About I Speak Math

I am a mother to three boys. I have a BS in mathematics from Marshall University (Go Herd!) and a MaEd in Mathematics Education from Wake Forest University. I started out as a Math Grad student but discovered my love of teaching when I was teaching night classes to supplement my fellowship at Wake. I switched to MaEd in my second year of Grad school and have had a passion for teaching ever since! I have taught in public, private, and charter schools. I have taught community college, high school, and middle school. I am currently teaching high school at a private school in the suburbs of Charlotte, NC.

Standards Based Grading – Guest Post by Taylor Gibson

This post is written Taylor Gibson, who teaches at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. Taylor has been using standards based grading (SBG) in his classroom for several years, and shares his SBG system with other teachers every year at the Teaching Contemporary Mathematics (TCM) conference held by his school.

Two years ago, I attended TCM and heard Taylor Gibson talk about how he has implemented SBG into his classroom. I had been curious about SBG for years, and even did a blended SBG model in my middle school classes at my previous school. Hearing Taylor explain it so clearly and enthusiastically was inspiring. When Julia Finneyfrock and I decided to try SBG the following year, it was his model that we started with. So, instead of trying to explain his method, I asked Taylor to guest blog for me. Thank you Taylor!

Standards Based Grading – by Taylor Gibson

Standards-Based Grading has dramatically changed the way I use assessment in my classroom over the last few years. Simply put, it allows your assessments to be both for learning and of learning. Instead of assigning points for each problem and determining how many points a student earns for their response, you instead align standards (or learning objectives) to each problem and decide holistically if students have demonstrated mastery in each standard based on their response. I’ve chosen to report mastery on a scale of 0, 1, or 2 with 0 being no mastery demonstrated, 1 representing partial mastery, and 2 representing complete mastery. While numbers are used to report a student’s level of mastery, these are not meant to be totaled to determine a score for each assessment. Instead, a student receives a small cover sheet with a score for each standard, as shown below:

SBG1

The light white numbers in the scoring column indicate what problem (or parts of a problem) I will look at to make a decision on mastery. Once score, it will look like: 

SBG2

This level of feedback provides students with feedback specific enough for them to look at just the cover sheet and know precisely which topics they need to work on.

This aspect alone of changing your reporting system would be a great help to students. However, the biggest impact for students is that these scores can change over time if they demonstrate a different level of mastery later on in the course. For example, in the include score sheet the student earned a score of 1 on the standard Rec.C.2. Should the student reassess on this standard, either on another in-class assessment or an out of class reassessment, their new score replaces the 1 in the gradebook. Likewise, if a student earns a 1 on the standard Rec.A.3, it would replace the 2 they earned on this assessment. This mechanism results in the following positive outcomes for students:

  • Any score earned on an individual assessment doesn’t need to be permanent since students can request a reassessment in the future. I’ve found this greatly reduces student stress and anxiety when taking an assessment. No more tears when a quiz or test isn’t going well!
  • It provides an incentive for students to take their feedback from early assessments and seek additional support to remediate their understanding in areas in which they haven’t yet demonstrated mastery (encourages a growth mindset)
  • It provides an incentive for students to really learn material, not just cram for a test, since they know that a learning standard may be on a future assessment in a week or two, and that getting a 2 today doesn’t exempt you from having to show mastery again to keep your 2.

At the end of a grading term you can decide how to combine the mastery scores in each standard and convert to a course-ending grade.

Some common methods:

  • The % of standards mastered (score of 2) is the grade in the course. For the above example, the student mastered 11 standards out of 12, resulting in a 92% in the course.
  • Average the standard scores together and score to a percentage. In this example, eleven scores of 2 and one score of 1 yields an average score of 1.92 or 96% in the course.
  • Create your own cut scores for each letter grade based either on number of standards mastered or average score on all standards

Moving to a system like this requires repeated explanation of the system to: students, parents, colleagues, and administrators, but I firmly believe the benefits far outweigh those costs. It’s a complex and nuanced process to get right, but there’s a lot of flexibility for implementation to make it work for your students, classroom, and school.

Taylor was also gracious enough to share the Powerpoint from his presentation, as well as standards in different content areas with us. As in most areas of education, standards are an ever evolving process, and are often tweaked from year to year.

Recommended Further Reading in Standards-Based Grading:

About the Author

Taylor GibsonTaylor is the Dean of Mathematics at the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics. He’s previously taught in Dallas, TX, and Atlanta, GA before moving to Durham, NC. Taylor’s professional interests are in standards-based grading and interdisciplinary coursework between mathematics and computer science. Outside of the classroom you’ll find him running with the cross-country teams in the extreme North Carolina humidity.

 

How Do You Use Rocketbooks?

This spring at NCTM, the amazing Bill Thill introduced me to his Rocketbook Wave notebook. I loved what he was doing with it in class, and ordered it right away! But of course I haven’t had time to play with it until now.

My initial thoughts for using the Rocketbook were pretty simple, I want to upload solutions to problem sets into a shared folder for my students. This morning I tweeted out for more ideas, and Mr.Brennan sent me a fantastic Rocketbook Hacks video from the Sons of Technology.  After watching their video, I am bubbling over with ideas!

My students told me that uploading their work to PowerSchool was a pain, so I love the idea of using the printable Rocketbook pages to help make this easier for them. Maybe I can give each student a template to keep in their binders, so they can easily upload any of their work. I would love for students to be able to upload their One Sheets to share with other students.

I did the 40 Hour Teacher Workweek club this past year and loved how it helped me get organized.  I plan on making my “To Do” lists in sharpie on the first few pages of my Rocketbook.

I would love to hear how other math educators are using this in their classroom before I get started creating folders. Please comment to let me know how you are using Rocketbook! Thanks in advance!

Julie Reulbach

Pascal’s Triangle, Patterns, and Binomial Expansion

Today the CPM lesson in my Algebra 2 book started with a lesson from my MS past, Pascals Triangle. I only have two new lessons of the year left before our final assessment and then exam review begins. So I gave them extra time to discover the patterns and then play with Pascals Triangle after their quiz. They’ve had a stressful week (it is May!) and the quiz was tough, so coloring was definitely the right call! Some kids got so into coloring they didn’t even care about the patterns. I didn’t mind at all because they were coloring one of the patterns!

After discovering and then sharing the pattens by groups, we moved on to the main part of the CPM lesson, discovering binomial expansion within the Triangle, then using substitution to extend it to more then (a + b)^n.

I don’t know if it was the all of the cool patterns or the coloring, but my students really got into this lesson today. We usually work in groups in my class, but a couple of students got really involved in the math and extended what they were learning. I usually bring students back to group work when they go off on a tangent, but they were so excited that I just let them go! I’m so glad I did bc they developed these beautiful ideas. Drake was so proud of his that he labeled it and left it for the rest of my classes to see!

My students also created beautiful triangles. Next year I am going to make the Triangle larger so they can see the Sierpinski pattern even more through their own coloring. We decided to do a Pascal’s triangle photo shoot in a couple of my classes. What an amazing way to end the week.

Meaningful Homework and CPM

I do not grade homework. I have been teaching a long time, so I have tired everything (see the list of blogs I have written about homework at the end of this post). Over the years I have graded homework for correctness and completion. In most cases I found that homework grades artificially inflated a students grades, and in some cases  brought students grades down. Most importantly, because of help from friends, tutors and parents, homework grades rarely represent what the students actually know.

I would love for my students to engage with math outside of class time for about 20 minutes a day.  I do not want my students feeling lost, overwhelmed, or frustrated at home if they do not understand the homework.  And I want the students to feel that the homework is important because it is relevant to the work that we do in class.

I do not grade homework, but I do walk around each day to see if students had any questions on their homework (check if students are doing it).  If they do not, I have them fill out a Homework Responsibility Sheet that I keep on file.  Still, without the promise of a grade, homework completion has not been as consistent as I would like. I use the CPM (College Preparatory Mathematics) curriculum, and the spiraling homework is an important part of the curriculum, as the problems increase in difficulty each time they appear in the Review/Preview.  In CPM, the class lessons are a set of problems the students work through as a team in a “guided” discovery model. Then, they have a set of spiraling problems called “Review / Preview” that they do for homework. Since the homework is spiraling, it is not what the students have done in math classes before (example: 2 – 30 evens of the same exact type of problem they did in the lesson).  So, some of my students do not feel that the homework is related to classwork. Additionally, the spiraling homework can be challenging if students have forgotten how to do a concept. So over Christmas Break, I came up with a new homework system.

Instead of assigning the “Review / Preview” problems at the end of the section for homework, I assign ONE problem from the next section.

This problem is usually the very first problem we would have worked on in class the next day. Usually the first problem is not too difficult for them to do, because it is an introductory problem that reviews past skills as an introduction to a new concept. When students come in the next day, they get the ONE problem out and talk about their answers. I walk around the room to check students answers and to see if everyone is participating. Once we are finished reviewing this problem, we can jump right into the next problem in the lesson. This “jump starts” the lesson, enabling us to finish the section early. And then, the students have time to work on their “Review / Preview” in class. This way they have each other, and me, as a resource while they tackle the more challenging review problems.

My students absolutely love the new system. The work that they are doing at home is not too difficult, and connects to the work that we are doing in class. The more difficult “Review / Preview” homework is done in class where other students and I can help them. I did have some students not doing the ONE problem when I first switched over, but since it was the first problem of the lesson, they felt lost through most of class, even when their classmates tried to catch them up. This has encouraged more consistent completion of their ONE homework problem.  As I tell them, everyone usually has the time to do just ONE problem, right?

UPDATE:  We just reached the end of the chapter, and there were some important problems that we did not get to during class time, as it’s difficult for some students to finish all of the Review/Preview problems during class time.  At the end of the chapter I assign the closure problems. There usually aren’t that many closure problems and the kids are always asking for more practice.  So, I went back through the chapter and re-assigned the important problems that most students were not able to get to in addition to their closure problems.  It did not add that many problems as I was careful not to assign duplicates, especially if they were easier ones that the closure problems. Since we work on closure problems in class, I am excited to know that the kids will have done almost all of the Review / Preview, in class, for probably the first time ever. I definitely expect this to strengthen their skills!

My Past Posts About Homework:

 

 

A Small Reminder – Make It A Challenge

Sometimes we underestimate words.  Or specifically, how one word can change an entire activity.  This happened to me last week.  It was Thursday morning of an especially long week, right after break, when the kids were not used to the school schedule yet.  Friday was still so far away and the effects of sleep deprivation were hitting them full force. Basically, they were dead.  They were graphing inverses by hand in order to discover the line of symmetry. The first two graphs were easy, a line and a parabola. But the third graph was much more complicated. As soon as it got complicated, or they messed up one point, many of these tired students started grumbling, or did not engage with it at all. They felt that it was “too hard” and the class felt flat for the rest of the lesson.

I hate when a lesson falls flat. It deflates me as a teacher because their energy and enthusiasm feeds me, and makes the classroom exciting and fun to teach. After that lesson I had that, “Wow, that was the worse lesson I have had in a while. The kids were dead.” feeling. I knew I couldn’t go through this lesson the same way two more times, so I decided to take out the complicated graph, because they didn’t really need it to discover the line of symmetry, and working on it had taken the “wind out of their sails”.

However, when the next class was working, I had some students who finished the first two graphs rather quickly.  I did not want them to be bored as they waited on their peers, so I asked them,

“Would you like to try the challenge graph?”

I also told them that it was pretty complicated. I was not surprised when they said yes, as they had finished the first graphs so quickly because they are my stronger students.  But what happened next did surprise me.  Other students in the room overhear me offering the challenge graph to those students, and then heard them talking about it, “Oh wow, the graphs look like hearts!”  Soon, other students were asking to do the challenge graph. I asked them, “Are you sure? It’s pretty complicated!”  This made them even more determined to have it and do it successfully. They excitedly exclaimed to the table mates, “I see the two hearts!” when they had successfully completed it. Successfully completing, “the challenge” had excited and awoken the entire class. Thus, the rest of the lesson was a blast. A student even said, “Wow, this class is SO suspenseful EVERY day – and it’s math!”

I was shocked that the same lesson went so differently just from rephrasing the exact same activity. We all love a great challenge, and our students are no different. I wanted to blog about this experience so I wouldn’t forget it in the future, and so you could benefit from it as well!

Don’t be afraid to challenge your students – but do make it a challenge for them! 

Learn to Code Desmos Activity Builders!

Yes, you can code Desmos Activity Builder’s to personalize them and make them do more! If you have been creating Activity Builders but want them to do more, coding is the answer! The coding in Desmos is called Computation Layer (CL). I highly recommend trying it out, as it’s great fun to program a small bit of code and then see it work in Desmos!

jaychow

Jay Chow

By far the best resource I have seen out there to learn CL is Jay Chow’s blog post, A Fool’s Guide to Learning CL.  Jay is a Desmos Fellow and CL extraordinaire, plus I think he’s probably the nicest person I have every met. His blog post includes step by step instructions, hints, fun scavenger hunts, and even webinars to help you learn CL.  Bonus – he’s holding 4 more Webinars starting in February!

screen shot 2019-01-27 at 11.30.07 am

MrChowMath.com

Jay also has many other gems on his blog (I’m so thrilled he’s blogging), like several Breakout! Desmos activities! Thanks for all of your great work Jay!  🙂

Bloggers, 2019

This year I taught a Blogging 101 class at my school during “Winterm”, which is a week of special interest classes or trips between the fall and spring semesters. Here are the blogs my students created if you are interested in reading them. Happy reading!

Winterm Blog

img_4854

  • Isabella – mylifeasizzy, Blog about just a personal blog; just for fun 🙂
  • Maddie – Maddie’s Take, Blog about food, fashion, makeup
  • Aidan – Aidan Finn, Blog about cars
  • Ethan – The Robotics Brainstorm, Blog about Robotics new and design concepts
  • Miles – MilesBlogs, Blog about I wants to blog about sports events that are going on in the country.
  • Jake – Artist’s Block, Blog about It will be away for me to showcase my art portfolio and blog about different techniques you use when drawing, whether it be digital or physical
  • Erin – Erin Kohlhepp, Blog about not sure
  • Amaya – Whatever World, Blog about Going through life and saying whatever to the negativities the world throws at me!
  • Jahnavi – Jahnavi Dotes on Totes, Blog about How plastic effects our planet
  • Anshul – Anshul’s Blog, Blog about Everything

View original post 109 more words

First Week Back to School Survival Guide

This is just a survival guide for me to read next year, so I will know what to do, and how to best survive, the first weeks back to school.

Week 0 – Preservice

Waking up early and putting on real clothes is the worst.  But it’s SUPER fun being back and seeing everyone!  It is a busy, busy week.  Do not expect to get too much school work done (or any work at all done) this week.

Week 1 – STUDENTS!

Even though I’ve been teaching forever, I still freak out the night before school officially starts.  I don’t know why, maybe it is the fear of the unknown?  Maybe it is just the death of my summer schedule – getting plenty of sleep, working out whenever I want, shopping, vacations, TV, and reading books?  Most likely I’ve just forgotten how much I love what I do.

Day 1 – It just takes ONE class period for me to be in love (ok, obsessed) with teaching again.  The drama of the night before is forgotten and I look back at myself and laugh (shake my head).  But I’m glad it happened this way, because hopefully I can console my friends who feel this same way and will go back later this month.  Feeling this way before the first day is REAL and TERRIFYING.  But it is also ok, and will hopefully dissolve instantly on Day 1.

The word for this week is SURVIVAL, and maybe DON’T FEEL GUILTY.  No, you will not have time to plan a lesson at school so you will have to do it at night.  Yes, you will have to meet with someone every planning period.  NO, don’t you DARE try to make dinner (I did, it was a disaster).  Take out is your best friend forever.  Don’t feel guilty if you can’t exercise, AT ALL.  It will come later, but not this week.  YES, it is OK to go to bed at 7PM.  As much as you love it, you can’t go from Netflix to 100% people contact without some casualties.  You WILL be crying on Thursday night.  Your family will not understand.  That is ok, because it is normal.  The priority this week is SELF-CARE, or rather, self-preservation. You can’t do ALL of the things this week.

Weekend Interlude – SLEEP, exercise, and be nice to your family so they don’t worry too much about you after your Thursday night breakdown.  Take Saturday off so you will feel human again.  Take Saturday off. Take Saturday off. Take Saturday off.  Sunday, plan like crazy and pick out your clothes for the week (thanks Meg).  Go to bed early.

You’ve got this. You LOVE this, and that will get you through. ❤️

Julie

Add Events from Google Sheets to Google Calendar Automatically from Thom Gibson

If you have a spreadsheet of your assignments for your students, then have all of the assignments automatically added to a Google Calendar, this post is for you!  This post will also help those who have MANY dates they need to enter onto a calendar at one time.

As a mom of three teenaged boys, I have many, many sporting events to attend this fall, 49 in all.  The though of adding ALL of these events to our family calendar was daunting, so I decided that I wanted to try to automate it all.  Yes, this took much longer the first time as I had to figure it all out.  But it was worth it as I’ve since used this method to add other events, en masse, to my google calendar.  So, it has saved me tons of time!  I’m blogging about it so I won’t forget how to do it the NEXT time (lol) and so you can try it too if you want!  I’m a newbie, so I probably won’t be able to answer technical questions if you decide to try it out.

I first tried a Google add on, but the creator was in Paris, so it took me hours to figure it out.  Then Thom Gibson tweeted me, so I used his script and it was much easier!  This is the one I will use from now on. Thank you Thom!  🙂

To learn how to add Google Calendar events from a Google Sheet, watch Thom’s video.

Notes:

  1. Spreadsheet: You will need to copy his Google spreadsheet to get the FormMULE script.
  2. Permissions:  You will need to permit Google to let you use this.  It will say it’s unsafe bc it isn’t a Google Add on.
  3. Date Time:
    1. Be sure your cell is formatted in the Date Time format if it is not an all day event so you can add the start time.  Screen Shot 2018-09-01 at 2.27.04 PM
    2. I used the same end time as the start time.
  4. Updates:  There is a way to update it the calendar, but there is a different Update video.

Have fun!