Monthly Archives: October 2014

Day 45: Candy Bag + Des-man

Last year I used a modified version of an opener I picked up at a workshop for Halloween. It went great in all my classes. This year it totally flopped and didn’t have much depth. The fact that this happened is really interesting to me.

I am not sure if it is a difference is between first year Dan and second year or if my students are sharper this year. But either way it is a good lesson to learn that students will be different from year to year and I need to change things up based on those differences.

Anyways, I wanted to still share this activity.

I start by showing students 3 bags, each containing a combination of candy.


I tell them “Ok now I am going to mix up the candy so that each bag is labeled incorrectly”


i.e. the SS bag does not have two packs of Skittles in it and so on…

The question: If you could reach into one bag and pull out a single piece of candy, which bag would you choose?





or KK?


I remind them they can only pull one piece out of one bag. This sorta touches on deductive reasoning. The students who picked up quickly thought of every possible case that could be in each bag and eliminated until they had one case for each bag.

The students who struggled went with a random bag and hoped for the best outcome each time. I think if I use this again next year I need to modify it so it is more of a group thing instead of a whole class + teacher discussion.

In Geometry students went down to the computer lag and worked on Des-man.

I loved the fact that they started Googling how to create different types of graphs. Here are the first three pages of their creations.


I am looking forward to a weekend of recovery and excited to jump into next week! Some awesome activities in the near future, stay tuned!

Day 44: Functions

Today I gave my first work packet… ever.

I have mixed feelings on this and probably won’t do it again. It felt like there was a lot more groaning that usual (which isn’t always a bad thing). But it felt like I was almost punishing students with the amount of repetition that went on from page to page.

I like the packet; it transitions really smoothly into adding values to graphs. I just probably won’t give as much of it next year.I found it floating around the internet last year (I don’t remember the source!) Anways… I am feeling pretty burnt out. I just spent a whole lot of time creating this pumpkin (which was a lot of fun) for my Geometry to see and model off of tomorrow in Des-man.


Day 43: Constructing Parallel Lines

Today in Geometry I asked students to draw a line then create another parallel to it.

There were a lot of crazy constructions.

Some students drew a line then used the opposite side of the straight edge to construct a parallel line. Others copied angles or used an insane amount of circles. Here’s one of those methods:

*Students were using a straight edge and compass

Start with a line segment


Construct a circle whose radius spans more than half the segment.


Copy that same circle, this time centered and the other endpoint. (they just made a perpendicular bisector…)


Copy the same circle again, but make it just touch point B and do the same for the A side also.

Day44.3Connect the first intersection of the circles to the third.


There are a few points that I am uneasy with here but this particular student created a parallel line; doing exactly what they were asked to do. They also created an isosceles trapezoid, which is pretty awesome.

Here is the big question… if this method were used on a test would you mark it correct?

Day 42: Graphing Stories

In Algebra we talked a bit about Water Line. Students concluded that when comparing water height vs. time a steep line indicated a fast fill rate and a more horizontal line indicated a slow fill rate. I was impressed with how well they could generalize.

We spent the rest of the period working on Graphing Stories. I had students describe the first few using only words then move into graphs. I also put up the page and had a random student pick whatever one they wanted to do.

Geometry wrapped up Hotel Snap. It was pretty chaotic and I struggled bringing everything together. The winning team had a score of $19,265 with the $1,000 bonus.

Here is their hotel


Day 41: Waterline + Hotel Snap

I have been wanting to try Water Line by Desmos for almost a year. Today was finally the day!

I wasn’t quite sure how much I should pre-load students on graphing functions when going into this… So I didn’t give them any.

We went into the computer lab, I gave them directions how to access the activity and they worked….

For the entire period.

I used by iPad to monitor and help a few struggling students along the way.


But, as the day progressed that happened less and less. I found that the students who were plotting points or had holes in the graph were self correcting. Once they were able to create their own vase and solve others, a majority of the misconceptions and struggles had been sorted out.

By the way… Desmos has an awesome dashboard when you can follow students through the learning process.


Today I was less helpful than most days, which was uncomfortable. There were a few students off task here and there but for the most part all students were engaged. In my opinion it is incredibly important to have days like this; where the teacher steps back and just lets things happen. I am by no means leaving students at this place and moving forward, but allowing students to begin the learning process and come up with their own questions without the direction of a teacher is awesome.

Tomorrow I am bringing up the cupboard for each class and we will discuss difficulties and answer questions, then move onto Dan’s Graphing Stories.

In Geometry students started Fawn’s Hotel Snap. I have no real reason for the timing of this activity (we are in the middle of parallel/perpendicular lines) but I wanted to try it!

I am really interested in how student’s hotels will pan out, every design is different.






The discussions among students were great and they seemed to all be happy with their final designs. More on this tomorrow!

Day 40: HWD Concept Tests

The last time I gave a chapter test was student teaching.

Before my first year of teaching I met with my principal and pitched a modified 10 point version of Dan’s assessments. He was on board with the whole thing. I was excited about this.

Testing has been a work in progress for me with several changes along the way (I now use a 5 point scoring system). Feel free comment below if you have any criticism, questions, or want to share an idea.

Here’s how things go:

Tests are broken into major conceptual ideas* rather than chapters:

I pick 3 to 4 concepts to put on each test, with one to two questions for each concept.The concepts cycle out after appearing roughly three times. (My first test had concepts 1 and 2, my second had 1,2,3 and 4, my sixth test had concepts 6, 7, and 8) Once they are out of the cycle, it is the student’s responsibility to come in and re-test to raise their scores.

*My list of major conceptual ideas for Algebra is located at the bottom of this post


Return + Checklist:

I return the tests within a few days and students record their scores on a concept checklist, which they hang onto. They shade up to their highest score for each concept. After two 4’s on a particular concept they call me over and get a signature; indicating they don’t have to test over that concept anymore.



Each concept is scored between 0 and 4 points. After a student scores two 4s on a specific concept (i.e. multi-step equations) they are not required to test any further on that concept. Here is the Rubric I follow (this came from another blogger… I can’t remember who though!!)

If a student’s score increases, I replace their previous score with their new one. No new gradebook entry. If the score drops I do nothing.


The second time students see a concept, the questions are harder. The difficulty levels-out after this. I consider the questions from the 2nd time on to be at a mastery level.

Other things I do:

  • Each week I put up the percentage of students in each class that have a 4 or 5 broken down by each period (this adds a little competition).
  • I make up a question or two on the spot when students come in and retest. Nothing too fancy.
  • I limit retests to once a day.
  • No tutoring + retesting on the same day.
  • I grade hard.

Things I have changed:

  • From a 10 point scale to 5 point.
  • Shifted from one perfect score to receive a signature up to two.
  • No longer require their checklist on the desk during testing.

What my students from last year thought about concept tests:



Tests (Algebra) 1    2    3    4    5

Tests (Geometry) 1    2    3    4    5

Algebra Concept List

Blank Concept Checklist



Day 39: Boosting Number Sense

Another teacher in my department shared with me a gold mine of openers from Yale National Institute. These are flat out amazing. For the last few weeks I have been pulling a few of these and using them.


If you want to talk Common Core Practices these hit on almost all of them.


I could write a full length post on how rich the discussions have been behind every single one of these…

Today in Geometry I threw these two up:



Any time my students are perplexed or stumped I get pretty excited. B took students quite a while to evaluate and after they solved it I saw the satisfaction that I push so hard for everyday in their expressions.

Day39There was one great discussion on if it was legal to change 48(52) to (50)(50). One student provided a counter example of 10(4) which does not equal 7(7).

Anyways… I just wanted to share this out, here are the goods.