Sunday, November 11, 2012

Differentiation In The Math Classroom.

This weeks topic is differentiation in the math classroom.  I can honestly say this is one area that I struggle with and am really hoping for some great ideas from others.  This year I teach 3 honors sections and 2 regular sections.  I find that my honors students are almost all at the same level and even when I challenge them, all of the students really put forth a great effort to try and solve the problem.

I am really wanting to implement more differentiated instruction in my regular classes.  I have such a wide range of students in there that I feel like I am missing some of them sometimes.  I have to do a lot more direct instruction with them, so I struggle with having them break into smaller groups to do certain activities that are relative to their ability level.

One thing our district is doing this year is all students in the middle school are taking the CDT test - if you have never heard of this it is Classroom Diagnostic Tools.  It is a computer adaptive test that is about 60 questions long.  Students can take this up to 5 times per school year.  Once students take the test, it will show me a graphing of how the student performed overall, and then in each of the five strands.  Each dot represents a student.  Clicking on one of the dots shows me how a particular student did in each of the areas.  Now how does this relate to differentiating...well you can draw a box around a cluster of dots in one of the areas and then select show eligible content.  This will show you all of the standards that related to how these students performed and then take you out to SAS which has many lesson plans and online resources.  So if you need to get extra items for those low scoring students, you could.  If you needed to get enrichment items for those high achieving students, you could.  The one downfall is students don't have access to go get these resources on their own - the teacher would need to give them the links or materials.

Has anyone else used CDT in their classroom - I would love to hear from you since I am the test coordinator at my school and am always looking for how other schools use CDT!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Mock Presidential Election

Tomorrow is the election!!  I am quite happy for this for two main reasons:
#1 - No more television ads - you can't watch 10 minutes of TV without seeing ads that bash one candidate or another.  I wish there was a limit to how many ads they could show - use the money for something more useful!

#2 - No more robo telephone calls - when Bob Barker calls me to tell me to vote, thats where I draw the  line.  I actually disconnected my house phone for the past week.  When an actual person called and asked who I was voting for, my response was, "whoever calls me the least".  They never know what to say after that.

Apart from my frustration with ads and telephone calls, I am actually excited to do a mock election in my classes.  I put together a very simple ballot that my students will vote with.  I had them list their class period and gender just so we can do some extra analysis such as:

 ~Which President did the girls want vs. the boys
~ Which class period would have elected a particular candidate over another
~ Did all class periods vote the same
~ If we awarded an "electoral" vote to the candidate that won each class - would they win the "electoral vote" and the popular vote or just one of them.

There is so much data analysis you can get from just a simple vote!  I love analyzing data!

This is my sample ballot - you could add the extra 3rd parties - but knowing my students, they most likely would choose those people just to be funny and it wouldn't be that accurate.

Make sure you all go and vote tomorrow!!!

I created a google spreadsheet (I love google!) to gather all of our votes.  Take a look and see if your classes had a similar voting experience.


Sunday, November 4, 2012


Well this weekend I found a new site that you can earn money while shopping.  It is called Jingit.  It really is quite simple to earn money by watching ads on either your computer or smart phone.  You can earn money by:

1)  Watching ads on your computer/smart phone
2)  Checking in when shopping at certain stores - you scan the bar codes of certain items (Ex. Marshmallows, Graham Crackers, Glue) - It finds stores closest to your location and will even show a map of the area.
3)  You can check in some of the items at your house if you said that you purchase it

Jingit is only in the beta stage but from what I see, it looks like it is going to be a great site.  You can earn up to $10 per week so up to $40 each month by just watching a few ads or scanning a few bar codes on your smartphone.  They give you a debit card, so you can recharge it with all of the money you made and can use it wherever you would like to.  Take a look and let me know what you think!

Increasing Problem Solving Skills by Puzzles

So this is my first time ever contributing to MS Math Sunday Funday - I hope some of you might find what I write useful.  The topic this week how we increase or practice the problem solving skills of our students.  Our textbook uses the 5D process to help with problem solving skills for large problems.  Many of you might know this as a Guess and Check table.  It allows students to Draw/Describe what is going on, Define the terms, Do what is being asked, Decide if it is the correct and answer and lastly Declare the final answer.  I encourage students to "squeeze" the answer out of their guesses instead of guessing lots of random numbers. This process can help students out with any complex problem.  

My main way of increasing problem solving skills is thinking outside of the box a little.  Students absolutely love brain teasers and puzzles.  I have a slew of these in my classroom that really make students think outside of the box to get the answer.  One of my favorite sites to get mathematical puzzles and logic puzzle books is MathWare.  One of my favorite puzzles is called Code Breakers.  Students are given different colored circles that equal a certain number.  They have to figure out what each of the colored circles is.  Think systems of equations with colored circles.  The students get very competitive with these puzzles and always ask for them.  When completing them, they aren't thinking...boy I'm really solving Math problems - they think of it more as a game.  


Friday, November 2, 2012

GEEO Travel

A few years ago one of my students gave me a camel silly band, it was about a month before school ended.  I was interested in traveling so I did a few google searches for summer travel for teachers.  What I found was an organization that I have traveled with for the past 3 summers and absolutely have loved it.  I have met teachers from all across the country and have made international connections with teachers abroad.

So what is GEEO - it is Global Exploration for Educators Organization.  It is a non profit organization that helps organize teachers to travel with other teachers.  The first summer that I traveled with GEEO, I traveled to Tunisia.  I had absolutely no clue where it was when I booked the trip - I had to do a few google searches to learn about it.  Some highlights of that trip were riding a camel in the Sahara Desert, swimming in the Mediterranean Sea, visiting the many ruins and shopping in the souks.

Last summer I traveled to Costa Rica where I went white water rafting, zip lining and hiking in the rain forest, watched a sea turtle laying her eggs and basked in the beautiful scenery.  With each of the tours, you always have a tour guide with you helping to tell you what activities are the best and historical information about all of the places you are traveling to.  GEEO uses GAdventure Tours which is a highly respectable tour company.

This past summer I went on my longest trip yet - I did the Trans Mongolian Adventure and China tour.  This involved me going completely around the world in 26 days.  We landed in St. Petersburg, Russia and traveled through Mongolia to Beijing, China, and then I picked up the China tour that took us the entire way down to Shanghai.  During this trip, we visited 2 schools which is one of the best parts about traveling with GEEO.  We visited a school in Russia and one in Xi'an, China.  We were able to see some of the school aged kids in China who were very eager to speak English with us.  It is amazing the difference in educational standards between the US, Russia and China.

This upcoming summer I will be traveling to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands - anyone interested???