Monday, December 16, 2013

Making the Unit Circle Game

I got this activity at a Pre-AP Summer Institute several years ago, and I really like it.  It fits well after students have created the unit circle but when they're still learning to actually use the unit circle.

Making the Unit Circle Activity

Here's what ours looked like after we had it assembled:

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Exact Values Color by Number

I teach in Texas at a high school in the DFW area. We are just thawing out from what is locally known as Icemageddon 2013. We had two unexpected days off and it's right at the end of our semester, so to ease my students back into things (and give them a chance to remember/review the material that will be on an upcoming assessment) I created this color by number for exact values of the unit circle. Enjoy!
Exact Value Color by Number

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Piecewise Function Fun

I have always struggled with teaching piecewise functions to my Pre-Calculus students.  Thanks to the mathtwitterblogosphere and pinterest, I found several great worksheets and activities to try out this year, and so far I feel like it has gone MUCH better!  Here's what I did:

I started off with this activity that I got from here.  I love it because it builds to a piecewise function instead of just diving in.  And it lets me review writing equations for lines without having to take out a day just for that.  And all the functions are linear, which lets the piecewise functions be the focus instead of reviewing all kinds of different functions (which we would do on another day).
Piecewise Day 1

The next day, we did this worksheet that I got from the fabulous Sam Shah.  I like it because it builds on the worksheet we did the day before and throws in a few non-linear pieces to the functions.  And it focuses on evaluating piecewise functions.  The best part was that we did the worksheet under blacklights using highlighters.  The kids LOVED it!  I think black light math is something I will incorporate more often, especially when we're graphing, because the graphs done in highlighter really pop!
Piecewise Day 2

You can kind of see here how the graphs pop under the black lights.

Finally, we did this worksheet which is different from the others in that they are graphing the functions, not just writing the equations or evaluating.

I have had very students who seem to be struggling, which is a big change from years past.  Their first Standards Based Assessment over piecewise functions will be tomorrow, so I'll let you know how they do!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'm baaaaaack!

It's been a long time (too long) since I last blogged!  I mentioned before that I started working on my Master's and between that, moving, and the business of summer and then the first few weeks of school, I just didn't blog.  But I'm determined to blog at least once a week.  I though to ease back in I would devote this post to my classroom set up this year.

I've had lots of changes this year.  My school went from a seven period day to an eight period day this year, so classes got a little shorter and I have a lot more students.  My biggest class (an AP Calculus class) is 34 (35 if you count my TA) and my smallest class (a Pre-AP Pre-Calculus class) is 10 (11 if you count my TA).  I have a total of 115 students in Pre-AP Pre-Calculus.and 60 students in AP Calculus.  This is my 9th year at this school and when I first started, I only had 14 students in AP Calculus.  I'm so proud of the fact that so many more kids get exposed to Calculus now!  For a school our size, our Calculus numbers are ah-mazing!

I'm also continuing/expanding my flipped classroom this year while also implementing SBG and Interactive Notebooks.  As a result, I changed my classroom set-up a little.

My Teacher Desk
I added the red and green fabric bins on the bookshelf.  They hold notebooks and supplies for creating the interactive notebooks.  I also moved my document camera to my desk area and I really like it.  Because my desk is in the back corner of the room, I can really see what everyone is doing from there.  And I can very quickly show the whole class something.

Student Desks and Whiteboards
I used to have my students in groups of four, but that arrangement didn't always work out for me.  A lot of the time one or people would do the work and the other two would basically just sit back and then copy.  I like the desks partnered up a lot better for day-to-day work.  Once or twice a week we do an activity where groups are better, so I have my 1st period TA rearrange the desks for me.
I got the whiteboards at Lowe's.  They're really 4x8 sheets of shower board, but they work just like whiteboards and they're way cheaper!

Another view of my desk in relation to the rest of the room.

I found these posters on Pinterest (I think).  They have the students assess themselves and their level of understanding.  Eventually I think I would like to do a quick check at the end of an activity or lesson and have the students put a tally under the sign that best describes their level of understanding.

These posters came from the blog of the amazing Sarah Hagan.  Be sure and check her out.  She's fantastic.

I have these tables just inside the door when you first walk in.  The trays where students turn in their work are here.  I also keep extra supplies (pencils, highlighters, markers, etc.) up here.  The green bin contains pencil pouches filled with supplies for creating the interactive notebooks (glue sticks, tape, scissors, markers, etc.).  (The red and black Solo cups are just there because we were playing review pong the day I took this picture.)

From the day I put these posters up in my room, they have generated lots of great conversations about algebra and some of the common mistakes that trip up even the best of my students.  I love them!  And they're just disturbing enough to maybe actually stick with the kids!  I also keep a basket of old baby blankets in my room because I keep it pretty cold :)

There you have it.  I've never left my room exactly the same two years in a row, so I'm sure I'll tweak this set-up as the year progresses (or over the summer for next year) but so far I'm really happy with it.  I've had a much easier time keeping it organized this year.

Monday, June 10, 2013

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (6/7/2013)

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Thursday, June 6, 2013


I recently discovered the amazingness that is LiveBinders.  What an incredible way to collect, organize, and share resources.  Like, Pinterest, but so much better for organizing curriculum resources!

My best advice is to go right now and sign up.  Then play around with the sample binder for a few minutes (that's all it will take because it's just that user friendly) before you dive into making a binder of your very own.

I'll share a few that I've already made.

Pre-AP Pre-Calculus LiveBinder
AP Calculus AB LiveBinder
Review Games LiveBinder
Creating Your Own PLN LiveBinder

If you create one, leave a link in the comments so I can check it out!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013


I used this activity way back in the fall when we were doing our unit on trig graphing.  I really liked it and plan on using it in other units next year as well.  I just made the headbands out of strips of paper, but because of varying head sizes, they didn't really stay on too well, so I'm considering buying this....

Click to view game on Amazon

If it's cheaper, I'll probably just buy elastic and make my own headbands, but so you get the idea behind the game, check out the link to the official game on Amazon.

Print out graphs of various trig functions and glue them to index cards.  Each kid gets a graph to put in their headband.  They should not look at the graph when putting it in the headband.  They then have to get clues from their classmates that will allow them to write the equation for the graph.  We did this with trig graphs, so they were asking questions like "Does it look more like a sine snake or a cosine cup?", "What is the amplitude?  The period?", "Does it have a phase shift or vertical shift?"  When they felt like they knew the equation for their graph, they wrote it down and checked with me.  I think when I do it again, I'll color code the graphs and put an answer key somewhere to allow them to check their answers on their own.  I'd probably have them switch graphs at some point, or come up with enough graphs for each person to do at least a couple.  

It was a great activity that the kids really enjoyed.  It was much more engaging than just getting several graphs on a paper that they had to write equations for....

Friday, May 31, 2013

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (5/31/13)

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Thursday, May 30, 2013


I've posted before about how I plan on diving into standards based grading next year.  I'm beyond excited about this!  And the more prep I do, the more excited I'm getting.  What's really got me jazzed right now is the assessment component of SBG.  Maybe it's just end of year delirium, but I'm actually looking forward to creating assessments.  I really want to make formative assessment work for me and my students next year, so I've been busy scouring blogs and Pinterest for exit ticket and quick "check for understanding" ideas that I can use in my classes.  And I'm excited about trying to create summative assessments that really capture the essence of a standard, that will give me meaningful insight to what a student does (or doesn't) get about the standard.  But at the same time, I'm freaking out over creating these assessments!  What if I don't do a good job creating questions?  Enter the newest member of the mathtwitterblogosphere, the Better Assessments blog.  Head on over and check it out.  And post an assessment while you're there!

Friday, May 24, 2013

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (5/24/13)

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Thursday, May 23, 2013

Started Working On My Master's!

So this past Monday, I started my first graduate course in pursuit of my Master's Degree!  I am beyond excited...and a little nervous.  My life already felt like a juggling act, and I just added a great big ball to the mix!  I'm hoping the next 18 months fly by and that I can still work towards being the wife, mother, and teacher that I want to be.
I'm getting my Master's through the University of Texas at Arlington.  They have an academic partnership that allows you to get your Master's in Curriculum and Instruction - Math Studies completely online.  You take one class at a time.  Each class runs for five weeks, then you get a week off before the next class starts. It's a total of 36 hours and takes 18 months to complete.  I'll let you know how it goes, but after working out some initial technology issues and getting over starting off a couple of days behind because of those issues, I'm pleased with the overall experience.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Sequences and Series Project

I came up with this project for my students to demonstrate their understanding of Arithmetic and Geometric Sequences and Series.  I was inspired by Fawn Nguyen's  If you've never checked out this website, it's a must see!

Sequences & Series Project

If I were to make one change to it for next year, I think I would have them create a sequence that was neither arithmetic or geometric.  But overall, I really like it!  It's the perfect project for this time of year.

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (5/17/13)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

On to Something?

There's something about this time of year.  The end of the year is around the corner, testing is coming to an end, and the long, lazy days of summer are beckoning.... But there's also something about this time of year that makes teachers question their effectiveness.  I (and many of my colleagues) are so hard on ourselves in our struggle to have that one perfect year.  The year when the planets and stars align perfectly for you to not only cover all of your material to the breadth and depth you intend at the onset of the school year but, more importantly, your students will leave your class with the complete grasp of the material you worked so tirelessly to present to them during the 187 days you had them.  (I've always been amused that we have 187 school days.  Isn't 1-8-7 the code police use for a murder?)  Anywho...where was I....ah, yes....the material we worked so tirelessly to present to them during the school year..... A couple things have popped up in my Facebook news feed that have really made me do some serious soul searching.  For your consideration:

Two young men with lots to say about the quality of education that they're getting from their teachers.  I actually saw the video first.  In it, a young man by the name of Jeff Bliss, who is an 18 year old sophomore at Duncanville High School (where I spent the first five years of my career) berates a teacher for what he views as her less than stellar efforts to teach his class.  I don't want to debate the merits of the manner in which this young man chose to address his concerns, I just want to focus on his words.  He's crying out for something better, for a connection with his teacher.  How many times have I sat in the lunchroom at school bitching commiserating with colleagues over the fact that we would kill for some of our students to connect with us.  And this kid is begging for it!  Whoa!  It really made me stop and question those times (and I'm ashamed to admit this has happened, but it has) where I've given up trying to connect with a kid.  Maybe it was teenage bravado that kept them from responding to my efforts.  Maybe deep down they were thinking "Thanks for not giving up.  I'm not brave enough to give in yet, but don't give up.  Please."  Or what about the times that I've let a few bratty uncooperative students in a class keep me from giving the rest of the class the very best I had to give every day?  I know I'm not like the teacher he's ranting against in the video, but his words still hit a note with me.  And about that teacher in the video....has she always been the queen of the packet?  Or did she used to have the fire and passion that this young man now demands she show him and his classmates?  Have years of all take and no give on the part of some, if not all, of her students left her thinking "Why bother?"  If you read the words of the young man who wrote the letter to to the editor, you might wonder...  But here's what I see:  I see two young men who, in all likelihood, represent the opinions of more of their peers than not.  And even if there's some of our students who haven't yet come around on the value of education, and the monumental effort that is required on their part in order to get that education, there are many who have, and they're they're begging for us to show them the way.  As Jeff Bliss said, "You've got take this job serious.  This is the future of this nation."  Challenge accepted.

Update:  Just came across another piece written by a teenage boy in defense of teachers.  Further proof that there are many in this generation who do get it.  I'm actually pretty glad that they're the future of this nation....

Friday, May 10, 2013

Summer Assignments

I've gone back and forth on assigning summer work to my Pre-AP Pre-Calculus and AP Calculus students.  The past few years I haven't given them anything because I haven't felt like it accomplished what I wanted it to - reviewing skills so I wouldn't have to spend time reviewing them in class.  I always ended up having to review them anyway.  So I think I'm going to implement some form of Sam Shah's boot camps instead.
I have decided, however, to give my students a little summer prep work that will make life easier when we come back in August and a little inspirational summer reading that they'll need to reflect on via posting to a class blog.  I'm going to hand these out before we leave for summer vacation to all students who have signed up for my classes, and I'm going to post copies to the school website so that new students can access them over the summer, as well.  Let me know what you think.  (I'm assigning various chapters from The Joy of X by Steven Strogatz.  Check it out.  It's AWESOME.

Much of this was inspired by or directly ripped off from contributors to Thanks to all who I blatantly stole from!  I'm forever grateful for your ingenuity and willingness to share!

AP Calculus Parent/Student Information Letter and Summer Assignment
Pre-AP Pre-Calculus Parent/Student Information Letter and Summer Assignment

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (5/10/13)

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Friday, May 3, 2013

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (5/3/13)

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Thursday, May 2, 2013

Concept Checklists for SBG

So, as I've posted before, I'm planning on implementing Standards Based Grading in my classes next year.  I've been working on my concept checklists for PAP Pre-Cal and AP Calculus AB.  If you teach Pre-Cal or AP Calculus AB, can you take a look at these and let me know what you think?  Am I missing anything?  Any concepts that you think could/should be combined?  Any that you think I should leave out?

Pre-Cal Concept Checklist
AP Calculus AB Checklist

Monday, April 29, 2013

More PreCal INB pages....(trig)

I posted about my plan to implement interactive notebooks in my classes next year.  Here are more pages I came up with for my PreCal INB....These are just rough ideas, so the handwriting is a little sloppy and I'll probably color code a little more/better than I did here, but you get the idea.

Friday, April 26, 2013

My Weekly Diigo Bookmarks (4/26/13)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.