Math Class Drops the Mic

A blog about teaching, with an emphasis on math.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Generous Tide Lifts All Boats

Although I've only been in the Teachers Pay Teachers Community for about a month I've started to follow a few teachers closely. One of my favorite bloggers and authors on Teachers Pay Teachers is Doc Running, who teaches Math and Social Studies with a student-centered approach that allows students to be the active agents of their learning through workshops and activities. Even more, the blog feels like a TpT hub--she really goes the extra mile for his peers at Teachers Pay Teachers. Recently she posted a couple thoughtful introductions of new sellers on TpT. She's also got well articulated opinions about education policy, and these are also sprinkled throughout the blog. To me, Doc Running is emblematic of the value of Teachers Pay Teachers as a forum for sharing ideas and resources, and for helping elevate the profile of individual teachers and the profession in general. Check it out!

Monday, September 28, 2015


Edutopia posted my "Ten Tips For Making Group Work Work" on their site! Cool! I really like reading stuff on Edutopia for five reasons:

1) A lot of their content is produced by teachers.
2) Often, the educational philosophy they espouse resonates with me.
3) The tone is resolutely positive and debates are civil.
4) They are called Edutopia.
5) George Lucas.

Check them out!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

GIFS are powerful!

And pretty easy to make! I bought the cheap app Animation HD, for my ipad, then used imgflip free online to create the gif. Way easier than using photoshop in my opinion. It's cool because in less than 30 seconds you get a little introduction to quadratic functions, with automatic review since it loops!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Ten Tricks for Effective Group Work

When I first considered putting students in small groups to work on missions the biggest fear was that students would run amuck, losing focus and wasting time when they weren’t being told what to do. Even more, I was worried that some elements of the activities not might not work, and imagined the exhausting challenge of dealing with the pandemonium of various groups variously confused. It would be so much easier to simply keep a tight reign on a quiet class as I gave them a solid and entertaining lecture. And yet it seemed that group work provided an opportunity for students to engage in the risk-taking, creativity, conversation, failure and recovery which gives students greater ownership over learning. Was I willing to take the personal risk to give up some control and allow students to become the principle agents of their own success?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Better Together: 11 Tips for Great Group Work in Middle and High School - Teachers Pay Teachers

Courage To Core materials are designed for students to work in small groups to explore math deeply. It can be a challenge to organize and manage groups successfully. Jodi Rigotti at Teachers Pay Teachers recently assembled a fine list of teacher tips on how to help students get the most out of their group work. My personal favorite is that we set clear expectations knowing that students will need to practice in order to work effectively in groups. What's your favorite, or do you have any tips to add? On an upcoming post I'll discuss in detail the structures and techniques I use to get the most out of group work.

Better Together: 11 Tips for Great Group Work in Middle and High School - Teachers Pay Teachers

Friday, September 18, 2015

Flexible Learning Spaces

In the collaborative space of my math class, students usually work in groups of 3 or 4 which I've assigned. And yet, sometimes it may better to allow students to work in pairs, or to shuffle the groups, or allow a particular student to work on their own. This sort of flexibility has to exist within a classroom where structures have already been established, but it's great to have that flexibility. I was moved to reflect on this after reading a great piece, with photos, about flexible learning spaces in libraries. Check it out! It's About Information: Flexible Learning Spaces. How do you make your classroom a flexible learning space, what are the challenges of doing so, and how do you deal with them?

An Introduction To Courage To Core

My first year of math teaching was in 1995 at an innovative private high school in San Francisco named Lick-Wilmerding. Students worked in small groups to explore algebra and geometry, reporting their findings in documents written as if they were lab reports. Students would receive direct instruction when necessary, but frequently, questions were explored and answered by members of the groups themselves. I adapted hesitantly to this new structure, as I myself had been taught by teachers and professors using lecture combined with extensive homework practice. Over my subsequent years of teaching in the states I explored a range of methods tailored to the various cultures of the schools at which I taught. This included straight lecture and homework, a mixture of lecture and independent class work, and collaborative group work supported by a textbook. Over the last 8 years of teaching at La Jolla Country Day in San Diego and two international schools in Spain, the American School of Valencia and the American School of Madrid, I’ve developed Courage To Core which allows my ninth and tenth grade math students to explore mathematical concepts as if exploring scientific concepts in laboratories.