As I am organizing for next year, I am going to post some of the resources that I created for the year.  The first one that I am sharing is my videos and notes for constructions.  I find that my students had a difficult time getting started with any constructions. I attribute the difficulty with a couple of things:
1. The compasses that they were using were the standard cheapy compasses that come too many to a pack. The compasses broke quickly or could not maintain form.  The next compasses that I used were the flat ones and I really did not like the muscle motion and the notched numbers.  I settled later in the year on Circle Perfect Compasses.
2. I typically teach using inquiry methods.  I have yet to determine a way to teach students how to use a compass using inquiry.  While I can teach using traditional methods, I feel like I did something wrong to the students after doing them.

My videos were created on Robocompass using their pseudo language to make constructions.  They have created quite a nifty tool for making constructions.  I used the tool and did a screen recording with Quicktime.  I took all of the videos and looped them in a Keynote file.  I find that the videos were effective in teaching the students the basics, but they did not remember if they did not keep doing it throughout the year.

The notes were created in Notability and saved as a pdf file.  I have created two versions of the notes.  One is without the construction completed and the other is with the construction.

Notes with Constructions
Notes without Constructions

If you have the time, let me know how you would use these resources to teach the topic.  I would love to hear it.


Similarity Unit – Part 1

As I enter the world of Common Core for Geometry according to the MDC framework, finding supporting lesson materials has been a challenge.  This is in particular because the curriculum uses transformations as an anchor for many topics.  I have been fortunate to be part of a2i where I have gained a lot of knowledge and curriculum materials.  The unit sample lesson sequences have been a particular help.  That leaves the day to day lessons.  Recently, Lisa Bejarano shared her unit plans and lesson sources for the year so far with a neat unit outline as well.  I decided to try Lisa’s lesson sources out for the Similarity unit. Here is what I found for my self so far.

Photography Faux Pas and the Statue of Liberty lessons had great engagement and discussions around both of the lessons.  I then looked forward and realized that the EngageNY and Khan Academy would both not be an easy fit for my students or technology in the classroom.  I started down a new fork in the road and had a couple of great lessons on dilations.  The first lesson was David Wee’s Everyone Dilates a Triangle.  At this point, my students had a rough understanding of dilations and I wanted to sharpen their skills and had arguably one of my best lessons of the year:

Create a Dilation Poster

I assigned each group to make a poster based on their knowledge of dilations and a series of videos.  I created 4 videos that I embedded to loop in an Keynote presentation.  Each video had a few questions designed to deepen understanding of a part of dilation understanding.  At the end of the videos, each group put together a poster collating all of their ideas on one dilation poster. While this was a great lesson, I spent 3 days on it and could have organized it better.  Regardless of the organization, I will definitely stick with the  idea for summarizing concepts.  Students were really engaged and had great conversations.

I have completed the dilation portion of the unit and realized that the Statue of Liberty lesson would fit better as a bridge between dilations and similarity proofs.

This has been my best unit of the year so far and far better than last year.  The resources from Lisa are amazing and a2i as well.  I am lucky to have access to both.

Technology v2014

I plan on testing out a bunch of technology tools this year.  Over the years, I have experimented with a number of different technologies to support me in teaching math.  First was the hardware, I decided to go with Apple.  While I had a variety of personal reasons, the education reason is that from what I have seen, Apple has better education software.

My decisions so far…

Keynote – I tested Smart Notebook software for a couple of years and found that it was solid.  My one quibble with it was that the Adobe Flash timer crashed my Macbook once a day when I switch rooms for teaching.  When I switched to Keynote and got a quicktime timer from iPresentee, I found a stable simple and featured presentation software.

Omni Graph Sketcher – This is a quick graph design software that I can create everything from graph paper to lines to parabolas in a format that is easily copied to to jpeg or png format.  It is available by just searching for it on the internet.  I do not think new versions will be created. 😦

Evernote – As part of my job, I observe other teachers.  To capture and organize the information, I set up a notebook for each teacher and record a note titled with the date and time for each observation.  It is quick and easy.

Schoology – Last year I transitioned from Edmodo to Schoology because I wanted a system that had a more robust assessment engine.  After a bit of work, I ported all of the Geometry NY State Regents questions to schoology and organized them by standard.  While porting them over, I took advantage of the “Fill in the Blank” question type by taking many of the multiple choice questions and converting them over to “Fill in the Blank”.

Technology that I am going to try…

Evernote/Skitch (definitely) – Throughout the course of the year, I plan on building a shared notebook stack with taking a an Omni Graph Sketch or a PDF as a starting point. (Students will get a print out to annotate as we do it as a class.)  I will then annotate it with Skitch with the class.  I will then put each in notebook for each class.  This Evernote notebook will serve as a note source for any student that is absent.

Remind (definitely) – Too many people keep telling me how good this is.  I will set up a class assignment schedule and based on the interest from the parents/students, I will continue running it.  I will schedule all assignments and tests dates to be texted and of course parent teacher nights.

Ten Marks (should be) – This website seems gray for fluency practice so that students will not be surprised by the traditional exams at the end of the year and hopefully will provide some feedback on what they do know.

Three Rings (Should be) – Portfolios have been a dream of mine for a couple of years. I see Three Rings as an easy way for students to collect and share evidence of work in the class.  If I can get a good approach to a rubric, I will roll this out in the second or third unit. If anyone has recommendations on how to successfully use portfolios in math class, I am all ears.

I just hope that I am not taking on too much…

A slow return

So I have been debating whether or not to return to the blogging world.  Last year, I found building a 180 blog the first time that I did Geometry to be draining for a number of reasons.  The daily slog of a teacher is tough enough without recording it.  And… when you are recording with your own critical eye, it becomes numbing after a while.  I found that while I was recording a bunch of things, not much of it was ready for prime time nor up to my standards.  I read all of these blogs of amazing things happening in classrooms across the country and realize that it requires an amazing amount of effort and time.  I am all for the effort, but my time is parsed between family and work.  I am trying my hardest to keep that balance on the right side of the scale.  I do not know where the journey is going to take me this year, but I have made a couple of decisions.

1. I want to get back to blogging, but not at a daily pace.
2. I will keep a diary to record my successes and failures, but want to start by sharing things that work or ideas that seem cool to me that I want to try.
3. I want to be a more active member in the community of MBToS for the sharing, knowledge and to give back where I can.
4. I want to be a better teacher.  If any of the first three prevent that from happening, I will cut back on them.  However, I believe that they are necessary for it to happen.

I also want to spend more time editing blogs before sending them out.  Most of my posts from last year were undercooked and needed more time in the oven.  

I am excited to be back and will be sharing some of my ideas on how I am going to start my year shortly.


Why do I blog?

Over the past week or two, I have reflected on why I blog and what it does for me after I saw a bunch of tweets from Chris Robinson (@absvalteaching) and Kate Nowak (@k8nowak).  This leads into my response to Kate’s request to MTBoS…

1. What hooked you on reading the blogs? Was it a particular post or person? Was it an initiative by the nice MTBoS folks? A colleague in your building got you into it? Desperation?
Thinking/Intellectual Stimulation.  I wanted to have intellectual stimulation and did not have people in my school that were stretching my thinking pedagogically and mathematically. I interviewed a math teacher candidate that mentioned that I should check out Dan Meyer.  I jumped down the rabbit hole of ideas and resources in his blog and got hooked.
2. What keeps you coming back? What’s the biggest thing you get out of reading and/or commenting?
Resources.  I started bouncing from Dan Meyer’s blog to Fawn Nguyen’s to David Wee’s.  The online interaction improves my teaching and makes me want to get better and the resources make me better. Without it, I would get bored.
3. If you write, why do you write? What’s the biggest thing you get out of it?
This past spring, I started lurking on twitter.  Slowly, I started commenting on other’s blogs and got up the nerve to start my own.  I started by created a library of resources on my blog and decided to do a 180 blog on my first year of teaching Geometry.  As of yesterday, I have decided to stop the 180 blog.  This was not based on workload or interest, but more of the fact that in my first year of teaching Geometry I can clearly see the first big steps I must make to improve my teaching in the topic.  I will discontinue what I consider primarily blithering babble and will blog when I want some ideas so that the few that are willing provide input do.  The biggest thing I get is great interactions.
4. If you chose to enter a room where I was going to talk about blogging for an hour (or however long you could stand it), what would you hope to be hearing from me? MTBoS cheerleading and/or tourism? How-to’s? Stories?
The biggest thing I would want to get is how to build a network of people that will interact and provide input on my work as I do on theirs.  MTBoS is a great group and I enjoy reaching out to it.  The challenge is that it seems like many of the MTBoS relationships are forged through many years of working together online and at conferences.  I have to say that I do get solid responses from those I reach out to if the response is simple.  Deeper responses require more time and more thought are tougher to get responses because I believe that everyone has bandwidth limitations.
If you were standing in a room, I would like to hear how to build a math social network by effectively using twitter to support a blog to support an internet persona that connects with other math teaching professionals.

Day 45 – SAS

Protractors are no fun for the students.  The lesson SAS – Drawing triangles was great for the students to discover and learn the material.  I do believe that learning protractors will pay dividends in the long run.  Important to note that students take a long time measuring and labeling triangles.  It is a complete investment in time.

Day 44 – Angles, Angles, Angles

So we finished the proof today and I learned that my mechanics in doing proofs from 1985 was a bit rusty and I have to rebuild them up again.  I expect my skills to be able to find the solution for each and every math problem on the fly.  This is not the case; and today proved it.  I did quickly transition to another activity “Angles, Angles, Angles” from the upcoming edition of Meaningful Math – Geometry.  This was a great transition from the proof to other applications of angles.  Students did struggle at first, but then were successful in doing the activity.  The only challenge was creating an entry point for students who were not building the bridge between Algebra and Geometry.  As I plan going forward, I look forward to mixing proofs, Algebra applications and hands on discovery to give the variety that students need to be successful.

Day 43 – Continuing Proofs

Today, I spent time allowing all of the students use the protractor and try to discover the parallel proof for the angle sum property.  None of the students arrived at the proof, and all of them tried.  I am not sure if I took the best approach on this.  I believe there is some scaffolding to get the students to arrive at line of logic for a proof.  I will be continuing the proof on Tuesday with a scaffold of all students trying to find the congruent angles and review the definitions to get to a place where they can possibly see a path to a solution.  I am reluctant to hand the proof to them, but will probably scaffold to the position.  I do like the productive struggle.

Day 42 – Protractors and Proofs

Going into Geometry, I knew there were a bunch of manipulatives necessary, but did not realize the extent.  Since I feel like I have to supply most of them, this has been a challenge.  I do remember the challenges of using a protractor during the old Math A days.  However, students did not have to be proficient in using it.  Now, they need to know it to get through all of the different types of proofs and postulates of triangles.  I think they will realize it is a necessity to gain the skill to prevent being annoyed with themselves.  At least, I hope that is the case.  If I remember, I will comment on this later.

Once the students tooled around bit with the protractor measuring angles of a triangle, we set out to prove the angle sum property.  This is the first proof that we are doing as a class and all of them are struggling.  I had all of them be quiet for 10 minutes studying the materials and then had a bunch of discussions at the table and as a class to get them further.  Tomorrow will be a continuation of the journey into the proof.

Day 41 – Proof in another class

So I had the chance to roll out the different versions of the proof in the honors class.  It went seamlessly.  Students finished the class trying to construct their own proof with moderate success. In my other class, they were trying to relearn how to use a protractor.  One period was not enough, I will continue with the lesson and finish in the next day with a proof about the interior angles of a triangle.  I have to remember to build in time for a pair share in some of the discussions.  Many of the protocols are falling apart because I am not reinforcing them.  It is time to get back to basics.