Second Breakfast: Day 110

I have been blogging about class personalities on and off lately. Today the different personalities of my geometry classes were incredibly evident. When given an assignment 3/4 block sat almost silently for 30 minutes, working on the proofs. 6/7 block chatted and laughed (and worked!) but were much louder and rowdier. The assignment was finished in both, but the atmosphere was completely differently.

Now I want to say that I am the same me both times, but now I am wondering if I react and compose myself in different ways based on how classes go. I think ultimately there are several variables outside of my control, but I do still have control of the classroom no matter which class is there.

Anyway, I didn’t do anything innovative or exciting today.

In Foundations I gave them a set of multi-step equations from the maze activity we completed last week. They didn’t recognize them until I dropped very obvious hints. Foundations is currently grounded from Kahoot because someone stuck bots in and messed up the data last time. This has made reviewing a little tedious, but I holding them accountable. I said no Kahoot for two weeks so we are doing no Kahoot for two weeks.

In Geometry I gave them a short group activity (they did well) and them an individual / pairs worksheet. Then we reviewed and then a skills check.

Sometimes learning is just a grind.

Thanks for reading.


Second Breakfast: Day 108 Or Right Ribbons

I was really jazzed in my 3/4 geometry class today.

I gave them the following activity as a way to review properties of equivalence and congruence and push them to think and apply the concepts without having to understand a new  definition.

The activity itself just went okay. My 3/4 suffered through me fumbling it the first time. I overexplained and didn’t give them time to try it themselves. I did a better job for 6/7, but I was still maybe giving too much help.

What I want to talk about is what happened during this activity in 3/4 though. I asked the students if a line could be perpendicular to itself. They said no. I asked why not. They said it would have to intersect itself. Great so far. Then I drew a line that intersected itself. A student said “That looks like a ribbon.” This inspired me.

“Okay. So lines don’t intersect themselves, but these ribbons do. What if they intersect themselves at right angles? Then they would be right ribbons. What else could happen?”

Student: “It could be less than 90!”

Me: “Exactly! And what else?”

Student: “More than 90 degrees. Obtuse ribbons!”

I was really excited about this and tried to convey the fact that they were doing brand new math with me. (I mean, someone has probably studied something like a ribbon I am sure, but I was really trying to get them to see that we were doing what mathematicians do: defining a new object and then playing around with it.) They weren’t nearly as enthusiastic as I am. I may create an assignment in the future that tries to help them discover some loop properties. The students were excited, but they did come up with some new ideas or at last connect new ideas to old ideas.

I have been really lucky with that particular class.

Thanks for reading.


Second Breakfast: Day 107 Or Norms Aren’t Norms If I Only Say They Are Norms

It is normally (hehe) around this time in the last 3 semesters that I have done this job that my classes start to come apart. The initial good behavior of a new class and new teacher has worn away and it’s only what I have built up that remains. And up until this semester what I had built up was lacking.

But this semester hasn’t been that way.

Part of it is that is just the luck of the draw with the students I have and what classes they are in together, but I also think that I have gotten better at building and sustaining culture.


So. Norms.

Mr. Dr. David Butler has a great shirt. It says “A line is a line if I say it’s a line” and it has a picture of the Fano plane. It’s fantastic. I bring this up because I stole a lot of my classroom norms that I want to build in my class from David’s 100 Factorial Norms for Working Together. You can see his norms reflected very closely in mine from the first day slide.

1st Day V2.2

In particular I want to point out the “Say you don’t understand”, “Ask what’s happened so far” and “Say that you still don’t understand”.

Because today after I had given the students time to work individually or in pairs on some conditional logic questions, we were going over the solutions as a class. We finished up and I asked the students to submit the work in the bin. One student raised his hand and said,

“Mr. Belcher, I have a question.”


“What are the answers to five through seven?”

“Five through seven?!”

“Yeah. Five through seven.”

“What were you doing for the last 10 minutes?”

“Mr. B, you know I don’t be paying attention.”

“Y’all. Someone help [name redacted]. The rest of you, submit your work and get ready for notes.”


A line may be a line if I say it’s a line, but is a norm a norm if I only say it’s a norm? Does his question count as “Ask what’s happened so far”? Is it a case of saying he doesn’t understand?

Clearly in the moment my gut reaction was no. I handed him off to another student to effectively copy the answers and I blew off his request for help.

Was I violating the norm? Or is the idea that you have been actively engaged in the activity implicit in the norm? And if it is implicit, it is still clear? Do I need to clarify that my willingness to answer a question I have already answered is contingent on you trying to understand the first time or the tenth time? Because to me it is obvious that a norm isn’t a norm if I only say it’s a norm. It’s only a norm if, well, if you’ll forgive the tautology, if it’s a norm!

I don’t know if I really broke that norm today, but I think I should have pulled that student aside today after class and spoke with him about expectations and why I moved the class on without helping him.

Thanks for reading!


A Little Warm Up Game Theory

Okay so Howie Hua thought it would be amusing to tell his class of pre-service teachers to follow me on Twitter. A lot of those students evidently did not yet have Twitter accounts so they made new ones.

And followed me.

Right after making accounts.

Normally when you get followed by a bunch of blank accounts it means that you have caught the attention of some bot-net that is aggressively following you and that’s what I thought it was.

So I started blocking them.

Howie’s bot students.

But then I noticed Howie followed a couple of them and I see education retweets and I put 2 and 2 together since Howie had mentioned I had come up in his class recently. (I was probably being an idiot on Twitter because, let’s face it, when am I not being an idiot on Twitter.)

So, sorry for blocking you, Howie’s not-bot students. I thought you were not not-bots. I unblocked you.


After I realized they were students and not bots I decided to ask them a self-referential multiple choice question, which are fun. But then it inspired me to ask my own students the same question.

So this was today’s warm up. Go ahead and answer with a real or fake name if you want. I already collected the data I need.

Here’s Foundations Of Algebra

Screenshot 2018-02-13 at 4.28.51 PM

CP Geometry (3/4 Block)

Screenshot 2018-02-13 at 4.29.28 PM

And CP Geometry (6/7 Block) (Who I cajoled the most to really be careful and talk to each other. They also listened the best but alas one student didn’t cooperate, which was funny.)

Screenshot 2018-02-13 at 4.30.58 PM

I didn’t draw as much out of my classes as I wanted to / should have with this activity but it was still fun. I may do another self-referential / game-theory question in the future and make it competitive rather than cooperative and offer bonus points as an incentive.

In any case, hi Howie’s class. @ me anytime on Twitter!


Second Breakfast: Day 106 Or Staggered I Don’t Know Yet

You need to help me come up with a name for something that I have been trying (inspired by Becca Phillips and others).

It’s like Staggered Submission or Delayed Collection or something like that.

I give the students an assignment and time to work in class on it.

I follow the assignment up with a Kahoot or Google form that matches the assignment exactly and they enter the answers.

A problem that I would run into using Go Formative every single day last year (my first year) is that students needed their computers for it. I love computers. Computers have done wonderful things for math education. But sometimes I just need device free desks with paper and pencils and kids writing down the math. And the computer (even computer collection) can get in the way of doing that.

But if you go full analogue it’s a pain to collect answers. You have get a stack of messy papers for which someone forgot to label properly their name, date, and assignment and you’re carrying them around and you have to manually grade. You can’t get away from that completely and I don’t think we should. There’s value in grading some written work. But! But. It sure is nice to have a problem set auto-graded and get an instant picture of who did what and who maybe understands what.

So I stagger it.

“No, not tech right now. Just these problems. Think about them. Try them. Write stuff down.”


“Okay please take this quizlet / kahoot / google form and answer the questions. They should look very familiar.”


I don’t have a catchy name for it. I’m just saying. Stagger it a little. It helps.

Thanks for reading.