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.


  1. I love the idea of a screen filled with key words for the day. I have students journal at the end of every class which I find to be a great way for them to reflect and solidify their learning.

  2. I also love the idea of displaying their key words at the end of the day -- then the following day to answer "what were we learning yesterday" that screen can be displayed again!
    So many good ideas in this post... I'm going to have to memorize that slogan for myself, and incorporating math history is one of my goals as well! I can't wait to hear how everything turns out.

  3. The class with the highest number of points at the end of each quarter will get some kind of prize. 70-537 dumps

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