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 :)

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!!

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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: