Showing posts from October, 2014

Using Chip Models for Adding/Subtracting Integers

My district has adopted a new curriculum, Connected Mathematics 3 (CM3).  Right now we are working on Integers and CM3 has students use a chip model to introduce adding and subtracting integers.  I LOVE this type of model for adding.  I've used it for years (and even developed my own game called " Close to Zero "). For subtracting, I'm torn.  It is not the way my mind thinks about integers.  But in an effort to avoid putting my preferences on my students, I wanted to make an effort to teach it this way in case it helps some of my students "see" what is going on with subtracting. It works like this: Pink = Negative and Blue = Positive If I have a problem such as -4 - 3… Start with 4 pink chips to represent -4: We want to subtract positive 3.  There are not 3 blue chips available… so add 3 zeros (a pair of a positive and negative).  We can do this because adding zeros does not change the value. Now, go ahead and subtract 3. You are

Say Goodbye to Dear Aunt Sally

I while back I wrote about a free, downloadable book called Nix the Tricks .  Feeling inspired by the idea of getting rid of "tricks" that we used to teach in math because they get in the way of students' understanding, I decided to present about it at the ICTM conference. I was a little nervous to tackle this topic because I'm not an expert… it's just a topic that I've been thinking a lot about lately.  Luckily, a fellow ICTM member tipped me off to a great article by NCTM called " 13 Rules That Expire ," which gave me more material.  I also knew that I wanted to do some activities to I went to my old favorites: Math Talks and Get it Together Activities .  I also showed the video that I blogged about a few weeks ago, which went over well too. I titled the workshop, "Say Goodbye to Aunt Sally," as a nod to the "PEMDAS" acronym some people used to help them remember the order of operations.  Math joke! :) The workshop we

Such an Honor!

Yesterday was such a great day at the Illinois Council of Teachers of Mathematics Annual Conference!  I got to hear Dan Meyer speak (my math hero!), I presented my workshop to a great group, and then I went to the ICTM awards ceremony.  My parents, husband, and baby came to the ceremony where I accepted my "Middle School Teaching Award."  It was such an honor and I was even moved to a few tears during my acceptance speech!  Good thing I had a few jokes in there to get me through and, luckily, people laughed at the funny parts.  I was also so touched that some of my colleagues made a special effort to be at the award ceremony.  Thanks to Sue, Sendhil, Margie, and Marty.  It meant so much to have you there! Here is the less tearful version of my speech: I teach middle school math.  Those words probably don’t sound that out of the ordinary in this group.  But that sentence has 2 parts that when I say them because people to look at me with sympathy, scru


My blog recently was added to the ICTM website as a featured blog!  So exciting!!! Because of this, I realized that I might have some new visitors to the blog so I wanted to say WELCOME and THANKS for stopping by!  There are so many great blogs out there, so I'm honored if you take a minute to visit mine. I also realized that I haven't been posting too much "mathy" stuff lately because I'm finishing my maternity leave and haven't been in the classroom.  That will all change soon since I'm going back on Monday! In the mean time, I thought I would provide links to some of my favorite past posts in case you want to check them out. Thanks again for stopping by and I would love to hear from you… leave a comment or send me an email! Favorite lesson posts: Rubrics Student Blogs Discovering Pythagorean Theorem Teaching Transformations Formative Assessment Lessons Favorite math education policy posts: Homework Screen Time

Feeling a Little Nervous

So I had one of my typical "back to school" dreams last night… I usually have a few before the start of the school year, but since my maternity leave ends this week I guess it makes sense that I have one now. The dreams are always variations around trying to control a class of students that are out of control in some way.  I think the thing I'm most nervous about for the start of this school year is that the students have had a quarter already without me.  I'll be the only teacher struggling to learn their names quickly. I met with my maternity sub last week and I have to say that it seems like she has everything under control and has established some pretty good routines.  That definitely makes things a bit easier for me. It will still be an adjustment for the kids to get used to me… and I'm sure they will miss her.  It will be a transition for us all!

Sunday Letters… written on Monday, again!

Dear Blog, Sorry I'm behind again!  I love the "Sunday Letters" idea, but I keep participating on Monday instead on Sunday! Sincerely, Late Blogger Dear Joe and Steph, Awesome wedding this weekend!  I was a proud big sister watching my little brother get married!  He chose such a sweet, smart, and beautiful partner for life… welcome to the (crazy) family Stephanie! Congrats! Anne (only my brother can get away calling me that!) Dear Natalie, You are an awesome traveling baby! So yes, other travelers ignored us during the 4 hour flight, but then showered us with compliments as we got off the plane saying you are such a great baby.  I agree! Love, Proud Momma Dear Hubby, Happy birthday today!  We did a great job traveling this weekend as a little family.  I picked such a great person to be my partner in life.  You are calm when I am stressed.  I am organized when you don't feel like planning.  We make a great team. Love, me Dear ICTM Confer

Taking Stock- October

Making : H air bows for my daughter (she has a ton of hair for a 4 month old!) Cooking : I made tacos for when my friend, Jill, came to visit last week.  She has been in Germany for a year and missed Tex-Mex food! Drinking : Wine at my sister-in-law's wedding last weekend Reading : I should be reading The Husband's Secret for book club this month, but I haven't started yet… yikes! Wanting : The plane ride to California for my brother's wedding to go smoothly with the baby!  Planning : With my teacher friends yesterday when I went in for a meeting. Playing : With my kiddo as much as I can while I'm still at home Eating : Those candy corn-type pumpkins… yum! Wishing : My parents lived closer-- they have been in town for the past week and it is so fun to have them here! Enjoying : My last weeks at home with this girl Waiting : For the ICTM Conference next week where I am presenting and accepting my award! Liking : This poster that I found online

The Homework Controversy

Yesterday I posted about grading homework.  Now, I'm going to take a post to discuss my complicated feelings towards homework. Let me start by saying that I certainly don't want to upset anyone that has chosen to read my blog and I've learned that, for some teachers, homework brings up some personal and deep rooted feelings.  These feelings are kind of surprising to me.  It seems I can chat about most topics with fellow teachers with more ease: discipline, curriculum, salaries, and even Common Core!  But when I broach the "H" word, things get tense.  I tend to tread lightly when bringing up this topic with colleagues or when presenting professional development. Especially in math education, there has traditionally been a culture of "practice problems" every night.  Math Homework.  Every. Single. Night. Before I became a teacher, I attended graduate school and had a teacher that introduced me to The Homework Myth by Alfie Kohn .  It definite

Never Have to Grade Homework!

A while back I talked about how I give " colorful feedback " to my students using this color system. Instead of marking problems on a quiz "right" or "wrong," I mark them with green, yellow, or red.  This type of feedback gives students much more information about how they are doing with a certain standard.  In addition, I used to be frustrated when students would just look at the grade at the top of a quiz or test and ignore comments or marks I made on their work.  This color system has helped tremendously! I also use this technique for homework*.  This system frees up so much time!  I never have to take home stacks of homework to grade… ever!  I have students self-grade and then I quickly look through the papers and notice trends of certain problems that got red marks or how much green etc.  Students are honest in the grading process because they know that they won't be punished with a poor grade if they don't do well (I do  stan

Does Math Exist?

Does Math exist in the Universe or just in the human brain???  Watch this video… *mind blown*