Big dreams, small victories

I hope this isn’t horrible to say, but I have found I most enjoy March-August as a teacher. At that point, I know the kiddos and they know me. We can be more relaxed and genuine as we move towards the end of the year. And I can dream big about next year. Seriously big, every year.

I documented much of those dreams here over the past 6 months. And now, at the beginning of the school year, a few of those things are coming into fruition (and many others aren’t).

Small victories, September 2013

– Seniors are problem solving. I’m doing very little; they are doing more than I am. I do occasionally help more than I should, but having students present holds them accountable (or at least makes apparent the times they haven’t fully understood).  Side note: the concepts students get stuck on are fascinating. Two seniors were estimating the amount of M&Ms in a family sized bag. They googled the weight of the bag and the weight of a single M&M and wanted to divide. But the bag weight was in pounds and the M&M weight in grams. They did not see the problem until they divided.

– We are having circle time on Mondays and I am using that time to teach students about various topics that I hope will help them become better students and people. So far, we’ve just talked about Growth Mindset, but this routine is working and I look forward to more topics. And students seem to mostly understand growth mindset and have come down (mostly) on the side of growth > fixed.

– Freshmen are also problem solving. We started a year-long project (students choose from many systems of equations problems and solve them in multiple ways). Students have chosen their own method to solve the first few problems. They analyzed a pattern without any direction from me (besides to find Figure 10 and then the generalization). I’m so. excited. to start the pattern unit for real and to see what they can do/figure out with all the linear (and nonlinear!) problems.

– This week, we are going to have the Algebra students grade themselves on the first unit and provide evidence and reasoning for their self-assessment. As a teacher who wants to foster students’ self-motivation and who probably cares less than she should about side-conversation during worktime and bathroom trips, I hope this kind of activity will help students become better scholars through reflection rather than force.

So. Baby steps in a hopefully good direction.


What Math is Happening?

I stumbled upon some blogs doing 180 Day of Math.

I’m not that ambitious.

But I think it’s fun to document some of the math that’s happening.

Week 1 – AMDM and Algebra 1

How many different colors do we need to color a map? Other get-to-know-you-awesomeness. And building tall towers. Follow the criteria for success!

Week 2 – Algebra 1

Preassessments, set-up materials, more teambuilding, analyze a pattern and start writing about math!

Week 2 – AMDM

Find the pattern for Triangle Numbers (presented visually). Then practice writing up a problem/solution. And presenting.

P.S. I’m really glad Dan Goldner and his Pre-Calc class exist because I’m modeling my Advanced Mathematical Decision Making class off of it. I think the seniors will like the independence.

And the beginning of the year…

Cycles run my life.  


Much of my life is planned to the minute.  There is a beginning and a redoing.  And things are never done.  So, in this beginning of the year, it is like many others.  There are children I’ve taught before.  In each of my classes, I have at least one student who I will teach for the third year.  They know me.  They know my really, really bad jokes.  They know that it is not unusual for me to lie on tables, jump on chairs, or high five people who are just trying to raise their hands.  They know.  They’ve done this before, bless their hearts.

There are new children, too.  The ones who are terrified of me, well, because, I am scary.  They don’t know why I am shaking their hands when they say “Oh, my God” (my name nor title is God).  They seem not to be able to understand why I don’t seem to understand the “E-word” (the word easy is NOT allowed.  For real. Because you have no right to talk about a task, only about yourself).  And I even heard one turn to another and ask “is she ALWAYS this amped?”  To which, as if right on cue, responded with “you’ll get used to it” in time with me.  These little ones will know soon, and best effort to them.

It’s a cycle. Everything cycles.

And both generations of students will be able to pass their knowledge to my future students.  Hopefully, they’ll learn some math in the process.



It’s Starting …

I’m getting a little nervous. It seems like I’ve been planning actively for 6 months and subconsciously for at least 6 years to teach math like I actually want to. And it’s starting on Wednesday!

For my own reference and for simplicity, I’m committed this year to …

1) Awesome math tasks, for fun/coolness as well as for usefulness. Real class/group discussion where students share the math they do.

2) Using material from Developmental Designs to build intentional community in each class and to address students’ social-emotional needs.

3) Generally teaching/acting from my values. Not telling when answers are correct. Pushing students to share/work with each other. Respecting students as people above all else.

Here we go, school year 2013-14. I hope I can make you proud.