Thursday, September 25, 2014

The review game ZAP, Buddha fountain, Peanut butter chicken with panko recipe

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

I recently read a tweet where someone mentioned Algebrasfriend's blog. I looked it right up I discovered @algebrasfriend's post about the review game ZAP.  I got (stole?) a ton of her ideas and added some of my own. Feel free to do the same here! What I love about it is that it is not specific to any one topic, so any discipline and/or any math course can use it.

I made 28 cards. I wrote questions on the back of about 20 of them with points listed if they got them right, ranging from 50 points (easy) to 300 points (hard). This left 3 cards to "ZAP" another team's entire score (only if they got the next question correct--then they got those points, too), and 5 cards that had random things written on them: "find another student to bring into class within 30 seconds" was definitely the most fun. Others had to sing the school's Alma Mater, hold a handstand for 5 seconds, or make an ugly team face.

I broke teams up into groups of about four students and had the first group start by picking a card. If they got it right, they got their points and then the next team went to pick. If the team did not get the question right, the next team got the opportunity to win the points (this guaranteed that all teams were working, even when it was not their question.) Whichever team got the question right (in order, allowing each sequential team to try), the next team would be the team to pick a card. By the way, I'm not 100% sure of the rules...I made my own! So make yours :)

I created my ZAP board by first getting poster board and then using double sided tape to attach envelopes. I bought these envelopes at the dollar store a hundred years ago and was glad to finally find a use for them. I cut some left over stock card paper I had and wrote questions on the back of them that corresponded to a review sheet. I numbered the problems so that I could quickly pull the proper problems up on the Smart Board. I always find that when I play review games, students want the questions to practice at home. So I also put the handout on our school site. Here is a copy of the handout in case you want to use it for your Pre-Calculus (or even Algebra 2) class. It is a review of Algebra 2 and correlates to Larson Pre-Calc with limits 6th edition, sections 1.1 - 1.3 and A.3 - A.6.

Student's gave a great suggestion after they were ZAPPED. They suggested to ZAP only the number of points listed on the if students pick a 100 point card right after a ZAP card and they get it right, they get 100 points and can ZAP any team by only subtracting 100 from their score rather than ZAPPING their entire score.

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

I always look for things to make me feel "zen" and grounded. Last spring, I ordered this Buddha Garden Statue and my husband built a fountain around it. He placed flameless candles with timers around it that go on at dusk. It definitely relaxes me and makes me feel calm when I see it. The fountain does not seem to be on in this picture but it normally is!

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

I think most recipes that I post will either have peanut butter (or some nut variation) or chocolate or both since that is mostly what we eat in my house. The other night I made peanut butter panko chicken  from The peanut butter sauce recipe is so good that I could have used it alone and dipped grilled chicken in it like Thai chicken satay. But for this recipe, I dipped chicken breasts in flour, then peanut sauce, and then browned panko crumbs. Then the chicken is then baked. I made the coconut noodles shown in the recipe, but my family preferred the first time I made it, when I only put peanut sauce on the noodles.

Have a great week!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Two of my favorite problems: Einstein's Puzzle and the Locker Problem

As school is now in full swing, I am finding that I don't have time to blog as much about the "play" and the "eat." But truthfully, the thing that brought me to blogging is the "math." I was going to skip blogging last week because I didn't have the "perfect" eat play math combination...but I have heard if you have a blog, you should blog at least once a if I have to skip a little eating and playing, so be it!!

This week, I want to blog about two of my favorite problems/investigations. I just wrapped up teaching the first unit in my Algebra 2 Honors class, and I decided to take two days on our special schedule days to allow students to "play." I think they were relieved that they could attempt some difficult "famous" problems and not be graded on them. Here was their homework the night after their test...with a 40 minute time limit:

Einstein's Puzzle.

Students came in very excited to present. One came to the board and got stuck, and then another came to help him finish. We crossed out everything we used until we realized we needed to write all remaining possibilities on the board. Once they realized through process of elimination that there was only one possibility for one of the houses, everything started to fall in place. One student said she solved hers by guessing at one point, going the wrong way, and then finishing by choosing the other method. Explaining to each other in class was hard for the kids to do, but it is early in the year, and they will soon come to realize that explaining to me is not what matters, it's explaining to those who do not yet understand, and getting them to see the light that matters! After all, that's the best part of teaching!!

Once the explanation was done, I handed out the next investigation. Students who did not get Einstein's riddle the night before were extra determined to solve this puzzle. Students went up to the board in pairs to try to solve this puzzle for about the last 15 minutes of class.

The Locker Problem:

On a recent problem from the first day of class (I will have to blog about that another time), the problem solving method was "the method of exhaustion"...writing down every possibility. Obviously that was not the best method here. So the only hint I gave them was to start with a smaller, simpler problem and generalize a pattern. Some asked how many should they start with, and I told them it was up to them.

I walked around, watching students and advising them if they made a mistake, but not telling them much. Finally, a group discovered the answer. I did not want them to give it away to the others, so we talked quietly...but the next, perhaps more important question was WHY  did these locker numbers that remained open. Another group got the pattern, and again, I asked why...then the bell rang. The assignment for the night was, for some, to find the pattern, and for all, to find why the pattern. Again the next day, the students who discovered the answer were excited to share.
SPOILER ALERT: DO NOT READ IF YOU WANT TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM YOURSELF. It turns out that lockers are touched by the number of factors the locker number has...and the pattern that remain open are perfect squares...because perfect squares have an odd number of factors. We talked about why that is...for locker 6, for example, the factors are 1,2,3, and 6...and so they pair up...1x6 and 2x3 = 6. But for locker 4, the factors are 1,2,4. The factor of 2 repeats, which results in an odd number of factors, and this only happens with perfect squares. An extension could be which lockers are only touched twice? (the lockers that are prime.)

Finally, each student was given an index card with a locker number on it and they "acted" as lockers...opening and closing by turning away and toward the front of the classroom so any who did not understand could visually see which lockers remained open.

We ended class with a few more brain teasers...most notably Crossing the river with a goat, a wolf, and a cabbage. Students acted it out, and they were very cute. Their homework was to come in with their favorite (or newly discovered) brain teaser that we will solve throughout the year.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

What to do during the last 5 minutes of class

Inevitably, one class is gets finished earlier than the other. Not always, but often it happens. What do you do for the last 5 minutes when you finish earlier in one class? My classes play the Set Daily Puzzle. They compete against themselves and other classes for the fastest time to find all 6 "sets." They even compete from year to year.

Click here to see how to play. Basically, a "set" of 3 must have characteristics that are either all the same or all different. The characteristics are as follows: color (red, purple, green), shape (diamond, squiggle, round), number (one, two, or three), and inside (solid, striped, or open). You can have, for example, a set of all green or a set of one green, one red, and one purple. So all must be the same, or all must be different. This must continue for all of the characteristics.

Here is an example from

The top left is a set because they are all different colors, all different shapes, all different numbers, and all different insides.

The top right is a set because they are all the same colors, all different shapes, all same numbers, and all different insides.

The bottom is NOT a set because although all colors and numbers are the same, the insides have 2 the same (solid) and one not (striped.) The rules are all the same or all different, so you cannot have two the same and one different.

Three years ago, one of my classes finished all 6 sets in 21 one has beat them...yet!

Have a great week,

Saturday, September 6, 2014

1089 Math Magic Trick, The Good Girl (Book Club), Apple Pie Cookies


It's incredible to me that I learned this math trick over 25 years ago. I was at a workshop for new teachers at my alma mater, Rutgers University, ( the summer between graduation and my first year teaching. I do not remember much other than being very nervous about the start of teaching, but what did stand out to me is this one magic trick that I learned. I have done it every year, and kids are really cute about it. Here is how it goes.

I tell the students I am going to perform a math magic trick for them. I ask for a volunteer to go to the board, and I stand in the back of the classroom and face the other direction. I tell them to:

1. Pick a 3-digit number whose numbers are in descending order, i.e., 531, and to write it on the board.

2. Reverse the digits, write that number underneath the original number, and subtract.

3. Reverse the digits in the answer, and add that to the answer from step 2. 

I make sure that students are in agreement that the answer is correct. I ask another volunteer to write the answer on a piece of paper and crumple it up. I then ask the first student to erase the board.

I tell the students we are going to go outside, but I need to grab my lighter first. This sparks some attention and excitement. We find a good place outside, and I put the paper on the ground (a pie tin works better) and light it with the lighter. After a minute or two, when the paper is done burning and students are curious about what is going to happen, I tell them I will see the answer to the problem in the ashes.

I look in the ashes when the burning dies down, grab them, and wipe them on my arm. The answer of 1089 "miraculously" shows up on my arm.

After the initial shock, students come to the conclusion that the answer must 1089 every time. Here is a simple proof. Here is a more involved proof. I like to do the more involved proof when I teach 10t + u and the reversal of digits in Algebra 2 Honors, but all of my classes definitely enjoy it.

I almost forgot to tell how I got the number on my arm...a good magician never tells her secrets, but I could not help but ask the demonstrator how he did it back when I was 20 years old, so I know the kids are very curious about how it is done! The answer is to just take liquid soap and write 1089 on your arm before sure to wear short sleeves and let it air dry first!


I am in a book club with some teachers from my school. We don't meet terribly often, but it is definitely great fun to get together with a mission and to talk with these wonderfully bright women about something other than school work. Our book this time is The Good Girl by Mary Kubica. If you liked Gone Girl, you will love this book.


Fall is definitely a time for apple recipes! I recently made apple pie cookies from
They were very messy but very fun to make. I had no idea how to do lattice work for a pie, so I found that here. I also made a Kale salad with reduced apple cider dressing from a Publix Apron's demo class I recently took. Just a quick note: instead of using anise star, the chefs used an anise star tea bag and then never had to worry about the cheesecloth...just remove the tea bag and bay leaf before putting in blender. The walnut oil mixed with the cider made for an amazing dressing...I forgot to take a picture!

Have a great week,

Friday, September 5, 2014

My Top 5 Technology Bloggers/Websites for Google, Green Market, Cheesecake Brownie Bites

Math: My Top 5 Technology Bloggers/Websites for Google

Do you remember the commercial Cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs? I think that, in a good way, our school has gone Cuckoo for Google. Last year, we changed our email from Outlook to Google, we started using Google drive instead of our then beloved h: drive, and this year we are learning how to implement Google Chrome, Google docs, Google sheets, Google forms, etc. in our 1:1 classroom. With our buzzword "collaboration," many of us now see the benefits of creating a lesson in Google docs, in which all students (or teachers!) can work on at once. In fact, as the math department is up for our review this year, we will be using Google sheets to collaboratively enter the concepts our students are expected to know by the end of each course. And we just revamped our Math Lab sign-in by having students sign into a Google form on a computer or iPad--no more running out of sign-in sheets and easy access to see who attended...I am in awe of how we have been growing technologically!

This summer, I went to a Google 101 course at ISTE 2014, and it only touched on how Google can empower both teachers and students. I came home excited and found webinars and youtube videos about cool extensions, apps, etc. Completely geeky. I know. If you want to "Go Google" with me, here is a list of the top 5 websites and/or bloggers I discovered and learn from every time they post. I may never use Safari again!

1. by Amy Mayer @friEdTechnology. Watch these two videos just to get an idea: Smarter Chrome Lesson 2: Themes and Extensions, and Smarter Chrome Lesson 3: Favorite Google Extensions. These are just simply awesome. I learned so much just from watching her videos. Extensions are kind of like apps, and they can be added to Google Chrome right next to the omnibox. They make work life SO. MUCH. EASIER. And who wouldn't want easier? You can make your chrome screen unique to your particular needs. And I love the Kate Spade colorful theme for my background :)
Extensions help you do things you need quickly and easily.
They appear to the right of the "omnibox," or search bar.
There are many more videos from friEdTechnology, and I encourage you to look them up.

2.  Richard Byrne, author of this site, is an incredible resource, and I can't stress enough to follow his blog. He is often the first to blog about new technology features that are free for educators. You can also follow him at twitter here: @rmbyrne. This is one of his Google Tools Tutorials. I attended his webinar on blogging, and he has given me great ideas, one of which is to make a top 5 list. He has also taught me a bit of html. Thanks Richard!

3. Alice tweets AWESOME quick facts that help with anything and everything about Google. I learn things from her whenever I check my twitter feed. If you only have a minute to learn, follow @alicekeeler and you will definitely learn something. She is a "Google Gooroo!"

4. Kasey Bell creates FABULOUS Google Cheat Sheets that help to navigate anyone from beginner to expert. I often pin these sheets on Pinterest. You can follow her on Pinterest here, and learn how to navigate through Google.

5. SimpleK12 is a teacher learning community that can help you to Transform your Google Classroom with SimpleK12 . They offer free webinars weekly. They are great! The webinars are 30 minutes long, and they cover topics such as:
  • How to use google forms
  • How and why to get a google phone number 
  • Quick start guide to using Google tools
  • How to use Google chat
This list is endless. I have gotten so much out of just 30 minutes. I strongly recommend these not only because they are free, but because the speakers are excellent and you can pick and choose which webinars to watch. They are GREAT for beginners, but everyone can learn from them.

Through SimpleK12, you can gain access to tons of resources by purchasing a membership...but the webinars I mentioned are FREE! And everyone talks about getting the "bunny slippers." I want a pair!! 

And honestly, I learn a TON from my colleagues. Whenever I show them something I learned, they share something with me that they discovered, and therein lies the collaboration. It is really an exciting school year!

Play: The Green Market

My husband and I went to a Green Market in Palm Beach Gardens this Labor Day weekend. That's what they are called by us, but I think in the north, they are called "Farmers' Markets." I don't often have the chance to buy local, and it does feel good to support these small, fresh businesses.

I got an AMAZING smoothie from this guy:

I told him I like papaya, and he concocted his own blend for me: a ton of beets and carrots in a juicer, then poured into a Vitamix filled with papaya and banana. 

The samples of freshly made hummus, artichoke dip, pepper relish, and more from this guy below were so yummy. We bought a bunch home and served them as appetizers with the fresh pita chips we purchased. 

We bought bread from this shop, shown below. We were told to keep the bread sliced in the freezer to keep it super fresh. I've been taking out a slice every morning for breakfast, and it tastes amazing.

It's great to just walk around and take in the sights and smells. Highly recommended to do on a weekend were you just want to get away for an hour.

Eat: Cheesecake Brownie Bites

I know I just posted about Ghirardelli brownies last week, but I had a request to make cheesecake brownies for a Labor Day get together. So I searched Pinterest, as usual, and came up with this recipe from I changed it up by using one bag of the Ghirardelli brownies from Costco rather than make the brownies from scratch, but I did use the cheesecake recipe. Mine took a little longer than the 12 minutes suggested.

Have a great week!