Calc class today:

Limits review...he was actually on it! Material that I thought was going way over his head last week was processed and we had some really good conversations about different types of problems. Great questions were asked, showing that he's actually thinking about what he's doing and why, too. (There are, of course, still some trouble areas like knowing when to factor/rationalize and what numbers will "help" in the simplification process, but it's a process, right?).

Then, we did some free fall problems, applying limits and previewing derivatives. It was so great to actually apply what we've been talking about to a real situation and make it mean something. Here's the problem we spent time looking at, and some of the humor that came out of it...

A construction worker is working on a building that is 1000 feet tall. (side note, we took a tangent to see how many stories that would be, because 1000 ft is just an strange number to envision). Suppose the construction worker accidentally drops his wrench. If he immediately yells "Look out below!" (or something similar), how long will the person standing on the ground below him have to get out of the way before the wrench hits the ground?  What will the speed of the wrench be at that time?

We took a tangent to talk about finding speed (using the limit definition of derivative, but he doesn't know that yet) at 5 seconds, and then at the time the wrench would hit the ground. We also had a good conversation about why the velocity is negative. When we found the velocity (-160ish ft/sec at 5 seconds, -252ish ft/sec at impact), we talked about how fast that really is, relating it to a football field. He couldn't believe the wrench could fall that fast.

When we had spent a lot of time talking about speed. He asked, "Wait, we didn't answer our question yet, can the person get out of the way in time?" *GRIN*

ASL is so visual with these kinds of problems...I love it.


Panic Mode

Last week was the official Mid-Quarter marker for my school. This meant that mid-quarter grades were due, as well as updates on all IEP goal progress. It made for a busy week for all at school, learning a new grading program (I <3 PowerTeacher) and keeping up with *all* of the IEPs. (For those of you that don't know, every student I teach has an IEP...though not all have math-specific goals).

At the mention of Mid-Quarter, my heart started fluttering a little. It means that the school year is 1/8 finished. It also means that my semester-long Algebra 2 class is 1/4 finished. When I was looking at the state Standards of Learning for that class (there are 20) and thinking about what my students know and are able to do at this point, I entered what we will call "Panic Mode".

Algebra 2 is a tough course. There is so much to cover that is built upon Algebra 1 skills, more indepth and some entirely new concepts. I'm trying to remediate skills from Algebra 1, and cover new skills from Algebra 2, but they aren't getting it! The days that I have had great success and the students "got it", are the concepts that on a quiz 2-3 days later, the students missed the boat completely.

This is my fault for assuming that because they "got it" the first day, it didn't need to be revisited the next day. The "one and done" approach is not effective, but it is so difficult for me to think that it can be different in such a packed course.

Questions for the PLN:
  • How do you handle the pressure of time and breadth of courses while still covering concepts rather than procedures? 
  • How much of your class time is spent allowing students to practice new skills/concepts on their own or with a partner as opposed to watching you demonstrate examples, group problem solving, or the like?


Planning and Time Management

I've been a bit frazzled lately. I feel like I'm constantly running around at school and I don't have time to get my head on straight. When I sit down to work on planning the next day's lessons, or creating materials, I get sidetracked by other things that I *know* must be done while I am at school. I then leave the rest of the planning and creating for time over the weekend or at home. I'm not really liking that strategy.

I know that, as a teacher, it is almost innate within me to bring work home and to think about work when I am not actually working. I seriously think it's in our genes or something. What I don't like, though, is that I feel ineffective in the time I do have at school. Does anyone have any suggestions for how to manage planning time more effectively? How to use resources available online and from textbooks to develop lessons without feeling like you're recreating the wheel every time you make notes for a new topic?

I'm at the beginning of year number 2, and of the 4 classes that I teach, 2 are new to me (one is new to the school). I'm trying not to rely on the textbook so heavily, and trying to develop more activities and less worksheets to teach concepts, but it's a process. I'm also trying to go from primarily guided notes in Algebra 1 to a mix in Algebra 2, and teaching my calculus student how to take notes himself (this whole process is made much more difficult in a signing environment, because students cannot listen and write at the same time).



Well, I've entered the math 'blog-o-sphere."  Don't set your expectations too high ("the best math teacher blog EVER"?  not quite). My goal is to post at least once/week...but I'm not exactly sure how it's all going to work out. Be patient with me and if I get quiet, feel free to bug me on twitter or in comments. *smile*