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Showing posts from 2010


Here's the deal:  I'm working on curriculum for my school and Algebra 2 is making my eyes cross.  I think the major problem is the state of Virginia is in a transition year between "old" Standards of Learning (SOLs), and "new" ones.  This year is supposed to be the year that we're still teaching and assessing the old SOLs, but we're supposed to teach the new ones, too.  Those of you that teach Algebra 2 already know that there's an enormous amount of information to cover in a short period of time.  To give you context, our school teaches it as a semester-long block course.  There's only so much a brain can handle in one day, though! 

Here's the first draft of my skills list and structure...I'm not sure what to do about the old vs. new SOLs (my skills list is based on the old SOLs because that is what will be assessed).

Note:  Gray items are not included in old or new SOLs but might be necessary for student understanding
Blue items ar…

The Birth of an Assessment

Sam recently blogged looking for feedback on an Algebra 2 assessment he gave, but mainly to start a conversation about assessment creation, etc.  My classroom assessments have changed drastically in my short 2 years of experience.

Here's a chronology of my growth:

1st year teaching (Algebra 1 - full year course)
Classroom instruction followed the sequence (and pacing to some extent) of the textbook we were using (McDougall Littel Algebra 1).Assessments were largely based on Chapter Tests from the end of whatever chapter we were in, re-typed/formatted but using the same problems with little thought to balance what was actually being tested.Points were assigned to each problem to award partial credit for being on the right track (this often ended up meaning the more difficult problems were worth more points than the basic problems - more steps = more points)Here's an example of one such test: Chapter 9 Test.  Point distribution is as follows (side note: what was I thinking with th…

ASL/English Vocabulary in the Math Classroom

My last semester in college, while I was student teaching, I had a class that emphasized different key topics in the field of Deaf Education.  One such topic was vocabulary development.  We all already knew that students who are deaf/hard of hearing have a lower vocabulary than their same-age hearing peers for a variety of reasons not least of which being their limited access to "incidental learning" that comes from listening to other people's conversations/tv/radio, etc.  In our class, we talked about ways to introduce new vocabulary in order to give students a more connected understanding of the new word in its five distinct forms.
PictureDescription/definitionASL sign (if applicable)English word (in print)Fingerspelling of English wordI try to be conscious of this as I teach.  It's very difficult sometimes, and many of the math terms to not have standard ASL signs, so it is more difficult for the students to attach meaning and use the new term through fingerspellin…

Trig Project Idea....suggestions?

Inspired by @krisreid72 sharing this document with @Fouss, combined with the fact that I was looking for something that my trig students (who just finished a unit on solving triangles using Law of Sines/Law of Cosines) could wrestle with while I am out of the classroom Monday and Tuesday, I came up with an idea.

The Amazing Race!
random caveat: Season 14 had a deaf participant!

I will give students 2 options -

Option 1: No real trig involved, but still challenging thought processes and more stops to make
Find the shortest "round-the-world" trip visiting many of the tallest buildings in the world.Assume (for the current purposes of this project) that you have a private jet/helicopter that can take off/land anywhere in the world.Primary tool: Google mapsGo to Trigonometry in the left navigation barClick Amazing RaceFollow the directions.Option 2: (taken from @krisreid72's project) Significant amount of trig involved, along with challengi…

Blogging hiatus

I am still alive...I am still teaching...I am still moving, mostly forward.

I've really been struggling to keep up with things, mainly extra-curriculars (as a sponsor, or my own hobbies!) while at the same time being wholly present in my classroom as we're reviewing for end of course tests. I have a list of blog post ideas that haven't materialized...maybe some day soon.

Just wanted to say that I'm still here.

Must be doing something right?

Highlight of the Day:

Context: AP Calc class, talking through some multiple choice (no calculator) problems from a practice test.

what is  ;

Me (typical first question): So....what should we do?
Student: Substitute the 2 in for t to find the answer
Me: Why would we want to do that?
Student: Well, f(x) is the integral there, which means it's really the anti-derivative of the function. We want the derivative of that anti-derivative, which basically means we want the stuff inside the integral. So if you just substitute 2 in, you'll get the answer.
Me: You basically just explained the first part of the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus that you struggled with when we first talked about it. Woohoo!

Granted, I know his explanation skips the step where t in the integrand becomes x after you take the derivative, but the conceptual understanding of the relationship between derivatives and integrals is there. Made my day.

Help and Critique needed: GSP file

Hello friends.

This is what I've been doing this afternoon. It's a Geometer's Sketchpad file that I hope to use with my calc class when we talk about volumes of revolution. I tried to upload it using Javasketch for those of you that don't have GSP, but found out that JavaSketch doesn't support function plots, or pretty much anything I used to create the sketch. Typical.

Anyway, I'm looking for feedback. Play with the sketch, press the buttons, see what you think. Ideally, I'd like this to be along the lines of a Dan Meyer "What Can You Do With This" type activity, but I don't think I'm there yet.

It's not finished, mainly because I don't quite know how to create functions for the last 1.5 pictures. Any help is appreciated! Thanks, friends.

A new version is posted here. Thanks to iTeach in the comments section (@PersidaB on twitter) for coming up with cubic regressions for the lasat 2 pictures. I didn't think to use my…

Budget Cuts and Future Plans

Thursday we had a staff meeting led by our school Superintendent and the Human Resources director. The topic? Next year's budget cuts. As of the last governor's proposed budget, our school was scheduled to have $1.5 million cut from our budget for next year. The new governor has not approved a budget yet, so we're not sure if that number will remain, or increase.

Currently we have about 50 students in the deaf department high school. Twelve or thirteen will be graduating. Currently we have five 8th grade students. Our numbers in the high school are going to be dropping. Our numbers in general are dropping. Next year we will have 66 students in the deaf department. That is, 66 students from preschool through 12th grade. Not very many.

After telling us these numbers, HR discussed how the administration has been planning to deal with the budget cuts. They will be leaving vacant positions open, trimming utility and technology expenditures as much as possible, and decreasing ho…

Graphing Sine and Cosine

Recently in Trig, we've embarked on the task of graphing sine and cosine curves. Before this, we constructed the unit circle and students became familiar with the exact values of sin and cos at the special angles. To introduce the parent graphs, I used an activity that I found at Kate's blog last year (who I'm sure got it from somewhere else, but I don't know where).

To first see the "unwrapped" unit circle that is the sine (and later, cosine) function, students used yarn to mark intervals along the circumference of a unit circle, then used spaghetti to measure the y (later, x) value at each place. They then transfered these lengths of spaghetti to an x-y plane with x intervals of length matching the circumference intervals. This was a great picture for them of where the shape of the sine function comes from. One student even explained it (works much better in ASL), as though you've taken the bottom half of the unit circle and spun it around to make up t…

Rewriting the Curriculum on Snow Days

My school has had many more snow days this year than last year...we're already up to 4...and more are predicted. My colleague and I took advantage of the recent ones, since teachers are still required to work, and re-vamped our Algebra One curriculum and assessment scheme.

After a discussion prompted by Sean's blogpost about failure, and a discussion about homework and assessments in general, I gave her a listofrequiredreading (basically, things I have read over the past year to give her the same background knowledge that I have coming into any conversation about these topics). After she read through the blogs (and did some exploring on her own, too, I think), we sat down and talked about Standards Based Grading. I also brought to the table these Algebra 1 conceptlists (courtesy of Dan Greene).

By the end of two days, we decided to implement the concept/skill based assessment program, while still continuing cumulative testing. We will call the cumulative tests "Retention …

We are not Intramural...

Here's an analogy and the most recent joke going around my department:

Some of our kids get upset when they don't get all A's (understandable). My students are not all "on-level". In fact, most of them are not. In English class, they are accessing high school content at modified levels based on their independent and instruction reading levels as determined by the Qualitative Reading Inventory (QRI). These reading levels range from pre-Primer through High School, and the teachers adapt their materials accordingly. Students that read at the pre-Primer level can still get a grade of A in English by doing the work and improving their reading and writing skills.

Math is a different beast. Students are learning high school math content. You cannot change the Algebra 1, Algebra 2, or Geometry standards. You can modify the methods used to teach the content. You can create guided notes with picture support for vocabulary and explanations written in language they can acces…

Writing Across the Curriculum

The Writing Committee at my school developed a task for this school year to help encourage writing across the curriculum in hopes of improving our students' writing abilities. (Students who are deaf, on average, are significantly below grade level in reading and writing. Some suggest it stems from lack of access to the phonology and patterns of spoken English, upon which the written form of English is based. Others suggest it is a symptom of language delay stemming from lack of access to a full language during the critical period for language development. Many oralists have cited ASL as the cause for low literacy rates among deaf people, but other research has shown that a strong foundation of ASL can actually support English reading and writing ability. It's all about language).**

Anyway, each class is required to submit 4 writing assignments for each student (one per quarter). Not too demanding, but there is an additional requirement that the writing assignments be of specif…

Class Sessions, Instructional Days, and a Conversation I Never Thought I'd Have at my School

Last week was the tail end of SOL (Standards of Learning) testing for 1st semester. We're on a 4-block set-up, so some classes are finished after 1 semester, and the students take their state End of Course multiple choice assessment. If you follow me on twitter, you might have noticed that my Algebra 2 class was one of these semester-long courses, and that the kids took their SOL test last week. None of them passed on the first go-round, but 3 were in what the state calls the "bubble". A score of 400 is required for passing, but the students who score between 375 and 399 are permitted an expedited retake...they are the "bubble". Those three students took the test (different form) again on Friday morning and scores came yesterday. One student improved by 52 points! Well into the passing range. The other two both improved, but not enough to cross over that 400 benchmark. I was pleased with their scores because with many students in the retake bubble, their 2nd sc…

Further Discussions on Higher Education

Sarah got me thinking about different kinds of graduate level programs after she commented on my last post. I also posted a tweet when I found out the program I had been eyeing has been closed. Our dialog (and some other tweets that have gone back and forth since then, has prompted me to want to do more research to see what's actually out there.

I have come to a couple conclusions:

I do not entirely know what I want to studyI am afraid of making the wrong decision and finding out in 15 years that I am not marketable for what I actually want to doThere might not be a program out there that fits my idealThe options I am looking at (so far) are either a M.A. in Deaf Education (with a focus in secondary math education), or a M.A/S in Mathematics Education (as long as there is a program that doesn't require me to a. have a BS in Math or b. student teach in order to get math certification...I already teach math...kthx).

Pros for the Deaf Education program would be that I would be le…