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.


Posted in Math, MTBoS, MTBoSblogsplosion

My Favorite Topic: rate of change #MTBoS #MTBoSblogsplosion

I can say with confidence that my favorite topic in math is rate of change and/or slope.  I love talking about slope because of the ease to find real world applications, the fun activities I deploy in class and the low floor and high ceiling when it comes to teaching this topic.  I’m not sure if it is a benefit or a drawback to our high school curriculum that the idea of slope turns up in all of our required courses (Algebra I, Geometry, Algebra II).  Additionally, I love what I get to do with slope in my Statistics class.  Here are some of my favorite activities related to slope.

Slope Simon Says

I cannot claim this activity as one I created.  It falls under the “beg, borrow, and steal” mantra I accepted as a student teacher.  Anyway, the activity works like this.

  • have students stand up
  • review the basic rules of Simon Says (it is Ms. Stone Says in my class, but I digress)
    • have to say Simon says or you are out
    • have to do the correct movement or you are out
    • flinch and you are out
  • show students what a positive slope looks like

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 8.54.36 PM.png

  • show students what a negative slope looks like

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 8.54.49 PM.png

  • show students what zero slope looks like

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 8.54.58 PM.png

  • show students what undefined slope looks like

Screen Shot 2017-01-19 at 8.55.16 PM.png

  • play the game

Students have ALWAYS requested to play this game more than once and it is so much fun to get out of our seats.


Slope Cheer

I teach my students the slope cheer to help them remember that the y’s go on top.  The words to the cheer are:

READY?  OK!  the change in y divided by the change in x is slope

When I say READY I have all of my students stand at attention and I will wait until the whole class in unison says OK!  Then we make a delta symbol with our arms for the word change in y, a karate chop for divided by, and another delta triangle for the change in x.  I am looking for one of the videos I took of my students doing this and will update my blog if I find one.


Function Carnival

Function Carnival is one of the activities prepared by  When you do these activities the students REALLY get an idea for the meaning of slope.  I love when they are doing cannon man and verbally without prompting ask questions like “how do I make him go slower” or while doing the bumper cars they figure out “how can I make the car stop but not disappear”.  It is amazing to me that I can truly be a guide on the side when I do these activities and REALLY get a good understanding for my students inquiry skills.


Parallel Lines and Desmos

I love when we get to discuss parallel lines and use Desmos for understanding.  I have students “guess” what would make the lines parallel and we discuss how do we know that we have gotten close enough.  Actually, I also love using Desmos to talk about what slope will make the line go horizontal and vertical.


Slopes Are Like People

Sometimes when I have students who are struggling to remember the direction of slopes we talk about how slopes are like people.  I’ll ask “who are my positive people in the room” and after the show of hands I will say something like “positive people walk up right because they are proud an happy, positive slopes go the same way, up and to the right“.  Then I will ask about who are my negative folks, and usually some people will embrace their negativity and I will remark “negative slopes are negative people.  Is there any way to get a negative person out of their negative mood?  NO!?  Well, one would say that negative people are just down right negative”.  Then I will ask for people who are not necessarily positive or negative.  After a show of hands, I will say “people who are not positive or negative are just CHILL” I’ll slowly extend my hands along the horizontal and say “zero slope is just CHILL” and I have my students show me just chill.  Finally, I will ask for people who really don’t feel like they are in any of these categories and say “people who don’t really fit are kinda out of this world.  Point to out of this world.  Where is it?”  Students point up and I say “just like the sky goes on to infinity and those people are out of this world, infinite slope or undefined slope is vertical”.


Posted in Education, Math, MTBoS, Uncategorized

Join in on the #MTBoSblogsplosion #MTBoS

A couple of days ago I was in search of accountability partners for blogging this semester.  I find that when I am deliberate about my reflections (BKA blogging) that I do a much better job of ACTING on those reflections.  I was excited to see other teachers who were interested in starting to blog more too using the hashtag #MTBoSblogsplosion.

My plan is to blog every other week and on the off writing weeks devote at least an hour of my time to reading and possibly responding to other people’s blogs.

Here are some prompts that I would like to work on this semester:

1.) discuss student work through taking a picture of it (hiding the name of course)

2.) interview a student about my course to find out the good, the bad and the ugly (keep it honest here)

3.)  there are thirty prompts on this blog post that might work for me and use the hashtag #reflectiveteacher

4.)  during my MTBoS30 challenge I enjoyed sharing my Friday Five (blogs or teaching things that caught my interest) and I would like to return to that

5.)  Here is Edutopia’s Pinterest board on blogging

I will hopefully update this blog with additional prompts as I see them.  Thank you to the #MTBoS for providing me with an avenue to blog 🙂



Posted in Brainstorming, Education, Math, MTBoS30

Friday Five (3) #MTBoS30

1.)  – mind blown – type in any topic and see who has blogged about it…I spent two hours checking out how people do their first day of school
2.)  This post had an example of how to use “logic” problems for bellwork.
3.)  I have done find the mistake worksheets before but never as a review for a test like this.  I’ll definitely have to try that next year.
4.)  for math talks, use Fraction Talks
5.) fun way to introduce constructions AND Geogebra – but I got mad with the level with a perpendicular segment.  Try it and see if you have the same problem.  
Posted in Brainstorming, Education, Math, MTBoS30

The Twitter Rabbit Hole #MTBoS30

Often I will go on Twitter or read blogs with a specific idea in mind.  For instance, this morning I wanted to research how other people kick off their Geometry classes.  I would like an approach that is more “Teach Like a Pirate” and less of “Here is the syllabus and my expectations”.  I was reading how Sam Shah started his Geometry class and then clicked a link and another and another and ended up reading about how a negative times a negative equals a positive.  I am calling this the Twitter Rabbit Hole but in all reality it could be the Internet Rabbit Hole.  I sometimes want to avoid this behavior because although I find out REALLY interesting things through that process it does not get me any closer to my original search or research intent.  How do you avoid the Rabbit Hole during your searching?  Or should I not even avoid it because I do end up in some really cool learning places?