In which I write a blog post comprised primarily of tweets from other people. I think normally we call this “being lazy.”


At Asilomar this year I gave a talk on math electives, which was kind of fun:


Also I Ignited…[Alternative Title: Help–I’m On Fire!]

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But unfortunately my Ignite talk didn’t include any unicorns.

Instead, I talked about raising the value of mistake-making in the math classroom:

Some people were kind enough to tell me I did okay (even without the unicorns).

Holy crap, there were a lot of people…

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All in all, it was a fun time. See you next year!



Review Days

As some of you already know, my school operates on a trimester system. So while most of you are looking forward to Thanksgiving turkey and trips to see family and then coming back to finish out the semester, I am gearing up for finals this week. We don’t have a special schedule or anything, but I am giving finals at the end of the week, hence the title of this post. [Note: I am still doing all that looking-forward-to-Thanksgiving stuff.]

Last Thursday/Friday was my first day for review in Math 2 (one of my classes doesn’t meet on Thursday; the other doesn’t meet on Friday). I have a typical, fairly boring, packet of review problems that I was planning on handing out to students so they could do some diagnostics and figure out what they needed to work on for the next few days.

Then the Xerox machine decided to go on strike.

It was bad, people. It was very bad.

Finally, after both of my classes had met *ahem*, the Xerox machine decided it was okay and I was able to print off my review packets. I passed them out in class today. But I have skipped over an important step in my story. The chronology of this blog-post is out of whack!

What did I do with my bonus 80 minutes for which I had nothing planned, you ask?

I did concept maps:





I don’t have pictures of this part, but my genius move was, after students had worked on the whiteboard concept maps, I had them make a “final draft” on chart paper…but I had them revise a different group’s map. I couldn’t think of a good third-round that would enable them to have hand’s on for all three maps, but 2 is better than 1.

While this definitely didn’t take the whole block, it did take a good chunk of time and it helped students to focus on what concepts were in each unit so they could develop their own study guides. I wrote on the agenda that it was “Choose Your Own Adventure: Study Guide Edition.” No one commented on the reference, so I assume this generation of students all had horribly deprived childhoods. All in all, it worked out to be a pretty productive review day. And I don’t particularly like review days, so that’s saying something.



Inspiration from & Annoyance with Google Images

There should be a way to “report” images on Google, because this is not a rhombus:




And this one really isn’t a rhombus:

However, this is super cool:

And it gave me the idea, what if you had students write definitions of a shape on Google forms and then threw the text into a Wordle. Then you could go back and look at them together and see what jumps out.

Open House

Open House was today. Every year each full-time teacher has to go to one open house to help out the Admissions department. We teach two mini-lessons to eighth graders and sometimes we serve on the faculty panel afterwards. It takes a couple of hours on Sunday afternoon. It’s like everything we do for Admissions, actually pretty good once you’re in it, but it feels like a big huge pain in the you-know-what hauling yourself to school on a weekend.

It didn’t help that on Saturday morning I woke up convinced that it was a workday. I lay in bed pondering how much time I had left before the alarm clock went off. I don’t really know how long it took me to realize that the alarm wasn’t going to go off–because it was Saturday! It was quite the relief to discover that I didn’t need to get out of bed before the sun was up for a change, but by that point I was already pretty much awake anyways, so I wound up getting up pretty early. Not that this is all that strange for me. I seem to be consitutionally incapable of sleeping in.

Today’s open house was kind of funny. I had two sessions of mini-class and then stayed for the faculty panel afterwards as the math team representative. My first class had 30 students! This was bizarrely large. I had been expecting many students, as our open houses tend to be over-full, but I’d been warned to expect around 25. There were not enough chairs in the classroom for all the kids that came in–something which I am upset with the Admissions team about; that is something they should be on top of. Amidst the mass of students was a girl who mid-way through the lesson called me over and said that she’d already visited my class and that her dad knew me. She told me “hi” from him. Super sweet.

Then, my second class only had thirteen kids in it! This would be less annoying, except for the fact that the students literally just go as a group from one class to the next. So, the 30 + 13 was really a group of 43 that got split–NOT in half–and switched places with one another. Not sure why the groups couldn’t have been 21/22 rather than huge and little. I was good though. I didn’t launch into my vituperative spiel with the Admissions team before I left school this evening. I am smart enough to know that it was not the right time.

My tiny second class included a sibling of a former student and someone whose bar mitzvah I went to last year. That one was a first. Mainly because I don’t go to very many bar mitzvahs these days. I’m calling this the “open house trifecta.” Because, well, why not?

Faculty panel was what it usually is. Answering questions from parents, all of which are pretty typical. There are two rounds. Much like my mini-lesson classes, the first group was much larger than the second. Interestingly enough we also got through many more questions in the first round. I think this was due to the experiment the Admissions team had us run. The usual format for parent questions is that they write them down on an index card and hand them in. Then the panel moderator sorts them by similar question types and asks the panel a selection from the bunch. We did that for the first go-round. In the second, parents just raised their hands to ask their questions. I think we only got through three questions in the second group. Which is kind of crazy. We don’t have that much time, but we should be able to get through more than that. I think the Admissions team wanted to counter the possible perception that we were cherry-picking questions to ask the panel, but they didn’t really consider the fact that some parents take 2-3 minutes to ask their question. And when you only have half and hour (less time, really, after introductions and such) that is a huge percentage of the panel time. Summarizing several questions, like our moderator tends to do, goes a lot more quickly. I think that was an unexpected consequence for this experiment.

In any event, I am off the hook until next year. I can’t say that I’m disappointed not to have to come in again on the weekend for a while. But it was kind of fun once things got going.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It…

(Which of course you will, because you are my student and I have assigned this to you…)

Estimation Mission


This is only one part of the wall–it extends from the first floor up through the ceiling of the third floor.

And since I teach in a private school, and therefore am not bound to the Common Core, none of my students are doing any of the following:

SMP 1-Making sense of problems and persevering in solving them


SMP 3-Constructing viable arguments and critiquing the reasoning of others


SMP 5-Using appropriate tools strategically


SMP 6-Attending to precision


SMP 7-Looking for and making use of structure

"How many little circles are there?"

“How many little circles are there?”

Kind of a double-meaning on that last one…making use of structure. Hah!

But seriously, although I don’t “need” to use the Common Core in my classroom, I choose to because I think these are good practices, and I support this movement to re-imagine what the math classroom should look like.

Some Personal-Professional Stuff

Something’s been weighing me down for a while now. I feel like one of the things I need to do in order to return to a more regular blogging practice [hah!] is to get this particular story off my chest.

I had a really shitty end of the school year last spring. Which transitioned into a not-so-great beginning of the school year this fall. Those of you who know me IRL know that I am very even-keeled. It takes a lot to get me riled up, and about three times as much to get me past “riled up” and into actual anger.

The night before the first day of school (the real first day, when kids go to classes, none of that orientation junk) I sat down next to Avery and asked for his help.

“I don’t know what to do,” I said. “I want to be excited for tomorrow, but all I can think about is how angry I am.”

It was truly upsetting. I felt no excitement for meeting my students, not even nervous anticipation about the first day of school. All I felt when I thought about going into work the next day was anger. Gut churning, anxiety producing ANGER. So much anger that it physically felt unhealthy.

I want you to know that I don’t feel that way anymore. Enough good times have gone by since then that stand in opposition to the angry-making events I experienced last year that I generally look forward to heading in to school. I mean, as much as any of us look forward to going to work, amiright? But I’ll be honest, the anger isn’t gone; it’s just put to the side.

I don’t know how much of the nuts and bolts of my shitty situation I want to go into. Suffice it to say things culminated in the administration at my school asking me to step down as math team leader and then making several other top-down decisions one right after another. All of this beginning two weeks before school ended, mind you.

Avery was great by the way. He pointed out that since the bad stuff had happened at the end of the school year, and that then I had left for the summer, I had never had the time to rebuild good memories and positive associations for being back at school. I can’t say that the ~3 weeks of meetings, preparation and orientation did much to cover those bases either. But the past 9 weeks with kids has brought me back to my center–to the place where being in school means being around kids who I know and have fun with and learn with. And that makes me feel good.

Right now, being at work is like being in two worlds that sometimes overlap. Being with kids (which is most of the time) is great; being with my math team and interacting with admin…not as great, to say the least. It feels really weird.

I’ve worked at schools where my administration didn’t support me, and it sucked, but I knew my team had my back and I felt supported by them. This is different. I’ve never been at a place where I felt so much divisiveness within my department. And that what it feels like right now. A colleague of mine in the science department commented to me today that she had walked by our math team meeting last week and that it felt “crackly in there.”

Being at CMC-South this past weekend was great. It reminded me of how I have all of you folks out there to be my support. To have my back. Even if I don’t have that at my school right now, I have it from all of you.

So, if you’ve made it this far, thanks so much for reading. Thanks so much for being there, for sharing what you do, for being awesome. I think I may need to lean on you this year.

Mini Math Festival

Today Last Tuesday was a pretty cool day. [I need to do a better job of finishing my drafts…jeez!]

If you’ve never heard of a Julia Robinson Math Festival, the following won’t make sense to you. So, go read about them and then come back.


Welcome back!

Today in my Math 2 classes (and in the other Math 2 teacher’s class) we conducted a mini-JRMF. And it was super-fun. We posted problems around the room–the classroom for my two classes, the “great room” for the other teacher’s group–and let students work on whichever problem they chose for as long as they chose with the only caveat being that they had to be working on some problem for the whole block.

Students got started pretty quickly, then either realized they needed help and therefore either got it or moved to a different problem or they got really entrenched in their problem. In my first class I put out my stash of metal puzzles, which were a little too popular…in my second class I made it explicit that the puzzles were to be used as a “brain break” when students needed to step away from a problem for a few minutes.


Tuesday was actually the last school day of the week this last week, as we had a work day for teachers on Wednesday to prepare for family conferences for freshman and transfer students on Thursday and Friday. So, it was the perfect time to do something that didn’t necessarily tie into our unit, but that allowed students to stretch their problem-solving abilities–thereby giving me some nice things to talk about during their upcoming conferences…genius. I tell you, I’m getting better at this teaching thing every gosh-darned year!


All in all, it was a lot of fun. Something I definitely plan on doing again.