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.