Posted in EdTech, Geometry, Math, My Favorite Lessons

First Time I Created a Custom Polygraph Desmos Activity

My goal this year is to become even more knowledgeable in Desmos and hopefully get invited to join the Desmos Fellows next summer.  Part of the application process requires you to submit an activity that you created.  The one that I submitted last year was very rudimentary.  I knew that it was a weakness of my application, but am glad that I went through the process last year so that this year my application will be VERY solid.  To that end, I thought it would be a GREAT opportunity for me to create my own Polygraph this week.  My first attempt was actually pretty good and I was impressed at how easy it was to create the activity (less than 20 minutes).  I created the images in SmartNotebook as I am much more familiar with the drawing tools in there than I am with the Geometry tools available in Desmos (another area that I can work on this year).  One area that I “improved” for the next iteration this week was made all of my lines MUCH thicker as when the sixteen images appear on a Chromebook they must be very bold to highlight the subtle differences between rays and lines.  Overall, I am happy with my progress and look forward to more opportunities to create this year.  Want to check out my most current iteration of the activity?  Here ya go!


Posted in EdTech, Education, My Favorite Lessons

SAT Prep Class FaceTime Conversations

Ever since I was presented with the possibility of teaching the SAT Prep class I was concerned about keeping students motivated to work during class.  Several aspects were working against this class from the beginning:

  • The class is held during study hall which has traditionally meant, for our students, a work free period.  Therefore, while the rest of the school can choose what they do with this period, my students would be expected to work.
  • The students did not sign up for this opportunity.  They showed up second semester and I was blessed to be the one to break it to them that this study hall would be different.
  • A handful of the students in the class are interested in pursuing the military after high school.  For them, preparation for the ASVAB would be more beneficial.

Given all of this, I have tried my best to help students to the best of my ability.  The first few days of class I had students complete vision boards which was a great experience (and worthy of a separate blog post). I have incorporated games into the class at least once a week.  I’ve tried to promote an environment where students could be more self-motivated to practice.

My most recent addition to the class has been to FaceTime with people in fields that my students are interested in.  My first experience with this was inviting the awesome Angel Spiccia into my class.  She was my roommate and sorority sister in college :).  Currently, she professionally sings jazz.  Given the fact that a number of my students are interested in entertainment, I thought that she could give them a good perspective.  She provided great insight into what current high school juniors should do to prepare them to go into the industry.  She also advocated for students to get a background in the business side of the industry to ensure that they had options.  Part of that includes doing well on the SAT to be able to get into a college and pursue a business degree.  She was truly a joy to have in class.


On a separate occasion, I invited Fred Williams III to my class to talk about his experience with the military.  I loved how honest he was with my students about his journey to where he is today.  My students were very engaged in what he had to say and it was great to see him doing awesome things with his life




This class might not always be sunshine and rainbows but I love where it is going.  I love that my FaceTime worked out 🙂 and that my students have now started making requests for other people to come talk (anyone out there a published author or photographer 🙂 let me know, I’d love to have you). I like that I am pushing myself to give my students the very best and I’m proud of where this is going.

Posted in Education, Geometry, MTBoS, My Favorite Lessons

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 My Favorite Lessons

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.




Posted in Education, Math, MTBoS30, My Favorite Lessons

What Becoming a Mom Taught Me About Teaching #MTBoS30

May 25, 2012 – the day AFTER the last day of school three (almost 4) years ago when I should’ve been able to sleep in after making it through an entire school year AND a whole day past my due date – was when Jacob decided to make his arrival.  The journey was amazing and he has taught me so much in his few years on this planet.  I have been amazed at the lessons I have learned about teaching by becoming a mom.  In honor of Mother’s Day, here is a quick post on some of the lessons about teaching I have learned by becoming a mom.

1.) Everybody is somebody’s baby.  I’ve always known this but it was more towards the back of my mind instead of at the very front of it.  I always consider if the student in front of me was my own child with a teacher, how would I want that teacher to treat him.  You would think that this would make me softer (an oftentimes it does).  However, in some situations I can tell that a parent would want me to stand the firm ground to help their baby, their everything, reach their full potential.

2.)  Mental illness should not be diminished or underestimated.  I was surprised when I had my son by the “baby blues” that I experienced.  Looking back at it now, I probably was going through a mild form of depression.  Everything in my world just seemed different – and not in that lovey dovey way that people make it sound sometimes.  I’m grateful for my support systems in place.  Given just this small experience with this I have a new appreciation for what some of my students experience, either personally or with a parent, and how difficult it can be to learn in those circumstances.  It doesn’t mean that we need to give up and wait it out but rather find ways to cope and ways to support each other to make learning possible.  Also, for students who are either personally dealing with going through a mental illness or have parents that are, it is vitally important to get them the help they need so that they can once again become productive.

3.) Live in THIS moment.  This has been a huge thing for me.  Students can learn something EVERYDAY if we provide them with the opportunity to do so.  In the past, when May would roll around I would turn into not the best version of my teaching self (have you ever met Worksheet Wanda).  Now, I strive to be as good (or better) than I was on the first day of class because you will never get this moment back again.  I remember looking forward to my son being able to sit up on his own, not knowing that when he did he would no longer want to be held by me anymore :(.  Although I love his independence I miss those moments of being needed.  The same thing is true for the students in front of me.  They deserve my best every moment because today’s irritation will fade and no one remembers you for “that awesome worksheet you gave them”.

4.) Play. Now, I’ve ALWAYS been a teacher who likes to play a review game or two – heck, I used to even run PD sessions on the topic :).  However, I have learned that it is important to strive to make play an important part of the day.  Learning is easy when you are having fun.

5.) Some things, like homework, don’t have to happen everyday.  When I first had my son, I gave him a bath EVERYDAY.  Then, he got an awful case of cradle cap and the doctor recommended only giving him a bath once or twice a week.  Once I changed up that routine, the cradle cap lessened.  Who would’ve thunk?  When I first started teaching I believed that homework needed to occur every night.  I’ve come to find out that I have better results of better and more mathematical thinking when I DON’T assign it every night.  Crazy.  Who would’ve thunk?

6.) You gotta take a lot of outtakes before you get the best one.  Everybody compliments me on the pictures they see on Facebook.  They think my kids are so photogenic and always smiling.  I agree that I think they are pretty cute.  However, only my husband knows (and now all of you will know) my secret – I take about 10 shots for every one I post online.  I just click-click-click-click-click then delete-delete-delete-delete until I find one that is post worthy.  Same thing is now more true for my students when it comes to assessments.  For quizzes, if students improve from the quiz to the test, I copy the test percentage in for the quiz and for tests I allow re-testing.  If students are willing to retake a test, I will go through the arduous process of making a different form of it to take because students deserve the opportunity to put their best out there regardless of how long it takes.



Posted in Education, Math, My Favorite Lessons

My First #BreakoutEDU Experience :) #MTBoS #iledchat

IMG_3600I have been intrigued about BreakoutEDU ever since I attended the ICE Conference back in February.  It is crazy how sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time.  I happened to be walking past the Breakout room during the last session on the last day (contemplating whether I wanted to stay or go home – let’s be real here, I mean it was the last session of the two-day conference and I was TIRED – buuuuut I have never been more grateful to be the type to “do the right thing” and stay until the end until this experience).  We did the Time Warp Breakout and I had no idea what to expect.  As soon as I saw the box with the various locks though I was intrigued.  I was amazed at the teamwork involved to solve the various puzzles.  Also, I learned a lot about myself and how I need to work on the idea that it’s ok to not have all of the answers and to let go in the process and let others work.  I always feel the need to be involved with everything and when it came to this box 1.) you COULDN’T POSSIBLY be everywhere and listening to everything at once and 2.) even if you COULD it wouldn’t be beneficial to the team.  The learning from this activity for me on a personal level was so much more than the content involved in the puzzles.


Getting “the Box”

The experience stuck with me and I really wanted a box (cost is over $90 and I don’t like to spend more than $20 at a time for school supplies).  I finally broke down and open sourced the items through Amazon – link to the list is here (about the same price as the real box but I would get it in two days J because of Amazon Prime and I would have a new tool box as opposed to the wooden one that BreakoutEDU offers which I thought would be more usable in the long run if I decided that BreakoutEDU didn’t work for my students).

Then I set off to find a game for my students.  I browsed through the games and I liked several but none really hit the mark with what I wanted my students to experience (some were too content heavy and I knew I would be helping students CONSTANTLY with that or some were too content light and I felt like I would be neglecting my duty to teach content to my students too much).  I decided to make my own game which in itself was a HUGE undertaking.  All in all I probably spent about 6 hours making my game – but if it gets published I will get a nifty tshirt and I WANT the tshirt.  After two published games you get a box 😀 so that is my next goal.


Making “My” Game

The six hours quoted above is because I wanted to do everything in my game and I had to really hold back or my students would STILL be working on puzzles.  I eventually settled on a music and math theme (the math is related to the area formulas that we just finished learning in class).  It was so fun to have the open creativity to do this game (I haven’t felt this way about an activity in a LONG time).  The creativity is also daunting because every idea you have you need to make it work and THAT was mind boggling sometimes.  I asked my tech guru administrator (shout out to @MisterAbrams) to come in and walk through the game with me and that was immensely helpful with finding the flaws and kinks that needed to be worked out.  Then I had another small group of admins and teachers come in and walk through it again.  Then I felt ready for prime time with my students… scary and exciting all at the same time.

Leading My First Breakout

The real “test” came when I let my statistics students try out the game.  I showed my students the video on how to open the locks and then escorted them into the auditorium.  I didn’t give them much more than that. They “broke out” in 29 minutes – HOWEVER – I did help them with the area formulas that I knew should be easy for my sophomores and in hind sight, I should’ve just let them look those up online.  I was not surprised on the parts that made them struggle as I had seen those same struggles with the admins and teachers who did the breakout.  I was surprised at how much I learned by proctoring the activity.  I never realized how much I “jump in to the rescue” for my students and how I need to sit back and let them productively struggle.  I was surprised how much they would be “almost there” and would fall short but that they would persevere anyway (I don’t see that step because I don’t want my students to fail and after one “fail” I usually step in and show them how, I need to let them fail and maybe let them fail again).  I was amazed to see the different groups emerge as they worked through the various puzzles.  I would not have predicted who would work with whom.  It was the first time in a long time that one of my students was honestly successful in my class and subsequently the first time in a long time that I saw her smile.  I was afraid at first because my strongest student was not in class today, but again, everything happens for a reason and my students remarked “well if she would’ve been here today, she would’ve just done the whole thing for us”, and that spoke VOLUMES about what class is usually like.  I’m so proud of my students for their perseverance.  I loved the team work and I need to harness that for future endeavors.  I am proud of myself for investing the time and energy into this activity and putting myself out there – not typical for me, as I like every detail to be planned.  I am excited to make my next one and hope that this one gets published (now to go work on the video to help get it published).