Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Best. Co-workers. Ever.

Yesterday was my birthday, and my fellow math teachers brought me this:

Why the question mark?  I think because many of them are over a half a century... ;)

Being just two weeks into a new job, one of the best feelings in the world is to know that you have co-workers who are going to work beside you and support you.  I completely lucked out with these people.  They really are the best.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Week 2 :: A Warm Up I'm proud of

One of Week 2's prompts for the New Blogger Initiation is to pick something--anything--that we've created that we're proud of.  If I read it correctly, it can even be just a problem.

So, here goes: a Warm Up/Bell Ringer/Do Now that I'm quite proud of.  It's the pre-cursor to a lesson on transformations for Pre-Calculus:

WARM UP (Do Now)

  1. Write f(1)=2 as an ordered pair.
  2. If you know the point (1,2) is on the graph of y=f(x), what point do you know has to be on the graph of y=f(x)+3?  Why?  (Hint: What is f(1) equal to?)
  3. What about on the graph of y=f(x+3)?
Plotting these transformations gets us thinking about translations and (I think) reveals the "opposite" behavior of the "inside" transformations.  (Though it's really not opposite at all, is it?!  Yay for math!)

That's all I have for this week!  Thanks to the wonderful people at the blogging initiative for encouraging continued writing.

Friday, August 17, 2012

New Blogger Initiative :: Week 1

I just started blogging a few months ago, and I can say it has been an amazing source of professional development for me.  I've gotten to connect with incredible math teachers that I really look up to, and I'm hoping to connect with more of you through the New Blogger Initiative.

Those of us who signed up for this shindig received six topics we could choose from this week.  One was:
Where does the name of your blog originate? Why did you choose that?
I was tempted to to respond to this prompt and just get rid of this page.  No one would be the wiser.  But, I figured that would would kind of defeat the point of this initiative, so if you're interested in why I named my blog Epsilon-Delta, feel free to peruse the aforementioned page.  Instead, I chose this question:
Talk about one or two specific things you plan on doing differently this year... and how specifically you are going to implement them/get the buy-in. Why do you want to do these things?

Two things I want to do differently this year:
  1. Introduce more math history
  2. Make students do more work in class
So, maybe a bit of background is necessary first here.  I've spent the past three years teaching at the college level.  Last year I taught concurrent College Algebra classes at a high school (so I was employed by a college but taught at a high school).  I liked the high school so much that I'm switching over to teach for them this year.  And that's about it. :)

1.  Introduce more math history.  This is something I've been pretty lame at the past three years.  Basically, the extent to which I teach math history can be summed up as "Hey, go research this mathematician and I'll give you some extra points on the upcoming test."  One of the things that I'm really excited for in switching to high school education is that I'll get about quadruple the amount of time with my students.  With that kind of time, there's no excuse for me not to do a better job with the whole math history thing.  One of the reasons I really want to incorporate more math history is that I know I learn better when there's context to what I'm studying.  I'm hoping that this is true for my students as well.  The second reason I want to incorporate it more is that it's freaking fascinating.  Mathematicians lead crazy lives.  And they're just really interesting.

So, how do I plan to do this?  Well, this year I intend to have a new mathematician up on one of my whiteboards every month.  Students will receive homework bonus points for writing at least a paragraph on the math superstar.  In addition, if they share one fact with the class and write it on the board, they'll receive a point for their class.  The class with the highest number of points at the end of each quarter will get some kind of prize.

2.  Make students do more work in class.  When I interviewed for my position I said something like, "I believe the person doing the talking, the person doing the writing, the person doing the work, is ultimately the person doing the learning."  The principal and the math curriculum specialist shot each other very strange looks at this point in the interview.  "Did you feed her that line?" they asked each other almost simultaneously.  Turns out, "The person doing the work is the person learning" is basically the slogan of our school!  Wohoo!

That's the good news.  The bad news is, while I believe in that slogan entirely...I'm not always the greatest at implementing it.

I think especially in the college scene, we still very much adhere to the "sage on stage" philosophy in teaching.

I'm determined to let go of the sage on stage mentality more this year.  One simple way I plan to do this is instead of throwing forty-nine different problems at my students in a 55-minute time interval, I hope to condense my lessons dramatically, show students a problem or two, and then have them work a problem on their own.  Once they're done, I'll ask them to check with a partner or group (my desks are set up in groups of four).  And then I can poll for results.  Basically, I talk less; they work more.

Another easy-to-implement, think-about-your-learning idea I want to implement is at the end of lessons, if I have a few extra minutes, tell my students to write a complete sentence about what they learned that day.  When they're done, they share with their group, and the group comes up with four or so key words for the day.  Then, the group texts them to me (, and we can have a lovely screen filled with what students believe are key words for the day.

The end.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

A Prayer for 2012-2013

Dear God,

Without fail, as a new school year approaches, I get nervous.  There's lots of excitement in my heart, but there's lots of anxiety, too.  This year--I think more than ever--I'm especially anxious to start the new year, as it's a totally new environment for me.  So, a few things I'd like to be reminded of throughout the year...

From Day 1, help my passion for my subject and for teaching be evident.  I pray that I could be enthusiastic about the learning of mathematics every day, even on the days I don't feel so chipper.

I pray that we'd all have lots of fun--that I would look forward to going to work every day and that my students would look forward to coming to class every day.

I pray that my classroom would be a place where students feel valued, cherished, and respected--by me and by each other.  I want them to know that Mrs. Peterson's room is a safe place...and always will be.

I pray that my students will help foster an environment where questions are deeply valued and where no student is inferior to any other.

I pray that as I look at each student I would be reminded of the fact that I'm not looking at a mere mortal:  I'm looking at someone created in the image of the Maker of all that is good.  Help me to see my students through Your eyes:  not just for what they are now but for all that they can and will become.

Most of all, I pray that you give me the senstivity needed to know when something's not quite right with a student or co-worker.  Help me know when to say something and when to shut up.

Help me to remember it's not about me.  Help me be humble enough to admit when I'm wrong.  Help me desire to learn from my students.  Help me be ok with not being perfect.  Help me embrace my mistakes.

Remind me that being a good teacher does not mean that everyone has to like me.

Help me be the teacher You've created me to be.

Thanks for calling me to be a part of what You're doing in my city through teaching.  I hope that my passion for this calling will only increase year after year.

As always, the views expressed on this blog represent my own and not those of my employer.

Monday, August 13, 2012

#made4math 8.13.2012

My school recently opened a beautiful new "Collegiate Academy," which I have the privilege to be a part of.  With this privilege means that we are supposed to keep our gorgeous new classrooms feeling like a college.  No clutter; no posters on the walls; actually, nothing on the walls except our degrees.  While I know most teachers would be dismayed by these rules, I am breathing a sigh of relief.  Since my only teaching experience is at the college level, I was FREAKING OUT about having my own classroom.  But, when I found out that I was set free from the cheesy educational posters, I was able to (fairly) easily put together a classroom--with the help my wonderful husband--that hopefully still feels like a college classroom-ish.

So,  my first Made4Math Monday!

Probably my favorite part of the classroom is a little homage I paid to some nifty mathematicians.  I used some of my old textbooks as stands and bought three frames at the dollar store.

Beneath each picture is a quote from the mathematician:
Math Quotes for Frames

Also along that counter, I have a place for students to turn in make-up work and borrow annoyingly bright pencils (in hopes that they will be returned):

I got the template for the cube made out of playing cards here.

So, that's the back of the classroom.  In the front of the classroom, I have a SMART Board with two white boards on either side of it.  I have somewhat ambitious plans to introduce my students to the history of mathematics, so this is what one of my white boards looks like:

About every month, my plan is to introduce a new mathematician.  Any student who brings a paragraph on that mathematician will earn some homework bonus points.  In addition, any student who is willing to share one fact s/he found and write it on the board will receive a point for her/his class.  The class with the most points at the end of the quarter will receive some kind of prize.  My principal said she may even be able to get me some gift cards!

Here's what the bonus homework cards will look like.  It's a little cheesy (ah!), but it was one of the few templates I liked that would give 250 to you for free.  Say it with me, fah-ree!

Will I ever get used to "Mrs. Peterson"?  I just don't know.

To the left of that white board, I have an easel with five white poster boards (one for each class).  Before each test, I'm hoping to have each class summarize the big idea(s) of the unit, in their own words, symbols, or pictures.  At the end of the year, we may have some cool looking posters!  Maybe.

And, lastly, a good friend of mine--who has much better handwriting than I do--wrote up these classroom expectations for my bulletin board:

So, that's my classroom!  It's simple, but it's me.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

3-minute conversations: What do you do?

I got my hair cut yesterday. I don't like getting my hair cut. I think it's partially because it means I have to make small talk with a stranger, and I'm really bad at small talk. I'm ok for about three minutes and then I run out of things to say.

Which brings me to my conversation with the lovely girl who was forced to cut my lion mane hair yesterday.

We somehow got on the subject of high school, so I asked where she graduated from and was delighted to hear that she attended the school I'll be teaching at this year.
This is what the poor hair dressers face.
Yes, I tip well.

"That's great! That's where I teach!"

Cue look of How old are you exactly?

"Cool. What do you teach?"

"I teach math."

Cue look of I think I'm going to vomit all over your wet head.

"Oh, I'm sorry.  High school math.  Ugh.  I hated math.  I was terrible at it.  I didn't even take it junior and senior year.  All I need math for is addition and subtraction and maybe multiplication and division.  But, that's what a calculator is for."

Aaaaand...we made it to a whopping 2 minutes and 58 seconds!

There were so many things I wanted to say and ask...but nothing seemed right.

Sadly, I feel like I have conversations like this on a weekly basis.  As soon as (most) people find out I'm a math teacher it's like there's an unspoken wall that just appears.

If you're a math teacher, I'm guessing you experience this same phenomenon.  So...what do YOU do when this happens?  I feel like I'm disgracing my beloved field of mathematics by not defending it.  But in the same breath, I don't want to disregard a bad experience in high school.

Does anyone have something witty or funny to say to dispel the tension in moments like these?  I really hope so.  Because I'm clearly clueless as to what the protocol is.  I'd love some help here.  I'm getting tired of 3-minute conversations.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012