Friday, January 23, 2015

Math: Week 18

MSM2 Blocks 1/2 & 7/8
SOLs Covered:  SOL 7.4 & 8.3 Proportional Reasoning
Math Packet:  Proportional Reasoning Study Guide
Upcoming Assessments:  Proportional Reasoning Test (Mon. 1/26 & Tues. 1/27)

7H Block 5/6
SOLs Covered:  SOL A.2b Polynomials
Math Packet:  #13 Polynomials
Upcoming Assessments:  Polynomials Wrap-up (Mon. 1/26, not a grade); Pyth. Theorem Quiz TBD

Things are starting to wind down now for the first semester, so I'd like to start with a reminder about grades.  Students have had opportunities all term to pull their grades up, but the deadline for any error analysis on old assessments and turning in missing/incomplete work is Tuesday, January 27th.  The final extra credit opportunity (Around the World currency project located in the math class folder on Google Drive) is due Monday, January 26th.  Please encourage the kids to take advantage of these last opportunities.

This is a great lead in for what the MSM2 students worked on this week.  After reviewing the previous week's material on Tuesday, the students took a quiz on consumer math (fancy math teacher term that just means problems dealing with money).  Grades were not quite what some of the students were expecting, but not really because they didn't understand the concepts.  Some of the biggest mistakes were relatively minor errors that made a huge impact on their answers and thus their grades.  Some students forgot to move the decimal correctly when turning percents into decimals (ex. 7% is 0.07 while 70% is 0.7) for solving problems involving tax, tip, etc.  There were also some small slip ups involving rounding money correctly; money is down to two decimal places (unless the problem specifies to round differently, such as to the nearest whole dollar), so forgetting to add a zero to "fill" that second place (ex. not 1.5 but $1.50) or not rounding a longer decimal correctly (ex. not 1.6275 nor 1.62 nor 1.60 but $1.63) will result in a wrong answer, especially if the problem is a fill-in-the-blank question.  There were also simple issues of not putting numbers in the correct place when setting up the problems.  We had a lot of discussion about this while we reviewed Thursday and Friday for next week's test, but I would appreciate it if you would remind the kids to work carefully in addition to encouraging them to take advantage of the change to pull their grades up.

The 7H students were introduced to polynomials and while adding and subtracting polynomials wasn't too difficult since we've covered combining like terms, multiplying them kind of blew their minds for a bit.  I showed them three different methods for solving multiplication problems: the traditional FOIL (First, Outside, Inside, Last), using algebra tiles to model, and the "grid method" that breaks down the multiplication like and "old school" times table.  While most of the kids have their preferred method now (most aren't too found of the algebra tiles), they do need to understand all the methods since SOLs could ask them questions in different ways.  When a standard specifies modeling, students will likely get at least one question involving pictures (like the algebra tiles), so not showing them all the methods is not really an option.  I can sympathize with the kids who totally understand and like one way over another to solve problems, but they need to vary their methods to get practice with all of them.  Since this is a high school level standard (though required by the county as part of the 7H curriculum), it will not be tested on their SOL test this year, so I've decided that instead of giving a test, I'll have them do a small wrap up of the topic on Interactive Achievement (our online testing system) so they can get a taste of how these questions will be asked.

I encourage students to email/message me over the weekend if they have any questions.  With our technology, I can offer a lot more help digitally for students outside of school hours; being able to show the steps of solving different problems and respond in real-time if we both happen to be online has added a whole new layer to teaching.  I'm going to end things here for today since my lunch group will be getting back to class soon; normally I save this for my after school work time, but I need to get a bit earlier than my usual late Friday hours.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Math: Week 17

MSM2 Blocks 1/2 & 7/8
SOLs Covered:  SOL 7.4 & 8.3 Proportional Reasoning
Math Packet:  #12 & #13 Solving Practical Problems Using Proportional Reasoning
Upcoming Assessments:  Consumer Math Quiz (Wed. 1/21); Proportional Reasoning Test (Mon. 1/26 & Tues. 1/27)

7H Block 5/6
SOLs Covered:  SOL 8.3 Proportional Reasoning
Math Packet:  Proportional Reasoning Study Guide
Upcoming Assessments:  Polynomials Quiz (Mon. 1/26)

This is going out a bit later than usually this week (my apologies to anyone who might have been expecting this yesterday), but it's not exactly been a normal week as it is.  The kids (and honestly all the teachers, too!) were excited to get our first snow (ice?) day of the year on Wednesday, followed by a two-hour delay on Thursday.  At EDMS we try to plan as much as possible for inclement weather and I kept track of last year's snow days, so we're still in good position with our pacing for the year.  If this winter continues to follow the trends we saw last year, both the MSM2 and 7H curricula have topics that can easily be moved to the end of the school year, after the SOL tests, without difficulty (for MSM2 the Math 8 topics and for 7H the Algebra I topics).  I do ask that students try to keep their minds "fresh" by reviewing materials whenever they miss school, both when the county closes for inclement weather as well as times they might need to miss for other reasons (out sick, family trip, etc.).  They can go over their old materials as well as using their various web resources when possible.

Before going into this week's topics, I would also just like to remind both students and parents to remember to log into Synergy (a.k.a. StudentVUE and ParentVUE) to check grades.  We're nearing the end of the term and I've been encouraging students to stay on top of their grades and do everything they can to pull their grades up.  Students can do corrections (reminder, they need to not only give the correct answer but also show their work and give an explanation along with it) on old assessments to pull those grades up as well as completing missing/incomplete assignments.  Students can spend their Liberty Points to turn in late corrections and assignments to "buy back" the penalty.  For students and parents who have smart phones or similar handheld devices, there are apps to make checking grades a bit more convenient.  For those using iOS devices, you can find the StudentVUE app here and the ParentVUE app here.  For those using Android devices, you can find the StudentVUE app here and the ParentVUE app here.

Now for the math side of things from this week.  Both classes are still working on proportional reasoning including consumer math skills, with the MSM2 classes getting further into the consumer math side and working a bit more percents while the 7H class wrapped up their work on this topic with the unit test.  With both classes, we've had a few recent conversations about how best to study and prepare for math class.  Aside from simply doing the assigned work and reviewing it, I've encouraged students to continue working with the various sites I've set them up with as well as to study and practice making the Smart Chart.  I believe I've mentioned the Smart Chart before this school year, but in case I haven't or as a refresher as needed, it's basically a "cheat sheet" (only without the negativity of that naughty word) with all the little tricks and hints to remind the kids of the process for solving each type of question.  I gave them an "official" copy this week (they normally add it to the blank cover of the work packet each unit) and I will allow them to use it on any of their formative assessments.  I encourage students to practice making the Smart Chart from memory on weekends since that's the only way they'd be able to use it for summative assessments, including the SOL test, if they make it without prompting using plain blank paper once in the testing setting.

Again, my apologies for this going out late.  I truly hope that these emails/posts are helpful to at least a few of you out there and I do try to get these out as soon as possible.  I hope everyone is having a restful weekend and that all the kids (and hopefully some of the parents) enjoy the long weekend!

Friday, January 09, 2015

Math: Week 16

MSM2
SOLs Covered:  SOL 7.4 & 8.3 Proportional Reasoning
Math Packet:  #12 Solving Practical Problems Using Proportional Reasoning
Upcoming Assessments:  Consumer Math Quiz (Wed. 1/21); Proportional Reasoning Test (Mon. 1/26 & Tues. 1/27)

7H
SOLs Covered:  SOL 8.3 Proportional Reasoning
Math Packet:  #12 Solving Practical Problems Using Proportional Reasoning
Upcoming Assessments:  Proportional Reasoning Test (Wed. 1/14 & Thurs. 1/15)

It's been a busy first week back to school after the winter break. I was sick most of the break and I still wasn't completely healed when we returned (don't worry, no germs to pass along to your kids, just an ear infection that led to a ruptured eardrum by the time we returned). Because of that, I'm still catching up on grading and will thus try to keep things short this week so I can get back to grading.

The 7H class continued with the same topic we left off on, proportional reasoning skills. We finished the last few pages in the packet and also did a LearnZillion assignment during class. By Friday, the students got a head start on the study guide for next week's test. The MSM2 classes started working on proportional reasoning as well. This week was just "the basics" of ratios, rates, and proportions, which the kids are already familiar with, so I spent a bit of time going over some of the "SOL twists" and general complications that can trip them up. One of the biggest mistakes students make with proportions in general is setting them up incorrectly, so I showed the kids how writing a "word ratio" first can help with this. Since any given proportion can be written four different ways, we came up with our own little reminder on how to check the other ways out. We're calling it the #Hashtag method, checking that things match up top-bottom and left-right correctly. We'll keep practicing this next week along with a bigger focus on consumer math and other questions dealing with solving problems using percentages.

I had all the classes set up a document in their Google math folders titled "Math Grades." In the document, I had them paste all their grades from Synergy/StudentVUE that can be improved upon before the end of the term. They should use this like a check sheet that they can mark off assignments as they take care of them. If a non-assessment is marked as incomplete or missing, they simply need to finish it and turn it in for grading. There are quite a few students who have actually completed assignments but simply are not the best at remembering to turn things in and several have already brought up grades once they realized this. Assessment grades can be improved by doing corrections for missed items; if problems are still listed as "missed" in the notes section, they can still be improved. While most of these things are no considered past-due, students have Liberty Points that can be spent as a "late fee" to "buy back" the grade penalty. A column set up in the grades for each term so students can easily keep track of how many Liberty Points they have left. In addition to this, students have been giving one last extra credit opportunity in addition to the TenMarks that was given over the break. The details for this can be found in the math folder on Google Drive. Please encourage students to take advantage of these opportunities to improve their grade before the term and semester end on January 29th.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Math: Week 15

MSM2
SOLs Covered:  SOL 7.14&15 Algebraic Equations & Inequalities
Math Packet:  Algebra Study Guide
Upcoming Assessments:  Rates, Ratios, & Proportions Quiz (Fri. 1/9)

7H
SOLs Covered:  SOL 8.3 Proportional Reasoning
Math Packet:  #12 Solving Practical Problems Using Proportional Reasoning
Upcoming Assessments:  Proportional Reasoning Test (Wed. 1/14 & Thurs. 1/15)

Since I'm just as eager to head home for the winter break as the kids, this week's summary will be super short....for real this time!  The MSM2 classes had a study guide for the first part of the week, for which I sent them a detailed key to check their answers from and to add to their own study materials.  On Wednesday and Thursday (and for a few students on Friday), they took a comprehensive algebra test covering everything from verbal translations to solving and graphing inequalities.  The 7H class had a proportional reasoning project that required the calculate the percent of change for sales items, the amount of discount for other items (after use of coupons), the amount of tax, and finally the final total.  The project gave the students a spending limit of $1,000 (hypothetically of course) and they had to buy at least 15 items.  There's a bit of competition thrown in as well (closest to $1,000 without going over), but the kids were also finding some very interesting items; there were a few unique pets bought and I'm curious what else they came up with.  I'll be going over the projects during the break and will post those grades as they are completed.

On Friday, most students had already completed all of the new work for this week, so I played holiday cartoons on the board while students worked on making-up missing/incomplete assignments and completed corrections for past assessments (including this week's MSM2 test).  I'll be working on updating the grades over the break, so don't forget to check for updates!  As I'd promised the kids, an extra credit assignment has also been posted to TenMarks.  I have added the stipulation that no EXTRA credit will be added until the REQUIRED credit assignments have been handled.  This requires that there be no missing/incomplete assignments (digital copies can be found on the class Google calendars) and that at least one attempt at corrections (a.k.a. error analysis) has been made for all assessments this term.  Once that's taken care of, the extra credit will be added.  I haven't decided on a point limit for it yet, but any additional points earned on TenMarks will be converted to Lambie Points, which the kids seem to be loving at the moment.

So that's all a bit longer than I thought it would be, but still shorter than some weekly class summaries.  I will not be quite as "present" online during the break, but I will still check email and other messages several times each week, so please feel free to send them if you have any questions.  I hope everyone has a safe and happy break and that everyone enjoys whichever of the winter holidays you celebrate!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Math: Week 14

MSM2
SOLs Covered:  SOL 7.15 Algebraic Inequalities
Math Packet:  #11 Solving & Graphing Inequalities
Upcoming Assessments:  CCPS Quiz #3 (Mon. 12/15); Algebra Test (Fri. 12/19)

7H
SOLs Covered:  SOL 8.3 Proportional Reasoning
Math Packet:  #12 Solving Practical Problems Using Proportional Reasoning
Upcoming Assessments:  CCPS Quiz #3 (Mon. 12/15)

This week seems to have flown by fast!  The MSM2 classes started working on solving and graphing algebraic inequalities.  While the steps are essentially the same as those taken to solve equations, there is a slight twist that when multiplying or dividing by a negative, you have to flip the inequality symbol.  That's still throwing off a few students, which lead to some easily fixed errors when the took the quiz today.   Another difficulty that got to a few students with the quiz were questions asking what number(s) could work as part of the solution for an inequality.  For example, if an inequalities solution is < 8, only numbers less than 8 (including fractions) would work, but if x ≥ -7, then -7 as well as any number greater than -7 would work.  Students are so used to problems having one correct answer that these questions catch them off-guard.  There's also the added complication that questions like this could be worded in a variety of ways.

Something that could help them for this issue and many others is simply the process of working the problems on paper.  I haven't quite gotten it to sink in with the kids (in both the MSM2 and 7H classes) yet that just because we now do a lot of work on the computer, doesn't mean they can do the work in their head instead of writing it down and showing all their work.  Please help me by reiterating this message to your children.

The 7H class continued working on solving practical problems using proportional reasoning.  The kids get the basics of solving problems with proportions and percents, but the tricky part is that "practical problems" along with "real world problems" often translates to word problems that require careful analysis to breakdown.  The most successful students use highlighting and listing the given information to help with the breakdown.  Some problems contain extra information, so eliminating that (I recommend crossing out the extra), usually by first identifying exactly what the problem is asking for, helps as well.  Multi-step word problems often have multiple missing components that need to be found before finding the final answer.  Finally, students need to remember to use the necessary formulas.  Formulas needed for this particular topic (i.e. percent proportion, percent of change, simple interest) are not part of the state approved formula sheet, so students need to memorize them.

The 7H students also had to finish up their Khan Academy assignments.  With that being said, I'm going to end things here so I can update their final grades for it as well as some of the kids' assessment corrections and make-up work.  Before I "go," I'd like to ask that if there's anyone willing to donate paper and pencils, it would be greatly appreciated.  My own supply has been used up, so it would be a huge help to us.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Math: Week 13

MSM2
SOLs Covered:  SOL 7.14a,b & 8.15a Two-step & Multi-step Equations
Math Packet:  #10 Solving Equations: Part 2
Upcoming Assessments:  Solving & Graphing Inequalities (Fri. 12/12)

7H
SOLs Covered:  SOL 8.3 Proportional Reasoning
Math Packet:  #12 Solving Practical Problems Using Proportional Reasoning
Upcoming Assessments:  Proportional Reasoning Part 2 Quiz (Fri. 12/12)

This is a bit late going out, so I apologize to anyone who expects to see it earlier.  Between Synergy (a.k.a. StudentVUE/ParentVUE) being taken offline Friday afternoon for routine maintenance and weekend plans (sadly also containing just plain old household chores... what an exciting teacher life I lead), I've only just now been able to sit and type this up.  Again, I'll try to stick to the shorter side (still have grades to catch up on now that Synergy is back up and running in addition to a few other things), but you know how that sometimes goes.

Both groups had Khan Academy assignments last week.  The MSM2 classes had five topics that were due on Friday, December 5th covering two-step and multi-step equations.  The 7H have ten topics that aren't due until this Friday, December 12th covering the solving of practical problems (SOL-speak for "real world" problems) using proportional reasoning.  There have been issues with students accessing the videos on Khan Academy and I've reached out to some of the county tech folks to see what's going on with that, but I haven't heard back yet.  It would be a huge help if students tried accessing them and/or any other video in the Education section of YouTube (which is the only part that we were told would be unblocked for students).  From the error message I've seen students receive, I'm not sure if it's a filter issue or an issue with streaming media or the internet itself.  If students try, I ask that they either share the info with me in class, send me an Edmodo message, or send an email (either student or parent).

When students were not working independently on their Khan Academy, we worked on the packets together in class.  The MSM2 groups need to remember to use their "quick notes" card to help them memorize the process for solving equations while the 7H group needs to remember to read their questions thoroughly and carefully set up their problems, using proportions when necessary or formulas (ex. simple interest I=prt) when the question calls for it.  Small mistakes can make the difference between right or wrong answers for any topic, but especially with our current topics.

I'm going to end things here for now, but as always if anyone has questions, feel free to email at any time.  Hope everyone has a great week!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Math: Week 12

MSM2
SOLs Covered:  SOL 7.14a,b & 8.15a Two-step Equations
Math Packet:  #9 Solving Equations: Part 1
Upcoming Assessments:  Two- & Multi-step Equations (Fri. 12/5)

7H
SOLs Covered:  SOL 8.15ab & A.4 Solving Equations & Inequalities
Math Packet:  Algebra Study Guide
Upcoming Assessments:  Proportional Reasoning Part 1 Quiz (Fri. 12/5)

It was only a two-day school week because of the Thanksgiving break, so this time it really will be a short summary (honest!).  The MSM2 classes began working with two-step equations, which has taken a little bit of adjustment, but the kids seem to be adjusting to it.  We'll continue working on this when we get back from break and then move briefly onto multi-step equations before taking the next quiz.  The 7H class spent the two days taking the algebra unit test.

Once students finished with the required work in both classes, they were able to play on Sumdog.  Most of the kids seem to really love Sumdog, especially now that they know how to compete against each other as well as participate in both district and national competitions.  I encourage students to spend a bit of time over the break on the things they can do to bring up their grades (error analysis for assessments and making-up late/incomplete work), but they can also review by playing on Sumdog and some of their other accounts.

There we go!  Probably the shortest update ever!  I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and enjoys the break!


Friday, November 21, 2014

Math: Week 11

MSM2
SOLs Covered:  SOL 7.14a,b & 8.15a One-step Equations
Math Packet:  #9 Solving Equations: Part 1
Upcoming Assessments:  Two- & Multi-step Equations (Fri. 12/5)

7H
SOLs Covered:  SOL 8.15b & A.4 Solving & Graphing Inequalities
Math Packet:  #11 Algebraic Inequalities
Upcoming Assessments:  Algebra Test (Mon. 11/24--Tues. 11/25)

It's been a busy week!  I've added a few things to my personal to-do list (all tech stuff I want to work on for my classes), so I'm yet again going to attempt to keep this on the short side (I know I say that often but still end up being a little wordy in the end).  Part of this to-do list is adding vocabulary lists to the class pages I have set up on Vocabulary.com, so students will need to make sure they've joined their class page using the links posted on the class Edmodo pages.  The kids should all be familiar with Vocabulary.com from their English classes, but they should feel free to message or see me if they have any questions.

The MSM2 classes worked further into our algebra unit by reviewing one-step equations that have been "upped" with the inclusion of integers and fractions.  The group did really well with this overall and quiz grades were some of the highest so far!  Meanwhile the 7H class is winding down their work with the inequalities section.  This group predominately grasps the topic, but they are still "falling" for some of common "tricks" that pop up with this topic.  While quiz grades were not the best this time, most of the mistakes are easy fixes that simply require extra attention to detail, particularly to two areas:  remembering to "flip the sign" when multiplying or dividing by negative numbers (divisors, not dividends) and to flip also when moving the variable to the left if it was originally on the right of the sign.

There were a few students who just need to be a little more careful with reading questions and paying attention to detail.  For example, if a fill-in-the-blank problem wants the solutions for an inequality using the variable m but the student uses the letter x for their answer.  I didn't hold this against the students this time and still gave credit, but it's definitely something all the kids, no matter their class, should be careful of since I don't know whether or not that's a possibility on the SOL test.

Finally, on a tech note (my favorite topic), I've spoken with all my kids about being extra careful with their Chromebooks.  While that's something I've obviously encouraged from the very beginning, it's even more important right now since the back-up Chromebooks are very limited and students have been left waiting days for a replacement.  One small thing students should look out for is for loose screws on the bottom of their Chromebook.  I have a small Phillips head screwdriver I've been using to tighten the screws, so students just need to ask if they want my help.  This is such a small thing, but could make a huge difference if it helps prevent damage that could have otherwise been prevented.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Math: Week 11

MSM2
SOLs Covered:  Revew Week SOLs 7.1a-e, 7.3, 7.13a-b, 7.16, 8.1a-b, 8.2, 8.5, 8.15c
Math Packet:  Review Week
Upcoming Assessments:  One-Step Equations Quiz (Fri. 11/21)

7H
SOLs Covered:  SOL 8.15a & A.4 Solving Multi-Step Equations
Math Packet:  #10 Solving Equations: Part 2
Upcoming Assessments:  Inequalities Quiz (Wed. 11/19); Algebra Test (Mon. 11/24--Tues. 11/25)

I'm keeping things short this week (the munchkin, a.k.a. my niece, wanted to catch a ride with Aunt Kimmie instead of riding the bus today).  I know I say that often and then send a novel, but this time I mean it.

All the classes took the second county spiral review quiz on Monday.  The MSM2 classes had a review week, predominately on the most recent topics (the real number system and algebraic verbal translations) with a hint of term 1 topics.  They did a matching activity on Tuesday and worked on Study Island Wednesday and Thursday.  The deadline for completing the assignment was extended to Saturday for those kids who had technical difficulties and for those who need the extra practice to improve their scores for each topic.  They took a "big" quiz (20-question summative quiz) on Friday.

The 7H students worked on solving multi-step equations this week.  This topic hit them pretty hard since it is definitely more difficult than anything they've covered before.  I had them make a "quick notes" card with the steps for solving equations along with my tips for keeping everything straight when working.  We did a lot of problems together this week, but the kids have the process down for the most part.  We still need to cover a few more of the Algebra I (a few of the high school level AI standards are included in the 7H course) questions on Monday before we switch over to inequalities, but the kids took the quiz on Friday.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Math: Week 10

MSM2
SOLs Covered:  SOL 7.13a Algebraic Verbal Translations
Math Packet:  #8 Algebraic Verbal Translations
Upcoming Assessments:  CCPS Review Quiz #2 (Mon. 11/10); Combined Quiz (Real Numbers, Algebraic Verbal Translations, Review) (Fri. 11/14)

7H
SOLs Covered:  SOL 7.14 & 8.15a Solving One- & Two-Step Equations
Math Packet:  #9 Solving Equations: Part 1
Upcoming Assessments:  CCPS Review Quiz #2 (Mon. 11/10); Multi-step Equations Quiz (Thurs. 11/13)

The week started with an extended weekend for the students while teachers had a work day on Monday to finish up grades for the first term.  Tuesday was the annual parent/teacher conference day.  The team had a packed schedule and it was a pleasure to meet everyone.  Even though there were some downsides to some of the meetings regarding grades and the occasional behavior issue, overall I have an awesome group of students this year, which is obviously partly due to them having awesome parents!  Thank you to all the supportive parents and guardians out there!  I know that with middle schoolers, your jobs as parents have become a bit more difficult (it's a tough age after all), but your help and support is greatly appreciated by all of us at school.

Even though it's been a short week for the students, but we still got plenty of work completed.  The MSM2 classes worked on verbal translations (a.k.a. English to Mathish in my classes), which can be a tricky topic (think back to the word/story problems of your youth with algebra thrown into the mix!).  We did a bit of work together in class on Wednesday and Thursday, checking the final work on Friday before the kids did a group activity, matching verbal expressions to their algebraic equivalent hanging on the walls around the room.  The kids have a miniature version in their math packets so they'll be able to review the work on their own when they study.

The 7H kids reviewed solving one- and two-step equations in preparation of more complex multi-step problems next week.  Even though it's predominately a review topic, students needed a bit of clarification for different things.  Students often get used to seeing one particular set up for equations, so when things change (ex. the expression going on the right side of the equal sign instead of the right), they can get confused.  We went over these things and did quite a few problems together, going over some of my own tricks for working around the complications (ex. drawing a line down through the equal sign with a highlighter to make visualizing the steps to solve a bit easier).  The kids had a quiz on Friday for this; a few students didn't finish and are encouraged to finish this formative assessment at home since it's online and since we have to take the second county summative assessment on Monday.  The algebra work will continue in both classes over the next few weeks.