Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stuff We Like

These guys are really amazing.  If you haven't had a chance to see their stuff, you're missing out.

Two roads that too often run askew, math and pop culture, intersect here.  Their data analysis is both clever and accessible.  If you don't find their insights interesting, well, I don't want to find myself talking to you at a cocktail party.

I finally worked their material into a lesson plan.  It came from their latest post.  I posted stuff black people like on the board, and asked my students to guess what it was showing.  I got some interesting guesses. I explained how these guys run a free online dating service so they can research dating trends. I told them this was from an article called "The real stuff white people like"...They chuckled.  I told them they were looking at the things that were most likely to come up in the profiles of black males.  I asked them what they noticed.  Within minutes, we were talking about font size.  They were polishing their estimating and proportional reasoning skills.  I was asking questions like how many times more likely a black male was to list Lupe Fiasco to Busta Rhymes.  We examined the trends in the races represented in my class.  

I asked what this had to do with math.  One of my classes played right into my hands: 'NOTHING!'
I told them I'd prove to them it has everything to do with math.  I gave them an index card, asked them to write a survey question down about interests, hobbies, or something fun. I got a lot of good questions, ones that I wouldn't have thought of on my own.  I turned it into an online survey.  I found out surveymonkey doesn't offer all of the features we'd need, unless I forked over some chedda.  I found a place where I could get all that stuff for free.
They will take the survey.  They will look at their individual class results compared to the results for all my students.  We'll use proportional reasoning.  We'll create a poster.  Hopefully they'll be fresh.  I'll have wall decorations for the year.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

The Excitement of Teaching

Teaching is the girl that can't help breaking hearts.  When she gives you her number, you don't wait two days to call.  You rehearse what you will say, but the words still come fumbling out your mouth.  And she doesn't call you right back.  Just when you've given up hope, her name shines through on your caller ID.   You drop everything to see her for just few minutes.  Teaching is high maintenance.  She needs you to be there for her all day long.  She doesn't need anything in 3 days, she needs it in 5 minutes.  When she has a problem, everything else in your life gets put on hold.
She may be high maintenance, but she's not a gold digger.  She'll take one hand knit scarf over 5 diamond rings.  She prefers a homemade meal and a late evening stroll to a fancy dinner and a night on the town any night of the week.   When you try to be conservative with teaching, when you start taking her for granted, you end up sleeping by yourself.  She likes risks.
She's a roller coaster.  She has you singing Love you Madly one day, and It ain't me Babe the next.  She's a rose that will prick you the second you think you have her in your grasp.  With teaching, there's no silver lining; no fairy tale ending.  You bust your hump for her all day long, and then lay awake at night wondering about her.  If she likes you, resistance is futile.  You can try to get out, but she'll just suck you back in, somehow.  She's like a Catch-22 squared.
But she always keeps you on your toes. She makes you feel alive.  She turns your logarithmic curve of self-discovery exponential.  And she takes you on a great vacation every summer.  And most of all, when you look back on the time you spent with her, you might question every move you made, but you regret none.  If you've ever felt trapped by the monotony of a risk-free relationship, you love the passion and excitement she brings to the table.  Yup, I'll take teaching over my old corporate gig even on her worst days.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

When I was in High School

When I was a Senior in High School, in 1997, it cost about $600 for a clunky old cell phone that couldn't even fit in your pocket.  Computers sold for twice as much as they do now, and they were a small fraction as powerful.  Digital cameras -- did they even exist back then?  And TI-83 graphing calculators, which we were all required to buy, cost around $99.  As far as I know, these things haven't become more powerful. And they definitely haven't gotten cheaper. What gives? No competition, not a big enough market for it?  These things should cost $20 by now, like the MP3 player I bought 3 years ago for over $100.  You can't tell me that their production costs haven't declined substantially, nor that Texas Instruments' bottom line depends on their profits from these things.  There are substitutes that actually offer more, available for free download all over the internet.  There's even an I-phone app for one.  Writing a grant for these things now seems like a waste of my time and money. I guess my to-do list just got shorter.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Teaching like a deer trapped in headlights

The 20% problem scares the living begeezins (sp?) out of me. It definitely hits him, and I was on the fortunate tail of the distribution. And yet, when I plan a lesson on...say...polynomials, for example, I feel like I have no idea how to counter tradition.  Sure, my organization and scaffolding gets better with each go round.  And my bag of tricks grows incrementally each time I check my google reader (i.e. polydoku). And each year my class goes a little faster and a whole lot deeper, but it still scares me.
I start out by giving notes, and follow it up with practice.  I show my students what a polynomial is and what it isn't. I show them standard form, leading coefficient, degree, and graphical implications.  We look at factored form and we add subtract, multiply, divide  and blah blah blah polynomials.  I'm doing the only thing I can think of to get them ready for the questions they'll see on the standardized test.  But it's all very traditional. And when they show up to Thursday morning's class with memories of Tuesday's class, almost as blurry as mine of my 1st or 21st birthdays, I know I didn't reach them. And I don't know what to do, so I do it all over again the following week.

Friday, January 1, 2010


It's Y2KX. On New Year's Eve, lodged up in the Rocky Mountains, some of my siblings, their significant others and I sat around and stated goals for the new year. I had 2.

1.) Finish my teaching credential. And do it soon. I have a student teacher for hell's sake, I'm in my 3rd year teaching, and I am still working with an 'intern' credential. I've wasted enough money on this thing, now I just need to waste a little more time.

2.) Start blogging. I believe I said, in an effort to make my goal specific and measurable, I want 15 posts by the end of the school year. That's not much, less than one per week.

Why is that important? Blogs have shaped my professional development, more than anything, namely my teacher credential program and my school's efforts. I started by reading Dan's precious resource, and I've also added Kate's and Dan(2)'s to my regular reading list. There are others too, that regularly offer resources for my class and push me to be a better teacher, but the bottom line is that it's time I started doing one of my own...It's not that I feel like I have much to contribute, but I keep having this feeling like (pardon my sports cliche) I'm standing on the sidelines of this edublogosphere game. So here I go.