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My Spiky Door Project, Days 2/3 (and 4 :( ) #MTBoS

I saw these posts on the Spiky Door Projects (here and here) and was inspired to do this project with my classes.


Throughout this project I was impressed with my students’ desire for perfection when it came to the actual 3D object.  This was surprising to me actually.  My students typically do not have the greatest attention span.  I was trying to get them to realize that using the “slant height” of the pyramid to construct the triangles would be better than trying to achieve isosceles triangles with a ruler alone (these students have only been exposed to compass and protractor on a very rudimentary basis, one of my “flaws” this year).  I didn’t want to give students “direct instruction” on how to construct their pyramids but eventually for some of my students I just had to because they just could not understand  why their lateral triangles would not meet at the right point.  However, I couldn’t believe how many students did not stop after their first iteration was not completely successful.  I loved how some students who “got it” were really helping others around them.  Some students who are typically not as engaged were going all out for this project.  Maybe it was the timing (close to the end of the semester so students REALLY will grasp for anything that will improve their grade) or maybe it was the lower threshold for the task, but whatever it was I really enjoyed seeing my students engaged.


Anytime I break out rulers in class I am always dismayed at how many students do not know how use them.  I had students in multiple classes exclaim that they couldn’t use the ruler i provided as it was in millimeters but the project says centimeters (insert bang head into wall here).  A couple of students wanted to start their measurement of a segment on 1 as opposed to 0.  Approximately half of the students were confused about how to measure a lateral edge versus a slant height and how to label those aspects on their sketches.  Although these issues make me cringe, they also point out how vitally important doing projects like this are to my curriculum.  Students may never need to find the surface area of a trapezoidal prism in the future, but measuring with a ruler (or similar device) is a life skill and therefore incredibly important.  I will make this project and others a mainstay in my curriculum.


For the future, I plan to do a couple of things.  First, the rubric I used needs some better defining for my needs (although I totally appreciate the person who first posted theirs as it really helped make this project more manageable).  Second, I will spend a little more time going over the rubric so that students focus more of their energy on the scale drawings and calculations of the task.  Third, I will find a way to entice my students to finish this project in three days.  Four is entirely too much time for a majority of my students.  I will find a way to get students more on task during the early part of the project18527853_10211765912437584_1035856140326627421_n.jpg.

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Spiky Door – Pyramid Planning – day 1 Reflections #MTBoS

I saw this post about making a Spiky Door and knew that I wanted one for my class :).  Today was day one and I was amazed at the kinds of learning going on.  First, almost all of my students were engaged which is AMAZING for 14 days out from the end of the semester.  Second, I was impressed with my students’ desire to perfect their original sketches after cutting out some trial pyramids.  I am hopeful that this will result in better products.

On the negative side, I had more than one student comment that the ruler they had was not good because it was in mm and the directions said cm (I guess I should mention that it is good they read directions).  I was saddened because this is not the first time we have measured in class but obviously I have more work to do.  Additionally,  I had a student who could not figure out where the lateral sides belonged on her scale drawing.  She kept drawing her sketch like this:IMG_6272.JPG

However, the good part about this experience is that I think she learned A LOT today about visual representations and spacial reasoning – at least I hope.  An additional good part is that one of my least successful students in class actually was helping point out what she needed to change which was awesome to see.

Overall, I like the direction of this project thus far.  I can already see areas of improvement for myself in the future but am happy with the experience regardless.

Posted in Education, Geometry, MTBoS

Introducing Solid Geometry with Marshmallows and Toothpicks #MTBoS

Today we began the last unit of the year in my Geometry class that involves solid 3-dimensional figures.  I opted to play a game with my students and challenged them to build towers out of marshmallows and toothpicks in a group of three.


The idea was to build the tallest free standing tower in seven minutes..IMG_6245.JPG

It was fun to listen to students as they determined what would make the strongest foundation, ensure that their structure did not get too heavy and topple over, and ensure that they had enough building supplies.

IMG_6243.JPGIt was a good activity and in the end we were able to define some terms for class as well:

edges – “toothpicks” – where two faces meet

faces – the flat “surfaces” of the “solid” (which in our case were invisible and the solid was not really all that solid at all)

vertex or vertices – “marshmallows” – where two edges meet

After the building, students then went online to do a Quizlet (I found one that suited my needs and adapted it) even though I had not introduced the terms.  It was awesome that they were able, through trial and error, to determine the meanings of some of the terminology.

Posted in Education, Math, MTBoS

New Reflections on SchoolNet

When SchoolNet was originally introduced in my district a couple of years I found it to be clunky, not user friendly, and the fact that we were FORCED to use it did not bode well with me.  However, I have learned that sometimes technology needs some time to get the bugs out and that you should never just toss out anything for good.  I’m glad that I gave this product another shot.  I have found some good things in there and have found a place for this product in my teacher life – albeit not the one designated by my district.

How My District WANTS Me To Use This Product

My district would like for me to do my lesson planning through this product.  There are some nice features with calendars and integration of standards.  However, the lack of ease of use and plans that don’t really assist me in my classroom are true drawbacks.  Also, given the fact that my district changes initiatives almost yearly makes me less likely to plunge in and embrace the lesson planning features (along with the huge time commitment of that).

How I Use This Product

I have taken our common assessments and retooled them to upload into SchoolNet.  I still give my students the common district paper tests for each unit because through the grading process of these assessments I have a better handle on what my students know and can do as opposed to the online feedback I get from SchoolNet.  I like using SchoolNet for my quizzes for the following reasons:

1.)  Students get IMMEDIATE feedback on their quiz which will allow them time to work on the skills IMMEDIATELY before they take their test for the unit.  Typically when I grade quizzes (I have about 100 students for Geometry alone this year) it takes a couple of days to return to students which is time that they could have been coming to get extra help.  Additionally, even in that turn around time I do not give great feedback due to the quantity.

2.) The grades immediately post to my gradebook.  Although entering grades doesn’t take THAT long it is a nice feature.  Additionally, I don’t have to hand anything back.

3.) It’s paperless.  We produce SO MUCH garbage that it is nice to eliminate 100-200 pages of paper for each unit.

4.) The drag and drop features now present make it MUCH easier to create these quizzes.

What I Do NOT Like

I have a feeling that some students have learned how to cheat in this format.  It is sad to me because I want students to view assessments as opportunities to identify areas in need of growth and make changes before the summative assessment.  When they cheat, they deny themselves of this opportunity.  I am working on relationships with students as well as ways to find new safeguards against this in my classroom.

Take Aways

The biggest “take aways” from this experience of using this tool are:

1.) It is still JUST A TOOL.  You should not replace everything in your class with it.  Some teachers have put EVERYTHING on SchoolNet and I think that any tool that is used too much will dull and not be as useful.

2.) It is always a good practice to give things a second chance.

Posted in Education, Math, MTBoS

Grateful and Happy

My current book Live Happy has great insight on how to live a happier life.  One of the ways is through gratitude.  I found this especially profound as my word of the year is grateful.  I think that I need gentle reminders of this especially when it comes to school.  We have an incredibly late spring break this year (it doesn’t start until next week) and some of my students have been mentally checking out (and a few who have physically checked out as well).  I think devoting some time to gratitude lists for at least the next week will help me (and them) get through to Spring Break.

Five Minutes of Gratitude List

1.)  We had a fire alarm go off last week and today.  I am grateful for these alarms so that people are not injured in real emergency events.  I am grateful that my students follow our directions even in the face of the high likelihood that the alarm is a false alarm.  I am grateful for the building that has stood the test of the last 50 years and is a safe place for my students and I to learn.

2.)  I am grateful for the use of textbooks and other resources.  When my students forget their textbook, we have means of getting the information from the textbook to their eyes through taking pictures with camera phones and online textbooks.  There are people in this world who would be happy with the paper version alone.  We should be grateful for these resources and not get so hung up when students forget (or even purposely leave) their textbook in their lockers.

3.)  I am grateful for the water I can drink.  Not only is it freely available but here at school we even have a purifier.  Other parts of the world would just like the luxury of pumped water.

4.)  I am grateful that despite the circumstances that surround my students that they typically come to school every day.  I know that some come from broken homes that are filled with situations that are not conducive to learning.  Yet they still show up and I have a job.

5.)  I am grateful to color.  I love a new box of crayons or markers or colored pencils.  I love the rainbow of hues that surround me.  Color is beautiful.


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Clementines, Density, and Games OH MY! :) #MTBoS @MathICTM


I was excited when @MrsForest invited me to be the blogger of the week for @MathICTM.  Followed by terror as I have not been blogging much lately.  The last two months included having a student teacher quit after five weeks (I WILL NOT blog about that, but I learned SO MUCH from that experience and I am a better teacher today because of it) and holding our annual four-day Snowball retreat which included about 140 people from across our district that I realized that I have been a little bit busy 🙂 so I’ll cut myself some slack.  Here are some quick class thoughts that I have had recently…

Surface Area of a Sphere: USE CLEMENTINES!

I searched for a Geogebra way to derive the surface area of a sphere but came up short.  I’ve been happy with all the applets I have found for the other various formulas and was sad not to find quite what I was looking for.  I searched Twitter and found this gem:

And then found this video:

Awesomeness!  My room smelled awesome because of the clementines and I really do believe that students will remember the formula for a while.  I will tweak it a little for the future as not all of my students drew “good” circles and so some had less than 4 circles worth of area.  However, overall I liked the activity and the students enjoyed it as well.

Density Tube

There is nothing much better than a good prop in class.  When I taught about density this week I bought honey, karo syrup, liquid dish detergent, water, olive oil, and rubbing alcohol.  I dyed each with food coloring and layered the liquids in class in a narrow flower vase.  My students got a kick out of doing science in a math class which I thought was awesome.  Unfortunately, I did not get a picture before we “played” with the finished product by dumping it into an empty water bottle to see if it would separate again – it did, but it wasn’t as “pretty”.  I totally recommend the prop.

Game: Lucky Lottery

After looking through other featured bloggers of the week from @MathICTM, I found a quick little game called Lucky Lottery.  I used it in class today (which was going to be a boring worksheet review, don’t judge me too hard) and the game was engaging and I really knew what students KNEW and what they will need help with before their test this week.  I highly recommend it for a quick easy set up game.  Side note, I also made a SmartNotebook with 100 numbers on it.  You need to tweak the slides to make the spaces a little bigger but it worked well.




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Great Factoring Activity #MTBoS

I struggle with teaching factoring to students because it can seem boring and some students “get it” and others have a huge challenge with understanding.  My Honors Geometry class integrates Algebra topics throughout in order to better prepare students for Pre-Calculus next year.  Factoring was the topic of last week.  I am not quite sure where the inspiration came from, more than likely a MTBoS blog somewhere on the internet, but I stumbled upon what might have been my favorite assignment with relation to factoring.  After a talk in class reviewing the topic (everything from finding factors, GCF, binomials, trinomials with leading coefficient >1, leading coefficient = 1, difference of squares) my assignment to students was this:

Create and factor three trinomials of your choosing.

That was it.  And it was AMAZING!  Seriously.

Students were determining on their own that some trinomials couldn’t be factored.  Students were finding the mistakes in their own work as they were checking their answers.  Some students determined that “doing it backwards” was a more efficient way to start, thus understanding the link between the factored and standard forms.  I was really amazed at how deep such a simple task could take my students and the level of engagement as well.  I am excited to try this sometime with my regular students as well.