Friday, August 29, 2014

Back to School Night QR Codes, Playful Yoga, Ghirardelli Brownies

Math ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Back to school night is very early at our school - during our second week! I usually try not to change things up from year to year because I am so busy getting ready for the new school year. Of course, that never seems to work, because I inevitably have learned something over the last year that I want to add in. This year, it's QR codes. Last year, I got an idea from Pinterest to make a label for a single bag of microwave popcorn. It said "Thanks for 'popping' in!" and gave all of my information on the label. Not only did parents go home with some popcorn to make, they had a label with all of my info which made it easy for them to contact me. This year, I decided to use a QR code to give parents all of my info, so that they could store it in their phone if they so desired, and so they could begin to see how technology is being integrated into my classroom. I used the website to create a free QR code that included my information. It was so easy! Then I bought 2"x4" labels from Target and created labels just like the one below (by the way, 120 labels from Target's brand up&up cost less than $5.) I hid the QR code here just because I didn't want my cell phone number obviously it does not look like that on the label. 

My cat, Tiki, loved the idea of the "popping in" popcorn for Back to School Night.
Labels for single size bags of popcorn.

Here is a copy of the labels...insert your own QR code:

Play ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Yoga is an activity that I have been doing for about 15 years now. I have been to numerous studios and several different instructors. Here is my guide to finding a good studio:

1. Go to several local yoga studios to find one that you like. If you have to drive far, you probably will not go. Instead, you could use DVDs, but I find that when you don't anticipate what comes next in yoga, you actually feel freer ,and you can do more than if you know what is coming up.

2. See what the other members of the studio do before class. Are they welcoming? Do they smile or say hello when passing you? Or are they taking themselves too seriously, and are there noticeable cliques? I feel so much more comfortable in a studio where everyone is chatting before class than one that is serious and quiet. 

3. Does the instructor recognize you and/or greet you by name? This is not a must, but it makes me feel very comfortable when the instructor is personable. It definitely makes me want to go back for more.

4. Are there a variety of good instructors at the studio? If you only like one instructor, you are very limited to the times you can go, which means you won't go when you have the time if your instructor is not teaching.

5. Are the instructors playful? What does playful mean? It means they laugh during class, they can have fun, they do not take themselves too seriously. Maybe they yell out a big "WOOHOO!" They have a good following because people are drawn to their energy. They will take risks and try new things and will admit when they cannot do a pose. And they will help you to become your better self by allowing you to play and possibly fall - only to encourage you to get back up and try again. 

Of all the places that I have gone to, the most playful and joyful studio is Haute Yoga. Holly is the owner, and I have been going to her classes before she opened her studio. Her studio is one of pure happiness. Holly always has a smile, and her enthusiasm during class is catching to others. She loves to challenge you to your fullest, and I come out of her classes drenched, sore (a good sore), and craving more. I love Holly!!

Here is a picture of Holly taking a Caroline's class (another awesome instructor!) at her studio. I mean, seriously, how cute is she???

I want to mention that I bought a pair of pants at her studio from They are amazing and are out of Palm Beach Gardens. I love the bright colors, and the pants are so comfortable and colorful that I feel so much more playful during yoga when I wear them. I wash them constantly because I want to wear them time I do yoga.

I emailed Nikki from Jiva and she offered 5% off if you order Jiva pants (so worth it!) Use the code EPM5 at checkout! You will definitely feel playful! 

Eat ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

These are the best brownies out there...better than scratch, according to my brother-in-law. And they are sooooo easy! I use the Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownie Mix from Costco

I timed myself, and it took 3 minutes 45 seconds from start to oven from this picture below:

I top with powdered sugar from a shaker. Another option is to put a can of frosting in the microwave (no lid) for 30 seconds, stir with a butter knife, and pour on top of uncut brownies. Then smooth with the knife. So so easy and tastes so good. You can also add a little kahlua and/or walnuts to the batter, but I don't do this when making it for students. 

Hmmm two pieces are father like son...

By the way, the next morning, more was missing?!

My students seemed to enjoy them!

Have a great week!

Friday, August 22, 2014

My Classroom Set Up, Workout Buddies, Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake


I was told by my department chair a few weeks ago that she had both good news and bad news. The bad news was that I was changing classrooms. I had just moved classrooms two years ago, and I worked hard at the beginning of the summer to finally get the feng-shui right in the room for next year. So I was kind of bummed. The good news was that I was moving to a much bigger room, the room that used to be the Math Lab (a place where math students go to get extra help, staffed by a math teacher every period of the day). This was going to be great because last year, my students were very squished in my classroom. The math club that I am faculty advisor for, Mu Alpha Theta, has been growing exponentially since we started the club here three years ago. There have been many days where there were not enough desks for students in the club, and we meet weekly. So I was very excited, but I had a lot of work to do, as the Math Lab was filled with books, cabinets, and tons of supplies that were outdated and abandoned.

My friends in the department helped me for what seemed like hours to move necessary items to the new Math Lab, and to discard or find new homes for the many items that have been sitting in there for years. Even after that was all done, I was very overwhelmed. There is a lot to do to make a classroom feel like "home."

I began by hanging up art work and poems from several students that I have collected from over the years. Here are some examples:

These pictures came from this assignment:


This is a view of the entire wall where I hung most of the art work. There were also some very good conic art drawings, but they did not fair well when when I removed them. I will take pictures this year and post them at a later date. I have gotten so many interesting projects over the years, and I do remember which student made them. The math sneakers have been hanging in my classroom for close to a decade! Also, can you see that I'm a Jersey Girl originally?

Now to other parts of the room. Ahhh, the couch. Boy do my students love the couch. It was in our garage at home, and I tried to sell it. No one would buy I brought it to school and all the students vie for it...I do not let them sit on it before class...only after school or when we have a break from our block period, because otherwise the students do not want to get up! It is cute how much they love the stuffed animals. Kids can feel like kids again when they are working so hard to become adult-like in their high school classes.

The cubbies are left over from the old Math Lab, and they are awesome. I can see kids coming in after school to complete their homework here. My math club won these awards from our three years of competition in Mu Alpha Theta...we need an awards case! We have to find a place in the school to showcase them.

This will be our club wall when we go to events. We have a historian who takes pictures. Last year we won 2nd place in our digital scrapbook at States, and it was our first time ever going! I will blog about this wonderful group of kids at a later date.

This was the idea that I posted in l last week's blog. Students had to find parent functions around school or their home and take a picture. Next year, I will ask them to name the parent function as well. This well help them, I hope, to recognize the parent functions more easily when we learn them. 

To the left is a poster of NCTM calendar problems, and to the right are posters that I just love.

I made the "Everything is going to be OK" poster on I saw something very similar in a restaurant near my house, and I thought, wow, wouldn't it be great for the students who stress to see that every day. My friend Dave made fun of the overuse of all the polka dot boarder...I did overdo it. You don't see it, but I had polka dot letters that I bought, too, that I took down...oh well. That was a waste of $12. Hopefully a friend will use it. 

My husband was away for the first week of school and sent roses...that was a big and awesome surprise. And yes, of COURSE I had to buy the π decal for my Mac. I bought it here. (BTW did you know if you hit alt-p on the Mac keyboard you get π?) 

 Can you figure out this puzzle? I put a up a plexer puzzle every day and will try to post it on twitter under my handle @lisaqt314. This one is "Welcome Back"

And I don't tell students the date...ever. They have to figure it out...and kids who are hanging in my room after school will put the next one up for the day...they love to make them harder than I would!

This is my prize box. It's where I keep prizes that I give to students for creative thinking. A student made the box for me. Usually I put snacks or interesting erasers in the box. Sometimes the prize is to sit on the couch for a class period.

No body puts baby in a corner. At Back To School Night, parents always notice this. Love Dirty Dancing!

My seniors write where their names and where they are going to college when they get accepted. This is kind of a big deal! The board fills up quickly second semester, and the whole board gets filled.

I stole this from Pinterest. I love it. 

And from the outside...notice the little blue flag that says "math geek." Got that at a T-cubed conference in Las Vegas this past spring.

My clock. I love when I teach the unit circle and kids say, "Oh so that's what that clock was all about!!!"

I am looking forward to an amazing year. I met the kids twice so far and they are an amazing group of kids!


I try to work out at least 4 times a week. It may not always happen, and sometimes it happens more times. But it is definitely hard for me to do during the school week. This is why I think it is really important to have a workout buddy and a good workout program. My workout buddy is Liz, and we try to work out at least twice a week together after school.

This is our first week of school, and we needed to kill it. So we did a workout from Kayla Itsines,  an awesome blog, twitter, and instagram workout enthusiast. All you need is weights, a medicine ball (I just used weights), a mat, and two benches. Sometimes you can use chairs for the benches. Kayla promises a bikini body in 12 weeks. Her workout is HARD! But I can tell you that you feel fantastic when done! And it only lasts 28 minutes! Liz and I projecting her workout (it is a download that is about $69 USD) on the SmartBoard, and we were sweating like crazy. And afterwards, the endorphins kicked in, and together we felt like we could conquer our brand new 1:1 school design as well as our spanking new Whipple Hill grade program.

Find a work out buddy or buddies. You push each other when the other one does not feel like working out...and I promise you will feel better after...and even if you really do not feel like working out, just go for a walk. You will both talk through ideas and things that are bothering you and will feel better emotionally and physically. Just do it!


Yes, I work out, but I also eat. And I LOVE peanut butter. I think I have it at least once a day. I have worked at camps that are peanut-free, and it was difficult for me to last more than a few days. I have made this Reese's Peanut Butter Chocolate Cake from Bird on a Cake recipe (of course found on Pinterest) twice and have not been disappointed either time.

I made it below once for my son and niece, who have birthdays three days apart, and for my husband who is nicknamed "Mookie" by our nieces. As one niece (who is 20 years old) used to say when she was 2 years old, "Umma Umma!!" (= Yum!!)

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Grant Lichtman, Vino Van Gogh, Oreo Truffles


School began this week for teachers, and everyone, while sad to end the summer, was excited about our guest speaker, Grant Lichtman, coming to our school. Our headmaster started the morning off by saying we should be "getting wildly innovative" this year. Innovation and collaboration have been the buzz words all week. Grant is a Senior Fellow of The Martin Institute for Teaching Excellence and was a trustee, CFO, and teacher at Francis Parker School in San Diego for almost 15 years. He is the author of #EdJourney: A Roadmap for the Future of Education, which he based on an 89 day journey around the US visiting 60 schools to see what makes schools special, as well as the Falconer: What we Wish we had Learned in School. He also gave this fascinating TEDtalk "What We Can Learn From 60 Schools." 

Grant lead three workshops, of which we were allowed to participate in two. Mostly, he spoke about creating collaborative learning environments, breaking down "silos," becoming educators-leaders, and redefining time, space, and student-teacher relationships. I could go on for hours about what I saw, learned, and felt, but I decided to sum it up into 6 ideas I got out of the day (there were many more!)

1. "If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow" -John Dewey. We need to rethink how we teach today's students: if students are exposed to context, they will learn the content better. Our world is changing at an incredible rate. How can we reimagine the fundamental learning relationship between teachers and students?

2. High frequency and low amplitude...meaning, we should not have one great speaker at the beginning of the year (low frequency with high amplitude), but rather, we should see lots of innovative speakers and ideas regularly and throughout the year...we need to keep going and not just get pumped on the first day of school. We can also do this by having our faculty, staff, and students present their ideas at different times of the year or through a common blog.

3. Success = sustained value. Innovation creates value and "value delights the customer" -Steve Denning. We need to "effectively communicate the differentiated value" that our school offers to our customers, to say, "this is why you should come to our school." How can we promote the value of our school globally and locally? Can we increase our financial add packages to attract the best students? Can we observe other teachers at our school and also locally at other schools?
4. Take risks in your thinking. When brainstorming for ideas, go for volume, encourage wild ideas (say, "what if?" or "how might we?", not "can we?" or "should we?"), build on each other by saying, "and then..." Our group came up with the idea of having a "flop consortium," where we host educators from around the world who "failed" at something and can then tell us what NOT to do. We were a pretty good group, if I may say so myself! We really thought outside of the box and came up with ideas that had no time, space, or financial constraints. Rather than think, "Will I get in trouble for trying this new idea?", feel empowered to take the risk.

5. Blog. This was interesting since I started a week ago! I asked Grant personally why blog. I know I am doing it, but why did he suggest it? He told me that it leads to more networking and collaboration with other people who have common interests. Which, although I have never articulated it, is why I have been doing it! I want to share ideas and get great ideas with others from around the world who do the same things I do. Here is a link to the blog that Grant wrote after our workshop. The biggest thing I personally learned about how to have a good blog? Consistency! Write it once a week. I heard that, and that's what I am trying to do. We will see if I still can't once school starts. 

6. Use Twitter. This is something that I have only been playing around with for the last month or so. I am learning so much from other educators from around the world just by looking at Twitter 5 to 10 minutes a day. Here is a link for 7 Effective Ways for Teachers to Engage on Twitter  by @mikepaul, someone whom I recently began to follow. This year, I will use an idea I saw in a twitter "conference within a conference" at the Anja Greer conference at Phillips Exeter, given by @anthonydilaura. I will have students tweet me (they will follow me, and I will not be following them back) @lisaqt314 with the hashtag #iseemath. This will be something I will get into further detail about next week. If you see math in action, tweet me with that hashtag!

Grant's visit got everyone thinking and looking for innovative ways to get our students to learn and see the value in education. I'm hoping to get idea paint on my wall and watch my students collaborate mathematically while I sit back in awe...I know they can do it. They have done it before in my math club...I am hoping to see them do it regularly in my classes as well. 

Photo courtesy of


For the last two years, our math department has gotten together at the end of the year to paint at Vino Van Gogh. Vino Van Gogh is the heart of Delray Beach, FL, and is a great place to socialize with people you enjoy being with while doing something very creative. As math teachers, our focus is often on helping our students to solve math problems and become great thinkers. I am pretty sure that no one in my department would call themselves an artist, yet when we go to Vino Van Gogh, all of us feel like our creative side is tapped and that we have developed a brand new talent that no one has known about...not even ourselves! Matt and his wife Tracey are owners, and they are very welcoming and friendly. Matt greets everyone at the beginning, puts worried non-artists at ease, and then we are introduced to the artist of the day. The artist gives us cues with plenty of time to chat and connect in between. What is amazing is that everyone in the class has a unique piece of art based on what the teacher is having us create...they all look the same yet different. Isn't that what teaching is all about? We all want our students to replicate us as we show them what to do, yet each student interprets us in their own way, and the results all come out a little different. It is really great to tap the left side of the brain when we are so used to the right! And we are always always talking about school and math and now we talk about is a great time to connect and be present in the moment.
So much fun! The music that Matt plays is so great. I finally wrote down every song so that I would have a good playlist for my classroom...when you are working hard, using the brain, good music makes it that much easier.  I like to play music in my classroom when students are working through gets their creative juices flowing, just as ours flow while painting. I have some downloading to do!
Below was Matt's playlist from iTunes from our most recent night.

Rude - MAGIC!
Three Little Birds - Bob Marley
Brown Eyed Girl - Van Morrison
Love Runs Out - One Republic
Brass Monkey - Beastie Boys
Seed 2.0 - The Roots
Stolen Dance - Milky Chance
The Joker - Steve Miller Band
Forget You - Cee Lo Green
On Top of the World - Imagine Dragon
Use Somebody - Kings of Leon
All of Me - John Legend
Home - Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros
Highway Don't Care - Tim McGraw ft. Taylor Swift
Maps - Maroon 5
Sweet Disposition - The Temper Trap
Pompeii - Bastille
I Will Wait - Mumford and Sons
Beautiful Day - U2
Cough Syrup - Young the Giant
Under Pressure - Queen & David Bowie
Summer - Calvin Harris
One Love - Bob Marley
Get Up Stand Up - Bob Marley
Mr. Brightside - The Killers
Say Hey (I love you) - Michael Franti & Spearhead
I'm the Man - Aloe Blacc
Suspicious Minds - Elvis Presley
Gone, Gone, Gone - Phillip Phillips
Big Parade - The Lumineers
Problem - Ariana Grande
Riptide - Vance Joy
Dancing Queen - ABBA
I'm Yours - Jason Mraz
Santeria - Sublime
Sweet Caroline - Neil Diamond
Wild Wild Love - Pitbull
Chicken Fried - Zac Brown Band
All Summer Long - Kid Rock


One of my favorite go to desserts to make for students and parties is Oreo Truffles

Photo Courtesy of The Capitol Baker
I want to thank my former student Marissa K. for making these for my class one year and then sharing the recipe. It is outrageous, and I get requested to make them again and again. Just a couple of notes:
  • I keep them in the fridge until right before eating.
  • I use my Kitchen Aid mixmaster to mush the oreos...the longer you mix, the finer the consistency. If you want crunchy oreos, don't mix as long.
  • You can substitute other of my favorites to use are Nutter Butter Cookies
  • I use Bakers dipping chocolate in milk or white, and then pipe on melted dark chocolate.
  • before the chocolate hardens, I have sprinkled on Heath Bar crumbs, oreo crumbs, mini chocolate chips (my favorite), or sprinkles that match the color of a particular holiday. The permutations are endless! :)

Hope you enjoyed. Have a great week!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Course Guidelines - Paddle Boarding - Gazpacho with Tortilla Strips

I have one free day before I have school commitments, so I thought I would write again while I have the time. Summer has been ebbing away...but I am ready to go back!? I have a new classroom, a new Pre-Calculus book, and several other "new" things happening this year. Most importantly, I am implementing tech in my classes, and at the expense of sounding totally geeky...I really can't wait. Don't get me wrong...I LOVE summer and being able to dictate what I want to do each day...but to me, summer allows the brain to churn and to get ready for these kids! So many of these things are true on BuzzFeed's 26 Signs You're a Teacher on Summer Break --especially #6, 7, 14...however, I actually do miss our cafeteria food!


One of the blogs I have been following is Everybody is a Genius and I got this idea from the author Sarah. Rather than hand out pages of typed info that have bored my students for the last 24 years, I will be handing this out. What's great is that it is very visual, as you can see, and it has QR codes so students can get where they need to quickly (I covered some of the things that needed to remain private.) I will probably do something similar for Back to School Night for the parents.



Have you ever tried paddle boarding? I happen to live in Florida where it is fairly easy to do this every weekend. It is one of the most calming activities I have participated in. I wish I had a paddle board to use whenever I wanted to in order to clear my head when necessary. Recently, I celebrated my 21st anniversary in Key Biscayne and rented a board--it was beautiful! 

Paddle Boarding in the Biscayne Bay
Last year, I went to Puerto Rico with family. My nieces, my friend Lili, and I did yoga paddle boarding at It was unbelievable. The class ended with the most beautiful sunset. Throughout the entire class, I was worried about staying on the board, and not falling...and right at the end of class, I heard nieces had tried something difficult on the paddle board...headstands...and fell right in! So then I did the same...what a relief to finally fall in and not worry about it! My moral from this story is: don't be afraid to take a chance and fall in. All our lives, we worry so much about being perfect and not having fun...the BEST part of yoga paddle boarding was trying something new and actually falling in the water! I tell my students that story when they are afraid to try new things. Falling is sometimes better than standing still and being afraid to fall. 

Yoga Paddle Boarding in Puerto Rico

I also want to share this poster I saw when I was out to dinner at The Cooper Restaurant this weekend. I thought it a good reminder to think about admitting to ourselves the good along with the bad.


My son has been asking for Gazpacho all summer, and I did not come through till this week! Oddly, I used to make Gazpacho often before he was born but not since! A friend had given me a cookbook entitled A Slice of Paradise, from the Junior League of the Palm Beaches many years ago (1996), and it has a recipe for Gazpacho that I love...I dug it out, dusted it off, and adapted it a bit:


  • 3 cups peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes (I used Pomi chopped tomatoes--1 box is 26 oz. I have two boxes in the picture because I doubled the recipe)
  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable cocktail juice
  • 1/2 cup chopped avocado
  • 1/4 cup peeled, seeded, chopped cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped green pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped yellow pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped sweet red pepper
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (I actually used 1 jalapeño, seeds and inner-membranes--the spiciest part--removed)
  • 1/4 cup minced parsley
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • Ground black pepper to taste
Combine all ingredients in food processor except parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, and black pepper. Using on-off pulses, process until coarsely chopped. (My note: I like gazpacho with veggies coarsely chopped in it. You could use a hand blender if you like it without the "chunks!") Refrigerate until chilled. Transfer to bowls; add parsley, cilantro, lemon juice, and black pepper. 

I like to put more chopped avocado and a dollop of sour cream on top when ready to serve...and of course, the baked tortilla strips! I made these strips at Publix Apron's Cooking School and they were so good!!

Note: My brother-in-law suggested that I cut up another cucumber and put it in before serving, so it's even chunkier! Next time I will only place half the peppers, cucumbers, and Pomi chopped tomatoes in the food processor and chop the other half and add it in at the end. 

Baked Tortilla Strips: 

  • 4 Spinach tortilla wraps
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • salt and pepper
  • baking spray, such as Pam, or a drizzle of oil
(I did not have onion powder, so I substituted dried minced onion, but the powder would have been better.)

Preheat oven to 350º. Cut the wraps in half, and then cut them into thin strips. You want to cut them so that the knife is perpendicular to the diameter of the semi-circle (see how I used math there??). I got lazy and actually put the halves on top of one another and sliced that way...worked well!!

Place the strips in a bowl and either spray with Pam or drizzle with the oil so that the spices will stick to the strips. Place all other ingredients in the bowl and mix...I did it with my hands! Place coated strips on a baking sheet--I lined the baking sheet with parchment paper, which makes clean up super easy. 

The directions from Publix said to bake for 5-7 minutes; I liked it better at 12 minutes--the strips were crunchier, so adjust the time as necessary!

Here is the final result! My husband grilled chicken rubbed with lime, salt, and pepper, and I placed it on a small spinach and arugula salad with balsamic dressing.

Hope you enjoyed. Have a great start to the school year!