Rotations Worksheet

Some days you just need a worksheet.  So here’s one.  I took all the problems from math-drills and just spaced them out better.  I love using matrix notation so always have my students do it.

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RotationsWS

The Goods: (aka:  The pdf’s)

RotationsWS

VNPS & VRG Tango!

So Kristen and I are taking dance classes – so any three step process feels like a tango to me.  This activity has nothing to do with dancing (sorry).  This is one way that I use Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces (VNPS) and Visible Random Groupings (VRG) for problems where we are working on our procedural fluency – whether it being solving equations with fractions, or factoring polynomials.

One down side of VNPS is that students believe they are finished when the correct answer reaches the whiteboard, rather than when everyone in the group understands how to do the problem.  The one student who knows how to solve it just goes up to the board and solves it.  There are a couple methods to help give students less places to hide in a group – here’s one of those methods:

Pick three problems that are similar.  Tell students that there are going to be three rounds.  In the 1st round they will be in groups of 3 (randomly assigned of course).  Then in the 2nd round they will be in groups of 2 (randomly assigned again of course), and lastly they will be back in their seats working alone on paper.  That’s it.  Throw whatever standard you want at it.  I believe it works because the thought of eventually being alone gives them the extra motivation to learn from their group.

Here are the three problems I started with in my geometry class, where my goal was to give them practice multiplying polynomials, solving by factoring, and using pythagorean theorem:

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From what I’ve seen – the knowledge that they are eventually going to be alone makes those students who usually look for a place to hide in a group more apt to contribute and learn from the first two rounds.

I love to pose the question by waiting until they are in their groups and standing at whiteboards, then I pose the question on my whiteboard in the center of the room.   It’s a nice math coach moment versus math teacher moment.

Here’s a smattering of whiteboard activity from this day:

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Visual Patterns and VNPS & VRG!

I feel like I’ve been preaching the gospel of vertical non-permanent surfaces and visible random groups everywhere I go these days.  The norm is set in my room – I pose the problem, give them a couple minutes of silent thought, put them in groups, and away they go.

Below is a pattern I made up quickly one morning.  It doesn’t look exciting – but guess what?  It’s doesn’t have to be.  It was close enough to full class engagement for me, which was due to a nice combination of:

1.  They believed they could do it.

2.  Vertical non-permanent surfaces and visible random groupings.

3.  Probably some other things I can’t quite pin down yet.

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I’ve settled on these as my go-to questions for visual patterns.  I know I got the sketch the 10th idea from Fawn’s blog.  I never used to have them do that but when I started requiring it I was impressed with how helpful it was for a lot of my students when they ultimately wrote the equation.

1.  Sketch the 10th

(helps them immensely when writing the equation)

(sketches aren’t exact drawings.  I tell them I should be able to have them sketch the 1,000,000th)

2. How many blocks are in the 49th?

(too big for a table!  For students struggling to write an equation, having them sketch the 49th usually gets them to get it)

3. How many blocks are in the nth?

(I start the year asking it this way:  “Write an equation that relates the step number to the number of blocks in that step.  (another way to ask this question is:  How many blocks are in the nth step?)”

I would literally have that parenthesis in each problem, until I finally got to drop it.)

4. What is the largest step I could build with 1000 blocks?

The first extension.  My true goal here is the equation in #3.

5. How much of the sequence could I build with 1000 blocks?

 A second extension.  It’s quadratic and I haven’t directly covered quadratics, so it will challenge those kids.  We have talked about Gauss addition so it is not completely out of their range.

On the whiteboards below you will see graphs because in this particular case I also asked them to graph the number of blocks per step, and the total number of blocks needed to build the entire sequence per step. I wanted them to have to graph something non-linear.  I think it helps further highlight what makes things linear when they work with things that aren’t.

They don’t go directly to the whiteboards.  I first give them about 5 minutes to develop their own thoughts in quiet.  Then I group them and they do their thing.

After class I always look at every whiteboard and judge how much of the conclusions are in their writing vs my writing.  I’m not sure what I gain from that but it is a research point for me right now.  There is a little bit of my writing on boards 7 and 5, but they are supplementary thoughts and not the main thinking that I wanted to the students to do.  Here are some of the whiteboards after the activity:

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Lastly, after it was finished I had them go back to that paper with their initial thoughts and complete the problem on paper. I give them graph paper and rulers and have them make nice graphs to turn into me.  In some sense, one could think of the paper as the assignment as the whiteboard as a giant scaffolding.  But in another sense the whiteboards could be the assignment, and the paper is something that goes in the notes.  Or in another sense…

This Is Always On My Whiteboard…

…  in geometry, for the first month.

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because I can do things like this quickly

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And then students get a tone of mileage out of a worksheet like this (thanks Walt!):

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And it’s not “always” on my whiteboard, but it’s on there a lot  :0

Right at the beginning of geometry I want to focus on helping students draw conclusions from diagrams and given information.  Plus I have done a lot of programming and have a natural love for the IF THEN statement.

IF this THEN what?  So we got a piece of information – what does it do for us?  What does it tell us?  And since the IF THEN is not on my main whiteboard (my main one is the big one on the right of the picture above), I have no problem leaving up my IF THEN all the time.  And probably most importantly – Having it already on the whiteboard reminds me to use it.

“If angles a and b are complementary THEN a + b = 90″  I am reinforcing the point that all we know is that the two angles add up to 90.  We don’t know where the angles are located, we don’t know if they are adjacent, we don’t even know how big they are, or what color they are…  we just know that they add up to 90 degrees.

Here’s the worksheet above as a pdf:

DrawingConclusions

Learning To Teach The Great Lessons

You don’t have to write great lessons.  But you do have to teach them.  The best lessons in the world – if delivered by an untrained hand, are sure to fall well short of their potential.

So let’s say you find the perfect 3-Act lesson from Dan Meyer, or real-world application from Mathalicious.  And you are stoked.  Now what?  Well, filling this out is a start I am implementing this year:

3ActOrganizer

I recommend not leaving any of this to chance.  Your natural teaching skills will have plenty of time to shine during the lesson – but I recommend formally addressing (which to me means write it down) the following important aspects of allowing a great lesson to reach its potential:

1. Focus Question:
What is the main question(s)  the lesson meant to address.  This just focuses you.

2. Reason(s) I Think This Assignment Is Great
Remind yourself why you choose this particular assignment out of the great sea of possibilities.  What makes this lesson so great?  And as a bonus, you should start to see a pattern as to what you value in a lesson.

3.  What I Want Them To Learn
Write the skill, or standard, or whatever it is you want students to take away from this lesson. Again – it is important to formally confront it here so you make sure it happens.

4. How I Am Going To Set It Up
What’s the hook? What’s the scaffold? How is the question going to be formulated?  Give this the time it needs because if you mess this up it’s hard to recover.

5. How I Will Help Students Who Don’t Know Where To Begin
I started prepping myself for this a couple years ago and it pays off big time.  Have your response down so you can give the student the right hint and then move on. Maybe have a visual print out ready to go.

6. These Are The Most Likely Mistakes
List them out and also talk about how you will address them.

7. The Extension Question(s)
We have to have somewhere for the top students to get the question to ensure everyone is challenged. Be specific about what the extension is and how you are going to pose it. Be very careful of anything that sounds or feels like busy work.

On the back of the paper I would reflect on the lesson as a whole.  Here are the two I filled out for my 1st day of classes this year:

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