What Started as Tough, Becomes Good

Today started rough. I couldn’t work on-line last night, so was unprepared this morning for my classes. I knew what I wanted to do, but didn’t have anything in order. I arrived at school at 6:00am feeling like I could probably pull it together. Between slow internet, copy machines not cooperating, and having difficulty getting my computer hooked up, I was finally ready to start class at 7:58. Class starts at 8:00. I hate not being ready until the last minute.

We started looking at symmetry on Monday, and today I started my Algebra classes with a you tube video. The kids loved it, and began talking about faces, symmetry, whether or not they felt it made someone beautiful, I couldn’t have been happier. This was my lead in to the Mathalicious activity Face Value. When the students saw the faces on the student sheet, they became very excited. It was difficult for me to explain what we were going to do they were so excited. We finally got through the instructions and they were on it! They were making predictions about whose face was going to be the most symmetrical and competing with each other to figure it out first. It was a great way to have the periods go after the rough morning.

In geometry we began our similarity unit. I started with the Mathalicious activity Viewmongous to review ratio and proportion and to give them a preview of similarity without really introducing the topic. We then moved on to the Yummy Math activity Happy Birthday Statue of Liberty where they began to work with ratio and proportion in the context of similarity. I still have not formally defined similarity to them.  Yesterday we looked at a perspective drawing and how it starts from a point and extends outward, a dilation so to speak. Today we started working with actual dilation. I gave them some problems to do, outlining the process of dilation and they worked together in groups to create these dilations. Part way through the classes, one or more students would look up and ask something like, “This is just like the ratio problems we have been working on. We’re stretching figures based on a ratio.” I was thrilled!

I wasn’t sure how this was going to work out, but I have been working with the Algebra classes on defining transformations with them through the process of learning them. It has been working so well, that I wanted to try it with the geometry students in the similarity unit. I’m so glad I did. They struggled a little, but once they worked their way through the first problem, they had it. I’m really glad I went with my instincts on this. I think they have a much better understanding. Then today, a tweet from Oliver Schinkten,”Do not be afraid to try a new, innovative, lesson. If it doesn’t work….reflect, adjust, retry. That is the modeling Ss need to see!” (Ok, something new I need to learn, how to take a screen shot), and an article, Bigger Gains for Students Who Don’t Have Help, encouraged me to give it a try. I’m glad I did. I’ve always believed in inquiry based learning, encouraging students to problem solve, etc. but I don’t think I’ve always been totally comfortable with not defining things purposefully somewhere along the way.

There’s always room for growth.

Transformation Success

My Algebra students struggle with math, life, learning, and themselves. Everything they do and experience causes them to react in one way or another. Often, they react by tuning out, or convincing themselves that something is just not for them. As a teacher, this is a tough group. As an extremely sensitive teacher, this is one of the toughest assignments ever. I put my heart and soul into my teaching every day, and my desire is to see the light come on and to see students learn and feel successful. With this group, a huge success can be that they don’t ignore you or even pull out paper and pencil when asked. It’s hard to keep your spirits up when working with these students, and when a breakthrough comes through, it can be the most exciting thing ever.

I am experiencing this recently. We have been working on transformations in this class and the students have been really enjoying it. Every student has been working on something at some point in the class, many have been engaged the entire period. They are completing work, asking thoughtful questions, and the biggest success of all occurred yesterday. I gave a quiz on the transformations we have been covering. Only two of my students turned in papers with very little writing. Many of them started out doing their usual quiz thing, writing a couple things down then assuming they couldn’t do any of it. I encouraged them to keep looking and realize that this was exactly what we’ve been doing in class. Soon they were all working. A couple more words of encouragement and they were adding in extras, and going back and writing in things that came to them after they had finished. I am excited and amazed. I was feeling like I would not see any breakthrough at all with this group, it’s the toughest group of students I have dealt with in all my years of teaching. One student even asked me on writing a definition of reflection, “Should we use the one we created in class or come up with a new one?” Right, huh? Son, you just made my day!

More Geometry, and More Learning

I’ve been lax on blogging lately, it seems I just can’t keep up. There has been quite a bit going on in my classes, at home, at the district, I could go on, but I’m sure you don’t want to hear it. I’ll just share what’s happening in my classroom.

My algebra classes are “rockin’ the house” with transformations. They really get it! They are loving making the transformations within and out of the coordinate plane, and understand how to reflect over a line without a Mira. The rotations slowed them down, for a minute, but they quickly caught on and are doing great with them also. Everyone is working and trying, in fact, a couple of my toughest students have become leaders in the class, leading discussions and helping other students. Today we went over the mapping again, and they caught on quickly and were calling out coordinates before I even asked or had them on the board.  They derived definitions of reflection, translation and rotation from their work, and can clearly explain what each is, differences and similarities. I’m very happy that the choice our district made to go to Integrated Math next year allowed me the opportunity to introduce these topics to these students. They are really enjoying seeing something different, and several are actually beginning to believe that they “can do math.”

My geometry students are improving this semester. To their account, a lot of it was probably our inability to visualize the transformational geometry at first, and working on creating the course as it should be. The gift for me this semester is I get the chance to do it again, and improve as I go. The other part is that I have gone back to teaching the way I teach best. Inquiry and problem-solving. The students are responding well to it, and are beginning to be willing to think their way through a problem. I’ve given them a couple of challenging problems from GoGeometry and the discussions have become much more insightful and thoughtful. I am also beginning to feel less stressed, more like myself, and have relaxed with the students, creating a much more positive atmosphere. So far, I’m really excited about this semester and hope to continue to see good things.

On the personal front, I’m excited about NCTM in NOLA coming up in April. I’m hoping to meet several of my new twitter buddies, and more in July in Jenks, OK. I’m also taking a stab at writing full activities, and hope that I’ll have something I feel is worth sharing soon. I want to sincerely thank the MTBoS for becoming a huge encouragement in my professional life, and helping me learn to be more social also.  You are all the best!!

More Geometric Reflections

Today we worked on reflecting outside the coordinate plane. We used an activity from the Navigations Series from NCTM. This proved to be more difficult for the students. They were struggling with the idea of reflecting perpendicularly over a line and seeing how this would work. After the reflection had been created they could see the result and state that it did occur perpendicularly, but before reflecting that was not coming to mind as a tool to reflect. We will practice this some more tomorrow, both in and out of the coordinate plane. The Miras are a great tool. It allows them to feel successful at reflecting and seeing how the reflection occurs.

Students were off task and disruptive today also. Probably because it was Monday, but I found myself struggling to be patient with them. I sat down at a desk in the class until they were ready to listen. This always throws them off a little and usually works pretty quickly. I think the step up in difficulty in the task today set them off a little too. Hopefully tomorrow will go well. IMG_0106

Reflections and Inquiry

Today I had my Algebra students do a small inquiry into the definition for reflections. They took a triangle, and reflected it over the x-axis, y-axis,  and origin using a Mira. After reflecting the triangle, I asked them, “What do you notice?” Their observations are recorded on the white board.  They even came up with the change in the x and y coordinates for the reflections, although until I told them to write the coordinates for the reflection over the origin, that one alluded them.  They then used their observations to create a definition for reflections.

On Monday, we will do some reflections and observations with figures not in the coordinate plane.  Many of these students are telling me that geometry is so much easier than algebra. It really is nice to see them enjoying something mathematical, they are in this class because they have been continually failing math classes.

I am excited at how they are verbalizing their understanding of how figures reflect. I can’t wait to see how they do on Monday.

Ss Working Observations Reflections

New Attitude

I was on a role for a bit, blogging once a week which was working really well for me. I was having computer issues, which created a huge frustration for me, and got behind. I’ve acquired a new computer, a Macbook Pro, and I am so happy with it. It’s a bit of a learning curve, I’ve always been a PC user, but I’m enjoying the challenge. That, and a new iPhone, and I’m finding myself working hard at trying to keep up tech-wise.

I attended the Global Math Department on Jan. 28 when Sophie Germain (twitter name) was sharing about racism and hard discussions. It really started me thinking about what I am doing in my classes, what awareness I have and don’t have, and how I think about my students. Fortunately, it’s not all bad, but I do have some improvements to make. Her challenge this month really got me. She is taking selfies every day this month and posting them and has challenged us to look at ourselves differently, to believe we are beautiful.

In response, I have done a couple of things. First of all, I have changed my profile pictures on both my blog and twitter to include pictures of myself. This was hard, I hate pictures of me, and suffer from some self-esteem issues, so this is pretty big for me. It’s so much easier to hide in the background and stay somewhat anonymous. I even posted a “selfie” on twitter this morning.

I’m going to continue to work on focusing on what I know to be good about myself, and give myself permission to improve what needs improving. In a discussion regarding student behavior on twitter, I made a comment to Justin Aion that I believed that his students are difficult and may be testing him to see if he will continue to return day after day to continue to teach and be a presence to them. I realized after making this comment that the same thing applied to me, so, I’m really going to try to be more aware of my students and myself in the time span that we have together, and believe that all of us can improve who we are, and how we think about ourselves and each other.