Sunday, January 5, 2014

So Long, 2013

2013 brought a few firsts to my classroom (and life):

1.  I started SBG in my Calculus class. And I am wondering what took me so long. Students loved it. They liked that they could focus on learning without the stress. I loved that my valdectorian-competing students had complete control over their grades. Want a higher grade? All you need to do is simply demonstrate a higher level of knowledge. Boom. That's it. Next stop, my Algebra 2 classes. In order for SBG to be successful here, I must figure out how to be more efficient with all the paper work and re-assessing.

2.  Two Algebra 2s. This year my school decided to offer two levels of Algebra 2. I teach both. The basic level Algebra 2 was especially challenging. I think every student in that room hated math and everything associated with it. At least it felt that way some days. I put a lot of energy into managing behavior and felt like I didn't do justice to the math. It was just tough. Really tough. I have an opening in my schedule for second semester, so I will be able to split that class into two sections. I am very much looking forward to working with smaller groups. It will be better. I am feeling determined and hopeful.

3. I decided my (non-advanced) Algebra 2 class would be the best place to start Interactive Notebooks. I am pretty sure that what I am doing does not count as a true INB. There are no beautiful foldables or elaborate color-coded notes. (Even though I wish there were). But there is a lot of stuff glued into a notebook. I like that the constraints of the page size forced me to edit content and constantly ask what was really important for students to know/do. All but 1 or 2 students had perfectly completed/organized notebooks at the end of the semester. When it was time to review, everyone could easily locate what they were looking for. There is something about numbering pages and filling out tables of contents and gluing notes or practice into a composition notebook that equals organizational magic. I had my challenges with this group, but locating someone's missing assignment was not one of them.

4. On a personal note, and because I cannot resist writing about it, I ran my first EVER half marathon in 2013. This was a pretty big deal for me. I was the kid who dreaded, every year of my entire life, the day in PE class when we had to run a mile. As an adult I have loved what running has done for me . . . I am healthier, I have found friendships with running buddies, and I've figured out that I am capable of so much more than I ever imagined. I love sharing this story with my students, as many of them experience math the way that I experienced running. I like to think that I understand what they are feeling in some way.

I wish I could hug the guy who took this picture around mile 8 or so because . . . people behind me!

Lastly, because I hate to break tradition, my most-read (or least not-read?) posts from the last year:

How I Taught End Behavior:  This is my goal . . . more lessons like this where students are sorting and looking for patterns and figuring things out. More students doing, less teacher telling.

Trig Hand: Trick alert! My mistake was using this in my Algebra 2 classes. I won't do that again, even after focusing on the conceptual understanding. But I will use this with my Calculus students, and I have used it myself since I discovered it.

Plethora of Practice: I made two sets of cards for evaluating trig ratios, and found a lot of different ways to use them for a variety of practice sessions.

Desmos Test Question: I fell in love with Desmos this year, and I am still discovering all the many ways I can use this tool in my classroom. Here I used it for assessment.

Diving Into Programming: This year I dipped my toes into simple programming on a TI-83/84 calculator. After a few days, I am convinced that programming has a place in every math classroom. My dream is to have a project to go with each unit of the classes I teach. And the entry is so much lower than you think. You can do this, too.

This Lesson Cost $1: My intro to the zero product property.

Unit Circle: This post exemplifies what I love about blogging. I came asking for help, and I received some really helpful comments. I am thankful.

Happy 2014!!


  1. YAY!! I also ran my first half this past year! It took me about a year of training to get there, but I did it! YAY FOR US!!!

    1. Congrats! I had no idea how hard it would be, or how much I would love completing it! So what's next? Motivation is harder now. :)

  2. I'm going to try interactive notebooks too! I've done them in the past and they were great, I wish I would have started this school year doing them. I think it is a great way to keep everyone (especially reluctant mathematicians) organized.

    1. Hi Annie! I am very happy with the results, especially for those "reluctant" learners. But I know there is more to them than organization. That is where I need to learn more.

  3. I would like to try SBG. But this year I already feel like I'm trying too many new things to perfect everything. Sad. I am now a believer that all teachers need an assistant.

    1. Ha! I will take an assistant, too! I am finding that, with a good organizational system, the work load is not so much more than writing traditional assessments. It is more about learning to do things differently.

  4. Yippee!! You go, Amy!! I admire you so much for accomplishing this goal. Watch out, 2014. {{Hugs}}