CAMT 2017 Elevators & Escalators of Educators

Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 10.35.54 PM

Where else, but at the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching can you walk the halls with teachers, discussing calculators, hip hop songs, parabolic movement of footballs, and smiling and laughing with other friends and new acquaintances?   But it’s happening this week in Ft Worth, TX.   Teachers, administrators, university students have converged upon Cowtown to learn new ideas, support each other, and enhance their teaching methods with this conference.

I love attending CAMT every chance I can.  This year I am looking for ways to challenge students by incorporating STEM activities more in both 8th grade and Algebra 1, and working to utilize the blended classroom concepts.  The sessions attended have been well done,  offering up thought-provoking ideas and challenges to take back to my classroom.

Below is a short synopsis of the sessions I’ve attended and activities I am excited to use this upcoming year:


Implementing STEM Activities in Algebra 1:   by Denise Young of Blue Valley School District –>

Density Lab:  *A great discussion for the idea, is mass dep on volume, or volume dep on mass, and should the label for density be mL/g or g/mL?

Pendulum Exp:  A practice in linear relations or as a square root relation (depending on the grade level)

Periodic Table Relationships:  Practice with scatter plots and linear relationships between the atomic number and the atomic mass.

Flexible Math Groups:  An Approach to Small Group Instruction in the Secondary Mathematics Classroom:   by Nancy Foster and Erin Schmidt of Clear Creek ISD

-“I am a Math Expert.  I am here to help you understand the math.”

– Small Groups are Opportunities – must have student buy in

– The first few weeks of school should be used to familiarize students with the management of the classroom, the expectation of the teacher and students, an understanding of how small groups will work for all students.   Students need to know the processes for the activities, so that the teacher can pull 4-6 students for a short 10 min lesson, review, activity during the 45 min class.

– The small group lessons should be reviewing topics, using previous exit tickets, and prior tests or wkst to identify Ss struggling with a TEK or topic.  There is no reason to work at making two lesson plans for the day.!

– While other students are in small groups, the “Got It Kids” group can be engaged with Task Cards, walk-abouts, technology including:  Prodigy, Manga High, Nearpod, Quizlet Live, Quizizz, Blendspace,  Braingenie, Desmos, Kahoot, TTM, Compass Learning, Dreambox

Mathematical Analysis, Modeling, and Argumentation Using Science Content: 
by Shelly LeDoux, and Denise Thornton of the Charles A. Dana Center

– There are many connections between mathematics and science.  However, not all teachers and students recognize this.

– The scientific method includes, thinking of a question, creating a hypothesis, testing out the data and making observations,  refining the hypothesis, and developing a theory or conclusion.

– The mathematical method includes analyzing given information, communicating ideas and reasoning, then connecting the ideas and relationships, all while formulating strategy, selecting tools to determine a solution, and evaluating the reasonableness

– Activity Coupled pendulum  – Describe the motion of the pendulum balls and demonstrate it mathematically  (could be a graph, a picture, a table….)  What influences are occurring on this system (activity)…



Students must use evidence to support their data.   It’s interesting to see that all groups created different graphs, but similarities can be seen, too.


Flatland:  The Movie 10 Year Anniversary Screening:  with Dano Johnson and Seth Caplan of Sphere World Productions

– a cleverly written movie depicting the book by Edwin Abbott, ‘Flatland.’                               (written in 1884)  flatland-the-movie  (Link)

– love the connection and uses of vocabulary:  St. Eulcid’s , Cubical, Spherical, Squarical,  Truncated, Area 33H (love the humor of that hexidecimal #)

– “What’s the difference between upward and higher?”


Investigate STEM Behind Football Creatively and Interactively:  by Tom Reardon using TI-84 and Smartview

–  TI offers an activity for students to model the flight of a football graphically and algebraically.   Although students use the sine and cosine to model the parametric changes of x vs y,  (length vs height at any given sec), the students can predict whether the ball will make it through to goal post.  Students can also investigate changes in velocity, angle of the kick to alter the trajectory of the football.

– kick (link)





Fractals, Triangles, and Kites Oh My!

Mandel_zoom_08_satellite_antennaAhhh, the STAAR test is complete for another year.  Sadly, some topics such as these are put on the back burner…   But now that burner is on!  The last two months of school we’ll be digging deeper into some concepts that we skimmed over while covering the curriculum, while also covering topics to prepare them for 9th grade.

Next week, we’ll be designing and constructing Tetrahedral Kites.  We’ve been building these kites since the mid 90’s in the classroom.  Students  (ok not all but I’d say most) enjoy the time spent working together, creating the kites and then going to a nearby park to fly them later in May. And every year, I’ve got a few students who will fly kites for the first time!


To introduce the unit, we usually start with the Sierpinski Triangle.   However, this year180px-Britain-fractal-coastline-50km, I jumped into the concept of Fractals.  These are figures that are considered self-similar when there can be found a point in the figure that contains a copy of the entire figure.  There are many websites out there.  Of course, there is no need at an 8th grade level to share too much of the equations behind the design of the fractals.  But we can discuss the fractional relationships and the correlation with measurements (Mandelbrot fractal), the history of fractals (Cantor’s Dust) and the associations between fractals and the mathematics and sciences of the world, such as with the Coastline dilemma of Great Brittain.


While viewing a PowerPoint and parts of the video – The Mandelbrot Set ( a video including a segment from @profkeithdevlin ) of different examples, the students use whiteboards and markers to create Cantor’s Ternary Set.  Then we design Koch’s snowflake.  The whiteboards make it easy to erase and add to the line segments.   Another day we discover how easy to make Heighway Dragons out of strips of paper.



Then, onto Sierpinski’s triangle.


The YouTube videos can be eerie, but fascinating, and so those played on the screen as we designed our triangles.   And as we finish, we build our own Sierpinski triangle along the hallway


And now, this week, the building of 3-d tetrahedron kites will commence this week. Looking forward to it!  We’ll discuss volume, surface area, fractions, the relation between the kites and Sierpinski’s Triangle…  and of course the history and science of kites and flying.


I’ll add photos here later in the week.  😉



Week 8 Poly-Gnomials Speed Dating?

poly-gnomialsSo, it’s been a few weeks since I last wrote in this blog.  I wish there was a good excuse!   We’ve been going through Topic 5 and 7 of the Algebra 1 Pearson textbook…. journaling and practicing all the joyous methods and types of problems pertaining to Exponents, and multiplying polynomials.

Tomorrow, is the day!  I will try out Speed Dating with the Algebra kids.  I’ve  read a few blogs about this, and have tried to wrap my head around it.

Here’s my method to start with:

Students sit in desks that are facing opposite each other in two lines (which may curve around the room).  I have made cards with the questions on one side, and the answers on the other.  There are two sets of cards.  “Table #” and “Seat #”.   So Jim North and Bob South sit across from each other. Next to them sit Sarah North and Susie South and then Lina North and Linus South.  The “North” students receive the “Table Cards” and the “South”  receive the “Seat Cards.”   The students at each table also have a cup that is turned upside down.

The students work the 3 problems from the card on paper.  When they are finished, they turn the cards over and check their answers. They both have the same problems at the first of this “Speed Dating.”  The teacher goes around and verifies that every student can solve the problems that they received.  (Between their partner and themselves, this shouldn’t take long).  When they are good, they flip upright the cup, which signals to the teacher that they are ready.  These students will be considered the Master of their own card, and should be able to explain how to get to the answers.

Once all the cups are upright, the the teacher rings a bell, or asks the “Seat” students to move.  So in our example above,  Bob South, Susie South, and Linus South move to the next table.  (Make sure to remove all backpacks from the area so that it’s easier to rotate).  The North “Table” students will remain in at their seat.  So now, Jim will work with who ever the seat “south” student sat prior to his “table”. Sarah will work with Bob, and Lina will work with Susie. Linus will work with whomever “Table 4” student is. They turn their cups upside down, switch cards, do the problems, and check their work.  If they have questions, they can ask the opposite student who is the Master of his own card. When both students have the correct answers, the cups are turned upright, and the teacher sees that students are ready to rotate (again, the “Seat” students will always move…  the “Table” students remain)….

Below are pictures of the problems with answers and the cards with answers are written on the back


So, thanks to SumMathMadness and Kate Nowak for this idea!