Jumping in

It is our Holiday break & I should be planning for the Intro to Computer Programming class that I’ll be teaching starting in 2 weeks. Problem is, I don’t really know how to code. I can write simple programs in a TI-84, and I wrote some C++ & Matlab programs back in college.

I think programming is important & I teach in a very small alternative high school (about 100 students). I have supportive administration. I noticed a significant proportion of students who expressed interest in programming, especially after completing the Hour of Code. Being an alternative school, there are a lot of students who need additional math credits in addition to students who need elective credits & I want them to choose math! Last semester I taught Financial Literacy, which supplies beneficial life skills, but I can’t teach it twice since students need a variety of math elective options. So, programming it is! I asked for it & I got it. IT filled to capacity within a week of scheduling next semester.

So here its what I’m currently thinking about the structure of the class:

The class meets for 90 minutes Tuesdays, Thursdays & every other Friday.

  • I’m going to be heavily dependent on CodeHS’s curriculum. At least this first time. I’m not going to drive myself crazy developing everything from scratch. This is effective when I know what I am doing, but I don’t. I’ll gradually develop this class as I learn more about Javascript & HTML.
  • Since this is for a math credit, I’m going to start every class using Fawn’s Math talks. If I plan to learn a lot by teaching this class, why not try something new for warm-ups too?
  • Since this class will be largely student paced, I need a way to hold them accountable and to stay motivated. I am going to create a student form for daily reflection in the last 5 minutes of each class. This will include: What they learned today, Where they struggled, if they helped or got help form any peers, what activities they completed, room for their comments, and room for a reply from me. I’ll post it here when I make it. hopefully that will be soon.
  • I wish I could think of a fair way to encourage collaboration, but I haven’t been able to figure that out. Maybe we will have discussion time on the every other Fridays where students present where they are stuck and we work together to fix it?
  • I plan to do a hybrid standards based grading (SBG):
  1. 50% of their grade being the standards: all of the programming skills students should demonstrate: for loops, indentation, commenting, while loops, if/else loops, debugging….
  2. 30% Successful Completion of the Challenge projects within each CodeHS unit – I am considering a grading scale where students can choose their grade based on how many of the projects they complete. I don’t know. I may just assign all of the challenge projects because this is their chance to use the 8 Standard of Mathematical Practice and what is cooler than that?!
  3. 20% successful completion of the learning activities.

This all may change as I work through it with students & I’d really like to make more of it my own. I can;t remember the last time I was so dependent on a pre-designed curriculum. I get a little nauseous thinking about it!

[update 1/7 I made a progress log. I’m not sure what I’m missing, so Im only going to make copies for 1 or two weeks, and then I’ll see how they are used & what I should change ]

Planing Hexter 4 (or the first 6 weeks of 2nd semester), or, Hey! Kate Nowak, this is why blogging kicks ass!

Waayyy too much time and thought went into this! I have to remind myself that teaching & covering are not the same and that I have to let some things go in order to tech other content well. I’m just not going to do Law of Sines & Law of Cosines in geometry. It isn’t happening. I’m trying to be OK with this. I’m also not going to teach simplifying radicals. There. I said it.

So, here’s the plan:

We are going to start the semester with TV Space to motivate the Pythagorean theorem. I’ve asked. My students have not heard of it. I know, they should have, but they don’t know it. They are going to dominate it in a few weeks. We’re going to follow that up with Mathalicious’ Viewmongus, which, at this point, students should be able to work through pretty comfortably. I know this is a lot of Pythagorean Theorem, but I’m trying to build persistence and a culture of problem solving as the semester gets going. Then I am going to support my students writing a program in their TI-84’s to use the Pythagorean theorem given 2 coordinates (AKA distance formula). I plan to use the sheet shared by Jasmine Walker as a guide.

Right after that, I’m hitting ’em with Taco Cart. Dan & Fawn have done wonderful work. I’m so so so excited about finally getting to do Taco Cart. Yes, its the holiday break & I can’t wait for school to start to get in some serious problem solving with me being less helpful!

Then we’ll spend a day reviewing midpoint & programming in that baby to the TI’s. Next we’ll spend a class period on Pam Wilson’s distance & midpoint activity. I may make it into a scavenger hunt, as mentioned in the comments, we’ll see how ambitious I am when we get to that. Depending on how the pretest for this unit goes, I may do a 1 day activity reviewing slopes of parallel & perpendicular lines, then we are off & running with coordinate quadrilateral proofs. I’m sure I’ll throw in Illustrated Mathematics’ Is this a Rectangle? The big project for this unit will be a choice between Jasmine Walker’s quadrilateral programming project or Mathy McMatherson’s Facebook project described here & incorporating his reflective follow up here.

Then we’re hitting up some right triangle trig. I think I am going to go old school with this unit. I’ll introduce the concept using Tina Cardone’s geogebra exploration, but then I think were just going notes & practice: roundtables, problems around the room, row games. Once we’ve got it down we’ll build clinometers to measure tall stuff outside (flagpole, maybe?). That’s probably all we’ll get in in the next 6 weeks, but I intend to follow this up with this awesome trig task as soon as I can, maybe the start of the next 6 weeks. I’m like a kid in a freggin’ candy store with all of the awesomeness spewing out of the MBToS! Y’all fire me up!

Here’s the learning target tracking sheet for the next 6 weeks:

Sub (Guest Teacher) Plans

I hate having a sub. I hate missing time with my students. My stepdaughter is pregnant and she is due in about a month. I will be there. I know I’m going to have little notice & ill need a sub, so I decided to put together a few days worth of plans over the holiday break. All of it is created by others, none of it is mine, but I thought I’d put it out there anyway as substitute teacher options.

1) Congruent Halves – Fawn Nguyen

This is a challenging task. It may even require 2 class periods. It is self checking, self explanatory and great use of geometry students time. Requires application of congruence and transformations.

2) Intro Proof Axiomatic System – Justin Lanier

This set of activities requires students to use a set of rules to change a word into another word, and then to create their own axiomatic systems. This gets to the heart of geometry in a non intimidating way.

3) Four 4’s & Foxy 5’s

We have done some four 4’s as a warm up and It is clear that students could benefit from a class period (or more) of this. It allows for collaboration and it is easy enough for students to monitor their own progress. The Foxy 5’s I found recently on my idol, Fawn’s blog here.

I am getting each of these copied, and am writing up instructions and keeping them in a convenient place for the next semester. In my 10 years of teaching I have never had emergency lessons ready to go.  Now I have to resist the urge to use them ASAP because they are awesome tasks, and enjoy being prepared for anything!

What do you have your students do when you are gone?

[update 4/1: there is a great collection of sub plan ideas here]

Day 79: Snowflakes day 2

Today we predicted what the snowflake would look like using an update of Dan Meyers really old lesson. Students had whiteboards and I physically cut paper as we want through the slides. They would draw their predictions, is walk around providing comments, then I’d open the snowflake. Students were very into it.

After that I gave the students this to work on, created by Mimi Yang.


Day 78: Snowflakes!!

Today was so fun! We started by presenting the ultimate goal, which was to make this:


Then, we watched this:

Snowflakes, starflakes, and swirlflakes: Unusual variations on the paper snowflake.

Wow! They struggled! It was very interesting to see their attempts. Most students cut out the part they were trying to keep and created the reverse of their goal, at lease twice before they figured it out. Some students never even came close. I was also impressed with their persistence and the awesome look of satisfaction when they finally got it. Yay for CCSS SMP1!

Common first attempts….





Day 75: Summing up Transformations

I forgot to take pics of our notes today, so hopefully I’ll remember to add some later. I focused on students practicing the formula notation for translations, rotation & refection. Next year I think I will re sequence this unit to start with Mathalicious‘ Face Off, then notes & practice on symmetry & reflections. Then, this project, followed by notes & practice on translations & rotations. Finishing with the Math Assessment project lesson on transformations.

[update 12/20: pic of the transformation notes]





Day 72: Transformations Math Assessment Project

I did very little talking, but there was lots of learning! After 2 consecutive snow days, we are back in action! I introduced the lesson briefly and had students work in pairs to complete the cards. They struggled but got most of them. It seems like some students think of learning as the volume of work produced, not the quality. I heard a few students comment that they get more done in 1 day in Mr. X’s class then they do in two days in my class. I try to explain that I give them fewer tasks with more depth, but I’m not sure they are convinced.

[update 6/11: I got the cards from this Math Assessment Project lesson}