Monday, December 31, 2012

The Resolution 2013

The Resolution 2013

I DO solemnly resolve before God to take full responsibility for myself, wife, and my children.
I WILL love them, protect them, serve them, and teach them the Word of God as the spiritual leader of my home.
I WILL be faithful to my wife, to love and honor her, and be willing to lay down my life for her as Jesus Christ did for me.
I WILL bless my children and teach them to love God with all of their hearts, all of their minds, and all of their strength.
I WILL train them to honor authority and live responsibly.
I WILL confront evil, pursue justice, and love mercy.
I WILL pray for others and treat them with kindness, respect, and compassion.
I WILL forgive those who have wronged me, and reconcile with those I have wronged.
I WILL learn from my mistakes, repent of my sins, and walk with integrity as a man answerable to God.
I WILL seek to honor God, be faithful to His church, obey His Word, and do His will.
I WILL courageously work with the strength God provides to fulfill this resolution for the rest of my life and for His glory.

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord - Joshua 24:15

Thursday, December 27, 2012

LRB 365 Sample Workout

So I got the book Strength, Life, Legacy written by Paul Carter, who I follow on his blog is  Paul has great insight on working out and life - any of the stuff he writes is worth the time to read.

I wanted to try out some of his workout templates during my holiday break.  So, completed one this morning (one word = brutal!).


Squat - Strong-15 (using 200# as goal wt. - might look to lower this so I can focus on my technique)

5x100#, 4x115#, 3x135#, 2x150#, 1x155#, 1x165#, 1x175#

Pause Squats - Strong-15

2 x 5 @ 115#
*Note:  Really want to work on getting solid full squats completed.  Up to this point I have been doing box squats which I think hurts my overall range of motion, so I will need to check my ego and drop the weight quite a bit on squat.  At least until my technique improves.

DL - Strong-15 (using 290# as goal wt.)

5x115#, 4x145#, 3x175#, 2x200#, 1x230#, 1x245#, 1x255#, BO 3x3 @ 200#

Leg Curls (standing single leg)

4 x 20 @ lowest wt. possible - my hamstrings were crushed this time in the workout.

Overall, I like the challenge - I will need to really look at the selection of weights so I'm not blowing myself up early on in the program.

12.28.12 - Back & Biceps

5xAMAP chins (14, 10, 8, 8, 5 = 45 total reps)
4x20 @ 60# db rows
4x20 @ 60# db shrugs
4x20 @ 20# db curls

My legs are fried from yesterday's workout - especially my groin and my butt.  But, I love it b/c I know I worked them well and this should lead to growth/strength.  Haven't really felt sore after a workout in a long time.  Today's work was solid - the volume and higher reps is new for me so after about 10-12 reps the rest are a bit of a test - which is awesome!

Friday, November 30, 2012

Teacher Identity

I am struggling with who I am as a teacher . . . it's an identity crisis!!

Look, I am not the hardcore teacher who says "my way or the highway" and all students will learn this material this way and if you don't get it, oh well.

I understand that students learn in different ways and at different paces.  I know some students enjoy repetition & worksheets, while others crave hands-on activities.  And then there's technology - lovers, haters, and whatevers.

We are a 1:1 tablet school now so I feel the pressure to use the tablets consistently in class.  But I struggle with the daily routine of creating quality online material with all the links and whistles.  Then, I know I need to differentiate in my classroom . . . ahhhhhh!  Oh yeah, and then there's COMMON CORE (echo echo) looming around the corner.  And new teacher evaluations for the state of Ohio.  And . . . IDENTITY CRISIS!?!?

Project Based Learning - love it!  Is that the teacher I should be?
Technology = flipped class - love it!  Is that the teacher I should be?
Standards Based Grading - love it!  Is that the teacher I should be?
Follow the textbook one section at a time - dislike this with a passion.  Is that the teacher I should be?
Lots of assessment and feedback - love it!  Is that the teacher I should be?
Work more closely with my colleague next door - she's awesome and has great ideas and she's so stinking organized it's sickening (but she's not me and I'm not her) - Is that the teacher I should be?

With all these questions and more circulating in my head it leads to . . . bog down.  I freeze, I end up tripping my way through lessons which are inconsistent & I'm sure frustrating for some students.  IDENTITY CRISIS!

Don't get me wrong . . . I truly enjoy teaching and the students are learning and are showing maturity and all that great stuff (as much as 9th graders can!).  But, I feel like I am short of my potential as a teacher.  But, I don't want to put all my time and effort into a certain teaching identity and find that it was a waste.  I want my identity to motivate me and my students.  I want to be energized.

And I want my students to enjoy math and to feel some ownership over their learning and progress as a math student.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

My New Assessment Plan

I am trying to really turn my focus in class to assessment.  The idea is to get the students to focus more on what they know and not so much on "how many points did I get"?  I am trying to work on some type of structure for me and for the students to follow.  The steps incorporate multiple feedback steps for students to help identify problem areas and areas of strength.

I am hoping to tweak this over the next few weeks leading up to the end of first semester (and Christmas break!).

Here is what I have so far . . .  do you do anything similar? different but works?  thoughts/suggestions?

My Assessment Plan

1.  Feedback Assessment - check for right answers / circle wrong answers

2.  “Fix it” Assignment - watch video / complete form explaining mistake / create “good ones”

3.  Feedback Assignment - “review assignment” - teacher comments

4.  Graded Assessment - grade that goes into progressbook

5.  Individual Reassessment (if needed)

Monday, November 26, 2012


IDK - that's the response I got today on my Parallelograms Pre-Assessment.

The students had to find slope of a line on a graph, slope of a line given two points, and then do the same using the distance formula.  They also were asked to sketch a parallelogram on a coordinate axis and explain why the shape was a parallelogram.

IDK - that was the answer I got the most on the pre-assessment.

That's not what bothers me or even caused me to write this blog post . . . IT ENDED THERE!

There were no "freak out sessions" or "how do I do this?" or "show me how to do #2!".

Did I miss something?  Where's the intrinsic motivation?  These students are "ahead" of their peers . . . ?

So, I worked with one student who actually knew how to complete the problems (referencing the pythagorean theorem!) and another student asked for help with her polyhedron project.

Yet once again . . . it is me who is stressed and frustrated with the progress of the students.  The students are just hunky dorie!

Let me think about what to do . . . IDK!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Assessment - Tried something different

I have been reading all of what Shawn Cornally ( @thinkthunkthank) has to say on assessment and standards based grading.

This week . . . my plan was to try a different angle with this week's assessment in Algebra.  I gave the assessment Thursday . . . graded the assessment but only made comments and circled areas of weakness or mistakes.

No points, no percentages, etc.

Then, I emailed each student so they knew how they did on each problem (standard).

Friday (today), the next day, I gave the assessments back to the students.  Then, I had the students do the following:

1.  If they got the problem correct . . . then they created 1 problem on their own and worked the problem out (showing me that the first time was not a "fluke").
2.  If the student got the problem incorrect . . . then they created 2 problems on their and worked them out (giving them multiple opportunities to show success).

The student could ask questions, but only about the original assessment from Thursday (the one with comments/circles) which helped students focus on their weaknesses and make connections to help them create and complete their own problems.

Things went really well overall.  Good discussions, students seemed to make progress and better overall understanding.

Issue:  How do I put this in to the gradebook as a percentage?  Do students who got the problems correct on Thursday earn a higher percentage than those who needed Friday to find success?  Or, does it really matter when they show success?  Success is success, right?  Do I make another assessment as a final follow up - maybe only the ones who needed the Friday strength day?

Pros - I love email and the ability to give immediate feedback to students.  This has been an issue for me in the past and something I want to improve upon this year.  Also, the assessment style I used took the focus off the points and percentages and rather on knowing the material - win in my book!

Cons - it takes a lot of time to email each student individually (but I think it was worth it overall).

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

SBG tidbits - quotes of interest!

Shawn Cornally (@thinkthankthunk &
-taken from blog post "I Make My Own Bacon:  How I Learned to Love Assessment"

"This is why a philosophy like SBG is so important for a more natural classroom. When assessment becomes more than a grim reaper of grades, and becomes something both students and teachers welcome as information gathering, that’s when you’ve made it. You’ve made the currency of your classroom about learning, and the points are just placeholders. Hallelujah."

Monday, November 5, 2012

Assessment - There's got to be more to it!

I have been really interested in Standards Based Grading (SBG) and Standards Based Assessment and Reform (SBAR) . . . over the summer I got all into the twitter chats and subscribed to numerous blogs via google reader.  So this school year, so far, I have focused my grading (or gradebook more like it), but now feel a void in my current set up.

My struggles come from the fact that I have students who are not good at some skills, but I have not truly given them an opportunity to become better at their weaknesses.  For instance, I workout and I keep a log of all my workouts so I can see my progress . . . in April my bench press was about 185 lbs. while now I am over 200 lbs. . . . there are programs that can take my lifts and let me know if I am a beginner, intermediate, or advanced lifter based on my strength.  I can see where I am weak and can focus on those areas in hopes of making them strengths.

Re-assessment.  That's what I am missing . . . also I think I am missing great opportunities to communicate with my students what I feel is their strengths/weaknesses.

I am currently focusing my attention on one "guru" of SBG:  Shawn Cornally (@thinkthankthunk /  This guy is awesome and his posts are not only informative but amusing.

Something that has caught my attention from his posts is the idea of on-going assessments . . . I have been assessing my lifts since the spring.  I didn't just lock in a final weight mid-summer and call it quits.  Now I do have cycles that I lift through, then re-evaluate where I am and where I want to go.  In the classroom . . . how about I keep the standards/scores from first quarter and continue them in the second quarter allowing students to work on previous standards that they struggled with.

This would give a more overall picture of the student's ability in class . . . because that's what I'm supposedly assessing.  Right?  Not who is responsible with regards to keeping a notebook or completing homework assignments . . . my ultimate goal is to create the strongest math student I can.

With my school going to gmail and all students having an account I am looking at ways to really communicate with students about the standards, about opportunities to take weaknesses and turn them into strengths, to push my stronger students to higher levels and bust through plateaus.  Plus, how many times have discussions or surveys or exit slips given you a deeper glance into the thinking of your students?  I know I need those one on one interactions with students where the formality of a quiz or test are not evident and the student can speak candidly about the topic at hand.  Email is a great buffer for this . . . what a great way to find gaps in understanding and to develop an action plan moving ahead and to build trust and support with/for your students!

Think about it . . . it's the end of May, end of the school year, and each of my students gets a list of all the standards we have covered and gets a break down of weak areas, strong areas, areas of average strength.  Wouldn't that be more valuable to my students?  What does a C with a comment of consistent effort in class do for the student or parent?

I really want to attack this idea . . . I think my teaching fits well with this idea . . . I think I need to put more time into my feedback for students and begin to create more conversations about the progress of each of my students.  I think the time and effort will be worth it.


Friday, October 19, 2012

Math App Competition (MAC) #1 - Pick A Path by NCTM

click here to download/install app Pick A Path by NCTM
Math App Competition #1 - Pick A Path by National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM)

Started my first Math App Competition (MAC) with my all my students today.  And it went really really well.  There are 7 levels, each with 7 sets of puzzles to be completed . . . the scoring system is similar to Angry Birds & Bad Piggies . . . you have a goal to reach and receive stars depending on how well you do in your efforts to reach that goal.  So, if a student completes a perfect level they will earn 21 stars.

For the competition, for the students to earn "points" they must complete an entire level of 7 puzzles, screenshot their scorecard, and email the scorecard to me.

Then I post the scores on the MAC Leaderboard (click here).  The MAC Leaderboard is a google spreadsheet . . .

Here's the best part . . . I have students of verying abilities and effort levels and motivation levels and so on and so on.  All of them are competitive and want to do well in this endeavor.  Here's an example:  student is going to receive a C for the first quarter in my Algebra class.  He just sent me his scorecard screenshot of level with a perfect 21 stars!  Here's the bonus:  he sent it at 5:30 this afternoon (which by the way is a Friday!).  So, here is a student whose been inconsistent in regards to effort and comprehension at times and he's working on these puzzles 2 hours after school has let out!  That's AWESOME!

That is the biggest lesson I am taking from this competition already . . . all my students from Algebra to Honors Geometry were getting frustrated with the puzzles . . . they are not straight forward and can take multiple tries to complete.  What a great reminder and eye opener for the students to force them to work through sticking points and to finally have SUCCESS!

The competition will run through the Friday prior to Thanksgiving Break (November 16th).  But, I have a feeling that some students are going to complete the 7 levels well before that date.  Right now I am looking at crowning a champion and the top 10 . . .

Math App Competition #1 - Pick A Path by NCTM

I am hoping to do more competitions throughout the school year - if you know of any other good mathematics apps for Android, please share!  Thanks!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

First Quarter Review - One Week Left

First off . . . the Android Acer has changed the whole dynamics of my classroom.  I have gone nearly paperless for close to two weeks now!!  And I love it.  The students are doing really well with the new software programs and the numerous steps that are being thrown at them.

This coming week is the final week of the quarter so . . .

Algebra - end of quarter assessment!  Here's a link to the topics / practice problems:  click here
This quarter has been about developing student confidence in their ability, creating trust between students and between students and I, as we move onto the second quarter and more difficult material.

Geometry - my focus in here has really been on the use of projects to fill in the gaps for the students.  Battering students with notes & worksheets becomes tedious and I really question how much the students are learning in this type of set up.  So, students are creating and creating and creating some more.  I will share a picture of my Honors Geometry Amalgamation projects when I get a chance.  They are awesome and we made a "visual quilt" out of them!!

Next quarter tech goals:  student google sites!  use progressbook with students!  use socrative on the Acer!  continue to create a better google class site!

Check out my class site if you get a chance . . . I would love feedback as right now all I am doing if throwing stuff on it, but am looking for a better more fluid way to present material.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

C7 W3 Strictly 531

Tuesday - MP

row 500 m
shoulder mobility

warm-up:  2xbarx10, 2x55x5, 65x5, 80x3

5/3/1:  95x5, 110x3, 2x125x1 (felt solid both sets!).

Thursday - DL

500m row
hip.shoulder mobility

warm-up: 2x bar x 10,  2 x 135x5, 175x5, 210x3
5/3/1:  260x5, 295x3, 330x1+ (got 1!)

DL was super heavy today but felt awesome throughout.  getting closer to my goal of 340# DL (twice bw).

Friday - BP

500m row
shoulder/hip mobility

warm-up:  2xbarx20, 75x5, 95x5, 115x5

5/3/1:   140x5, 160x3, 180x1+ (got 4!).

Felt solid today with my bench technique.  Left a rep in the bag on the last set but felt good overall with my performance.  Will look toward next week as a chance to bust out my deload week and focus on blasting my body with sets and reps.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

C7 W2 - Strictly 531

Tuesday - MP

Shoulder Mobility (lots of this!)

chins between sets of press (x5 reps)
warm-up:  2xbarx10, 50x5, 65x5, 80x3

3/3/3:  90x3, 105x3, 115x3+ (got 3).

Focus is on my presses (military/bench) . . . really focusing on recovery/mobility.  Solid pressing day overall.

Thursday - DL

rower / hip mobility /  shoulder&back mobility

warm-up:  2x135x5, 175x5, 215x3

3/3/3:  245x3, 280x3, 315x3+ (got 4).

Heavy . . . this is the one lift that I am going all out on . . . hammer session!

Friday - BP

rower / shoulder/hip mobility

warm-up:  2x75x5, 2x95x5, 115x3

3/3/3:  135x3, 150x3, 170x3+ (got 5!)

Felt strong throughout.  Good week of lifting.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

C7 W1 Strictly 531

After talking with my wife about life, teaching, and working out I realized that I was overtraining . . . leading myself to be less than average in all aspects of my life.  I am gearing things down and focusing my workouts strictly on the 531 lifts and on mobility before/after workouts and at night.

Here goes nothin'!  Truth!

Tuesday - OHP 9.25

warm-up:  2xbarx10, 2x50x5, 2x65x5, 80x3

5/5/5:  85x5, 95x5, 110x6 (goal was to get 5+)

Focused on shoulder mobility and stretching my back.  I did a few sets of chins in the 5/5/5 part of the workout.

Wednesday - DL

warm-up:  2x135x5, 2x175x5, 210x3

5/5/5:  225x5, 260x5, 295x6 (goal 5+)

Felt really strong with DL today.  Solid lifts all around.

Thursday - BP

warm-up:  barx20, 2x75x5, 2x105x5, 115x3

5/5/5:  135x5, 155x5, 180x2 (goal 5+)

Poundages set using 100% of my TM - was too much!!  So, I am revamping my weights for BP using 90% of my TM.  Live & learn.  The presses are easily my weakest areas at the moment.

Going to begin working out just 3x per week flipping DL/Squat - not sure if I'll do that weekly or monthly.  We will see.

Saturday - small workout - 100 curls with 20# on bar + 4 trips with 35# dbs farmer's walk.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

C7 BBB Challenge - Month 3 Schedule

BBB ChallengeBP 5x10 @ 145#SQ 5x10 @ 170#OHP 5x10 @ 100#DL 5x10 @ 245#

1RMBP 210#SQ 240#OHP 145#350#

Warm up

Bench Press Squats Overhead Press Deadlift
85 lbs x 5 95 lbs x 5 50 lbs x 5 140 lbs x 5
105 lbs x 5 120 lbs x 5 65 lbs x 5 175 lbs x 5
125 lbs x 3 145 lbs x 3 80 lbs x 3 210 lbs x 3

5/3/1 Weights

Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4
Bench Press Set 1 135 lbs x 5 145 lbs x 3 155 lbs x 5 85 lbs x 5
Set 2 155 lbs x 5 170 lbs x 3 180 lbs x 3 105 lbs x 5
Set 3 180 lbs x 5+ 190 lbs x 3+ 200 lbs x 1+ 125 lbs x 5  
Squats Set 1 155 lbs x 5 170 lbs x 3 180 lbs x 5 95 lbs x 5
Set 2 180 lbs x 5 190 lbs x 3 205 lbs x 3 120 lbs x 5
Set 3 205 lbs x 5+ 215 lbs x 3+ 230 lbs x 1+ 145 lbs x 5
Deadlifts Set 1 225 lbs x 5 245 lbs x 3 260 lbs x 5 140 lbs x 5
Set 2 260 lbs x 5 280 lbs x 3 295 lbs x 3 175 lbs x 5
Set 3 295 lbs x 5+ 315 lbs x 3+ 330 lbs x 1+ 210 lbs x 5
Overhead Press Set 1 85 lbs x 5 90 lbs x 3 95 lbs x 5 50 lbs x 5
Set 2 95 lbs x 5 105 lbs x 3 115 lbs x 3 65 lbs x 5
Set 3 110 lbs x 5+ 115 lbs x 3+ 125 lbs x 1+ 80 lbs x 5

Monday, September 17, 2012

C6 W4 - Deload Week - 1RM

Monday - MP

shoulder mobility (including lacrosse balls)

warm-up:  2x55x5, 2x65x5, 75x3

5/5/5:  55x5, 65x5, 75x5

1RM:  2x95x2, 135xfail, 125x1, 130xfail

125# 1RM - back in spring 1RM was 110# so 15# in 6 months isn't too bad.  I really want to get 135# up.  Nothing like having the 45# plates on the bar!

Tuesday -rest day (forgot my towel - realized on the way to the gym, so went home took a shower there and headed to school).

*Head cold and school are beating me down.  Going to take the week off from lifting and focus on getting quality sleep, diet, and mobility/stretching.

Will begin month 3 of BBB Challenge next week!  70% of TM!!  OUCH!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Week 4 Reflection - Let's talk SALSA!

Algebra - man oh man the range of abilities in my Algebra classes!  And that's in terms of effort, motivation, comprehension, so on and so on.

So, here's what I tried and it worked out really well - Tiered Tasks.  Tiered tasks is the idea of working on the same topic but setting up activities which work at varying levels.  I called it . . . SALSA!

Unit Focus - Solving Equations
Problem Set A - mild salsa (one step equations / two step equations)
Problem Set B - spicy salsa (two step equations / distributive property / combining like terms)
Problem Set C - inferno (solving equations of all sorts, sizes, and shapes).

This set up was awesome as I went around as the "waiter" and got the students' order - if the problem set they chose was too easy, then I gave them the next one up . . . and it could work the other way, but students didn't take this option = motivation/increased effort when stuck.  Win win!

Then to top it off, I gave the students "desert" - a quick summary question/worksheet to tie it all together.

The students joked that I didn't give them an "appetizer" so will need to work on an opener next time.

Today I had students asking to do the A,B,C activity again.  That's what I'm talking about.

I need to come up with some more variety in terms of set up, but the premise of having tiered tasks is something that I think will be a consistent in my lessons.

Might use it for this week's assessment coming up.

Next topic ahead - inequalities.


Focus this past week was on midpoint, angle bisectors, segment addition, angle addition.  Lots of algebra here . . . amazing how they freak out about solving for x!

Still don't feel like I have gotten into a groove yet with the classes, but they have some awesome personalities and effort/creativity has been great.  Check out some of the avatars they created.

Avatars - Honors Geometry

Once we get our tablets, google acounts, etc. . . . it's on!  I can't wait.  Neither can the students.

Busy weekend ahead . . . soccer games for the kids Saturday and working at the Bengals on Sunday.  If we can't beat the Browns, then it's gonna be a long year.

Monday, September 10, 2012

C6 W3 - BBB Challenge

Monday - MP

500m row
shoulder mobility (included lacrosse balls today)

warm-up:  2x55x5, 2x65x5, 75x5

5/3/1:  95x5, 105x5, 120x1 (was tough but kept it moving the whole time).

BBB:  5x10 @ 125# BP - solid all the way through.

Tuesday - DL

500m row
hip mobility

warm-up:  2x135x5 , 2x155x5, 185x3

5/3/1:  230x5, 260x3, 290x1 - this last set felt really strong!

BBB:  5x10 @ 140# SQ - felt really good/solid.

Wednesday - rest/mobility.

Thursday - BP
500m row
shoulder mobility (used lacrosse balls)

warm-up:  2x75x5, 2x95x5, 110x3

5/3/1:  140x5, 155x3, 175x1 (felt really good / strong!)

BBB:  5x10 @ 85# MP - tried to push press on each set and seemed to actually wear me down quicker, sooner overall.  Going to keep surviving this BBB.  Only way to get better is to keep attacking it week in, week out.  Might look at more rest between sets (I'm just so stinking impatient!).

Friday - SQ

500m row
hip mobility

warm-up:  2xbarx10, 2x85x5, 2x105x5, 125x3, 175x1

5/3/1:  155x5, 175x3, 195x1

BBB:  5x10 @ 205# DL - felt strong/solid throughout all 5 sets!

Looking ahead with my programming = going to finish up next month with BBB Challenge using 5x10 @ 70% of my TM (which sounds outrageous but motivating big time!).  Then going to look at doing some more focused work after reading an article on written by the man, Jim Wendler.  Here's his thoughts on programming:

So I'm gonna keep the basic 5/3/1 block going throughout but vary my focus in terms of maintaining vs testing, etc.  I need the variety to keep my locked in, and I think I will continue to make strength gains in the end.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Remind101 & PollEverywhere

Here are two online programs I am using with my classes.

Remind101 (

Started to use this program with my Geometry/Honors Geometry classes.  How it works:  I type a message and click send.  The message is sent to my students' cell phone via a text message.  Great way to remind the students about assignments, materials to bring to class, etc.  Also, it's a one way messenger . . . meaning the teacher doesn't receive any random replies (which I think is great!).

There is also an option to send the message to email (I like the text option because it's instant - easy for last minuter reminders).  Student sign up was easy and so far has worked great!

PollEverywhere (

I am planning on using this for warm-ups & quick-checks during class periods.  I have not used this program yet and plan to use it in all my classes in some form or another.  So, I will update this post with my thoughts on PollEverywhere.  UPDATE:  My students and I had our first experience with polleverywhere today and it was interesting . . . I really like the multiple choice option.  The open ended question scares me with the students being in control of the responses that get posted.  But I think it's going to be a great class opener and ender for sure.

I will say that the set up of my account, polls, grouping them, etc. has been super easy.  Hopefully the same can be said for my students and the classes. 

Til then . . . happy teachings!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Variety with students grouped @ tables (Algebra)

One of the issues I am dealing with in my classes is the fact that I have grouped my students around tables.  This means that there are 5 students all within ear shot and eye shot of one another and each others' work.

I have a wide range of abilities in my classroom and sometimes it's hard to really see where some of my students truly are . . . especially my lower performing students.  I know it's natural to try and "look" like you know what you are doing, but as a teacher you know that's not what's best in the long run.

So, I came up with an activity that I used in my class the other day.  I create a set of practice problems for each student at the table and I placed the problems on the paper in the "spot" that the student is sitting in respect to the table.

Each student worked through the five problems in their "spot" - each set was different than the others.  The trick - I made each of the answers end up the same . . . but students couldn't copy right from their neighbor.

How'd it work?  Better questions from the students and some started to finally give in and say, "I'm not sure how to do this problem."  That's awesome.  These first three weeks have been so much about developing trust with the students so they will let me and Mrs. Harvey (co-teacher) give intervention and help.

Here's a pic of the problem set I created (I used photobooth which takes pictures mirror image style! #dealwithit):

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Geometry "Badge of Honor"

"Badge of Honor" - google drawing (simplistic rendition) - I hope to include some pictures as the year goes along of actual student created badges.

The "Badge of Honor" is a way for my students to have ownership of their learning, along with getting some positive feedback along the way.  The "Badge of Honor" goes along with my idea of Geometry Ranks.

Students will have Missions to complete.  As the students complete a mission, then I will give them a new rank and badge.  Each badge will be placed on the "Badge of Honor" as a representation of the student's achievement.

This is the first time I have tried this and hope that it goes well.  I love giving students the opportunity to tap into their creative side and so I can see this changing and morphing as the year goes on . . . but the basic premise will still remain the same.

*note:  Student is given Rank:  Private by being enrolled in my class.  There is no insignia in the Marines for the rank of Private.

Mission #1
  • Basic Constructions with compass/ruler (in future this will be using GeoGebra but due to technology issues this year we'll go with old school) = copy segment, angle bisector, copy angle, perpendicular bisector, parallel lines, equilateral triangle, square, & hexagon inscribed in a circle.
  • Avatar - students will create their avatar for the course - this will be affixed to the student's "Badge of Honor".
  • "Badge of Honor" - students will create the "Badge of Honor"
  • Line Design - first project of the year - will be affixed to the "Badge of Honor"
  • Google site (not sure on this one due to technology hiccups - *fingers crossed*) - students will use a template to create their student site for my Geometry class.
Completion of Mission #1will earn the student the Rank:

Private First Class

Insignia the students will receive & place on their "Badge of Honor":

Friday, August 31, 2012

Week 2 Reflection - Algebra/Geometry

Week 2 Reflection:

Go Cougars!  Beat Milford!  Let's go 2-0!

Algebra - gave my first assessment of the year this week (Algebra translations, rewriting expressions using exponents, evaluating expressions, distributive property, combining like terms) - the majority of students did pretty well overall - lots struggled with Algebra translations so I focused on that on Friday, the following day.

Now?!?  Differentiation - I need to find a way to keep those who are doing well moving forward while giving the intervention to those students who struggled.  Algebra always seems to have the biggest range in abilities/motivation/effort - how do you deal with this difference?  Create individual plans (sounds great, but a lot of work for me as a teacher!)?  Make up tiered activities and assign them to groups of students?  Please share!

The next unit focuses on solving equations and this is usually a better understood section of material overall, and I have an easier time creating problem sets.

Again, the lack of technology (interactive whiteboard not a go / Acer tablets not a go) has slowed things down quite a bit.  Of course, the scary thought is how all over the place students can end up once the technology is in place.  We will see.

Effort/motivation has been good overall student-wise.

Next week - solving equations (1 step, multi step, variable on both sides)

Geometry - spent this week on more constructions - overall the two classes did well.  A couple students struggled, but that was more of a lack of being able to use the compass consistently well more than an understanding of what to do.  I gave my first assessment of the year (constructions - copy segment, perpendicular bisector, perpendicular through point on a line, perpendicular through a point not on a line).  I could have done more if I had the tablets/internet access - *fingers crossed*

Students have homework over the labor day weekend - line design - opportunity to use straight lines to create some cool curvy designs, and the first "test" of responsibility as it is due on the Tuesday that we return.

Looking at creating some assignments that require the internet and see if students are able to complete them.  I can't go another week without some technology being involved.  And since I only have the 2 Geometries I think that'll be a good starting point.

Next week - Angle pairs (include Algebra), create student Avatar, begin the Geometry Rank system Ranks google doc (click here) (note: list will be edited since I have been unable to use GeoGebra at this point - again *fingers crossed*).  Also, going to try and introduce some more technology programs that we'll use throughout the year (twitter, etc.).

I will look at the Geometry Rank system closely over the weekend to get a better feel of the "flow" of topics for the next few weeks.  I'm ready to take things up a notch in these classes.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Week 1 Reflection

Week 1 Reflection:

Overall - a great group of students with lots of energy, good senses of humor, and a lot of the same strengths/weaknesses of classes I've taught previously.  I really need to look at how I want to differentiate the students, the activities, assessments, etc.

Cons:  Technology is slow at this time - missing some connectors for my whiteboard and students do not have the Android Acer Tablet as of yet.  It surprised me this week how much not having access to my interactive whiteboard threw me off.  It allows so much flexibility and adaptability on the fly during class.

Geometry / Honors Geometry - focused on isometric drawings / basic constructions (daisy designs, angle bisectors / perpendicular bisectors).  I so want to rock geogebra with these students but will have to wait on that once the tech stuff is worked out.

Algebra - mixed it up throughout the week - focused on algebraic translation, evaluating expressions, calculator basics, and a handful of various activities to see student personalities, effort, motivation, understanding, etc. - there are definite, noticeable levels in these classes - some very strong, and some not so strong students.

Things to think about for next week - pre assessing / creating parallel tasks / creating "I can statements" = SBG grade set up.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

What's the deal with the Teacher Desk?

 What's the deal with the Teacher Desk?
This is something I am pondering as the new school year begins in just one week.
 Here's the situation:  brand new high school building; brand new classroom;  16 tables instead of individual desks (love this!); tall storage cabinet on wheels; "end table" type thing on wheels; a wall full of cabinets (high & low at the back of the classroom); two whiteboards with one hooked up with projector; teacher desk.
I can only plug my computer/phone in an area in the corner of the room (see pic) - so thinking of putting the "end table" there (which I did - see here):

Now, what to do with the tall storage cabinet on wheels and the teacher desk.  Some background info - I am not organized.  Never have been, and chances are pretty good never will be.  My desk is just another place for me to randomly set papers, pens, pencils, rulers, calculators, you name it.  At times my teacher desk has looked something like this (note: not an actual picture of my desk - just an illustration):

So, why the need for a teacher desk?  I put this question out on twitter and here's some responses I received:

So true!  As if the teacher desk is some "throne".  I spend the majority of my time working with my students so why create a physical barrier that takes that away?  Teaching is more than content and great lesson plans . . . its about interpersonal relationships and building of trust and confidence in the student. Also, so much of my work is going in the online direction that it's easy to move my computer to a student desk area and do my work.
Supplies & files . . . only if I were organized.  LOL!

Love it because I have one of those - a tall storage cabinet!

Conclusion:  Spoke with my inclusion teacher and she is going to take over the desk - she is very organized and being in my room for only 3 periods a day, it's a nice "home base" for her to keep all of her things.  I found a great place to put the tall movable storage cabinet - fits perfectly in the corner in the back (this will be my "go-to" area / a desk on wheels that will hold dry erase markers, boards, graph papers of varying sorts, etc.):  see here -

Here are a few shots of the layout of my tables (love this as it's very student centered which I want) - at this time I have 6 "islands" that can accommodate 5 students for a total of 30 students.  I don't have my class rosters yet, so it wouldn't surprise me if I end up adding another "island" to the mix.  I have the space if needed.  Best case scenario - I have the 4 extra tables removed and then have a lot more space to work with!!  *fingers crossed*

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Student E-portfolios (great video)

The State of Tech is always full of great information that you can use in your classroom right now!  This video looks at google sites and the use of online student portfolios.


Saturday, August 11, 2012

Blog Post Highlight: Simplifying Radicals: Grade Conversions

I have struggled a lot the past few years when it came to giving grades.  There were times when I gave students the same grade that were not really on the same level in terms of knowledge and comprehension.  Also, I feel that the stronger students should be getting the better grades in the end.  Then I came upon a blog post that took the idea of being proficient and high performing into account and has a really neat/easy way to convert the grades.

I will need to create a list of outcomes for each unit (similar to the topics list I made for last year) then go from there.  I think this will be a great way to differentiate between the average student and the above average student.  I already have a google spreadsheet that allows me to identify those students who are average, mastered, etc. which I will use to help keep track of the outcomes.  This idea is standards based grading in a way that makes me happy.

The focus would be on the level of completion for each outcome and how those outcomes fall overall in terms of # of proficient outcomes and # of high performing outcomes.  Proficient for me would be - here's a problem, solve.  High performing for me would be word problems or added steps or giving the answer and having students create a problem that fits, etc. - high order thinking.

To read more detail on this - check out the blog post:

Simplifying Radicals: Grade Conversions: Let's discuss how to convert all of those Ns, Ps, and Hs into a number grade.  Ideally, you don't want to do this, but I don't think student...

Sunday, August 5, 2012

GeoGebra - first weeks of Geometries!

First couple week goals for Geometry classes:

1.  Googlesite - eportfolio
2.  Mini-Lego Avatar
3.  GeoGebra (d'oh)

4.  itslearning - going to use this site for assignments (descriptions/how to videos) - will use GoogleSite for displaying student creations/journaling - should be a great way to follow student growth and understanding throughout the entire year.

I still need to set up the Geometry Military Ranks so students can follow their progress (training) and see how they stack up with their classmates.  May use their ranks as part of project during the semester.

Does anyone use gaming or ongoing competition in their classroom?  If so, how do you set it up and run it?  Please share!

Differentiating Algebra

Here's my plan to differentiate Algebra I this upcoming school year & include some SBG/flipclass ideas:

1.  Create topics list.
2.  Create assessments for each topic (pre-assessment).
3.  Use the pre-assessments to gauge student ability.
4.  Table groupings (we do not have desks in the classroom).

  • Video Viewing - student has little to no idea whatsoever how to complete the problems.
  • Basic Practice (proficiency) - could be a set of problems in the book/worksheet, matching activity, etc. - really looking to create opportunities for repetition.
  • High Performing - this group would be looking at more difficult types of problem sets (i.e. involving fractions, decimals, word problems).
  • Topic Capstone - student creations!  Students will create quizzes, how to videos, worksheets, peer teach a student in one of the lower levels.
5.  Assessment will be ongoing - each topic will be assessed, but then there will a larger unit assessment as well.  That way if a student is having an issue with a topic I can continue to work with that student throughout the year.

One of the major issues I run into each year is trying to give the stronger students opportunities to branch out more in a topic and to tap into their knowledge levels.  These students traditionally seem to be the ones who want to share their know how and I think the high performing/topic capstone is a great spot for them.

My hope is that I could get all my students into the high performing level, but am not sure if that's realistic.  The first few weeks the students will be focusing on evaluating expressions/distributive property/equations vs expressions vs inequalities, solving equations,  and solving inequalities/graphing solutions.

I plan to use a color coded style of grading to keep track of the strengths/weaknesses of my students - then use that to create a percentage grade.  Still working on that idea.

The flipclass idea is one that fits my teaching style.  I want to spend the majority of my time working with students to make them mathematically successful.  I see the use of video/how-to's as a supplement to the classwork.  I understand that there will be topics/strategies that I will need to complete with the entire group of students, and I will plan accordingly.  I think that will be a great opportunity to keep things in perspective for myself and the students as well.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Some stuff I want to use

I came across the stuff at Exeter who has these problem sets . . . of which most are pretty difficult or at least challenge you to think outside the box a little, which I love.

So, I tried to start a math club (I had a student teacher at the time and was ready to hurt myself b/c I wasn't teaching) which lasted about 3 months, and I looked to use the problem sets.

Been reading some blogs (specifically which brought up the Exeter problem sets in one the posts . . . I think this is something I want to incorporate into my classes.  Just need to find a way . . . maybe devote a day - make it a challenge/competition.  I need to think about it.

Here's some other things that I'm thinking about:

1.  Multiple assessments / recurring topics - I can't test once, say oh you have it in September and not check for retention until December's semester final!!
2.  SBG - I love the idea because my job is to make my students stronger mathematically, but even more to appreciate the math, to learn to strive and persevere through the ups/downs of class (uh and life!).


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Creating Assessments - Unit 0

Here's my quick write up of Unit 0 quick assessments. Looking at creating something "larger" that students must complete to show understanding (i.e. interview, online journal, poster/video how to, etc.).

Unit 0 Assessments

It's a start . . . will begin to look at Unit 1 Intro to Functions tomorrow.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Geometry Year Overview

Going to take the idea of gaming and introducing into my Geometry course this year.  I find that each year I do less teaching and more scenario/situation type work.  For instance, instead of taking the students through an activity where they draw a triangle, measure the 3 angles, then add the 3 angles . . . now I will just have them show me that that the triangle sum is 180 degrees using at least 2 different methods (i.e. GeoGebra, paper/pencil/protractor, etc.).

Also, I am going to create Geometry Ranks (taken from the USMC - United States Marine Corps).  As a student makes his/her way through each section they will earn a part of their badge - the bade will be displayed in the classroom and the student will be able to decorate this as they receive badges.  Also, I hope to post the badges (i.e. leaderboard) online - not sure how yet.  So looking for ideas!

Also, each student is going to create an Lego Avatar for the year . . . may change it to fit the seasons but have heard how this helps with some students being a little less apprehensive about doing things and also taps into the creativity group that we all have in our classes.  I can't wait to see this.

Planning on using journaling this year as well so will be using google docs Google Student site quite a bit . . . hopefully daily  .

Here's a quick glance at my Geometry Ranks (not sure how to differentiate Honors Geometry in terms of rank other than the expectations are higher; I may look at using a different rank system but think that'll be confusing and a royal pain for me).

The underlined sections are breaks for the unit - so #1-3 are a Unit focusing on technology, geogebra, and constructions.

Geometry Ranks

  1. Private - Avatar creation / Googlesite set up
  2. Private First Class - GeoGebra Essentials
  3. Lance Corporal - Construction Zone A
  4. Corporal - Geometry Definitions
  5. Sergeant - Congruency
  6. Staff Sergeant - Transformations
  7. Geometry Sergeant - Proof
  8. Master Sergeant - Triangle Property Proofs
  9. First Sergeant - Parallelogram Property Proofs
  10. Master Geometry Sergeant - Construction (Inscribed / Circumscribed)
  11. Sergeant Major - Dilations
  12. Sergeant Major of the Geometry Corp - Triangle Similarity
  13. Warrant Officer 1 - Indirect Measure
  14. Chief Warrant Officer 2 - Project
  15. Chief Warrant Officer 3 - Coordinate Geometry
  16. Chief Warrant Officer 4 - Slope
  17. Chief Warrant Officer 5 - Midpoint
  18. Second Lieutenant - Distance
  19. First Lieutenant - Circle Characteristic / Properties
  20. Captain - Circle Equation / Parabolas
  21. Major -  Volume
  22. Lieutenant Colonel - Trigonometry
  23. Colonel - Pythagorean Theorem
  24. Brigadier Colonel - Final Project A
  25. Major General - Final Project B
  26. General - Final Project C

Next step is to create a grading/scoring rubric for the different ranks - as we all know, just because I am now a Lance Corporal doesn't necessarily mean I'm an expert at GeoGebra but I did complete the required steps. So, I need to create some levels - looking at using stars or some type of rewards (i.e. purple hearts) - need to research this idea.

Also, I am looking at having students build their Geometry backpack through the completion of extra work - origami activities, exeter problems, Algebra reviews, and so on. I am looking for android apps to use for this.

I wanted to get an overall feel as to what to cover and where before I created my online learning environment. Now I will need to look at Algebra from the big picture as well.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Geometry Unit 1

Starting to turn my attention to Geometry a little now . . . specifically Unit 1 Definitions/Rigid Motions.

Here's a quick glance of the topics I plan to cover:

1-1 Definitions
  • points, lines, planes
  • segments, rays
  • angles
  • angle pairs
  • triangle types
  • parallel lines/perpendicular lines (including proofs)
1-2 Congruency

  • triangle congruence / proof
1-3  Transformations
  • translations, reflections, rotations, glide reflections
  • coordinate rules
Trying to figure out how to set up #flipclass style for these . . . I feel like the definitions are better set up for in class projects/assignments / congruency is a hands on inductive/deductive experience / transformations is so much of a "just do it and observe" topic - I am going to need to set up a solid set of "workouts" for this unit for sure.

Not sure how to incorporate video with this . . . will have to be creative.

Algebra Unit 1: Functions

1A:  Coordinate Plane
1B:  Relations-Domain-Range-Mapping
1C:  Tables & Relations
1D:  Graphing Linear Functions
1E:  Exponential Functions
1F:  Functions

Have almost all the videos for this Unit 1 completed.

I am going to have to put a lot of time & effort into my classwork assignments for this Unit . . . going to need a lot of reflection, discussion, collaboration/group work to go beyond the basic idea.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Algebra I Progress . . . even a little feels great!

Spent an hour this morning getting my videos put into a "playlist" on itslearning.  I am going to back this all up on youtube along with keeping them at

I have a couple more videos to create for Solving Equations, then I will move into Inequalities.

The biggest thing for me is development of quality, varied in class work . . . this is where I think I'll need to put the most focus and energy over the next 2 months.

But excited to finally have something after all the thinking I've been doing these past few weeks.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

You Tube Channel

So finally started to make my flipclass videos for Algebra I.  I have Unit 0-1: Expressions completed, and now have gotten half of the Unit 0-2: Solving Equations completed.

Kind of strange without an audience to talk to and kind of guide through . . . I am a "feel" type teacher. If I sense the majority of the class has the material down, then I can move quicker.  And vice versa.  It's going to be interesting to see how the different levels of understanding are going to become apparent I think more quickly in the flipclass set up.

Also, those with motivation/effort issues will be apparent quickly as well.

themathboyle you tube channel

I am using to create the screencasts.  Just seems so simple at this point.  I'm not worried about the editing and all that.  I really want to get the content side of the videos together . . . as I become more experienced with the flipclass, then I'll look more into the editing.

Would love to get some feedback and ideas on how to make the videos more student friendly.  Not sure how to set up question spots and other options.  I think those will be videos I create on the fly when I realize that there's a need for a special focus video.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Unit Layout

I have been doing a lot of thinking about how I want things to flow on my google site ( in regards to information shared with the student, assessments, assignments, etc. etc.

I have a more solid idea now thanks to Andy Schwen ( who has developed google forms that collect assessment/assignment data and puts it into graphs/tables to look for strengths/weaknesses.

I really thought about using Mr. Schwen's system but then what about itslearning LMS that the school purchased.  itslearning does the same things as his system.  And I can learn with other teachers with itslearning as they progress through the learning management system (LMS).

Here's my Unit Layout (as of today!):

  1. Units (per CCSS traditional layout)
  2. Sections (based upon the CCSS / my development of "standards" students must meet
    1. Pre-Assessment (online / googlesite) - if 80% or higher can skip lower level of section assignment sheet
    2. Powerpoint (notes / focus will be on vocabulary) - posted on google site
    3. Problem Solving Video - flipclass (googlesite)
    4. Assessments (googlesite)
  3. Assignments - this will be the "in class" side of things.  I want to create an assignment sheet up that uses Bloom's Taxonomy to increase the levels of the points earned for specific types of questions.  i.e
      1. Knowledge / Knowledge Mastery (1 point)
      2. Comprehension / Comprehension Mastery (2 points)
      3. Application / Application Mastery (3 points)
      4. Analysis / Analysis Mastery (4 points)
      5. Synthesis / Synthesis Mastery (5 points)
      6. Evaluation / Evaluation Mastery (6 points)
    1. This will be the most difficult part for me . . . going beyond basic knowledge/comprehension.  I will set it up like a Crossfit WOD - certain types of problems that fit into the "areas" listed above.  Once I get one created I will post it.
    2. Thinking I may end up grouping 1/2 together, 3/4 together, 5/6 together . . .
    3. My struggle the past few years is differentiating my instruction - it's the 1/3 principle - 1/3 of the students have it before I teach it, 1/3 will get it once they get a "glimpse" of the material, and the final 1/3 need my intervention throughout.  How I can keep the 1/3 challenged without moving ahead of the bottom 1/3 has been my issue - I feel like I tailor my instruction for the middle/bottom and want to turn that around to be the middle/top.
I have been a lot of thinking, and not as much doing because I have felt like I've needed to get a better grasp of how I wanted to get the information to the students, how to assess them, and how I wanted to create assignments in class - I want to focus more on the standards (not ready to jump 100% into standards based grading yet) and not so much on effort points . . . more on knowledge points.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Class Site Address

Here's my class site (via

This is where it will all go down next year . . . #fingerscrossed

It's in the early stages, but it's a start!  Would love any feedback from teachers on things to add or what has worked for you etc.  Thanks!

Software I'll be using . . .

Here's a couple of things I plan to use to flip my classes next school year:

  1. - you create powerpoints, then you can webcam yourself discussing the slides of the powerpoint - going to use this as the "notes" for my class.  More of a focus on examples with answers and vocabulary.
    1. plan to have students create an ongoing vocabulary page on their eportfolio googe site.
  2. - screencast software that I will use to create problem situations / assignment scenarios - will create the lessons using my mimio interactive board software.
  3. - an awesome way to get instant feedback from classes - exit tickets, see who watched the video the previous night, or even a quick quiz / game.  This program will work great since each of my students will have a tablet.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Algebra Unit 0 - Intro "revised"

Here's my revised idea for the Intro to Algebra I.  These topics seem to flow together better, build upon each other smoother, and give lots of opportunities for students to move ahead or get intervention where needed.  Also, these are a great indicator for me as to my student's ability, effort, focus, motivation, understanding, etc. etc.

Module - Expressions
Variables and Expressions
Open Sentences
Distributive Property
Expressions Review
Module - Solving Equations
Solving Equations by Addition or Subtraction
Solving Equations by Multiplication or Division
Solving Multi-Step Equations
Solving Equations with Variables on Both Sides
Solving Literal Equations/Formulas
Module - Solving Inequalities
Solving Inequalities by Addition or Subtraction
Solving Inequalities by Multiplication or Division
Solving Multi-Step Inequalities
Solving Compound Inequalities

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Unit 0: Intro & Construction "Construction Zone" Geo

Turned my attention last night to Geometry (Honors Geometry) and my Google Class site. Right now, the Intro unit is the same for both Honors and Regular Geometry - this is a great gauge to see how actually "honors" my Honors students will be - expectation = they work quicker and more successfully through this unit . . . we will see.

Unit 0 - Below are the Common Core State Standards for the Unit.

G.CO.12 Make formal geometric constructions with a variety of tools and methods (compass and straightedge, string, reflective devices, paper folding, dynamic geometric software, etc.).
  • Copying a segment;
  • Copying an angle;
  • Bisecting a segment;
  • Bisecting an angle;
  • Constructing perpendicular lines, including the perpendicular bisector of a line segment;
  • Constructing a line parallel to a given line through a point not on the line.
"G.CO.13 Construct an 
  • Equilateral triangle
  • Square
  • Regular hexagon inscribed in a circle.
My focus for this Unit is getting the students accustomed to using GeoGebra.  Big picture:  I hope and plan to use GeoGebra a lot during this school year.

I am still working on the idea of having GeoGebra on the Acer tablet and hopefully by summer's end I am successful.  If not, looks like I'll be using laptops at school which is okay, but hurts my students ability to work ahead and control their own progress.

I have created a GeoGebra Essentials Series which is made up of 9 lessons.  Each one is an introduction to the buttons, action keys, and all the other ins and outs of the program.  I must give mass props to who put all the lessons on his website - I modified the lessons to fit my needs but a lot of the underlying information is his.  If you want to find out information on GeoGebra and more technology options for the classroom, then visit

Future goals for Geometry/Honor Geometry:
  • The students will create a e-portfolio (google site - need to create the template)
    • post each units "challenge"
      • i.e.  equilateral triangle construction
      • i.e.  square construction
  • Create "Challenge" list for this unit and subsequent units.
  • Create "assignments" for Geometry(Honors) on itslearning.