Week 4 – stability?


circlesI think we are at week 4. I hope they have stopped moving kids in and out of classrooms. I hope that all those kids who decided to come back way after everyone else have come in, because some of the late starters last week looked pretty shellshocked when I gave them their catchup work. I am pretty mean – just because you decided to take an extra couple of weeks’ vacation doesn’t mean you get to skip work.

So this week  I decided to join together triangles and circles in the wholemovement way.  Seriously, if you get a chance to see Bradford  in action, do so. He’s in Ann Arbor in October and it is sooo cool, if a bit whacky (oh, like you’re not!). One of my former student’s dads runs this conference, which is how I found out about the circle thing in the first place. I have no vested interest.


Butting heads with administrators


I’ve had 6 years of indoctrination with “discovery learning.” MiTEP, Common Core, dy/dan, now the Stanford course. Every time I try it in my classroom the administration go ballistic. No, you have to lecture. No, you have to answer children’s questions immediately.  Where is the scaffolding ( on which they will hang themselves?) We can’t have them struggle. we can’t have them feel bad.

prisonLook, guys with no experience teaching math or science, the kids are 10th graders operating at a 4th grade level. And you want more of the same? What do you expect will happen? Instead, let’s read what is being done elsewhere and give it a try. Let’s support the teachers who try to read the research and are willing to try something new(ish).

Honestly, I don’t know if this works. Will I get kids to start thinking on their own? Is it possible for students who are 6 years behind, who have sat stultified for 9 years of lectures, to start working and thinking for themselves? I don’t know. But I have to say that it can’t possibly make things any worse.

Thank you, special ed.


blue_boyI’ve worked a lot with one special ed. teacher.  She’s been great – learning along with the kids. She’s been great at saying “no, we won’t ” do more. Oh, we have 10 minutes left, let me just squeeze in one more thing – no, we won’t. She taught me to slow down, and remember the learner. She reminded me to get back into learning myself, to take classes, to remember what it feels like to be bewildered.

This week I got someone new.  And I got a compliment. The new special ed. teacher said he liked what I did. He felt that he could be successful, and that starting off on lines and shapes was great for the kids.

I suppose I should have enough self-assurance to always feel as if I know what I’m doing is okay, but I am so, so pleased that he said all this, and in front of the kids. Hooray! I have learned something about teaching in the last 10 years! Thanks, special ed. teachers.

All Grand Rapidses are alike


2013-07-16 16.14.39 This summer I went through the other Grand Rapids. I took pictures of their Central High school (okay, it’s not in use as a school any more, but it still looks delicious).

So imagine my surprise when I got an email from the other Grand Rapids asking for help in setting up the use of their on-line book. I spent about a month getting ours set up for kids to use. The book company created a lot of extra work for teachers, which makes me sad. But we used it today, and it worked, so hurrah for technology (sometimes).2013-07-16 16.21.11

Here’s my question – how did they find me? It’s a little creepy. Is my school email address hanging out there somewhere as a resource person for the book company? Are all Grand Rapids secretly connected?

Sometimes the internet is just weird.

geometry strings


ooh string designs. Our book introduces these as straight line patterns. Minimath projects has very affordable card supplies and patterns that even I, the inartistic math teacher, can follow. 2013-08-31 20.08.47I made one example of each for the students to see what they look like. Really, only card 3 is very mathy, since it uses coordinates. However, one has to follow instructions in order, which is a challenge in itself for my students.

I use crochet thread and tapestry needles, to minimize the eye-poking-out possibilities in the classroom. The last time I had geometry, 5 years ago, some students liked these, and made them as christmas gifts. Not bad for the mean Jewish math teacher.

Pre-school school


This week I have been part of a pre-high school camp, to help our students get used to working together in  high school. It’s free for kids – 50 places. We had 17 the first day, down to 12 by the second day. How sad.

The kids who did come were quite amazing –  total participation, total effort, working together. There were 4 adults, and 2 of us did everything, despite our unfitness and age. We were whipped. The other two – not so much.

If we could get half the incoming freshmen to be part of this group collaborative, our high school experience would be completely different. I can only imagine a high school where students work together, support each other, and try new things. I plow on with a different style of geometry ( sadly, I have been here 8 years ago, when we made terrific progress, but then I got taken out of that slot, being too unconventional).

Life goes on 🙂

Another new start


Whee! I have Geometry this year- at least so far! I have my same beautiful room, with a  refinished floor. Rumor has it there will be a smartboard in place of the one whiteboard, so I have wildly spent $13 on the piece of panelboard from Home depot, and had it cut into 6 pieces. As I covered the edges with fancy duct tape, I realized that someone will complain. My 6 groups will have to cooperate at their little piece of whiteboard. If I have to, I will get more.

I love geometry. The cavils of Paul Lockhart notwithstanding, I love Geometry. It includes art, language, construction, design, awareness, observation, interpretation… It’s the closest math to Physics, since it’s about naming of parts, and watching for when they come back again ( ooh, let[‘s call that a circle – wait, there’s another one! We are masters of our universe, we have named something!).

I’ve also learned how to make problems in WebWorks, and I’m going to use them for students to self-assess and then for assessments. No more multiple choice rubbish, no more re-creation of tests for students to take them endlessly over and over. And every kid gets a different test. Yes, Mike Pershan, the master of patience when it comes to teaching me LaTex, might be shocked, but I have learned a new computer skill!

So I hope the combination of hands-on activities, computer interaction, reading Alice in Wonderland, and groups in the classroom will provide at least one positive experience for every child. I plan to try the number talks from “how to learn math. ” All of these are a direct violation of the orders to endlessly grind on ACT questions. We’ll see how it goes.