Saturday, September 9, 2017

Types of Math Questions


My new co-teacher came up with three reasons students get stuck in math.

Students say something like, "I don't get it,"  and what we think they mean is that they don't understand one of the following --  vocabulary, procedure or concept.

For Vocabulary issue,  they might ask "What does ___ mean?"

For Procedure issue,  they might ask "How do we ___?"

For Concept issue,  they might ask ...???

What would a Concept issue-question be? This is where we are stuck, and where I'm looking for help. My thinking is that if a bunch of thoughtful teachers send us the questions their students ask, we can sort them and determine two things - (1) if our three categories are adequate and (2) which of those questions might best be categorized as a "concept" questions.

So tell us, What questions do your students ask in math class?

Do those questions fall into one of our categories? Is there a category we're missing? What does it sound like when a student has a Concept question?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Group Roles

I started group roles in my freshmen Algebra class.
Students were incredibly engaged in choosing their unique role in the group, and have been taking ownership of their jobs.

Our roles:

Time Keeper
Resource Manager
Eagle Eyes

Saturday, February 11, 2017


I just finished watching the documentary 13th and am trying to take what I learned back to my students. I quickly made an Average Rate of Change example to spark conversation with my students about the exploding prison population in the US over the past decade. I'm posting it here (word doc from Google Drive download)  for others who might want to incorporate socially conscious math in their classrooms.

This is my draft of what will work for my students. If you have modifications, extensions or accommodations to add, please feel free to - and please let me know about it !

Text for editing:

The documentary “13th” discusses the aftermath of the 13th amendment, and a specific clause that applies to criminals. The film cites prision population statistics from 1970  to 2014 to support their claims. Consider the statistics from the film below and answer the questions that follow.

US Prison Population

1.     What is the average rate of change of the prison population from 1970 to 1980?

2.     What is the average rate of change of the prison population from 1980 to 1990?

3.     What is the average rate of change of the prison population from 1990 to 2000?

4.     What is the average rate of change of the prison population from 2000 to 2014?

5.     What do your answers to the questions above tell you about the US prision population over the past 50 years?

6.     The movie opens with Obama saying the following.
·       5% of the world’s population is American
·       25% of the world’s prision population is Amcrican

What does this make you think about the prison population in America verses the rest of the world? How does this make you feel?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Recently, you might have heard Lin Manuel Miranda say love is love is love is love is love. 

This past year, I used this image to introduce a unit on equivalent expressions.

Kanye is Kanye is Kanye is Kanye.

Next year, I'll use this one.

Love is love is love is love is love.

All equivalent forms. All equal.

This might not be the same constructive controversy Dan Meyer intended in his NCTM 2016 presentation. And I wish it weren't controversial. But I'm hoping it can be constructive.

I'm nervous about dipping my teaching toes into this pool. I'm also too afraid of what the world will look like in 20 years if people like me don't make some type of a change. People that are teachers, people that are educated, people that try to be aware -- if we don't do something, nothing changes.

Friday, June 17, 2016

With A Little Help From Our Friends

So recently I posted that one of my goals for next year is to foster more community and collaboration among my students.  Now, I am reaching out to my community to help keep me accountable to that goal and other goals I've posted.

As teachers, we are disappointed when students don't show self-regulation and discipline. However, if I'm honest, it's something I struggle with as well - especially when I don't have an outside force holding me accountable. When it's only me trying to set and reach a goal... at best, I do this, I reach out.  "Siri, Remind me on August 15 what I said I'd do in June..." 

I'm also reaching out here, and I'll reach out to my local community as well.

Hey there in cyberspace! Will you check up on me next year? Will you share your strategies for holding yourself accountable to your goals? 

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


 I've been watching the American Cup, and in NYC as far as I can tell it is only broadcast on Univision in Spanish. One thing I've learned is that the Spanish-speaking broadcasters have *incredible* lung support. Their sustained vowels are incredible. When I went to write the title "goals" on this post.. it came out in my head, well, like "GOOOOOOOOOOOOAL."

And perhaps, like the O's in my title, this list has too many items already.  I've been reflecting on this year, and I'm too antsy not to think about how I will improve for next year.

More instructional goals will likely come as I see my students' Regents scores. (Disclaimer: I recognize test scores are not the only or the final measure of learning, but passing this test is required for graduation. And for the population's I've taught so far... I know how critical that can be. This might have been a crude goal, but it's been necessary.)

- Make Time for Student Reflection & Summary: I need to build in more time for this. A recent post on #MTBoS (sorry I didn't mark the link!) went through phases of a math class, and the most glaring element I noticed missing from my own practice was this. Students need a chance to cement their learning by thinking about what it is they've just been doing. They need time to work it into their schema at the beginning AND end of the lesson if it's going to stick. 

How I'll do this: 
.. I don't know yet ! I want to research how others are doing this. I want to find a book on it. I'll send out a tweet about it.. 

It's a start..

- Increase Parent & Family Outreach:  
This year I taught "true" freshmen for the first time. This was the youngest group of students I've ever taught. It might sound obvious but I've learned how valuable a lever parents can be for student engagement and achievement. I want to keep parents posted on 

How I'll do this: 
- Use Remind actively 
-- Thursday Nights - HW Due Tomorrow! 
-- Upcoming Unit Tests
- Weekly Class Website Updates???

- Build My Math Acumen: 
As a French major, Special Education certified teacher and former mathaphobic, I've certainly  had my own personal moments of doubt about my math abilities and acumen. However, two perfect scores on CLEP exams, a Math CST pass and positive interactions with some true math experts later... my confidence is building. I know there is still more to learn, and I don't want to stop learning. I want to know not only my craft (teaching) but my content -- inside and out. I want to know what my students need to know years after Algebra. I want to be sure that I prepare them for any level of math in their futures and that I can answer any of their questions with confidence. 

 How I'll do this: 
 Attend some type of Twitter Meet Up this Summer
 Keep up my blog 
 Take math classes -- any ideas on this??  I don't need to earn credits, I just want to beef up my skills. If credit comes with it fine, but free is better.  Coursera? Open SUNY? 

- Make Math Musical: 
I have *always* loved music and performance. I didn't always love math.  It just makes so much sense for there to be more of this part of "me" in my classes. I'm not saying this isn't student-centered. Teaching is a personal business. Teaching needs to be authentic. Passion can be contagious. Music is powerful and powerfully tied to memory. 

 How I'll do this: 
Identify the big skills, concepts and facts students need to know and understand then parody songs using lyrics about math. I will choose songs I love, as well as a few I hope students also know and love. (Sorry in advance to students who I will ruin songs for...) 

Be More Socially Conscious

It sounds obvious, but I'm coming back around to something I heard early on in teaching. I don't just teach a content -- I teach... soft skills - collaboration, community, citizenship. In a recent post I talked about wanting to make changes to my teaching with the hopes that small changes make waves.  

Here's one resource I found already on this:


Planning my curriculum map for next year and stuck here. 

Typically, I've taught these topics in this order ...

1) Solve Linear Equations
(first in one variable, then Literal Equations)
2) Solve Linear Inequalities
(in one variable - including graphing the solution set and including compound inequalities, as well as interval notation) 
3) Graph Linear Equations
4) Graph Linear Inequalities

Others in my department do the following...
1) Solve Linear Equations
2) Graph Linear Equations
3) Solve Linear Inequalities
4) Graph Linear Inequalities

The latter doesn't flow right to me. I'm trying to sort out why in my head. Here goes with the latter's drawbacks...

- Can't use interval notation when discussing domain and range of the linear equations you've graphed because students won't yet know it.
- Solving inequalities is just like solving equations (with one special rule) and I want to keep that flow going. (Though, on the other hand, maybe returning to it helps spiral and keep fresh that old information). 

And positives...
- follows all the way through with linear equations.
- students less likely to confuse equations and inequalities when graphing because they are separate.