It’s going so right, something MUST be wrong.

Ok – I apologize for the sense this will not make as I write. I’m exhausted, sweaty, bruised, covered in mud/grass, I don’t want to see a deck of cards for a LONG time and I have very little brain left (see the end of the blog for why – it’s not as bad as you’re thinking).

By the way, some of you don’t know me very well or this is your first time to my blog, so welcome to the crazy – my apologies in advance. Do not come here looking for divine inspiration and professionalism. My A.D.H.D. needs an outlet and, because I prefer to KEEP my job, I just ramble about whatever’s on my mind. So unlike other amazing bloggers you may know who overwhelm you with awesomeness, my blog is NOT written that way. You’ll love it or hate it and I’m ok with that.

Anyway, I’ve taught Algebra 2 at my current location for about 5 years. I mostly get the 10th graders who already think they’re hot snot in the intelligence arena. Quadratics, however, has always been a challenge for them. They’ve never had to REALLY THINK before and the introduction of quadratics is usually where the “fit hits the shan”. Every semester I change it up a little hoping to tame the beast, but they always freak regardless of what I do.

…until this semester… they’re kickin’ butt and taking names. And I don’t know why. So I’m gonna give you the outline/lowdown on what I did in the past and what I’m doing now. I’m only really blogging this for the 12 or so people that asked me to – I still think you’re not going to get anything out of it, but here ya go:

What I’ve done in the past:
1) Graph quadratics (standard, intercept, and vertex form)
2) Real world problems re: graphing quadratics (w/ and w/o graphing calc)
3) Factoring quadratics
4) Solve quadratics by factoring
5) Real world problems re: solve by factoring (w/ and w/o graphing calc)
6) Solve quadratics by taking square root
7) Real world problems re: square roots (w/ and w/o graphing calc)
8) Non-real numbers (imaginary/complex)
9) Solve quadratics by quadratic formula
10) Real world problems re: quadratic formula (w/ and w/o graphing calc)
11) Graph quadratic inequalities (include word problems)
12) Quadratic regression (lots of word problems)

So basically I started with the picture of a quadratic, introduced the algebra, and intertwined the algebra and the graphing and the word problems. Logically and by scaffolding, that SHOULD work and make connections to the kids, but it just didn’t (or I just SUCKED at teaching it). They weren’t used to doing many intense word problems in previous classes and I guess the combo of the two just blew their minds.

So this is what I did this semester:

1) “Fast and Furious Factoring” (or F^3).
Factoring SHOULD be a review, but most of these kids haven’t factored anything since 8th grade Algebra 1. I started with quadratics in the form x^2 + bx + c. We “muscled” through a review of about 5 of those together as a class, then they did 5 on their own and discussed their answer with a partner. THEN it was a F^3 challenge: 10 factoring problems (all the same type) and they had 3 minutes to do it. Three minutes sounds like a lot but it really wasn’t for them. They don’t like being “timed” (even though the SAT and ACT are timed) and they have issues with it. So I would loudly announce 2 minutes remaining, 1 minute remaining, 30 seconds, 10 seconds, then TIME. As students finished during the 3 minutes, they ran to bring me their papers. If they got them all right, they got a sticker (one of those old school foil stars – I was out of cool stickers). If they got ANYTHING wrong, I could tell them how many were wrong, but not which ones. But they could still correct and get a sticker AS LONG AS they got me the correct 10 within the 3 minutes. I wish you could’ve heard them. “GAAAAHHH, Ms. ApproxNorm!! This is so stressful!!” “Grrrrrr!! I thought I wasn’t gonna get done! You kept SHOUTING time at us, it stressed me out!!!” “Um, yeah, Ms. ApproxNorm. You’re annoying. No offense.” heh heh heh
So after we finished that form, we did the same pattern for the following forms, each time discussing what would have to change and WHY:
** x^2 – bx + c
** x^2 + bx – c
** x^2 – bx – c
Then all crap broke loose because after the last set of F^3, I threw in a “Double Jeopardy” round (that’s right, TWO stickers) and I mixed all 4 forms. I gave them four minutes to do 10 problems, but I just did totally random crazy junk during that four minutes. Loud stories about crazy crap that happened to me that week, out-of-tune songs, whatever I could think of to just throw them off their game. Ohhhhhhh my word, they HATED me for that. But it was crazy with a purpose they didn’t understand yet. Then I hit them with the same format, now introducing a coefficient for the quadratic term:
** ax^2 + bx + c
** ax^2 – bx + c
** ax^2 + bx – c
** ax^2 – bx – c
Then here we go again – a Double Jeopardy round. Before I started the round, I started this crazy “people of Wal-mart” story that went on and on and on… and the kids were FREAKING out. “Ms. ApproxNorm?!! Just start the round!!! Geeez!!” And JUST when they thought I was going to ramble for another 5 minutes, I said, “GO!!!!” and they all went, “AUUUUGHHH!! Ms. ApproxNorm!!!!!”

So why all the craziness?? They need to control their anxiety when under time constraints. If they can be quick and accurate under THOSE conditions, then there’s hope that the SAT/ACT won’t have such a hold on their insecurities. Or at least that’s my idea. 🙂

For the FIRST time, no one failed my “First Round Factoring” Quiz. Or my 2nd… or my 3rd. Blew my mind.

2) Solve Quadratics by Factoring
I actually left this as a challenge for my students while I was at a meeting. I left a hand-written sheet (no, I’m not proud, but was out of ink) to complete after a quiz where I’d showed them about the zero product property, I worked a few problems for them, and then challenged them to teach each other how to do it before I got back. I didn’t expect them to even put any effort into it. But I got back and they said, “Ms. ApproxNorm… where was the challenge?” Yeah – my kids addressed ME in a #childplease moment. So that was that. Two objectives down.

3) Solve Quadratics by Square Roots (and unexpectedly, by Quadratic Formula)
This usually takes me an entire block to teach all the different crazy ways they might have to do this. From x^2 + 7 = 15 to (x – 4)^2 = 28, kids have historically STRUGGLED with this topic (which to me is a “no brainer”). Both my Alg2 classes picked this up in no time whatsoever, so I was completely caught off guard. So I thought, “Ok, I can stop class 40 minutes early and let them be bored after they finished homework. Nope – I was about to take this good luck for a spin and see where we went with it. So within the same class I started the next topic – solve by quadratic formula. Now I know what you’re thinking. “Girl, you haven’t covered non-real numbers.” Yeah, I know that. I stuck to the ones that would only have real solutions and hoped it wouldn’t come around and bite me in the butt later. They rocked that too (thanks to a jingle they learned in Algebra 1).

**again, this is KILLING me to just do algebraic manipulation. BUT I’d tried the other way 10 different times with the same results, so in my mind I’m thinking, “Let me show them how to use all the tools in the toolbox first (algebraic stuff) and THEN we’ll build a treehouse (real world stuff).” I’ve never done this approach before and it made me feel like a total “drill ’em and kill ’em” LOSER. But to be honest, the kids were entertained (mostly because of the competition, challenge and the fact that I’m goofy as heck) and they were doing GREAT. Plus, as freakin’ clumsy as I am in real life, you HAVE to show me how something works before you expect me to APPLY it.

4) Non-real numbers, graphing quadratics (sort of) and quadratic formula (again).
Ok – at first this was a halting point. They could do all the algebraic manipulations, but they couldn’t understand how the HECK people came up with that crazy imaginary number, i. THANK GOD for @gwaddell’s presentation at TMC12! (Link will go here) Once I showed them how the non-real numbers were related to the reflected parabola’s intercepts and the “shared” line of symmetry, they were GOOD TO GO. So non-real numbers were non-problemo and FOR FUN, they wanted to go back to quadratic formula and use their new “knowledge” on solving quadratics w/ non-real solutions. Who the heck ARE these alien children????

So now we’ve covered all the tools of the trade and know what quadratics look like algebraically – let’s see what these suckers look like in 2-dimension function world.

5) Graphing quadratics.
Do your kids freak about the different forms, finding the vertex, etc.? Mine do too… or at least they DID. The kids were amazing. “Ok, Ms. ApproxNorm, well DUH. Vertex form allows you to start with the vertex, intercept form allows you to start with the intercepts (and then we find the vertex on the symmetry line which is half-way, so no big deal). And then you’ve got this standard form – finding the vertex is related to quadratic formula, so what’s the big deal? #MsApproxNormPLEASE” I’m FLOORED. I did an exit pass to check to see if I was crazy, but no – THEY GOT IT.

6) Welcome to the Jungle, er Real World
So here we go… GAME TIME. Did my “method to the madness” work? Or will it bite me in the butt? Let’s see…
So we talk about the h(t) = -16t^2 + v0t + h0 formula, where it comes from, what the “pieces” mean… and then I intro’ed their first “real world” problem. “Some rogue former student with a grudge is holding Ms. ApproxNorm by her ankle from the top of a water tower. She is literally HANGING 168 feet above the ground. Assuming no superhero (or boyfriend musician *cough* GAVIN *cough*) swoops in to save her, how long until she becomes a red spot on the pavement below?” –> I realize this is gross and morbid… and gross. But the kids LOVE this and it works for me, so back off. 🙂

Anyway, I honestly cringed inside and thought, “Ok – THIS is going to kill them. You’re about to see where you ROYALLY screwed up, Hedgiepoo.”

But it didn’t happen… They got it. I changed it so I was shot in the air and they got it. I was thrown to the field from the press box of the football field and they got it. I shot myself from a cannon. I was dropped by the CIA from a stealth bomber and they got it. Sometimes I was caught, sometimes I wasn’t. Didn’t matter.


I’m not finished with quadratics (midterms and all), but this is just NOT the norm for what I’m used to in Alg2. Is it good? Is it bad? They all had the same teachers as every other sophomore before them. So what’s different?? I refuse to think any of this has to do with my awesome teaching skills (because let’s face it – I have none). But maybe the “tools in the toolbox” method actually WORKED?????

Holy cheeze-its – that would be AHMAHZHANG if I finally found the solution to the biggest zit I’ve ever faced in Algebra 2.

But only time will tell if it was the right decision. I hope I didn’t screw ’em up. I know a lot of you will disagree with my layering, but I SWEAR I’ve tried it every other way over the last 11 semesters. I’m still not 100% convinced THIS was right.

I guess we’ll see.

For the NONE of you that care, I started doing athletic training a few weeks ago. Hardest and most physically demanding thing I’ve ever done, but HOLY CRAP it’s also the most amazing and rewarding thing I’ve ever done.

But I’d invest in band-aids, Epsom salt and Icy Hot prior to starting. 🙂

I wrote this blog after we played “Poker”. Every suit represented a task (burpees, situps, butterfly kicks, pushups, jokers were suicide runs). Our trainer shuffled the deck (seven times at MY request). Whatever suit he pulled was the task we had to do – whatever card he pulled represented the number of times we had to do it (aces were 11, in case you wondered). So, for example, he pulled the 10 of hearts (which is torture because hearts = burpees and WE ALL HATE BURPEES) so we had to drop and immediately give him 10 burpees. Then he pulled the 8 of clubs, so we had to drop and give him 8 military-style pushups). I’ve never felt so “useful” and so challenged in my life. “Ms. ApproxNorm?! He pulled a heart? What’s the probability it’s a low number?” Dammit – WHY did I tell these people I taught math??? But it was amazing. We had to go until we went through the ENTIRE deck (which took about 27 minutes). No workout is ever the same but ALL are completely brutal. The day before, we did our “usual” warm up (run 400 meters, 50 jumping jacks, 20 squats, 20 lunges, 20 pushups, high knees for 10 meters, butt kicks for 10 meters, punter’s kick for 10 meters, karaoke slides for 10 meters, run 200 meters),then we did had to do 12 rounds of 20 squats, 15 sit ups (all the way back up), 10 pushups rotated and completed within less than 2 minutes (so you could catch your breath before doing another round). HOWEVER, I’ve gotten more from this in a few weeks than I’ve gotten from randomly going to the gym over the last few years. I have muscles in places I didn’t know EXISTED, hahahaha.

It’s a great way to clear your head and get all the “grrrrrr” out of your life. If you have a CrossFit-type gym in your area, I HIGHLY recommend it. It’s WORTH the cost, trust me.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.


First Day Back (well, on 8/7)… HOLY CHEEEZITS.

I wanna start this blog post with a request: STAY ON MY BEHIND if I don’t blog. I always say, “I’m gonna do better!” And then two weeks into school I just give up because it’s just too insane: coaching robotics (B.E.S.T. and F.I.R.S.T.), sponsoring Mu Alpha Theta, attending volleyball games (my son thinks the girls are hot… he’s nine… YEAH, pray for me), high school and college football season (#SECbaby), grading, etc. I can think of 1,000 excuses. Harass me. Yell at me. CURSE me if you have to. Just MAKE me blog. I will love you for it… eventually.

I should also warn you that my A.D.D. is in OVERDRIVE and I’m currently working on lesson plans, watching “How to Train Your Dragon”and “Restaurant: Impossible”, and blogging. So if I change tense or topics or tracks in mid-sentence… Surely if you’re reading this YOU KNOW ME and I don’t have to warn you what you’re getting into, right?

The first day back was crazy, but I got a “good luck!” text from my BFF @druinok to start my day (LOVE HER!!!). This wasn’t my first “First Day” rodeo (my 14th year), but when you switch administrators AND new ones come in, you just really don’t know what you’re gonna get. Our seniors were supposed to “parade” to school, eat breakfast as a group, then go to class. And we all know they follow directions, right?


They brought cowbells to school and RAN around school for at least 20 minutes. Wouldn’t be too bad if we had a senior class of 100 or 200… or even 300. But we have almost 400. It was CRAZY. How crazy? I ran out of band-aids from the blisters they had (I’m like “mom” to most of them) from ringing their cowbells. At one point, 15 of them burst into my classroom SWEATY and chased me around the room to hug me (I’ve known most of them since they were 12). I’m sure my sophomore Alg2 class was quite confused to see me running around them in heels trying to escape. But 10th graders are still kind of scared the first day, so that worked to my advantage.

Anyway, I have 2 classes of 10th grade Algebra 2 and one class of regular statistics. I know we’re “supposed” to teach rules and procedures on day one, but I’ve just never done that. If you do, I’m not judging you whatsoever. We all have our “jam” for what works for us, and “shocking their brains” works for me. I mean, let’s face it – I’m a shock to deal with on my own. I think the mix of that and being forced to think on the first day just works for me.

So Algebra 2 started class by filling out an index card that I store in a box on my desk. I keep their textbook checkout form, parent communication, and tardies in that box. On the card, I ask them for their 3 favorite songs – my way of creating their class playlist. I also like to shock them with my multiple-music-personality-disorder. They’re shocked at what lyrics I can quote.

Then we move to “the folders”.

Each folder is a different color, which represents the different groups in my classroom. Colors make sense for my brain, so that’s how I roll. The kids are in groups of 3-4 (desks are already in groups when they get there), introduce myself, the course (in case they’re in the wrong class – it happens), and we start. “I’m about to hand you a color folder that corresponds to your group. This is your group color for the rest of the 9-weeks. The first person from your group to get to class every day will come to the front of the room and grab the group folder, but there’s a catch: First rule about the folders? We DO NOT open them until Mrs. Hedge says so. Second rule about folders? We DO NOT open them until Ms. Hedge says so. And the third and FINAL rule about folders? WE DO NOT open them FOR ANY REASON until Ms. Hedge says so.” Yeah, it’s a throwback to “Fight Club“. (I love that movie – don’t judge me.)
So here’s the view once they do open the folder:

Left side of the folder comes first – I would love to say I know where I got this and I might figure it out eventually.

I did figure it out –>HERE they are. I’ve misplaced a page during the crazy, so all 20 aren’t there.

BUT basically it was a set of 20 relationships (ex: height of a candle vs. time, gas used vs. time, etc.). The trick was that the graph included 3 possible functions to represent the relationship.

In groups, students had to highlight the function that they felt best represented that relationship. The discussion in their groups was AHMAHZHANG!!

I don’t answer questions unless it’s with another question (drives them NUTS). They debated and I made sure I used @misscalcul8’s “Two Nice Things” (from #TMC12) as a baseline for being rude when you disagree. This only took about 20 minutes, and then I had pairs of groups debate their choices for functions. As a group, we talked about the “tricky” functions. The one that got them was choosing the function to represent the speed of a dog while it took a nap. They wanted to say that I messed up by not giving them enough information. I just ask, “What makes you think that?” Then they’d say, “Because you didn’t give us a constant function.” I’d ask, “What makes you think that?” “Because you didn’t give us a horizontal line.” “What’s YOUR speed when YOU are asleep?” “Duh, it’s ze… oooohhhhhhh…. I gotcha.” Wink and a fist bump when they figured it out.

So once we finished (i.e., I got bored) with that, we moved to the right side of the folder.

I decided to combine Algebra 1 Bootcamp with @rdkpickle’s “sum of the squares” idea from #TMC12. I set up 3 sets for the next few days: (A) evaluate numeric expressions, (B) simplify algebraic expressions and (C) solve equations in one variable. If you haven’t seen her idea, basically you have 4 problems in 4 blocks and students write the sum of their answers in the circle in the middle. Here’s a VERY BASIC template. I gave those goofy cheap foil stars for awards for groups that finished 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. They freaked out and fought over them (YES, high school kids LUV stickers!).

After they all finished sets A and B, I assigned each group a different problem and we talked about whiteboarding (shout out some love to my buddy, @fnoschese). They couldn’t process the idea at first. Them: “So you WANT us to work it WRONG?” Me: “Yes.” Them: “And it has to be a GOOD mistake?” Me: “I prefer GREAT ones, but we can start with good ones.” Them: “Is this a trick?” Me: “…..what makes you say that?” Them: “Geeeeez, Ms.Hedge… OK! OK! OK!” –>insert evil grin here<– They did a great job at creating the mistakes.

They were AWESOME presenting their work to the class as a collective group. However, the “audience” STRUGGLED at asking leading questions to get the presenters to discover their mistake. So many wanted to immediately point it out. Them: “So isn’t it true that negative three times negative three is POSITIVE nine?” Me: “Rephrase – you pointed out the mistake.” Them: “So when you learned to multiply negatives, did you not understand that squaring a negative makes a positive?” Me: “Nope – that was kinda rude. Rephrase.” Them: sigh. “Sooo, where you have negative three squared, can you help me understand how you got negative nine?” Me: “Sweet! Ok team – answer his question.”

Stats rocked it as usual (not ME, the kids). I love showing the Kristen Gilbert court case and going through that as a full class discussion, but I thought I’d change it up a little bit. I wanted more discussion. I treated it like a real court case and revealed a little of the evidence (or data) at a time to lead them into questioning her innocence. They really liked it (DUH – it’s an awesome case to do in stats if you haven’t ever tried it). Afterwards, we looked at Did You Know 3.0 – kids usually love watching that. Afterwards, I make them write down (in groups) the 3 stats that stood out to them. Not long after that, the bell rang. What’s good about this is that it’s my 3rd time to do this for stats (I do it in A.P. as well) and the kids always respond positively to it. So if you’re teaching stats for the first time, this will get them hooked. I will send you what I’ve got if you want it – just holla.

Tried to recover during my planning block. Let me say that wearing flip flops (if anything) all summer and then starting school in stiletto-heeled boots was NOT very smart. I get a call from the school secretary asking me to come to her office. I thought, “Dang it – WHAT have I done now?” No idea – I was cursing all the way to the office trying to figure out what the crap I’d possibly done to piss somebody off before noon on the first freakin’ day. Me: “Yes?” Secretary: “These are for you.”

OH. MY. GOSH. Flowers??? What the heck? Me: “Are you sure?” Secretary: “Yep – read the card.”

Ok – I shamefully admit that her desk is REALLY tall and those flowers were VERY high and I couldn’t reach, so I took her word for it and went back to my room. Thought they’d be from my mom or my son (via the hubs), but no.


Apparently she’d been scheming behind my back with @mesimmons5, but I can’t be mad because it was just so awesome and appreciated.

My 4th block Algebra 2 KICKS BUTT. I don’t know if it’s the end of the day or the fact that there are almost 30 of them in there or what, but I usually click best with my last class. They were SO into everything and just….. amazing.

I was EXHAUSTED at the end of the day and THANK GOD I had the next day off (weird scheduling, I know).

Hope your first day is awesome, too!

Here are some random shots of my classroom – I’m not finished “decorating” but it’s a start:

Here’s the front wall of my classroom right by the door:

I have a box for each block to turn things in and pick up their folders for the day. I’m going to do @mgolding’s organization outline on the little table for spaces for stapler, hole punch, tape, etc.

This is MY motivation board. It reminds me why I do what I do. It’s not finished (I have to put TMC12 pics up), but it’s behind my desk. Things on it: buttons from TechSmith, an encouraging card from @troystein, pictures of students who have overcome A LOT and are inspirations to me, a postcard from a former student who now lives in Turkey who I am helping apply to colleges in the U.S. so she can come back, a newspaper pic of my kid, a newspaper pic of me and a student, my Harvard banner I got when I attended Project Zero, and a picture of me and my math BFF4EVA who passed away in 2007. If he were still alive, he’d be one of the most followed tweeps and bloggers around. Tragic end to someone I miss every day. Thankfully I teach his son, so I kind of get to see a glimpse of him.

This is my “score” board for kids to help me remember what games/events/performances they’re in every day. If they’re playing or performing, they write it on the board along with the time and location. Most days, I’ll take the kid and go watch. Means a lot to the kids to see you show up.

Going to try this little sucker I got from Target for kids to sign up for tutoring:

We’ll see how it goes.

And YES, it took me a whole WEEK to get the time to finish this blog. Arrrrrgggghhh.

Honors Algebra 2… This could end up being AWESOME or AWFUL.

I’m nervous about throwing this idea out there…. Usually this is about stuff I DID (and therefore cannot CHANGE), so any negative feedback gets the response of “Meh… whatever” when I read it. This, however, is about something I’m planning to DO, so I’m afraid it’s gonna tank. I have great ideas, but 9 times out of 10 they blow up in my face because they’re last minute and not well thought out. This idea is no different, but I usually only share these ideas with my “bestie” @druinok. She’s been teaching so long that she can play “Devil’s Advocate” without making me want to curl up in the fetal position and DIE because she didn’t exactly agree with me. We mulled over this idea for over 2 hours this morning, and she suggested that I throw it to the “wolves”. I’m nervous, not gonna lie. But I’d rather you rip it to shreds or help me think of “what if”‘s than to try it on my own and it BOMB like Vince Neil on ice.

Before you start reading, make sure you read #1 under this blog post first. What I usually teach from Chapters 1 – 3 and most of Ch 5 is covered in the Algebra 1 curriculum. At our school, we squish geometry between Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 and, because of that (I see pros/cons both ways), most kids have forgotten what they learned in Algebra 1. Or maybe “forgotten” isn’t the right word – they HAVEN’T USED it, so it’s buried in the depths of their teenage brains. I spend the first part of my semester course reviewing these topics and that bothers me because we really only do “Algebra 2” the second part of the semester. If this was a class of students who struggled algebraically, that wouldn’t bother me so bad. But my honors class is a crew of kids that will be taking every AP math course we have to offer and, most likely, take upper mathematics in college. This type of kid also gets very restless if they are being taught something they already know how to do (been there, done that, bought the t-shirt). I wanted to do an “Algebra 1 bootcamp” at the beginning of the course so that I could spend more time on concepts in Algebra 2 that they’ll need for pre-cal/trig–>AP Calculus.

So I thought I might take an old middle school teaching strategy for a spin. It’s based on “Survivor Algebra” from When I taught middle school, I had an “advanced 7th grade math” class. For that class, most students would come the first day used to being somewhat smarter than the teachers who taught them (you know the type of kid I’m talking about, dontcha?). I was the first math teacher with a “real” (hahahaha) math degree and this was the first challenging course they’d ever had. BUT I didn’t want to bore them with 6th grade review so we’d do “Survivor Algebra” and it worked REALLY well.

So my thoughts for “Algebra 1 Bootcamp” go somewhat like this:
5-7 MINUTES: Individual Work – Bell activity on Index Cards (see #2 on previous blog)
15-20 MINUTES: Group Work – I’m not going to TEACH the lesson at first because these objectives have been taught before. SO students are going to spend this time looking at problems they’ll be doing for homework that night. Students will skim the material and talk about problems. If they run across a HW problem they want to discuss as a group, the students will set up their paper in “Cornell-type notes” where they work the homework problem on the right and write down any questions they have about it (or the objective) on the left. If the entire group has trouble with a HW problem, they will address that question in the left column of their notes.
15-20 MINUTES: Switch Groups and continue: Students come to a new group and continue the process. Students will start by going over questions they had in their previous group to see if someone in the new group can answer their questions. Once all questions have been covered, they continue to work through problems as a group.
**during both sets of group work, I’m circling groups looking for who is/isn’t participating and listening to the dialogue to see if I can figure out who gets it and who doesn’t.

At the end of the 2nd set of group work, I’m not sure how to go. Should I:
(a) Have a separate section in the room where students who still have questions can group together with me while the remainder work in groups to finish the homework?
(b) “Invite” students to the group with me? Here, invite would mean either you didn’t participate enough for me to feel you earned participation points (REQUIRED by our district in every course) OR you didn’t participate enough for me to know you understand the objectives enough for the day.
(c) Have a “whole class” discussion where we basically clear up any misunderstandings that still exist in the group?

After that (whatever “it” is), students will take the bell activity card (that I’ve returned by this time) and spend the last 2-3 minutes of class working on the “exit pass” problem/question.

The purpose for this version of bootcamp is simple – in high school, I stayed in rows and columns for every class I ever had. In college, during CLASS we stayed the same way but there were many classes that I didn’t have a CLUE what was going on (shocking, I know). I didn’t know how to ask people in my class for help and I had no idea how to study within a group. I’d always relied on my teacher being the sole source of information. What if your instructor SUCKS at explaining stuff? Every one of us remembers the first time it happened to us. It happened to me when I was a junior in college (Calculus 3 – God help me…). My professor made no sense in OR out of the classroom and I had no skills to fall back on to help myself. I almost flunked that class until I found people that were having the same trouble. And as a very shy person (SHOCKING, right?? But I really was), I didn’t know how to put myself out there to take a risk and ask questions. But I learned how and that “crew” of friends is still very important in my life today.

@druinok had several questions about this method for which I have SOME answers:
1) Kids are so used to being spoonfed, they are going to whine… a lot…
—> I agreed and thought that maybe the solution to this would be “If you whine, you work by yourself.” Anyone have any other ideas?
2) Kids that shut down without trying
—> This is where the “participation” grade will come in – I’ll be circling (like a buzzard) so if I see this I will stop and question
3) both of the above can be solved, it will just take time to teach them how to trust and try again
—> I am concerned of that as well – do I have the PATIENCE to see this through without just saying “SCREW IT!! WE’LL DO IT THE OLD WAY!!”
4) Kids that go home and whine (and parents that believe them) that “Mrs. Approx_Norm makes us teach ourselves”… even though its not true
—> She then helped me put together a nice section in my parent letter to justify this method. Here’s her original idea in its first draft. I thought it was awesome!

As I said, normally it takes me an entire 9-weeks to get through the Algebra 1 material they’ve already learned. But the way I have it planned, that will reduce that time down to 4 or 5 weeks. This will allow me to actually get through the chapter on logarithms and exponential functions and hopefully get into rational functions and conic section stuff. I’ll get with my pre-cal/trig colleague and find out what she’d like me to cover (if this actually works) to help her out.

So there’s my idea in a nutshell. This isn’t going to be my preferred method of instruction for the new material – just an attempt to get past the old stuff. I hope it made sense – I’m trying to think through this with a WICKED cold, so my ability to reason things through is worse than normal. But I DO want input. I’d rather think of everything bad that COULD happen and “nip it in the bud” or ditch the idea completely prior to next week.

2011-12 Goals for Algebra 2 (i.e. Stuff I SAY I’m gonna do but I know I’ll forget about later)

Thanks to @druinok who has agreed to harass me to blog. She’s doing her job and even busted me while I was at the pool and SUPPOSED to be bloggin’. I luvs her for being tough on me because if she DOESN’T make me do it, I’ll just be a lazy bum again this year.

Soooo to the topic at hand (sing with me like Pablo Cruise): WHATCHA GONNA DO FOR NEXT SEMESTER? Sorry, I tried to make it work to Beastie Boys, but I’m not that cool.

I teach two different classes of Algebra 2 – one for 11th/12th graders and an “honors” version for 10th graders that are gonna cruise right into AP Calculus. But I teach the same WAY, just a faster rate to that younger group. Both groups have their own individual issues, but for the most part I have the same goals for both:

1. Fix the pacing!
I have less than a week to figure this sucker out. Our school does math pacing like so: Algebra 1 –> Geometry –> Algebra 2. Yours might as well and that’s fine, but there’s a problem with it here. They remember NOTHING about Algebra 1 when they get to me. And Algebra 1 is usually all year (made of two smaller courses) and they don’t do much review of those skills in geometry. Plus, our state SUUUCCCKS by cramming too much into the Algebra 1 curriculum and then testing on it. That’s a blog post for another time. (I say that A LOT). Anyway, most of the Algebra 2 curriculum here is Algebra 1 review. We teach about 6 chapters and 3.5 of them are things they “learned” in Algebra 1. I say it like that because they are expected to learn so MUCH in Algebra 1 that they don’t learn anything very WELL. They don’t learn enough of the Algebra 2 curriculum because we’re busy reviewing. So how do I fix this? I have NO IDEA! I would like to do a “boot camp” of sorts and condense it, but then I might be skipping skills that they didn’t learn very well in Algebra 1 and that will screw me over later in my course. I’m open for ideas and suggestions. I’m on block schedule, too, so keep that in mind.

2. I suck at bell/closure activities.
It’s a part of class that is necessary and helpful and I SHOULD do it better than I’ve done it in the past. I think that’s where I lose a lot of time in class because they’re not really focused and tardies are an issue (again MY FAULT). If I would prep better, I could have these ready to go and not waste time making them on the fly. Kids don’t usually take bell activities seriously so there’s gotta be a way to make it relevant but hold them accountable to make SURE they’re doing it. I hate paper, but I’m ok with notecards, so I’m going to try that. We complain that kids are too dependent on calculators, but don’t really challenge kids to stay away from them, so I think that’s part of how I will do my bell activities this year. They start right when the bell rings and will just be a “fast and furious five” minutes of middle school skills with NO CALCULATOR. This is similar to 8falls Math Party (where did that guy go, anyway?). For example, in week one I will challenge the kids to see how many integer operations they can do (out of about 50 problems) in 5 minutes and we will raise the bar every day. Why integer operations? Students need to be familiar with them for the next few sections we’ll do in Algebra 2. So the bell activity preps their skills before we really need them. Haven’t decided if these will be self-graded or peer graded yet, but they will be turned in immediately after. That way there’s no possibility for students to copy or pretend to do it. I usually give my students 5-8 minutes to peer review homework and help each other so I am hoping to quickly review the bell activity cards during this time. I won’t put them in the gradebook, but it will allow me to make notes of any issues or really low scores (so I can pull those kids in for tutoring). At the end of class, they get their notecard back to do the closure problems on the back. I have a few ideas for closure, but nothing concrete. Part of me wants them to do 2 or 3 basic problems to make sure they’ve got it, part of me wants them to do one basic and one moderately difficult problem, and part of me wants them just to do a journal type “I get…. But I DON’T get….”. But doing bell activity on one side and closure on the other will eliminate some paper (which I HATE) but also try not to waste the notecards the kids buy.

3. I have got to get away from “fast food” tutoring.
My old tutoring policy was, “I will stay after any day or come early any morning – just let me know in advance”. So kids got tutoring when they wanted it (just like Taco Bell.. mmmm. Hungry… Sorry. Distracted). I can’t allow that “on call” tutoring to go on this year. Now before you get all offended, please understand that my son almost failed 2nd grade this past year. I think it was MAINLY because I put more time into my students than him – grading for 2 hours and getting frustrated trying to do my job and make sure he was doing his own school work. Most days I just wanted him to get it done and I didn’t really care if it was right and I didn’t spend time working on skills to help him. I was that parent that never went over vocabulary words or listened to my child read 20 minutes a night like I was supposed to. I completely wronged my child because my priorities were totally out of wack. I’m ashamed to say it, but I’m trying to be honest. Anyway, I was tutoring my students more than paying attention to my son and I can’t do that this year. He probably only got 15 minutes of “mom time” a day and that’s just negligence. He HAS to come first or the effects on his education are going to be exponentially devastating. And it will totally be my fault. So I need to find a way to tutor on one afternoon and two or three mornings a week. Hopefully I’ll still have that 30 minutes of tutoring time still built into our school schedule for “advisors”. I’ll need to set up a way of peer tutoring using my higher level kids (having 30 students show up for tutoring is overwhelming!!).

4. Algebra 2 is boring. That’s got to stop.
Stats is so cool because you are bombarded by it every day. Algebra 2 – not as obvious and sometimes not at all. Honestly, when’s the last time you had to find the possible rational zeros of a function? Anyway, @druinok and I are working on that and she’s busting her butt to get some activities to put into class to make kids like it. The physics and chem teachers are around the corner from me. I need to take my list of Alg 2 topics to them and see what they use and if we can do some cross-curricular stuff.

5. Do not allow “No Child Left Behind” to kick my behind.
I suck at paperwork. Too many freakin forms to prove I am doing everything I possibly can to give each child the best education possible. Too little time to write up the documentation, make copies of all samples, and dig through our school records vault to search through all the paperwork on the kid. My state (which shall remain nameless) and district (same respect) has unrealistic expectations for DOCUMENTATION of the help we give for the kids. But I don’t know how to battle it. Neither do the teachers that I work with. We all do so much, but we get in trouble for the documentation because the district doesn’t want to get sued. And the forms we have to fill out are INSANE. I’m not complaining just to complain. I mean it – INSANE. But like it or not, I gotta do it.

6. Parent communication.
I need to do a better job with documentation of parent communication. I know we have e-mail, but a lot of our parents do not have access and we have to resort to phone calls. I need to find a better way of keeping up with this because I’ve tried a lot of different things and none of them really work for my A.D.D. brain. Notecards, folders, notebooks, etc. But if you have any suggestions, I’m all ears.

7. Just say no.
Say no to clubs that I don’t know anything about, say no to heading committees that eat into time after school with my child, say no to teachers who know I can’t say no so they ask me to do crap they could do but won’t… Ugh.

Well, this is all I’ve got right now… this blog will be a work in progress… I think…
Oh, did I mention that my computer crashed and I lost everything for Algebra 2? yeah.
So I gotta work on that as well.

"So they’re like soul mates!!"

That comment was from my Algebra 2 class on Friday when trying to discuss the idea of a function being “one to one”.

The only thing I said was, “For every ‘x’ there is only one ‘y’ and for every ‘y’ there is only one ‘x’.” And one of my ditzy cheerleaders became wide-eyed with understanding and blurted that out.

Thought that was kind of cool–>and I’m stealing it for future discussions.