How to Get Students to Play with Desmos

This week, my students were excited about math. They were excited about what they came up with. They were creative. They were asking each other questions and trying to figure out why things worked. That’s DESMOS’s fault. Here’s what happened:

My Advanced Algebra classes are starting a unit on “Families of Functions”, and I discovered earlier this week that they had NO idea what the graph of x^3 looked like. Wanting them to make sense of it, I leaned hard on Desmos and I was not disappointed.

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The Dream – Help me out here, #MTBoS

I’ve had my first day back. I’ve met with new colleagues at a new school. We’ve started making plans. I’m full of hope and belief in the new year, but I can already see the mountain of work ready to bury me in its immediacy and distract me from my goals.

Thus, I’m stating my goals here so you can all hold me to them. If you have ideas or thoughts about them, I would love to hear what you have to say. Continue reading

How We Welcome Students

My musing, a blogpost, and an Invisibilia episode have lead me to think seriously about the importance of how I welcome students and families. 

A couple weeks ago, I posted this on twitter:


I had been thinking about a student of mine. A previous teacher had mentioned that his questions were “interesting”, which lead him to stop asking questions. I’m sure the teacher meant well by the comment, but it made our student think that he was asking the wrong questions. So he stopped.

I wonder how many times I have done that.

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Multiplying is Not a Pre-requisite for Fractals

This is obscenely long. Read the short version if you don’t have much time. Read the rest if you like.

The Short Version: There is a lot of complicated math in the world. We tend to venerate that math for its complexity, and not tell our students about it because they’re not ready to understand it yet. This is terrible. One of the worst things we can ever tell our students is, “You haven’t learned ____ yet, so you can’t learn ____.” We throw up our hands in frustration when our middle schoolers don’t know multiplication facts. “How will we ever teach linear functions?”, we cry.

I am totally guilty of this. It takes a leap of faith to trust that a student struggling with division can work with rational numbers. Assuming they can’t means math is sequential. I don’t think it’s that cut and dry. Sure, prime factorization helps me factor polynomials, but what if you happened to start with factoring polynomials. Is that impossible?

Sending the message that the second step is unattainable until you’ve reached the first is a problem for two reasons:

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Math Identities, Part II: Math Teacher

I mentioned in my last post that I consider this my 4th year of teaching, not my 6th. I did teach, full time, at a school in the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI) for 2 years. I busted my butt. Worked 24/7. Made myself sick I worked so hard. Had regular emotional breakdowns. But I can’t think of that time as time when I really grew as a teacher. Continue reading