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.


Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Problems Worth Solving

First, I'd like to shout out Mr. Bingea for his recent blog post that has encouraged me to write my second post in two weeks. (I do still have that post on goals in draft form percolating..)

I recently printed Dylan Kane's math elevator speech for my classroom. I bolded certain phrases, and increased the font size of the last phrase "these are problems worth solving."

Today I am struck by that in the wake of the Orlando shooting. Am I truly presenting my students with problems worth solving? How do I teach tolerance in my math class? How do we truly build community and collaboration among our young people? The kind of community that lasts after their four years of high school have passed, and makes them true citizens of the world.

I'm embarrassed to say I usually view those - community, collaboration - as tools to achieve math mastery. Has my view been so myopic? What's the point of learning math in a world where a life can end in a moment, too soon, because someone legally purchased a gun?

I teach math because math gave me confidence I didn't know I had before. I came back around to it as an adult. Can I move my students not just to love math.. but love themselves and love each other? Does one person even have this power? In the course of a one year Algebra class...

I work at a great school with a strong team of adults.. even together.. what can be done?

I have to believe that I am one of Helen Keller's "honest workers" when she said, "The world is moved along, not only by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but also by the aggregate of tiny pushes of each honest worker." If I didn't, I wouldn't get out of bed in the morning.

In my four years of teaching, there have been more shootings than I can count from memory, not to mention other tragedies stemming from abuse of power and exploitation of marginalized communities. I've grieved and picked myself up each time. What will I do to change the world -- if not start by changing myself?

I know this sounds aggrandizing. I was once swiftly shut down by a career advisor who started our conversation by saying "What do you want to do with your life, and don't tell me 'I want to change the world'." Maybe I have that power, but likely.. I don't. Regardless, I don't want to be idle.

I may not be able to change the world, but I can change myself. I can change my teaching practice to to to instill a lasting sense of community.  Though it sounds obvious, I can't ignore the world outside my classroom.

Problems worth solving. How many letters and emails to congress does it take to make changes to gun legislation? What is the exponential growth of our impact ? How do I teach students to understand the significance of the statistics surrounding the US incarceration rates?

I know last year at NCTM I attended a presentation on other math teachers engaged in this work. Now to re-discover their blogs and resources..

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

525,600 minutes

So I might have missed a few blog posts. Oops.

This year...
- I'm now a *public* school teacher, and learned a bit about feeling like a cog in a big machine.
- I taught true freshmen (see: actual 14 year olds) for the first time.
- I taught classes with >50% attendance (see: 30 students all in the room at once) for the first time.
- I use a Promethean (not Smart) board.
- I did not use Standards Based Grading.
- I flipped a class (on EdPuzzle) and didn't self-pace it.  (More on that later).
- I experimented with Interactive Notebooks.
- I met a few great math teachers and attended some PDs.
- I presented at a PD for math teachers for the first time.
- I taught completing the square (in Algebra 1) for the first time.
- I feel tired because its June, but more rested than I have ever felt in a June.
- I learned about collaborating with peers.
- I had students give math class presentations (expositions) for the first time.

I'm going to try and get more active on MTBoS. Look out for a  post about goals coming soon...