Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Bottle Flipping & Probability

Like most students, my 7th graders are obsessed with bottle-flipping.  So I thought for a long time on how to use this to my advantage with the 7th grade standards.  I came up with a probability lesson.  The lesson combines experimental probability, writing odds from probabilities, and making predictions from probability.

Lesson Plan
1. I lectured about how to turn odds to probability and back again.  (5 min)
     I used examples from sports odds and various other examples.

2. The class discussed bottle flipping.
      We started by discussing bottle flipping, and followed it up with a discussion of how full the bottle should be for optimal flipping.  I handed a water bottle to each student.  While we downloaded the PDF and discussed the instructions students drank some water to get their optimal level.

3. The students flipped and flipped.
     I allowed 5-7 minutes for students to flip bottles and collect data.

4. Students wrote probabilities and odds from the data.
      Students used their own data, and their groups total data (3-4 students) to write probabilities and odds.

5. Students predicted how many successes from their next 10 flips, then tested their prediction.

Overall a quick, hectic, and very loud day.  However a great success for engagement.  Now tomorrow, we will see if any students remember how to write odds and probability.

The handout can be viewed here.


Monday, October 3, 2016

Support Math Class: Update

It has been a while since I got to post anything.  It has been really busy.  Math team has started (I coach JH and HS).  Robotics is in full swing (I coach HS and JH).  Add in lots of other family commitments and I have barely been able to keep up with teaching, much less blogging.

So here are the updates on how the Junior High Support Math Class is going.

Circle Talks
We now do circle talks on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.  We have some kids who go to band or choir during class so they are only in class 2-3 days a week.  So by doing circle talks on these 3 days we guarantee that every kid has circle 3 times every two weeks.  I do have some who are in class every day and they obviously get circle 3 times a week.

On Mondays, we ask about their weekend.  On Fridays, we ask about their week.  I had a breakthrough last Friday as I asked about the "highs" and "lows" of their week.  They suddenly were sharing a great deal about their week instead of just a one- or two-word answer.   We also talk about what they are looking forward to for the upcoming weekend.

We also continue to use the If book.  The book is full of interesting questions to get the students talking.  We give one student the book, another student picks a number from 5-129, and then the student with the book picks a question from that page.  We try to get in a couple rounds of this every time we have circle.

The kids have really begun to enjoy their circle time and ask for it when I am slow to get it going on Monday, Wednesday or Fridays.  They also do ask for it on Tuesday and Thursday.

Number Talks
We continued to use Estimation 180 for number talks for quite a while.  At mid-term we switched to Which One Doesn't Belong.  Another number talk designed to get the students thinking and analyzing.  The kids have really taken to this one and enjoy trying to come up with as many reasons as possible that each object doesn't belong.

We will soon begin our number talks based on calculations.  They will focus on Number Sense.  I plan on using this book by Pamela Weber Harris as the basis for these talks.

We have also begun using the DreamBox online system.  Most of the students really love it.  We are currently under a 3 month trial period.  We can have unlimited students for $300.  When the 3 months is up we are hoping to show growth and convince the district to invest in this program for the math support programs.  Once the trial is over the pricing scheme will go back to a per student cost.

The first week I let the students work on whatever standards they wanted to in a grade level band from 5th-8th.  This week I narrowed their focus to the grade level standard we covered in normal math class this quarter.  I got more questions today about the math, but they still seemed to really enjoy doing DreamBox.  We usually try to get 10-15 minutes in per day.  We are going to set a class goal for lessons completed per week, but we haven't gotten that done yet.

Grade Level Standard Help:
During DreamBox time, I have started pulling small groups of students to work with on their work for their main math class.  This has seemed pretty effective so far for some of the students.  We will definitely continue this to help them achieve their grade level standards.

Overall, things are going really well.  I hope to put together some data to show growth.  Just wondering what data to look at.  I want something besides MCA scores.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Support Math Class: Days 12-13

Friday, Sept 9th
1. Circle Talk
       We just did a quick couple questions about reflecting on the week.  These are their least favorite questions.  I need to figure out how to phrase them differently.  I am still getting mostly 1 word answers.  I know I need to be patient.

2. Number Talk
       As we do everyday, we did a number talk.  This was the final bowl of cereal estimate from estimation 180.  The students have really been explaining their thinking process well this week.    We will continue to use these estimation 180 problems to continue to encourage their mathy communication.

3. 15 game
       We have been using Friday as fun math game day so far.  This little adding game was a pretty big hit.  They started off thinking this game was too elementary for them.  Then they realized the strategies involved and were doing lots of number sense thinking.  A big hit.  

Monday, Sept 12th
1. Circle Talk
       A check-in round from the weekend.  A quick question about what they are looking forward to this week.  (it always breaks my heart when they say nothing).  Then a couple what-if questions.  A good circle day with laughter and good stories.  

2. Number Talk 1
     An estimation 180 problem.  Since I am picking the new problems I estimate answers as well with the class and do not know the answers before we go over them.  Today, it was a "how fast will Mr. Stadel walk" and we all underestimated his walking speed.  Only 1 groups minimum was low enough.  Led to a good point about making good ranges.  

3. Number Talk 2
    We used this pattern and found out how many in figure 5 and 10, then went for a general rule.  We used this as a springboard into their 1st learning target of SHOW WORK.  We talked about examples of 4, 3, 2 and 1 on the Show Work rubric.  Then we had each group write up their answer and then the class graded it together.  

Tomorrow we will go over learning target 2, asking for help.  We will see how that one flies.  

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Support Math Class: Days 8-11

Coming off Labor Day over the break, the class is going well.

Last Friday - Day 8
Circle Talk
We reflected on the week.  The highlight for me was when I asked "what was your highlight of the week" and two students said the support math class.  First major victory of the year!
Number Talk
The students are tiring of number talks.  However, the thinking is so good for them.
Sprouts Game
I taught the class Sprouts and it was a really good time.  They took to it and were engaged the whole time.

Tuesday - Day 9
Circle Talk
Just questions about their weekend and prepping for the week.  They requested some more would you rather questions as well.  Those are always a good time.
Number Talk
Switched it up to some estimation 180 questions.  We did the first cereal estimation task.  The students struggled trying to explain their reasoning for their estimations.  Getting them beyond, "I don't know I just guessed" is hard.  I made them write down 3 numbers.  Too high, too low and their best guess.
Number Talk 2
We did another pattern to review their math from regular math class on linear relationships and proportional relationships.

Wednesday - Day 10
Our football team won 66-12 the week before.  So I took Dan Meyers 3-act problem "Bucky the Badger" and used our stats instead.  Our cheerleaders do jumping jacks after every score.  So we estimated and calculated how many they did for the entire game.  A good thinking problem on our early out day with 30-minute classes.

Thursday - Day 11
Number Talk
We did the second cereal estimation problem from Estimation 180.  Today went better than Tuesday.  The students, working in groups of 2, estimated the solution.  Each group then explained their reasoning and did quite well.
Number Talk 2
Another visual pattern to help review linear patterns and writing equations.
Practice Time
We have not set up our DreamBox accounts yet.  I am still trying to recruit so we can have enough for the 40 minimum students required for a school account.  So I sadly used the IXL program for practice.  The 7th graders identified proportional relationships, and the 8th graders identified linear relationships.  It went fine.  Hopefully, it built some confidence for their upcoming quiz.  

All in all a good few days.  Tomorrow will bring back some circle talk to help reflect on the week.  Then we will review for the quiz.  

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Support Math Class Day 7: Circle Talk, Number Talk and Sprouts

Circle talk again opened JH support math class today.  First question was "what are two words that describe how you are doing today?"  Sample answers:
        "Good, very good."
        "Good, great."
        "Fun, funions."
So I will have to try another strategy to get longer answers on that opening round.
Other questions from today:
1. What is your favorite junk food?
2. If you knew you could not fail, what would you do?
      (inspired from my amazing 6th grade teacher neighbors)
3. What does the best case scenario of school look like to you for this year?

I also included a summary of the talking pieces I have used so far this week.  Trying to change it up and see what sticks with the kids.  These are all just things around my desk so far.

The R2D2 thing is actually an eraser.  Which allowed me to explain to the kids that I love Star Wars, and I love fixing mistakes.

The number talk went really well.  They are getting closer and closer to coming up with rules for the patterns.  Again the pattern came from Visual Patterns.  

We finished up the pattern a little early, so inspired by Sarah Carter's great #teach180 tweets, we learned how to play the game sprouts.  They were totally engaged and loving it.
Here is a quick YouTube video explaining the game.  

A great week so far!

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Support Math: Day 6 - Students bring Qs to Circle and Number Talks!

Today was our third day of talking using the circle format.  Yesterday I had a couple "Would You Rather" questions to get the discussion going.  Today, trying to slowly share ownership of the circle, the students brought in the "Would You Rather" questions.  I was scared about appropriate questions, and kids forgetting to come up with questions.  Turns out I had nothing to worry about.

We started with a quick check in round, again completed with one-word answers.  Then each student got to ask one "Would You Rather" question to the circle.  Everyone answered, and then the next student asked their question.  It led to some great conversations.  The answers were a little shorter than I would have predicted, but still fun.  I tried to model giving longer answers, the kids just laughed at me for being weird.

We then went into a number talk.  The number talk was again from Visual Patterns.
The students focused on the number of triangles.  I found it very surprising how easy it was for students to miss the triangles with the point down.  For example, they kept counting three triangles in figure 2.  Which is fine.  It leads to a nice triangular number pattern.  However, the pattern is easier to generalize if you count all the triangles.  The students picked up on the pattern quickly, but struggled to reach a formula.  We did get there, but it took awhile.  

I cannot overstate how these number talks based on patterns has helped the students in their 8th grade math class this week.  In their regular math class we have started studying linear relationships.  I always do this by starting with patterns.  The students who are in support math have developed a comfort with patterns that is letting them engage in the linear patterns with more confidence.  

Preteaching some skills using support math is a highly valuable practice I will try to use more this year.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Support Math Day 5: Circle Talk Day 2 and More Number Talks

Today we started class with our second circle talk.  We did a quick check-in round to see how everyone was doing.  To no surprise, it was mostly 1 word answers by everyone.  We will have to come up with something to work on that.

Then we played about 4 rounds of Would You Rather.  I found this excellent set of would you rather questions online.  It is from the Measured Mom blog.  It is aimed at younger kids, but by selecting the right questions and aging up some others, it will be a great resource.  The kids had a great time and they got homework.  They were each asked to create a "would you rather" question for circle time tomorrow.  Hopefully the questions are appropriate and lead to some good answers.

Circle today created some fun moments with the kids and I can already start to see the sense of community starting to build among these students.  It might all be based on the fact that they are "getting out of doing normal math" but I will take that for right now.

The number talk we did today was a step up in difficulty from yesterday.  We took 20-25 minutes breaking it down.  Most students really dug into it and wouldn't give up.  We eventually arrived at a nice formula for triangular numbers.  Are they going to remember that, probably not.  Right now though it is about not giving up and sticking with hard problems.

In 8th grade math today, we tackled some tough patterns to talk about linear patterns.  The students in TIP math did really well.  I hope that the foundation for that was partly laid down in TIP math by working with difficult patterns the last couple days of class.  

So things are off to a great start so far.  We are building a good foundation for a couple of my 4 pillars of support math.  

Monday, August 29, 2016

Support Math Day 4: First Circle Talk and a Number Talk

Day 4:
Today in support math class was our first day talking using the circle format.  We started by writing down 1 word on a note card that represents how we like to be treated.  We then used that as a springboard into creating guidelines we will use for our circle time and class time.  Our guidelines we agreed to are:

1. Respect talking piece
2. What's said in circle stays in circle
3. No fighting
4. Listen to each other
5. Can pass the talking piece without answering
6. Eye contact with speaker
7. Don't talk while others talk
8. Have fun, get work done

We then did a couple rounds of questions to help build people's confidence and the community of the circle.  Those questions were:
1.  If you could be any superhero, who would you be and why?
2.  What was the highlight of the first four days of school?

There might have been another question, but I can't recall it right now.

The second part of class was a number talk.
We used this image and asked
1. What do you notice?
2. What do you wonder?

We talked about what we noticed.  They still didn't wonder to much, but that is really okay at this point.  They noticed how it grew and immediately latched onto the rate of change of 2.  (although not in those words)

I then asked groups of 2-3 to answer the following questions
1. How many cubes in figure 5?
2. How many cubes in figure 10?

After discussing the classes solutions, we then asked about figure 20.

These questions brought out some great misconceptions and things for us to work on the rest of the week.

This week will be about creating the foundation for a good circle community and talking through number talks.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

First Week of Support Math Class

My initial goal is to continually blog about how my support math class for 7th and 8th graders is going this year.  This is the first year in a long time I have taught a support math class for junior high and I am pretty excited about it.  I wrote about my 4 pillars for the class last time.

My first week goal, was to get the kids over the dread of having a second math class.  The typical students in support math are not excited to even have 1 math class, much less 2.

Day 1:  Marshmallow Challenge

The students walked in on day 1 and we quickly went over why we were in the class.  Then we quickly went over the 4 class expectations.
   1. No Meanness
   2. Make Mistakes
   3. ...Yet
   4. Ask for Help

I then handed out materials for the marshmallow challenge.  The students were totally engaged.  This is a great problem with a great ending that allows me to again repeat expectation #2 about making mistakes.  It was a great day 1.

Day 2: Bridge Challenge
The second day we reviewed that class goals and expectations then quickly got to another building challenge.  This one involved the following materials for each group:
    12 marshmallows
    20 straws
    1 small cup
   50 pennies

the goal was to build the longest bridge that could hold at least 50 pennies that were sitting in a cup.

Overall the kids were just as engaged as day 1.  We did have  small mishap as one group decided to smash up 5 marshmallows to create a paste to stick the straws to the desk.  (Had to leave 10 minutes at the end of the period for cleanup)   I encouraged creativity, and then taking responsibility for clean up for those decisions as well.

Day 3: Number Talk 1 and Build Challenge 3
On the third day, I threw in our first of many number talks.  I grabbed the first pattern of  (seen below)  I just asked the students 2 questions,
    1)  What do you notice?
    2)  What do you wonder?
For their first time, they handled this pretty well.  They focused more on the noticing, and less on the wondering, but that was expected.  They focused on the number of small squares.  So after some questions about how it is growing, and how many would be in pattern 4, I then asked them to think about how many small squares would be in pattern 10?  They got time to think, and then discuss in small groups.  We then discussed as a class and it went incredibly well for the first number talk. 

We then spent 20 minutes on our third building challenge of the week.  They got spaghetti, straws, tape and string and their job was to build out from the desk as long as possible.  To pick a winner I measured from the edge of the desk out to where there structure stopped horizontal to the floor.  

It was a creative and fun week!  

Next week will see more number talks, and the introduction of circle time.  

Thursday, August 25, 2016

My 4 Pillars of Support Math Class

Support Math Class for Junior High Students

This year I get to have a support math class for 7th and 8th graders for the first time in years.  I have learned a lot of different things since the last time I taught this class.  I am trying an entirely new approach this time around.  I am going to build the class around 4 pillars.

1. Computer Program - DreamBox Learning
    This pillar is pretty typical in a support math class.  I choose DreamBox over other computer based programs because it does a pretty good job of focusing on concepts and big ideas over skills.  My own children (7, 11, and 13) used the program over the summer and liked it.  I plan on not even introducing this part of the class for quite a while.

2.  Number Talks
     I think this pillar could really be a whole support math class by itself.   I love number talks.  I use them in every class, just not often enough.  I plan to use Chris Danielson's "Which One Doesn't Belong" to start with.  It has a low enough entry point that most students should be comfortable talking about these problems.  I will then shift math talks, visual patterns, estimation 180 and activities from Pamela Weber Harris' great book.  I envision this as the main pillar of the four.

3. MakerSpace/Hands-on/Genius Hour
     This pillar is kind of a mish-mash approach to getting the students moving and trying to ignite their passion.  I started the first couple days on this pillar.  I envision creating, making and igniting curiosity.  I am worried about resources for this pillar, especially in the MakerSpace part.  Trying to find the right kind of things the students will be curious about seems daunting, especially with no funds.

4. Restorative Justice/Circle Practices
     This portion will be used to create a community feeling in the classroom.  I was a circle volunteer for years in my county in the RJ program.  It was a great way to help and connect with youth and connect youth to the community.  I say in a 4-day training on using RJ in schools this summer. It got me completely excited about bringing this tradition to my classroom.  This article is a nice summary of using the circle process in schools.  Here is also a nice edutopia video about circles.

Trying to get all this together in a cohesive fashion is going to be a challenge.  It is a challenge I look forward to in the upcoming year.  I look forward to the mistakes, the victories and all the in-between.