Saturday, July 30, 2016

Student Testimonials 2015/16 & Reflection

I like to post these so I can respond with what I noticed about a letter from a student. Last names have been blurred out.
I like this letter because he liked seeing his work selected and displayed on my blog for the Wheel of Theodorus project. Also, I reached out to his dad and him to come for extra help after school. I saw improvement. Not sure how I made class really fun. Also, he appreciates the ability to retake an assessment.
I noticed how this student didn't like taking math after lunch during 5th period last year and 6th period this year. I was bummed that my accelerated class was stressful for him at times. I like how he admitted he had a tough time focusing, but he did come in after school for extra help towards the end of the year. The clarifications I provided helped him he verbally told me.
This student came in at the beginning of 8th grade and wasn't used to loud cooperative group work. He did say he had fun and appreciated the time spent working on concepts after school.
This student would argue for a half point on any assessment. It made for interesting conversations and really made me think what I was asking and expecting on a test question.
This student said that when kids fool around I stay calm and still control the class. Thanks!
I was disappointed with how much sarcasm I apparently use. I have to tone that down. She said it was questionable I helped her improve. Bummer. Unfortunately some students are overly concerned about their grades and expect to get an A in accelerated math since they have A's in the rest of their classes.

This was a surprising letter. It was from a student I had last year, and not this year. He liked my style of teaching and upbeat attitude. This student, contrary to an earlier student, said I am not sarcastic or harsh when I answer a question. That's a relief. He said I inspire children every day in math?? Wow, I don't always hear that. He said that a student I inspire can go into a mathematics job and make a discovery. That discovery is partly mine as well he says. Wow.
"In your math class I was given the opportunity to help my classmates and guide them." MIC DROP. That's my purpose! To facilitate students to help each other! The study team norms INFLUENCED him to help his classmates. YES! He compared new methods to methods he already knew. AWESOME. Finally, he called me influential. Wow. This was a short, but DENSE letter.

She likes my teaching style, and when I make the whole class laugh. She acknowledged they (accelerated) were extremely loud but was the way they learned.
This student acknowledged that I was strict. I guess 5th period did have some tough students that made me treat the whole class a little bit differently. He also acknowledged how poorly the classes were doing once I was on paternity leave. True story. He also thanked me for listening to suggestions for next year. He convinced me to do a little more notes, and a bit more purposeful practice.
This student mentioned he liked Desmos and using the geoboards. Definitely two of my favorite tools. He also liked the weekly Mathographies, learning about each other. He liked the suspense of Estimation 180, and didn't see how it related to math. Interesting. Learning math without knowing it is what I would say!
He said my class was the most enjoyable and that I stay positive and funny. Awesome.
This student made huge strides after transferring to my class in the middle of the year. Very rewarding.
This student acknowledged not loving common core, or CPM, but said it had some good points. Haha. He liked how I took initiative and replace a lesson when I don't like it. He liked the grading scale, and also acknowledged that in Finland they don't have homework (mine was zero percent last year) and have the highest literacy. A great letter from Jeffrey.
This student writes how he respects me. He said that even if your friends with a teacher, that takes a certain amount of respect. Some deep thoughts here.

By having the same class 2 years in a row, she commented how much they (we) bonded. She also remembers Harrison and myself arm wrestling with 2 minutes to go in the period. There's a long story behind that. My motto I borrowed from Jon Taffer, "I embrace solutions, not excuses" taught her responsibility she said. Awesome!

This student really appreciated the SBG grading system, and understood it well and liked having multiple opportunities at a skill. He also liked that I mixed in activities (FAL's, 3 act, Desmos) that were not in the CPM textbook to break up the routine. I liked that also.
This stellar student mentioned topics she learned. She also covered up her hand with her sweatshirt for the high five every day because she was a germophobe. I should have told her that she could use my hand sanitizer every day if she wanted.

This student acknowledges that I not only taught math, but how "to be good people." Awesome.
I changed this students whole view on math after he didn't like it before!! YES!!! I made a difference in how he learns! Great.
This student acknowledges that when they work in groups they work together, but when I go over stuff on the board, they work and don't listen. I think this is true for some of the students in accelerated.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Backyard Remodel

So before I moved in 2 years ago, my uncle Mike M and I setup a retaining wall and dug up the backyard and dumped dirt under the huge tree in the back which had big roots sticking up. We put rock pathways, seating, small lawn, and a firepit. The top right quadrant  was a blank canvas. I tried growing vegetables but they either died or got eaten up by animals, possibly gophers.

We thought about hiring a landscaper, but for what we wanted, it was beyond what we were willing to spend. Luckily my dad had some pavers from my uncle Mike J that were leftover from a commercial job site in the city. Here's what they look like:

We then decided we would make a 13 foot by 13 grid of these surrounded by a square framed with treated 2 by 4's. We also decided to make a pathway from the side gate to the front of my house, rather than have overgrown uneven grass on the side of the house.

As you can see, with manual labor help we dug out the area and tried to make it roughly level. Then we framed a square. We made sure that the lengths were equal and forming four right angles. Then we cut and set rebar and tied off where it crossed.

My dad, the finisher, and El Chapo.

3/4 of the way there.

When you finish pumping concrete you can't leave the cement in the hose or it will harden and be stuck there. Big Paul has an ingenious method. He gets a wet sponge ball and sticks it one end of the tube and attaches a water hose to it to push the ball through the hose getting all the cement out.

Instead of having dead muddy grass on the side of the house, we now have a cement pathway. Makes it easier to take out garbage, recycling weekly and also to get in and out of the backyard quicker. Ideally I'd like to take the gate out and move it up to near the garage in the future.

Laying it down.

Almost done.

And the final patio! My father in law planted some succulents and a lemon tree on the border of the patio area.

We also painted our fireplace with this brick cleaner goopy adhesive. After a day and a half it was completely dried and I peeled it all off. I'd advise to put it on thick in between the bricks because it's hard to pull it off when it's thin.


Coming soon: a complete screencast on HOW to make a screencast after completing a Desmos challenge.

 This one is from Markos and Zoe.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Summer Fix It

As you may or may not know, my wife and I have a newborn, now over a month old, Everly. Prior to her birth Jess thought that I slammed the kitchen cabinets hard and loudly. When the baby was born, it also startled her. I had a problem and I wanted to find a solution. Exactly the feeling and growth mindset I want my students to have. I don't recall what I exactly googled, but I googled something to the effect of "How to make kitchen cabinets close quietly?" I believe I also looked on Amazon, and found the following product, Blumotion Hinge adapter which are 35 dollars for a pack of 10. I have 20 cabinet doors. Also, it seemed to be the highest rated at 4.5/5 stars.

My dad had one and installed it in the top right corner of the cabinet, and it did not produce the same effect. With the plastic adapter in the second photo below, it brings the device away from the closing door so it catches it quicker before it gets more momentum.

So, moral of the story is: if you want to fix something, search for an answer. Look what's out there. See what is rated highly. I also provided these photos of the process, but in the Amazon reviews a buyer posted a great how to video, which was also a reason that I was motivated to purchase this particular product.

Why am I posting this on my math blog? One it's one of the many jobs I have done to stay busy and I also believe it's an analogy for the type of outlook we should have in our lives. See a problem, avoid fixing it for a bit, and then doing something about it.

Oh yeah, I'm ordering more and installing them in my parent's kitchen as well as my wife's parents house!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Funneling vs Focusing Questions FAME Article Responses

Our first assignment of our FAME program is reading the following article, Questioning our Patterns of Questioning:


A1: Funneling reminds me of talking to a student about solving linear equations. What operations do you see? "How can we get rid of that?" And so on. It reminds me of asking a few too many leading questions.

I try to relay it back to the formative assessment lesson. The story of x where you are building an equation starting with a solution. An equation is undone to find the value of x.

Focusing questions are in direct response to how a student is thinking, rather than how I am thinking of the problem. The most common focusing question could even be "What do you notice?"

Focusing questions remind me of math talk moves. I model and want students to rephrase what other students have said. I also want them to acknowledge another person's thinking by naming their method. Paraphrasing a person's method. 

And the mother of all talk moves.. not talking. Wait time. In the dialogue of focusing questions about slope the teacher let the students pause, to ask other students if they AGREED or DISAGREED with the thinking. I know we have to bite our lips sometimes to try to not say what another student is ready or could say.

Q2: What opportunities does a focusing pattern of questioning afford us that a funneling pattern does not?

A2: Focusing questions allow opportunities for students to contribute their thoughts to the class discussion giving enough wait time. Funneling questions also tend to have few students raising their hand to begin talking about a topic. Focusing questions seem to be a majority of intuitive responses. Focusing questions can spark or synthesize a conversation. Patterns of funneling questions can tend to be tuned out by student(s).

 Q3: What are the key features of the two questioning patterns described? How do they differ?

In general, questions are a big part of engaging students in discussions. Classroom questions tend to follow the IRF, Initiation-Response-Feedback model. I think funneling questions have feedback that is telling the students whether they are right or wrong. A focusing question is a response that opens it up to other students to confirm or deny the validity of the response.

One of the main characteristics of funneling is the teacher is doing most of the cognitive work. The students are simply responding. When students are encouraged to connect their thinking with their peer's ideas there is more cognitive demand on the student.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Letters to Everly Rose Joyce

The last 3 weeks of school I was on paternity leave. When students finished a lesson with the sub one day they made some letters for my daughter, Everly Rose Joyce, born May 28th, 2016. I emailed a picture of her to the staff the day after she was born and they broadcasted it on our televised KTLR student news network. It meant a lot to me. I'm not going to save the best one for last, I have to share the one that blew me away below. It was a sheet of copy paper folded into fourths and the front was below. Amazing lettering and drawings of roses. The best part though was inside, where Tiffany went into personal details about what characteristics I will try to teach her and instill in her that I tried instilling in my students. Wow.
She writes really small, but the words had a large impact on me.

Alex illustrated his math joke I told my Facebook friends. What does a mermaid wear to math class? An algae bra.

Chloe and Marina want to modify Everly's name a little bit. LOL.

A group collaboration with comics. Davin also gave me a sound cloud link where he apparently is performing a song that is remixed as dub step he said..? I will be sure to post it for all to see.

I wanted to post the inside of this card because she thinks Everly will be a "#mathgenius"

This was hilarious. Harrison said my daughter will learn how to be tactful, to have no excuses, and turn out a little... red. (because I'm Irish and when I laugh too hard or get mad or embarrassed I can get red) Also, that leaf is not broccoli he said, it's a shamrock, HAHA.

Rasheed and I are both huge Warriors fans. He got the colors spot on here.

Third period had everyone sign a card.
This was an amazing quilting job in a valentine's day color theme. Beautiful.

This was nice to read these, especially bringing up my spirits after hearing of the overall loudness of classes while I was gone and certain students being extra difficult while I was gone.