#mtbosblog18: I’m bad at this blogging thing.

So here are links to my OneNotes that I’m trying to compile this year:

  • Man vs. Earth – This is the most fleshed out (and will continue to be added to the most) as it’s the course that requires the most work. It’s a combination of World Geography and Probability and Statistics. We didn’t start working in it until January though.
  • Algebra 1
  • Algebra 2

#mtbosblog18: Snow Days

I’ve now taught 6/13 scheduled days this month. Our exams were supposed to be next week but they just got cancelled, except about half of the classes with state tests still have to take them. I’m not sure if snow days are worse at the beginning or end of a semester.

All of the snow days made me lose track of the date so I’m starting the 2018 blogging challenge off a day late. Here’s a quick recap of the fall:

  • I taught all entirely new-to-me classes, including two sections of the same brand new course.
    • ProbStats was great. My kids were really talkative and sometimes argumentative. I didn’t create the best climate and wasn’t the greatest at managing the classroom. But they learned enough and we made it through with me telling them the wrong thing only a handful of times.
    • Man vs. Earth is also great. It’s stressful and there have been lots of mistakes, but it’s great. The students have learned about data collection and analysis and did a propaganda survey on environmental issues. They learned about probability and discrete probability distributions and will be using discrete/binomial distributions to compare population pyramids of countries in The Americas.
  • I have my first student teacher. Her name is Nicole and I’m going to try convincing her to either start her own blog or at least do a few guest posts on here. She starts full time in a month.
  • I’ve been volunteered as the Pathways curriculum lead, which is fine. I like logistics. Organizing and planning is soothing.
  • Personally, I bought a house and have been spending time painting and decorating. I’ve also been looking at cars and planning summer vacations.

So it’s been a very busy last few months. 2017 was a busy year in general! It was good though.

I need some help finishing up the year though:

  • I really want to incorporate more geography topics into my lessons this semester. We’re going to be doing continuous probability distributions, confidence intervals, and hypothesis testing. I’ve already started pulling ideas and worksheets from The Stats Medic and am thinking about how I can adapt them but if anyone has ideas I’d love them.
  • My other courses will be blended Algebra 1 and Algebra 2. These are on alternating days and have been taught by other teachers since the beginning of the year. It will be my first time taking over a class in the middle of the year so if anyone has advice on that too I’d appreciate it. I think it will be good for everyone though. Due to changeover in our admin team this summer two of our new math teachers ended up with 4 preps each and this will get them down to 2 and 3. Bless them.

I don’t know how to end this so I’d just like to say thank you to everyone who’s helped me in #mtbos so far and I look forward to reading all of the #mtbosblog18 posts!

ProbStats Assignments: Graph of the Week and Significant Digits

We finally got some tech issues and scheduling issues taken care of and were able to start homework last week. About 1/3 of my students didn’t complete all of it and about 1/4 of them didn’t write well (they were supposed to do a paragraph and multiple students made lists or wrote 2 sentences). BUT the other 5/12 of my students did an awesome job for their first time around.

Their Monday assignment is to respond to Turner’s Graph of the Week. They respond in an online discussion board (we use Canvas for this class) and have to post something on their own but are encouraged to reply to their classmates as well. Last week’s topic was the relationship between fast food sizes and obesity rates among children. Here’s my favorite exchange:

R: The graph(s) show obesity in children since 1971 and show the serving size of fast food in the 1950’s vs now. 1st graph (obesity): The x axis represents the years from 1971 to present and the y axis represents the percent of children who are obese. 2nd graph (fast food): The x axis represents the years since the 1950’s and the y axis represents size of the food. Some observations I can make from these graphs is that fast food and obesity are growing in size through the years. However, children of ages 2-11 are not as obese as they were in 2003 whereas children ages 12-19 are still becoming obese. I foresee obesity and fast food servings continuing to rise in the next 10 years.

J: Very interesting prediction R. I’m not quite sure about the fast food servings sizes increasing as I predict the next marketing tactic used by fast food companies will be healthier eating by reducing sizes.

A: I agree with J to a degree. I do believe that the portions will become smaller, and there will be “healthier” options, I don’t think this will truly change the climbing rate of obesity. Simply because there are better options presented, just opens up an aisle to a new kind of customers. However, that does not prevent or discourage those that simply want to eat unhealthily from doing so as they have for so long.

The other days of the week, students are supposed to select a Significant Digit to discuss. I’ve asked them to summarize what they read, make any connections they can to other things, use this new information to make predictions about the future, and ask questions they still have.

Here are a few good posts from Tuesday:

J: Equifax’s share price has fallen by 35% after the company publicly acknowledged there security breach. Unfortunately, most companies don’t take security seriously until something drastic like this happens. It’s disgusting that such a large company could be so negligent with there security especially considering that hold over 143 million American’s data. This includes social security number, which are supposed to be kept private.

H: The paragraph labeled “$60 Million” talks about how much money the movie “It” made this weekend. The paragraph explained that this would have been the best weekend if it wasn’t for the fact that this was the second weekend the movie was in theaters.The movie achieved a record-breaking $123 million opening the week before. The movie knocked Hotel Transylvania 2 down to third place. Why was the movie so successful? Why was the second Hotel Transylvania more successful than the first? What cinemas played It?

T: Apparently, according to Bloomberg, rich people nowadays are interested in buying submarines. The article focuses around the M7, a submarine that looks like a huge yacht that can go underwater. What fascinates me about it is how much it entices me to want it. Though, what truly baffles me is why anyone would buy it. I mean, unless you’re going to live in it, I doubt anyone smart will drop at least 2.3 billion on it…

These assignments will continue throughout the first semester, which is when we learn about data collection, analysis, and visualization and probability. I began the Graph of the Week in my regular ProbStats class but I don’t think it’s going to create as much thinking and conversation if they just respond on paper. I need to figure out a way to create a space for that.

Building Vocabulary in Math Class

A draft I didn’t realize I had made me #pushsend today! This is from pre-school planning in August!

Math has a lot of vocabulary terms and for the past three years I’ve pretty consistently complained about how my students can’t solve problems because they don’t know what the words mean without really doing anything about it. During planning time today, I asked one of my colleagues (English teacher currently pursuing a master’s in literacy) to help out. Here are some suggestions she gave with what I hope are correct examples… I made them math examples when I could think of one easily!

Quad(Tri) Text

  1. Introduce math term using pictures or video first.
  2. Read a narrative passage that uses this math term out loud to the students (they can read along with you if you’d like, but she emphasized it’s important for the teacher to read it out loud in context).
  3. Read the math term in informational text passage (textbook, article, etc.).
  4. The fourth step of this would be to read a longer text (like a short story, novel, study,  full article, etc.) but this would most likely be skipped for most secondary math terms.

Word Lines

  1. Determine what you want to be ranking/sorting. Type up and print out.
  2. Create top and bottom spots (usually greatest to least) in a physical location in your classroom.
  3. Pass out cards to students. Have them sort themselves on the word line with guidance from the class.
  4. EXAMPLES: sorting probability words (generally, usually, impossible, guaranteed, etc.) from a probability of 0 to 1; sorting types of polynomials (linear, quartic, etc.) from highest degree to lowest.

Shades of Meaning

  1. Have paint chips of one color varying in shade.
  2. Choose a basic vocabulary word/term. Make this the lightest shade paint chip.
  3. Determine synonyms for the word and rank them on intensity. The darker the shade, the higher the intensity of the word.
  4. EXAMPLE: This is easier to see than read about.

Four Square

  1. This is basically a Frayer model but you can change the titles of each box to suit your needs.
  2. EXAMPLE: If you were teaching about Federalism, you could use “definition, people, events, and beliefs” as your boxes instead of “definition, characteristics, example, and non-example”

Concept Mapping

  1. Choose a broad vocab term. Place this at the top of or in the middle of a piece of paper.
  2. Identify the key concepts that directly relate to that term and branch them out from the original concept.
  3. Repeat step two for each branch as needed.
  4. EXAMPLES: A nice blog post from Tina on concept maps with a few pictures.

Semantic Feature Analysis

  1. Choose a broad vocab term/category.
  2. Determine subgroups. Identify characteristics of each subgroup.
  3. Create a table with subgroups in the far left column and characteristics in the top row. Check off each box that holds an always true statement (could use for A/S/N also!)
  4. EXAMPLES: A partially filled out example on quadrilaterals. I’m imagining you could do this for features of graphs as well.


  1. Select a broad vocab term. Create a list of terms that relate to the vocab term.
  2. Cut out all of the terms, including the broad vocab term, and have enough copies for each group.
  3. Have students group the terms based on similarities, looking for the broad vocab term (label) and creating titles for each group (related to their reasoning for creating the groups).
  4. EXAMPLES: An example of how to do it independently/without cutting out cards.


  1. Choose a vocab term. Identify two examples and one non-example of the term. Write these in a random order in a list.
  2. Students circle the vocab term, cross out the non-example, and leave the two examples as-is.
    1. f(x) = ax² + bx + c
    2. g(s) = |14s – 6|
    3. h(t) = 5
    4. {Polynomial}

General Tips

  1. Have discussions involving the math term.
  2. Take virtual field trips (less possible in math).
  3. Provide context clues.
  4. Teach root words.
  5. Provide examples and non-examples.
  6. Use kid-friendly definitions.
  7. Students need 8 exposures (them actually using the word) to a word before it’s a part of their vocabulary.
  8. DO NOT ask if students know what a term means – an incorrect response sticks as the correct response.
  9. Require students to use correct spelling as often as possible.
  10. Teaching Tier 2 words (academic but content-neutral: characteristics, accurately, illustrates, etc.) has the greatest effect on students’ vocabulary and reading comprehension skills.

This was from a 15ish minute conversation around lunch time on the topic. There are examples of each out there – some ideas are definitely easier to adapt to secondary math than others. I will change this list based on what I find useful in my classroom!

Moral of the story though: USE YOUR RESOURCES – English teachers and reading specialists (and elementary teachers) are a wealth of knowledge when it comes to vocabulary and are almost always willing to help as it’ll make their lives easier too!

#UnsexyMath Days 3/4: Bias and Sampling

A recent instagram post lead to four people (both IRL colleagues and #mtbos members) complimenting and asking for more info. I had a conversation or two with Kate Nowak and others about the need to share more “unsexy math” – the regular-but-still-pretty-effective things we do more often in our classroom than the super awesome projects or really pretty foldables. So here goes my first one.

To start of our new geography/statistics course, our students are creating a survey inspired by some aspect of human-environment interactions (if you didn’t know this (like me), this is apparently a HUGE part of what is learned in HS World Geography). After administering the survey, they’ll create propaganda and administer it, then re-administer their survey to compare the results.

The entire idea behind project-based learning though is that most of what we do in the classroom should be tied to the projects our students are currently working on. So to hook our students, we decided to try to survey them on the cuteness and strength of hippos, show them a video of Fiona the hippo, and re-administer the survey. It worked! For some, at least. There were a handful in each class that changed their rankings after the video. So then I told them about the project and the majority got really excited. “You mean we’re going to try to brainwash our peers? Sweet!” I think they might get disappointed when we have to turn down some of their propaganda ideas for legal and ethical reasons later this month but it’ll still be good. Another lesson to learn.

Anyway, after the project intro, we talked about bias. I asked students what they thought bias was, then I projected four questions with varying levels of bias on the screen:

  • Do you think bike helmets should be mandatory for all bike riders?
  • Do you prefer the natural beauty of hardwood floors in your home?
  • Do you eat at least the recommended number of servings of fruits and vegetables to ensure a healthy and long life?
  • Do you want your kids to receive a faulty education by having their school day shortened?

After reading them to themselves, they offered up thoughts on which ones were more biased than others, what made them biased, what the questions were trying to imply or what responses they were leading you to, and how to eliminate bias as much as possible from them.

Then we did some vocab matching. You can see the list of terms they are learning about here. These students mostly know each other from their PBL courses last year, but in the first few days we’ve spent time doing a lot of collaborating on Geography (and Biology and English) course work, low-floor/high-ceiling math warm-ups, talking points, etc. I was still shocked by how much conversation was happening within most groups. The goal was to see what they could match based on the context clues – could they figure out “nonresponse bias” and “size bias”, for example, just based on knowing what “nonresponse” and “size” were? (For the record: 18/20 groups could. The fewest amount of correct matches was 3, greatest was 8.)

After they checked and copied down the correct vocab terms and definitions, I projected four examples and explained them a little more. Students identified at least one correct type of bias for each example. I was happy.

To end class we started talking about sampling methods. I had each class come up with a question we could ask students (“How often are you late to school?”, “Do you like the school’s food?”, “What’s your favorite food?”, and “What’s your favorite color?” were the suggestions) and we created Frayer models for each sampling method with our “example” going along with the question the class wanted to ask and how we could use that method at school. I thought this would be important as they are actually going to be surveying students (or other things at the school… I’m really hoping one group does something on amount of trash/recycling or use of our refillable water bottle stations!), so hopefully when they’re doing their survey design they can choose an appropriate method.

We didn’t get through all of the survey methods in 3/4 classes, so we’ll finish that slideshow up Monday/Tuesday along with some/all of the questions on the student work document linked above.

This wasn’t anything monumentally new. They wrote or typed a lot of notes while I talked up front and projected info on the screen. But there was a lot of peer-to-peer and whole-class conversation and for that, this unsexy lesson was a win.

First Day Plans

I still have more than three weeks before school begins but I spent hours each day this week working on plans for the upcoming school year. Nothing is set in stone yet, and all of these plans are totally dependent upon the assumption that I’m teaching certain subjects in certain rooms with certain people, so things will probably change… BUT here is the plan:

Man vs. Earth – 85 students for 3 hours every other day

  • Students will be randomly assigned to tables in groups of 3-4. We’re planning on doing visibly random grouping but changing every 2 weeks because we’ll be seeing students every other day. They’ve got fun names and logos which I’ll share once they’re nicely printed.
  • We’ll be starting the year’s warm-ups with the “Week of Inspirational Math”. We probably won’t do all of the activities associated with each day but will definitely do at least one every day for the first three weeks. Anyway, Day 1 is Four Fours. We have a decent amount of whiteboard up front (trying to figure out more VNPS in this new space) so I plan on having each group of students share a few of their solutions and especially having conversation about solutions that were found using different methods.
  • At this point we’ll be about ready to split the class into two groups, so we’ll briefly have a conversation about our program rules. The students will be a part of creating more norms, suggesting ways to celebrate success, and have a conversation on punishment vs. consequences in the next few days.
  • SPLIT:
    • I’ll be completing two team-building activities with the students. The first will be a small-group one about Cooperative Logic. Haven’t decided which of those activities we’re doing yet though so if you have suggestions please share. After that we’ll do a team-building activity as a larger group called Meaningful Adjacencies. I am super excited for the possibilities that can come from this activity.
    • My co-teacher will be working through map basics at this time with the other have of the class.
  • Return to the whole class setting and complete a conflict management style assessment. The plan is to have students take the assessment and determine their preferred conflict management style based on the assessment results, then somehow discuss pros/cons of their style with other students that got the same one before having a whole class discussion about it. As I’m typing this I’m thinking talking points would be a good idea but that means I’d have to either replace one of the team building activities with an intro to talking points or move conflict management to a later date so we’ll see.
  • Finish up with name tents.


  • Same warm-up as Man vs. Earth
  • Cooperative Logic activity
  • Meaningful Adjacencies activity
  • I’d like to do “Angles Around a Point” from Henri Picciotto’s Geometry Labs next but I need to know if I have access to pattern blocks. If I don’t have pattern blocks we’ll have lots of arguments surrounding things like “Is a hotdog a sandwich?” I know there are other Geometry teachers in MTBoS planning on doing this and I hope there’s a way we can share student reasoning!
  • Finish up with name tents again.

Hopefully all of this will work as planned but we all know nothing ever does!

2017 – 2018 #Goals

I know that you’re not supposed to take on too many things, so I just have three goals for this year. Just three.

  1. Be better at using effective, evaluative feedback. It’s the chapter I’m reading from Never Work Harder Than Your Students by Robyn Jackson. It was the chapter I needed to focus on based on my self-assessment and I know that it’s important and that I’m not great at it. I haven’t made an action plan yet (haven’t finished the chapter yet) but once I do I’ll blog it out. If you have suggestions for how to give effective feedback please let me know!
  2. Actually have discussions about the daily warm-ups. I think this will be easier to do if I have them all created ahead of time, so here is the PowerPoint with the year’s warm-ups. They follow a pattern but it’s not the same one each day of the week – I have two classes that will be every other day all year and two other classes that will be every day for a semester, so I felt like this would be the best way for me to be prepared. I can also have slips of paper printed for each type of warm-up and leave them in the classroom for students to use whenever they pop back up (or they’ll respond on Canvas).
  3. I’ve seen this blogged before but I don’t remember by who (I think it’s been multiple people). I want to be more conscious about how I help students, so when students are seated in groups and I see a hand raised for a question, I will go to the table to help but ask someone else at that table what the question is. Ideally this will create some forced collaboration (and/or some forced research either in their notes or online) that will eventually get them used to asking others for help. It seems to work well for other teachers so I hope I can get myself to stick to it!

There are a lot of other things I’m probably going to try but won’t beat myself up over if they don’t pan out or if I stop because it’s too much work. I’m teaching ProbStats and building another cross-curricular PBL course as a teach it this year (hopefully more will be done up front but we’ll see…) so I know there’s still a lot of content I have to re-learn and figure out how to best teach!