Okay, so I don't know how to do a linky party, but I got this idea from Sarah at Math = Love: She is showing off all her thrifted toys that will make something come alive in the math classroom. (Be sure to check out her mad "man" Barbie collection for Bungee jumping!) I am adding:

This is Cosmic Wimpout. We take it camping. I dream of having a school league. It is a rummy game. 3 of a pattern gets you 10 times the points: 3 dice with lightning bolts gets you 30 points. 10s and 5's are what they are, and if all six are addable, you get to keep going...

Maya Madness is adding and subtracting negative numbers, but the cool thing, is I started playing it with my own kids when they were 4 years old!

We all know Set, right? Has anyone incorporated it in a cool way?

Anyone figure out anything groovy to do with Rush Hour? Got our game with 4 different sets of cards and cars for $2.00 at the Goodwill.

Found this game at a garage sale for $.80

I had to make this one BIG. This is a family secret...and I am letting you in on it! Four games in one...another we have been playing since the kids were in Pre-School...and believe me, those youngin's are FAST. And it is a great game when you have someone over who doesn't speak English.
There are two sets of cards with all the designs on them, but scrambled. One set is laid out face up all over the table. The other is face down, and whoever's turn it is, gets to call the game: pattern, color, position (way hardest), and shape. Then you flip the card and the first person to find it, keeps the card.It is a rare find, once in awhile I break down and get it on Ebay.

Oops, that one wasn't supposed to in there, but I was so dang mad at this gopher! Little turd. The half eaten one under the kitchen table yesterday obviously didn't cause any alarm with his pals.

Happy Summer Folks!
This post is inspired by my blogging buddy Christopher at Overthinking my teaching:

18 year old daughter going off to University in Washington D.C. this fall:

SB: MOM! Is this a 9 x 13 pan? (check pan on top of picture)

Me: OY VEY! Really, they are going to let you graduate with honors? Should I sue the school?

Daughter's first try top: Mom to rescue Bottom
SB: Oh Mom, You are sooooooooooo dramatic!

Inspired by Sherman Alexie's Indian Education

A Teacher's Education

1st Year
      Bright-eyed and Bam-Bam-esque, I broke up a girl fight in the hallway on the second day of school. Hair flying, brown skin under long fingernails...over a boy.

2nd Year
     The AP asked if I was going to model the swim team's suit for him. This was before there were carefully crafted sexual harassment policies taped on every classroom wall.

4th Year
     On a leave of absence I taught 3rd grade in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria where the entirety of humanity was dictated by the gentle-boy 's rules on the picon (masticated volcanic rock) soccer pitch. I patched many bloody knees.
       Nada, a refugee from Liberia joined our class in January. Nada is not a good  name to have when you are scared and in the 3 rd grade. I cleaned up a lot of vomit.

6th Year
     Got married on September 29th. Being 3 weeks into the year, and having seen the zillions of notebook pages with the curly "Mrs." signatures of my high school girls, I kept my maiden name.
      For my 18th wedding anniversary, I tried to surprise my husband by joining our family and taking his last name. I got as far as the DMV before I gave up...deeds, passports, credit cards to go. Besides, I hate writing cursive D's. 

9 th Year
    After 3 years of due diligence, no baby would come. My husband and I decide to take teaching posts in India. Six weeks before  we left, I was pregnant.
    At Open House in September, I announced to a roomful of multi-national parents that I would be on maternity leave three weeks before winter break thinking I was making some grand announcement having skillfully concealed my pregnancy under flowing dresses. The parents laughed. They already knew. Their sons and daughters told them their math teacher was pregnant when they were asked, " how was the first day of school?"

11th Year
     An unsolicited notice came in the mail announcing a job opening at a brand new high school in a Windsortown.  Turns out the Latina women who used to fight in the hallway were tired of bussing their kids 12 miles up the road and organized the community to build a school right there in their own neighborhood.
     We housed ourselves and our 150 Freshman in 5 rooms on the middle school campus and 3 rented rooms from the nearby business park. My room was referred to as Skunk Alley.
     The football team was dismantled in late September...more than half the team was on academic probation.

14th Year
     We held the first graduation in the next town, at the local center for the arts. Everyone attending wore their Sunday best. No jeans, no flip- flops. We were so proud. The valedictorian was on his way to Stanford.
     (Stanford kid now teaches Math and Physics at our high school. He married his High School sweetheart 2 years behind him at our high school. She is finishing up her work helping  the Afgani's write their first democratic constitution.

15th Year
     We moved onto our own 20 acre campus with the town's first live theater,  2 story multi-media building, state-of- art science labs, and room for a football stadium. We enrolled 360 Freshman.

16th Year
     September 11, 2001. My 32 students and I were sitting in our shiny new room. We couldn't stand being alone. We joined 75 Juniors and Seniors in their Humanities Core and watched the CRT TV in silence.

Years 17 through 23
    A big fat blurr...

24th Year
    With our 6th and 9th grade daughters' blessing  we take teaching posts in Ghana, Western Africa. A year with limited water, sweltering heat, working, playing, and going to school together is the stuff of dreams come true.
    Watching lizards chow down on our left over French fries, ducking fruit bats on our bikes at dusk, cries of "cake bread" in the early hours, holding HIV babies at the orphanage every Wednesday afternoon, releasing newly hatched leather back turtles into the Atlantic, and being offered 2000 camels for our eldest daughter 's hand in marriage on our Spring Break trip to Egypt joined us profoundly as a family of appreciators and travelers.

27th Year
     The school district with the fancy new high school, after 16 years of steady growth, laid off 40 teachers to meet its fiscal responsibilities.
     Don't worry mamas, we're still gonna get your babies into Stanford.

28th Year
     The eldest daughter is moving across country to attend a university with an amazing study abroad program.
     The youngest daughter is spending the YEAR in France.

      We are empty nesters way sooner than we expected.
      It's our own full-hearted faults.
Ach: Extra Credit...

Every other kid is coming in at the end of the year asking for "extra credit."

I have sometimes, sparingly, throughout the year offered extra credit:

--Extra Credit using Desmos. Create a face using a parabola, a nose, a mouth and two eyes.       This is the minimum requirement

--Factor and Simplify Odds. Evens Extra Credit

--Extra Credit: Find 4 rectangular objects in your house. Make a quick sketch. Label what it is, and its dimensions.
Compare the length to the width: How close is this object to the Golden Proportion (1.62)

or there will be that one extra credit problem on the test. 

I try to conceive extra credit for two purposes: to challenge the students who want to be challenged, and to appeal to the "out the box" student whose intelligence is on the creative or artsy perspective.

What does extra credit mean to you? How do you factor it into the grade? Does anyone except the 100%ers do it?

Does it even freakin' matter? Does it change or effect the crunchiness, the wonder, the engagement, the value of the math?

7th Block...yeah you read that correctly...block...put 28 mostly 9th grade Algebra 1 students in a basement room after three 95 minute block classes, lunch, and no air conditioning and you get...my favorite class of the day!

We started with the premise that it sort of sucked to be us...and we rock! The basement is empty, everyone is gone. We watch the feet of athletes and the "lucky" students departing campus before we even start our warm- up ( our windows are below ground).  But guess what? We get to make noise! No one yells at us or sends us notes to be quiet! We hoop and holler about...MATH! We shout out answers! We eat lollipops and take teeny tiny breaks.

Today I was moving the students along this line of thinking:

So we did three old and one with a new twist together. They were getting it.

I stopped them and said, there is a story about why we study this kind of equation, and not mentioning it to you would be really mean on my part and would lead all of you into thinking Algebra was just smushing a bunch of numbers around (I said an exercise in futility, but I think I lost them).

So I told them the good ol' yarn about how it takes me 5 hours to paint the livingroom by myself because I am easily distracted and how it only takes my husband 3 hours because he is concrete sequential...Then we saw the POWER in doing a job together! The students were actually impressed...which led to a discussion about the alternative economy and what they could do to earn money (I said offer your neighbors to vacuum for $5 per room, or $10 to load the dishwasher and wipe down the sink after dinner). I also told them about the water treatment plant and how some liquid is pumped in and others are pumped out at different rates. (hence the possible minuses in the equations)

They WANTED to know how long it took Dom's uncle to replace the clutch on his '74 BMW by himself when it took Dom 8 hours by himself and took them 3.5 hours together. One of my squirrelly 9th graders (who will be repeating Algebra 1 next year) and who is beginning to think like a Sophomore said, "hey, I get this, this is kinda fun." 

May not be a 3 Act yet...but it was still a powerful afternoon.

Student Hand-out Exhibit A

This post isn't about the value of the planning, as much as it is about how much do the students need in advance...please continue...

One of my earliest colleagues, had two jobs. One at the high school, the other as an adjunct instructor at the local Junior College. It was from his hands, I first saw the monthly (or unit) plan given to the students. On this day, we will be on this page, and these will be the problems, and the test will be on this date.
He used this method in his high school classes too, though it was on a monthly calendar. I never figured out how he knew when he would be on what page and what would he do if he printed 100 of those things, then got all off schedule? How did he know when his students would be ready for a test that far in advanced? I was pretty new.

Now fast forward 25 years later, and I am facing these student planners again, only MORE elaborate. So much thought, so much time, so much planning. I am told these unit plans take 4-6 hours to produce...I sat in on one session...it isn't an exaggeration.

Student Hand-out Exhibit B
Again, I am in admiration of the confidence and organization and years of experience that it takes to put this together. (There is another page to this unit, but with one such page, I thought you would get the idea). And again, with my AOADD (Adult Onset Of Attention Deficit Disorder) I just don't get how one knows when students will be ready, what happens when you want to do a modeling problem because you had an epiphany or read one my favorite bloggers latest posts and just have to try that thing? (The collaborative piece was an invitation to sit in, not a start from scratch.)

My young probationary colleague does this for Monday and each student gets a half sheet:
Student Hand-Out Exhibit C
And me, well...My students get this each day, no paper:
Student No Hand-Out Exhibit D
I get so much inspiration when I see the productive struggles, see how students are messing with the material. I have favorite activities, believe me...and I get them in there...AND I am open to new and better and different ways and learning from how my virtual colleagues look at the same concepts.

At every high school and middle school I have been associated with (by teaching or my own children attending) the students get a daily planner. I believe the accountability for students writing in their agendas is huge. 

I hate wasting paper.

I have a class website where my students can access their assignments and 99% of hand-outs are live linked. They don't even have to have a printer, they can just use the website as a mobile textbook!

Positives of the Student    + Students know where in the heck you are going
Unit Planner Hand-out:    + Everyone is on the same page at the same time
                                         + The kids LOVE these things
                                         + Once the hard work is done, the next 6 weeks are EASY
                                         + Kids have no excuses for not knowing what the assignment was

Negatives of the Student
Unit Planner Hand-out:   - Paper use and copying...expensive and not environmental
                                        - Moving things around is tricky
                                        - Students don't "push" the assignment through their pencils as            
                                         - Doesn't produce habit of checking the website where there is all kinds       
                                          of good information
                                          - Ack, takes the spontaneity out of my life day, especially now that I am  
                                         going to use Sarah's amazing idea next week. 

Please, my math community, weigh in...I haven't seen much on the topic and would love to get the discussion on!

Does it even freakin' matter? Does it change or effect the crunchiness, the wonder, the engagement, the value of the math?

Dan? Sarah? Mr. Miller? Matt? Megan? Anyone? Fawn?

Every teacher, man and woman, play a nurturing role in the lives of their students.
I am thinking of everyone of you today, with deep gratitude.
Thanks for fighting the good fight.


My Student, A, is a nice kid. This doesn't say all there is to say about A, but it says a lot:
He mostly pays attention...he is a bit of a clueless wonder in Algebra, although his arithmetic skills are super strong. He is affable and wants to do better. He does an entire page of work...and it is all incorrect. My main theory about A. is that he comes from a family where he hasn't been shown how to study, that he is just under-exposed to "how to do school."

When Fawn Nguyen says Do These Two Things, you better listen, and here's why:

I was telling my students a story (1. Do talk to your students about yourself)
about how I spent my Saturday morning having breakfast with a bunch of fellow nerds at the Sonoma County Math Council's Breakfast. It was a rare lecture, usually we get to the business of getting dirty in some math activity. John Martin is an amazing lecturer, funny, light, thoughtful, inspiring...he must be from Midwest originally, he is just so nice. His talk was on the Golden Ratio, and he was giving a shout out to Fibonacci along the way. In addition to explaining a rather elaborate way to convert miles to kilometers using Fibonacci Numbers that only a mathematician can appreciate, he went on to show us that the 100th Fibonacci Number is in the quintillions! This is just astonishing to me! So I shared my astonishment with my students.

Alex A, thought it was astonshing too. Before you look at the picture below and really absorb the profroundity of what is happening here, re-examine the picture above:

Powerful image. We see so clearly what is right and now I have to ask myself what is wrong with A's picture and what can I do about it?

(PS, the next class is right before lunch and the kids are STARVING) A girl in front busts out a package of seaweed (we are from Sebastopol after all) and you know what...the ratio of length to width in those sheets is 1.55, intersting, eh?

Thanks John for the inspiration...and a little pat on my back for spending my glorious Saturday morning...in mathland.

Oh and anyone have a better title for this piece?
1. Ross, a student with an IEP, Grade 10, repeating Algebra, making a little more progress than last year. Very quiet.
Students are in Part 1 of a Diagnostic Teaching Lesson ALA Phil Daro.
The problem is "What is the longest pencil that can fit into an 8"by 4" by 3" pencil box?"

The class has read the problem together. The students have had 80-90 silent seconds to put some of their initial thoughts about the problem on their papers. The students get to ask any clarifying questions before we begin working in partners to solve the problem. Quiet ol' Ross raises his hand and asks, "It that the measurement from the exterior or interior of the box?" That guy got at least 50 virtual pieces of candy.

2. D. Gr 9 whom I caught fighting with boxing gloves on in the Safeway parking lot across the street from school during the first week of the school year, is now passing all of his classes and is trying very hard to catch up in Algebra. I picked up a textbook off the ground near his desk. Me: I can't stand when a textbook is on the floor. D: I know all books are precious, they are the reason we are here, why would anyone show such disrespect? (Me: with big cartoon bubble, really, my bad ass D, just said that...oh my happy heart!)

3. Daughter is going to American University in the fall and will be in the University College Program for International Relations. Makes me happy in so many ways, just two are that AU is one of the most racially diverse colleges in the US, and AU is ranked the highest for their study abroad programs. (not happy at all about price, but they threw us a 20% bone...that will surely help, and Grandma, and Grandpa, and us, and her...we'll figure it out baby girl!)

I sent this letter this morning to Dr. Ivory Toldson, Howard University.
(Paper grading be damned!)

Dear Doctor Toldson,

I was glued to listening to your interview with Michel Martin regarding black male representation in prestigious universities. It made me stop and think about all the black male students I have had over my 27 years of teaching High School Mathematics.

Please bear with me...I know your time is extremely limited...

I am white. I am almost 50 years old. I am liberal and (Jewish) and lived in San Francisco through 9 th grade, attending the most racially balanced public school in the city. While keeping my Jewish cultural identity, I attended Glide Memorial Church, making posters to unite the farm workers and free Angela Davis. My father is one of the first white male members of the NCAAP.

I lived with my husband and daughters in Ghana for one year. My daughter has just committed to American University, largely due to the fact that is one of the most integrated colleges in the US (so proud!). (We left Ghana when daughter was 15, at 16 she traveled back, alone to see her friends!) younger daughter's best friend is one of the only mixed race black students at our high school.

And yet, I don't have a single black friend.

The point: I don't reach my black students. I am failing them. Granted we don't have many living in Northern California. And when I look at how they are doing in school...I want to shrink away. Sports, sports, sports. These are beautiful, gifted young men who are intellectually wasting away...the one young man who tries to be intellectual is ostracized by his sporty peers. Yeah, and we have even fewer Asian students and they are going to Brown and UC Berkeley this fall. And yeah, we have a few Hispanic students, and one is going to Stanford. Mixed race black young man, Junior College...to play basketball.

Please educate Me. Please help me help our schools move these boys into being prepared for PRESTIGIOUS universities. Please help me help these young men (and women, well, my daughter 's bestie wants to go to Stanford!) create bigger images of themselves as intellectually worthy.

Thank you for all the work you do.

Sincerely yours,
Amy Zimmer
Sebastopol,  California
Education Blog: Http://zicker63.blogspot.com
I am noticing all the very cool, thoughtful questions being thrown down on our blogs, so I thought I would add in and see what the next steps would be:

Okay, not sexy, but a little stretch for the test. Objective: Apply the Pythagorean Theorem.

Suggestions welcome!