Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Winter's Day Ramblings....

I am feeling somewhat melancholy today and really just want to curl up with a book on the sofa, but in our world, there is always work to be done, papers to be graded, and lessons to be planned. :) So I'm writing about good things in hopes of turning my frown upside down :)

Common Core
This week we had a faculty meeting in which one of our principals introduced the CCSS to the staff. I had already been exploring them for a while on my own, but there are still so many uncertainities as to how we will transition, etc. The following day we had our department collaboration time and my group was mostly the AP teachers. Our state has a pretty large Pre-AP and AP program and a lot of the CCSS assessments parallel the Pre-AP philosophy in terms of interpreting your results, explaining your process, and clear communication. We have been given the task to start pulling together a library of Pre-AP/CCSS assessments and problems that our secondary teachers can pull from. I am quite excited to see how this develops! Even though the implementation of CCSS is still an unknown to the "worker bees", we CAN start changing the way that we structure our current classes and asking them to delve more deeply into the material. If you have any great resources, please leave them in the comments :)

Interactive Notebooks
This year, I have enjoyed watching my AP classes transform into lab classes. It truly warms my heart to watch kids explaining concepts to others, working together to find a solution, and not caring if something is for a grade or not. However, one weakness that I have found is in my closures. I don't do a very good job at wrapping up the lessons. Next year, I would like to try implementing an interactive notebook. On the left, I would have them do the daily warmup, write the daily objective (essential question), and leave space for the summary of that day's lesson. On the right, I would have them tape in that day's lab. I think by having this organization, they could easily see on a daily basis what the essential question was and what the answer to that day's question (written in their summary). I don't know of many INB's in place in upper level high school math, so if you do, please let me know!

I've always been a reader. One of my earliest memories is my step-dad reading to me as a child. Whenever we would get in the car, I always had a book to read with me. Growing up, I always had a book in my hands. Let's just say I heard "Get your nose out of that book" WAY too much!! :) Fast forward to adulthood and I still love to read, but don't have nearly as much free time as I once did. During school breaks, it is nothing for me to go through 1-2 novels a day. (With that said, I should also point out that my favorite stores are thrift stores and used book stores because at that pace, I would quickly go bankrupt if paying full price!) Over the past few years, I have resisted the e-reader sales pitches because in my mind, nothing was as good as holding a book in my hands. However, over Winter Break, a friend posted a link on facebook to some free Kind1e books and I am HOOKED! Since January 1st, I have downloaded over 120 free novels and I check 3 book sites per day for new freebies. I am obsessed! But, I do love being able to take an entire library with me on my tablet whereever I go.... now I just wish Spring break would hurry up and get here!!!

Whew - Okay, that worked! Now back to the grindstone so I can have my evening free to read another book :)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

All we do is play games...

After yesterday's mini meltdown, I was so glad to have a good day today! Overall, I'm very pleased with how this week's lessons have gone, so I thought I would share for another other stat teachers out there.

Tuesday - Fake it or Make it
I modified my original "Fake it or Make it" idea based on this document that I found online. I modified the handouts from the document so that I could fit two data sets on one page. On the front, I used the Heads/Tails check sheet, then on the back, I put the data tables for total heads and tails, the frequency table for cluster size, and a small graph for them to graph cluster size. The kids really enjoyed seeing if they could trip me up and it was fun to see if their graph matched the expected values given in the document. When I first read this document, it reminded me of Benford's Law, so I showed a quick video that @approx_normal found online and we had a class discussion about comparing our observed results to our expected results and what that means. I LOVE that this activity allowed me to plant some seeds for inference and hypothesis testing!! The kids loved that they learned how to not get caught if they embezzle money.... *sigh* :)

Wednesday - Spelling Bee Day 1
Also based on the PCMI probability packet, the Spelling Bee game went over very well. I created Spelling Bee cards based on The Price is Right game, then laminated and cut them out (yay for Netflix as I cut cut cut 16 sets of cards). We started class by watching a video from YouTube and I asked them to make a prediction on the chance of winning the car. Then I introduced the idea of a simulation and we started exploring the game using the game cards. Each pair of students played 20 games, recording the number of Cs, As, Rs, and CAR cards and whether or not they won. After they were done playing, they calculated the true proportion of each type of card and their personal proportion of each type of card in order to compare them. This actually opened up a discussion on the Law of Large Numbers. BONUS!

Thursday - Spelling Bee Day 2
Today, we continued with the Spelling Bee game. At the front of the room, I had a graph prepared for them and each pair of students put a dot (I <3 smiley face stickers) for their proportion of wins.

This allowed me to introduce the idea of a Sampling Distribution (MAJOR WIN!). We discussed that based on all of our results that a pattern was emerging that would allow us to make an educated guess (basic idea of a confidence interval). The students then came up with their educated guess for the true chance of winning the car based on the data gathered. In case you are wondering, the true chance of winning the Spelling Bee game is 73.5% :) From there, I asked the kids to pretend that I really DID have a life and therefore no time to cut out 16 sets of cards - what could we have used instead to run our simulation? Most kids immediately jumped back to the random number table or putting numbers in a hat (DOUBLE YAY!). This was a great intro to using the random number table for simulations, which is what we'll discuss tomorrow....

Friday - Random Number Tables
I'm still brewing some ideas for tomorrow, but I think one of them will be this problem from the PCMI probability set...
You get 1 point every time you flip heads. But anytime you flip tails you're in "danger". If you flip tails a section time consecutively, you "bust" and lose all your points (but continue playing).
This game is just begging to be simulated... :) I think we'll play it as a class together using a coin flipper program on the board, then turn to a simulation to figure out the average score and whether you can go without busting.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading :) It's been a fun week so far and honestly, this is the MOST fun I've had teaching probability ever!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Would you like cheese with your w(h)ine?

First off, let me apologize... this is going to be a random, whiny, bitchy post. Every year, I have at least one meltdown with regard to the imbalance in my life of school vs home.... feel free to ignore this post because this is definitely one of those times :)

Grades - UGH!
Today was day 2 of the new semester and grades were due. I hate this time of the year! Even though I had their exams graded in December, I always put off the rounding decisions until the end. Honestly, I've never been one to submit grades right away - I'm always a "pushing-the-deadline" kind of gal. (I've gotten worse over the years, maybe because I'm always thinking something better will come around and I will miss an opportunity.. but anywho, that has nothing to do with grades and why I hate them). I wish our transcripts showed number grades rather than letters. I hate that an 89.5 is an A and an 89.4 is a B, but that 0.1 of a percentage means NOTHING! The 89.5 kid doesn't know THAT much more info than the 89.4 kid! This wouldn't bother me AS much if we could give + and -, but its still annoying! Of course, with SBG, the students really have lots of control over their grade, so it was easier to deny the emails of "Will you round my 79.3 to a B?" when the student had not come in for reassessments... :)

Feeling Frazzled
This year, we did not have a teacher work day as part of the winter break. This really is throwing me for a loop since I usually used that day to file papers, clean my room, clean the whiteboards, etc. So yesterday, on day 1 of the new semester, we hit the ground running. We've only been back two days now and I already feel like I need a two week break! I have upteen unfinished piddly projects that need to happen, but I just don't have the time to get it all done. One of my New Year's resolutions was to try to get home earlier and that's already shot. :( However, they have decided to start turning off the hallway lights at work at 5pm, plus my room sensor turns off the lights every 10 minutes (it's motion activated and for some reason I just don't dance a jig while grading papers!), so that makes for a really piss-poor work environment in the winter!

Prep Work
Hubby also took off work during Winter Break, so I tried to limit my school work time. The first week, we spent time relaxing, decluttering the house, and random tidbits that needed to happen. The second week, I knew I needed to work a bit each day, so I did. However, by the end of the break, I was "Evil Groutchy Wife" because I felt behind. I *hate* that a teacher's to-do list is never quite done, it's just "done enough for now". In order to do this job right, we should teach 2 classes and have a plan period for the other 4 hours of the day. Instead, a lot of the prep goes home with me and "Evil Groutchy Wife" appears. I keep thinking it will get better, but I'm on year 12 of teaching AP and so far I haven't stopped learning and growing and changing things to make them better. My prep work over the years has changed. In the early years, it was more about ME learning the content in order to maybe teach it half-way decently. (Please note, it's not that I didn't KNOW the material, but knowing it and teaching it are two different issues). I'm well past that point of prep work being content based, so now the prep work is more of a "Build a Better Mousetrap" variety. The "Mousetrap" prep work is almost MORE time consuming because I want students to make connections, be more self-led, keep them enaged with the material, discover patterns and ideas, and develop more of the mathematical "habits of mind" that we hear about.

Positive Note
We've all heard from our principals to make sure we put at least one positive comment into our phone calls home for those unruly students, so here's mine... No matter how grumpy I feel, I do love what I do. I love the feeling I get when chatting with my teacher friends about new ideas to try. I love watching my students laugh the past few days as we've explored Fake Coin Flips and The Price is Right. And that, my friends, is what keeps me coming back year after year....