Monday, April 30, 2018

My Best Unit Circle Projects 2018

Every year, I  assign my Pre-Calculus and Algebra 2 Honors classes a Unit Circle Art project, which I got from Miss Rudolph. I loved her guidelines and rubric, and I have used it in my classes since 2016 and 2017. I don't have pictures of the projects I got prior as I probably wasn't blogging then. The toga really stands out from the student who graduated college last year! So I've been doing this a while, but Miss Rudolph really helped me with her rubric. I assign this as a 30 point project, and the top three win 1, 2, and 3 points extra credit. The winners are chosen by another teacher and sometimes his/her students. 

This year, the winner was the HQ-nit circle, a play on the trivia game HQ, which we try to play every so often in one of my classes. 

It was fun to tweet to @hqtrivia and get a ton of likes.

And then @ScottRogowsky, the host, posted on Instagram!

That was fun are some other creative projects.

Swimming lines/lanes!
The details of this web are incredible!! See the x and y on the spiders??

Bowling - the bowling ball slides back and forth! I had this as a boomerang, but I lost it...

A good use of the unit circle "bow tie!"



Lake Okeechobee

I scream for the Unit Circle!

Where will I put this in my house?? 

The student's nickname who made this is Mr. 300

This was clever...a doodle bug!

licorice...not supposed to bring food, but it was sweet...

More food...happy students.

I used this a lot to demo when students were confused. 

Pokemon with a sigma

Big Ben
Pac Man on the computer!

Famous building in Brazil

Our crest!

Cool sun artwork
Wheel of Fortune!

Saturday, April 28, 2018

A Few Weeks of Relative Maximums and Relative Minimums

The title of this post is my math play on words for these last couple of months, as I have been away almost every weekend for some highs and lows.

Three weeks ago, I lost my childhood best friend to ALS. She asked me back in 2016 if I would write one of her eulogies. A few weeks before she died, I visited her and was able to read my eulogy with her. It was a gift I will never forget: to tell a person how much you love her and how much she impacted your life. We cried. Ugly cried. We hugged. Well, I hugged because she couldn't. She spelled out for me, with her laser pointer, "I am not worthy." If she only knew how worthy she was. Over 600 people were in attendance and four other very close people in her life wrote very different, yet equally if not more impactful eulogies. The funeral was beautiful, starting with Debbie picking out the song Thank You by Jennifer Nettles and having it played for all of us. I was numb. I was lost. I had no time to mourn.

I flew back to Florida a few hours later and immediately finished prepping for our first TEDxSaintAndrewsSchool event three days later. I went from possibly the lowest point in my life to probably the highest (professional) moment within a matter of days. The fifteen students and three guest speakers absolutely blew me away. They did better than I ever could have imagined, and more importantly, I watched as the students shined. Four months earlier, they started the TED-Ed class with little idea of what it was about and no idea that they would do a TED talk. And they all ended with an impactful idea worth spreading. Their and their parents' smiles said it all. Yet every moment when I wasn't busy, every moment I was alone, all I could think of was Debbie.

Around the same time, I helped one of my best friends with her ice cap through her chemotherapy. It's a cap she uses so she won't lose her hair. She's doing OK, but she feels sick for a week after and gets chemo every two weeks. That's not much time to feel like herself. All while she's still teaching. We watched part of the first episode of the Santa Clarita Diet as the poison seeped through her veins, and we had to turn it off as we both got nauseated - from the show, not the chemo! We sent tons of pictures of raw meat back and forth to each other with the throw-up emoji for days, just giggling about it as I'm thinking about it now. Highs and lows.

The next week, I took 30 kids to Mu Alpha Theta states. It was so much fun. I laughed with my incredible colleagues and students even as the kids competed constantly for almost two days straight. We started out at Universal Studios and went on a few rides and giggled when some of the adults turned a bit green. I heard a freshman exclaim, "Mrs. Winer! I won!" when his name was called for an award, and immediately watched him call his mother afterward. I constantly laughed while playing trivia with the students and cheered with them when we came in 3rd place out of over forty schools. I watched the kids sit in a huge circle outside of my hotel room late after awards because they weren't allowed to have boys in girls rooms and vice versa. They sat and played cards with the newest member of the math department, a male teacher who is equally as nerdy as me. I watched them grow to love him and learn more about him and realize they had a lot in common with him. I felt proud of him and of my students.

What no one knew is that when they were competing, I had some downtime. At Starbucks, waiting in line, I sobbed, quietly, into my MAO sweatshirt of all things. I read and answered texts from Debbie's friends and family while in line-- none of us sure we even believe that she is gone. How could I no longer see my sweet friend?? And then, a kid would appear in line, and just like that, I snapped out of my pain and into proud momma mode.

How can one go through a series of relative maxes and mins so fast? A sine curve? With a period of π/10000 for us math folk. Up down up down...

And the last maximum so far...I just got back from NCTM Annual. It was amazing. Sara VanDerWerf is my hero. She has superpowers for sure. I think she makes everyone she speaks to feel important. I am going to do math talks and make sure students can "see it before I show them" and that students will "say it before I tell them." I will try to teach with a "full stack" like Dan Meyer. I will try to do all of the things I learned. The biggest relative max of all was when I gave my first talk ever on Students Teaching Students. I ran out of handouts. That means I had over 200 people in attendance, and they were so engaged and interested. And I did it...I used to hate public speaking, but I was able to speak without having all my notes written down in front of me, and I didn't fail. It was actually amazing. I had an awesome time with my former colleague Mary. We laughed the whole time with my other colleague Ari. I bumped into my son's Kindergarten teacher from 15 years ago as well as a former student. I helped a group of pre-service teachers when the session we were at was at a lull, and it was so cute to watch them take copious notes on everything I said. It was so much fun.

But there was a low. A dear friend of mine whom I met for a drink there told me she has Parkinson's.  She was there for me when I had my medical issues in 2004, climbing Philmont with her son in my honor. And to hear this news - to hear that my avid runner friend, my brilliant author friend - is having to deal with such a huge's almost too much.

So now, I'm home's time to mourn. It's time to mourn all the things around me that are falling apart and at the same time to be thankful for everything I have. It's time to be grateful I can make it to yoga this afternoon and know that my body will do what my instructor tells me to do. Well, mostly. It's time to be there for my students and let them know I'm here for them in a month when I've been out of school much more than I care to admit. It's time to thank G-d for being alive and not worry about petty things.

Who knows how long my domain will last. It's my range of actions that I need to be most proud of in the big function f(x) = life.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Like a Good Puzzle? Try the TED-Ed Dark Coin Riddle

Have you seen the new Dark Coin Riddle? Give it a try, but also check out the TED-Ed lesson to go even further with it.

Want to try some more? Give these a try with your classes!

Saturday, January 6, 2018

A Very Busy Second Semester (Gratitude)

I have so much going on right now, I feel the need to blog about it so that I can see it all in one place. So, as it is for many bloggers, this is more for me to just put it all down somewhere, organize it, and hold myself accountable!

TEDx and my new TED-Ed class

I have put in an application to host a TEDx event at my school. This is really exciting, but it is also nerve-wracking at the same time. I've decided that one of my New Year resolutions is to give students a voice. I read recently that one of your New Year resolutions shouldn't be about you. I like that, and so I spent a few days during winter break really thinking about how I can commit to that. I planned my TED-Ed class for two weeks, curating TED talks to watch, assigning small assignments, explaining the purpose of the class, etc. I'm getting excited. The irony is that I am a math teacher who at one time was so paralyzed by public speaking that I can't believe I am the one to teach students how to give a TED talk!! But I see it as an opportunity to give students a way to spread an idea that is unique to them and that makes their hearts beat faster. I'm pumped. I'm nervous, but it's a good nervous. And after 27 years of teaching, it's exciting to have something new to do!

I have been preparing by using the amazing modules provided by TED-Ed clubs (click the link to find out how to get the valuable resources) and by reading Chris Anderson's TED Talks book. He's the curator of TED. I met him in person at TED-Ed Weekend, which is enough to inspire me to help my students do incredible things. Stay tuned!! The video below explains TED-Ed clubs. Watch below!

A Math Fair

I wish I could remember how I figured out about the Julia Robinson Math Festival. Each year, I've charged my Mu Alpha Theta vice-presidents to come up with a school-wide community service project, and this is the first year that I have students who followed through! The goal is to have a math fair, grades JK - 8, for students and their parents, with our club members facilitating. I've listed some info below. The goal is to have our 85+ club members work with younger students to inspire them to enjoy mathematics. I hope that this will be a yearly festival! 

Speaking at NCTM

Again, never would I have thought that I could do public speaking. A sudden calm came over me in the last few years. I seriously used to get so nervous when I found out that I had to speak (not in the classroom, of course!), that I would be sick to my stomach for weeks, obsessing about what could go wrong. However, in the last year or so, this feeling has dissipated. I don't know why. But I'm not going to question it. I spoke publicly twice last year, once in front of a a group of alum and once in front of maybe a hundred and fifty people, telling my story about my love of my school and my job. It was extremely rewarding, which is another reason why I want to help students share their unique stories.

I applied to speak at NCTM Annual in Washington DC last year and was happy to hear that I was selected to speak about my TED-Ed project Students Teaching Students. I have yet to plan this talk, but hey, that's what spring break will be for!! This is another first that I'm excited about, but it feels stressful not having it ready yet. 


There are a lot of MAO competitions coming up as this is our season. We have three regionals: January 20, February 3, and March 3, along with States. This year, we are hoping to take students to Universal Studios the night before states (by student request), and all of this takes so much time to organize. It's very enjoyable, and for January 20th, we have over 70 students signed up to go! This also means giving up 3 Saturdays and one weekend as a chaperone, but it is totally worth it. 


There is one thing that really helps ground me other than working out, and that is attending things that help me spiritually. Here are some of the things I am going to/going to do this year:
I'm also reading this book.

I also listen to Rachel Brathen's podcast "From the Heart" weekly. 
And I try to do something with at least one girlfriend a week - this is so necessary for my soul. 

After writing all of this down, I do feel better. I can see what's ahead. I know I have a lot to accomplish, but it's all doable. And I'm grateful for my family for supporting me through it and for this venue to share it. I am thankful for my health, my home, my friends, my job, and my students. I am thankful I can write this, and that my body is able to do the things I ask it to do each day: wake up, take me where I need to go, work out, and know when to relax (working on that last one!).

I'll leave you with this Glennon Doyle post from Instagram, in which my two worlds of math and spiritually collide: 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Six Good Things in 2017 #MTBoS12days

I saw Pam's Yule Blog Challenge and decided it was time to write about the good things that are going on this year in my classroom, 2017.

Escape Rooms - in and out of the classroom. 

1. My department purchased a Breakout Edu box, and my Honors Problem Solving Seminar students "broke out" twice this semester, once in the beginning of the semester and once at the end. I have to say that most students loved these challenges, and I plan to do it in my Algebra 2 Honors classes at the beginning of second semester. We ended the semester by going to a local escape room for a field trip. We had a blast!!

Play Table. Again. 

2. I have always had a few puzzles laying around my classroom for students to pick up and touch, but this year, I have a play table. I think the biggest hit has been Connect Four because it brings back some childhood memories for students...however, the cool thing is that now that kids are older, they are really understanding the strategies behind winning the game. Students also love the metal Tavern Puzzles (for lack of a better name...I believe they were played in taverns back in the day), where they have to separate what seems like one piece into two.


3. My period G class falls at the end of the day. At first, this class came in quite sleepy and not as engaged. I always find that my least engaged students become my most engaged students at the end of the year. I think it's because I work harder at getting them motivated, but who knows. Anyway, we started talking about the viral game HQ and played once during our brainbreak. What a hit. While we can't play a lot (what could really be a 2 minute game can easily turn into 20 minutes with the commentary of my new fave Scott Rogowsky), I thought it was worthy to donate to the MS Society and have Scott do a cameo video for the class...SO FUN!!

"Breakfast Club"

4. My Mu Alpha Theta students have been peer tutoring a lot (I require 10 hours a year), but we have been holding a special session on Thursday mornings called "Breakfast Club." I got the idea from Sarah's post about Cookie Club. Math teachers don't offer extra help Thursday mornings, so I pick up donuts and about 10 - 15 of our members either help each other or are available to help any students who pop in. We've averaged only about 3 non-club member students a week, but it is a start. My officers want to continue it next semester. My classroom is not centrally located so we may move it to a better location, such as the new Entrepreneurial Center. However, no food is allowed there so we may need to rename the club! In February, the club will be hosting its first Math Games Night for either the Lower School, the Middle School, or both...stay tuned!! I'm very proud of my officers this year!

3D Printers

5. Our school bought three 3-D printers, and I'm excited about the prospect of having students create. I am not sure I want to sacrifice my conics project on Desmos, and it's too late to do something with parent functions, like what I read about in Heather's post, but I am psyched for the future. I am hoping to get John Stevens to do a workshop for us. Stay tuned on this as well!

Former Students

6. This is the time of year when former students come back to visit. What a treat! It's great to hear what they are up to. I love seeing the babies or marriages on Facebook, or just getting a quick rundown in person. I have one former student that I closely consider to be the daughter I never had. We see each other maybe once a year (she lives across the country), but we catch up here and there with a quick text or through social media. She was one of those students who laughed at every joke and whose eyes lit up during that lesson that you prayed would work. I taught her in Algebra 2, and she quickly rose to the top, getting A's on her exams and skipping over the next math class to get directly into Pre-Calculus. I actually first met her during her freshman year, on our Pathfinder school trip. I was trying to roll up my sleeping bag to fit in this impossibly small bag (something my husband always does for me), and to no avail, I could not do it. She quickly earned the name "Macgyver" as she rolled it up in about a second and proudly displayed the sleeping bag in its case, holding it by the string.

We have kept in touch ever since. Perhaps the hardest time seeing her after she graduated was when she flew back for a classmate's untimely death. The funeral was unbearable, for a life lost too soon. He was one of her best friends, and we still talk about his antics. That was a sad day, indeed.

I caught up with her last week, listening to her delightful stories of rubbing elbows with stars in LA (I am easily starstruck). It was a lovely start to winter break.

These are just a few of the cool things going on this year. Nothing remarkable. Which is just the way I like it.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

An Untraditional Route for a Veteran Math Teacher--What's Next?

Every year I think I'm going to slow things down and start saying "no." And every year, I think I take on more.

I see the parallel in my son's life, a sophomore in college. Each time he thinks he can't handle anymore, someone comes to him with an amazing opportunity, and he can't say no. The apple doesn't fall far, I guess.

I have been teaching high school mathematics for 28 years now. No year is like the last, so in that respect, nothing is ever boring. However, in the last few years, I have been feeling "what else?" Don't get me wrong...I love my job and love how Twitter and MTBoS have changed my teaching exponentially, as my department has grown from 10 people in the classrooms next door to me to thousands (tens of thousands?) globally. But, 28 years is a long time to be in the same career...from what I hear, most people change jobs 7 times...and though I changed schools once, I've been teaching some of the same topics every year, 3 or 4 times a year, for 28 years (completing the square, anyone??)


Six years ago, I started a Mu Alpha Theta chapter in my school, and that kept the fire in my soul, in addition to teaching. I love it, and that was really just what I needed to keep things the same yet different. It gave me a new outlook each day, something more to look forward to. Again, I look forward to teaching my students each day, but I can't help the feeling I had that something was missing. Advising this amazing group was the antidote.

Honors Problem-Solving Seminar

Then, three years ago, I began teaching the elective Honors Problem-Solving Seminar. It was just something different and new, and what I LOVE about it is that we can stop the curriculum and talk about a cool problem or video that just came out (I'm biased and love TED-Ed riddles). This never happens in math. I envied history teachers for years, as they could talk about current events, and I know someone out there can say we can relate a math problem to the real-world and talk about current events, but for me at least, it does not come up organically. It comes up organically every day in problem-solving because I'm not constantly focusing on finishing a curriculum to ensure that next year's teacher finishes the curriculum to ensure that students pass their BC Calculus class the year after, etc. Whew. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

This year, Honors Problem-Solving Seminar is going strong. The students are all motivated, and best of all, they are funny. They thrive on humor and get excited when I give them just about any problem. Their final exam is to make a Numberphile or Vi Hart type video on any of the following topics:

TED-Ed Class

Next semester, rather than teach a second section of this class, I will be teaching a TED-Ed class. Instead of holding a traditional TED-Ed club after school (because I advise Mu Alpha Theta and JSU already), we will be having it as a class. This is new for me and I'm both frightened and excited. But I feel like this is exactly what I am supposed to be doing next. 

I love the quote: Do something every day that scares you. Yep, that's me! 🙋🏻

I am a mathematics teacher and truly hate public speaking. But I'm a TED-ED Innovative Educator (the only math teacher, I believe), and I have learned how to cultivate the best in my students. So while I do not like to speak publicly, I will show how, through the amazing TED-Ed modules, to give students a "voice with choice"--in other words, what are they passionate about? What is their idea worth spreading?

What is next up for me? I'm proposing that we host a local TEDx event, something I do not know much about. However, there are so many people out there who want to help and have helped tremendously. So in 5 months, we may actually have our students, at all grade levels (we have TED-Ed clubs starting in the Middle and Lower schools), do their very own TED talk in our brand new 180-seat theatre. This is so exciting to me! 

Someone asked me when they heard about it, are YOU giving a TED talk? No, that's not the point. At least not now. This is and always has been about opportunities to showcase our students, not ourselves. 

Our students have so much to say. Much of it could be bottled up and much of it students don't even know how to tap into. But now they will have their own voices and a platform. 

Maybe this is my calling? Well, math teaching was and is my calling...but it's time for something else. And what I love is that I'm not giving up my math teaching...I'm adding to it, in a way that is global and that allows for students to grow. And maybe, just maybe, a student will talk about their love of math at our TEDx event. And then my two worlds will collide.

What's next for you? 

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite movies. It's from John Lennon's "Beautiful Boy," and I remember it from Mr. Holland's Opus. From what I recall, Mr. Holland, played by Richard Dreyfuss (supposedly a very distant cousin of my husband's), "sings" it to his deaf son in sign language...I believe after refusing to really acknowledge his son much at all since music was Mr. Holland's "thing." Ah what a great movie.

But I digress. I had big plans this week/weekend. I am only one week into school, and I am just at that sweet spot where the kids are starting to open up and trust you. My Mu Alpha Theta officers made an amazing promo video to show to the entire school that was funny and cool and full of geeky but great Rubik's Cubes and "marker drops." I had a plan to begin yoga teacher training this weekend, something I have been wanting to do for years, and the stars finally "aligned" (and my studio's owner and the manager gave me the extra push I needed.) My son is back up at UF, and while last year was trying at the beginning, he is now in a good place, happy and satisfied, and just got a major research project that he had been patiently vying for since April. I got back on track eating-wise and health-wise after a summer of gorging on processed foods made with sugar and flour since I was lucky enough to travel most of the summer and try all these new treats made with them. All sounds good, right?

And then...the hurricane. Irma, I'm talking about you. As I look at the window at this beautiful Florida sky, I cannot believe that within 48 hours, I am not sure if I will have a house with a roof on it. Perhaps I should be packing things up and trying to keep things dry, but I am frozen. I am doing just what my husband tells me to do: clean out the closet at the bottom of the stairs for a "safe space," go to the pet store, etc. I truly am completely frozen. And a bit petrified.

Why wouldn't I leave? Well, I have been through a few hurricanes before. It's been rough, and at least we do get a warning. I can't answer why I don't want to leave. We don't have hurricane shutters. It's crazy, I know. It was so expensive so we never got them. And after last year's scare with Matthew (which turned last minute, thankfully), we vowed to get them this year...but we...forgot??? How?? We live in a townhouse with a house on either side and are somewhat protected. We are praying for the best.

On this gorgeous Florida day, school is closed so families could prepare and leave. One family told me they were flying to Canada. Another to Colombia. Many are "buttoning up" their houses and leaving. But I'm going to stay. My son is safe in Gainesville, so I am feeling good about that. Most of my family is husband and two cats, my sister-in-law and brother-in-law down the road, my other brother-in-law around the corner, and my mother-in-law also down the road...I will stay with her when it gets really bad, but my husband wants to stay with the house and the animals.

So, Irma has other plans for me this week. No "method of finite differences" for my Problem Solving kids after spending several days on figurate numbers. No reviewing for the second quiz (first quiz was on prerequisites) for Algebra 2H and Pre-Calculus AB. No showing of the awesome Mu Alpha Theta promo video in the all-school assembly. No Back to School night (I'm OK with this one!) No weekend of yoga. And I know it will be matter what, we have insurance and we will figure it out. And if you haven't been to one, a hurricane party is always fun :)