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.

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!

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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

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  • 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

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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!

Blog Posts for the First Days of School!

It’s back to school time!!

Here is a compilation of posts that will hopefully help with all of your “Back To School” planning.  I thought that putting them all in one place would be helpful. Happy planning and welcome back to school!

Customized Sticky Notes and Stickers!

I love the fun stickers that Sam Shah and Allison Krasnow make for their students!  I haven’t created customized stickers for my students in the past. Instead, I usually make customized sticky notes.  I love using sticky notes because the students can return them to me.  My favorite new sticker that I made is one that students write their name and number (for quick alphabetizing) on, and then I stick it on their group folder.  I love that they are sticky because I can easily re-arrange them when I change groups.

Individual Sticky Notes

Name sticker for group folder.

Group folders are another awesome Sam idea that I keep meaning to blog about! At the beginning of the year I use a “Home Enjoyment” sticky note where I can check off improvements I would like to see in their homework.  I have an, “Oops, I’m tardy!” sticky note, where they write the reason for their tardy on the note.  I also made a “See me after class” sticky that they return to me. Once they return them to me, I stick them onto a page in a binder so I can keep an accurate record. These come in handy for parent meetings. Sticky notes are usually cheaper unless there is a sticker sale, especially when you cut them in half!

I completely forgot to order more sticky notes last year.  But seeing Allison Krasnow’s My Favorite at TMC19, reminded me, and even made me want to order stickers!  I can’t wait to encourage students with these stickers, on their best as well as their worst days.

Here are the sticky notes that I created, and the notes and stickers that I created from Allison (and Sam’s) posts.  The round stickers are 1.5″ because they were cheaper.  I usually shop at Vista Print when they have a sale!  The stickers and notes are so easy to create because Vista Print has so many ready made templates!

Julie

 

My Favorite (Cooking) Things with Recipes!

As a full time teaching mom with three teen boys in sports, I have a few important requirements for dinner.

  • Quick and easy:  I am the worst with meal planning and prep. Before I went back to work, and the kids were into so many sports and activities, I would plan out meals, prepare things in advance, and even make freezer meals sometimes.  I was so together.  Yeah, that is over.
  • Healthy:  I have three teenaged boys who play sports and prefer to eat healthy as much as possible.  So my comfort meals are nice, but need to be sparing.  I need to make healthy meals as often as I can.
  • Quick and easy clean-up:  In addition to sports, and my two oldest are taking four AP classes each next year.  So as much as well all love a good home cooked meal, clean up cannot take forever.  They have too much work at night, and often, so do I .  I want my kids to look forward to a great meal with their family, not dread it because there will be a huge clean up process afterwards.

main_variation_Default_view_1_425x425..jpegSo far, I have found two things that fit all of these requirements, my Staub cast iron skillet and my InstanPot.  I am probably WAY late on the band wagon, but I just discovered “One-Skillet” meals using a high quality enameled cast iron skillet.  And I am telling you, I AM IN LOVE.  Busy teacher moms, you need this Staub Skillet.  You can sear your meat, throw on some veggies, and then throw it in the oven to finish cooking!  It is a time saving game changer.  I love this skillet because it was easy to use and clean up, thanks to the enameled coating.  But what made me love it even more was that my entire family loved this really simple (and healthy) meal!  OK, I know I sound like an infomercial, but busy teaching moms need help.  And if I can make a dinner in 10 minutes of “work time” I am in!  I got my 10″ skillet from Sur La Table, and they even have free shipping right now!  A 10″ skillet will fit four large chicken breasts.  But that isn’t enough for my family, and I love left-overs, so I just ordered a second 10″ skillet.

Cost of two 10″ skillets = Cost of one 12″skillet

7180ANtxfGL._SX569_.jpgMy other favorite thing is the InstaPot.  It makes soft boiled eggs in under 10 minutes.  I steam fresh green beans in it.  And most recently, I cooked perfect brown rice in it.  Tonight my son was so disappointed that I didn’t make white rice like he has at school, until he tasted it!  And it was so easy.  I put my recipe below.

I’ve only tried two recipes in my skillet, but my family raved about how great it was so I had to share!  I would love more recipes if you have a favorite!

Recipes

Basically, don’t make skillet cooking hard.  Season and sear the meat, remove the meat from skillet, put liquid of your choice in skillet to get the seared stuff unstuck from the skillet, put meat back in, top with fresh veggies if desired, then transfer to the oven to finish.  You can add your seasonings, extras (GARLIC!), and liquid. I recommend wine, but you could also use broth.

Skillet Garlic Lemon Chicken

  1.  Season chicken.  I used garlic salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper (for some spice).
  2. Heat some olive oil in the pan and then sear it, for about 3 minutes on each side.
  3. Remove the meat and add some liquid to get the stuff in the pan loose and in your sauce!  I probably use half a cup of wine, and about half a lemon. This will bubble up so beautifully, and you can whisk up all of the stuff in the pan.
  4. Optional:  Add more stuff, like garlic or herbs! I press at least 3 bulbs of fresh garlic into my bubbling broth.  Garlic cooks fast and you don’t want it to burn!  So as soon as it starts sizzling, turn off the heat.
  5. Put the chicken back in the skillet, and then add chopped veggies on top!  I then sprayed them with Olive Oil and sprinkled them with salt and pepper.
  6. Cook for 10-15 minutes in the oven at 350 degrees.

So, the entire meal is in the oven and I have 10-15 minutes to chill before dinner.  And then clean up is ONE skillet!  Rice goes really well with this, so I cooked some in the InstaPot.  And I sometimes make a salad.

Perfect Brown Rice in the InstaPot

Warning:  Is is really not “Instant” rice.  It will still take at least 30 minutes to cook the rice in a pressure cooker, 10 minutes to come to pressure, 15 minutes to cook, 5 minutes to release pressure.  So plan accordingly.  It’s not really much quicker, however it’s just worth it because it is low maintenance and comes out perfectly every time.  

  1. Use equal parts rice to liquid. Too much liquid will make your rice mushy (yes, this happened to me the first time).  I used chicken broth instead of water because it makes the rice very flavorful.
  2. Cook on high pressure for 15 minutes.
  3. Once it finishes, let the InstaPot release the pressure naturally.
  4. Season it how you like.  My kids like some butter in their rice, but it doesn’t take much!

Creamy Cilantro Chicken

I also have to include this recipe, Easy One Skillet Creamy Cilantro Lime Chicken, as my son loved it!  I used reduced fat sour cream and it still made the most incredible sauce!

Again, I am sure that I am the only one who is not already making one-skillet meals!  So please let me know if you have a great one!

Julie