Monthly Archives: July 2016

Back to school

Today begins my fifth year in the classroom – PD starts for all teachers in one hour. I’m not looking forward to wearing socks or pants every day with the temperature over 100F, but I do miss these kids a little bit more.

Screen Shot 2016-07-25 at 6.50.10 AM.png

My advisory – formerly of the ninth grade.


Here’s to another year – hopefully the best one yet.


Semester 1 Prep: Warm-up Routines

Last year, I read about Elissa Miller’s Warm-ups that she used for the year. I implemented it in one class and it was great. It was one less thing for me to think about each week and incorporated the best of #MTBoS. I did make one change – using visual patterns instead of 101q’s. One thing that didn’t suit me was one power point – school computers/internet aren’t the quickest thing and I only use google docs so there were some days it took an eon to open. I used another teacher’s Do Now’s for Calculus and PreCalculus in the spring  – and it was amazing not to have to think about the first five minutes of class. I plan on having everything ready for weeks at a time for all my preps this year. Then, during the year I can focus on content lessons instead of compiling these. Mass production ftw!

I’ve extended on this idea and made it work for me. They are less pretty than Elissa’s but my class needed more screen space to see the problems. I’ve made weekly powerpoints, instead of a year long to adjust for google doc loading time. I’ve also made some other routines. Below are all the resources, and sources.

Algebra 1:
Do Now’s:
Monday: Mental math (Source: Grade 8)
Tuesday: Estimation 180
Wednesday: Equation Puzzles
Thursday: Visual Patterns
Friday: WODB
This folder has the first 20 weeks, which should be enough for the fall semester.

Math Foundations: These students have two math classes, possibly with me. Last year I didn’t have a set routine so there was a lot of last minute searching on the internet.
Do Nows:
Monday: Would you Rather Math? Later, we’ll move to Fawn’s Math Talks
Tuesday: Equations
Wednesday: WODB
Thursday: Mental Math (Source, Grade 7)
Friday: Estimation 180 (2 per Friday, by theme)

We’ll also be doing Number talks every day in this class. I couldn’t find a powerpoint for a daily number talk or number string series so I’m making my own. These take a little more time so I’m not as far ahead. I’m also not an expert on number talks so if there are better problems or huge sequencing problems give me a shout. (I was convinced by this post by Sara VanDerWerf). I don’t have time/access right now for the books Sara recommends where there might be problem sets so I’ll just follow her sequencing ideas).
Number Talks:
ImagesSource (I intentionally chose exclusively images instead of dots)
Subtraction & Addition Number Strings (sorted right now by possible strategy used) I tried to cite these as best I could, but pretty sure I missed some. Sorry internet :/

Current plan: Next we’ll do multiplication to add to our repertoire. Then mixed integers. After a while, then add in decimals. Then  fractions. After multiplication/division we’ll probably interleave different kinds (I’m in the middle of Make it Stick so more to come on that)

For upper level math, I want students to be doing ACT prep all year since they may not get prep outside of my class. It took me some serious internet digging to find Sarah Carter’s post on prACTice. I’ve split it into weekly worksheets that I can print and give to students weekly. I wanted more than 3 problems a day….but with 3 problems I can keep the total time to 5 minutes each day.

Here’s my folder with the first 20 weeks.

I didn’t create my Calculus warm ups so they aren’t mine to share, but I’m way ahead of last year. First five minutes of every class planned for at least the first quarter!  #BOOM

WODB: Superheros

Last year, when I taught Algebra 1, I used Which One Doesn’t Belong once a week. It had a ton of potential and students frequently surprised me with their insights and ideas. However, I didn’t have students norm or practice with a low stakes and low math WODB to learn the routine. I made this one today with a much lower bar of entry to find multiple reasons and to find a reason why each doesn’t belong. This way, I can teach students the routine and that they should be finding a reason why each does not belong instead of finding one reason and “being done”. Screen Shot 2016-07-17 at 1.39.18 PM.png

I’ll be using this during the first week of school in my Algebra 1 course to help set the expectation for every time we do a WODB and build culture. This is my time creating a WODB, so if you have feedback I’d appreciate it 🙂

(All images are labeled for reuse, and sources can be found in this PPT)

AP Calc: Final Reflections ’16

A few weeks AP scores came out and I wrote this draft from gorgeous Yellowstone national park. I’ve since returned to the desert, where today’s high is a cool 101 degrees.


Old faithful. Did you know the NPS gives a time for the geyser’s eruption – and gives a 90% confidence interval. Pretty nifty huh?

Right before students took the exam I predicted at least two passing scores (3 or higher). Scores weren’t too pleasant: passing percentage of the five students: 0%.
Initially,I took the result kind of personally – I thought they reflected upon me as a teacher
and as a person. I asked questions like “am I good at this? Do I know what I’m doing?” Then, I thought a little more rationally about the circumstances of the students mathematic education and senior so I found some relief. More importantly, I found ways to move forward:
1. I took over the class in January and students clearly hadn’t
learned everything they were supposed to in the fall. Trust me, you can’t teach all of this course in a quarter.
2. Almost all seniors took AP Calculus, regardless of readiness. That was a hot mess, and we addressed that by adding Statistics as another upper level course so I can Calc kids further and faster.
3. I didn’t have embedded ap exam practice or exams to use as a score predictor after spring break. This was the only benchmark I had to predict, and the tool didn’t cover all the content. Looking back, this gave me a bias lens to make predictions with.
While these results aren’t what anyone wants to see, it will be helpful for this year. I’m already:
1. Flipping instruction so there is more class time devoted to practice.
2. Moving to standards based grading so grades always reflect mastery,
instead of compliance.
3. I taught these students all last spring. I know what I taught them.
They know me. I know them. We should be able to begin much faster and
with a mission right from day one. That is really exciting.
4. I get to teach AP Calculus from August to May – which is the first
time since I’ve taught the course.
5. I’m embedding FRQs every Friday. I need an accountability system to
make sure we practice. And, looking at the data, my students underperformed globally most in this part of the test.
6. Rearranging the curriculum to both spiral and push transcendental
so to the end of the course instead of interspersed a la Jonathan.
This leaves me with three things to tackle before school begins in August 1:
1. Look at instructional reports coming out and seeing if what I
taught students did better on, or if it was all a wash (mostly for a
glimmer of hope that I know what I’m doing) Aside: I did this. And, while still underperforming globally, the gap was way way smaller for the content I taught. So – there is hope that I know what I’m doing. 
2. What and how often will interim assessments be to predict future
I’m still going to be advocating systematic change, but change has to start with what I have 100% control over, or in TFA speak, what is in my locus of control. Let’s make waves and see the ripple across our network.

My Mindsets

I took out my iPad to write a blog post and found a draft from July
2014, the end of my second year. We had just gotten back standardized
exam results and I reflected the results. While most isn’t relevant anymore, I did want to share one bit:

“…until last Sunday always claimed that success in my class (not
failing) would indicate your ability to succeed on the end of course
exam…John had an A in my class 3rd quarter, but started to slip up.
John scored in the lowest score category. Jane was more of a problem
but during review she stepped up her game and scored proficient.
This wouldn’t be a problem until I reflect and say I dragged John to a higher grade
without his understanding. Jane was the opposite, she understood some
content really well, but others not at all (absences and suspensions
were the cause of that one) and I never would have listed her as one
of the best mathematicians, but she was.”

Welp… There are lots of things that I don’t like about that reality
like my mindsets about students and what they could achieve – and why.
I think about the new book “For White Folks who Teach in the Hood
which I’ll be reading soon and how I may not have changed much,
unfortunately. However, I know that these small, subliminal actions
are not okay and need to change because they can create huge problems
for me, my students and their future.
My mindsets, beliefs and notions of students matter just as much as
their own. Many students will sit in my classroom for a second time
(for the same or a different course), what mindsets do I have about
them? Are they all growth oriented – “this is a different course/year,
so you can do better!” Or fixed “you failed my class in the spring,
you’ll fail it again.”
Everyone who enters my room on August 1 has to have a fresh start. It
won’t be easy to drop these previous experiences of students but I
have to. I can only hope they are willing to do the same for me.

P.S. after I wrote this draft, I read this post “For White Teachers in the time of #blacklivesmatter” by Chris. I think it tangentially fits here, and deserves more honest and thoughtful reflection once I’m home instead of on the road.