Friday, July 3, 2015

Paper/Pencil Grades in an Online Gradebook World

This year I have the pleasure (at least it's a pleasure most of the time) of teaching summer school geometry.  The 23 kids currently enrolled in my second semester geometry course are all students that have failed the course during the school year and are retaking it with the hopes of catching up on credits.   With a class full of at-risk students, the environment can be both challenging and rewarding.  For visualization purposes, consider the magnitude of completing each set of notes, homework assignments, worksheets, quizzes and tests for a semester in 64 contact hours.

As part of the summer program, I am required to enter a final grade for each student in our district-wide gradebook program.  I am not, however, required to enter each daily assignment, quiz, etc as I typically would during the school year.  So, at the beginning of the semester I gave each student a list of all worksheets, quizzes, and tests that would be collected for a grade.  This list also contains the points possible for each assignment, as well as a list of cumulative points possible.  (This semester we have 1235 points possible.) Once papers are graded and passed back, each student is to record the number of points he/she earned and find the cumulative number of points earned.  After a short lesson on how to do so, students are now able to compute their grade independently.


I realize that this is neither a novel idea, nor a new one.  Years ago, prior to the onslaught of online gradebook programs, I had students keep a handwritten list like this in the front of their binder.  Somewhere over the course of time and after falling into the realm of thinking that technology is meant to make things simpler, I stopped this practice.  I expected my students to check their grade online periodically - some did, others not so much.  (I really don't know why I decided to do it this way for summer school.)

Here's what I've learned....
1.  The majority of my students are taking a more active role in their learning.  They see the benefits, and the pitfalls, of doing well/poorly.  Some that failed miserably during the school year are now earning A's and B's on most work, want newly graded papers back daily, and are quick to determine their most recent grade.
2.  The students prefer to have the paper/pencil list in front of them instead of the online option.  Some students have pointed out that they don't have access to the internet at home.  So, having this list makes it possible to know their grade without asking the teacher.
3.  The students are aware of any work they have not turned in or work that was turned in without a name.  This saves them having to ask me questions like "What's my grade?" or "Is there anything I can do to bring my grade up?"  Note:  When they do ask, I simply reply with something similar to "Check your grade sheet."
4.   Since this list contains a list of all possible points for the semester, the students are able to determine the minimum number of points necessary to pass the semester (in our case, 735-ish).  This number has become a goal for them.  They know attaining at least 735 points will GUARANTEE a passing grade and that any number of points above this cut-off value equates in a higher semester grade.

Watching these kids progress has been AMAZINGLY rewarding.  (Don't get me wrong.  There have been hiccups.)  These kids have convinced themselves over the course of many years that they can't do math.  Watching their points earned climb seems to be convincing them that they can be successful.

Now all I have to do is figure out how to make it work for a quarter length course.  (It might also be something useful on our evaluation tool.)


Monday, August 4, 2014

Geometry Curriculum Map 2014-2015

I finally finished updating my curriculum map for this year, which feels like a major success.  School starts (for teachers) a week from tomorrow and with kids in 9 days.  My schedule this year will consist of 5 periods of Geometry, one of which will be taken at a slightly slower pace and involve less in the way of formal proof writing.  I'll also have a section of PreCalculus.

My goal is to create some sort of guided notes each day of class.  We aren't doing a traditional INB persay, but I intend to incorporate some foldables, etc in our daily note-taking and exercises.  I also intend to use Geogebra more in class this year.  Nothing fancy, but I think that giving the kids to be able to create and interact with figures is a step in the right direction.

I am also going to get back to using SBG in my classes.  I used it for a couple of years, but for whatever reason, didn't do so last year and I think that it might have helped alleviate some of the issues I had.  Nonetheless, my next step is to use this document and my common core standards to write up the standards.

Got a busy week ahead of me, but feel confident I can get enough accomplished to not feel too stressed about it once school starts.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

PreCalculus Session - Trig Identities Card Sort etc

In the morning precalculus sessions at #TMC13 we were asked to work with group members to develop a lesson, activity, assessment, etc to fit a topic that we found difficult to teach. My partner, @jlpaulen, and I chose to work on Trig Identities. We both felt that we find them a fun challenge and not too terribly difficult, but hard to teach.

What’s the Big Idea?


We determined that the struggle our students have with them is in the application of the algebra skills necessary to complete the proof. So for us, the big idea is simply algebraic manipulation using trigonometric functions.


What is so challenging for students?


The students have no idea where to begin or how steps flow from one to the next.  There is evidence that students follow the mentality that they must know where to begin in order to finish the problem.  Students are not receptive to the idea of try and possibly fail. While the students may have the ability to factor, distributive, substitute, etc in algebra, somehow applying these skills where a trig function is involved proves more difficult. I, personally, have had kids tell me that they tend to look at "sin" in a function and see 3 separate letters instead of one function. It makes them think they are dealing with a more complex problem.


Primary Identities to learn/memorize:
- Reciprocal Identities
- Quotient Identities
- Pythagorean Identities
- Sum and Difference Identities

Why were other identities not covered?
We settled on these 4 sets of identities because they seem to be the basis for many of the other groups. For example, odd/even identities can be taught using the sum/difference identities. (ie, sin(-u) = sin(u-2u).


Activity ideas
- Make a trigonometric “card sort” where students are given pieces of paper with each step and reason on separate pieces of paper.  Students are given a starting and stopping step.  Their task is to put the "proof" in order. Students may eventually be weaned from being given reasons and eventually will be expected to write the steps and reasons entirely.  Problems may also progress from easier to more difficult.
- Give the class a trig identity that can be verified in multiple ways.  Divide the class into groups and give each group a large whiteboard on which to write their proof.  Have each group present their proof to the class, then compare/contrast resulting methods.  
- Another follow-up would be Kristen Fouss’ Trig Identity Matching Activity in Chapter 5 of her virtual file cabinet.


The card sort activity is focused on Pythagorean Identities (no sum/difference) in an effort to allow students the opportunity to practice these and develop habits before adding in sum and difference identities.

Note: The identities we used were from this website.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Parent Function Card Sort

This week I spent in an inordinate amount of time working on materials for Geometry, but managed to work in some time for PreCalc as well.  Early in the year we spend time going over the 12 Parent Functions.  Students are then taught how to create new functions using the four basic operations, compositions, and transformations, as well as how to analyze these functions.  One of the problems my students have previously had with these was remembering how the parent function behaved in order to determine how a transformation of that function would affect the domain, range, etc.  In an effort to curb this problem, I am creating a card sort using the pages below.

My goal is to print the graphs, domain and range, etc on separate colors of cardstock.  Students will not be given the entire set of cards at one time.  Rather, they will be given the pieces as they are learned in class. I am scheduling time in class as these are covered to review the previous day's information, before adding new material.  By the time the entire analysis is taught, the students will have practiced the sets enough times that they've memorized, or can quickly determine by sight, the analysis of each parent function. Hopefully, this will also improve their speed in analyzing transformed functions throughout the remainder of the year.


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Triangle Centers

I am in the process of working through a series of lessons on triangle centers.  So far, I've made it through the perpendicular and angle bisector theorems, as well as perpendicular and angle bisectors of triangles.  I am posting what I have accomplished here in an effort to get input on whether these seem to be too difficult.  Are my expectations too high?  My students are average level sophomores.   I am wavering on including more basic skill level types of questions along with the problems currently on the worksheet.

I have considered updating parts of it by incorporating some sort of technology investigation using either TI-84s or 92s, but would have to incorporate some sort of training on how to use the Cabri environment before looking at triangle centers.  I think this would be especially useful in portions of the investigation into angle bisectors of a triangle.

I thank you in advance for any help or advice.

Perpendicular Bisector Theorem Investigation

Angle Bisector Theorem Investigation

Perpendicular Bisectors of a Triangle Investigation

Angle Bisectors of a Triangle Investigation

Friday, August 3, 2012

My Favorite Friday #2 - Italian Beef

My Favorite Friday started last week, but other commitments made me miss it.  I did take time to read through all of the other posts, though.  One in particular stood out and me - Tex Mex Chicken by @Wyldbirman.  It's not a recipe I've tried yet, but will be later today.  After seeing that post, I suggested to @druinok that we devote one week of My Favorite Fridays to menus that teachers/parents can use when they're horribly busy and can't find time to cook or just want an easy meal to make.  With that said, here's one of our family's favorite meals.  

Italian Beef

Line a crock pot with a liner (easy clean up).  Cut the fat off one 3-4 lb roast and then cut the remaining meat into small cubes.  Dump these pieces into the crock pot along with 1 can of beer, a jar of pepperoncini peppers, a small can of beef consumme soup, 1 tsp each of oregano and italian seasoning.  Turn the crock pot on low for 8 hours or so.

I typically shred the meat afterwards with a couple of forks and serve it on hoagie rolls.  My husband likes to add a little shredded mozzarella on top.  Any leftover meat goes back in the juices to be used for beef and noodles.  The juices/leftover meat freezes well so beef and noodles can be served at a later time.  

The pepperoncini peppers do give the meat a bit of spice, but it is not so hot that kids won't eat it.  You can control how hot you want it to be by not using the whole jar in the mix.  You may also want to pull out a few of the peppers before adding to the crock pot if you would like to have them with the sandwich later.  While you can still eat the peppers after they've been cooked, they are quite limp.  

Sunday, July 15, 2012

#Made4Math Mondays Week 3

My projects for the first two weeks of #Made4Math Mondays have focused on sewing. This week I decided the sewing machine had seen enough sun for a while and headed instead toward a new experience - Mod Podge.  Beware!  It is as addictive as they say it is.  

Project #1:  A scrapbook covered Pringles can and a scrapbook covered Velveeta box.  In each case, I cut the paper to fit the box and applied a thin layer of Mod Podge (MP), smoothed on a layer of paper, and covered the product with 2-3 thin layers of MP (allowing plenty of time to dry in between coats).   In the image below you can also see a couple of scrapbook flowers that I made.  These have magnets attached to the back.  Cost $0.

Project #2:  This was inspired by a to-do list picture frame that I found on Pinterest.  I started with a plain brown $2 frame from Walmart.  I covered the thin flat portion of the frame with a thin layer of MP, laid on a layer of scrapbook paper and let it dry.  I then took a piece of fine grit sandpaper to the edge.  This eliminates a definite edge to the scrapbook paper and helps ensure it won't peel off in the future.  I also slightly distressed the brown on the rest of the frame.   I then used a cotton ball and some ink to apply some more color to the paper.  The whole project was then coated with MP a couple of times.  Buttons and ribbon were added later for more decoration.  This project cost $6 for the buttons and frame.  
Project #3:  I used MP to adhere some flowery scrapbook paper inside a small canning jar. This will hold paperclips on my desk next to the No Homework slips that I intend to use this year.  (More to come on those at a later time.)  I used the same paper to make a sign for basket, too.  Overall this project cost me $4 for the basket.
Project #4:  I have seen this quote several times in different forms, ranging from a simple paper quote framed like below to its painted image on the wall of a classroom.  In either case, I think that the sentiment it expresses is especially useful in a math classroom.  Cost $2 for the frame.

Overall, these 4 projects seem to cover all the things I need for my desk.  The only thing I am considering is making a small area on the side of my file cabinet for a magnetic area to place papers that don't need to take up space on my desk.  I'm also interested in making a No Name paper sign similar to this but that depends on a) where I would put it in  my classroom and b) if I have time to make it before #TMC12.