# 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!

# 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!

# Desmos Activity Builder for All Disciplines

I am presenting “Do More With Desmos Activity Builder” for ALL disciplines at the annual NCAIS Conference (North Carolina Association for Independent Schools) October 27th.

I am excited to bring Desmos to other disciplines because it is not only an amazing engagement software, but it is also FREE for teachers.  I presented it to non-math teachers at my school last week.  They loved it and one teacher even created a card sort before she left my session!

I created a self-paced Desmos Activity Builder for non-math teachers.  This activity showcases the Desmos screens and includes tutorials on how to get started with Desmos.  Please share the Desmos love with non-math teachers in your school!

Stephanie Blair, another Desmos Fellow, created a Google Doc to share other non-math Desmos Activity Builder.

# First Day 2017-18

The FIRST DAY is SO EXCITING!  Even though I am not ready to go back to school yet (I still have so much I wanted to get done and …. SUMMER), I love thinking about the first day back.  I can’t wait to actually meet and interact with the amazing young learners that I will get to work with this year.  Their enthusiasm for learning is at a high the first days of school and I am excited to harness that and turn it into amazing math!

I do not go over my course guidelines the first day.  I would rather spend that day getting to know my kids, having them get to know each other, and playing with math!  I have found that it is better to go over one guideline every day or so in the first few weeks, as they naturally come up.  I usually say, “Refer to this place in your syllabus.” in response to a student question.  This reminds students that the syllabus taped in their notebooks is a great place to look for important information that they may need.

Sarah Vanderwerf is a thoughtful educator and you should definitely follow her blog if you don’t already.  Basically my entire first day is coming from her!  Last year I did Sarah’s name tents and I loved them!  I think my students liked them as well because later in the year I learned that some students had shared part of their name tent on Snapchat.  I also noticed some of them kept their name tents in their notebooks.  Even though replying to name tents took a lot of work the first week, getting to know each of my students better was worth it, especially if they appreciated it as well.  I also did Sarah’s 100’s Task later in the week last year.  But I loved it so much I am doing it on the first day this year!

Our first day has very short class periods, only 25 minutes long, so I don’t have time for much. We still have almost two weeks until school starts so my first day plans aren’t firmed up completely yet, but this is what I am thinking.

• Greet students at the door with a Hi-Five and instruct them to look for their seat.
• I always have a seating chart the first day to help ease student anxiety.  I will have their names on their tables and may even project it.
• Name tents will be waiting at their tables to give them something to start on before class starts.  I am a die hard “bell to bell” teacher and there is no better time to start this than the first day! I will have an example name tent for them on each table.
• Display what they need for my class this year and briefly talk about it while they finish their name tents.
• Have student introduce themselves to the other students at their table.
• Have each student write down their favorite movie, ice cream, and vacation spot.  Then each table group compares answers to determine the favorite move, ice cream and vacation spot of the group.  After they finish, they will share their group answers with the class.  We did this in our CPM training and it was a fun and low stress ice breaker activity.  (I may not have time for this, and may have to push it to day 2).  I will pass out textbooks during this time.
• 100’s Task!  I will take pics of the action!
• Discuss 100’s Task and share the pics I took to show them what great group work looks like! I’m not sure how I will record this yet.  I will either write it on the white board or type their responses into a google doc so I can print it out and share it with them.  (I may do this on day 2 so I have time for the ice breaker above).
• Closing. I’m terrible at class closure.  I’m going to set a 5 minute timer on my watch so I can remind myself daily to close the lesson.  Not sure what this looks like yet. They will need to clean up their tables and turn in their name tents.  I don’t know if I will have time for an additional closing activity!  This may just be a time for me to say goodbye and have a great day!

# Math Survivor Game!

Math Survivor!  Which team will be eliminated first?  Which team can survive?

After reading about Grudgeball on Elissa’s site and then here, I couldn’t wait to try it.  I decided to call it Math Survivor since we were “voting teams out of the competition”, and I didn’t have them shoot a nerf ball.  I’m glad I eliminated the nerf ball, because the voting people off took forever by itself!

I love jumping right in and trying new things.  However, sometimes this means I fail.  And fail I did at first!  I must have misread the instructions.  I thought that ALL teams got to erase x’s each time.  That made sense to me, as why else would they work hard to get the question correct?  However, it became obvious during my first class, when ALL teams were quickly eliminated, that my game had a flaw.  I adjusted it for the next class, letting them add points back more easily, but then everyone was just tied.  Finally, for my third class, I decided to let only one team at a time take off x’s.  DUH.  To keep kids active, I told them that if the team voting x’s off missed the question, I would roll dice to see which team got to take their turn.  This keep everyone motivated for every question.

The game I made is for Piecewise Functions and Transformations, but I also made a blank template.  Here are my rules, templates are below.

Goal:  To be the last team standing (still have x’s)

Rules:

1. Every team starts with 10 x’s.
2. Every team works on every question.  Only one team at a time gets to eliminate x’s for each question.  I just rotated around the room.
3. One team at a time gets to erase 2 x’s, if they get the question correct.  They can erase 2 x’s from one team, or erase one x from two teams.  They cannot commit suicide  (erase their own x’s).
4.  If the designated team misses the question, then another team gets to erase the two x’s.  I rolled dice to decide which team.  You could also pick popsicle sticks.
5. Once a team is eliminated, they cannot add x’s back, but they can still vote other teams out!  (Some teachers let teams add points back or eliminate x’s).
6. I let kids make alliances.  It almost never works out!  Just like in the real Survivor, alliances quickly crumble.  lol!
7. TIP:  Only let one person per group erase and make them decide BEFORE coming up to the board who they are going to eliminate.  Otherwise, peers from the other teams can influence them once they are at the board.  I even do a 5, 4, 3, 2, 1… count down.  You can also ask them (have them write it on a white board, and erase the x’s yourself if you have a very enthusiastic or overly competitive class).

Update: Thanks to the Twittersphere, I had some great feedback from Bowen Kerins!

# Introduction to Transformations Marbleslides!

I just made my first Marbleslides in Desmos!  It was incredibly easy, and the students said it was a really fun way to learn.

This Marbleslides activity introduces students to transformation form and lets them practice moving graphs around with Marbleslides (SUCCESS!!) using the new parent graphs they just learned.  My students know transformation form with linears, y = a(x – h) + k, but have not moved any other graphs around yet.  (For this activity I used the absolute value, quadratic, square root, and cube root functions.)

I have two goals with Desmos this year.

1. Shorten my Desmos Activity Builders, so that I have time in class to practice with the students outside of Desmos.
2. Make worksheets to accompany my Desmos Activity Builders, so the students can have notes to look back on.

I felt this activity accomplished both, and my students really seemed to enjoy it.  I have provided the activity and the worksheet for you to try.  I would love feedback!

Desmos Introduction to Transformations Marbleslides

# Candy Catapult for Quadratics, Plus Desmos

You should definitely shoot candy when you cover projectile motion in Algebra!  I got this fun idea from Sean, who even had his students build their own catapults!  He’s a rock star.  Luckily, our math department already had some catapults that I was able to use.  If you want to save time, the  catapults were only \$7.89 from Amazon and worked great!  I used Starbursts instead of the included balls (candy for the win).  But students did have to create a tape basket for the shooter since the Starbursts were smaller and were falling through.  My students call this the Starburst Catapult activity and many said it was their favorite activity of the year.

This activity follows my projectile motion lesson, which will be very helpful for your students to do before Candy Catapult so they understand what the dilation should be and where it is coming from.  After reading Mimi’s comment on Sean’s post I amended Sean’s instructional worksheet (Candy Catapult Worksheet) to have the students do all of the quadratics work with just the time.  This makes it a projectile motion problem, and then they can use -4.9 meters/sec for the a.

Candy Catapult:

1. In groups of 3 or 4, instruct students to carefully read their handout.
2. Students shoot the catapult from the floor and time how long it takes for the candy to hit the ground and the distance their candy travels.  Students used their smartphones to time the flights.  I tell them to practice and make sure they are getting accurate results.  They do not get a target at this stage.
3. They use this data to create a quadratic equation of the candy’s flight (in factored form). We used -490 cm/sec as the dilation since we measured in cm.
4. They measure the height of a desk and use their equation and Desmos* to find out how long it will take their candy to hit the floor from the desk.
5. After they find the time the candy will be in flight, they use proportional reasoning to calculate where to place the target.
6. No one may shoot from the desk until all groups are finished, then we ALL gather around and watch each group shoot, one at a time.

*I made a Desmos Teacher Activity for students to record their data and then enter the equations that they created from their data.  This was a great visual check for them to make sure their equations matched their data before moving on.  The graphs also helped them find the numbers they needed when going from shooting from the floor to shooting from the desk.

I did this lesson with all four of my classes, and of course it got better as the day went on.  I always feel sorry for my 1st period class.  I started out having the groups do all of the work individually, even the final round.  But there was really ZERO excitement in that and it just kind of, ended.  By my last 2nd two classes of the day I had set up a true, “Final Challenge Round!!” where the entire class watched.  I even played Jock Jams to get them all “pumped up”.  Oh, the things I do to get high school students energized.

We did everything in an 85 minutes block class.  However, I wish I had spend one additional class day after the activity to reflect and even challenge them with variations of the catapult problem to whiteboard with.  I need to find giant catapult war related problems!  (Or I’m watching way too much Game of Thrones lately).  But really, wouldn’t that be the most fun!

Tips for Success:

• MOST IMPORTANT!! Do the final round at the end, with everyone watching each other so they can root and especially heckle.
• Play music during the finals. (I used a Spotify Jock Jams playlist.)
• Print out a LARGE target!  I found a picture online and used 4 sheets of paper.
• Emphasize consistency, consistency, consistency.
• Use centimeters to measure, and -490 cm/sec for the dilation.
• Remind them to sure the are consistently measuring in cm, not flipping the tape over and ALSO measuring in inches.  True story.
• Bring prizes for winners
• Spend an additional day reflecting, and even give additional problems to solve.

If you do this activity and create a reflection activity or additional problems I would love to see them! 🙂

Enjoy the action!

Resources:

Candy Catapult Worksheet (amended from Sean)

Desmos Activity Builder

# Fill Out This Form to Connect With Other Math Teachers On Kahoot!

There are thousands of public Kahoots! made by teachers to chose from.  Kahoot! has a search feature that allows you to search by title, subject, tag, or username.  You can also share a Kahoot! that you have made with another teacher if you know their username.

Since my Kahoot! post, I have found that many math teachers that I know also use Kahoot! and are using it in ways that I have not even thought of.  For instance, Laura Wheeler uses Kahoot! a few times a week as a warm up for a fun way to do spiraling reviews.  I would love to easily find and see her reviews, since we both teach high school math.

Then, as is often the case, an amazing idea was born on Twitter.  Wouldn’t it be GREAT if we knew our math teacher friends Kahoot! user names?  Then, we could search and share with teachers that we know.  Additionally, if teachers would tag the Kahoots! they use with MTBoS, we could also search that way.

So, please fill out this form if you are interested in easily sharing the Kahoots! that you create and use with other math teachers.  I asked for the subjects you teach so that other teachers can more easily find teachers that have similar needs.  And don’t worry if you don’t make your own Kahoots!  I rarely make Kahoots! from scratch.  But, I do go through each Kahoot! I use carefully, and often edit them, so other teachers would probably benefit from the Kahoots! that I use.  If you are not already using Kahoot!, you need to sign up for a free Kahoot! account here to get your username.

Here are the results: Google Form of MTBoS Kahoot! user names.

Once you finish the form, you will be directed to a Google Form of MTBoS Kahoot! user names.

#### How to Search and Add Tags in Kahoot!

Also, to search by tag, you can’t just enter mtbos.  You have to type in doc.tags:mtbos.

Don’t forget to tag your Kahoot! with MTBoS after you finish making it.

Fill out this form to connect with other math teachers on Kahoot!

# Trashketball is AMAZING

It took me FOUR YEARS to get these Trashketball directions down to a science.  My kids can just read them and we are ready to go.  Plus, I have never seen my afternoon class of freshmen boys work so hard, on FRIDAY.  It almost made me cry from joy.  I seriously wish I could play Trashketball everyday.  Every. Day.

I have included my Trashketball Powerpoint instructions for you to show your students.  It is crucial that they all pick a letter, M A T H or O, and that you randomly call them up by this letter to show you their answer and thus get to shoot.  This way ALL students are actively working out the problem on their own paper.  Then they work as a team to make sure everyone understands and gets the same answer.  It is amazing.  I use popsicle sticks to call out the letter.  They get one point for the correct answer.  If they get the correct answer, they get to shoot from the 2-pt or 3-pt line.  Also, I hung it from the wall with a Command hook, but the students want it higher.  lol!

Fun stuff:  I play “Are You Ready To Rumble” from Jock Jams while they are reading the directions.  I have this COOL trashket I found a couple of years ago.  I have a 2-pt line and a 3-pt line.  It is a blast!  But best of all, they are so focused and work so hard!  Games for the win again!  I made dry-erase index card necklaces to write their letter on for middle schoolers, but my high school students wanted to wear them as well.  I really love freshmen.

# “Don’t Say That!” Project – Making First period more like Third

My amazing new TMC14 teacher friend Matt came up with this brilliant idea. He created an open source document where experienced math teachers can tell “newbie” teachers what NOT to say in class. Since Matt and I are both newbies to Alg 2 and Geometry, we would love your help! However, there are also sections for elementary math through Calculus! So please join in the fun and help all newbies out! Thanks in advance.

The thing about being a first-year teacher is that you make a lot of stupid mistakes. It’s completely understandable, first-year anythings make a ton of mistakes. But I always felt much worse making mistakes as a teacher because I’m affecting these kids’ future. Plus it’s a hell of a lot harder to go back and correct deeply ingrained misconceptions than it is to go back and change some cells on a spreadsheet or some grammar in a report.

Last year, when I was up way too late planning for the next day, I would always try to predict where my students would get turned around. I worked my butt off to anticipate all of their mistakes. And then came the day when kids didn’t know the difference between and angle and a side. I was flabbergasted, so I asked another teacher friend, and they were like “oh, yeah, you have…

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