Monthly Archives: January 2016

Better Questions Week 3 #MTBoS



I’ve pondered this challenge for a couple of days.  So many options!  But a tweet from @mathymeg07 led me to a post from @MrAKHaines blog Math Pun Pending.

The post was celebrating a variety of strategies his students had use to answer the question:



He wrote:  When I wrote the question, I had anticipated that students would use a couple of different strategies. What I didn’t know was that my 25 students would use a combined seven correct solution strategies to solve this problem.

Two parts to my post:  1. How can I make this an open question and 2. How can I use student samples to develop a better lesson in the future?

How can I make this an open question?

A.  Name a point that is NOT on this line.

B.  Name a point that this line passes through.

Thanks to @PIspeak‘s TMC14 session in Jenks, I urge students to “Support your claim with evidence/reasoning.  I want to see your thinking!”

How can I use student samples to develop a better lesson in the future for my classroom?

I appreciated the fact that he never explicitly taught “the teacher’s efficient strategy” but allowed group discussions and support to drive the lesson.  Students shared ideas.  The last paragraph  in his post says, “My students are acting like mathematicians, y’all. They’re using their toolkit of math ideas to solve problems flexibly. I couldn’t be happier.”

In the end, that’s what we all want – students thinking on their own, making sense and being confident enough to explore a problem with their own ideas.  So, how does this tie in with the Better Questions prompt?  My outline of the lesson feels a bit like those I’ve used from Formative Assessment Lessons, but I feel it lends itself to students doing the thinking, talking – I only provide the materials and support to make desired connections that will lead to the learning goal.

I’ve been following the #T3Learns chat from Wiliam’s book.  In chapter 3 of Embedding Formative Assessment, it suggests using student sample work. How might I structure a lesson, utilizing student samples of this question?  In Principles to Actions, MTP3 states Effective teaching engages students in making connections among mathematical representations to deepen understanding of mathematics concepts and procedures and as tools for problem solving.

  1. Begin with the same question. Allow students to write a response. (3-5 min)
  2. Place students into small groups and allow them to share their approaches. (5-7)
  3. Allow groups to explore student samples, making note of different ideas, what they like/ways to improve, questions they’d like to ask the student. *maybe as a gallery walk? (15-20)
  4. Discuss their findings as a whole group. (10 in)
  5. Connections to/between the different mathematical representations. (5-10 min)
  6. Written reflection:  (3-5 min. possibly use as a start up / bell ringer to begin class with following day – providing an opportunity for retrieval of previous days information?)
    • my strategy was most like:____
    • the strategy I liked most was ____ because ___
    • the strategy I found most difficult to understand was ___ because ___
    • Which approach was most efficient?  Why?
    • What do you think was the BIG IDEA your teacher intended for you to learn/understand?
  7. Transfer…provide a few, different contextual problems that allow students to connect the mathematics to something tangible, maybe in a problem posing situation (should this be small group?  individual? ) (5-15, would this be better as follow-up the following day?)

Timing is often an issue for me.  I want to provide students with enough time to make sense/discuss, but not so much time it feels long and drawn out.  Are the times I have listed appropriate?

Please offer suggestions.  How have you used a similar approach successfully in your own classroom?

#MTBoS My Favorite: Open Questions & Level-Up Quiz



Goodness.  I think this is where I fall apart.  I have so many favorite things I’ve used in my classroom, at times I cannot focus and choose one.  I become distracted, thinking I have to use EVERYTHING.  I have to pause, think about the learners in the classroom and what will be best, most effective for them.

Our second week back after Christmas break was very productive.  I chose to combine 2 ideas and focused my energy with them.  One goal I had set was to use open questions.  (Older posts – first attempt, more good questions – about strategy from Small / Lin).  Rather than giving students more inequalities and asking them to graph.  I gave them a point and asked them to create an inequality whose graph would “capture” the point.  Students had to think differently in order to create their response rather than following a procedural step by step or copying a classmate’s work.

The other was an idea someone had tweeted that caught my attention and I wanted to see how it would work in my classroom…level-up quizzes.  Since the target involved graphing inequalities, I gave each student a paper with 4 empty graphs and space in margins to write inequalities and verify.  Here is a sample of the criteria I gave them:

level up quiz

I told students I wanted everyone to be at level 3 by the end of the week – Level 4 was using multiple measures to verify their responses.  If students were at 3 or 4 early in the week, I posed a challenge to them to create two inequalities that would both capture the point.

This task accomplished several things for me.  It was obvious where students got stuck, it allowed me to give feedback or have a conversation about the symbols, which direction to shade, helped point out when/why to use the = if the point was on the boundary line or not, could quickly address issues with graphing key points of the line.  It allowed students to move on without waiting on their peers.

There were a couple of students in each class who continued to struggle-mostly students who had chosen NOT to put any time/effort into practice the prior week or who had been absent, but the rest of students made gains and improvements with this skill.  By the end of the week, majority of students were at or above the level 3.

The big thing with verifying I saw was students using (0,0) to test in their inequality algebraically as opposed to the actual point we picked.  I feel this was due to us graphing inequalities the prior week.  This year, I opted to encourage evidence of their claim by having them test a point to determine direction of shading as opposed to just saying above/below.

With only 1 response for every student each day, I was not overwhelmed, but able to give feedback.  I made notes of most common errors and addressed them as a whole class prior to passing the quiz back.  For many, I simply wrote a number corresponding to the Level-Up criteria.  Students knew the first couple of tries “didn’t count” but were opportunities to learn and level up by the end of the week.

My concerns after reading about Rubrics in Embedding Formative Assessment –  have I made it more of a skill-ckeck list?  By presenting it as an open question, is that enough to allow for student thinking?  Thoughts on how to improve are welcome!

And Miles to Go Before I Sleep… #exploreMTBoS2016



I loved that poem…6th grade…a few years back…

Is it Monday?  Yep.

  • 5:07 a.m.  My fitbit jiggles to wake me.  But its so cold outside.  Maybe it snowed…  not.
  • 5:17  I am actually awake, turn the coffee pot on, iron the clothes I was too lazy to get finished last night for the day.  My favorite raisin courds, cardi, scarf and comfy brown boots.
  • 5:30  sitting with my coffee and cream brulee, a quick devotional from ODB and a chapter from Job…I’ve really enjoyed that book this month.  SOAKing is a great structure – thanks @druinok!
  • 5:55 Shower and get ready for the day!
  • 6:15 wake up my sleeping child…one more time…
  • 6:30 finish packing lunch and snacks (thanks my dear husband for starting my car!)
  • 6:45 leave
  • 6:55 drop off S at her school
  • 7:00 walk into my classroom coffee in hand…talent…without dropping all of my stuff!
  • 7:02 run a few copies for an level up assessment I’m trying this week – incorporating an Open Question
  • 7:05 students begin to filter into the halls
  • 7:10 hanging in hallway with colleagues – I’m surrounded by amazing people!
  • 7:20 other colleague stops by to pick up a card sort I had she wants to use this week, we discuss possible options for tweaking curriculum in upcoming units, make plans to meet after school this week to create some tasks in ACT review for Algebra 2 classes.
  • 7:30 1st period
  • 8:25 2nd period (restroom break to follow!)
  • 9:20 3rd period
  • 10:15 4th period
  • 10:58 lunch (ham on wheat, spicy fire-roasted tomato soup! and water)  check mail box, restroom break, return to room 11:23, finish class
  • Planning -snack…sliced apple – pink lady, my 2nd favorite… as I step out of copy room, an ELA teacher is doing a four corners type strategy and I jump in level 5…I strongly agree (I just didn’t know what I was agreeing to…)  Hmmm.  “You stick by close friends no matter what.”  Oh, maybe I should leave a little wiggle room…in case their behavior is illegal or something.  Yep, gonna move down to level 4.  BTW It was fun listening to students share ideas, even argue a little.  I love learning moments like that…it was actually a lead into their Romeo & Juliet unit.
  • I never know these afternoon times – I have to look at my bell schedule above my door…every day, every afternoon class.
  • 12:35  6th period
  • 1:40ish  7th period
  • 2:30 end of school day
  • Colleague stops by my room to discuss some community issues…
  • 2:50 my daughter arrives to my room
  • 3:00 discuss the day with colleagues
  • 3:30 begin wrapping up
  • 3:45 finally out the door
  • 4:00 home, quick snack – Protein, Yogurt Smoothy Salted Caramel, not bad at all.
  • 4:40 take daughter to singing rehearsal for upcoming Musical: Beauty & the Beast (husband is picking her up AND taking care of dinner…yum, his delicious fish sandwish with sliced avocado an rye…yum.yum.yum.)
  • 4:55 arrive back at school
  • 5:00 PTO meeting
  • 5:30  SBDM meeting – several teachers in attendance to voice concerns about our schedule
  • 7:15 SBDM goes in to Executive Session – closed doors, start to leave, but then discuss a couple of ideas with Asst. Principal concerning mentoring opportunities for sturggling students, then return to SBDM
  • 8:11 arrive home, have supper by myself, talk with daughter about her practice, chat with husband…
  • 8:55 feedback on level up quizzes…
  • 9:20 more to go, but time to brush my teeth, read a bit and sleep.

Its only Monday, afterall.  And miles to go before I sleep…

Good Night.

3-2-1 Reflection on 2016 Goals Week 1


Holding myself accountable…  a snippet from my classroom goals I wrote during our #MTBoS12days Challenge:

“being intentional with student reflection/owning their learning; purposeful questioning / open questioning / building-in opportunities for discussion and sharing”

3 things from last week that are working toward my goals…

  1. 60 second brain dump: anything you were reminded of, realized or learned… 60 second pair/share…The following day, swapped reflections and read each others.
  2. individual reflection / wrong answer analysis of midterm
  3. quick quizzes – for short cycle student / peer assessment

2 things I need to work on…

  1. lessons last week were review/scaffolded, little open questioning…boring, my fault.  What type of open questions do you present to students for linear inequalities?   Thinking something similar to:  Create a linear inequality that includes (4, 1) , (5, 0) and (6, -3) in the solution set.
  2. some discussions with midterm analysis but nothing purposeful with newer lessons…  Looking at some open sorts to maybe generate some good discussions in small groups, then allow them to write / summarize their discussions.

1 good thing…   

  1. Multiple Choice Monday (MCM) and Flashback Friday (FBF) in all classes to retrieve some concepts / skills from first semester.  We used PLICKERS – students thought they were kind of cool, engaged in follow up discussions.  Filled in some gaps with them!


Ready for week 2!

60 Seconds: Remind, Realize, Learn – Day 2


To end class yesterday, I asked students to flip their foldable to the back… and instructed them to do a brain dump…for 60 seconds write…

Tell me anything you were reminded of, something you realized, or anything you learned for the firat time.

Times up. Turn and share 1 thing from your list with your group.

Today, we will begin class by sharing all of their list with their group.  And randomly call on students to share 1 thing they heard from their classmates…

As simple as can be, but excited to see what impact it will play.

Back After Break ~ Day 1


Just a quick post to celebrate our first day back this semester.  Excellent attendance…now how to keep that going?!?

Each class, we used plickers to highlight some of the most missed questions from their midterms.  Some good discussion and several a-has.

We moved on to the number-game?  What is it called?  1-100 Group Task – thanks to Sara & Megan!

It was fun just watching a listening.  My first class of the day was quite fierce.  I have an audio clip – they were crazy loud but completely on task.  When the phone rang this morning – I was afraid the front office was calling to tell us to quiet down.

One of the best groups I observed were my rowdiest group of boys.  One of the funniest groups I observed was my quiet student being all bossy.  The students laughed, worked as a unit, communicated and shared strategies it required to be successful at the task today.


We ended our day with a simple question…  What is thinking? and posted our responses on the bulletin board.  My plans are to create a place where we can post students’ questions…

It was a good day.  A very good day.

Easy Beef Stew – Crockpot


A favorite my mom made when  I was growing up…

1.5 lbs stew meat
3 carrots, chopped
5 med. Potatoes, cubed
1 can peas (optional)
1 can tomato soup (or can diced tomatoes)
1 can cream of celery soup
1 can french onion soup
1 can cream of mushroom soup

Place meat and veggies in bottom of crockpot. Layer remaining ingredients on top in order listed. 
Do not add water.
Do not stir at anytime until ready to serve.

Cover and cook on low all day.

Serve with cornbread or crackers.

Hands Across America – Scatterplots


@reilly1041 tweeted about using burning candles for scatter plots in class – a sure way to get fired.  It made me think of several things I’ve used in the past for scatter plots…

The Wave:  Time vs. # Students  then predict how long it would take our entire school to complete a way.  If we wanted to get out of class for 1 hours, how many students would we need to accomplish this task?

Bucket Brigade / Pass the Book:  Time vs. # Students passing the bucket/book.

Ring Around – Use Cheerios, candy or pennies as unit of measure – trace various circular objects, measure diameter and circumference.

I even wondered about measuring central angles vs. arc length on circles…to tie in some geometric concepts

The Crow & the Pitcher

Hands Across America:  Distance vs. # people, then predict how far would our chain reach if all students in our school participated.  How many people would need to participate to reach across our county.  I used to have students read an article prior to the data collection (my integration of reading in math class!)

Good discussions / assumptions to make as to what roadway we could use, how to determine average distance per person, we all stand at a certain position… etc.

I looked up and found these links…

Hands Across America – 20 years later, ABC News

Hands Across America – 25 years later from Mental Floss

Some nice nostalgia for my morning.


Closure Activities for Learner Reflection


Closure is a big area of needed growth for me.  Since I plan to focus on student reflection of their learning, this list may provide some great structures to implement:

22 Powerful Closure Activities

I’m thinking I need to set a reminder timer on my computer to begin the wrap-up for the day.  Or even set up the musical transition cues… 


I need to find a couple of blogs on how to do this…if you have suggestions… please share!

I wonder if I used the #phonespockets these first couple of weeks, in 1 or 2 classes per day, how that would help my plan/implementation?

Knowledge to Action 2016 nonMath #MTBoS12days


Call them resolutions.  Call them goals.  It all comes down to- when I know what needs to be done, well, I need to do it.  After reading this phrase in Wiliam & Leahy’s book Embedding Formative Assessment, I am claiming my theme for 2016 as Knowledge into Action.

In 2015,  I was devastated to see my health in decline.  My choices had landed me in the obese category with lab numbers showing prediabetes.  I had to make some changes.  In September, I began meeting with a group for accountability and a coach, she is amazing and supportive.  The program was simple – I was never told I couldn’t eat certain things, but given facts and a choice to make.  Did you know if you loose 5-7% of your initial body weight, your chances of developing Type II diabetes reduces by 54%?  So that was our first goal.

We had food journals.  My coach’s mantra “If you bite it, write it.  If  you drink it, ink it.”  Physically writing it all down has shifted my mindset with food.  It really has added another level of accountability to myself.   Each week, a new lesson brought new knowledge and a choice for action. And we would physically write down our behavior goals for the upcoming week.

I can’t remember which week I officially reached that first goal, but it felt good to achieve it.  I continued making better dietary choices.  Since our first weigh-in, I have lost over 20 lbs and kept it off during the holidays.  Yep.  I am proud and high-fiving myself because sometimes it is hard making the right choices.  It does take dedication.  But I want to take my health back in my control.  I want to feel good and be able to enjoy each day.  To be the best me for my family, my friends, my students.

My next goal is 13 lbs away.  My final goal is 21 lbs away.  It matters.  Its about my health now.  Its about my future.

As part of the program, our initial physical activity goal started at 60 minutes per week and we steadily increased up to 150 minutes per week.  I am not there, yet.  Or at least not consistently making those choices each week.  But I know it is part of getting me healthier.  So when @mathymeg07 tweeted this challenge, I chose to join it!  After all, this is slightly more than my 150 minute goal – I need to get some strength training in as well.   Its a challenge to strive for.  Thanks, Meg!  You can join in too!  You set your own goal.


A few years ago, I was amazed at @samjshah’s reading challenge and list.  I set a goal and met it – 26 books that year.  I continue to read, no official goals set, but when I posted a request of recommended titles for 2016 on facebook, a friend directed me to @modernmrsdarcy  where I found this challenge: Read 12 books in 12 months from 12 different categories.  I like this because it challenges me to reach outside my comfort/preference zone…  The one I’m most concerned with…I’m a slow reader is a book you can finish in a day!

Make 2016 your best reading year yet with this reading challenge. It’s simple and doable, but provides the structure you need to approach your reading list with intention in 2016.

I want to learn something new.  To actually learn how to play a real song – not just ping around  on – my ukulele I got for Christmas…last year.  Someone hold me accountable and ask – so I will.

I want to laugh more.  Give/serve more in my community – to reach beyond myself.  I want to fully enjoy each day/moment with my family – rather than getting caught up in busyness of an over-scheduled calendar.  I want to savor watching my daughter learn piano and percussion, celebrate her improvements with swim and encourage her to continue to find a love for the world around her.

I am sending myself a reminder to blog February 15 and be accountable to my goal of Knowledge into Action 2016.