Goal Setting and Spreadsheets

I'm feeling really weird that I haven't formally set any goals or resolutions over the last two years. New Year's Day has always been a *secret* favorite holiday of mine. I love beginnings, fresh starts, organizing, listing, etc.

When I was younger I would always write letters to myself and a couple years ago I got really into bullet journaling. In 2016 I accomplished a lot and then it's like I've just been...coasting every since.

But also I feel really happy with myself and my life when before I've always had so many things I wanted to work on.

So of course I had to tweet about it.

I received two helpful responses.

This led to:

Someone also suggested using Illustrative Mathematics so I guess my goal is two new problem solving tasks per month.

The other helpful response was:

That IS who I am. But it feels weird to not have a tangible goal for those daily tweaks.

I do have on tangible goal that I work on every year and that is to use less handouts than the year before. I use handouts for study guides before every test but the rest are basically when I haven't come up with or found a better way to practice. I have a few 'investigations' that I use every year that I like but I'm working on turning handouts into dry erase activities or review games. I label every handout in the footer. 

I can't believe it took me so long to think of this but this year I started tracking handout numbers in a spreadsheet after making several mistakes with my numbering.

And now I just love it so much!

I've been using spreadsheets a lot more this year. I wrote about my planning log back in August. I added this new tab for logging handouts and also the weekly wrap up questions that I ask my students. 

Another new thing I tried this year is using Delta Math. I assign 5 problems from 4 different topics every Monday that is then due the next Monday. I use zero penalty and I give them 10 points a week based on their completion rates. I don't specifically give them time in class to do it but they can work on it when they finish class work early.

Which means....another tab! I started tracking the topics I assign so I can decide when or if it needs to be repeated.

This doesn't really bring me a lot of resolution to the problem of not having resolutions...but I guess I can make a new tab and track the Open Middle or Illustrative Mathematics Problems I choose for the rest of the year.

What do you use spreadsheets for?


Unit Circle Art IV

It's that time of year again for my unit circle projects!

My requirements are that it can't be made out of paper and has to contain radians, degrees, and ordered pairs.

See my previous posts here:  Unit Circle Art I, II, and III.

This is the rubric I used to grade them and they later taped into their INB.


Special Right Triangles: Tic-Tac-Toe Method

I've always taught special right triangle by comparing similar triangles, writing proportions, and cross-multiplying. Last year I tried this investigation for the first time that also doubled as a project with mixed results. I tried it again this year but without the project piece. And I'll be honest, this year I walked around giving some hints and last year I didn't help at all. Why? Because I felt like my class was so needy and had to start learning to be more independent. This year I didn't let them talk until they had finished the whole page front and back. Then I asked them to compare with at least two other people. That part went really well.

Then we went on to basic INB notes. Some students really took the lead in shouting out what to do. While it wasn't cross-multiplying, they were using patterns and it seemed to work.

And then...

A student asked this question on Friday and I told him I would find out and explain Tuesday.

Which led me to this:

I really loved her materials but I had already 'investigated' the patterns and already had INB notes. What to do....

Strips to the rescue!

We made a Math Tools pocket at the beginning of the year and added calculator strips. I turned her charts into strips and we used them to practice with dry erase markers and then write in the answers.

I color coded the 'levels' that Katrina mentioned in her post.

Using the tic-tac-toe method, we decided first which column the given information goes in and then how to solve for x. This really helped them see when we need to multiply and when to divide. Once we had x then we could fill in the other two columns.

Two students figured out shortcuts to the patterns without doing the work. I explained to them that that was my goal but when I led with that in the past, everyone would get confused and so I need to teach a structure that EVERYONE can fall back on.

I felt like this really cleared things up from where we left it on Friday. Next time I teach it I will do the strips right after the investigation and then they can use the strips as a reference for the INB notes.

Thanks Katrina!


My Flavor Is Confidence

Virtual Conference on Mathematical Flavors

Your teaching practice has an impact on how your kids think about mathematics. Our classrooms are little bubbles and while kids are sitting in them, they are picking up all kinds of signals about mathematics. You might have students leaving a year with you thinking mathematics is collaborative, or that it requires taking risks, or that it is hard but hard is okay. We all have our own unique flavor of mathematics that we are imparting to students through how we orchestrate our classes day in and day out. So here’s the formal prompt:
 does your class move the needle on what your kids think about the doing of math, or what counts as math, or what math feels like, or who can do math?
It took me a while to wrap my head around this concept and a lot of different 'flavors' ran through my head. But then I thought about what 'leaks out' of who I am, what students remind me of after they graduate, and what they write to me in their semester reflection papers.
I think my flavor is confidence.

  • Confidence in your own personality and being 100% on brand. It took me decades years to cultivate my own confidence and now sometimes I think I might be a little on the arrogant side. lol I model this especially through my two nice things procedure- they hate when I make them say two nice things about themselves and I always give a little speech about how you know yourself better than anybody else and you should know more nice things about you than you know about anybody else. I feel like I show this through my work ethic because students come to me with new ideas. I think that shows they know that I go above and beyond in all aspects of my job. Students will tell me when they see chevron stuff they think I should buy, they send me pinterest ideas, they tag me in memes...I think that by being 100% myself, I give them permission to be 100% themselves.
  • Confidence through consistency. When you have students years in a row, I think this comes kind of naturally but I think students enjoy math with me because they know my rules, procedures and routines. They know I'm going to show up every day and they need to also. I have so many kids who come back after doctor appointments and such 'just for my math class'. They also know they are working every day, all hour, and no free days. Even though they'll never admit it, I think they enjoy knowing they are going to work and learn on a daily basis. Or at the very least appreciate it.
  • Confidence through finding mistakes. I make an emphasis on finding your own mistakes and fixing them and I think that builds a sense of independence. I make a big deal of not erasing all your work and fixing small mistakes. I post answer keys often so they can check their work and work at their own pace. This helps them realize how they learn and that they don't need me for every little thing. I also hope those skills transfer over to personal life too.
  • Confidence through freedom. The culture of my classroom is very laid back; we make a lot of jokes, students don't have to ask permission for little things, I have a lot of supplies available that they are free to take, we have a lot of random conversations, etc. Students who finish early casually wander over to students who aren't done yet or struggling and help. I love this because they are hearing different perspectives and the freedom to decide which way works for them. And freedom to learn from someone besides the teacher.
  • Confidence through creativity. While I am very consistent and routine, students also know I'm going to take a creative approach to things. They might not know exactly what to expect but they know I'm not just going to take the normal route. When they start to expect that, I think they raise their own standards as well. Sometimes their expectations are higher than mine are and we both take turns rising to the occasion. There is always a way to express yourself.
  • Confidence through risk taking. While I love trying new things and I think my ideas are awesome, I am also really good at admitting failure. I don't think that's something students are necessarily used to seeing from teachers. Right now I'm having really good luck with students being willing to shout out answers, even wrong ones and I hope that in some small way, it's because I've been willing to be wrong.
  • Confidence through problem solving. While I wish I could say that I mean this in a purely mathematical way, I don't. I mean this in a more practical way. I ask students for feedback often and when I see problems I brainstorm with them on solutions. They constantly see me trying to improve and make things more efficient. After I admit failure, I want to fix it. 
  • Confidence through persistence. I don't give up on keeping them from giving up. I don't give up on ideas that fail. I don't give up on trying to change their attitude and feelings about math. I don't give up on making them say nice things. I don't give up on positive vibes.
  • Confidence through showing up. I show up to work every day. I show up for them when I can tell they are upset, mad, or panicking. I show up when their grades start going downhill. I show up when they've just had their hearts broken. I show up to their games. I show up for them and I show up for me.


All The (Good) Things!

I don't know why it is so hard for me to be consistent in blogging my one good thing when I can tweet it. But I thought I would do a mash up of all the good things from the past three weeks that I can remember and then start fresh next week!

  • A senior that's not in my math class this year has been calling me on his teacher's classroom phone between 7th and 8th hour and just chatting for the 3 minute passing period. I don't know why and he gave me a lot of grief last year but...I guess he misses me? lol
  • Today a senior I don’t have in math class came to me for help with his online college math class. As he walked out of the room he turned back and said “You’ll be happy to know I even used Desmos.”
  • Doing function composition in Algebra II a girl said "I'm really enjoying this. I just wanted you to know that."
  • The students like function composition with numbers to plug in better than just simplifying functions so on their practice the last first 6 were simplifying and the last 3 were with numbers. One boy said that was like the 'dessert'. Another student told me had done the last 3 first and the boy says "You ate dessert before dinner?!" As I was walking around helping students, a student asked for help and then said "Ok, you can go back to having dinner with T*****." Lol
  • Former student who sat through trig senior year doing nothing and failed-getting zeros (it wasn’t required), messaged me today to ask if she should do an 8 month program or 2 year associates degree for medical assisting.
  • Reviewed metric conversions, fractions, and percents with Algebra I freshman....overheard “Ms. Miller makes it seems so easy”
  • I got a new document camera and it's SUPER awesome and I will be getting a new ipad soon!
  • I use google photos all the time but it just occurred to me to take pictures of student work as I walk around, sync it, and then display it on the SMART board
  • I've heard some kids talking about working on Delta Math and saying it's fun or they did it at home or they're ready for week 4 or they like it so BIG WIN
  • A student who has anger problems is behind on some assignments, apparently got in an argument with his mom about Delta Math, and had a bunch of excuses for another teacher about the work; when he came to class today he asked for help a few time and thanked me each time. His mom e-mailed me tonight to tell me he was half done with Delta Math.
  • My freshman are ON. IT. I love them already.
  • My 'lower' Algebra I class has only 6 students in but we are already vibing; they shout out answers and if they're wrong they just shout out some more. They are doing so good and I hope it lasts forever.
  • The students asked me if I was going to our county fair to the demolition derby; I haven't been since I was probably a teenager myself. My sister wanted to go and one of my students was driving in it so I went. I saw a few students as we walked in but when we got to the grandstand a whole giant group of students from my school were sitting together and they literally cheered for me as I walked by. I mean.....I can't even!!!
  • So far we haven't had any technology problems!
  • Each day flies by so fast; I have no classes I dread, I have no troublemakers, and I just enjoy it!
  • I've gotten a lot of positive feedback on Twitter and Facebook on my #teach180 posts 
  • Just kids who tell me they love me and give me fist bumps and high fives every day

This is my purpose and my passion- these are my people.