerously.”

Making the Leap: From Lurker to Participant

I just recently returned from Twitter Math Camp, a grassroots professional development run by members of the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (#MTBoS). It was the most UNBELIEVABLE week of my life. I learned more than I could have hoped, and finally got to #InRealLife meet my internet friends and family. While I was at #TMC17, Dan Meyer posted about Retiring the #MTBoS Hashtag, and I had a lot of emotions. Most of them resembled feeling hurt. This is my internet family. I have always felt a part of the warm and loving mathematical community that he helped shape and mold. His posting was edited and amended over the course of the week, but I still felt…something resembling pain. I think I know what Dan was trying to start, a conversation about making the #MTBoS more user-friendly, but it stung a bit. I’m glad the conversation’s been put out there. And I see our community doing the work to increase our user-friendly-ness.

Before I continue, let me say:

I am a proud member of the #MTBoS. I found Dan Meyer’s blog in grad school, and the 3-act task structure he introduced me to changed my teaching for the better. While I found Dan in 2012 and #MTBoS in 2013, I was a (proud) lurker. I’d tell every math teacher I met about this WONDERFUL group of math teachers who put their classroom content and mathematical souls out on the inter-web for all to see.

In 2015 I boldly used the #MTBoS hashtag for the first time. I started to transition from lurker to participant. But even then, in the prime of my transitional-lurking days, I mostly re-tweeted, and liked, and asked questions offering up little to nothing in return. But that’s what I love about this community. I asked, and asked, and asked, and my #MTBoS family stepped up and gave all they had without critique or judgement.

I’m proud of my lurker days. Lurking was a necessary part of my development as a teacher. I wasn’t ready to put myself out on the internet in 2013, or 2014, or damn, even in 2015 really–I wasn’t ready for that level of vulnerability online.

To be clear: That feeling of not being ready to proactively join the #MTBoS conversation is not to be confused with feeling excluded or unwanted from the community.  Although I hear some people did/do feel that way, and to you all who felt/feel excluded I am deeply sorry for any part I may have played towards your feeling excluded from our mathematical family. This family thrives on new additions. New voices. New opinions. We need you in our family, our community, our conversations, and our classrooms.

Twitter is a scary medium to put yourself out there, and its even scarier when you don’t really know #InRealLife the people you’re talking to. But those same aspects that make Twitter scary–talking to those strangers on the internet–is what can make it the best professional development opportunity. Those strangers are online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year to give you feedback if/when you ask for it.

Some things I learned as I moved from lurker to participant that might help people who are still proudly lurking. No rush. Move at your own pace. But here’s some things I discovered along the way that might help with the transition:

  • When in doubt. Comment on cute puppies, cats, tiny humans, or what ever else floats your boat. I remember this thread like it was yesterday, it was the first time Meg and I talked about dogs! Now, we chat about our fur babies at least once a week. Yes, there is a hashtag #DogsOfMTBoS!:Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 7.56.50 PM  Screen Shot 2017-08-01 at 7.56.59 PM
  • Talk about something math-related that may have NOTHING to do with teaching. @cheesemonkeySF, @anniekperkins, and @veganmathbeagle  are always posting about really, REALLY awesome math art. I’m currently memorized by the Celtic knot designs they are doing right now. If I wasn’t so into my 10:30pm at the latest bedtime, I would have taken more time at #TMC17 to learn how to draw them. Maybe next year!
  • Just adding #MTBoS or #iTeachMath(s) on the end of a tweet isn’t (always) enough to get feedback. There is no #MTBoS high council who patrol the internet moderating comments. If you are looking for specific feedback, tag specific people. When I needed algebra 2 help, I looked to the #Alg2Chat and found Julie ( @jreulbach, and Meg (@mathymeg07) I tagged them when I had a specific question, and I heard back. Find those who teach your content and direct questions their way. You will hear back, and if you don’t, tweet me. I’ve taught everything from Algebra 1 to AP Calc. I’ll do my best to help.
    • Chats to look into:
      • #MTBos and #iTeachMaths, obviously.
      • #GeomChat
      • #Alg1Chat
      • #Alg2Chat
      • #PreCalChat
      • #msmathchat
  • Set goals and make them public. I told Meg I’d be at TMC17. And it happened!

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So with that, come on and tweet with us. Use what ever hashtag you like. I’m going to stick with #MTBoS because to me it means family of nerdy math people who happen to use the mediums of Twitter and Blogging to hold us over until we can meet up, once a year, for nerdy game nights and talking mathematics until WAY past our bedtimes.

M&M Lab

Advanced Functions and Modeling is an alternative to PreCal course. And this year I choose to move the Descriptive Stats unit from the very first unit in August to the first unit of the second semester in January. Our Stats unit is very simplistic as it is meant to be an introduction of sorts. Tt contains the same content from CCM1: Measures of center, calculating 5-number summaries and outliers, creating histograms and box plots. We choose to have the unit focus on arguing with data rather than purely analyzing data.

Arguing with data, for the purposes of the class is when students are given data, a side-by-side box plot, or multiple histograms on the same scale and then they need to:

  • Make a claim–students need take a stance for the data given. We modeled these statements to reflect the thesis statement construction from their US History class (which most students are in).
  • Provide three supporting statements for the claim. Each statement should be data driven and assist your claim.

The Lab was inspired stolen from an image I found on Twitter. I can’t find the source, most likely someone in #MTBoS.


And I figured this was a lab that could be easily recreated for my students. I, with the help of my loving husband, created “Mystery Morsel” packs. We created packs made from large index cards that we put 5 M&Ms in and sealed. We made 7 packs for each type of M&M.

Students were tasked with identifying the “Mystery Morsels” by using their weights. Each group was given a control baggie of M&Ms to come up with a baseline for each type. They shared their data on the board for weights of their M&Ms and then proceeded to weigh the “Mystery Morsels”:

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Was it a perfect lab? Heck no. I think it was far too easy and there are many things I want to change for next year. Several kids noted that “it was obvious” which M&M goes to which pack because the weights are varied. One student mentioned that it would be “evil if Mrs. White hid skittles in here somewhere. I bet they weigh about the same as the plain ones.”

Which got me to thinking…skittles…yes. And Reese’s Pieces. And maybe one random packet that has 6 M&Ms instead of 5.

My rational for this “trickery” is to have some of the box plots overlap in the range of the data. So students actually have to use their knowledge of measures of center/variability to rationalize their decisions for which of the “Mystery Morsels” belong to which M&Ms and which are “other” candies.


Lab handout

Week 1 in Review

This year marks my third at UNCSA and I have never looked forward to, and dreaded, the start of a school year so much. I’ve had the pleasure of staying at home for the past six months since the birth of my daughter. That being said, I am not cut out to be a stay at home mom. I’m not organized enough, I’m not good at keeping my brain engaged and working, and I developed a bad case of cabin fever. So in one way I was REALLY looking forward to the start of the 2016-2017 school year. But I dreaded the start of the year because I have felt behind since August. I didn’t get the lesson planning done during maternity leave I (naively) had promised myself I’d do before my daughter started daycare. I haven’t spent the time I feel that I should at home lesson planning because I’d rather be holding my girl and planing peek-a-boo (do you blame me?). And as luck would have it, she got an upper respiratory infection the week school started, so I’ve spent the past few nights up at all hours rocking her to sleep, which left me no choice but to be highly caffeinated to survive the teaching day. I have never felt so shaky at the beginning of the school year, but I think I did do a few things right (or at least I am calling them a win) from my maternity leave to-do for the 2016-2017 school year:

Get better about learning names:

I used Sara VanDerWerf’s Name Tents to aid in both the learning of my students names, and in getting to know them a little better within the first week of school. It was the best decision I could have made, I may never have to try another way to learn names. It was super awesome to get the chance to have a private conversation with each student. They kids responded to the prompts:

  • What do you want me to know about you?
  • Give me your 6 word math memoir.
  • What’s your favorite thing to do outside of your art area? (I teach at an arts school)
  • Doodle me something about yourself and explain the significance.
  • What is your most vivid mathematical memory?

My favorite was the doodle, you’d think that in a classroom with a few visual artists and a ton of dancers, musicians, and actors that the kids might be shy on doodling. Nope. I drew them a picture of my stick figure family on the screen with the prompt, so I set the doodle-bar kinda low intentionally to set their minds at ease.

Don’t go Over the Syllabus in Class

Some where along the line, someone told me to go over the syllabus on the first day. That it sets expectations/demonstrates norms/ya-da-ya-da. I hate syllabus day. Even last year’s attempt at making it bearable (each slide had an internet meme and/or GIF), you know the ones:

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But it was painful, the kids stopped listening 3 slides in (once I was done talking about my story and started talking about “class rules” kinda things). So I ditched it. My syllabus lives on Canvas, our online learning platform. My students are all sufficiently good enough readers to handle reading it on their own–with the exception of a few ELL students who I made time in the first week to talk to about the syllabus to ensure they were up to speed. So my first night’s HW assignment was to read the syllabus and to take my online Student Information Quiz (in Google Forms format). Students then logged into Canvass and posted three questions they had regarding the syllabus in a discussion forum, and answered one peer’s question. I addressed any further concerns on the second day of class and it took less than 10 minutes. Win!


Focus on Group Dynamics, Not The Math

I know, I know. “You’re supposed to do Math on the first day” to set the tone for the year. Yes, I agree, but I wanted the focus of the first week of my class to be on the group work dynamic so that when we step up the math, they are already comfortable working in groups. The first math problem I did with my students I sawn on Fawn Nguyen’s blog that she got from Don Steward:

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The problem was more successful as a day 1 task in my PreCalculus and Advanced Functions and Modeling classes than in my Algebra 1 class. But they all had some pretty stellar math talk going on and eventually (with differing levels of hints) got the final answer. On a related note: America needs to get on board with the metric system.

Day 2 we did a task I first read about in Designing Group Work and Sarah Carter was so kind to provide already made up on her blog: Rainbow Logic. The idea is that the students use strategic questioning to infer the color pattern on a peer’s tic tac toe board. The kids got WAY into it. I should have taken pictures, but several groups were convinced that their facial expressions were giving away information, so they hid behind the file folders I gave them to separate the “game keeper” from the players. We did four rounds of the activity. Three of the rounds were with 3 colors and the last round was with 4 colors. So far my students record for number of questions to get the correct color combination was three.

  • They asked for the first row’s colors
  • Are there more than two of each color in any given row?
  • Is the center color blue?

I didn’t witness the whole thing go down. But I am to understand that there was an educated guess on one square placement that yielded success.


It was a good first week. And it only took me until half way through week two to get around to reflect on it…

I Have a Plan: Cleaning Up My ‘Dirty Words’

Julie (@jreulbach) is awesome, but I’m pretty sure anyone reading this was already well aware of that fact, and has gathered all of the Algebra 2 teachers of the internet to join together in a blogging initiative. While I’m not teaching Algebra 2 this year (I had to give it up in order to get a first period planning in order to have a little more flexibility in the mornings with getting my 6 month old daughter to daycare), I am teaching Advanced Functions and Modeling. A course which is currently Algebra 2 version 2.0 for most portions of the curriculum. There is little to no new information presented to students, and most of the current design has a computational focus instead of an interpreting and analyzing focus. As the course is designed AFM is meant for those students who need a math beyond Algebra 2, in order to be college competitive, but who aren’t ready for the rigor of PreCalculus.

AFM’s current course description:

Advanced Functions and Modeling is designed to further strengthen algebraic manipulation and graphing skills while introducing a selection of other topics and application. Additional topics may include trigonometric functions, sequences and series, and probability. Concepts will be applied to real-world situations and technology will be used regularly. Prerequisite: Algebra II

I inherited this course description and a problem set/note packet for the course from my coworkers. While I am not a huge fan of the layout, mostly because it follows the Alg 2 curriculum very closely, I have just now had time/energy to try a re-write.

The old curriculum mapping went:

  • Introduction to Statistics (measures of center, spread, comparing data, and normal curves)
  • Linear Functions
  • Quadratic Functions
  • Transformations
  • Exponential and Logarithmic Properties and Functions
  • Sequences and Series
  • Trigonometry (Triangles and Functions)

Given that students I teach in AFM are the same students who struggled with Algebra 2, this ordering has never felt 100% right to me. If they struggled with Algebra 2 material when it was in Algebra 2 is it really effective to just re-package the same content in a new course and call it AFM? I understand the need for students developing an actual understanding of key material from Algebra 2, especially if we want them to go on and be successful in any math classes they may take in college, but I wasn’t okay with presenting the material in the same way they had seen it before. As compartmentalized chunks of math that are always taught in the “here’s the rule”, “now here’s the practice”,”now here’s the ‘real world’ applications” structure. After much #MTBoS lurking during the first 6 months of my daughter’s life/my stent as a Stay at Home Mom, I think I’ve found a sequencing that I can finally support. Shout outs to Mary Bourassa’s blog for giving me the spiraling content idea.

  • Unit 1: Introductions to Functions— functions vs relations, function notation, domain and range, family or functions.
  • Unit 2: Introduction to Modeling— a mixture of Linear, Quadratic, and Exponential functions. The focus will be on justifying the choice of a function as a model for a given situation (from a table, graph of points, or verbal description)
  • Unit 3: Introduction to Statistics–Reading tables (%s), Measures of Center, 1 Variable statistics and data visuals, Normal Curves and z-scores, and for the first spiral: Regression (linear, quadratic, and exponential).
  • Unit 4: Transformations of Functions— Spiral from Unit 1 with a lot of Domain and Range descriptions. I know I’ll do a few Marbleslides in here.
  • Unit 5: Sequences and Series— I will start of with Visual Patterns as an informal “find the pattern that works and prove it” exercise, and then move into a more formal definitions of arithmetic and geometric sequences (spiral from Unit 2 with Linear an Exponential)
  • Unit 6: Geometry— I’m still in the brainstorming mode for this one, but I know I want right triangle trig in addition to some review from their Geometry course. I have been told by the SAT prep teacher that the geometry sections of the SAT are more rigorous than in the past and that my kiddos will need the refresher. I would like to bring in some of the IB Math problems I did at my old school, they were really good for getting students to think outside of the box and talk about the math.
  • Unit 7: Trig Functions— Focus on using information about a situation to create a function to model the situation (max/min values and period), spiral with the transformations unit.
  • Unit 8: Financial Math— A good portion of my students are seniors who go straight to a dance company, music chamber/conservatory, or the work force, instead of college. So they need a crash course in how to ‘Adult.’ I have talked about credit cards, monthly budgeting, leasing-vs-buying a car among other ‘adulting’ topics.

So far I’ve only made it through actually planning half of the first unit. I’m trying my best to move away from the “I do, we do, you do” style of teaching of the materials I inherited. Last year I didn’t change them because I knew I’d be out for half the year on maternity leave, I didn’t want to rock the boat and cause a headache for my maternity leave sub.So, I fell into the habit of drill and kill style instruction. I hated it. The students hated it. I don’t think they had any ‘ah-hah’ moments with the curriculum, and most importantly, I don’t think I changed their mind on math. Math was still hard. Math was still boring. And Math is nothing more than a combination of formulas you’re supposed to remember.

That is not the math classroom I want. In the past I have taken great pride in taking the students who hate math, and through modeling and problem solving activities, I slowly changed their hatred to mild distaste. Which for the time span of one school year, I’ll consider a victory. I, for selfish reasons, shifted my focus in my classroom and I need to get back on track. So I promised myself I’d do better by my students this year. I’d make worksheets/kill and drill practice a dirty word in my instructional vocabulary. I need to get back to my instructional happy zone: using math to ponder our world, model things we see happening, and answer questions we have about our surroundings.

My goal for this year is to have one day of instruction, some of which will be self guided, discovery style learning, and other parts will have to be direct instruction because I haven’t found a better alternative yet (let me know if you have one, until then part of my instruction will have to be the well timed curse word in my dirty word worksheet world). The instructional day will be followed by hands on practice, some sort of combination of Desmos activities, group activities, and 3-act problems/labs. I’ve found a bunch of interesting problems thanks to #MTBoS that I plan on using and/or altering to suit my needs to achieve this goal. Fingers crossed I can help improve my potty mouth. Both figuratively speaking with the change in instructional practices, and literally. I’m not cut out to be a stay at home mom, and my boredom did lend to a rediscovery of my love for colorful language…I need to work on that s*@#t before my daughter starts to pick up words…

Goal Setting

Okay, I’ll be the first to admit. I’m god awful at setting routines. I thought to myself approximately 6 months ago, as I sat on the sofa 41 weeks pregnant trying to convince my daughter to make her grand entrance to the world, that I would be ‘productive’ during maternity leave. What’s that? Did I just hear the collective mothers of the internet laugh at me? Yeah, I was naive and operating under the misguided belief delusion that I would get some school work done while lil one slept. Fast forward to present day, and I’m one week away from the official start of the school year. I need to get my act together. Lil girl is in daycare two days a week, so I want to utilize this baby-free time effectively and set up some routines for the 2016-2017 school year.

My goals small, all things considered. I will have, in essence, three new preps this year: Algebra 1, PreCal, and Advanced Functions and Modeling. While I’ve taught AFM before, I am redoing the curriculum. Trying to officially make the move from Algebra 2 2.0 to a unique course that prepares my students for either college level math or the real world, depending on their plans post high school. My math department has decided that PreCalculus needs an overhaul (I agree with this sentiment) to better align with the PreCal topics taught in other (read: Traditional) public high schools in the state. And I haven’t taught Algebra 1 since my student teaching days. Bearing that in mind, for the 2016-2017 school year, I promise myself that I will:

Promise 1: Actually use a paper planner to record thoughts/deadlines/important dates

I tell myself every year that using the calendar app on my computer is sufficient. Its not. I never go back and look at the notes I leave myself because, well, its just too tedious. I have to remember what day I taught what, and then double click, no wait, wrong day…scroll…scroll…what was I doing again? So after much thought, and finding the concept of a Bullet Journal online, I have created my own planning template. Inspired by a tweet from @mathequalslove I just placed the online order to have it printed up on nice paper and bound at Office Depot. I figure if it looks nicer than what I could do with the copy machine at school, and not in a 3-ring binder, then I will be more inclined to use it.

The planner starts with the a year overview. A place where I can write down important dates for the school year like faculty meetings, math department meetings, exam days, and holidays.

Planner. Year Overview

I’ve then got a weekly overview for each course. My math department likes to use this table-format for pacing purposes from year to year. Since we all switch courses so often, it is a courtesy to a future teacher of the course with a general guideline for the year. Because we are in North Carolina, and an inch of snow will cause sheer panic and destroy any pacing template I’ve done in the past, I decided to make my pacing guide big enough to fit Post-It Notes Page Markers so I can move topics around without the need for white out/an eraser.

Course Pacing

And then I have a weekly lesson planning section where I can put in more detailed notes about the day’s lesson, what went well, what I need to fix, and what plans I have for the next time I teach the topic. Consider this section a place for mini journaling (which will help me with my next promise). I decided to leave the section for the dates at the top blank so I can use the same template year to year without the need for editing. Also, it is WAY cheaper to get a black and white cop of the planner made, and I have plenty of pretty colored pens that will add the date nicely!

Weekly Planner

Then the attendance sheets

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Files: Attendance Sheets, Planning Template


Promise 2: Become a Blogging Member of #MTBoS

I think it was Sam Shah who posted about the types of #MTBoS participants. I have fallen into the category of ‘The Stalker’. That is to say, I read a LOT of blogs by MTBoS tweeps. I steal borrow a LOT of their lesson ideas or handouts. I mean half of my interactive notebooks for Algebra 2 last year were inspired by Sarah Carter’s (@mathequalslove) notebooks she posts about. Not to mention my, hands down, favorite end of the year lab for AFM which I outright copied the concept for from Jon Orr. His CSI Crime Scene Lab was such a great idea, one I couldn’t dream of having, that I couldn’t resist making my own version of the hook video.

When I read about all the wonders Desmos had created by adding the Activity Builder feature I could resist and had to try it out. With some success, and failure (earlier blog post). I think I audibly giggled with delight when I got an email from the, one and only, Dan Meyer asking if Desmos could use a version of my activity. *Swoon* #MathBloggerIdol


So I started dipping my toe in the #MTBoS water this summer. Replying to some tweets. Joining in a few conversations. Testing a few Desmos Activities when asked and providing feedback. But I’m ready to take the next step: I’m going to promise myself to blog at least once a month. I have been hesitant to blog about my lessons in the past because I’ve felt like they aren’t worthy of the #MTBoS. I mean, I’m relatively new in the game of teaching, and my lessons aren’t all something to write home about. But a thred I read from Dan and Meg Craig really stuck with me:

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So here I am #MTBoS. Ready to start blogging!

Promise 3: Have first semester planned out by the start of school

This is my slightly unrealistic goal, but I’m trying to set my goals high, well at least for the two courses I am sole responsible for: Algebra 1 and AFM. I’ve already paced out the first semester of AFM and started on the notes packet for Unit 1 (Prerequisites to Modeling with Functions). And I’m hopeful that I can reuse most of my departments resources for Algebra 1 this year. So if I use the next 15 baby-free days (thanks to Daycare!) between now and the start of school. I hope I can get this done!