I am a student teacher in my final year of University in a midsize Canadian city. I want to be a math teacher in order to break students' misconceptions about mathematics and show them how fun math can be.

Sunday, 23 February 2014

Classroom Management Solutions?

So, being a YOUNG first year teacher, sometimes it is hard for me to know if students are being disruptive and chatty just because they want to see how far they can push me OR because they simply are that chatty and disruptive!  My group of Grade 9 students is especially chatty and disruptive.  The new English teacher who teaches right beside me has the same group of students right after me and was having the same problem.   While discussing our mutual problem, we decided we needed some strategies to help us survive the rest of the year (we have the same students every day for an hour from September to June - this is double the amount of time they get in every other class as our Admin has decided that students need to have a strong grasp of Math and English during their grade 9 year which will assist them in the rest of their high school career).

Enter Math = Love to save the day! While doing my daily blog reading, I came across what Sarah was doing in her class with the "What were you doing" sheets.  They seemed like a perfect fit for my students - students wouldn't get the attention they so desire after doing something that I find disrespectful and disruptive to a cooperative learning environment, instead they would simply fill out a form describing IN THEIR OWN WORDS what they were doing, and what they are now going to do about it.  My colleague and I started using these forms this week.  So far, I have only had to hand out one to a student who refused to follow my request to stay in his seat to work on problems individually instead of with friends (where clearly no work was getting done).  My colleague on the other hand, has handed out 4.  I believe the kids get restless after being together for 2 hours and start to go a little (more) crazy in her class.

The sheets seem to be working so far, and will provide me with excellent documentation when I need to contact parents!  

Our students do not understand the concept of quiet.  We have explained over and over again how some students need the classroom to be a quiet place in order to process information, especially when we are teaching.  Yet our students continue to talk and whisper when we are giving instructions, lecturing, etc.

So, our second strategy is to put a tally mark on the board (in a designated area) every time a student talks when we are teaching or giving instructions.  If students are contributing to the discussion, such as saying the next step to solving a math problem, no tally mark is given.  However, if a student is talking to his friend at the back of the class about hunting plans, a tally mark is given.

Each tally mark received is worth 20 seconds at lunch.  The tally marks continue over from my class to my colleague's class.  As she has them right before lunch, she simply keeps them there for however long the tally marks add up to.  The ENTIRE class has to stay, which I know is not fair for the better behaved students but we are hoping the peer pressure will kick in and the chatting will stop!  Students have plenty of time to chat while completing assignments during class, we simply just do not want them talking when we are talking.

This strategy has worked this week so far, with students staying for about 2 - 3 minutes each day.

Hopefully our strategies will continue to work as we finally feel as though we have some control over the chaos that is our classroom some days!

Crazy first semester!

Well, I have officially completed my first semester as a high school math teacher - Final Exams, Provincial Exams, Report Card comments and all!  My first semester was hectic - especially as my classroom management skills still need to be developed and fine tuned.  This semester will be even more crazy as I am now teaching 4.5 out of 5 classes (I have one prep period every other day).

With the new semester starting, I have put more emphasis into Mental Math in all of my courses.  Where I teach, Mental Math comprises 20% of a student's final mark.  Typically, we do Mental Math questions at the beginning of class each day (sort of like Bellringers).  Students get between two and four days to practice the types of questions that they will be assessed on during the "Mental Math Test" on Fridays (typically).

Here is what my grade nine's mental math questions will look like this week.  We have been studying how to solve linear equations and inequalities. Linear Equations and Inequalities Mental Math

In my grade 10 Applied/Pre-Calculus class, we are going to begin studying Roots and Powers on Wednesday after our Factoring test on Tuesday.  Here are the Mental Math questions I am using. Roots and Powers Mental Math

In Grade 11 Pre-Calculus, we just started a new unit on Radicals.  The Mental Math questions I created for this week are similar to the questions the Grade 10 class is doing as it appears my current Grade 11's are not as strong in this area as I would like them to be. Radicals Mental Math

Finally, in my Grade 12 Pre-Calculus class, we just began a unit on Rational Functions.  As such, my students need more practice with factoring!  All of the mental math questions I created for this unit have to do with factoring quadratics and solving quadratic equations.Factoring Mental Math

I feel prepared and ahead of the game for this week!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Classroom Management Problems :(

So one month of teaching has gone by (almost!) and my three and a half classes are going pretty well so far! My grade 10, 11 and 12s are all friendly, respectful, attentive (for the most part!) and fun.  However, my grade 9 class is driving me bonkers!

I teach in a small town where everybody has known each other for years.  I don't know if that adds to the chaos, but my grade nines just can't seem to stop talking!  I have finally trained them to pay attention to me when I am standing in front of the room and teaching or giving instructions.  However, whenever they are working in their desks individually or in groups, they get super loud and rambunctious including yelling and sometimes even pushing and shoving (all in good fun, but still not what a teacher wants to see!).

When we did stations at the beginning of the year, however, those worked amazingly well.  Perhaps I will have to do more station work - but I don't want to overdue that.  Any thoughts or suggestions would be greatly appreciated!!

Thursday, 5 September 2013

First Day of Teaching.... EVER!

So after two PD days, the students finally arrived in classes today!

I am teaching grade 9 math, grade 11 and 12 Applied math this semester.  I started all of my classes off by having the students complete a survey so I can learn more about them.  These students are from a very small community so they have known each other forever - that is why I decided against any ice breakers.  The survey had basic get to know you questions on the front, and on the back, I asked about their experiences in math classes before, as well as three things they didn't understand from last year.  The second last question I asked them to ask me a question - which I will answer in tomorrow's class.  The final question I asked students to tell me what they needed me to do as a teacher in order for them to succeed in class - I got a few interesting responses including spend time answering questions, explain things many times, and be available for extra help.  I thought those were pretty standard math teacher qualities and things I do all the time.  I am new to the school and the students do not know me, however, so hopefully they will see that I do all of those things (and more!) while teaching.

After that, I went over my class brochure (course outline) which I posted in a previous post.

Finally, we got to whiteboarding! I forgot to take pictures, but the students were super involved and excited.  Most students worked right until the bell and some even indicated they would go home and look at the question some more.  All of my students had never heard of whiteboarding before, so it was definitely a novel experience.

I gave each class one problem to work on (the Grade 12 class actually did both the Grade 11 and Grade 12 problems - I think I may have helped too much with the first problem I gave them).

The grade 9's worked on the 8 adults and 2 children crossing a river problem (Moar River-Crossing) from Writing to Learn to Teach.

The grade 11's worked on the Queens on a Chessboard problem, from Stella's Stunners.

Finally, the grade 12's worked on Digit Cells, from Stella's Stunners as well.

I chose these problems because they have a low entry - basically guess and check.  As I barely know these students, I wanted to see how comfortable they would be with problem solving.  I was surprised at how willing these students were to work through these problems, and still persisted even after erasing the whiteboards countless times trying to solve the Queens on a Chessboard problem.

After the grade 12's solved their first problem, I told them I had another one for them and they were excited!

Yay! It was a good first day (EVER!) for me! :)

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Getting Back Into Blogging!

I haven’t written anything on this blog for almost a year!  Last year I started with the New Blogger Initiation and kind of fell off the bandwagon before the end.

With my final year of University and practicum completed, I am ready to jump back on the bandwagon!

Where I live, there are too many teachers and not enough teaching positions.  However, I am extremely lucky to say that I have a term teaching position for next year in a small high school!  I am teaching every single high school math course over the course of the year (including Grades 9 Math, Pre-Calculus, and Applied Math) with the exception of the Essentials Mathematics courses.  I am extremely grateful for this opportunity and am looking forward to my first year of teaching!

So, with a month and a half left to go, I have started planning what I want my classroom to look like and what types of routines, procedures, and activities (including whiteboarding!) that I want to incorporate into my classroom.  I just ordered 6 23x17 whiteboards to use in my classroom which I am super excited about!

I also stole the brochure idea instead of a boring class outline from Sarah at Alwilda’s Daughter and from Kristin at hoppe ninja math.  My Grade 9 version is here if you want to take a look!

So if any of you out there have any advice on classroom set up, organization, etc. for a first year teacher, let me know in the comments!

Thursday, 30 August 2012

The Question

I have to admit that I have never been one of the students to ask a teacher ‘Why do we have to learn this?’  Perhaps I already saw the applications of Mathematics at an early age or knew that I would need these concepts to succeed in University Mathematics courses.  More likely, I was good at math and liked doing the ‘drill and kill’ problems.  I didn’t think I had to have a reason for learning it other than there was a ‘right’ answer and I enjoyed finding it.  Most students, however, are not like me at all.  I have been lucky enough, or probably just do not have enough experience yet, never to have had a student ask me The Question (which ‘Why do we have to learn this?’ will be referred to from now on in this post).

Depending on the student and the situation, I think I would have different answers.

For a student that I think would respond to humour, I would direct them to the following article:

and make a joke about them not wanting to be an uneducated or uninformed consumer.

For a student that enjoys English, I would direct them to this article and make a joke about how even authors incorporate mathematical concepts in their writing.

If the whole class was having a problem with what we were doing, I would explain that understanding mathematics allows us to:
·         Manage our time and money
·         Understand patterns in the world
·         Solve problems using reasoning skills
·         Use technology
·         Be aware of what makes the objects around us work (search engines, technology, motion, etc.)
If students needed a more concrete answer than the one previously mentioned, I would explain how the following topics that are covered in the Pre-Calculus stream of mathematics in my province are/should be relevant to them.
Pre-Calculus Topics:
Trigonometry (specifically the use of radians) – Who decided there were 360 degrees in a circle? Isn’t this arbitrary? Radians are not an arbitrary measuring unit.  They are based on the intrinsic properties of a circle.  Therefore, many complicated trigonometric expressions can be easily reduced and simplified with the use of radians. 
Function Transformations – Function transformations relate a function to its corresponding graph.  Functions describe many real life phenomena and the graphs of these functions are sometimes more easily interpreted than the function itself.  These graphs show you a picture of what is happening.  With knowledge of function transformations, you can determine how the different parts of a function (coefficients, degrees, positive or negative) affect the graph of a function, and therefore the interpretation of the data a function represents.   
Exponents and Logarithms – The functions have many applications including modelling population growth, exponential growth and decay, logarithmic scales eg. Richter scale, pH scale, and they are even used to model the cooling of a dead body (what student wouldn’t find a crime scene application interesting?).
Radical & Rational & Polynomial Functions – used to model real world phenomena 
Permutations and Combinations – The ordering of groups and the number of different grouping possibilities has many applications, especially those related to probability, e.g. the probability that a certain arrangement of runners will win a race.  Permutations and combinations can also help you discover the number of different locker combinations, the number of different license plate numbers, and the number of different poker hands.
Of course, all of the above information will never answer ‘The Question’ for a student who doesn’t want to see the necessity or use of mathematics around them.  For those students, I have no answer ...

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Modeling Data with Radical Functions

In my province we need to teach students how to take the square root of a function when given the actual function or a graph of that function (in Grade 12 Pre-Calculus Mathematics).
Why is this relevant?  When would you ever need to do this in real life?
Modeling skid marks in vehicle accidents!
This is one of the only application problems I found that incorporates taking the square root of a function for a purpose (other than to just perform the procedure or do the math).
In this document, my answers (which are hopefully correct and mathematically accurate!) are included in red/blue.
I created this worksheet/problem for students to work on as an application of radical functions because I don’t like telling students the only reason they are learning a certain topic is that it will be on the test or they will need it in later mathematics courses. Sure, every topic does not have an immediate application, but I like to use them whenever I can to keep students interested and for them to see that mathematicians discovered these concepts for a reason, not just for ‘fun’.
Here it is!  Enjoy!
PDF version

WORD version
(Hopefully the links work! If they don't, let me know :) )
Any feedback you have, whether positive or negative is greatly appreciated.  This is the first worksheet I have made about radical functions and their applications so I am not expecting it to be perfect!