## Monday, February 28, 2011

### Testing

So what's a teacher to do with low attendance and students who are bored in their classes? Take them to the lab of course! It is the perfect solution. Students who do not come can make up the time at home. Students who do come will get to do some meaningful math and be engaged in learning on a day that is a waste of learning time in a lot of other classrooms. Myself and another teacher are going to combine our classes so that we may both take advantage of the limited lab space we have. Stead of trying to fill our time with review assignments or meaningless busy work our students will be challenged and working on relevant mathematics. Plus the tutor will help prepare them for their turn to take the test a few years from now.

## Sunday, February 27, 2011

### If They Build It, They Will Learn

There is not a set curriculum for this class. Basically I can do whatever I feel is necessary. Going into this, I knew that I did not want it to just be another study hall for these students to work on homework. Although the students are occasionally given time to finish assignments from other classes.

We spend Mondays looking over all their grades from all their classes and setting goals on how to improve and bring up failing or low grades. This mostly means getting the students to go into tutorials to turn missing assignments or make-up failing ones. Easier said than done. At the same time, I am encouraging and trying to instill into the students the habit of being proactive, planning ahead for major projects and tests.

They then spend Fridays on Cognitive Tutor. For some reason, Carnegie Learning and Cognitive Tutor have a reputation in my district as being a “remedial” curriculum for those who are not successful in the regular setting. Boy is it far from that! Just ask my advanced algebra students. Carnegie Learning and CT make the students think and reason through math concepts as well as apply them to real-life settings. Nothing is dumbed down.

My math enrichment kiddos spend the rest of the week supporting what is being taught in their pre-algebra classes. Sometimes I set the foundation for what’s to come. Other times I reinforce what their pre-algebra teachers are doing. Whether I’m pre-teaching or re-teaching, I try to make the lessons and activities hands-on and engaging, many times non-traditional.

My pre-algebra students recently finished a two-month long study over geometry. Over the holiday break, I kept wondering what I was going to do differently with my math enrichment students. One of my family’s favorite traditions is building gingerbread houses. This became the inspiration for my ME class. The best part? Gingerbread house kits are on clearance after the holidays!

My student teacher and I divided the class into groups of 2-3 students each. Each group received their own gingerbread house kit. They spent the next month or so naming shapes, measuring (a lost skill for most people) the dimensions of the cookies and calculating their perimeters, areas, and volumes. It was so nice to see the students come to class every day excited about doing math! To top it off, they cooperatively worked together, helping one another and being supportive. Each person had his/her own strengths to offer to their group. “Riley” is your typical passive student who won’t give you trouble but at the same time will not put any effort into learning. During this unit, he “woke up” and came out of his shell. One day I overheard him explain to his group why they were only given three of the walls (cookies) instead of all six. I love it when my students take leadership roles in class!

Overall, the GEOMETRY-bread House unit was a success! I can’t wait to implement it again next year.

## Monday, February 21, 2011

### Change is Inevitable

If my students struggle on certain units or lessons, I ask myself, “What do I need to change in order to help them grasp the concept?”

I don’t play the blame game.

To meet the needs of my students, my curriculum is forever evolving. I am always tweaking or changing something from year to year. This has put a strain on my family because the time commitment it takes to search for different, better ideas and then to mesh it with the other lessons in the unit. My husband realized early on that I couldn’t teach any other way and is supportive. Luckily he’s there to keep me on track when I stray off too far.

One of my biggest challenges the past couple of years has been the lesson on how change of dimensions affects perimeter, area, and volume. All of us here have tried to improve this lesson one way or another. CSISD’s 8th grade teachers committed three days to the concept and Laura had revamped the lessons and assignments to align with one another. Much to my dismay, 95% of my students this year still struggled with this.

Carnegie Learning is currently working on producing lessons on change in dimensions. It should be ready for the national edition of their middle school curriculum. Until then, I am asking for your help. Do you have any suggestions? Do you mind sharing? I’ve searched online and haven’t found much. NASA put something out in 2004 in conjunction with their Personal Satellite Assistant robot. I haven’t had a chance to delve into it yet to see if it’s feasible to implement. Because direct instruction hasn’t worked, I am looking for a discovery lesson where students must be able to generalize the concept for themselves after they’ve done some kind of hands-on activity. Am I asking too much? I hope to hear from some of you out there!

## Saturday, February 19, 2011

### Feeling SMART

So this week I was able to attend training for my new SMART Board. I am so excited about the new possibilities. I think this will help me to make more connections between the text and the Cognitive Tutor. I used to have to bring in my laptop and extra cables to show the tutor in class. Now all I have to do is launch the tutor on the board. It will save me so much time!

I also think I'm going to use the screen capture tool to bring problems from the tutor into my lessons. (This means no more print screen!) The digital copies of the text are going to be very useful too!

Does anyone else have ideas for using Carnegie along with the SMART Board? I got the feeling at the training that one teacher thought that he couldn't use both simulataneously. I on the other hand think it will enhance what I'm doing and will increase my use of the tutor examples on nonlab days. What do you think?

## Monday, February 14, 2011

### ready set... test

Next week our school will be on midwinter break. When they return students will be testing. Our school came really close to meeting our testing goals last year and are really confident that this year we will meet our goals. However, next year might be a different story. The state of Michigan recently decided to raise the bar for students to receive a "passing score" on these exams. Next year it will be even harder for students to pass these high stakes test. This means that our school and our students (along with every other school in Michigan) will have to work even harder to meet the goals set by our state. This has caused some anxiety amongst our teachers who are already anxious about this year's scores.

For now all we can do is wait and see how this years scores turn out.

## Wednesday, February 9, 2011

### Math Phobia

**can**do math.

Why is it that so many people have a math phobia? Whenever I tell people that I am a teacher the first question they ask is, What do you teach? When I tell them math they wince and say something along the lines of "that was my least favorite subject" or "I don't like math". It's strange to me that people are not embarrased to say that math is not something they are good at. Usually people try to hide their faults but with math it seems to be socially acceptable to admit that it's not your strong suit.

I tell all of my students that I will not allow them to say "I'm not good at math" or "I don't do math". Instead I tell them to say "I don't get it yet, but I will". I truly believe that all of my students can "do math" if only I can help them build confidence and believe in themselves. As for my new student today... by the end of the period he had already finished the first unit and was already telling me "I can do this". I have to thank Carnegie for making confidence building a little easier!

## Monday, February 7, 2011

### A Nod to Super Bowl XLV

So who did you root for during Sunday night’s football game? I wanted the Green Bay Packers to win. Well, I’m not actually a cheesehead. Brett Favre – is there more to say? I was actually against the Steelers. Why? Growing up in Texas in the 70s, the Dallas Cowboys were our hero. I vividly remember those Super Bowl games that Terry Bradshaw and the Steelers barely beat our Cowboys. Roger Staubach and Tom Landry (God rest his soul) are/were two great classy men. I admire them for the virtues they embodied both on and off the field.

I’ve gotten off on a tangent. I’m going to apologize in advance for offending any Packer or Steeler fans. Go, Cowboys!!

## Friday, February 4, 2011

### School Canceled for Today!

Today was originally designated for Cognitive Tutor time for my pre-algebra classes. I have made a conscious effort this semester to allot one day per week for my pre-algebra students to spend on CT. (My algebra and math enrichment kiddos have always had class time to spend on CT this whole school year.) My dilemma is whether to allow them to spend Monday on CT or to push forward with my plans to continue our unit on surface area. They will have next Friday to be on CT. I totally haven’t decided what to do.

I received word from Carnegie Learning this past week that the trial-version for their new middle school Cognitive Tutor software program is coming out this month. I am so excited to have my students try it out! Supposedly this new program is geared towards the humor of middle schoolers. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Have a good weekend and stay safe.

## Tuesday, February 1, 2011

### Building Bridges

Today was my first time working with students on the Bridge to Algebra version of the Cognitive Tutor. I started them out on the picture algebra unit. I absolutely love that students visually get to see "twice as much", "three times as many", etc. It took them a little while to get used to the tutor but once they got used to drawing the pictures they were soaring through the problems. It was so fun to see them get excited about their bars growing and turing gold. They were helping each other out as they were figuring out how to work the software. These students have had difficulty being successful in school yet they were all successful in class today. The smiles on their faces and enthusiam for gold bars was so contagious!

Here in Michigan we are preparing for a large blizzard. School is already canceled for me tomorrow and it maybe for a few days. One of the things on my to do list for these snow days is to work through some Bridge problems on the tutor. I need to be prepared for helping my students and to properly do so I must make myself familiar with the software units. I'm sure I'll be telling you about more of my exciting discoveries with this new adventure over the rest of the semester!

Stay warm and enjoy your snow day if you're being affected by this blizzard!