Starting an Interactive Notebook tomorrow!

Kinda excited, kinda scared, mostly hopeful.

I’ve been voraciously consuming blog posts about interactive notebooks in math (Thanks Sarah and Sarah!)  I’m finally feeling brave enough to get ours started in Algebra I.

Starting in the middle of the year.  Did I mention my family creed is “Better late than never”?

It’s a good jumping-in point, though.  We just finished the semester last Friday, everyone is starting fresh, my class numbers are more balanced, and we are just starting to get into the meaty part of Algebra I.  Chapter 6, Linear Functions.

I feel like the first 5 chapters of our Algebra I text are just preparation for The Coming of Chapter Six.  I’m eager to get into it so my students can start actually using all these background skills we’ve been practicing.

Another nice thing is that everything from here on out is material that will be directly revisited and expanded upon in Algebra 2, which the vast majority of my students will take after Geometry.  (Why do we put a year between the algebras?  Seriously.)

So, I have a Frayer Model vocab sheet ready, I have guided notes on slope ready, table of content sheets ready, and we’re just going to dive in!  If I put this off any longer, I won’t get it started this year and I refuse to let that happen.

One thing I wish I had done would be little caddies to set on my tables to hold scissors, glue sticks, and markers.  Putting that on the to-do-sooner-than-the-other-to-do list.



2016 Blogging Initiative – Week 2

I missed out on Week 1, but better late than never!


My favorite class is Geometry, and my favorite lesson so far this year has come from that class.

On the “mathteachers” subreddit, someone shared a link for this cool little interactive site on geometric constructions.

There are several beautiful things about this site.

  1. It is completely open-ended.  You can start with the first challenge, the last challenge, or you can just play around.
  2. It doesn’t have instructions on how to use it, and I didn’t give my students any.  I let them figure it out themselves and help their neighbors.  I saw some really great “aha” moments this way.
  3. Every time you complete a challenge, it saves it for you so you can clear the screen and start over without losing anything.
  4. It is challenging without being impossibly difficult, and challenging enough that my students were engaged for the entire class period.

My assignment for this day was self-differentiating and fun to grade.  I gave them a Google Doc worksheet to complete by taking screenshots of their work.  Here are few samples from the “freestyle” section:

We did the lesson after we completed our lessons on compass/straightedge constructions, so students already knew how to construct an equilateral triangle, a hexagon, and a square.  The other challenges were new to them.

My only complaint about this site, at least when using it on the Chromebook, was that the zoom in/zoom out is very touchy, especially when students are using the trackpad for their mouse.  Several students zoomed out too far accidentally, then moved their screen and weren’t able to find their spot again.  It wasn’t detrimental, but it was a little frustrating for a couple of students.

At the end, we discussed how ancient geometers might have used their compasses and straightedges to create artistic designs as well as practical applications.  Students had some great insights and ideas.  Straight up high level Bloom’s Taxonomy stuff here!  I wish my principal had been there to see it!

Reasons this lesson was my favorite:

  1. It was student-led with only minimal guidance from me.
  2. It was engaging and fun.
  3. It was crazy easy to plan.

Really, what else can you ask for?

New Year, New Blog!


I was recently told about the MTBoS 2016 Blogging Initiative, and it’s a great opportunity to get myself in the blogging habit!

A little about myself: I’m a first-year teacher in rural Iowa teaching high school math.  Currently, I’m teaching Algebra I, Geometry, and a new class called Informal Geometry aimed at juniors and seniors.  I’m big into technology and proponent of getting computer science taught in schools.  I started a new Code Club this year for students interested in learning computer programming and game design.  I’m also the faculty advisor for Builders Club at the middle school.

I also have this persistent problem of over-committing myself.

My biggest challenges that I need to overcome in 2016 are:
1.  Underdeveloped organizational skills.  My room is in a constant state of disaster and I only see the surface of my desk after semester grades are due.

2. Procrastination.  I need get organized so I can grade things right away instead of constantly playing catch-up.  I also need to be better about planning my units out as a whole instead of one lesson at a time.  The day of the lesson.  Five minutes before class starts.  Doing improv through 1st hour.  Teaching a completely different lesson by 4th.

3. Confidence.  I’ve been told this comes with time, but I need to work on it myself as well.  I know that I know the material, but I lack confidence when it comes to “judiciary” decisions, such as dealing out detention.  I don’t like doling out discipline and I wish I never had to, but misbehavior happens and I have to have clear expectations and consequences.

Those are my Big 3, I have plenty of other areas to work on but these are the 3 I want to see the most progress in over 2016.

Excited about this year!

Side thought: I’ve always thought advisor was spelled a-d-v-i-s-o-r, but my spellcheck wants me to spell it a-d-v-i-s-e-r.  Apparently both spellings are correct, but adviser just looks wrong to me.