Saturday, December 1, 2018

Math Teacher Christmas Giveaway!

Now that it is December, thoughts turn to preparations for Christmas.  We all get busier and busier!

I'd like to offer you a chance to win one of my TPT Store Bundles!

By entering this giveaway, you are subscribing to my email list; I email tips, freebies, and information about sales periodically. You are free to unsubscribe at any time.

Good luck!

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Calculus Optimization Project - Popcorn Box

This is a great project to do on the day before Thanksgiving Break.  It works anytime, but it is really nice to do on a day when you need to keep the students' minds on math.

Materials Needed:

construction paper
big bag of popcorn

I begin by having this on my board when students enter the classroom.

Students immediately want to know "what's that for" and "are we having a quiz?"  (Eye roll!)  But at least they are paying attention to their surroundings and I am generating interest in the day's lesson.

I have students choose a partner and then sign their name next to one of the (what will turn out to be) measurements on the board.

I explain to the students that we are going to make boxes out of their piece of construction paper.  They cut squares of equal size out of each corner of their sheet of construction paper.  Each group uses the measurement next to their name on the board in the front of the room.

After students cut the paper, they fold up the sides of the box and tape them in place.

Once their box is made, each group calculates the volume of their box.

I have each group write the volume that they calculated next to their names on the board.

Once all of the groups have written their volumes on the board, we look to see which measurements will give the maximum volume of the box.

Then we figure out, using algebra and the calculator, exactly where and what the maximum will be.  The construction paper that we use is 9 inches x 12 inches.  Students use these measurements to come up with a formula that will represent the volume of a box that can be formed if squares with sides of length x are cut out of the corners of the construction paper.  This graph is generated.

We talk about the graph and realize that for this particular situation, we only want to use the part of the graph between x = 0 and x = 4.5.  [squares larger than 4.5 cannot be cut out of the paper].

Of course, none of this actually involved any calculus.  I use this entire activity as an introduction to the idea that we can all start with a given constraint - in this case the piece of 9 x 12 construction paper - and generate different solutions to the problem - in this case make a box.  Which one is best? 

Then we talk about different types of optimization problem situations - I specifically bring up whether pop is in the most cost efficient container.  I actually have a coke "can" in the shape of a (sort of) sphere that Coke put out several years ago for Christmas.  Or, Dr. Pepper, made a special edition "can" in the shape of a football several years ago for the beginning of the football season.
Image result for coke in a sphere

After our discussion and calculator work, students get to fill their box with popcorn and eat!

Do you need more optimization problems?  Check out my Optimization Problems Notebook on Teachers Pay Teachers...Optimization Notebook

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Another Way to Use Scavenger Hunts

My class loves a good scavenger know the kind - you post problems all over the room - students start anywhere and work a problem, then find that answer posted somewhere in the room.  They continue to work problems until the end up back where they started.

But sometimes, you have a class you just don't want to let out of their seats.  Or maybe you want to hold everyone accountable for the work.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Fun First Day Math Activity - Algebra Review Using Clue

Last year I did a breakout game with my calculus class for beginning of the year review.  I will probably do that again this year to help them review some things for PreCalculus.  You can read about that here: Making a Breakout Game

But, this year I decided that I wanted to try something with my Geometry class too.

I have to thank Stephanie Howell for this idea.  I heard about it on the podcast Hacking Engagement - you can hear it too - Hacking Engagement Clue Game

So, here are the steps I went through to make this game.

Friday, August 3, 2018

Using Uno as an Intro to Teaching Proofs

I recently came across this idea on Pinterest, and I LOVE it.  I am sorry, I don't know who the original credit goes to for coming up with this idea is...if you can claim it - let me know :)

As we all know, getting students to understand the whole IDEA of a proof is difficult.  Then throw in theorems, postulates, reasons, statements's too much.  The reason I love using Uno to start teaching proof is that you begin the lesson with something students are familiar with - many have played Uno before.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Math Lessons from the Swimming Pool

My daughter loves math and no matter what we are doing, she always wants me to teach her a math lesson.  Since we have been spending a lot of time in the pool, I came up with some things we could talk about while in the pool.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

New Game to use in Math Class - GimKit

If you are like me, you are always looking for something that will engage your math students.  What will keep them thinking, but also learning?  Is it possible to have them beg to continue playing??

This happened to me the other day in my high school math class.  It was driving me nuts that my students STILL didn't know their convenient trig values (sin 30˚, cos π, etc, etc).  We were headed into the AP test and reviewing some integral problems.  It came down to the end of the problem and the kids needed to know what the cos π was to finish the problem.  Sadly, I still had kids asking if the cos π was √2/2.  Ugh!!

That night I was listening to a podcast and I heard about a new game called Gimkit.  Matt Miller from Ditch That Textbook called it similar to Kahoot, but with PowerUps.  COOL!

Gimkit is similar to Kahoot, but there are some differences as well.

One difference {that the kids love} is that you can buy powerups to help you up your score and to try to get higher on the Leader Board.  There's nothing better than being in first place!  Here is a screenshot of the "shop" on Gimkit.  Students can buy a PowerUp to increase the amount of money that will be gained or lost per question, increase the amount of money that you get in a streak, multiply the amount of money that you get, or buy insurance in case you get an answer wrong.

Another difference is that the questions appear on the students' screens and not on a big screen.  On the big screen, you can see how much money everyone has in the game at any given time.

Students can also be given the game as an assignment instead of a game that must be played in the classroom with all of the other students.

And, by the way, GimKit was made by a high school student!  Do you want to know more about it?  Check out their website.  Gimkit

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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Reading Critically in Math Class

One of the biggest problems I have encountered lately in my math classroom is that students simply aren't reading the problem.  Students will even tell me - there are too many words - I'm skipping that one.  These aren't students that have trouble reading.  These students are taught annotation skills in their English classes, but for some reason that skill doesn't transfer over to math class.

The most frustrating part is students that I end up with in my calculus class.  For the most part they are great math students.  We work all year to learn the calculus.  We practice different types of questions.  We review.  We play games to review.  Then we get to practicing multiple choice questions and free response questions from previously given tests.  Students get things wrong because they answer the question about the derivative instead of the actual function, or they find the velocity instead of the acceleration, and on and on.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

AP Calculus Review - Engaging Ways for Students to Practice

It's that time of year again...Calculus Review!

This year, we are fortunate that the AP Calculus test is later in May - May 15 to be exact.  I finished the material about 2 weeks ago, so I have been working with plenty of review time.

But, with lots of review time, it becomes a challenge to keep students engaged.  I know that we have to keep practicing multiple choice questions and free response questions, but we need different methods to do it.  The students get tired of hearing me talk :)

So, here are a few ways to keep students engaged in practicing:

1) Speed Dating - I wrote about Speed Dating in Calculus several years ago when I made each student a question EXPERT and had that student explain their question to every other student who sat in front of them.  (You can read that post here.)

Another way to try speed dating is to start the students in groups of two.  Make as many questions as you will have groups.  Set a timer for 2 minutes.  When the time starts, students can only speak to the student they are partnered with.  They work on one of the questions.  When the timer goes off, one student moves around the circle one way, and the other students moves around the circle the other way.  Students work with many other partners, and with only 2 minutes to work there is no time for goofing off!

2) Try Puzzles - My favorite type of puzzle to give my calculus class is the Super Secret Number puzzle.  In this puzzle, students are given approximately 10 questions of the same type.  Students work the questions and then add up their answers.  This is the Super Secret Number.  When students think they have the Super Secret Number, they go up to the board and scan a QR Code with the Super Secret Number embedded in it.  If their super secret number matches my Super Secret Number, they are probably correct.  Exciting!

I have Super Secret Number Puzzles in my store for many different calculus topics.

1) Chain Rule

2) Equation of Tangent Line

3) Implicit Differentiation

4) Position, Velocity and Acceleration

5) Curve Sketching

6) Natural Logs and Exponential Function Derivatives

7) Riemann Sums and Trapezoidal Rule

You can try one for FREE here:  Super Secret Number Puzzle - Derivative at a Point

3) Make Students Responsible for Explanations - One of the biggest things I struggle with is that not all of the students need me to review and explain the same things with them.  Some need help with u-substitution, some need help with the chain rule, some need their algebra understand.  So, sometimes I feel that going over multiple choice problems in class as a whole group is a waste of time.

So this year I am trying a new way of going over a practice test we did.  (From Barron's, not from a secure test :)  The students took the entire test over two class days.  They entered their answers into a google form so I could analyze which questions were the most often missed.

Starting tomorrow, students will be assigned a slide in Google Slides.  They have a specific question they must explain in Google Slides.  They can insert text boxes, a picture of their work, a link to a video they might find helpful, a graph, etc.

Then other students can look up any problems they need help with.


4) Be Sure They have the Basics - There are some questions on the AP test that are downright difficult, but there are some that are basic questions that students need to be able to answer easily.  So, I have a mastery test on Derivatives and Integrals that I give my students.  This Mastery test tests to see if students can use the product rule, quotient rule, chain rule, u-substitution, etc correctly.  I have 4 different forms of it.

You can see it here: Mastery Test Derivatives and Integrals

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Speed Dating in Geometry

We tried Speed Dating in Geometry today!

I have tried the idea of Speed Dating before, but never in a geometry class.  I have used it in upper level courses before, but I wasn't sure how it would work with a younger group.

I am happy to report that things went great!

It took a bit of work to get things organized, but after that, this activity ran itself.

Here is a picture of my class while they were working.

I had a geometry worksheet ready to go with 13 questions on it.  I had the students sit with partners that I had selected using  [I had 13 stations set up around the room with a problem number on each set of 2 desks.]  After I gave the worksheets, I had each set of partners start with the problem number on their desk.  I set a timer for 2 minutes which I projected up onto the screen.  After two minutes the timer went off and students got up and switched stations.  One partner moved one way and one partner moved the other way.  This gave students the chance to work with many other partners throughout the class period.  No one could get too comfortable because after 2 minutes, they had to move.  This really kept the students working!

At the end of 26 minutes or so [2 minutes per question], the students were back in their original seats.  I had them enter their answers into a google form so I could easily check their answers.

I think it's great to vary the activities in your classroom and get students up and moving - at least every once in awhile :)

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Making Groups Work in High School Math Class

I love having my class work in groups.  But, sometimes the group work turns in to group chat time.  So I have come up with two things to help to make sure that learning is happening!

1) Making the groups...

I have tried various things over the years...letting the students choose their partners, I choose their partners, making their groups based on their seating arrangements...etc, etc.  These each work sometimes depending on what I am trying to do, but my favorite new way to make groups is by using the website Flippity

There are lots of things you can do with flippity such as making flashcards, making a jeopardy game board, and making a word search.  But, my favorite thing to do with Flippity is to make groups.  All you have to do is type the names of your students into a Google Spreadsheet and Flippity does the rest.  You can specify how many students you want in a group and then through the magic of google, groups are made!  It's FREE!

I use Flippity and then project the groups on the front board as students are coming into class.  It eliminates arguments and gets everybody into a group.  Even the loners who would rather be by themselves.  There's no embarrassment to being left out.  If you notice that the two kids in the class who just can't get along were randomly selected to be in the same group, you can change that easily even after the groups have been chosen.

2) Make Students Accountable for the Group Work...

My students used to work better in groups.  I gave them an assignment and they did it.  It didn't matter if I was collecting it.  They did it because I said to.  These days, I feel that I have to make them more accountable.  There are many ways to do this.

  • You can give each student in the group a job - recorder, explainer, note taker, etc, etc.
  • You can choose one student's paper from the group to turn in at the end of the assignment.
  • You can have students enter their answers into a google form.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Using Two Truths and a Lie in Calculus Class

Curve Sketching is a topic that Calculus students need to practice over and over again.  So, I decided to give them some practice by using this fun idea that I originally found on the Math = Love blog {Math = Love Two Truths and a Lie}

First, the students and I played a quick round of two truths and a lie as a small icebreaker.

For example, I made these three statements about myself.

1) I graduated from the University of Illinois.
2) I played the oboe in high school.
3) I lived in Hawaii for a year.

My students know me pretty well, so they quickly figured out that I never lived in Hawaii :)

Then I gave each set of partners a copy of the Two Truths and a Lie form.  Students could do this activity by themselves, but I thought for a first effort maybe partners would work better.  This form is specifically geared toward this particular Curve Sketching activity, but it could easily be changed to target whatever topic you want.

I decided to give my students an equation to work with.  This way, I could target a couple of groups with some more difficult equations.  But, you could easily just tell students they have to come up with their own equation.

I told students they need to use words like maximum, minimum, increasing, decreasing, concave up, concave down, and point of inflection in their 3 statements.  I did allow students to use their calculators to check their work.

Here is an example of my work:

Finally, after each group was finished, I had them fold up the bottom of their paper so other students couldn't see it.  We had a gallery walk around the room and students had to identify the lie on all of the other group's papers.

This was a really fun activity and I hope to incorporate this activity into other topics in some of my other classes!

{Do you like this idea?  If you would like to purchase the forms and equations used in this activity, please visit my TPT store at: Two Truths and a Lie Curve Sketching}

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Teaching Riemann Sums...A Post It Activity

I don't know about you, but I have a ton of post its sitting around everywhere.  Every color and size...I even purchased the Post Its Teacher Treasure Box :) I use them often!

I was ready to start teaching Riemann Sums in Calculus the other day and I happened to look down at the post its I had on my desk and I realized...hey I can use these!

So, I made this one page worksheet to get my students started on learning Riemann Sums.  The worksheet is the perfect size to use the post its that are 1/2 inch in width.  (For example, see them here: Post It Page Markers )

I introduced the idea of Riemann Sums to the class and we did an example at the board.

Then I had everyone take 15 post it page markers. [Teacher Tip:  If you put 15 post its on each student's paper before you start this activity, it takes a LOT less time]  Students will also need a pair of scissors.

This is how one student's paper looked as she worked on the assignment.

Would you like a copy of this activity for your students?  Download the one page pdf file from my TPT Store...

Teaching Riemann Sums with Post Its