Monday, May 2, 2016

Teacher Appreciation Sale and a Giveaway



It's suddenly May...we've almost made it!  What could be better than a sale AND a giveaway?  (Keep reading all the way to the bottom to enter to win!)

What kinds of activities do you like to use as the year draws to a close?  I like to do things that keep kids minds on math, but they don't realize it!  In my class webquests are a big hit.  The webquests I have made teach the students something about math history - a topic we don't often have time for during the busy parts of the year.

Check one of these out:

1) Mathematician Webquest - this is one of my best sellers.  Students match a fun fact about Mathematicians to the name of the mathematician.  (see it here: Famous Mathematician Webquest)


2) Four Color Theorem Webquest - this is a fun activity for students of all levels.  You can do part or all of the webquest depending on the level of your class.  The big idea students need to understand in order to complete the activity is that there are only 4 colors necessary to color any map so no adjacent states are colored the same color.  (see it here: Four Color Theorem Webquest)

3) Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Numbers Webquest - Students learn a little bit about the Golden Ratio through looking up items online and can also learn to draw a golden rectangle.  Check it out here: Golden Ratio and Fibonacci Number Webquest


Now on to the GIVEAWAY!

Some of my STEM TPT friends and I have gotten together to sponsor a $50 TPT Gift Card.  See below to enter the Giveaway...AND don't forget to visit your favorite TPT store on Tuesday and Wednesday May 3 and 4.  Many stores are offering 20% off and TPT will throw in an additional 10% off if you use the code CELEBRATE!

Here are the stores helping to sponsor this Giveaway:




1) Teaching High School Math - (that's me :)



2) Jean Adams - Flamingo Math



3) Scaffolded Math and Science



4) Free to Discover

5) Algebra and Beyond




6) 4 The Love of Math


7) Weatherly


8) Math to the Core


Would you like to enter a giveaway to win a $50 TPT Gift Card?  For each store/blog you visit you get an additional entry - so visit and follow them all so you have the best chance to win!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Factoring Color by Number and a FREEBIE!


Coloring is all the rage and I decided to create a project for my students that allowed them to show their creative side!

I started by finding this outline of a mandala online.  I created 13 factoring problems and put factors in each space in the mandala.  

Each student factored all 13 of the problems and chose a color that they wanted to use for each section.  If you notice carefully in my picture, you can see that although all of the pictures are colored using different colors, they are all colored in the same pattern.  For example, no matter which picture you look at, you will see that the outermost petals that are towards the top, bottom, left, and right are always colored the same color in any student's flower project.

Would you like a copy of this project for yourself?

Download your copy [FOR FREE :) here:  Factoring Color By Number Project


Friday, April 22, 2016

Using Desmos in the Math Classroom



I love my Texas Instruments graphing calculator...I really do - BUT Desmos is the best thing that has hit my iPad...and it's FREEEEEEEE!

What do I like about using Desmos...

1) it is very intuitive.  Students can type in an equation and Desmos graphs it.   Done!

2)  it graphs as you type.  For example...if you type y = x + 2...it graphs y = x and then moves the graph up as you type +2.

3)  You can add sliders.  For example...do you want to show students what happens to the graph of the equation of a line y = mx + b when you change m?  Type y = mx - 3 and add a slider for m.  Slide the slider and students immediately see what happens when m changes.






Lots of examples right before their eyes...awesome.  Graphing calculators work for this too, but you have to type in each new example.

4)  I like that there is an app and there is a web-based version.  I have students that bring chrome books, but most have iPads.  Both sets of students can work in this app.

5)  There are many, many pre-made activities that you can find by googling.

Last Christmas I had my Pre-Calculus class use all of the graphs we learned about during first semester and make Christmas themed drawings.  They were awesome and really taught them about piecewise functions.  I don't think many of them really understood them until they had to make lines and curves start and stop in certain places to complete their Christmas drawings.

Here are a couple of examples that my class created - awesome!






 If you'd like to see see the rubric and more information about this project, check it out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store...Teaching High School Math




Monday, April 11, 2016

We Speed Dated in Calculus Today!




I needed an idea to review a whole bunch of different problems in a limited time frame...and I am tired of explaining all of them!

Enter...Speed Dating in Math Class!

I found this idea for Speed Dating in math class on Kate Nowak's blog (see this post here...Kate Nowak Speed Dating)

Here is how I did it:

I gave a practice multiple choice test from a previously given AP Calculus test last Friday.

I graded them...seriously ugh.

I went through the first 10 questions and found students that got one of the first 10 right.  I designated these students as the "question expert" for that question.  I sat those students around the outside of the room.

I then sat the other 18 students in groups of either 1 or 2 around a ring through the inside of the room.  These students sat facing a "question expert."

I set a timer on my computer and projected the countdown on the screen in the front of the room.

The question expert was responsible for explaining that question to the one or two students sitting in front of them.

Every two minutes, the timer went off and the students stood up and moved to the next question expert.

Here is my class...speed dating :)



Things I loved about this activity:

The timer really helped me keep track of time.  When it went off, the kids stood up and switched.  I didn't get sidetracked by someone asking me a question or anything else.

The "questions experts" looked proud of themselves!  It wasn't necessarily the "smartest" kids that were the question experts.

Everyone was moving and working - they only had two minutes!

The kids loved that I called this speed dating.

Things to change for next time:

Each time I do this activity, the question experts need to change.

A disadvantage to this activity is that the question experts do not get to learn anything new.  They certainly help me by explaining what I would have had to explain a lot of times, but they didn't get their questions answered.

Have you ever tried speed dating in math class?  What things worked for you?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Crossword Puzzles in High School Math


Do crossword puzzles help students learn vocabulary?  There have been studies done which have shown that crossword puzzles help students study and retain vocabulary.  (For example, see Crossword Puzzles help with vocabulary - granted this is a study about learning vocabulary in a foreign language, but hey...sometimes math seems like a foreign language :)  In addition, students love crossword puzzles...need something quick for students to try - use a crossword!

I recently came across a really neat website that will allow you to make crossword puzzles for your students.  Granted, you do have to pay for this website ($19.95 to get lifetime access to create as many puzzles as you want), but there are many reasons to like this site.

1) You can either design and make the puzzle yourself or you can let the program auto arrange your words and clues.

2) You can print the puzzles and the answers.

3) You can share the puzzle with your students online - and the puzzles are solvable online - awesome if you are a 1:1 school!  I can't wait to let my students try this on their iPads after Spring Break!

4) You can start the puzzle on one computer and finish on another.  Save it as a pdf... Print it from home or school!

5) Also, you can embed your puzzle on your website.  Try my triangle vocabulary puzzle below.



[crosswordhobbyist.com provided me with a free subscription to their website, but the opinions expressed in this blog post are entirely my own.]


Monday, March 28, 2016

It's That Time Again - Plan for Fun AP Calculus Review



It's time again to start reviewing for the AP Calculus Exam.

I don't know about you, but you can never have too much review material.  What topics do students feel they need the most help with?  How can I best use the time we have to maximize their scores?  In addition I am fighting major senioritis and it seems like they are getting called out of class for this that and the other thing every other day!  I have made a plan for my AP Calculus Review - I am noting it here so I can stick to it hopefully!


1) I am going to start with a quick survey - I am going to list 10 topics and ask students to choose the 4 they feel that they need the most help with and then I will pay special attention to those topics.  Here is a link to my survey in google forms - you can feel free to use it with your students if you like.  If you don't want to use it in google forms, just print out a copy.  Google Forms Survey



2) I have an outline that I use to begin our in class review.  The course is outlined and there are problems to match each section.  We do this in class together so I can remind them about lots of different things.  Here is a link to my outline:  Study Guide and Outline

3) As we progress through this outline, I assign multiple choice questions each day that go along with the outline topics we did in class that day.  I found a pdf copy of a book online that organizes past AP Multiple choice questions by topic.  I didn't make this, but I have found it to be an invaluable resource.  Here is the link:  Previous Multiple Choice Questions by Topic



4) I need to make this fun somehow, so I think I will use my Calculus Super Secret Number Puzzles - I didn't use them this year during the year...time just got away from me.  So I will use it as part of our review.  In these puzzles, students work a total of approximately 10 questions on a given topic.  After they are finished, they add up their answers.  This is their Super Secret Number.  If their Super Secret Number matches my Super Secret Number, they probably did the problems correctly.  To add to the fun, some of the puzzles have a QR Code the students can scan to check the Super Secret Number :)

5) Students need a lot of practice with Free Response Questions.  So, I assign groups and ask students to present their preview free response question to the class.  I will do this as soon as we get back from spring break.  I don't mind if they look up the answers online - in fact I encourage them to do so.  I want them to present the problem correctly and see how the rubric scores the question.



6) The Night Before the Test...It's an Emergency...what else can they do???  Try my Emergency Last Minute Night Before the Test Study Guide.  In this guide, students practice 20 questions on various topics we have studied this year.  There are two versions of this guide included in this packet, but the one I intend to use has QR Codes included.  Students can scan the code with their phone to see if they got the correct answer.  Fun :)

Good luck to you and your students!



Saturday, March 26, 2016

Book Study: The Ten Minute Inservice - Part IV - Learning from Others



Welcome to part 4 of the book study about the book The Ten Minute In-Service by Todd Whitaker.

First, let me introduce myself for those that don't regularly read my blog.  I teach high school math at a Catholic High School south of Chicago.  I am also certified to teach Chemistry and Physics and I have my administrator's certificate, although I have yet to venture to the administrative side :)   I have enjoyed reading Todd Whitaker's other books such as What Great Teachers Do Differently and What Great Principals Do Differently, so I was excited to participate in this book study.

Part 4 of this book is entitled Learning from Others.  Good teachers learn from others teachers, from their students, and let's face it even from Pinterest :)

The first three in-services in this section deal with Teacher and Administrator Report Cards.  This part resonates with me because we have been toying with this idea in the school where I teach.  In this section, Whitaker suggests that students be allowed to give their teachers a report card and then the teachers are allowed to give their administrator a report card.  Allowing the students to give their input makes it seem as if their opinion matters.  I am a little hesitant about this idea as I'm sure some of you will be...I don't need a teenager criticizing me!!!  But, I think the key here is the types of questions you ask - you wouldn't want to ask the question Do you like your teacher?  But you could ask questions such as What do you think would help you learn better or What is your favorite part of this class?  As Whitaker points out, you should definitely involve teachers in making the questions that will be on the survey.  Teachers need to own the project in order for it to be successful.

The next in-service is What's Working for Others - I love this idea!  A chance to talk with my colleagues at a faculty inservice : )  I also loved that he made the rule that no one can GRIPE at this session.  A specific topic was chosen and then each teacher brings a strategy that is working for them in the classroom.  Everyone gets a chance to present and you get new ideas.  A teacher interviewed in this chapter said this was her favorite in-service ever - Wow that is high praise because I think we've all sat in meetings that we felt were the WORST in-sevice ever!

Finally, the last in-service in this section is Teachers Observing Teachers.  The idea of this seems great, but WHO HAS TIME?  Whitaker interviewed an administrator in this section who has a good plan for setting up a schedule for teachers to observe each other during their planning period.  Teachers were obligated to do this once a month for at least 30 minutes.  Teachers signed up to observe a certain category, classroom management, cooperative grouping, technology, etc.  Teachers also signed up to be observed during certain days and times.  The plan sounded a little bit confusing, but I can see how a plan such as this would work after everyone got used to it.  One of the ingenious parts to this plan is that teachers are being observed by others - it encourages them to always to do their best!

I hope you enjoyed reading my synopsis of part 4 of this book.  If you have missed the other parts of this book study and would like to read them, see the list below:

Part 1A - Classroom Management 1A - Sarah Koves

Part 1B - Classroom Management 1B - Tried and True Teaching Tools

Part 2 - Teaching Practices - Mrs 3rd Grade

Part 3 - Improving School Climate   - Lessons with Coffee

Part 4 - Learning from Others - YOU ARE HERE :)

Part 5 - What Makes a Great Teacher - Angela Ackley