Tuesday, May 31, 2011

End of the Year Clean Up

For most schools, the year is coming to an end. While this is a time for reflection for both teachers and students, it is also a time for clean up. While you clean and pack up your classroom, don't forget to clean up the teacher's tool kit.

The Carnegie 2011/2012 update for the Cognitive Tutor will occur in July. Before you update, it may be helpful to clean up the teacher toolkit. After talking it over with other teachers from your district, delete any teachers that will no longer be using the tutor, delete classes that will no longer be taught, and students that will no longer be working on the tutor. Be careful because once a student is deleted you cannot get their data back. So please make sure you check with other teachers and are sure you want a class, teacher, or student deleted before doing so. There is a helpful checklist with step by step instructions for cleaning up the tutor available in the teacher resource center. Simply log into your account, go to the support tab, and under guides choose end of the year checklist.

If you will be using the Cognitive Tutor in a summer school program you might want to schedule your update instead of doing it automatically in July. If you need to schedule your upgrade contact customer support by email at help@carnegielearning.com or by phone at 877-401-2527.

Enjoy your summer and I hope to see you in Grapevine Texas for the Carnegie Learning National Math Institute!(There is still time to register!)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011


I'm so proud of my middle school class. They have been working really hard to complete the Bridge to Algebra Curriculum. If you remember, they have only been working on the software since the end of January. We have been going to the computer lab at least 3 days a week, so they have had a little more computer access than the recommended 60/40 ratio.
Many of the topic (especially the fractions, decimals, and place value units) were review for them. The goal was for them to review important middle school topics and be prepared to take Algebra 1 next year. When we are in my classroom we have focused on solving equations, writing expressions, and making connections between equations, tables, and graphs.
They have grown a lot since I started working with them in February. Often times they will tell me to go away when they are stuck and will help each other instead. This has happened to me in both the classroom and the lab!
With 4 weeks of school left (including some half days for exams), I had one student finish the Bridge software in class today. He told me that he's never enjoyed math before, but he is now looking forward to being in my Algebra 1 class next year. So starting tomorrow, that student will be working on the Algebra 1 curriculum to get a head start for the fall. I'm so proud!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Win-Win Situation

This past week was monumental for some of our 5th and 8th graders in Texas. These students attempted for the second time this spring to pass the Math and Reading TAKS. Forty-two of my students worked hard for the past two and half weeks, diligently solving questions like those on the TAKS. A handful of them had me as their teacher for an extended two periods a day!

There was one problem I had, though. The TAKS were given on Tuesday and Wednesday. This left me 2 days with nothing to do with these students! Sure, it would have been nice to relax and take it easy, but spring final exams start on Monday. At the same time, these students had a lot of bottled-up energy. What to do, what to do . . .

Then it hit me! Mr. Valdez, a long-term sub for one of our math teachers, was telling us in the teacher’s lounge during lunch one day about an outside activity he had done with his classes that involved both sports and math. That was what I needed to do!

I ran the idea through Mrs. Vaughn, my former student teacher who we hired during this AMI (Accelerated Math Instruction) period. She is taking over the math enrichment classes so that I can return to my regular classes. She liked the idea, but thought getting full involvement from all the students who were let “free” in an open field was going to be a classroom management nightmare. Instead she came up with an option that turned out very well. Watch the video below:

We only have 4½ school days left! Hang in there Texas teachers – summer break will be here before you know it!

Monday, May 16, 2011

End of the Year Project

This spring is off to a slow start here in Michigan. However, Last week mother nature finally decided to let us have a brief taste of summer. The weather last week was in the 70's and 80's (too bad it rained all weekend and is now back in the 50's). While it was nice to be able to get out and enjoy the weather my students have now gotten antsy! While I'm sure most of you are having similar experiences, we still have class all the way through June 20th! It's way too early for my students to be checking out for summer.
Last year I ended the second semester with a project. This really seemed to help keep them focus. They worked on it with a partner and after getting instructions worked on their own with little interruption from me. This seemed to engage them and at the same time worked to review a lot of topics we covered over the year.

So what was the project you ask? Students had to create their own Carnegie "packet". Each group of 2 students was responsible for creating their own scenario and writing questions to go along with the scenario. Each packet had to have a table, graph, and required students to write an equation. They also had to include a "Just the Math" section where they had to explain a concept that we had learned over the year. I also required that students create both a blank version of their packet and an answer key.

Originally I wanted groups of students to swap packets so that they could complete each other's work. However, the project took a little longer that anticipated so they presented their packets to the class instead. Some of my students typed their packets while others were handwritten. Overall it was a great way to wrap up the year and it keep students focused.

So that will be the way I end my year. I just have to keep them busy between now and then!

Monday, May 9, 2011

From a Womb We All Came

There are an estimated 6.92 X 10^9 (yes, that’s billions!) human beings currently living on the face of this earth. Too astounding to even fathom! Because of this weekend, it made me wonder how many of us are mothers. I asked my husband if he had any idea. His advice was to Google the info. When that didn’t give me an answer, he said that I would need to come up with an equation that would consider the number of females who are of childbearing age. Too complicated and too much work. (Have you heard that before? Hmmmm. Sounds familiar?)

So I decided to make a conservative estimate. If a little less than 50% of the world population is female and roughly half of them are mothers, this would calculate to 1.7 billion mothers! That’s only counting those currently living. How about all the mothers since the beginning of time?

As I work with students who failed TAKS the first time in April and will need to retake it next week, I am baffled at their lack of ability to comprehend extremely small as well as very big numbers. Of course, scientific notation isn’t going to make sense to these students. What does times 10 mean? What’s with the exponents? Why is it positive sometimes but negative other times?

Although I teach middle school, I am a huge fan of children’s picture books. I’m even a huger (I know, it’s not technically a word) fan of picture books that teach math concepts. A couple of my favorite that ones that deal with large numbers are How Much is a Million by David M. Schwartz and Six Million Paper Clips by Peter W. Schroede. If I only had more time in class, think what I can do with books!

To all the moms, grandmothers, and mother-figures out there,
Happy Mother’s Day!!
We LOVE you with all our hearts!!!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Student Questions

One of the goals of the Algebra 4 All statewide project that I am apart of, is to get students to ask questions about mathematics. The goal is to shift the focus from the teacher as the source of mathematical ideas to the students as the source of mathematical ideas. This is definitely not an easy task. I find that students are so used to being told how to do math problems that when you try to make them think they sometimes shut down. Luckily by this point in the year my students are getting used to the idea of working through problems on their own. By this point in the year they are asking each other for help and sometimes even tell me to "go away" because "I got this".

This week we were working on solving systems of equations by graphing. After completing 7.2 and discussing it in class several of my students were upset that not every students' answer to the problem matched when it came to finding the intersection point from student generated graphs. This led to a great discussion about accuracy and the disadvantages of graphing (which we've been discussing all year). One student even mentioned that he thought there must be a better way to solve the system. Luckily for him we'll start solving systems of equations algebraically this week. Who ever would have thought that students would actually get excited about solving systems of equations because they wanted to be able to find a more accurate answer. I'm convinced that these kinds of student revelations do not happen when using a traditional textbook and lecturing (the way I was taught).

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Sagging Pants

My students have been helping out Carnegie Learning, piloting some of the new problems slated for the middle school Cognitive Tutor. We’re kind of disappointed that the software program is still in the old format, but my students and I are always happy to help out in any way we can.

You know something is up when all of a sudden you hear students shuffling, followed by giggles and fits of laughter. I look up and one girl has several of her friends surrounding her laptop.

“What’s up?”


Yeah, right. I go over to the crowd to find out for myself.

“Look, Mrs. Park! Can you believe they would put this kind of problem on Cognitive Tutor?”

I smile as I read about Bob’s sagging pants, the distance representing a negative quantity. The problem asks how far down Bob’s pants will be sagging after so many minutes. Carnegie Learning hit this one right on the dot. My students are talking about this for the rest of the day, warning the next class to look out for this problem.

Not quite children and yet not full-pledge teenagers. Kids this age still enjoy watching Finding Nemo and squirm at kissing scenes in movies.

You’ve got to love middle school humor.