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Thursday, October 20, 2016

Baseball Jerseys

Yesterday I gave my students this problem to work on.  Baseball Jerseys.  I tried to not be helpful and they were not liking it (at first).  I monitored groups and asked questions as I walked around to point them in the right direction.  I loosely followed the 5 practices for mathematical discussion for this activity and the discussions were fantastic!

Here are the images I used (in order) to lead the class discussion.

I picked this one, because this is where most groups started, they picked a number and determined the price to each company just to see what would happen.  Unfortunately, I couldn't get this group to go beyond this one example, even though I keep asking them "Which company should I pick if I have 10 people on the team?"

After most group picked a few random numbers to try, they decided to organize their work in a table (some took some convincing).  

Part of the assignment was to give advice.  The group that created the table about stopped with the table, they did not give advice.  I picked this work next to show how nice this sums up everything.  BTW: this group only had the advice and no work.  *Sigh*

I included this one next because this group has a table (I wish they had gone beyond 15) AND the advice below.

Finally, I showed the class this one because the group wrote expressions for each company, but then plugged numbers in.  I wish they had gone further and set the expressions equal to each other.  When I mentioned that to the class, they said they did do that but they thought it was wrong.  DON'T BE AFRAID TO BE WRONG!!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Drive by Daniel Pink and Lesson Planning

The book Drive by Daniel Pink is changing my life.  I think this book is a must-read for all educators.

Three Elements of Motivation:

1) Autonomy 

We all want freedom.  How often have I dreamt of working part-time to have more freedom to do the things I want to do?  Most of the time my projects are school-related, but sometimes they're not.  When I don't have the freedom to work on the things I want to, I feel frustrated and overwhelmed.  Now, my first thought is, "suck it up, that's life".  But while reading this, I thought about how great it would be to not have someone telling me what to do every hour of my work life.  And wouldn't that be great for our students as well (within reason of course)?  Pink points out 4 areas of Autonomy.

  1. Technique
  2. Team
  3. Time
  4. Task

2) Mastery

People want to master things, they really do.  When I think of my projects, hobbies, and career, I can see the desire for mastery at work.  Why do many of us teachers blog?  To become better teachers.  Why do some people run 3+ days a week?  To become better runners.  What is the reward for doing these things?  Certainly not a bigger paycheck.  It's the desire to get better.  

3) Purpose

But the questions beg: Why do we want to be better teachers or runners?  What's our purpose?  I run to be healthy and honestly there's some vanity too :).  I want to be a better teacher because my job is important and has an impact on the future generation(s).  

Using the Three Elements of Motivation in Lesson Planning


1) Technique:  Let the students decide how they're going to accomplish their assignment.  They decide if it's analogue or digital.  Maybe it's a video, a puppet show, whatever.  

2) Team:  I don't think students should be allowed to pick their own groups willy-nilly, but I do believe they should have some input.  I had a lot of group-creating success this year with student-input.  First, I asked students to list their classmates that they work well with.  I emphasized that this was not a list of their friends, it was a list of the people they work well with.  From their suggestions I created their groups, making sure to separate students who I know don't work well together.  

Also, students have very little say as to who their teacher will be.  For example, I am the only Algebra 1B teacher in our district.  I have a student who prefers her teacher from last year and she does not want to be in my class.  She is cooperative and seems to have nothing against me, she just prefers a different teacher.  Is that so terrible?

3) Time:  In our school system we don't have a lot of leeway over time.  We are assigned a time slot in the day to meet with each group of students and that is that.  Period.  I struggle with this one and I think a lot of people do.  This is why so many of our students who leave for cyber school come back; they have not learned time-management yet.  Two years ago, I tried the flipped-mastery model in my classroom.  That's where the students could work through the curriculum at their own pace and I was there to help.  Many students wasted their time in class but also didn't complete their work at another time.  I could use some help on this one.

4) Task:  I'm trying to include more options for students to learn and practice in class.  I also try to hit each area in Bloom.  This way students have more of a say in which task they are going to complete, rather than me telling them exactly what to do that moment.  

Monday, October 10, 2016

Robot Function Fighters - Classroom Game

I am so excited to tell you about my new game Robot Function Fighters.  I will be presenting this game (and others) at the NCTM Conference in Philly.  You can join me on Tuesday, November 1 from 3:15 - 4:30 in room 201A.

If reading about games isn't your thing, there is a video explanation at the bottom of this post.

Educational Objective:  Students will be able to evaluate expressions and compose functions.

Game Objective:  Collect the most victory tokens by winning bot fights.


Deck of Cards (1 per player)
I printed my cards on computer paper, then placed them in a clear card sleeve with old playing cards.

Building Mat (1 per player)  This is printed on 8.5" by 14" paper and laminated.

Dice (D4, D6, D8, D10, and eventually D12)

Victory Tokens (buttons, pennies, anything small to keep score)

Game Set Up:

Each player takes a deck of cards and a building mat.  Shuffle the cards and place them face down on the "Draw Pile".

Place the victory tokens and dice in the middle of the table.

The Cards:

There are two types of cards in the deck: robot base cards and enhancement cards.

These are the robot base cards.

These are the enhancement cards.

To have a complete robot it must have a robot base and two enhancements.

In the photo above you can see two completed robots.  The one of the left uses a 6-sided die (the number is indicated on the upper left of the card) and has the enhancements of annoying poke and fire breath.  The robot on the right uses a 10-sided die and has the enhancements of speed and magic.

To determine a robot's fighting power:
Let's take a look at the robot on the left.  I would roll the D6 and let's say I rolled a 5.  I would substitute the 5 into the first enhancement of annoying poke and get (5) + 4 = 9.  Next I would take that answer of 9 and substitute it into the second enhancement of fire breath and get 2(9) - 1 = 17.  Therefore the fighting power of the robot on the left with a roll of 5 would be 17.

Another example:  This time let's take a look at the robot on the right.  This time I would roll a D10 and let's say I rolled a 7.  I would substitute 7 into the first enhancement of speed and get 2(7) - 2 = 12.  Next I would take that answer of 12 and substitute it into the second enhancement of magic and get 2(12) + 1 = 25.  Therefore the fighting power of the robot on the right with a roll of 7 would be 25.

If these two robots were battling each other the robot on the right would win.

Game Play:

There are three phases to the game:

Phase 1)

All players take cards from the draw pile until they have 5 in their hand.

Phase 2)

All players can place up to three cards face up in the building area of their mat.

Phase 3)

Any player who has a completed robot must place one in the arena (middle of the table) to battle.

Move any robot in the recharge station to a building station.

Each player with a robot in the arena rolls the corresponding die and determines his robot's fighting power for that round.

The player who has the highest fighting power that round is the winner.  He takes a victory token and places his robot in the recharge station of his mat.

All players who lost the battle must place their robot in the junkyard on their mat.

End of Game:

The game ends when no one is able to battle.

Winning the Game:

The player with the most victory tokens at the end of the game is the winner.
If there is a tie, the players who are tied take the robot from the bottom of their junkyard to battle.  The winner of that battle is the winner of the game.


Can I disassemble a robot to use its parts for another robot?
No.  Once a robot is built, it must stay that way.

Can one robot have the same enhancement twice?
Yes.  For example, a robot's first enhancement could be magic and the second enhancement can be magic again.

What if I have no room left to build a robot?
If you are unable to place any cards in the building area, you will skip that phase until the next round.

What if I'm the other person with a robot out in the arena?
If you are the other person to have a robot in the arena, treat it as a win: place your robot in the recharge station and take a victory point.

What if I only have enhancement cards or only robot base cards in my hand?
You may (but are not required to) put them on the bottom of your draw pile and draw five new cards.

Do I have to place three cards in the building area during phase 2?
No, you may place 0, 1, 2, or 3 cards at that time.

Print and Play:

Rule Document


Mat (This is printed on 8.5" x 14" paper)


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Mondays Stink, Brownies Don't

I went grocery shopping while hungry the other day, mistake number one.  I can home with a box of brownie mix and decided to make it, mistake number two.  I knew that if I kept these brownies in the house, I would come to hate myself later.  What to do?  What to do?  I know!  Make a few people at work happy!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Student: "Why Are We Doing This?"

I have a student this year, who questions everything we do...unless it's a worksheet.  She's fine with worksheets, she understands worksheets.  At first is was "Why do I have to work in a group?" said with one of the sassiest faces I have ever seen.  Then "Why do I have to learn my classmate's names?".  "Why did we have to answer that question?".  "Why are we watching this video?".  Why? Why? Why?

She was really starting to get on my nerves.  How dare she question me?!?!?!  I kept my cool and calmly answered all of her questions.  I really thing God took over a few times because some of my responses to her were just plain genius.  I wish I could remember them now, but they're gone.  Anyway, as great as I thought my answers were, she thought different.  She would proceed to roll her  eyes, but comply with my request anyway.

She was even there during my lesson planning (figuratively).  As I sat down to write a lesson, I would try to anticipate her questions and how I would respond.  I was so sensitive to her reactions that I was just about to ask Twitter for help.  That's when things started to change.

Her questions haven't stopped, but her attitude has.  I think she is starting to see that even though she doesn't know why we're doing something, there is a she asks...and I answer.  No more eye rolling and she's smiling.

I'm really glad she's in my class.  I believe I would say that even if her attitude would have stayed negative.  I question myself more now:  Why am I asking my students to do this?  Why should the students learn each other's names?  Why is it important that they work in a group for this assignment?  And I need an answer for each one...a good answer.  Thanks eye-rolling student!!

Monday, August 29, 2016

First Day of School 2016-17

I did something completely different this year for the first day of school: I didn't try to WOW my students.  Every year I try to be the cool teacher and I want all the students to like me.  My thought process was that if they liked me, they would cooperate for me.  And to an extent, that's true.  But I started this year less dramatically.

Last Spring I was given the book The First Days of School by Harry K. Wong.  I started reading it right away and everything in the beginning of the book was obvious: dress professionally, have positive and high expectations, creates lessons for mastery, etc.  I do all this.  I even changed to SBG a few years ago to better implement mastery.  But one sentence really stuck with me, "The effective teacher establishes good control of the class in the very first week of school".  Having the students complete an activity the first day of school without having a chance to set procedures and rules has been my recipe for disaster the past few years (like 16 years).

I always make incorrect assumptions about my students knowledge of academics and behavior.  This one clearly falls under the behavior category.  My past is freckled with lack of classroom discipline, student misbehavior gone unpunished, and loss of control of the classroom.  I assume the students know how to act in a classroom.  I assume the students know how to take notes.  I assume students know how to walk into a classroom.  Wrong.  Wrong.  Wrong.  All these things need to be taught....every year.

This year I went over this presentation with the students.  First Day Presentation.  I went over the class rules and procedures.  Well, at least the procedures needed the first week.  And we practiced them.  I posted all rules and procedures and attached the presentation to the schoology page.  I'm keeping myself honest too.  If a student breaks a rule I follow through with the consequence and keep emotions out of it.  It's not personal, it's the classroom rule.

It's only day three, but I'm having the best first 3 days I've ever had.  I'm not naive enough to think that this is a silver bullet, but I believe my students have more respect for me and feel secure in knowing that I'll keep control.  I hope I don't let them down.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Escape Room - Classroom Style

Today I conducted my first escape room with the students.  For certain reasons (I won't bore you with the reasons) I had to give my final exam last week and we still have 3 weeks of school to go.  Therefore these remaining days are full of fun activities and test re-take days.

Obviously I can't lock the students in a room (or can I?), so the students need to unlock this container to symbolize exiting the room.  The students find clues around the room to unlock to locks and win.

Yep, that's a hasp with four different locks on it.  A directional lock, a 3-digit lock, a key lock, and a word lock.  All found on amazon.  

And of course, a reward for opening the box!

I also have my safe that I use for code-breaking partners activity (click here to read about that) and decided to utilize this for the activity.  

A few action shots:

Materials Needed:

Purchase: Hasp, directional lock, 3-digit lock, 4 letter word lock, key lock, lock box with code, a box that locks, and prizes.  

Make/Print and Laminate:

1) Propaganda Posters (click here).  These posters have directions (left, right, up, and down) on them for the students to use on the directional lock.  

2) Hint Cards.  I gave them up to 3 hints.

3) 4-digit hints.  This will open the lock box. The answer is 4962.

  • I am a four digit number.  My ones digit is even and not 0.
  • My hundreds digit is 5 more than my thousands digit.
  • If you double my ones digit, that is my thousands digit.
  • My tens digit is equation to the number of chairs at each table in the commons. (You will need to create this to be something equal to 6).

4) Number Cards.  I used 7 of them.  The mean of the numbers is 678 which is the code for the 3-digit lock.  I also put on each card "__ out of 7" so they knew they needed 7 numbers total.  The numbers are 752, 930, 1301, 433, 716, 299, 315.  

5) Letter Clues:

Print one color one: MEAN
Print on color two: SLOPE 
Print on color three: LINEAR
Print on color four: GRAPH

Make sure that only one of your words is a 4-letter word.  The other three words are distractors.  The 4-letter word, MEAN, lets the students know that they need to take the mean of the 7 number cards in order to unlock the 3-digit lock.  

Set up:

Put the prizes in the box that will have the hasp.

Put the directional lock, word lock, key lock, and 3-digit lock on the hasp.  

Place one hint card, the key, 1 of each color letter, and two number cards in the lock box.  Close and lock.  

Keep two hint cards and one digit hint card to the side and hide the rest around the room.  
So, you're hiding 5 number cards, 16 letter cards, and 3 digit hint card.  
Remember to post the propaganda posters in order for the directional lock.  

During Class:

Here's the tricky part; you only want about 5-8 students working on this at a time.  I'm lucky enough to have a para-educator that has her teacher certification and takes the remaining students to another room.  

Before I set them loose, I tell them that they are "locked" in a room and in order to escape, they need to unlock the box with the hasp.  I tell them where to not look in the room (like my desk, inside the garbage can, etc).  I hand them the two hint cards and the one digit hint card and let them begin.  They have one class period to "get out".  

The Results:

This was the first escape room I've ever planned so I wasn't sure what to expect.  All classes unlock everything within 30 minutes.  I suppose it's better to have time left over rather than frustrate the students.  Plus it gave me time to set up for the next class.  

Here's what I overheard the students saying:

"If math class were like this all the time, I would participate."
"I feel like a secret agent."
"That was actually fun."
"Make it harder next time."