Sunday, September 7, 2014

SBG is going to be much better this year

I've just graded my first SBG quiz this year, I think I have made some big improvements. The first is using a nice rubric, I like this one I found on Sam Shah's site.  Last year, I was doing a hybrid of taking off points like I used to and SBG.  It was okay, but it wasn't great.  I think a clear rubric of how I define mastery will result in a much better conversation between the students and myself and a clearer path to learning for them.

We have changed our Common Core Algebra 1 class slightly, so I changed the list of standards, click here for the new one.

Each standard appears in class three times over three consecutive weeks, if they want to retake it after that, they need to submit a Google form which alerts me with an email.  This form shows me which of the retake requirements they have chosen.

Most of these items can be found on my Practice by Standard page, shown here

Monday, September 1, 2014

Second year of Common Core Algebra 1

Our department modified our Algebra 1 curriculum last year for the common core. This will be our second year of this course and we decided to remove the statistics unit. We have decided to offer one Prob and Stats course that covers all of the CCSSM standards rather than address them in little bits over our entire math curriculum. This frees up some time in our Alg 1 class, we would like to use this time to do a better job with the mathematical practices. We will be doing a section on math patterns at the beginning of our functions unit, this will build a stronger conceptual understanding of what a graphed equation is describing. We will also do absolute value graphing using translations and introduce the vertex form of quadratic equations. Both of these sections should helps students with the kind of translational thinking that will be at the heart of the new CCSSM Geometry course we are teaching for the first time this year. I have modified the Alg 1 book to make the stats unit an appendix and I have added a unit on patterns and translational graphing of absolute value.

Algebra 1 EHS 2014-2015, no Stats

Warm Ups

I've seen some conversation about warm ups in other recent blogs, I use Kuta software to generate multiple choice worksheets and use clickers in self paced mode. The students do the worksheets and put in their answers while I'm checking hwk, handing back papers, etc. I do most problems from recent work, but I will be spiraling in problems from older lessons, as inspired by Kathryn's session at TMC14. I review the results of each question (histogram, not individual students) with the students immediately after they are done. This is valuable formative assessment and the recording of results helps the students to take it seriously. I plan to start working in more open ended question warm ups (Math Arguments180, etc) as the year moves on.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Algebra 1 Resources

I have been using MindMeister to make a mindmap of the resources I find. I like the mindmaps, the node concept works with my thought patterns. Click here for the link.

Monday, August 4, 2014

First semester of book and videos finished

I have finished updating the book for first semester, that is units 1 through 4.  I will work on units 5-7 as the school year progresses.  I made significant changes based on last year's run through the Common Core

The videos for first semester are also ready, they are posted on my "Practice by Standards" page.  They aren't really all that entertaining, I'm not expecting the world to beat a path to my YouTube channel, but I do think they get the point across and they will be useful for students who need to retake a standards based quiz.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Algebra 1 plans, post TMC14

I am working pretty hard this summer in my never ending quest to make my Algebra 1 class a place where all students can learn. In 2014/2015, I will be using SBG for the second time and I will be using the second edition of the book I am writing on YouTube videos of my teaching will also be available online. This will also be the second year of our new Common Core Alg 1 curriculum, I don't think I did a great job teaching the 8 Mathematical Practices while I was trying the new curriculum for the first time. My plan for this year is to try to improve that, but it is difficult to find the time with all of the skills that are still required in the CCSSM. I will need to cleverly work them into instruction and classroom procedures.

So here's a quick synopsis of thing I am thinking of doing, some new ideas from TMC 14 will be highlighted, along with where I heard them.

First day, I may start with a slide show about me, this is from John Mahlstedt's Favorite Thing presentation.  I hesitate a little 'cause I don't want it to be all about me, but I do think it could help build connections.

Daily Agenda, always write the date as a math problem, also from John Mahlstedt.

I usually start class with a clicker warm up on the previous days lesson.  I liked Kathryn Belmonte's idea to spiral through previous units in the warm up.  I will still use the clickers, but I think it will help with retention to have old units continue to show up randomly.

I had changed by SBG grading scale from 0-4 to 0-10 for more flexibility in grading.  From general conversations with folks, I think it's better to use 0-4, I just need a better rubric.

I still like my SBG/resources online/YouTube video plan.  A fellow teacher in one of the sessions I went to reminded me that parents will possibly use the videos as a refresher if they wanted to help their child.  I think that will happen and I like the idea.  The same teacher also suggested putting the videos on iTunesU so they could be downloaded if there was a problem with internet access at home, good call.

Just before TMC14, I went to a Global Math Dept presentation on SBG, Matt Owen showed a slide with the list of things students need to have before they can retest

I will be making a modified version of this, but I think it's a great start.  Jessica (@Algebrainiac1) also suggested they fill out a Google form when they are ready so you know they are coming, I will probably do the same.  I also think a list of things they have to do to retest can help solidify classroom procedures.

The discussion in my morning Algebra 1 sessions about assessing functions were very useful.  I plan on doing a much better job of teaching functions this year.

One of my alg 1 classes has a lab associated with it, I liked some of the ideas in Kathryn Freed's intervention session, I will probably put them in groups with whiteboards and let them work.  I will make the groups based on what they need to study from SBG results.

I liked the work that Mathalicious and Illustrative Math are doing to make lessons that are both Common Core and PBL.  My curriculum needs more of this kind of thing and I will be looking those over.  I also hadn't heard about Robert Kaplinsky's lessons, I need to look through those.

I learned about Desmos at the Anja Greer conference at Phillips Exeter last summer.  I used it a little, but there was a giant buzz around it at TMC 14, I need to use it more in my PBL quest.  I think that will be easier when my school goes 1 to1 (hopefully) next year.  I will try a few lessons to get a feel for it.

Just as a general thing, there are a very large number of algebra 1 resources on Pinterest, I didn't realize that before.  Lisa Henry's TMC Pinterest board got me looking and there's a lot of good stuff.

Another My Favorite Things was on  I use it, but I don't use the links to the extent that the presenter did.

I need to look through the session pages in the Wiki, I'm sure there's lot's there.

As far as future communication goes, my Twitter skills improved tremendously.  I met lots of people and it's much easier to understand the communication flow.  I have a better idea who to follow and I'm better with lists and TweetDeck.  I'm also more clued in about blogs as well.  Dan Meyer's presentation gave me a better feel for the MTBoS and who's in it.

I thought there was a lot of power in Steve Leinwand's presentation about emphasizing the WHY over the HOW.  I would love to teach math that way, he made sixth grade math sound like the subject I really want to teach.  CCSS alg 1 still has so many skills in it, I think my school is a long way from that kind of teaching as a whole, but I'd like to strive towards it.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Summer curriculum work

The standards based videos are coming along nicely, Explain Everything is AWESOME!  I have finished 15 of 38 standards, the book is also updated through the end of unit 2.  The latest videos are on my YouTube channel, utubemath,

The latest version of the book is on Scribd, (This was deleted on August 4, 2014, there is a new version now.  Please see the post "First Semester of Book and Videos")

Off to Twitter Math Camp on Wed, should be fun!

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

SBG, Common Core and Online Class Summary

Okay, so it's been FOREVER since I posted anything.  The end of the year just got nuts.  Along with implementing a new Common Core Algebra curriculum, I am the leader of a new STEM Academy at my high school.  This spring, we worked very hard to get it launched and 45 students signed up.  This is awesome, it's been taking a lot of my time and it will be a major focus during the 2014/2015 year.

This year, I tried 3 main new things in Alg 1.  We are starting Common Core with our Alg 1 class, 2013/2014 was the first year of it's implementation.  Since we were launching a new curriculum, it was a good time to try breaking the content down into standards and using standards based grading.  Our school is looking at proficiency based graduation requirements, SBG seems to me like a natural launching point for that.  I also wanted to make my curriculum available online to facilitate self-study towards mastery of the standards.  I wrote a book using ck-12 and created a webpage with access to classroom materials and practice options.

First, I'd like to talk about the Common Core curriculum.  There is a major emphasis on the 8 mathematical practices and I was imagining a classroom with a greater focus on problem solving and creativity, but in practice, there are still a lot of skills to cover and it's hard to find time for both.  Our department compared our traditional curriculum to the Common Core standards and came up with a list of topics we needed to cover in order to make sure students would have all the skills they would need on the SBAC test.  I converted that into a list of 38 standards to use for SBG.  I also compared those standards to the CCSS.  Here's the document I ended up with.

Algebra 1 Standards List

I like how this course ran, I think it's a nice sequence, I liked the focus on functions, modeling and statistics.  I think it does give students some idea of what math can be used for in the real world and it all hung together pretty well in my mind.  It is difficult to find time for problem solving, though.  What I ended up doing was grading students for trying to think outside the box and I didn't like the feel of it.  I will be revamping how I develop mathematical creativity next year.

I liked SBG combined with the online curriculum elements I developed, but I will be beefing it up for next year.  What I did was give one quiz a week with the recent standards on it.  Each standard appeared on a quiz for three weeks and the students could retake them outside of class up to 3 times.  I think my quiz questions were a little too easy and I made it too easy to retake and master the standard.  I don't think this did my students any favors when it came time to take the department final.  I don't have all the details worked out yet, but my testing will become a little more rigorous somehow.  Watch for this is a future post.

A key part of the SBG system (at least in my mind) is giving the students access to the material outside of class.  Here is the webpage I developed over the course of the year.

Essex High School Algebra 1, Mrs. Smith

The resources page is important here, it has a link to the book I used this past year (being revised for 2014/2015) and the Practice by Standards page.  I used Flexmath and BrainGenie (ck-12 products) to create self practice materials.  This summer, I am using the iPad app "Explain Everything" to make videos that I am posting to my YouTube channel (utubemath) and putting in each standard.  I am always available for help at school, but I am trying to create a way for students to use the internet in a way that teaches them how to help themselves.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

10 points per standard on SBG

This change seems to be working out for me.  I was using a 4/4 scale which went to 5/5 when the student has received two 4/4's.  I changed to 9/9 which goes to 10/10 with two 9/9's.  I think this is working, I like being able to grade with more detail on what I take points off for.  I think the pure way to do SBG is that four points lets you know levels like "no skill", "some skill" "proficient" and "mastered", but I'm doing a hybrid set up where the average of the SBG grade counts for 70% of a regular, old numerical report card grade and I think 10 points per standard works better in that system.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Modification to SBG for second semester

I gave a Google survey at the end of first semester, several students mentioned that the 4 point grading scale that I was using seemed a little goofy.  One mistake put you down to a 75 and after the standard had moved to the 5 point maximum, that was a 60.  I started off by using the point system outlined in this blog post by Dan Meyer

Dan Meyer SBG

I thought that the number of standards assigned each quarter would balance that off, but I do still think one small mistake could have too much of an impact on the grade, so I've decided to make each standard worth 9 points instead of 4.  If a student gets 9/9 twice, they receive the full credit of 10/10.  Also, second semester involves some complex tasks, so I'd like to have more points to work with for partial credit.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Twitterfeed is how I connect my Blogger posts with Twitter.  It stopped working, I'm pretty sure that's because I changed my Twitter password recently.  I've tried to reauthorize it, hopefully this post shows up on Twitter...


This isn't particularly new, but I just found the part of it that has Common Core questions.  There is a charge for it, but there are nice multiple choice problems arranged by Common Core standard.

Statistics Unit

We are approaching the end of first semester and we are finishing our first ever Common Core Statistics unit.  We covered dot plots, histograms, measures of central tendency, box and whisker plots and standard deviation.  We found that the students were familiar with most of this information except for standard deviation.  Next year, I will go through some of the basic concepts quicker and I will spend more time on analyzing data.   I'm thinking more analysis of outliers and more study of different types of distributions (normal and otherwise).  Here's links to some activities that I found helpful

Box and Whisker Lesson

Interquartile Range and Outliers

Standard Deviation Lesson