Saturday, March 26, 2016

Hello my name is x+3--activities for teaching polynomial and rational functions, by A. Mosaad

This is a quick post to tell you all about an easy and fun activity to use for polynomial and rational functions. I learned of it by attending a workshop of the same name as the title at the Rutgers "Good Ideas in Teaching Pre-Calculus and..." workshop that I also blogged about here. Here is the abstract:
It began with the presenter, Amro Mosaad, giving everyone a nametag with a factor on it, like “x-1” and x+3” and have them pair up and give them one of the following worksheets. They have many tasks, such as find the zero and graph their product and then graph their quotient...this is so good after you’ve taught polynomial graphs and rational functions. They can switch papers with another group and have them check work on Desmos.

This can also be done with zeros and complex zeros. Amro said, "Find your twin," meaning, find your complex conjugate.
Amro also suggested the "mystery polynomial" activity: Get into groups of 2 or 3 with no one you have been in a group with yet. Give your group the polynomial you just came up with and your “name” and your new partner(s) that you never worked with before will need to figure out who your other partners were. Awesome!
Here are the links. Thanks to Amro for sharing them with me!

I thought this was a great formative assessment activity.

One attendee I was working with suggested that students check work on wow!! I have never seen this website before, but I will definitely be using it in the future!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Three Act Math Tasks

Who hasn't seen Dan Meyer's video on how long it will take to fill this tank?

I have, but I did not know anything about Three Act Math Tasks until I went to a workshop this past Friday called "Good Ideas in Teaching Pre-Calculus and..." which has been put on by my former math professor at Rutgers University for the last 30 years.

Growing up in NJ and now living in South Florida for the last 21 years, I have lost a LOT of my NJ accent. I no know longer say "warter," as in "how much warter fills the tank above?" but I still refuse to call the fruit of the same color "oar-ange" (I prefer "are-ange").

The woman who gave the "tawk" on Three Act Math Tasks had such a thick accent, I giggled at the sound of my former self saying "Three Ayct Mayth Taysk," which she said over and over again. But I digress.

She posed this question, which she said was from the Discovering Geometry book that I adore:
and said, instead of posing this question, she directed us to Dan's 100 questions website, where we watched this video (click on the former link to get to it.)

All I have to say is: game changer. This is very cool, and I will definitely be using these tasks in the future. Rather than give students a problem to try as part of their homework, show them a video, ask them to ask the question, figure out what they need for the solution, and then show the solution.

Someone in the class also mentioned that some tasks can also be found at I looked at his site and remembered happening upon it before. Today, his blog happened to come up as a suggested one in an email by Bloglovin'. I went to follow him on twitter...I already had! 
To me, these tasks previously would have been a 5 act math task, because I would have had to think of the task, film myself doing it, and then apply the 3 act math task. But it's already done for you...and here is the spreadsheet link of all of the ones out there, and how they apply to the standards. It's amazing how much is out there! Look how many people are on it right now, randomly, at 1:54pm:
I hope to use these upon return from spring break. The presenter said she does them about twice a chapter. I'm sure Dan Meyer would say use them more. 

Dan Meyer and Robert Kaplinsky are gurus here that I plan to it weird that both pictures above show Italian food? Now I'm hungry.

Since this blog is also about eating and playing, I wonder if Dan will share his meatball recipe in the comments??

If you haven't seen Dan's Ted Talk, it's called Math Needs a Makeover and I highly recommend it. 

And here is a clip that is also shown over at - How many hot dogs and buns should he buy?

Again more food!

Finally, other sites with math tasks are mathalicious, which I blogged about here, and yummymath...why is everything sounding delicious? Get over to one or all of these four sites to get your kids thinking about some real-life problem solving with purpose. Your kids will buy in faster than you can say "You're from Jersey? What Exit?"

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Fangirling over Jo Boaler's Growth Mindset...and Why You Should Be, Too

I love the fresh faces on the first day of school. No opinions formed yet, no knowledge of who will be my top student, who will struggle. I set the bar high, and I hope all will reach said bar. Of course, along the way, there can be some students who will not get there. But it won't be because I didn't try to get them there. Perhaps they gave up along the way due to circumstances out of their control. Maybe they still don't get that going to extra help really DOES help. Maybe they don't realize the amount of time the successful students are putting into their homework outside of class. Maybe their parents told them that they were not good at math as children, and, therefore, they are not good at's where Jo Boaler, from Stanford University, comes in. She claims that all students can achieve a high level of mathematical success and that teaching with this in mind will dramatically improve student achievement. Her website, is well worth looking at, and her book Mathematical Mindsets is on my desk for summer reading. In it, she professes to "banish math anxiety and give all students a clear roadmap for success." Who wouldn't want that??

This video is well worth the 9 minutes, and next year I plan on showing it to my classes. But today, I got an email from Jo Boaler (as I am a youcubian--yes, that's what her followers are called, and I'm a big "fangirl" of Jo Boaler) in which she shared a short handout for parents. It's excellent, and I hope to give it to my students' parents next year.

Here is the actual link to the handout.

Here is another link to a poster on Positive Classroom Norms where she focuses on Growth Mindset. Below is the first page of it, but there is much more in the link. I will use these in my classroom next year. She has done a lot of research on it so we don't have to!
And finally, here is what she says about Growth Mindset: 
As an aside, I am going to also add a little of the "play" that I lose from time to time in the name of my blog...something for health, perhaps. After writing my recent post on learning how to say no, I've been finding some things that have been coming my way, and this is one of them that I received in an email from I've only had time to watch the first one, but it was great, and it highlighted the importance of self care. Here is the playlist that came to my inbox:
And here is a link to the first video. Enjoy!

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

March Madness with Mathalicious

This is a quick post to talk about the three-act lesson from Mathalicious on bracketology, which you can find here. I have not used a lesson from Mathalicious before, but I will be sure to. It's all set up for teacher use, and it really brought up some good discussion with my Honors Problem-Solving class, such as, what's the probability of guessing a bracket? Is it better to guess by flipping a coin or by actual picking? Is Warren Buffet's 1 billion dollar prize for the perfect bracket possible? Is it probable? What are some scoring systems that work or don't work?

For someone who knows nothing about the NCAA (sadly), I learned a lot today. We had fun talking about it, and the online version was really cool in terms of visualizing the 63 games.
I have never picked a bracket before, but it was interesting to go through and pick one with students. Next time I do think we should do it by flipping a coin, just to see how it goes. This time, I picked the bracket with students through The Skimm and everyone got into it. It was definitely fun to do as we were wrapping up our probability unit.

Mathalicious has many more lessons that I will look at and use...some you have to pay for a membership, but it looks like there is a lot of work put into it, which allows you, the teacher, more time for class discussion and less time for preparation. How awesome is that?

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Learning How to Say No

Home sick today. "Forced" to, you could say, by a colleague who tells sick students to stay home to get better. "If you don't, you will only get worse. Rest, and take care of yourself."

So I am home...I went to the 3rd doctor yesterday (4th visit) after five weeks of having a very swollen tonsil and much soreness swallowing. He did a nasty scope and put me on an extreme antibiotic and scared me with crazy words that I refuse to type. I would lay down in bed right now, but the medicine requires me not to, so I write...

It's been a crazy, crazy year at school. Within the last year, we have witnessed a beloved former student's shocking death, a colleague's diagnosis of stage 4 cancer, and the death of a former colleague's son. This has been a year like no other, and I can't believe we are almost at the point of spring break, where the rest of the year will begin to fly by.

With all of this going on, I have to say that my health is at its worst. I usually get a pretty bad cold once a year, but this has been 5 weeks of hell. But I wonder, am I doing it to myself? Am I taking on too much? Isn't it OK if you love doing it all?? I'm starting to think it's not.

My sickness began when I got home from our first ever school immersion. This year, we took freshmen and sophomores on trips literally around the world. What was supposed to be a great trip to explore math and science in France and Germany, canceled due to the bombings in Paris, turned out to be a wonderful trip of a lifetime in Quebec and Montreal. We took students dogsledding, tubing, tobogganing, and so much more. But it took me twice the amount of work to organize because we had to change it. And so it all began...the year of over programming for me. Here's what I did (and mostly loved) so far this year with work:

  • Spent hours organizing two immersion trips and communicating with parents and students throughout.
  • Traveled on said immersion trip to Quebec and Montreal, always on the go, always having fun, doing things that I would never have done on my own...but "on" non-stop for a week.
  • Chaperoned and organized three math competitions on Saturdays, with one more to go this upcoming weekend. We did the best we ever did this year, winning a math trivia competition and $500 for our school as well as several individual and team awards. Also organizing States, in April.
  • Met with math team every Friday.
  • Got three guest speakers to come to our school--awesome, great, but a lot of work (Art Benjamin coming next week!!)
  • Served on several committees, was a mentor, worked with math department regularly to redo our curriculum and meet with new hires.
  • Started a "Tech for Scots" technology program with a friend and colleague.
  • Wrote several letters of recommendation for scholarships and summer programs in addition to colleges.
  • Organized pi day--got help from everyone in the department, but then made it bigger, better.
  • Going to Twitter Math Camp, Desmos workshop, workshop at Rutgers, went to Miami Device, and an Ed Camp.
  • Started a new Problem-Solving course and daily trying to find innovative ideas to teach in the class.
  • Have a new textbook for Algebra 2 Honors, and have new lesson plans daily for the course.
  • Solved the Rubik's Cube and entered a mosaic contest.
  • Organized a French cooking class for immersion reunion.
Outside of work:
  • Helping husband who has also not been able to hack a sickness. The two of us are a mess.
  • Driving an overworked son (who does he get it from?) back and forth from school events even though he can drive, so he can catch up on sleep or school work in the car.
  • Helped said son deal with writing 18 college applications over winter break.
  • Applied for financial aid...need I say more??? HOURS.
  • Wrote a Ted-Ed video riddle...should be out in May!
  • Tutored in my "spare" time.
  • Friend to those in need...and it seemed like it was a ROUGH year for them as well.
  • Applied and going to Israel through a women's organization this summer.
  • Working at a yoga studio once a week for "Karma yoga"
  • The normal cleaning, cooking, working out, etc., that everyone does to make life happen...including doing Meg's #fitbos (which is not looking that good for me as I have been very low on the workout hours these last 5 weeks)
  • Feelings of guilt of not going to enough games of my son, not being the best wife, not reading enough, working out enough, not relaxing.
The last two words: not relaxing...this is something I HAVE to learn how to do. My cousin came out last week, and we did some things, like go to the Green Market, walked around downtown, etc, that I NEVER get to do. Weekends, for me, consist of school work, cleaning, schlepping, going to games, working out... and relaxation comes with a glass of wine at a nice dinner out or in with the family. Which I love. But as my colleague who made me stay home today told me, I need to stop being the "hero." I need to relax and just be. I need to be OK with that. My body is telling me to SLOW DOWN. I want to regularly be this picture of me, shown below, where I am feeling super relaxed after an awesome yoga class, walking around the Green Market, sipping on a fresh coconut. It has to start. I have to do it. Now. If not, when?