Revision Day

Several math teachers I know, including Kogut, do successful revision days.  I tried a couple of times last year to mixed results.  Similarly at the beginning of this year.

This term, however, I think I may have gotten somewhere.  Here’s what (finally) went right.

1) This term, we had our first revision day after only 3 assessments. With only 3 assignments, it was attainable for students to revise all or almost all of their work so far.  Sweet!

1a) Since we do standards based grading in the way we do it, assignments show up under multiple standards on a progress report.  This makes the progress report harder to read and perhaps more intimidating (the 3 assignments each show up 3-5 times on the report).   As students fixed and then re-took an assessment, I showed them all the places they could check off that assignment.  Suddenly, the progress report was less overwhelming!

2) Retaking to demonstrate mastery.  Because I had multiple versions of each assessment, with students who were more behind and needed more help, a peer or I could assist them on (re)learning the material they struggled with and then trying another version all by themselves.  In some ways, I feel like this is a cop-out (are the students thinking? will they remember later?) but in other ways, this shows students that they can do tasks that they avoided or missed the first time ’round.  And for more skills-based tasks, I’m ok with this.

3) I got to focus on 1/2 the class.  Because I have student teachers, I got to focus on 1/2 the class while they worked with the other half.  I think this day could have been successful with just me, but it definitely helped.

4) Instant gratification — I gave out progress reports the next day and made a big deal about how much people who worked hard the day before improved.  Especially since there have only been 3 assignments, students got to see how much their work paid off.

Next step – Kogut made this awesome “re-evaluate me on ____ standards because ___” form. I’ve used it when students are revising more “thinking” assessments (instead of skills assessments where they just take another version), but incorporating this for all the time is my next step.

Also, sometimes i had to interpret my or my student teachers’ feedback for the students.  We should work on making our feedback clearer so less teacher help is required.

When people come observe, I feel I should apologize.

But that feeling doesn’t last for very long.  


I run a class in such a way that the students do what they need to do, and I try my best to stay out of their way.  Sure, I communicate what they need to do, through Criteria for Success indicators and some sort of loose agenda posted.  And I supply them with resources (oh the resources!).  But for the most part, they move from one things to another as they earn it. Yup.  They need to earn the work, the next step, the homework.  And do the kiddos work to earn it.  

In a two week period, I had 5 visitors to my E block class.  The students were unphased by the visitors.  (And amusingly enough, they just approached the people as if they were an additional resource, just like an anchor chart, textbook, or calculator.)  Because of the way that class works, I am able to sit with the visitor for 8-14 minutes and answer any and all questions about what the visitor observes or to give a bit of background to the work.  But usually the first thing that pops out of my mouth is an apology: “Sorry, you don’t get to see me teach today; this is how the class works.”  Sure, I am not at the front of the room leading the children to the wonders of mathematics.  But that’s how I roll.  (And yes, there are days that I am, but I usually don’t like it.)  But the piece that makes other people/observers/evaluators more nervous about the work that we do in lovely room 054: we aren’t all together for very long.  One observer told me he measured we were in “whole-class” mode for 3.5 minutes.  Total.  Of 58 minutes.  And I kinda thought that was too much time for that particular class.  

I am often in negotiations with other people about what I am doing should be considered teaching.  Or maybe a better word is facilitating.  Or herding.  But regardless of the title, the children are learning some mathematical thinking.  And to be independent.  And to consult peers.  And use multiple sources to improve.  And make and meet personal deadlines.  And self-evaluate their learning.  And that effective effort leads to improvement.  And personal accountability is better than any other sort of accountability.  And that everyone in our community has and uses strengths to improve.  

And I feel much of that above list more important than the children mastering most of the math content required.  

So I guess I should stop apologizing for doing what I think is best for the kiddos that I have. 

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.