Archive for the ‘Classes’ Category

This summer I was reading the Math Teacher Mambo blog and I read an interesting post about how she wanted to use Mad Libs in her classroom. Since the first days of school can be a bit boring and mundane to some students, I decided to liven it up. Rather than just hand out books and provide a form telling me their book number and condition, I though it might be fun to make the form that the students’ fill out, regarding the information of their book, Mad Lib themed.

The day before I handed out textbooks, I had students fill out a sheet that didn’t really make sense to them at the time. On this sheet there were a bunch of randoms, like nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc. The next day, as I handed out books, I provided a form for them to write in their answers from the previous day. After everyone had finished filling out the form, I asked for volunteers to read their stories. My first class didn’t have any volunteers, but all my other classes did. Those that read out loud, provided the class with a funny story which everyone else enjoyed. In addition, the experience also helped us to understand a little bit more about those that read their stories. One kid filled in all of his blanks with sports related words and everybody soon realized how big sports are in this kid’s life.

Today was the first day back to school after holiday break. Tomorrow, my Algebra 1 class has their end of year exam to determine whether or not they are proficient enough to move on to Intermediate Algebra.

Why does our school have such a test? As math teachers, we’ve found that different teachers grade different ways, and as a result, some students aren’t as proficient as they should be as they enter the next level of mathematics.  To overcome this, the math department created a test, over a decade ago, in which all Algebra students need to pass in order to advance to higher math courses. By doing so, the math department can be sure that students in upper level math courses are proficient in their algebraic fundamentals. On the downside, students hate it because if they don’t pass, then it’s another year of Algebra for them, no matter what their grade is in Algebra. Counselors and the Vice Principal in charge of scheduling hate it because it puts a huge number of students back into Algebra, instead of having them go on to their pre-scheduled class.

Why was the test scheduled on the second day after returning back from holiday break? I have no clue, but I think it has something to do with scheduling.

After meeting with my Algebra class today, one thing is certain; a majority of my class either didn’t study, or they studied a minimal amount; which is a bit disappointing, since I spent so much time creating a YouTube playlist that includes videos for each of the skills on the test.

For the last couple semesters I have incorporated a standards based grade book. For my Algebra class, I have aligned the grade book with the skills that are seen on this end-of-year test. One thing that I am going to try, that I have never attempted, is to use the degree of error to determine how accurate my grade book is compared to this test. I intend to only use the assessments portion of my grade book. I think it will be interesting to see individual student’s degree of error and also the class results.

Stay tuned for the results…

After reading the Official Google Blog today and noticing this link, I’ve decided that this would be an awesome way to really have students practice for the end of year “Exit” exam, which they need to pass in order to move on to the next level of Algebra. By combining YouTube and Google+, I would really be able to provide additional assistance to students that are struggling with concepts.

Wow, my remedial math is something else.

Today, I don’t know how we got on the topic of it, but we were talking about yawning. I mentioned to my students that if you just say the word yawn to people, they will yawn as well. After a bit of a conversation about yawning, one of my students raised her hand and she told me the exact same thing I had said only a few moments earlier.

Student: Did you know that if you say the word yawn, then it will make other people yawn as well?
{Laughter from the rest of the class}
Me: Did you know that by stating the fact that “if you say the word yawn, it will make other people yawn too”, you too can make someone else say the exact same comment?
{Even more laughter from the class}


Today in class I decided to have a little fun with my remedial math, since we have been working it out these last few weeks with some complicated concepts. I thought it would be fun to let them play the Wizard’s Notebook and work on their logic skills. I also did it because later on we will use their scores along with some other factors to make scatter plots and graphs.

While playing, a lot of students got stuck on the level A Dog for All Seasons. To help them along, I would give hints. Here’s how my hints went:

Me: What’s the name of this level?
Student: A Dog for All Seasons
Me: And what are some seasons?
Student: Summer, Winter, Fall, Spring

After typing these words into the box, I would usually get called back over.

Student: I still can’t figure it out.
Me: What’s another word for Fall?
Student: Spring.

At this point, how could I not crack up. It happened three times in class, and every time I couldn’t keep it contained.


If you ask a graduating senior, and most adults, what topology is, you will either get a crazy answer that it has something to do with maps or they may look at you with a blank stare in their eyes. Not many people outside the mathematical realm realize tht topology “is a major area of mathematics concerned with properties that are preserved under continuous deformations of objects, such as deformations that involve stretching, but no tearing or gluing. It emerged through the development of concepts from geometry and set theory, such as space, dimension, and transformation” (Wikipedia).

While reading The Mobius Strip by Clifford Pickover, I decided that this video would be the first of a series of videos that I would show relating to topology. In the coming weeks I will be showing videos that relate to perfect squares, knots, and possibly some other topics that I discover while reading Pickover’s book.

Rather than come up with a worksheet, I’ve decided to present the students with a series of scenarios for them to try on their own.

  • If you cut along the middle of a Möbius strip, what do you end up with? Does Mr. Ug ever reunite with his dog?
  • What happens if you cut along a Möbius strip a third of the way in from the edge?
  • Create a Möbius Strip sandwich by taking two strips of paper one on top of the other, like two pieces of bread in a sandwich. Together give the strips both a half twist and tape them as if you were constructing a sing Möbius strip. What do you get?

Usually, I like to keep my questions short, because I find a lot of students are really intrigued by Moebius strips and they continue to discover on their own.

On a side note, I think it would be fun to crochet. Maybe if I ever learn how, I can make something like this.

One of my fondest memories as a kid was watching David Copperfield with my family as he performed amazing magic tricks. One of the tricks, the Orient Express, amazed my little mind as I wondered how the heck he can know what I’m thinking when I’m at home and he’s in half way around the world.

The video that I found isn’t David Copperfield working his magic, but someone else performing the same trick. By using a clip of Copperfield I would have to sacrafice quality and also time, as the clip appears halfway through a longer video. If you want to see the original trick, then go here, and scroll to the 5:00 mark.

I also remember another clip of David Copperfield performing a similar trick. This one wasn’t as complex as the Orient Express, but it was still fun to participate in. Last semester, I showed this clip to my class and they were astounded by the results. “How could he know?”, many of them pondered. Even after showing it to them again, only a few students began to notice, but a few students were still left in amazement.

Since today is the first day of school, and also a Tuesday; what better way to get students involved and participating then to amaze them with interactive math? By opening class with the Orient Express Trick, I hope to capture students’ attentions. After they see the video, perhaps more than once, I will present them with a worksheet to do with their groups.

I remember using a worksheet that accompanies this clip when I was student teaching, but over the years I’d lost it and couldn’t find another copy on the internet. This morning I did a search and found a copy here, which was posted about a week ago, so it was perfect timing.

After we get done with the worksheet and discuss it as a class, I plan on showing them the second David Copperfield clip, with the goal that they will be able to quickly figure out why this one always works too.