Friday, September 30, 2016

#IMMOOC Wii Golf and Integers

Image result for a teach math with the wiiSo in the spirit of #IMMOOC, I tried my hand at being #innovative today.  This year I've been trying to make a concerted effort to connect real world situations to the concepts I teach my students.  Today I had a surprise for my first class - we were going to play Wii golf!  A few years ago I bought Teach Math with the Wii by Meghan Hearn and Matthew C. Winner, but I never followed through with actually reading it and implementing it in my classroom.

I wanted to surprise my students with this so when we left the classroom right after the Pledge of Allegiance and headed down to the auxiliary gym where we have a really big screen TV, they had no idea what we were going to do.  This is what they saw when they walked in and sat down in front of the white board:

Then I pointed to the Wii that I had set up under the TV.  They were all super excited, even though they knew that somehow I would weave some math into the game.  Yesterday we talked about real world integer examples, such as bank accounts, sports, temperature, and weight.  So we started off today just reviewing that in most cases, negative numbers are viewed as a bad thing, but in golf, we want to see lots of negatives because the lower the score, the better.

I gave everyone a quick overview of how to use the controller and how to try to keep the ball as straight as possible.  I had everyone grab a clipboard with the scorecard.  The students played as one player, each taking their turn on a different hole.  They cheered each other on and coached each other on how to correct their swings.  After each golfer finished, everyone recorded the score on their scorecard.

After the nine holes were complete, we regrouped at the whiteboard.  I modified the par that each hole had been assigned in the actual Wii game so that we would have some positives and negatives to work with.  We went through each hole and decided whether the number of strokes was over par (+) or under par (-) and recorded each value in the bottom row of the scorecard.

Time flies when you're having fun, so we didn't get a chance to add up the total score.  We will do that next week.  I plan on introducing the concept of zero pairs and the use of 2-sided chips for this to help them with the totals.

So my attempt at being #innovative was a big success with the students.  I hope this will be a memorable lesson for them and that it has helped them with the concept of integers.  I guess I'll find out for sure next week when we continue our journey into the world of integers!

Friday, September 23, 2016

#IMMOOC Exponential Innovation

While I was on my vacation this summer in Sanibel Island, I read The Classroom Chef by John Stevens and Matt Vaudrey.  What, you say?!  You read a professional development book when you were supposed to be relaxing on vacation?!  Well, yes, I'm a math geek, so while most people were reading trashy romance novels on the beach, I was reading about how to pump up my math lessons.

I recently signed up for the #IMMOOC Innovator's Mindset, run by George Couros and Katie Martin.  After the first week's live session and reading the first few chapters of the book, I was remotivated to bring innovation to my lessons.  I just love how educators all over the world can inspire each other! (Both of these books, by the way, were published by Dave Burgess, who was the speaker on my district's opening day this year - he was amazing and inspiring!)

So I thought about one of my really boring lessons and tried to figure out how I could be as crazy and innovative as John, Matt, and Dave and make a really memorable lesson for my students.  The first topic that came to mind was negative exponents.  I looked around the internet to find some ideas that I could run with.  One that caught my eye was from Yummy Math.  I wanted to be able to relate negative exponents to something in real life that my students could understand.  I liked the idea of the beanstalk story, but how could I make it memorable?  My first idea, although I loved it, did not happen.  I wanted to construct a giant beanstalk (out of paper mache maybe?) in the corner of the room that was so tall it went through a hole in the ceiling tiles.  Instead I just made up an elaborate story about a former student named Jack who gave me some beans at the end of the year, and some slides in my Smart notebook to go along with it.  (I made my beanstalks with Google Drawings - I just love that app!)
After I told my story and showed my graph, I asked my class to predict what the height of the beanstalk would be at month 6.  I told them to look for patterns because math, and nature, are full of patterns.  (That's my big push this year - look for patterns.)  I had them all answer the question in Google Classroom.  Only one student figured out the pattern and predicted correctly.  We discussed how the height was changing - I had them figure out that it was changing multiplicatively, not additively.  Then I showed them a graph of what the beanstalk would have looked like if it had grown additively.
I used this to introduce the concept of exponential vs. linear growth and we drew in the exponential curve and linear line.  We also explored what this data would look like in a table and then we graphed with with Desmos.  I pointed out that one equation had an exponent and one didn't.  I also noted that things that grow exponentially grow faster than things that grow at a linear rate - we compared the heights at month 5 in both graphs.

The next day, I had the class do a Desmos card sort with the concepts of exponential and linear.  I was happy to see that most of them had remembered the concepts from the beanstalk lesson!  Then I finally got around to introducing negative exponents.  In Google Classroom, I asked them to predict what the beanstalk's height would have been at month 1 if I had thought to measure it.  This time a few of them saw the pattern and figured it out.  From here, I gave out my guided notes.  I taught them how to use the calculator to find exponents with the ^ button.  I had them complete the positive exponents in the Powers of 2 table on their own.  I reiterated the first point in the notes that said negative exponents are reciprocals of positive exponents so we went through the negative exponents together.  Then I had them complete the next two tables independently.

After the tables were complete, I showed them my method of circling the base and negative exponent so they are aware that the negative exponent only affects the base and not any coefficients.  I showed them how to "swing it down" to the denominator and leave the coefficient in the numerator.  They picked up on this procedure fairy quickly.

So the first day, the beanstalk story that captured my students attention wasn't about negative exponents, but it set the stage for the discussion on negative exponents the next day and they had a real life situation (sort of) that they could relate it to.  After class the first day, my classroom aide told me she was watching one student in particular and he was really into the whole story - this is a student who rarely can focus on a lesson.  After school, the student I tutor asked me if that story was real.  Even though I didn't have my life-sized beanstalk prop, I think the lesson went well and the students will definitely remember the difference between exponential and linear growth!

Saturday, September 17, 2016

#IMMOOC The Innovator's Mindset

I just finished watching the 1st live #IMMOOC with George Couros and Katie Martin.  It was great seeing Dave Burgess again - he was our opening day speaker this year and he was amazing!  I started reading George's new book The Innovator's Mindset this week and I'm excited to be part of this huge learning community!  I could write about everything we talked about, but I'm going to let the my favorite Tweets from tonight's live session sum it up:

I'm looking forward to reading the next few chapters and next week's live session!

Friday, September 9, 2016

I Made It Through the First Week!

Wow, the title of this post makes it sound like my first week was extremely long and difficult.  It was not; it was actually the total opposite - I had a terrific first week!  I love my new schedule and my new students.  Actually my students are not all new to me - I've had about half of them for the past two years of summer school.

First I thought I would share a few pictures of some new things in my classroom this year, courtesy of Sarah Carter - if you haven't read her blog yet you really should - she's an amazing, creative teacher.

So I started out the first day, Tuesday, by going over my classroom procedures and expectations, but to kill two birds wth one stone, I created a Nearpod presentation so my students could not only learn about my routines, but so they also could learn how to use an application that I use quite often throughout the school year.

The next day, Wednesday, I had them get familiar with a couple of other activities that I use on a regular basis, QR code scavenger hunts and Socrative.  I set up a super easy QR code scavenger hunt where the problems were just multiplication facts, just so they could get the hang of how scavenger hunts work.  In the past, students thought they could just go to random problems or just work their way around the room without using the answers as clues as to where to go next.  Hopefully this will prevent that mistake the next time we do a QR code scavenger hunt for real.  The Socrative activity was another super easy set of questions just so they could see how to get into my "class", what the different types of questions looked like, and to see the feedback they get after they answer the question.  (I also do a lot of "Space Races", but I'll save that for another day.)

We finished up with everyone joining my Google Classroom and completing the first assignment which was an "All About Me" Google Slides - I gave everyone their own copy which had 10 slides of questions to help me get to know them.  They had a lot of fun with this one and some students got really creative with the images they chose to go along with their answers.  My homework this weekend is to read through all of them!

Thursday was probably not their favorite day because I gave them a pre-assessment.  I wanted to find out if they have the prerequisite skills that I feel they should have in order to be able to start learning the 8th grade curriculum, such as their basic multiplication facts, integer operations, exponents, one- and two-step equations, and basic graphing skills like plotting points and naming coordinates on a coordinate plane.  I haven't finished grading them all yet, but from what I've seen, I have my work cut out for me this year!

When they had completed the pre-assessment, I had them create bookmarks for all the applications we will be using throughout the year to avoid the 5-minutes or so spent searching for the applications each time we use them.  I also taught them how to shorten the bookmark so that it's just the icon without words so they can fit more on their bookmark bar, and how to make a folder on their bookmark bar for all the math applications.

I think they probably liked today, Friday, the best.  I started out class with a presentation about growth mindsets which consisted of 6 short video clips. I had been telling them all week about how mistakes are OK, mistakes make your brain grow, mistakes show that you are trying and learning, etc.  The first video was Jo Boaler explaining the scientific research about this so they didn't just think I was making it all up.  Then I had a few cutesy cartoony videos about growth mindset.

The video I felt was the best was basically an analogy between brain growth and building a rope bridge across a really high ravine.  The first time across was really difficult (just like learning a new concept), they made some mistakes along the way (one man slips as he's walking on the rope), but the more times they crossed the ravine the easier it became (they showed the two men adding more and more ropes to the bridge they were building which I related to the brain cells being connected), and then after many times across they finally had a solid foundation (they had added wood planks to walk on).  I watched my students as they watched the video and everyone was really engaged in it.

The last two videos had everyone laughing.  One was about learned helplessness - two people were on an escalator and it stops moving.  They both freak out and get frustrated that this has happened when they're obviously trying to get somewhere important (they're both dressed up in business suits).  They call out for help and look for a cell phone to call for help.  A repair man finally arrives and his escalator also breaks down.  We discussed how if this had been an elevator, their reactions would have made sense, but because it was an escalator they could have easily just walked up the rest of the way, but the thought never crossed their minds because they're so used to the escalator doing all the work for them and they aren't doing any thinking for themselves.  The solution to their problem is so obvious but they're just not looking for it.  One of my new slogans came from this video - "Get off the escalator!" - I think I'm going to make a sign to hang up in my classroom that says this.  Anytime I see one of my students saying they don't understand something before they've even attempted the problem, I'll just say "Get off the escalator!" to them.

The final video was about determination and perseverance.  A dog hears the toaster oven 'ding' and cleverly pushes a chair up to the counter, climbs up onto the counter, opens the toaster oven, and pushed the tray with the food out onto the floor so he can eat it.  I used this to discuss how they also should be determined to learn new concepts and persevere instead of giving up.  So my slogan from this video is now "Be the dog!"

After the videos, I had my classes do the 1-100 group work activity that I got from Sara VanDerWerf's blog.  The kids loved this and were so excited to try to beat their scores and beat the other teams.  I loved watching them working so well together.  After we finished the three rounds (by the way, only one team figured out the secret that the position of the numbers went around the paper from one quadrant to the next), we discussed "What good group work looks like" (also from Sara VanDerWerf) and I pointed out the things I had seen while they were working. When we got to number 2 ("They don't get distracted. They don't notice what other groups or the teacher is doing."), I told them I could have been doing a little jig in the back of the room and no one would have noticed.  I only hope the group work the rest of the year looks as good as today's did.

One final thing I almost forgot to mention was the new Do Now routines I've started this year.  I want to help my students develop better number sense, and I found a great list of math routines.  The one I tried this week was the "Number of the Day".  The first time I gave them the number and asked them to write 3 different expressions, each with a different operation.  The next day I stepped up the challenge and asked them for 3 different expressions, each with 2 different operations, and none of the expressions can use the number 1 (I found the first day students were making this way to easy by just adding, subtracting, multiplying or dividing by 1 - I wanted them to think of more challenging ways to write the expressions).  There were a few students who just couldn't come up with an expression with 2 different operations, so I told them it was OK to just use one operation - we're going to work on this.  Then there was one student who made my day today - her expressions showed she was thinking outside the box - she was the only one who included parenthesis, exponents, and negatives!  She really impressed me!

All in all, I had a great first week of school!  This is my 7th year teaching and it was the first opening day that I didn't have the customary opening day butterflies!  I'm really looking forward to working with my new students this year.