Day One!

Well, I set a student’s desk on fire in Chemistry (…intentionally!), and in 8th grade Physical Science we made paper airplanes.  I wish I’d had the wherewithal to take a photo of said airplanes, but my mind was elsewhere!

The airplanes were actually my best idea for the day. I tried to give the students as few “hints” as possible to get them used to an inquiry approach.  I told them that my rules were to be safe and to measure distance and speed on their trials, and I mostly let them work it out from there.  They got a little stuck when I told them we didn’t have any speedometers in the science lab (I’m sure they meant radar guns, but we don’t have any of those either), but eventually they asked for stopwatches, which we have!

I’ve decided to go with Google Classroom instead of Edmodo, and I love it!  Since we use google docs as a school and the kids all have a school google account, it seems to be a perfect fit.  I am so looking forward to day two!


Welcome to Science!

IMG_20130625_163713_569So, two weeks before the start of the school year, I accepted the high school science position at my school.  After two years of teaching special education, I will be in charge of the 8th-12th grade science classes.

In two days, I will be teaching:

  • 8th grade physical science (mix of physics and chemistry)
  • Biology I
  • Chemistry
  • Earth and Space Science
  • Biology II

My plan is to implement Article of the Week, get things organized through Edmodo, and keep it as interesting as I can.  I’ll keep you posted!

Divisibility rules: Your best friend when reducing fractions

So, we seem to be struggling with remembering the divisibility rules.  For the record, they are:

  1. Everything. All the time.
  2. Digit in the ones place is a 0, 2, 4, 6, or 8.
  3. The sum of the digits is divisible by three.
  4. Last two digits are divisible by four.
  5. Digit in the ones place is a 5 or a 0.
  6. Both 2 and 3 are factors
  7. Don’t worry about it.
  8. Last three digits are divisible by 8.  On second hand, don’t worry about it.
  9. The sum of the digits is divisible by nine.
  10. Digit in the ones place is a 0.

Here’s the reason why you should memorize these rules.  1) They make it a lot easier to do a lot of math.  If you can look at a number and tell what it’s divisible by, that’s the first step to solving a lot of problems.  2) Once you learn these, your brain will be faster than using a calculator.  Again, we’re trying to work smarter, not harder.  3) Math is awesome.  These rules are really cool and interesting.  I mean seriously, we could talk about the unique application of these rules to base-10 systems for a whole class if not more.  Then, even more classes on deriving new divisibility rules for other numerical systems – binary, hexadecimal….

Ok.  Let’s get it back on the rails.

Here are Helton’s free-form tips for learning these rules.  Try one.  Try them all.  Get a TicTacToe. Enjoy!


Here’s where it gets granular…

It's a sweet spreadsheet of mathy knowledge.

Here’s our old standby, the Saxon to Khan Academy Concepts google sheet.

So by now we’ve all seen and marvelled at the amazing Saxon to Khan Concepts google sheet.  It has it all: a list of Saxon topics by lesson number, links to Khan Academy topics and activities, and a place for you to add extra resources as you come across them.  Truly, a marvel of modern technology.

Well, hold on to your socks, because we have some unveiling to do.

That’s right, you guessed it, the long awaited Saxon to Khan by Problem Number google sheet.

Google sheet with Khan links by Saxon problem number.

You can tell it’s different because half of the cells are blue, not purple.

It’s pretty straightforward, but I thought I would go into detail about some of the features in case you are so excited about Pre-Algebra that you want to read lengthy blog posts about it in addition to actually doing the math.

The Saxon to Khan by Problem Number sheet is similar to the Concept sheet, but with three important differences.

Difference 1. Saxon broken down by individual problem numbers. This is an organizational difference. I’ve pulled out the topic for each set of related problems.  This varies from one problem to five or six.

Difference 2. No “Topics” allowed. Since you have a question about a specific problem number, I have linked to a specific activity or video.  If you have a specific question, you won’t have to hunt around within a topic for the material that matches up with that question.  Please let me know if a particular activity or topic is helpful or not – tell me in class, leave a comment on the google sheet, or comment on the blog.  Since Saxon repeats and cycles back frequently, some of the links are the same, but I try to mix it up (my thought being that if an activity didn’t help the first time, maybe a video will the second).

Difference 3. Faded Support. That’s my way of saying, if you haven’t figured it out after four lessons, you’re going to have to do a modicum of work to find Khan content that matches up with Saxon.  If you see a blank space next to a “Problems and Topics” it means that it has been more than four lessons since that topic has been introduced, so I’m not putting in a link to Khan content.  You can either search Khan Academy itself, or go back through the Sheet to find a link that will help.

Alright, have at it!  Enjoy!

3/3 on a daily homework quiz over slope.

Two weeks deep!

Well, we have officially completed two weeks of Pre-Algebra.  Highlights include our first test, a Khan Academy introduction, and a whole new way of grading homework! 

3/3 on a daily homework quiz over slope.

A 3/3 is attainable by anyone and everyone.

Just to go over it again, here is how homework will be graded in our class.  Almost every day, the even problems from one lesson in our textbook will be assigned.  This is almost always 15 problems (1-30 even).  You are given from 10-20 minutes at the end of each class to get started on the homework.  The answers to all homework sets are located in a manilla folder at the back of our classroom.  You are welcome to come and check answers at any time during the school day.  If there is a concept you don’t get, you can check on which Khan Academy topic matches that concept using the Saxon to Khan Concepts google sheet discussed in the previous post.  Once class begins, the answers are posted, and you are encouraged to make corrections and ask questions.  Then, your teachers will select three problems from the assignment, which you must answer on a half-sheet of paper and turn in.  This is where your grade comes from.  Each homework quiz is worth three points.  

This is different from how homework has been graded in the past.  It means you have to understand how to do each and every problem, in case that problem is chosen for the daily quiz.  However, you have ample opportunity to ask questions and get help if you don’t understand something.  Let’s summarize those opportunities: 

  1. Asking questions in class when the new content is being taught the first time. 
  2. Asking questions in class when you have time to work on your homework. 
  3. Checking the Saxon to Khan Concepts google sheet at home or in study hall. 
  4. Checking the brand new Saxon to Khan by Problem Number google sheet (to be discussed in detail in a future post).
  5. Finding either of your two teachers during the day to ask questions.  Collectively, we are available 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 8th.  The only time one of us is not available is 4th hour and 7th hour – when we are in class with you!  
  6. Getting the answer key from the classroom at any time during the school day to check your work.
  7. Asking questions in class when we correct the homework immediately before the homework quiz.  

Did you notice I didn’t even include the traditional “ask a friend/family member” and “google it” options?  You have so many ways you can be successful with each and every homework problem.  I know that this change in procedure might take some getting used to, but this was a change that was made with your best interests at heart.   Your teachers are hoping that by having to show your understanding of a sample of questions each day, you will make a greater effort to understand the concepts.  It will help you in Algebra next year!  

Edit: 9/8 Fixed the Saxon to Khan by Problem Number link.  Hooray!

Here we go with google docs!

I’ve gotten two Google Sheets started for Pre-Algebra.  The first one, Saxon to Khan Concepts, goes through our textbook and links each lesson to one or more Khan Academy topics.  Just click the link to go to a video, activity, or list of both.  You can use this if you’re stuck on a particular concept.  Math builds, so if you aren’t sure about something now, it’s probably going to make it that much harder down the line.  All of you students have permission to change the spreadsheet, which means you can add other resources you find online (we will do some of this in class), or post questions you have about the material. 

Saxon to Khan Concepts

If anyone else is using Saxon’s Algebra 1/2: An Incremental Development 3rd edition 2004 (ISBN 1-56577-149-4), this might be a helpful resource.  There are comments within the sheet that explain various features.  

The other Google Sheet we will be using goes problem-by-problem with links to Khan Academy.  I’m not quite ready to roll it out yet, so try to contain your excitement while you wait!