Teacher Appreciation Week

Room Service

Teacher appreciation week is a big deal at my school. The different clubs and organizations feed us breakfast and lunch almost every day. It’s amazing!! I wanted to do something a little different this year with my Student Council. I saw the idea for room service on Pinterest last year and tucked the idea away for this week. I created the door hangers in PowerPoint using fonts from www.dafont.com/. (All files and fonts linked at the bottom) I printed them on bright yellow cardstock and had the students cut them out. We stayed after school on Friday and put them on all the doors so the teachers would be greeted with their menus on Monday morning. The door hangers were collected on Tuesday, and the students delivered the treats on Thursday. We loaded the snacks and an ice chest with all the drinks on a cart, and we pushed it around the school. The students filled each order from the cart. It worked great! As you can see from the photos, the teachers were very appreciative!




Ode to Desmos

No surprises here – I love Desmos.  I have used Desmos for about two years now, but it seems like every time I use it, my love grows stronger.  Desmos.com is the only way we graph in Algebra 1, it’s our most popular choice in Algebra 2, we have had a ton of fun with the geometry feature in my geometry class, and I use the activities with both my middle school and high classes every single chance I get.  My students know and love Desmos, too. But it is so much more than just a graphing calculator.  This week Desmos has been particularly useful in my classroom…for discovery purposes.

On Monday, we began our unit on polynomials in Algebra 2.  My students did a little work with polynomials in Algebra 1, but just adding, subtracting, and multiplying them.  Not graphing.  But now, the time has come, and I am so happy that I have Desmos is my toolbox.

One of my favorite things to do to introduce a lesson is play a polygraph. I like doing this BEFORE they have any formal vocabulary.  So on Monday, my students played this polygraph: https://teacher.desmos.com/polygraph/custom/560c53f3441172070b2621f9
(H/t to @mrbenzel)

This particular class has an odd number of students, so I played too. It was challenging for me to ask questions without giving away too much vocabulary! This is a shot of some of the questions they asked.  I would be lying if I said this was an easy game for them. They had a hard time coming up with questions that helped them eliminate quickly, but I really enjoyed reading their questions and I think they did an awesome job for not knowing anything about the graph of a polynomial.

polygraph polynomials

On Tuesday, we began talking about the types of polynomials.  I gave them the notes on the types of polynomials and an example of each one. Then, I led in to what the graphs look like.  I even wrote myself a note in my textbook LAST YEAR to use Desmos, and use Desmos we did.  I had them graph each “example”, and I added another example of each type.  I had them type each equation in, then turn them all off.  We turned on one polynomial at a time, and I had them “notice and wonder” things.  Then I had them turn on just the even degree polynomials.  Then we turned those off and turned on the odd degree polynomials…more notice and wondering…and of course they noticed the end behavior of each type.  It was perfect – exactly what I was hoping for.  Then we predicted what would happen if we made each leading coefficient negative.  And then we did it, and their prediction was correct.

end behavior polynomials

The whole idea of them discovering the end behavior with Desmos was SO MUCH BETTER than just giving them the notes. It’s fun to manipulate the graphs and watch how they change.  They were satisfied with the end behavior, but they had many questions about WHY each graph looked like it did.  They wanted to know where the relative maximum and minimum points came from.  In their words – what makes the humps?  The best way I knew to explain it was to let them see it.  So, I took the 3rd degree polynomial that we had just graphed and made a few different forms of it taking away terms each time.  I had them graph each one on the same graph.  This is what I had them graph:

different terms in a polynomial


This was cool!  They could really see how each term changed the graph.  To me, this is the kind of exciting, beautiful math that Desmos is made for!  The real-time results just don’t happen as authentically with a hand-held calculator.


After the rest of that lesson, and the conclusion of the lesson on Wednesday, it was time to play polygraph again. We played the exact same one.  Take a look at this:

polygraph 2nd round

This makes my math teacher heart SO HAPPY!  They learned so much vocabulary in two short class periods. They were able to apply what they learned from the Desmos graphing calculator to describe graphs in a whole new way!  This is why I love polygraph.  Even they commented on how much easier it was the second time around.

Desmos also played a huge role in my Algebra 1 class this week.  I teach 8th grade math and Algebra 1 in the same year to my 8th graders, so they have done very little graphing up to this point.  We are about to begin graphing linear equations, but we have been talking about functions and domain and range.  This problem came up in our Springboard lesson on “more complex graphs”.  A graph like this is not something I would have normally introduced in Algebra 1, but as this is my first time using some Springboard lessons AND because I knew I had Desmos… I took a chance and showed them this “complex” graph.

I let them look at it for a few seconds, and I simply asked what they thought.  Almost immediately a student very confidently told me that the lines would eventually meet.  “Awesome…let’s find out where” was my response.  So we popped that bad boy into Desmos and I had him come up to the board to find the intersection.  LOTS of zooming and scrolling and zooming and scrolling and zooming and scrolling led to him and his classmates deciding that maybe they won’t ever meet.  THAT was a fun moment to watch as a teacher.  That literally would not have been possible without Desmos.  His ability to come stand in front of the class and manipulate the graph to his liking with the whole class watching- that was Desmos magic.

On Tuesday, I introduced them to graphing horizontal and vertical lines.  Once again, we used Desmos.  I gave them equations like x = 3, y = 6, x = -4, y = -11, x = .5, etc.  I had them turn on all the x =  graphs, and then the y= graphs.  They were very quickly able to see which equations graphed as horizontal lines and vertical lines.  Simple, but so, SO effective.

On the same day, I also introduced graphing lines using the x- and y-intercepts.  I gave them three equations and had them tell me what the x- and y-intercepts of each line were.  We “noticed” things about the intercepts, and their observations led right in to the idea that we solve for the intercepts by setting either x or y equal to zero.



All of these brand new things my students learned this week were made better by Desmos.  I genuinely feel that students retain information so much better when they are able to make discoveries themselves, and when they are able to “play with” the math.

All of this to say thank you. Thank you to the amazing and inspirational team at Desmos. Thank you for creating a product that has elevated my teaching to a new place, far beyond where I was nine years ago when I started.  Thank you for keeping your product free.  Thank you for supporting and loving teachers.  From all of us, thank you.

First Day Fun!

I love the first day of school!  Because I teach the same students year after year, the first day is a reunion day for most of us.  This year, I only have two students that I’ve never taught before.  Everyone else I already know!  For one group, this is their 5th year in my class, and another group is starting their 4th year with me.  Because of that, there is no need to spend time getting to know me or my classroom.   We just skimmed the syllabus.  I did add something new this year on my syllabus, so I had to talk about that for a few minutes.  I decided to add a section where I told the parents about Twitter and how I was also blogging this year. I have them choose to what extent I can share pictures of their children.  I am very anxious to see the responses I get there!   After all of the housekeeping stuff, we did two activities I’ve never done, but I was so excited to try!

A few weeks ago I exchanged a few tweets with Bob Janes (@mrjanesmath) about the 4-4’s activity.  THEN, at our back to school PD week, our middle school curriculum coordinator shared it with all of us.  I was ready to try it!  So we did.  And man, was I blown away!!  I teach 6th grade, 8th grade, Geometry and Algebra 2.  Here is how three groups did:

Shout out to 3rd hour for finding ways to solve for all numbers 1-20!  Because I had never done this activity, I wasn’t sure what was going to happen!  Turns out, I was thrilled!!!  They did excellent!!  My favorite thing about this activity is that it worked for all the different levels I teach!  I love comparing the work of an Algebra II student with a 6th grade student.  There were some super conversations happening today… on the first day of school!  Win!!

The other activity we did was writing a #MathIs tweet. I got the idea from Sarah Carter’s blog (https://mathequalslove.blogspot.com/2012/08/first-day-of-school-plans.html).  My students know I’m all about some Twitter, so it was a fun little activity to get their creative juices flowing.  Pictured below are a few of the tweets I received:

I’m very fortunate that many of my students really enjoy math, and these tweets tell me it’s going to be an exciting year!

Another first day complete!!

Math Menagerie

Day two of the 2018-2019 school year, and I can already tell it’s gonna be my best one yet!

So during Twitter Math Camp, I posted to Facebook about the wonderful experience I was having.  Someone in charge of our district’s professional development saw it and asked if I would present at our Back To School PD week.  We have six days of professional development before our students come back.  This PD consists of several sessions and you pick and choose which ones to attend.  I was flattered that she asked me to present, and I agreed.  On the plane ride home from Cleveland, I brainstormed/jotted down ideas in my notebook of what all I wanted to show the other teachers in my district.  I came up with the name Math Menagerie, because that’s what I wanted it to be.  Just a big “hey this is all the awesome stuff I use” session.  Kinda like a “my favorites” session.  Several of the things that I wanted to include came from seeing the Classroom Chefs back at NCTM two years ago.  I appreciate everything they have done and will do for math instruction!!

Fast forward to today:

I’m not gonna lie:  I was really nervous.  My 9:00 am session consisted of about 20 middle school math teachers.  My 1:00 pm session consisted of 5 high school teachers.  I wanted to show them all the things, including Twitter!  Fun fact – Twitter is blocked on our district’s network, so it didn’t go QUITE as smoothly as I had planned, but we made it work!

So what did I share with these awesome teachers?  I showed them Twitter, #MTBoS, Desmos, Desmos Activities, Which One Doesn’t Belong, Would You Rather Math, Estimation 180, Open Middle, and Delta Math. And the BEST part?  Most of them had never heard of over half of these things!! They were so excited to learn about these fabulous resources!!  I loved every second of them jotting the websites down as I was showing them.  They were curious and ready to use these things in their class!

Some REALLY COOL things that happened during my session:

  1.  I live-tweeted a question that the teachers in my session came up with.  I wanted them to see just how awesome Twitter is!
  2. We got several responses, and we checked them all out together.  They loved the ideas!

3.  They LOVED the Desmos Activities- especially the high school group.

4.  Most of them had only heard of Desmos before, so it was awesome to show them just how great it is.

5.  Every time I showed them a new resource, they shared ideas on how they could use it.  That’s exactly what I was hoping for.

6.  My goal was for each person to find ONE thing they could implement next week, but I know several people are ready to implement MORE than one thing!  Win!!

7.  One of the high school teachers was already on Twitter, but had NO IDEA that there was a whole community out there.  She does now!!

8.  She is officially part of #MTBoS now!

9.  I also asked them to share their favorites, just like @misscalcul8 did in her session at TMC, and they did!  They shared about Edulastic, Quizizz, and Quizlet live.

10.  Two people mentioned Teachers Pay Teachers…and were plum DELIGHTED when I told them the MTBoS crew doesn’t charge! 😉

11.  I left my sessions with what I can only describe as a teacher high.  I was on cloud 9.  This little session that started as an idea on a plane turned in to one of my favorite teaching moments!  Teacher win.

12.  I left with validation that the stuff I do is really cool, and now I’m really pumped to have my students back on Tuesday!


A huge shout-out to these fine folks for helping me process my ideas and plan my session. Each of you played a part in my success today!!