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#MTBoS #TMC16 Personal Realization

Well I have been on Twitter since 2011, had this blog since 2012 and both have been great for me growing as an educator.  The past two years, I haven’t been as active on either very much.  There have been a variety of reasons – health, district initiatives that have taken up a lot of my time, and probably number 1 (just like a lot of other people I’m guessing) not feeling like I have much to contribute to the #MTBoS (Math Twitter BlogoSphere) world.

Yesterday when it was announced the #TMC16 (Twitter Math Camp 2016) will be in Minneapolis next summer I was very excited.  Minneapolis is only about 3 hours from where I live.  I have been following TMC on twitter since the first one and have always wanted to attend because I have gotten so many ideas just from following on twitter imagine what it would be in person.  In my mind I’ve always said geography was the biggest reason I didn’t but in all honesty it probably comes back to feeling like I wouldn’t have much to contribute and would be star struck by the big names in #MTBoS that already have those amazing connections.  But now that next year’s is so close I can’t use geography as an excuse so now I just need to get over the second thing and I’m golden.  (Hence the reason for this blog post).

Last night I had a dream about TMC, don’t remember many of the details other than I was there (and so was Rod Stewart but I guess that is a whole completely different post) so I’m taking that as a sign.  I will be at #TMC16, I have already told my husband (my birthday is over the camp so happy birthday present to me) and put it on the calendar.  Back to the dream – I woke up at about 2:30 from the dream and I couldn’t get back to sleep because I kept thinking about why I don’t participate more in #MTBoS and have come to the conclusion (after reading some blog posts from last years TMC first time attendees – yes at 3:00 AM) that there really isn’t a GOOD reason why I don’t participate more.  It’s only going to make myself a better teacher – so this is me publicly stating that I will blog more, I will comment on people’s blog posts instead of just reading (and stealing), I will participate in more twitter chats, etc because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough and gosh darn it people like me!  🙂

P.S. Maybe I should have gotten up last night and put together this post and I would have been able to fall asleep faster – nap time today after a few hours in my classroom – man I think I just got back to school mode – lots of things to do if I’m going to be sharing!

*****Update 6 hours after original post*******

Did some thinking today while I was at school about my original thoughts about #MTBoS and came to a realization.  I believe I am a great math teacher and I do have things that I can share, but most of them are not my original ideas and they came from the amazing people of the MTBoS world which is probably why I find #TMC a little intimidating.  Thought for the day.

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

MCTM Regional Conference Info

Welcome to my blog.  Hope you enjoy/enjoyed the presentation Other than a Worksheet.

You can access my livebinder page with all of my links from the presentation here.

Access my presentation on google slides here.

Here is a pdf of the examples referenced during the presentation.

Please add a comment or email me with questions or other ideas that you use in your classroom that you think other people (aka me) would like to know about.

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Emotional roller coaster of last school year (in 1 blog post)!

Well it has been over a year since my last blog post. “Why so long?” you ask. Well it was mainly because I can now say that I am a breast cancer survivor (or at least in remission – not sure on that technicality). Where do I begin – beware – this might get long.

Last year started out great. I was teaching my sons classmates, started implementing INB, was going to teach college stats for the first time second semester and then one Friday in September after school I felt a lump! What seemed like a million years and 2 million appointments later I was told that I had invasive ductal carcinoma aka breast cancer. The doctor that told me (not an oncologist) told me that I probably wouldn’t be able to continue teaching through treatments and I was devastated! I made an appointment to meet with an oncologist for 3 days later and I was scared you know what. Breast cancer doesn’t run in my family and in fact cancer in general doesn’t. So I didn’t have a clue. I assumed they would start treatments right away. So the next day I told administration and the next day after that I wanted to tell my students because in my mind I thought it was going to be my last day. You think teaching is hard….try telling them that you have cancer and you might not be back. Hardest thing ever…but I respected them enough for me to be the one to tell them.

Well I survived that day (barely and tears were definitely shed) but I am so grateful to say that my oncologist said he saw no reason for me to stop teaching as long as I was feeling up to it (maintain normal as much as possible – obviously he doesn’t know me because people say I’m anything but normal haha) In fact the only time I cried in that initial appointment with him was when we started talking about me and teaching (I do love my job and kids). So course of action was developed that day. 8 rounds of chemo first.

(Going to summarize the rest of the year fairly quickly and get to what I learned from this experience). Finished chemo up only missing 3 additional days (other than appointments obviously). I’m so proud of this fact but also thankful…I don’t know what I would have done had I not had something to look forward to in the morning. Funny enough…one of those days was flu clinic day at school – apparently the mist is a live virus and my oncologist didn’t want me around that with my weekend immune system. The other 2 days I was just exhausted.

Then did a lumpectomy – and I am happy to report that no cancer cells were found from the cells they removed – so chemo did it’s job. But since I had the lumpectomy over mastectomy I had to do 33 radiation treatments daily Mon through Friday. Now I live 40 miles from the nearest hospital that does radiation so would have to travel that daily for a 10 min appointment. Thankfully they had appointment times late in the afternoon so I didn’t have to miss school, but man that made for a long day. But you know what…I made it through just fine.

Fast forward to today….just did a 6 month check up scan and everything looked great! I do have 2 appointments scheduled this year already. One is for my port removal (very excited about this one – I hate that thing) and the other one isn’t until FEBRUARY!!!!!!!!!!!!

So what did I learn from all this craziness – I’ll start with the personal stuff. Here are the four things I had to keep in my mind through this process (and I will continue to keep in mind with all other things life throws at me)

1) Worrying about tomorrow only takes away today’s peace! With anything medical the unknown and not having a plan is horrible. But worrying about it doesn’t help. Put trust in the doctors that you have and the support system around you of the people you love and everything will seem ok. One day at a time.

2). It could always be worse! The cancer could have spread, I could have had to travel 2 hours to appointments, my kids (sons) could have be younger and needed my attention more, I might not have been able to continue to teach….you get the idea. It could always be worse.

3) It’s ok to have bad days (and this is true no matter what is happening in life). But just have a good cry, remember 1 and 2, and pick yourself up with the help of loved ones.

4) I have amazing family, friends, colleagues, students and live in an amazing community. I have never felt so much love and support as I did this past year. From kind words, flowers from past students, a simple card in the mail, meals prepared for our family (colleagues set up a schedule on the TakeThemAMeal website and got 4 a week during chemo). Amazing!

What have a learned as a teacher?

1) Students are amazing! They cried with me when I told them, they cheered with me when I was done with chemo. They were ok if I wasn’t at the top of my game and had to sit down sometimes in the front of the room. They told me the loved the highlights I got in my hair when it was my wig after I shaved my head since the hair was falling out. They kept me going.

2) Be open with your students – they are capable of handling more than you think and are thankful for your honesty. Now obviously I treated my seniors differently than my 8th graders. But if they had questions I would answer them. As much as they can be a pain some days, they most definitely can be caring, giving, and compassionate humans as well. Here’s what I believe – I believe I not only taught them math….but I also taught them a lot about life and (I hope) how to handle adversity with strength and class.

3) It’s also ok to take a break from trying to be amazing. Did I miss learning some things by not reflecting and sharing on my blog, not reading blogs, not participating in the Global Math Departments amazingness, and in not following unbelievable PD on twitter? Sure. Is that ok? Yes it is. And here’s why….I’m back now!!!!!

Sorry this got long – and I’m sure there is more I wanted to say (I’ve been formulating this post is my mind for awhile now) but this is me, today, what I’ve got. :). If you made it this far…thanks for reading and I wish you an AMAZING school year.

P.s. Thanks you know who for forcing encouraging me to start blogging again. More to come soon! Haha

Becky
@beckyrahm

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

#WTPW – Week 1 – Rationalizing the Denominator

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For week 1 of Walk the Plank Wednesday we are trying to make Rationalizing Denominators more interactive/fun/exciting for the students.  One thing that my kids enjoyed (or at least they did without complaining because it was different) was tarsias.  (Go here for my blog post about tarsias.)

So I decided to make one for rationalizing denominators.  I used some sample problems off the internet, so please let me know if I have something wrong and I can fix it.  How I used tarsias in my classroom was I handed out the table to the kids (with the answers whited out before I copied it) and had them try to simplify first.  Then I handed out the puzzle pieces as a way for them to check their answers.  I did it this way, rather than giving the puzzle pieces first, so students actually tried simplifying first rather than doing things like – “this problem has an x variable so find another one that has x for a variable” or other shortcuts like that.

When I presented at a state math conference another teacher thanked me for showing her the tarsia software (unfortunately only for windows right now) because she had been making these activities by hand all year.  While I’m not for sure this is extremely Pirate-worthy, it’s better then the kids just doing a worksheet in my opinion.  Another thing I like about tarsia is they make it easy to differentiate learning with – harder problems “if you are ready for a challenge take the green puzzle, if you feel you need to practice the basics still choose the yellow puzzle”, or you can even add wrong answers around the outside of the puzzle to add a level of difficulty.

Here are the file links

Tarsia file for Rationalize Denominator – no variables (you will need to have the software  downloaded)

In case you don’t have the software I also saved the three important things you would need as pdfs for you to use.

Rationalize Denominator – no variables – table (pdf)

Rationalize Denominator – no variables – puzzle pieces (pdf)

Rationalize Denominator – no variables – solution (pdf)

Again, I didn’t work through these problems or check to make sure I didn’t have a typo so you might want to check the table out first to make sure my solutions are right. If I have a mistake please let me know and I can fix everything.

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

1st year reflections of Standards Based Grading

Well, I am finally getting around to putting my reflections about SBG into my blog (thanks to some twitter pressure motivation.  Here is a brief synopsis from the beginning of the year on how I started the class out.  But keep in mind, this was learning by doing for me, so things definitely changed as I went.

So here I go:

Reasons I started this year: 

1) I had attended some sessions at regional MCTM conference 2 year ago on SBG and thought it made so much sense, but didn’t do anything right away because I said I wanted to learn more things about it first.

2) I finished 16 credit hours of math grad classes over the previous 2 summers and had a horrible experience in my number theory class with a professor that the only thing I learned from was how not to teach.

3) So beginning of August (week before inservice) I decided it was time even though I hadn’t done much more research than I had the previous summer.  But I had a revelation – if I wait to implement until I know everything and got everything ready – I will never implement.

Here is where I need to give a shout out to my go to guy when it comes to SBG – Chris, if you are reading this – there is no way I would have survived the first year as well as I did if it hadn’t been for you.  Thanks a million.  (BTW – Chris was in my grad classes over the summers and was doing his action research on SBG and was teaching the same 8th grade standards I was AND most importantly was willing to share everything – Amazing teacher and friend)

4) I’m sure you have them in your district – “the class”.  You know – the class everyone talks about as they make their way through the district.  Well I was getting “that class” this year and I was very nervous.  So I figured what a great place to try something new because I knew what I had done previously wouldn’t work well – and it was too late for maternity leave.  ha ha

Things I loved:

1) EVERYTHING – well probably not everything. But almost everything.  I loved that the kids knew what I wanted them to learn.  I loved seeing them learn.  I loved seeing them try again when they realized they hadn’t learned (rather than moving on after the test). I loved the engagement the students had in their learning.

2) I loved that I know I had a better year with my 8th graders (“the class”) over if I would have stuck to traditional grading.  They saw the work that I was putting in to allow them to learn the math and they knew I cared and were willing to care back (at times).  Don’t get me wrong – I still had tough moments – and there were tears, but it could always be worse.  

3) I loved that I was passionate about teaching again – or I should say more passionate.  I never stopped loving teaching, but this year I didn’t care about putting in extra hours at home looking for another way to get gets to understand irrational numbers because their concept quiz showed that the majority didn’t understand.  (I guess this could go under didn’t like as well because I was hard to plan out a weeks lesson plans when truly I shouldn’t plan the next day until I see how their quiz went that day – made it hard for advanced make up slips.  Kids just got used to me saying “see me when you get back!” But isn’t that formative assessments at its best – use them to guide your teaching.  I guess I think so)

4) I loved the discussions I had with students about learning and the things they put on their teacher evaluation at the end of the year.  Here is my absolute favorite (sorry if this seems like I’m bragging, but it made me feel that my struggles through the first year of SBG were SOOOOO worth it – I’ll be honest – made me tear up a little)

 

From an 8th grader in the additional comments section of year end survey – “I feel like i have learned more this year than any other year. Most teachers dont care what your scores are they just keep teaching. You would take the time to go back and actually explain it to us in a way that we could all understand it. I was scared of math class because of the teachers the last few years. This year i can say that i feel completely confident and safe when i walk into this room. I never have had a complaint about this class.”

AND THAT LADIES AND GENTLEMEN IS WHY SBG IS SO IMPORTANT!!!!

 

Things I’ll change

1) I had already adjusted my concept list throughout the year so I will need to go back and revisit the list and update it

2) I need to find a better way to communicate scores on each concept.  Kids kept track of their own (as well as me) on a sheet but parents rarely ever saw that paper.  I need to make all kids more accountable rather than coming to me and asking “which ones aren’t I proficient in”.  I also need to find a way to keep parents informed better when students are falling behind and needing to come in on their own time to spend more time learning on a concept they aren’t proficient in.

3) I need to find a way for kids to practice on a concept before they come in to reassess.  Too often they would come in and look at their list and say “I think I’ll assess on ….” and hadn’t prepared.  That was very frustrating.  So I might make a livebinder that has some links to practice problems for each concept that they must print off that they have completed before they reassess.  But I’m still mulling over that idea.

4) I am realizing that I didn’t challenge the students that understand the concept from the beginning and got perfect quizzes right away.  Instead I just gave them another quiz to see if they could do it again.  I would like to find some higher level thinking questions (even though my quizzes were leveled to basic knowledge and what I thought was advanced but looking back advanced probably wasn’t the right word) for each concept and challenge those kids.

5)  I’m also throwing around the idea of interactive notebooks.  We’ll see how this summer goes with me preparing for it, but then I think again about my previous comment mentioned above – But I had a revelation – if I wait to implement until I know everything and got everything ready – I will never implement.

I could seriously go on forever about SBG (going to implement in Calculus this year fully – started about half way through the year this past year) because I truly see the benefit in it – and the kids did too.  So anyone that wants to talk/tweet/email/chat/etc about SBG look me up (@beckyrahm) or comment here.  There is always room for me to improve and I love hearing other teachers ideas that I could use in my classroom.  #alwayslearning

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Teach Like a Pirate – Math edition

Tonight was the first night of our twitter math book chat – discussing Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess (@burgressdave).  

1st night we discussed the first 2 chapters of part 1 – Passion and Immersion.  I thought some great discussion was had.  If you missed it here are a few storify options for you if you are interested – All tweets and some tweets with quotes from the book added in.  

Rather than reading a bunch and waiting a week to discuss, it was decided to read smaller amounts and discuss twice a week (good idea @druinok). So on Sunday, June 9th at 8:00 CST we will discuss chapters 3 and 4 (Rapport & Ask and Analyze) and then finish up Part 1 on Wednesday, June 12th 8:00 CST discussing Transformations and Enthusiasm.  Can’t wait!

#tlapmath

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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MCTM 2013 Spring Conference Session

Here are my slides (hopefully I have linked them correctly) for you to view. Also, here is my livebinders link to all of the things I am going to talk about/demonstrate for your viewing pleasure. Please comment here or email beckyrahm at gmail.com if you have any questions or comments. Also – please leave a comment of one of your favorite ways to review with students.

For those of you who happen upon this and were not at MCTM – my session title was “Review Activities – Besides a Worksheet” – Students need more practice, ut are bored with worksheets? Come and discover ways for kids to practice besides a worksheet. Presented at 8:15 on Saturday morning (note to self – if I ever decide to present again, send in some money with my application to try and avoid the Saturday morning, 8:15 session! ha)

Update – after the session – thanks to all who came (and didn’t volunteer – note to self, bring calculator along next time so I can use random number generator to pick volunteers and I need to ALWAYS volunteer in a session where one is asked for, so the presenter doesn’t feel awkward – haha). If you weren’t able to attend the session, the PowerPoint probably won’t help as much because it was really just for me to remember what I was going to talk about next (in other words I just didn’t read from the slides), but everything I did talk about is referenced on the livebinder site linked above (with probably an even better explanation than I gave). Also I will keep updating the livebinder when I find other great ideas to steal, use. Or keep checking my blog.

Also could someone post in the comments the game ideas that were shared by attendees, I know there were some great ones that I was excited about, but with it being Saturday morning, my nerves about the session, and me not writing them down, I seem to have forgotten them. My bad. So post a comment if you would please (or if you weren’t there please still just comment on your favorite review activity). Thanks.

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Best Hand Wins (aka Poker)

I few weeks ago in 8th grade we were working on rules o exponents. The kids had completed an exploration and figured out the rules (and hopefully understanding the why behind the rules) but they needed practice. So I took a worksheet full of practice problems and divided it into six parts. The first sections started off with easier problems and then got harder as the sections went on.

I started the hour by shutting the door (and I never do that) and I said that we were going to do something that I wasn’t sure was legal (boy did I have their attention then) as I heald a deck of cards in my hand. I told them how they were going to practice what they had learned about rules of exponents by playing a little game. I then explained the game.

Students got into groups of four and worked on the problems. Once they had a section done they would send a representative back to me and I would tell them if they were right or not. If they were, that person was to pick a card. If they weren’t, they needed to go back and try again. At the end of the activity they could have up to six cards. I said we would then pick a winner by a predetermined set of rules as to which group had the best card hand. By this time they had figured out it would be by poker rules for best hand. And they were saying “ooh, we are gambling in school.” And the. Of course I would play it up and say no we weren’t and so on and so forth.

Anything to get them a little bit excited about practicing math.

Things I would change – I wouldn’t put as many problems in one section. We actually had to continue this the next day, but it was a pain because I had to collect the cards back for the next hour but then had to give the exact cards back the next day. I would make sure it could be completed in one day.

Exciting things that happened – one group had their first three cards be king, 10 and ace of the same suit. It was flu to see their reaction when their next card wasn’t one that was going to get them the royal flush. Winning hand the entire day was there of a kind (by the rules we were using to determine the best hand – ha ha)

Here are some pictures from the day.

Best hand wins

Best hand wins – 2 aces is looking promising.

Best hand wins

Best hand wins

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

Speed dating in the math classroom.

I’m always looking for ways to let kids practice in class without necessarily even realize that is what they are doing because they are having a little fun doing it. We are working on solving systems of equations and started out by solving via graphing. This way they truly understand what they are finding when solving a system.

Next day I wanted them to do the “set equal to method” (aka substitution when both equations are solved for the same variable.). Not necessarily a hard task but it is something they need practice on solving. So I pulled out Kate Nowak’s (one of my math teacher idols) math speed dating activity. Basically the desks were lined up with two desks per pod. I had 12 groups.

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Look at them working so hard! Love them all!

I made 12 sets of different equations and numbered each set. I then handed out a set to each group being mindful of the level of difficulty when I initially handed them out. I told the students they needed to solve their problem in their group and become “experts” at their problem. When they were done I checked their answers and helped clear up any mistakes.

After students had become experts at their problem, I had the student sitting In the middle isle change desks behind them so they were sitting with a new person that had a different problem. (After thinking about this I didn’t necessarily have to do this but it worked.). They students then exchanged note cards and solved the new problem. Here is the great part – if they were confused, they had an “expert” sitting across from them to help! Also I knew the correct answer was their as well. After each group was done I made sure the kids had their original problem in hand and had them “speed date” – one person stayed in their spot and the other person switched to the next table and the whole process started over.

Fun things I saw – it was fun seeing students who sometimes struggle helping other students who were stuck on their expert problem. It was fun seeing the confidence level increase in solving these problems after a few dating rotations. It was also fun when I then had the whole class solve the “special” cases of no solution and infinite solutions when they were done and discuss as a class what was happening in those cases.

Will definitely be using this one again.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Be Irrational – Celebrate Pi Day with your Students

pi day image

Here are some of the documents that I shared during my half of the Pi Day presentation at globalmath (2/26/2013).

Here is a copy of my powerpoint that I used.  I’m not one that likes to put everything I am going to say on a slide and then just read it – so either watch the recording of globalmath or read my notes that are available for each slide (or I guess read what I wrote below since I seemed to explain everything there as well – sorry).  Hopefully it will make more sense.

With so much going on during the actual day I need students (and parents) help.  To make sure everyone has a job and feels involved I use a sign up sheet.  Each hour has their own sign up sheet and everyone must sign up for something, but they can certainly sign up for more than one thing.  Generally after students have put their name down, I will email parents a little information and remind them to ask their child what they signed up for!  I could just see my son signing up to bring a  pi and not telling me until March 13th!!!

I want to remind everyone a lot of these ideas did not come from me, but unfortunately I can not remember who the presenter was at a NCTM conference that I got all this great information from.  If that person ever reads this – please let me know so I can give credit where credit is due.  The best thing, in my opinion I got from that presentation was the 10,000 digits of pi activity.  Here is the nicely set up document that allows you to put 10,000 digits of pi in your school.  I used adding machine tape for kids to write on.  Don’t kid yourself.  This will take some prep time – 1) cut strips of adding machine tape – I used 10 tiles worth in my classroom for each strip.  2) Students will need to write their numbers – which is where this lovely document comes in handy. 3) You will need to tape all of the strips together – in the right order (well actually no one will probably notice) and hang them up.  This is where you will need a system and a few extra hands.  But to me it was worth it walking down the hallway listening to everyone comment about it.

Another thing I enjoy doing is a Pi Day scavenger hunt.  Students don’t need to go around looking for things for this scavenger hunt – they need to search in the digits of pi for certain things.  Here is the scavenger hunt questions I use.  Obviously you will need to change a few things since I’m guessing your students won’t care where my husband’s birthday falls first in pi!  The best thing I use the scavenger hunt for is determining who gets pie first.  Not everyone runs to the table to get the pie and it’s not up to me who gets what kind!  (Although if anyone brings a french silk pie – I definitely get first choice!!!)

Final favorite thing that I have done, which I am sure a lot of teachers do something to this effect, is assign each digit of pi a color and then make a paper chain (or a bracelet, etc).  I like the paper chain activity because we then use the chain as a count down to the end of school.  I teach 5 different sections and there will be 40 days left for us after pi day, so our chain will be 200 links long.  Then every hour of every day a student takes a link off.  It is very fun to watch the chain get shorter and shorter as the year winds down.

I would love to hear any of your suggestions/ideas for what you do to make pi day so fun and irrational!

 
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Posted by on February 26, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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