Rookie Year: Day 110

I am not sure why but I was really having a hard time on Friday despite the fact that Thursday went so well.

I was still having some chest pain and was generally dreading going to work. I took a sick day on Friday and I didn’t finish my Thursday blog post until just a few minutes ago.

Today I borrowed some Cornell notes on monomials and polynomials from a colleague (Thank you, Katie!) and then I had them practice Diamond Math Problems to slowly acclimate them to the skills they will need very soon for factoring polynomials. This worksheet generator was really nice for creating the diamond problems. 

All of my classes went well, but my 5/6 block is still struggling with behavior. I moved some students and had to ask another student to leave. They improved marginally, but I think there will be more issues in the future.

Thanks for reading.



Rookie Year: Day 109 or My Dawg Pascal

Today I gave my students the very excellent activity from Jo Boaler’s YouCubed on Pascal’s Triangle.

I modified it for my own purposes, but essentially the heart of the activity was the same. My students had to complete a half written triangle and then answer some questions. Before we began I gave a quick introduction by talking about how mathematicians don’t usually do what we sometimes do in math class, which is copy the procedure that has been shown to us. Like Jo writes in the activity, I told the students that mathematicians look for patterns. I also told my students that the triangle is named after one of my “dowgs” (my dead, old, white guys). I always get some nice eye-rollers for that joke.

I was really pleased with how well this activity went. There were so many light bulb moments for the students, with plenty of verbal exclamations.

“OH my goodness, y’all.”

“Oh SNAP I see it!”

*hand smacking desk noise* “DUDE no way”


It really was a pleasure to facilitate the lesson. (Well, I did have some off-task behavior in my final block that was draining, but for the most part it all went really well. Some new seat assignments are happening for that block tomorrow.) I kept wishing I could simultaneously take notes and facilitate. This was a lesson that I should have recorded to play back and analyze because I feel like my “end-of-the-day what do I remember” list in my head just doesn’t cut it.

And my students really surprised me. They saw patterns that I did not expect them to see and sometimes even patterns I had not yet noticed. In particular I was really excited because one of the questions is about triangular numbers and I got two different definitions of triangular numbers from a group of students and BOTH of them were legitimate definitions.

The sheet from YouCubed gave the first two triangular numbers (3 and 6) and then asked the students to find the next two, writing down both the number and a representation. One student in the group saw the “traditional” definition of triangular numbers and drew pictures for 10 and 15, the “correct” next numbers. But another student saw 3 and 6, assumed the pattern was to add 3 every time and said 9 and 12. But this was great because she drew triangles with dots that were simply missing the middle. She still had legitimate triangular numbers. They were at odds about who was correct when I stepped near their group to listen. I asked the first student why he had the triangles the way he did and he answered,  “Gravity, it’s like stacking cups. You have to have middle dots.” Which I thought was a spectacular answer. I drew both types on the board and then had the whole class debate. (I couldn’t get them to debate as much as I wanted to, but they were able to recognize and extend the pattern in both cases.)

It really was a nice day. My take-aways for the day:

  1. I need to figure out how to integrate this style of lesson into other tasks, even when they are not as open ended as this one.
  2. Sometimes it is the class and not the task. My final block did not respond well at all and the issue was classroom behavior rather than the task itself.


Thanks for reading.






Rookie Year: Day 108

We took a unit test today.

It did not go as well as I would have liked (which is typical of my experiences so far) but actually it also did not go as well as I expected given the answers that I got from my students during the review game yesterday. I thought that they understood it better than the test is saying they are.

I spoke with several coworkers this week about how much time I am investing here at school and how often I take work home. I am really going to try to keep school and home separate. I don’t mind coming in early like I have been doing–that actually relaxes me for the day because I feel more prepared mentally. But I am going to try really hard to leave at 4 when my contract hours are up and not take anything with me. What I get done I get done. Instead of grading Friday quizzes over the weekend and returning to students on Monday, I am going to grade them at work and return them a little later. (I am aiming for Wednesday each week.)

I am worried that I will simply not be prepared to do my job with this plan but I need to find a healthy balance and I’m convinced after my trip to the ER last week that my current balance is not.

It does help that I planned the next three weeks of class while my students took their exam today. I will see how long I can keep that up.

Thanks for reading.


Rookie Year: Day 107

Yesterday we reviewed for a unit 8 exam by playing Grudgeball. I think I will need to be careful about which groups I allow to form while playing this game. It encourages friendly rivalry and investment just like I want it to, but some of my students in the middle block yesterday were starting to slide down into some nastiness which I had to quash.

I also need to look for some other review games to play as well because by the end of the day I was bored with Grudgeball. I need to find a few others and give each class a choice of which game they would like to play.

I may try to modify Zombie Graveyard into a team sport and add some extra layers. Any other review games that you have found to be effective and fun would be appreciated.

I went to small group bible study last night and totally forgot to write this post so I am writing it today while my students take their unit test. I’ll be writing again here soon for today’s post during planning in 7th haha.

Thanks for reading.


Rookie Year: Day 106

Although I have written a Friday’s post on Saturday previously, I really meant to write last night. But Lauren and I went on a date once I got off work and by the time I got home I was too tired to write anything. And then we took a day trip to Charlotte with Benjamin today so I am just now getting home.

With my ER trip this week looking more and more like life related stress than a heart problem, I am struggling to take the time to write this today. I thought I was doing a good job with the work life balance, but perhaps not. I don’t want to give up my habit of daily blogging my first year, but it is one more thing I do each day on top of planning my classes, grading papers, and administering two online sections of a calculus course. It would be nice to not have a second job during the school year, but I think I would be even more stressed out if we did not have that money.


Thanks for reading.


Rookie Year: Day 105 or Ketchup

Overall I would say that today was pretty middling. After my ambulance ride and day off I felt really behind coming in to class today. My students didn’t really get the work I left for them done, which is kind of understandable, but still putting us in a bit of a time crunch for the unit. I needed to talk about two separate ideas that I had originally planned to introduce on separate days–the two days that I was gone.

On the bright side, today was the first day I felt that I successfully had my classes do the following cycle:

Short Notes with Direct Instruction


Short Notes with Direct Instruction


I messed up this pattern in first block–I talked for too long–but I had it down by second block. I am also feeling a time crunch because we have extended advisory tomorrow so all of my classes will be shortened. We may have to push back the test one or two days. We shall see. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if we had to do that. I can just feel the state EOC breathing down all of my kids necks and it’s like I’m the only one that notices right now.

On a classroom discipline note, I have noticed that my classes have become more lax but are still not unmanageable. I did have to threaten detention for a few jokers in last block, but they shaped up when I ominously starting writing on pieces of paper at my desk.

I know that I am still not getting the kind of classroom collaboration I want out of my classes, but my students resist me when I try to shift the focus from my thinking and explanations to theirs. I am sure that subconsciously I am also resisting this because it is more comfortable for me and easier. But I do want them to be the ones working on problems and talking. When I try that I meet massive roadblocks. I am still not sure how to get them to do it. It’s a little frustrating because none of the suggestions people have given me have worked so far. I’m not giving up though.

I did have a few students give great explanations of their thinking today, but they wanted to tell me privately and not share with the whole class. I wish I had made them share with the whole class, but I also haven’t figured out how to encourage this without embarrassing students. It’s not so much about at atmosphere of encouraging each other (I think I have done a decent job of that my first year) but that some students are just plain old shy.

Argh. I’m going to stop stressing about it for now though.

Thanks for reading.


Day Off and Playing Games

I took the day off today to rest after Tuesday’s ER trip.

On previous times when I have taken a sick day I have not increased my official day count so I am going to continue that here. I wrote one yesterday because I was at school in the morning, I just ended up leaving earlier than normal.

But today I did not go at all so I won’t update the count.

Instead I want to write about something I have been thinking about lately, which is gamification of the math classroom and how there is a difference between gamification of the entire class and gamifcation.

Here’s what I mean. One trend that I have seen lately with the advent of more ubiquitous ed-tech is gamification of the entire classroom. I get targeted ads in my Twitter about turning my class into an RPG where students “level up”. Learning itself becomes a game that students play (and one could argue that students were doing this before gamification was a formal idea). They earn rewards to complete the class. I am not a fan of this type of gamification.

But I do like to play games in my class and I think that kind of gamification has uses. We play grudgeball to review. I just wrote about zombie graveyard as a way to practice. I have either a Quizlet or Kahoot for my students at least weekly. I don’t mind this kind of gamification.

I’m not sure why I prefer one type of gamification over the other and I need to think about it more so that I can more properly express my thoughts. In particular I am having trouble fully articulating my opposition to the first time of gamification and what the real difference between the two is.

Any, I’ve got a day off to enjoy and I am going to continue to do that and rest up.

Thanks for reading.