How I Teach: Jon Barker

In the How I Teach series, teachers answer some questions on the tools and strategies they use to get stuff done in and out of the classroom. Each teacher will work off a set of questions (some of which are borrowed from the lifehacker series) and answer what they like.

Jon Barker is a colleague of mine here at our school in Cleveland. He teaches Algebra I, Precalc, AP Calc BC, and Multivariable Calc. Our rooms are right next to each other, and I will often pound on the wall to taunt/complain. This guy seriously loves learning, and to prove it is he is taking AP US history along side students this year (in the past he took AP Modern European History).

Location:
Cleveland, Ohio

Current Job:
High school math teacher and coach

One word that best describes how I teach:
Collaboratively

Current mobile device:
iphone SE

Current Computer:
on-the-fritz macbook Continue reading

Guess and Check and early abstraction

I did Central Park in class today. I’d never really done it because I wasn’t sure how it would go over with our short classes1, and I was afraid that my classes would struggle with that kind of abstraction this early. But I went for it. Holy heck, it was awesome. They loved it. A few needed a little help, but even my weakest students did very well with it and were really encouraged. Many satisfied looks, many arms thrown into the air when all 16 of those parking lots were filled.

For the past 2 years, I have tried teaching Exeter’s Guess and Check method for problem solving. Glenn Waddell gives an excellent summary of it here.  For a summary of the summary, students use a table to organize guesses for a problem solution. After a few iterations, a student can look at the rows of the table to formulate an equation and then solve.

I see it as a very reliable strategy that scaffolds beautifully, but for 2 years I have not been able to sell it. They don’t see the point, they refuse to believe it’s better than what they would otherwise do, etc, etc. But I saw moments in the Central Park experience that made me think merging Guess and Check with a scaffolded Activity Builder may be a better path to teach it.

I’m not 100% sure what that looks like just yet, but I’d love to hear suggestions if you have them. I wonder if a table in the grapher could help, though that is not very easy to see on the dashboard.

I will admit that I made little to no attempt at describing my students’ struggle with Guess and Check. I will try that in a follow up. I just wanted to get this down now.


140 minutes — I know, right?!?

Decoding mistakes in Calculus

This year I am using mistakes to prompt discussion in class and make homework dissection more engaging. In my AP Calculus AB class, I use Active Calculus as the text, and many of its activities and exercises are perfect for an Activity Builder conversion. Such was the case when I assigned this activity to work on section 1.3 Ex 1 in Active Calculus.

The very first slide has students drawing some secant and tangent lines on a function. Most students in all three sections did pretty well with it, but I saw a few common errors I wanted to address. So channeling my Talk Less course from TMC16, I made up these two slides.

day-13-ab-errors_1 Continue reading

How I Teach: Wendy Menard

In the How I Teach series, teachers answer some questions on the tools and strategies they use to get stuff done in and out of the classroom. Each teacher will work off a set of questions (some of which are borrowed from the lifehacker series) and answer what they like.

Wendy Menard blogs at Her Mathness and tweets @wmukluk. In addition to teaching high school math in NYC, she is a contributor to the Day in the Life project from Tina Cardone.

Location:
Brooklyn, NY

Current Job:
Algebra 2/Geometry teacher at Midwood High School

One word that best describes how I teach:
Creatively

Current mobile device:
iPhone 6 Plus

Current Computer:
MacBook Pro

Screen Shot 2016-09-05 at 6.16.48 PM.png
Continue reading

What is a best mistake?

We have been playing around with the prompt “What is the best mistake?” in Algebra I lately. Today we did another similar exercise where I gave them two flawed solutions to a homework problem and the prompt “Which is the best mistake?”

Like in past iterations, students buzzed about what that means, and I was predictably quiet save for my warning that they have 60 seconds to formulate an argument.

Anyone in this field will tell you that a good answer is one with a solid reasoning, a good warrant. I heard a few that I liked. The best argument all day–all year so far–was when a student said “#1 is the best mistake because it is a mistake I would make.”

How I Teach: Julie Reulbach

In the How I Teach series, teachers answer some questions on the tools and strategies they use to get stuff done in and out of the classroom. Each teacher will work off a set of questions (some of which are borrowed from the lifehacker series) and answer what they like.

Many thanks to Julie, who agreed to write up this post in the midst of everyones wildest week of the year. I had the pleasure of getting to know Julie at TMC16 where she would often burst out in song while at dinner. Julie is a Desmos Fellow with me, she blogs at I Speak Math, and tweets at @jreulbach.

Current Job:
Algebra 2 teacher at Cannon School in Concord, NC

One word that best describes how I teach:
ENERGY!!!!!!

Current mobile device:
iPhone

Current Computer:
Mac

Screen Shot 2016-08-29 at 8.23.08 PM.pngWhat software or tools can’t you live without?
DESMOS Activity Builder. I use it everyday and can’t imagine teaching without it. I also love Pear Deck, especially now that they have a self-paced mode. I often use these two things together. Continue reading

Is that against the rules?

In Algebra I, we’re having some fun with order of operations and also still getting to know one another (via some nice problems). As students finished a quiz the other day, I put the numbers 1 to 10 on the board and told students to see if they can use four 4’s and any operation they like to get each value. Sure enough, as kids finished the quiz, they would saunter up to the board and write down a solution. A few values started to gather multiple approaches.

We saw some like this   or this .

Then one student wrote this

An audible “ohhhhh” could be heard around the room. Then,

Student: Is he allowed to do that? Is using 44 against the rules?

Teacher: I don’t know. It’s pretty cool, right?

Student: Yea.

Teacher: Yea, I’m not sure. I didn’t make up this game. But, it feels like a good solution. So I see no reason to deny it.

Sometimes the students are too hung up on rules (or unstated potential rules) to get creative and think outside the box. I say, take a shot. Worst thing that can happen is that you are wrong and have determined an extreme case that doesn’t work.