The 'Best' Right Things aka "The Day After Perfect"

There are other posts I want to write but I can't do anything until I get this one out of my brain.

I've already posted about this quote a couple of times:

"Be brave enough to be bad at something new." It's from a motivational speaker, author, and entrepreneur Jon Acuff that I subscribe to. He's coming out with a new book called "Finish" and he released the first chapter. Everything in quotation marks in this post comes from that chapter.

I was reading it and re-reading it at the same time because it goes right along with the TMC-hangover we all deal with in some measure...the fact that we can't do everything.

We hear so many good ideas that we aren't doing that we forget about all the good ideas that we are doing.

And then we go home feeling like these other teachers are awesome all the time and we are awesome never. We start to make plans feeling like we need to shove every new idea into every inch of our lesson plans. If not...we're not doing the best thing for our kids. Right?
"The first lie perfectionism tells you about goals: Quit if it isn't perfect."
Well guess what? It's not going to be perfect. It's never going to be perfect. You aren't going to be perfect. Ever. Now that we have that out of the way, there is nothing to be afraid of! The door to better teaching is forever open to you!
"We will gladly give up the whole thing when we discover some error or imperfection in our performance."
We make posters about how important mistakes are for learning and growing but then we beat ourselves up for our own mistakes. We talk ourselves out of trying something new because making a mistake might....embarrass us? Scar the children forever? Make us lose control?
"Doing something imperfectly won't kill you."
It won't kill anybody expect that spirit of perfection that tries to keep you complacent. If you aren't growing....are you dying?

I live in farm country so I guess that explains why I keep comparing teaching to farming. Do farmers plant the same plant in the same ground forever? Or do they take breaks so the land can recover? Do they try new strains? Do they try new fertilizer? Do they try new technology?

At the end of the day they are still planting seeds and reaping a harvest as new tools come and go.

But here's the thing maybe we forget...every farmer starts with different soils. Different climates. Different weather patterns. Different seed batches. Different talents. Different pests. Different equipment. Each farmer has a learning curve and has a wide variety of areas to grow in. How does he decide which area to work on? Well, there's too many variables so he better try one thing and never change it forever.

Since when has too many variables stopped a math teacher?

It's important that we recognize how we are all starting with different soils- a different foundation. My foundation is building relationship with students. I'm really good at and it comes naturally- it's hard to even explain things that I do that make it happen. So when I am reaching for new tools, I'm reaching for things that fix my pacing, my curriculum, my rigor, etc because those are the areas where I need growth.
"The problem is that perfectionism magnifies your mistakes and minimizes your progress."
Twitter and blogs can put a magnifying glass on our mistakes because we see such a plethora of new ideas. But turn that magnifying glass on to your craft and your progress. Where do you see gaps? Where do you see low performance? Now when you look at new tools, use that magnifying glass to direct your focus. Pick the tools that are going to make the biggest difference for YOUR SOIL.

And realize that everyone needs different tools for different seasons.
"The harder you try to be perfect, the less likely you'll accomplish your goals."
If your goal is to be the best teacher you can be or to make a difference....you're not going to accomplish them perfectly. Do you even know what perfect would look like it? And if you let perfect scare you, then you aren't going to accomplish them at all. 

You are doing the right things. You are scared you aren't doing the 'best' right things. But if you are honest with yourself about your progress and trying new tools to fix problems, that's always going to be the 'best' right thing. And the energizing part is that there will always be a new problem to fix and a new tool to try. You will never run out of data to analyze or classes to experiment with.

Welcome to a lifetime of growing!! You're officially a farmer.
"The day after perfect is what separates finishers from starters."
So the day after perfect fails...when you screamed at a kid, when you said something inappropriate, when a lesson flops, when the whole class fails a test, will you give up forever? Does a farmer who makes a mistake go back and rip out every seed he's planted? I don't think there's a perfect harvest but there will always be hungry people willing to eat. And there will always be curious students who are willing to learn. They won't be perfect and you won't be perfect but together you will make things grow.
"The opposite of perfectionism is not failure- it's finished."


Year 9

My room just keeps getting better and better. I really can't imagine anything I would change but I've thought that every year before this too.

There's just something about it right now that I feel like really reflects me. Or maybe I'm just more me when I'm in here.

This quote says Be brave with your life. 

I will forever love my Milligram bulletin board. It is my actual school account.

Having a little light and air freshener is really important to me.

That Poppins desk set is SO worth it.

Using powder drink holders as pen caddy's-covered the bottom with duck tape and will hand these out when needed since they were all stolen last year.

 Filing cabinet makeover with spray paint and contact paper.

 My clearance TJ Maxx clock and Oriental trading pennant banner.

My $.25 yard sale box that hold my 18 privacy folders {blog post to come}.

Replace green chevron border with gray from Hobby Lobby {$3.99 or $2.39 with coupon}

Replaced blue and green paper lanterns with turquoise chevron paper lanterns.

Chevron folders for each period in my hanging file holder for absent students.

Baby trash cans from Dollar Tree and custom laminated drawer labels.

All ten drawers!

The top of these carts have holes in them and students love to put tape over the holes and then stab it which makes it impossible to take the tape off. This year I laminated two 8.5x11 scrapbook papers and hot glued the corners down. 

...for individual pencil holders made of smoothie straws and duck tape.

My no-sew chevron intruder curtain made with paperclips and binder clips that unrolls with a pull of a ribbon...teal ribbon of course.

And one of my new favorite quotes:

"Be brave enough to be bad at something new."
-Jon Acuff

I didn't realize how being brave kept showing up as a theme in my classroom until people at TMC and on Twitter have mentioned it. 

I don't think it is bravery when you have no other choice.


2017-2018 New Year's Resolutions

This week's prompt is Goals; click the picture above for more information on this weekly blogging challenge.

My mantra for the year is: add layers of new to the foundation you love!


  • Incorporate #VNPS once per unit
  • Incorporate a debate prompt of some sort once per unit
  • Upgrade interactive notebook pages whenever possible to be succinct and easy to follow independently
  • Make better use of Google Classroom
  • Bring back concept attainment, my favorite way to teach!
  • Amplify voices in the #MTBoS, even when my voice seems silent

  • Keep doing the daily workouts I've been somewhat enjoying this summer
  • Save money ahead of time for things like birthday and Christmas...they aren't surprises
  • Keep my magic sparkles fueled on a daily basis!

Professionally and Personally
  • Sprinkle my #MTBoS magic wherever I go while doing my best to see and bring out the magic in others

While I have felt a huge burst of confidence professionally in the past weeks, I've been working on it personally for years. Some changes I've made recently and will continue to do:
  • Daily scripture journaling
  • The only Bible reading plan I've ever stuck with
  • Walking 12,000+ steps a day
  • Having everything ready to go for the next morning before I leave school
  • Lesson planning on Saturdays to free up my weeknights
  • Keeping the Sabbath (Sundays for me)..."A Sunday well spent brings a week of content"
  • Laying out my clothes/accessories/shoes and packing my lunch/bag the night before 
Happy New Year!


Clothesline Mathematicians

If you haven't heard of Clothesline Math, it's a concrete way of building number sense by hanging numbers on a literal clothesline, and it can apply from elementary all the way up.

I went to one short session on it at TMC and saw solving equations, fractions, logarithms, geometry problems and more.

I'm still not confident in using it myself but I did use it once last year and never blogged about it.

I made pieces of characteristics of mathematicians and had them put the pieces in order on a clothesline.


Of course this went differently in each class and doesn't have a correct answer. I would say that they started with what I expected like getting answers quickly but through their own discussion started to move things around and highlight the things I don't want...copying others, sitting silently, and watching others do math.

My favorite part was just them explaining why they thought things should be moved aka why they think certain characteristics make a good mathematician. 

That's My #MTBoS

In an effort to show gratitude, on Wednesday night we, the #MTBoS, were encouraged to shout out people we were thankful for.

I've been on Twitter since 2009 and these people literally created and continue to shape who I am as a teacher.


Twenty-five different people who have affected my teaching. Some who knew it, some who didn't.

You don't even know all of the things you need to know yet.

You don't know the people you need yet.

So whatever excuses you have...be selfish for a minute. You need these people. You need to grow in ways you don't know. You need to get to places you can't get to on your own.

I  'praised' 25 people and got 9 responses. But that makes sense to me because I have been taking from these people for almost a decade- so I have the most to give. Sow before you reap. Give first. Whether that is in the form of asking questions, writing blog posts, liking tweets, etc.

You are worth the investment.

Show up. Shout out. Participate. Give. Steal.

If you have any interest in improving your craft, in being more than you are, in having a renewed energy for your profession, you are in. You belong.

You are needed.

You are necessary.

And I am grateful for you...because neither of us know right now how we will change each other.

And if I could explain #MTBoS and the #TMC experience and blogging and community...I couldn't. But luckily, someone else did a pretty good job.

That's my #MTBoS.


#MTBoS Magic

If you are a reader of my blog and you have ever found anything helpful, I would like to say this is just the tip of the iceberg and there is a whole family of people just like me who share rants, lessons, documents, tips, pictures, hacks, and more.

We are the #MTBoS.

I am officially declaring myself as a #MTBoS Rockstar because I am always trying to improve so I just decided I can be a Rockstar. See how easy that was? Now you can be part of us too, just by deciding you are.

You don't have to have a blog and you don't have to tweet- although we HIGHLY recommend it.

  • We want to hear your thoughts and perspective- even if you don't have an awesome project or curriculum or resources to share, you have YOU- and that is worth sharing! 
  • If you feel like everything you've used was taken from someone on the Internet, you still made decisions and introduced it and asked questions that came from your brain. 
  • Even if you tried something new and failed, SO HAVE WE. And talking about it together is probably the quickest way to find out why it failed and how to make it better.
  • If you're very traditional and all these thing seem weird/crazy/hard to you, ask us some questions because we felt scared to try things at some point too. Look for small teacher moves that you can try that don't freak you out so much.
  • If the technology seems too hard to figure out, you can google things to figure them out or you can follow me here or even comment on this blog. My email is miss.calcul8 at gmail and I would love to answer any questions you have that you aren't ready for the whole world to see

Some benefits of being part of this community:
  • Endless sharing of resources
  • Endless answers to questions you have on any topics
  • Endless insight in to other teacher's classrooms and teaching strategies
  • Endless support and encouragement from people around the world who are very much like you and not like you at all and still support you
  • Endless understanding of the job, the ups and the downs, the changes, etc
  • Endless community, an extended family across the world whose heart is to share and rise by lifting others
  • Endless energy to try something new, to learn, to change, to take that leap, hope that there is always more to come
The disadvantage of being part of this community:
  • Losing sleep because there are so many tweets and blog posts and great ideas to read and think and talk about
  • Losing the old you. Because now you know there is a whole world waiting out there who values your words....so it's time to start saying them.
Every year we hold a four day math conference called Twitter Math Camp (TMC). We do math together, eat dinner together, go sightseeing together, play games together, etc. Everyone is worthy to present or talk but everyone is also eager to be in the audience. It is a great way to learn with people you are connected to and can continue learning with all year long. It costs $20 to register and then your travel. Next year we are meeting July 19-22 at St. Ignatius in Cleveland Ohio and YOU ARE INVITED! Here is the website for more information. http://www.tmathc.com/

If this sounds like *HEAVEN* to you, here are some next steps.

  • Follow me on twitter @misscalcul8 and ask me anything. I would also like to introduce you to the community if you are okay with that. (follow means click follow by my name and picture and we are like Facebook friends now who can read each others posts)
  • Check out this website https://exploremtbos.wordpress.com/ which explains more and has lots of activities
  • If you are already on twitter, follow the hashtags #mtbos and #iteachmath (follow means you can click on that phrase and it will show you every time someone said those words and you can read it, like jumping to a specific chapter in a book)
  • If you are scared to ask questions, start by giving compliments or likes of other teachers comments or posts
  • Start reflecting. Whether its on a blog, whether its public or private, start thinking about yourself and you classroom in a way that helps you process.
This year at TMC was the first year that I didn't leave overwhelmed and feeling like I need to redo my whole everything. And this was my fifth time going. I finally changed my perspective and thought about how much I've learned. My morning session leader Chris said that we can add layers of (insert new strategy here) to the things we already love. So that's what I'm going to do. Isn't it exciting to know that my teaching and classroom will get better and better every single year and I DON'T HAVE TO FIGURE EVERYTHING OUT ON MY OWN?

This was the first time I never felt anxious. I made lunch plans with people. I talked to strangers. And guess what....it didn't feel like small talk. It felt like friends.

This was the time I commented and actively participated in each session I went to the most. I finally realized that I have insight into a classroom my twitter friends will never see- mine- and it's my duty to share it.

Because of this community I have tried, succeeded and failed, at so many different things and because of that, I have things to share.

So many people at TMC came up to me and told me things that they see in me and admire about me. WHO DOES THAT? I mean where in the world can you go and have people honor your gifts and speak life into you, personally, and professionally, who don't even live near you or work in your building?

Investors. Investors do that. And that's what we truly are. We are investing in ourselves by investing in others and then the payoff in the end is....WE ALL WIN. We all grow together.

So if you noticed my last 11 blog posts started with #TMC it's because I blog every session I go to. I've done this every year and you can find the past ones by clicking the TMC label --> on the right side of this page. See for yourself what kind of things we are learning about together.

Here is a YouTube playlist of 90 presenters who had something worth sharing.

Here is my sprinkle of #MTBoS Magic!


#TMC17 My Favorites

My Favorites


Lisa Henry
Thursday Lunch- having lunch with different groups each week to build relationship

Sam Shah
1. Making math joy public- use a hotel bell to share a moment of joy during math class; debrief when a bunch of bells ring if anyone wants to share; not every day, kids want to ring it even when they're not out. Moments of joy become the norm!
2. Never forget exit slips again

Matt Baker
DeltaMath- online homework and review, create free account, 900 different modules, shows solutions, some with video, shows data on each problem students complete @mrdeltamath

John Stevens
Who is the mtbos anyway? MTBoS search engine and database Join and contribute!

Friday Morning

David Butler
Sqwigles- Guiding one-on-one tutoring

Speak your thinking
Questions are open-ended
Guide the student
Listen to students' thoughts and feelings
Explain concepts in a different way

Jennifer Fairbanks
What Else Can Google Slides Do?
Class Scrapbook- get to know each other, make one slide per student including teacher
Class eBook for Midterm and Final Exam Review- one problem per student, one sheet of paper per problem with directions, create table of contents, graded handed in papers, used Adobe Spark to create and upload explanation of their problem, then link each problem slide to the video explanation

Karim Ai
Offer tasks that aren't just hard but where answers don't exist

Friday Afternoon

David Petro
Dynamic Web Sketches- engaging-math.blogspot.ca 5 to 10 minute activities practicing skills, can be used on any device, made from Geometer's Sketchpad

Joel Bezaire
Tinkerplots-pull in data from excel to create animated graphs for analysis
Codap.concord.org- sample data sets, bring in own data

Pam Wilson
Make a Difference Monday- book by Barbara Lewis "What Do You Stand For?" Give short articles about students who overcame obstacles, especially similar obstacles that they are facing
5 Focus- thumbs up for self-efficacy, pointer finger for being thoughtful, middle man for standing tall and taking pride in your work, ring finger for flexibility, pinky for interdependency as a promise that I'm here for you and support you while you work on the other four.

Saturday Morning

Johnathon Claydon
Simulation of buying a house and car, build excel spreadsheet, present monthly payments

Kat Glass
A Different Approach to Student Intervetions- group goal-setting meeting with failing students, "mandatory" weekly after school session, my goals < their goals, giving them ownership of their own goals makes it easier to hold them accountable without it feeling like scolding, don't use code words for failing which can make it feel shameful, swap reviewing with previewing

Bob Lochel
Use how-old.net , find difference between perceived age and actual age, make scatter plot, dot plots, line of best fit

Saturday Afternoon

Joey Kelley
Play With Your Math

David Petro
Practicing math on a continuum- envelopes with strips of practice problems that get increasingly incrementally harder, do five on each card and move on after you get five right, if wrong get help on the remaining five, check answers with UV pen

Benjamin Walker
Peer-to-Peer Math Partnerships- Identify students, students shift from tutee to tutor over time, "mathematically powerful"

Sunday Morning

Deb Boden
Mixed Review HW- document of daily homework (one weeks worth) from past lessons

Anna Scholl
Learnzillion- guided collaborative tasks, free K-8 curriculum, two students per device

Connie Haugneland
Rwanda- share small moves like thumbs up, thumbs down, I notice, I wonder, which one doesn't belong and encouraging teachers to read the Internet for ideas, they are the experts in their classroom and they know what resources they have

Alli George
Study Break- draw at least 4 lines all across the paper, color each shape so that two touching shapes are different colors, then answer 7 questions for data collection, and turn into stats analysis

Anna Blinstein
Desmos Entrance Tickets- bit.ly/EntranceTicket Place a dot on a number line to rate how you feel about the math/hw

Sean Sweeney
Marbleslides Challenges- one slide challenges, create competition by posting scores to past week challenges, one point per star, more points for less functions or creativity, for early finishers, added benefit of learning more about graphing, gives students a chance to learn math on their own, can be mostly completed with linear equations, challenging to complete with fewer equations bit.ly/MarbleslidesTMC

Sandra Miller
Lesson planners- planbook.com $12 a year, color code, post online

Anna Vance- difference of squares rap

Candace Bell
Superheroes- project to measure and create prototypes on grid paper to copy on fabric for capes, interviewed their 'client', measure the clients, writing thank you notes,

Glenn Waddell
Change your language- change students to learners, don't say guys, change all to each



#TMC17 Going Vertical - How I Started Using #VNPS {Jennifer Fairbanks, Kathy Campbell}

Going Vertical - How I Started Using #VNPS
Jennifer Fairbanks
Kathy Campbell

(They handed out bookmarks with a QR Code to all their resources. 😍)

The person with the marker is recording others thoughts but should pass the marker off when they have a thought.

Hang vertical borders with magnets to divide large whiteboards into 4x4 spaces. (Love this 😍)

See slamdunkmath.blogspot.com and peterliljedahl.com

Start with groups of friends (to lower stakes) and after one problem, randomly choose one person to rotate to a different group, keep rotating so that groups are all different by the end of class.

Use flippity.net for visible random grouping.

Give problems students will get stuck on.

Students take risks, start writing, and start discussing sooner.

When standing, students cannot hide, must participate.

Allows for greater freedom to explore non-linearity.

Have groups rotate every two spots and check their work.

Students can erase their work but leave the problem and answer so that another group can rotate and work a new problem.

Number boards so groups always know where to go.

Giant magnet graphs!!!!!!

#TMC17 Hitting the Darn "Send" Button {Carl Oliver}

Saturday Keynote
Hitting the Darn "Send" Button
Carl Oliver

How did you overcome barriers to pushing send? What barriers do you still struggle with?

Do you feel not ____________ enough?

If #MTBoS is only for people that are _________ enough, how would we know for sure?

How many of "us" are there? How many people have ever tweeted #MTBoS?
How have we grown?
How much do we tweet?

It's important to push send so you can learn something or celebrate.

Twitter is a place of learning and a tweet is an opportunity to learn.

Pressing send opens a window to our classroom.

Opening yourself up to feedback and saying you want to get better is leadership.


#TMC17 Talk Less, Smile More {Matt Baker, Chris Luzniak}

Talk Less, Smile More
Matt Baker and Chris Luzniak


Chalk Talk- writing answers to questions silently, +1 next to ideas you like

-What is thinking? How do you "see" student thinking?
-What are your concerns with facilitating discussions?
-What does your ideal classroom look like?

Use structure and routine to build safety and to lower defense mechanisms.

Talking Points- three rounds of agreeing or disagreeing, taking turns justifying answers without responding in time
See: http://cheesemonkeysf.blogspot.com/2014/07/tmc14-gwwg-talking-points-activity.html?m=1

-How does changing agree/degree/unsure to always/sometime/never change or enhance the conversation?
-Do you want to add the words always or never or leave statements ambiguous?
-Working to actively not respond while listening
-Tally whole class responses and call on people to explain the argument, even if it wasn't their argument

Soapbox Debate- stand up and share your opinion

Debate has two parts:
argument = claim + warrant

Saying 'my warrant' makes opinions sound more formal and less personal so it feels safer. 'Because' and 'I feel' makes it feel like your answers HAVE to be correct. Using fancy words like claim, warrant, concur, on the contrary etc makes students wants to say something.

All speakers stand up and all eyes and knees toward speaker.

Mistake Finding- use student work to ask students to debate the BEST mistake

Circle Debate- summarize what you heard, then make your claim + warrant

Point Counter-Point- you have to give the opposite claim of the person who went before you

Use 'would you rather' questions about different ways to solve problems.

In geometry, rename two-column proofs 'claim' and 'warrant'.

Debate and justification spill over into group work and other courses.

Use estimation180 in Desmos AB with median to split the class and cause debate.

There are so many nuances in our word choice, body language, and movement.
See Creating Cultures of Thinking: The 8 Forces We Must Master to Truly Transform Our Schools
See Intentional Talk: How to Structure and Lead Productive Mathematical Discussions

Help lower the stakes by making an effort to speak to each student in some way, every day.

Give kids a safety net with a 'life happens' pass to throw out an assignment or to not call on them that day.

To avoid cold calling:
-Have students debate in groups first, then give a 'group' claim.
-Tell quiet students the day before that you are going to cold call them so they can be prepare
-Give question stems for structure
-Have students write in different pen colors to ask questions if they don't want to speak out loud
-Share any positive contributions from quiet students to show they are valued
-Start with things students can't get working, opinions

See Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Use Which One Doesn't Belong for debate.

Assessment question: current content answer is between what two integers.

Table Debates- a deck of cards about current content where Team A always debates one side and Team B always debates the opposite. Great for: systems of equations, sin/cos/tan, composite area, geometric/arithmetic sequence, classifying numbers, distance formula vs Pythagorean theorem

Add debate-y words to math problems to make it debateable:
Which number is most important or has the most influence?
What is the weirdest way to solve?
What's the easiest mistake to make?
How much information can be taken away before it can't be solved?
Hide a number.
Compare student work.

Some factual things within one answer can be debateable based on the misconceptions of the students.

Add layers of debate on things you already like and use! (I need this reminder for my whole life!!!!)

Rumors- answer questions on index card, find a partner and spend 90 seconds sharing and discuss, trade cards and find new partners, repeat, trade cards and find new partners (use for homework answers, characteristics/transformations of functions, WODB, estimation180,

See alled.org Rhonda Bondie

Ways to spice things up!
-visually random groupings
-vertical non-permanent surfaces
-clothesline math
-mistake game (good questions should lead them to the answer, don't just add ? to a statement)
-Socratic seminar

Great Debate Project- three day project, two days of prep, one day to present, groups are assigned, choose roles, use math as evidence


#TMC17 Rational Function Graphs For Dummies {Meg Craig, Sheri Walker}

Rational Function Graphs For Dummies
Meg Craig
Sheri Walker


Use Desmos AB before unit starts before they have the language to create the headache. Spend 15 minutes or less.

Investigating Rational Functions handout printed on legal paper.

Numerical Division Investigation 

Technical term for point of continuity "stupid point" ;)

Don't need that pee in the ocean! 😂

#TMC17 Standards Based Grading in a Traditional Setting {Jennifer Brackney, Tony Riehl}

Standards Based Grading in a Traditional Setting
Jennifer Brackney Tony Riehl

Paring down standards based grading into objective based grading


Change test names to objectives.

Multi color grading- grade each skill in a different marker, even if included in multi-skill problems 

Tony's methods: Label grade book with name of skill and Q1 and T1 etc in front to show progress over time.

After testing over skills, make the quiz grade not count toward their grade but still show in grade book.

Students who are absent on test day get their quiz scores as a test grade and don't take test unless they go through the retest process.

Process: show all completed assignments and class work even if it wasn't graded

Jennifer's methods: Email parents after grades are in letting them know grades are in and the retesting process and your availability.

Highest grade possible on retest is a 90% because there is something to be said for being prepared the first time.

A 100% is misleading to future teachers about their knowledge if they had endless retakes compared to first time. Retakes are informal problems on the board, graded on the spot.

#TMC17 All I Really Need To Know I Learned From The MTBoS {Graham Fletcher}

Friday Keynote
All I Really Need To Know I Learned From The MTBoS
Graham Fletcher

1. Surround myself with people smarter than me. (In your best Zoolander voice)
How do we invite people from outside of our circle?

2. Netflix adapted, Blockbuster was static. #mtbos doesn't allow us to be static.              
3. Be vulnerable.

65% of children entering primary school today will have jobs that don't exist today.

Asking for estimates gives everyone a chance to dive in. Instead of asking individually, ask for ranges of answer. Then when you're the 'loser' you have friends like you.

4. The less I talk, the smarter students sound. (I think this is a mantra for me this year as well.) How are we supposed to know what students are going to say?

5. All of us are smarter than one of us.


#TMC17 My Mini Revelation

Day one, hour two of #TMC17 and I had my first revelation.

Our two hour session over structuring debate literally flew by and our exit slip question was something we've learned.

I stopped to actually think and it hit me...

I don't have to go all or nothing with every idea.

That may seem obvious to you but if you're reading this blog then you should know my personality by now. In the few seconds I started to frustrate myself with how to incorporate debate into every lesson, I chose a different path.

I could do this one or twice a unit.

We covered talking points which I tried and failed at a couple years ago. In the few seconds I started to frustrate myself with how to bring those back and do a better job, I chose a different path.

I could do this once or twice a unit.

Suddenly I saw  my math "toolbox" in a different light.

I've always looked for new tools to add to the box. But when it comes to using the tool, I want to use it for every job until I die or it does. Now I can see how I have enough tools (thanks to my Twitter teacher lounge) to choose them strategically. I can rotate the tools and no one has to die!

The tools will last longer!

They will seem fresh each time I use them!

My skills in using them will stay sharper!

I won't get tired of using one tool forever!

I won't feel guilty for not using the great tools that have been shared with me!

I won't feel guilty.

#TMC17 Informative Formative Assessment {Mary Williams}

Informative Formative Assessment 
Mary Williams

The purpose is to gather data!

Use Kahoot to build Jumbles where students put answers in order instead of just picking one correct answer.

Make a selfie Kahoot for students to get to know you or each other.

Use Kahoot ghost mode for students to challenge them.

Quizizz- individually paced, good for homework, questions on student screens, meme options, and teacher sees live data.

Quizlet- competitive and cooperative, one player in group has correct answer, back to zero if you use one, shows correct answer, play same twice with shuffled teams.

Plickers- no technology needed, scan multiple choice answers, live and downloaded data

Google Quiz- grade MC automatically, immediate feedback; flubaroo add-on able to grade more than MC, share through email or google drive

Go Formative- make live comments, attach standards, integrate already created worksheets

Education- input own standards, assessment library

#TMC17 Teach Me How To Factor {Anna Hester}

Teach Me How to Factor
 Anna Vance

Patterns and puzzles help kids become successful with factoring.


  • GCF 
  • 4 Terms 
  • Trinomials 
  •  Difference of Squares 
  • Perfect Square Trinomials 

(I call it the un-distributive property)

Phrase as multiplication helps eliminate mistakes with positives and negatives.

Cover up the bottom row in a 2x2 to start!!!!

Factoring is just moving puzzles pieces around until you find what fits.

Rigor doesn't mean making things arbitrarily difficult.

Try using x-box for both cases of a = 1 and a > 1.

DOS Rap:


#TMC17 The Politics of Mathematics Teaching {Grace Chen}

1:30-2:30 Thursday Keynote
The Politics of Mathematics Teaching
Grace Chen

All history is political history. We have to be able to hold multiple truths simultaneously. But not all truths are equally valid.

Who you are is influenced, but not wholly determined by, people or policies.
Who you are as a math teacher started generations ago. My students' stories didn't start when they entered my classroom.

Are you challenging or reinforcing ideas?

1. Create a microcosm. You bring ideas and belief to your classroom whether you know it or not. Stereotypes aren't hurtful JUST because they're untrue, but because they recall and recite histories of oppression. When you think you know about people, it shuts down the opportunity to get to know those people. Shut down and disrupt the shadows of problems.
2. Teach the gray areas. Actuarial racism penalized black people for the poor health outcomes that were politically motivated instead of looking for ways to support and improve. What do algorithms not take into consideration?
3. Explore alternatives. The Algorithm Collection compares things we take for granted and how they're done in different cultures. Remember the context! Our way is not the only way.

We are influenced but not wholly determined.
We can make our choices conscious and communicable.


X-box Factoring with Color

I tried using the area model this year for factoring GCFs and ax^2 + bx + c in addition to already using it for completing the square.

I felt like there were so many steps that color would be helpful in 'seeing' what we were doing.

I love using concept attainment when I can so I start with students noticing three things that all the 'yes' column problems have in common that the 'no' column problems don't.


From there, we went through an example and wrote down the steps in color {which of course took longer than it should have}. I did the rest of my examples in color and let them decide if they wanted to use color or not.

I was finding the gcf of each row and then dividing to find the top of each column. It took weeks until a student pointed out to me just find the gcf of the rows AND columns.

Overall, I haven't been a huge fan of the box method. I felt like students got mixed up with where to put the numbers and how to find the answers. They're never going to see an X and a box on any other math problems. If I don't put it there for them, they don't know to do it. 

I think I'm going back to my old method of slide divide bottoms up.

Factoring is the bane of my existence so in an attempt to be proactive, I'm going to do factoring Friday's with three problems per week for EVERY course, Algebra I and on up. Hopefully doing 3 problems a week for years in a row will finally give them a solid foundation for Algebra II.


Word Doc:







Bell Ringers 4.0

It's time for my annual bell ringer giant powerpoint update! {See the original, version 2, and version 3}

Here are the categories:

Mental Math Monday: 10 middle school mental math problems that I read aloud (no repeats!)
Tough Guess Tuesday: estimation180.com photos that students estimate how many
Which One Doesn't Belong Wednesday: wodb.ca four photos that students can name something unique for each
Test Prep Thursday: practice questions from the SAT, our state test
Factoring Friday: factoring has been a huge pitfall for me so 9-12 will be doing 3-4 factoring problems every dang week!

Here's the breakdown:

Monday and Tuesday are repeated from last year.
Wednesday I used all new pictures thanks to the website updates!
Thursday are mostly questions from SAT Practice Test 1.
Friday factoring problems all came from Kuta. They follow the progression of

  • GCF 
  • Four Term 
  • Four Term with GCF 
  • Trinomial a = 1 
  • Trinomial a = 1 with GCF 
  • Trinomial a > 1
  • Trinomial a > 1 with GCF 
  • Difference of Two Squares 
  • Difference of Two Squares with GCF 
  • Mixed (last 6 Friday slides)

Here's the powerpoint:


I made the factoring progression in a separate powerpoint in case that would be of any use to you.


I'm hoping to use Google Classroom for bell ringers this year. I don't know exactly how that will play out yet but students will definitely be answering digitally in some form. I've always had a section of their binders for bell ringers and printed out a front and back paper every week. But 90 x 52 is 4,680 pages too much. I have dry erase desks that students are obsessed with so they will work them out on the desk and only have to type in actual answers. My vague idea is scheduling the bell ringers to post during the passing period of each class, students answer digitally, and I show the answers on the powerpoint on my SMART board.

Any suggestions would be great!

Font used in all powerpoints is ForgetMeNot.


#DITL Friday, February 10th, 2017 Homecoming!

{It's Homecoming Week! I'm the student council sponsor and I have the smallest group ever with only 11 students. We are responsible for decorating the stage for the coronation, organizing the actual ceremony, dress up days, Spirit Assembly and games, and Homecoming Dance}

6:00 Wake up and began my busiest and longest day of the year.

1st Hour: I walk in and a sub is in my room. I have never had a sub on this day ever. I almost can't believe it. Basically I lucked out that no one was absent and they had to send our permanent sub somewhere. I had nothing planned but students just finished a handout that they started the day before. I am off to the gym for Homecoming rehearsal. We lift down a stair case and two platforms from the stage to the floor, set up giant cardboard pumpkins and glass slippers {can you guess our theme?}, turn on blue lights, and start organizing the 26 students involved in the coronation ceremony. Lights out, mics on, spotlight shining, and....go!

2nd Hour: I go check on students in the home ec room who are making jello and pudding for the Spirit Assembly games. We have some missing pans so I go out to my car and find them. We wrap up the first run through. Adjust and start over. We have to finish by 10:00 because we have a fire drill which they were already nice enough to move back from 9:00. At the end of this second time we have to put every thing back up and clear the gym.

3rd Hour: Fire drill. We come back inside and send students to class. We tried a new idea of a meme contest but I never figured out how to pick a winner and didn't even have them turned in until Thursday afternoon. I brainstorm with principal and he decides I should hang them in the lobby and have middle school students vote. I proceed to tape them up and individually visit each middle school classroom to ask for their votes. Back to the principal's office to brainstorm the cafeteria set up for the dance tonight.

4th Hour: Check on students in home ec room who are baking 8 dozen cupcakes and making pink lemonade for the dance tonight. I plan with students who are decorating for the dance on how and when to set things up since the concession stand for the two basketball games that happen before the Homecoming coronation and dance. I go round up the supplies: napkins, tablecloths, cups, lights, and deliver to home ec room. Back to principal's office to brainstorm how to set up a t-shirt table to raise money for Student Council.

5th Hour: He finds me an awesome cart so I go organize the shirts into piles by size, then make and print signs to hang in front of each pile. Ironically, the mom who has volunteered to help me sell them e-mails me and we hash out the time and plan for the night. Student Council also does a big fundraiser for Valentine's Day so all morning I've been tracking an order from Sam's Club for 300 carnations, hoping they will come in before lunch. After lunch I am booked every minute until midnight. I start getting supplies ready for the Spirit Assembly that starts immediately after lunch. {I already have 12,000 steps by this time.}

Lunch: On my way to get my lunch, the district secretary calls me to let me know the carnations just came in. She has volunteered to open them for me and get them organized into buckets with water and solution. I almost cry at this offer since I have zero minutes to spare. After I finish eating, the elementary school secretary catches me in the hallway- the florist is on the line saying that she gave the wrong order of flowers to my dad. While she stays on the line, I call my dad and send him back to the florist to get the Queen's rose bouquet. Lucky timing? I think not. Jesus has my back.

12:45 My student council meets to get our tubs of supplies and lay out a game plan for the assembly.

1:00-3:10 Let the games begin! During our assembly we play tug-of-war, 3-legged race, 4 corners, hungry hungry hippos, scavenger hunt, hunger games relay race, jell-o eating contest, inch worm race, chariot race, and 3-point shootout. While I am tallying the points, the cheerleaders getting ready for their dance. We announce the winning class- seniors- and hurry to get everything cleaned up before the bell rings.

3:15-4:15 Even though I need to get home and get ready to come back, I still have last minute jobs to finish. I have to proof 14 pages that my mistresses of  ceremonies will be reading and print out final copies. Print out pictures of the court. Deliver last minute dance supplies that I forgot earlier to the home ec room. Finally head home.

4:15-5:30 Go home to grab some food. Laminate the pictures of the court as last minute gifts. Curl my hair. Change my clothes. Sync my phone so that the cheerleader's dance song is on my phone so the girls can practice one last time. Back to school I go!

5:30-6:00 I'm back to school carrying my own Christmas lights to use for dance decorations as well as the Queen's bouquet. I go to the dressing room for the boys and girls. I lay out pictures, programs, and the engraved keychains we've ordered as gifts as long with the flowers each girl will carry. I need a box to put the rest of my programs in so I dump out a box from my cabinet and finally head down to the gym. I'm also the cheerleading coach and the game starts at 6:00. Luckily I walk in the gym and there is an extra 10 minutes on the clock. My girls are warmed up and ready to go.

6:00-8:45 I am now wearing my cheerleading coach hat and at halftimes and between JV and Varsity games, I am circulating to make sure no one needs anything and to check on my t-shirt selling volunteers. Between games I record my girls doing their Illinois loyalty dance. At halftime I record them doing their hip hop dance....and the crowd goes wild. We win 83-44! As soon as the games end, I switch back to my Student Council sponsor hat. My teacher bestie heads down to herd the cats while I open up the stage and the dads in the crowd help me lift down the steps and platform and so on. We get everything ready to go in about 12 minutes. Let's get this show on the road!

9:00 The ceremony begins. I stand by the mistresses of ceremonies during the coronation. At one point, I realize I've forgotten to take the crowns out of the display case. I literally run down the hallway to the lobby just to see that my teacher bestie already had everything under control.

9:45 The ceremony ends. As the crowd mingles, takes pictures, and celebrates, I rush to the cafeteria to get the dance started. My student have already plugged up the lights, poured balloons everywhere, and set up the food and snack table. I turn on the music and then head back to the gym to herd the cats toward the dance.

10:00-11:00 I hide in my little closet in the back of the cafeteria playing DJ on my laptop and iTunes while the 30ish kids who stayed are having a great time.

11:05 I hit the lights and start kicking people out, asking them to take cupcakes and pop balloons on the way out. We get the cafeteria cleaned up pretty quickly but then we have to put all 20 tables back. There are 4 student council kids left at this point and their boyfriends who help. Next we go back to the stage to pop all those balloons and unplug everything.

11:30 All the kids and the superintendent are gone. It's just me and the janitors. I push a cart of random leftover supplies back to my room. I have to print out blank bell ringer templates for my students because I can't be trusted to get to school early enough on Monday morning to do it.

11:45 I'm home. I am cleaning my makeup brushes while I cook chicken strips for a late night dinner.

12:00 I crash on the couch with my chicken strips and "This Is Us" playing. I chase that down with cookies and milk and fall asleep to the joy of having no alarm set.

I ended the day with 28,040 steps which is my personal best and is a total of 12.47 miles.

P.S. It took me an hour just to type all of this! And teachers everywhere know how many millions of tiny things I left out!