Monthly Archives: February 2013



CA_groupI like this newer version of the M&M exponential increase and decay. I started with 5 M&Ms, so that the kids could see that the first value was related tot he 5, otherwise the 2 gets mixed up with the half. Then I had the kids use Excel to make a mathematical model, using the sum of the squares of the difference. We used solver to minimize. They got to see their graph line goign form crazy not fit to ooh looks fabulous.

“I see that Excel does the hard work for you.” Yes, yes it does, my little friend!

And at the other extreme I have someone who is trying for the first time, but does not know how to round numbers.  Actually he may not be at the other extreme, since there are still 8 others who are doing no work. Is it because they cannot or because they will not? Or both? Anyway, Rounding Boy has persisted for four days, and we have actually completed the first two sides of the M&Ms handout in that time. Nobody works with him, because he was so nasty to them last semester, and I have enough problem children that I can get back to him for only about 2 minutes in every 15. He is quite obnoxious when I offer assistance, but I can be obnoxious too. Should I consider it a victory that I have a 15-year-old who now might be able to round numbers? It’s really a waste of time, because he’s not going to be able to pass the class, or the real algebra class. And yet, like a moth to a flame, I can’t help but try. Maybe I can get him to graph a line – maybe, if I try hard enough…

I blame the candy. It went to my head.


Well, I have to shift too


I empathize with my students. They operate at a 5th grade level, they’re being given 9th grade work ( or 11th grade work), obviously dumbed down so they can understand it, and they come in day after day, to be made to feel bad about themselves.

I feel ground down too. I have grandiose ideas to bring in new projects, I have tried to make up applications that will interest kids and… nothing. Meanwhile, we got these new text books which provide an exploration/hands-on application for every lesson ( I don’t have those, I have a “lab” class). And the other teachers are hunting down our old traditional textbooks to use them. No, they didn’t work either. We’re a failing school.

Anyway, after some personal PD, I have given myself a good shake at the nape of the neck, and kicked myself. I have found a website to teach LOGO to kids, I have written step-by-step instructions for making math models on Excel from the M&Ms activity on growth and decay.

I had accidentally started dragging the poor beasts through an “all do this together” lecture-type interaction, so I had to undo myself, and give it back to the kids. I was wavering on not giving instant feedback to the Math Mistakes warmup – and then some kids said they realized on day 4 how to do day 1’s work, so they were glad they had a week to think about it.

But I realized it’s lonesome. Even though every teacher operates in a vacuum, we continue to get the slurry shoveled down about what we should be doing. And being the salmon swimming upstream, because I read all the common core stuff, and Dan Meyer, and the entire panoply of “let’s do it” blogs, is tiring.  I don’t even know if it works, but what we were doing does not work for teaching math skills. And then – somewhere in someone’s blog – I found Mathematical Quality of Instruction § MQI Training Site  Hooray! I feel as if I have something to fight back with. Stop evaluating me on whether students comply, start looking at what math I know and what math they can do.

And I recognize that Mike Pershan is such a nice boy, I only hope my son is half as kind. And Fawn Ngyuen sharing her lovely ideas, her work, her classes with us. I have been ungrateful, and I repent. Will try to do better.

I blame winter. Hate those short sunlight hours.

New semester, some attitude shift


Someone has to tell 8th graders what happens in high school. So they will listen and believe.

Somehow, teachers need to see the kids in all the classes. My little group of strikers, 10/15 not working, have passed 12 courses between them. Total. wow. They don’t know what they are doing to themselves. Other than “we aren’t going to do what we’re told.” Yeah, I get that. They had decided that they would be able to change their schedules in the second semester. Sadly, it didn’t happen. They are back with the nasty crazedmummy, who is trying to teach them to model mathematically, ans write their explanations, because she has seen the common core and she thinks it’s probably a good idea.

So I’ve had an attitude shift from a couple of students.  Yeah, you can try, you don’t have to be perfect, having a go is better that playing on facebook. Meanwhile out of 8 days of school so far, I’ve been in the classroom for 5 of them. You’d think I’d get better with all that training,wouldn’t you?

I blame the middle schools – only because everyone else does!