Thursday, May 17, 2018

Factoring Trinomials Battleship

As my students are just days away from finishing their Geometry credit, I am starting to panic about whether or not they are prepared to go on to Algebra 2 next year. Usually, students taking Geometry Part 1 and Part 2 (the slow pace Geometry option), go on to take a modified senior year math class called Math Models, but I have so many students that I wholeheartedly believe can handle the Algebra 2 curriculum, especially since they are determined to head to college after graduation. To make sure they are ready, we are hitting the essential Geometry skills hard so that they can get a big review of concepts before they head off to summer break, where they will surely forget most of it anyway. Ahhh summer vacation...

Factoring trinomials is a pretty big part of the quadratic functions unit, and to review today we played Battleship using an awesome layout that I found on TpT here!

I really enjoyed this activity and the amount of thought that went into planning the perfect trinomials so that the activity went smoothly. Each partner gets a unique list of trinomials but all the factored binomials on each list are the same. WOAH! Awesome!

Students choose a trinomial to factor and share their two binomials with their partner who marks them on their sheet. Before playing, students colored in their "ships" so that when they cross out the binomials they can see whether or not their ship was hit. 

Students were super motivated to factor their trinomials to see if it would be a hit on their partner's ships. A little friendly competition goes a long way, especially in May!

I have so many ideas how I could use this activity with other contents. My first idea is with rewriting linear equations in slope intercept form. Looking forward to finding more ways to adapt this! Any ideas coming to mind for you? Let me know! 

Friday, December 15, 2017

When The Pieces Come Together

One of the biggest differences between teaching middle school and teaching high school is getting the students to talk to each other. In the 8th grade, I felt like I was constantly telling kids to "be quiet" or "pay attention" or "turn around and look at me please" or "seriously stop poking him and listen for just 5 minutes". But if I could channel all that energy and desire to be social in the right direction, class discussions and student to student communication seemed to almost happen naturally.  Students LOVED talking. And all I had to do was make sure they were talking about what I wanted them to. 

Image result for teacher meme student talking

In the 11th grade, it couldn't be more opposite. I feel like I am standing in a room full of lethargic zombies some days just begging anyone to mutter a word or even think about turning toward a neighbor to engage with them. This has really forced me to get creative in my lesson planning, to make sure that I am living up to my daily goal of allowing every student an opportunity to speak every day. But if they aren't motivated to speak, or engaged in the lesson enough to WANT to contribute, they won't. Challenge accepted. 

Image result for teacher meme are you not entertained 

I have heard about "classroom jigsaws" at just about every training I have gone to the past few years, but for some reason I have avoided trying it. It just seemed like I could never think about a topic in my curriculum that it would REALLY work for students, and not just be a way for me to check the box to say I have done one. 

Until I started reviewing how to solve quadratic equations. Oh man, they needed some extra practice and I realized that part of the confusion was how many different ways you could solve for x in a quadratic equation but still get the same answer. So, I decided to try a jigsaw. Each problem could be solved by factoring, quadratic formula, or completing the square. I wanted students to not only know how to use each solving strategy, but also be able to decide when one strategy would be better than another and under what conditions. So here was the set up:
It went INCREDIBLE. I loved listening to the students discussing in their groups how to solve each problem. Many students had been a little lost or absent and so when they got to the factoring group they quickly realized they didn't know how to factor that particular problem. But the pressure of knowing that in just 5 minutes time they would have to go back to their original group and teach their group members was enough to really motivate them to find someone else who was in the factoring group and figure it out. The room was SO LOUD. I loved it. Everyone was talking, sharing ideas, showing each other short cuts and tips, and completely engaged in what was going on. 

I loved how when they went back to their original group all 3 group members had the same answer already, so the conversation was less about "getting the right answer" and more about how to manipulate the equation and solve it using the different strategies.

The student worksheet was super easy to make. You can find my copy here. I purposefully planned different equations that would highlight different solving hurdles, so that they would having something to discuss in regards to which strategy was the "best". 

What other mathematics content can you think of that would allow for a jigsaw to actually enhance student learning and increase student communication and collaboration?

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Not Everybody Likes Canned Soup

As the end of first quarter draws near, I am finally able to take a breath after what feels like 8 weeks of vigorously trying to not drown in the transition to a new high school, with new content to teach and two new teams to coach. I'll be honest, there have been times I questioned why I switched schools. It's been a tremendous amount of stress and made me question everything I thought I knew about teaching. But it's in these low moments, that I have to remind myself that we only grow and improve when we are forced outside of our comfort zone. This has literally been me at work so far this quarter. 

One of the biggest epiphanies that has happened the past 8 weeks is the realization that homemade soup is always better than canned soup. Always. In fact, I hate canned soup. 

A few years ago, our school district adopted the CPM curriculum for all classes Algebra and higher. It's not mandatory that we teach it exactly as is, but we are encouraged to follow the pacing and use the resources as needed with our professional judgement (isn't our district amazing!?). This post is in no way a bash on CPM, but rather a realization that as a teacher, I am my best self when I am teaching in a manner that works for me. I rarely used CPM in my Algebra class at the junior high, but as I worked to try to understand my new curriculum and tried to work through the sequencing and pacing of skills I have never taught, I found myself clinging to CPM for dear life. I was so worried about doing something wrong and getting behind that I forgot how to be "Miss Rowe" and instead found myself serving up canned CPM soup to the students every single day. I hated my classroom. I didn't like teaching how I was teaching. The students looked miserable when they left. And worst of all, I didn't feel like the students were actually learning. My biggest fear was actually becoming the reality of my classroom. 

Many of my students were in my class 3 years ago when they were in 8th grade, so it's been fun getting to see and teach so many familiar faces. One day last week a student walked by on his way out and said, "You teach really different now. I think I liked how you taught in 8th grade better.". I could have died. I literally wanted to just crawl under my portable and fire myself. I agreed with him. I liked it better, too. So after a weekend of soul searching and a few pep talks from some of my biggest education role models I came to the realization that... 

Canned or homemade, the kids are going to get fed. But oh my heck, isn't homemade soup just so much better? I am good at being me. I am good at teaching in a way that best highlights and caters to my unique style as an educator. And because of that, I am done with canned soup.

So what does that mean?

Students are talking. Students are moving around the room. Students are engaged and utilizing every waking minute of class time. Now, that's not to say that this can't be done with CPM. I'm sure it can. But it didn't work for me. And I am always going to advocate for every teacher to be able to make whatever changes are needed to do what is best for kids. And I am so thankful I work for a district and school that supports that same philosophy. 

We are a little crammed in our portable, but we are LOVING integrating activities like "scavenger hunts" or "problem loops" that force students to get up, collaborate, and check the answers as they go. 

Side note: Check out these awesome vocabulary visual cards here!

So here's to homemade soup! And the courage to teach in a way that works for you. You are the professional and you know what works best. And you know what's inspiring? No one can be you better than you can! 

Check out these awesome TpT Resources that we utilized this week:

Saturday, September 23, 2017

I'm Too Pretty To Do Math

Pretend you are a 12 year old girl. You're insecure. You're trying to figure out who you are. You have started middle school and the social aspect of school is starting to make you question everything about yourself. Your confidence is low, and your self perception is fragile. You head to the store and see this... 

No, not my boyfriend's father being a goofball. I honestly am not sure what is going on in this picture. Check out the upper right corner. 

This is a real sign. In a real store. It took my breath away when I first saw this picture. There are so many programs and organizations in our nation committed to encouraging young girls to get involved in STEM, with the hopes that this exposure will lead to more girls pursuing STEM careers in the future. As a local title holder in the Miss America system here in Idaho, I spent years and years committed to this cause. All that work. All that time. All that money. All of it is quickly brought down by an ignorant and inappropriate message like this. The message this sign sends young girls is so much more than the words on the wall. 

Pretty girls don't do math. 

Pretty girls buy the make up below this sign. 

Pretty girls are cheerleaders. 

Cheerleaders don't do math. 

Your mathematics ability and interest is rooted in your physical appearance. 

No wonder young, impressionable girls feel pulled in so many directions. No wonder young girls in our nation struggle with their confidence in math. If I was a 12 year old, desperately seeking approval from my peers, and I felt for a second that being "good at math" would jeopardize that, why would I try? 

This sign is why I do my job. This sign fuels my fire to break stereotypes surrounding women in STEM careers. This sign is what gets me up in the morning and keeps me awake at night. This sign is the reason why I know that I will always be needed in my career field. This sign is proof that MORE strong women are needed in the education world. 

Come join me. 

Come stand beside me and join me while I scream at the top of my lungs that you can be pretty and be good at math. You can play sports and be good at math. You can be strong and be good at math. You can love reading and be good at math. You can be a cheerleader and be good at math. You can be feminine and be good at math. You can be masculine and be good at math.

You can be YOU, with all your beautiful characteristics and flaws, and be good at math. 

I was a cheerleader.

I was a "beauty queen".

And I am a math teacher with a Master's Degree in Math Education. 

Be smart. Be proud. Be you.

Come join me, ladies. You are needed.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Year Six: Basically Year One for the Sixth Time

This post is my first attempt to be part of something bigger. It's my first purposeful step toward increasing my involvement in the math education world outside of my small bubble in Boise. I have been so lucky (thanks Boise School District!) to have had the opportunity to attend some national conferences the past few years like WIDA, La Cosecha, AVID Summer Institute, etc. This exposure gave me a real taste for the COMMUNITY that can be found with math educators all over the nation. 

How can I recreate that feeling of involvement, camaraderie, and belonging while being some what isolated in Boise? THE INTERNET! 

There are so many teacher blogs that I relentlessly follow (stalk) and a few of these incredible teachers have joined up to do a weekly #sundayfunday blogging challenging. I am ready to join in, instead of just being a silent observer like I have been. Here we go!


This weeks topic is: GOALS

I have two major goals for this upcoming school year. I am leaving the junior high after 5 years of teaching Pre-Algebra there and moving to the high school to teach Integrated 2 (aka Geometry). New school. New content. New challenges. New reasons to have a daily panic attack... NO! Just kidding. My goal is to be flexible and not let the obstacles that I will surely face overwhelm me. Is it going to be hard? For sure. Will I feel like it's my first year teaching all over again? Probably. But I have survived that before!

My second goal has already been set in motion with this blog post! I want to...

Be Inspired.
Be Challenged. 

and...make friends. 

I want to do all of these things both in person with the teachers in my building and district, and well as through social media and online outlets like Twitter and blogging. There is a whole world of FREE personal development and growth opportunities that I am not fully taking advantage of. Well folks, I think it's about time to...