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 :)

Sunday, August 6, 2017

My Goals

I'm a few hours late with the #MTBoS blog initiative this week for #SundayFunday, which is to write about my goals, but I do want to jump on the bandwagon so that I can think through what I want to set out for next year.

Math (i.e, teaching) Goals: 

(I noticed after I wrote them that they really don't apply much to math at all, but more about making students feel even more comfortable in class.)

Goal 1: After listening to Susan Cain's Ted Talk on the Power of Introverts, I am convinced that not all students ALWAYS have to work in groups. She claims that many students are introverts who do better when they can think and work on their own. I am going to really make note of this as well as having students think on their own while solving a problem FIRST (cue this tweet:)

I need to teach this skill and have students (especially in Problem-Solving, but all classes really) know it's NOT okay to blurt the answer (I need to have WAIT time and not tell them the answer so fast, too.) I have been a big proponent of vertical non-permanent surfaces (#VNPS), and my classroom is supposed to have more board space when I walk in next week, so if some kids do not want to always work in groups when up at the boards or in their pods, I have to be okay with that and support them, too.

Goal 2: I love this post from Megan Hayes-Golding,  Perfect Teacher Move to Support LGBTQ Students. Here is a snippet.
It really got me to think, if we could all just do one small thing to make all of our students just a little bit more comfortable, wouldn't you do it? I am going to try to go out of my way to make a student like Ev feel good. It might make the difference for one student. 

Goal 3: Last year, I had some games set up on the back table: Towers of Hanoi puzzles and Rubik's Race. My kids loved them and played them during Brain Breaks and before and after school/class. My goal is to have more kids playing next year. 
After reading Sara Vanderwerf's post on You Need a Play Table in Your Math Classroom, I bought these spiraling pentagons to leave on the back table for play. 

Play Goals:

Goal 1: I am going to get my yoga certification this fall, which will be fantastic and crazy all at the same time. I will basically be giving up entire weekends for 6 weeks, but I am looking forward to growing with the group I am going to be working with. And it will help me to heal as I am feeling the pain of my childhood best friend, who was diagnosed with ALS last year. Here is her blog, which is beautiful and unbelievably written, but also hard to read. She is so raw, and she blows me away with her strength and the things she notices.

Goal 2: I am hoping to go for a walk at night after dinner and listen to some podcasts. I finished my first podcast ever, S-Town, and now I'm listening to Serial. I'm also listening to some other ones, such as the one from Grammar Girl and others. I'm new to Podcasts and am a bit overwhelmed with all of the options! I also hope to listen to them in the car to and from work on most days.

Eat Goals:

Last year, I lost 15 lbs which was amazing. I've put some of it back on, so I hope to go back to the healthy diet I was following when the pounds came right off. It's 80% diet, 20% exercise for me, so now that I am finished with vacation and eating whatever I wanted (pretty much), I am hoping to get back on track!

Monday, July 31, 2017

How to Start a Ted-Ed Club in your School

From Ted-Ed Clubs: We want every student in the world to share an idea on the TED platform (because, quite frankly, we need help figuring some stuff out -- like redefined gender roles and feline Batman conspiracies).

As a Ted-Ed Innovative Educator, Cohort 3, I am lucky enough to have started a Ted-Ed club in my fact, I am super excited to teach it as a class second semesterl!!

BUTTTT don't be scared that this is a daunting's not...I promise! Ted-Ed has the entire curriculum ready for you to use (you get it once you get approved), and you only have to meet weekly, or whenever you can as a club.

TED is looking for fresh new student voices to share from the TED stage. Our student voice initiative, TED-Ed, is launching the TED-Ed Clubs Challenge to surface student stories from around the world. So far, more than 25,000 students have given TED-style talks in their schools and communities through TED-Ed Clubs. We are inviting students, ages 8-18, to share what they would say if the world were listening, and we want to include your answer!

Sign up for a quick video chat to learn more. You’ll speak directly with a member of the TED-Ed team to learn everything you need to know about the Challenge and how to get involved with this awesome global community. TED-Ed has asked that you mention my name, LISA WINER, when you sign up. As a TIE, this will hopefully get you through the process a little faster. I went to the TED Weekend event last year, where kids were invited to give their talk based on their TED-Ed Club TED Talk...and it was absolutely amazing to see what OUR kids can do!!

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 1.59.34 PM.png

Questions? Email me at

TED-Ed Club Resources:

  1. TED-Ed Clubs: Celebrating and amplifying student voices around the world video:

  1. What would you say if the world was listening video:

Monday, June 19, 2017

Cambridge Teaching Seminar and MathsConf10 - My Summer of Professional Development

I'm procrastinating packing for Europe. I'll be traveling for about three weeks without my son or my husband - mostly alone. Doing what? Well certainly traveling to countries that I have never been to, but the main reason for my trip is to attend two workshops in England: The day-long Complete Maths workshop (MathsConf10) in Rainham, London and the week-long Oxbridge Teacher Seminar entitled "Thinking Mathematically" in Cambridge. I am using my Patten Family Foundation Grant for Sustaining Teacher Excellence to fund most of the trip as well as a fellowship I received from Oxbridge.

I'm super excited because Jo Morgan (her award-winning blog is will be meeting me at the train station and will help me to navigate to Rainham the morning of MathsConf10, and then I will be taking workshops on:

Exploding Dots (WATCH THE ANIMATION!!),
Using Art in the Math Classroom from @c0mplexnumber,
Cambridge Math Espressos: Filtered Maths Education Research, just to name a few.

Also included in this workshop:
  • Speed Dating: sharing your favorite maths idea with others
  • "Tweet-ups" during lunch
  • Maths Cakes competition (unfortunately, I won't be able to bring one across the pond, but I will post pictures, I'm sure!)
After this workshop, I will take a train to Paris to visit a friend and to do an in"Seine" day tour of basically every site there. I didn't mention that the day I land, I will be doing the same thing in London. It will be a whirlwind few days, but then when I arrive back in London, I will be going on a tour of Stonehenge, Bath, and Windsor Castle. I've got tickets to Kinky Boots, and I do get some time to just discover a bit. 

I have a day planned to go to Bletchley Park, or "Home of the Codebreakers," which is where Alan Turing and his team cracked the Enigma Code. (The movie The Imitation Game is based on this.) We talk about this in Problem-Solving, and I really want to thank Jo Morgan for encouraging me to go to this. I think it will be great, and I can't wait to bring all I learned back to my students.

The next day, I travel to Cambridge for the weeklong seminar Thinking Mathematically. 
This seminar sounds super exciting because although it is mathematical, it sounds more humanities based, and therefore I will be using my right side of the brain in addition to the left. There will be talks on Brexit, the Cambridge system, how to re-read literature and why, readings with a poet laureate, how poets ended slavery, Oliver Cromwell and more, as well as a viewing of an outdoor Shakespeare play and of course, daily 4:00 pm tea. I'm sure there will be lots of networking here as well. 

Following this seminar, I will be lucky (as in, luck of the Irish) to meet my mother-in-law and sister-in-law for a few days in Ireland, as they were already planning a visit. 

I do feel lucky. I hope to post more about the math ideas I will have learned in the next few weeks.

By the way, the picture below is of our new Bengal kitten, Arthur, who has a knack for knowing exactly when I'm working and therefore when to plop himself right down on me when I'm doing so. (One of these days I'm expecting him to send unfinished emails as he is also always walking along my keyboard!)
Here's to summertime! Though I won't have the typical amount of summertime at home with my family, I am excited about this once-in-a-lifetime experience, and I'm so thankful to my family for being so supportive and for my school for providing me this amazing experience. 

Saturday, June 17, 2017

The Case of the Missing Fractals

I happened upon this 2014 lesson called The Case of the Missing Fractals when I was looking for something else, and wow what a gem! I am definitely going to share it with my students next year. One year I was lucky enough to start talking about fractals in my Pre-Calculus Honors class. I posed the question, what fractal will have 0 area as the number of iterations goes to infinity? And then,  and what fractal will have infinite perimeter as the number of iterations goes to infinity? This Ted-Ed lesson explains exactly that in a very cute way. Kids will be hooked as gumshoe "Manny Brot" answers riddles about fractals.

The "Dig Deeper" section in the lesson has terrific links, including another Ted-Ed lesson about Flatland shown below:
There are so many great lessons on, and you can customize them as you see fit. 

What great Ted-Ed lessons have you found and used in your math classroom?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

DIY "Owl Miss You" Candy Jars for Graduates

Mason Jars for my seniors that say, "Owl miss you!" on the cap.

I had very hard-working seniors this year, and when I saw Elissa's tweet below, I thought, what a cute gift!
I thought about using Mason Jars and looked on Pinterest and got some good ideas:
I loved the owl idea and right away thought of Owl Miss students know I love puns and use them too much...

Anyway, the Pinterest idea sparked some ideas, but I didn't have the time to paint the Mason Jars and really wanted something a little less complicated given the time I had.

I went to Michael's and either picked up or had the following:
  • Mason jars
  • Stock paper, multi colors
  • Googly eyes (self-adhesive if possible, but not necessary)
  • Two-sided tape or glue gun
  • Orange stock paper
  • Circular stickers to print on (I happened to have these at home ) Sorry I did not get a picture of the top down, where the stickers were. Circular stickers are not necessary - any size stickers will do.
  • Gold glitter paint (I used fabric paint.)
  • Tassels (actually found them at Target)
  • Gift Tags
  • Candy.
First, fill the jars with candy. 

Then, cut strips of stock card to wrap around the lid. I taped where the ends met, leaving a bit of overlap. I actually bought owl graduation stickers and placed them over the tape, but this part isn't necessary. 

Cut out a square cap from the same color you used for the wrap around. I actually used self-adhesive foam for the caps, but I wouldn't recommend because the tassels kept sticking to it. So, I would glue the stock card cap directly onto the mason jar cap, which already has the stock card around the lid, placing the string for the pre-written gift tag on the lid, before you glue the cap so it will hang on the side. One option is to make the lid paper a bit wider than the lid so that students can pull the cap on and off to retrieve their candy. If you do this, then the square would only be glued to the circular paper that is a bit over the lid.

Place the printed stickers on the top of the "cap" and put the end of the tassel under the sticker so it would stay in place and the tassel part would hang over the edge. I used the glitter paint to paint around the sticker to reinforce it brightened it up. If you don't want to use the stickers, click to see how to make tassels and use a metal brad to attach it to the cap.

Use the glitter paint to paint each student's name, but then I leaned the jar on its side for a good 30 minutes so the paint wouldn't drip.

Cut out orange noses using orange stock paper.

Using the double-sided tape or a glue gun, glue the eyes and the nose on the jar, and you are done!