Tag Archives: Algebra 2

Recap: NCTM 2017

San Antonio, CA , April 2017
I have summarized each session with some simple (•) bulleted notes, red underline to encapsulate my major take-aways, and occasionally a brief italicized commentary.

Math Task Makeover with Desmos Activity Builder — Michael Fenton (Desmos), Jed Butler (Heritage HS), Bob Lochel (Hatboro-Horsham High School)

  • The Big Take-Away = Use Desmos activities to generate intellectual need to learn the lesson objective.”
  • Generate need for Graph of a Linear Inequalities ….

  • Generate need for Definition of Ellipses …

  • Start with informal investigation, then move to formal language.
  • Teacher facilitation is key.
  • Where to Learn more: learn.desmos.com

I’ve got to starting using the overlay function!

Numberless Word Problems in the Elementary Grades — Brian Bushart & Regina Payne (Round Rock ISD)

  • The Big Take-Away = Have students make sense of word problems prior to computation by removing the numbers.”
  • The origin: Press kids to stop just circling numbers in word problems and applying random operation.
  • Not all day every day. It is a tool for sense making.
  • Focus on the relationship and the operation, formal language, and what the question would be, not the answer.
  • #numberlesswp

This makes sense for secondary grades as well.

Rich Tasks as Landmarks for Students to Use in Navigating Their Mathematical Learning Journey — Peg Cagle (LAUSD)

  • The Big Take-Away = Students’ work on Landmark Tasks throughout the year that should be visible in the classroom so that students can map their learning.”
  • We don’t take advantage enough of narrative in math class.
  • “Imagine shrinking down an entire map to the size of an index card. All the details get lost and the map becomes unreadable. What are the landmarks that will help students navigate the mathematical landscape”.
  • Peg presented the criteria for a Landmark Task …

  • … and presented us with a LandmarkTask …

Tied Up in Knots: In your groups, measure the length, in centimeters, of the piece of rope that you have. Then tie a single overhand knot and remeasure the length. Repeat the process several times. Create a data table, graph and equation relating the number of knots to the the length of the rope.

  • … then she analyzed the task according to the criteria …

  • … and showed how this landmark was made visible in her classroom.

  • The Speech Bubbles were created by the students to make comments on other groups’ work.
  1. This is the second year in a row at this conference that I have seen Peg give a year-long, big picture vision of using tasks in the classroom.
  2. This is also the third presenter who has mentioned some variation the Speech Bubbles. Time to use them in my classroom.
  3. Peg made a statement that has me thinking deeply and that I have quoted several times already: “Students have ample amounts of robust evidence that they are not good in math.” We need to help them overcome that.

Changing Teacher Practices: Transforming Teaching 101 to PD 101 — Audrey Mendivil (San Diego County)

  • The Big Take-Away = Shift from Professional Development to Professional Learning.”
  • 5 Principles of Effective PD
    1. On-Going
    2. Support during implementation
    3. Model new practices
    4. Variety of approaches and active engagement
    5. Specific to discipline/grade level
  • Shift from Professional Development to Professional Learning

  • How to Change:
    1. Small Steps. Stick to only 2-3 short term goals.
    2. Rethink Our Norms:

  • Why PD often FailsHow can we set-up for success?
    1) Top-Down Decisions: How can you include teachers in the decision making process?
    2) Little or no support in transferring ideas to the classroom: What support is available?
    3) Idea that teachers need to be fixed: How are you communicating your why?
    4) Lack of variety in delivery modes: How can you differentiate for teachers?
  • Essential Elements. Audrey took us through a terrific activity for those who create Professional Learning experiences. She gave a sets of cards that were color coded, and asked us to work together to sort them into 4-6 groups, and then name the groups.
    She then shared how she grouped them (which is what the color scheme was for). The idea was to take ALL the things that we want teachers to know and do and rather than create a checklist for them, cluster these concepts into Themes or Essential Elements and have teachers learn that.

  1. This was yet another session at NCTM that focused on Vision and the need to put the WHY in front of teachers.
  2. The re-structuring of the norms resonated with me. I’m still thinking deeply on this one. The norms drive the culture of the meetings, so they offer great leverage.
  3. In her call to keep the list of goals short, Audrey discussed the need to set short-term, intermediate and long-term goals. This falls in line with the concept of “leading and lagging indicators.” Student data may take awhile to improve (lagging) so what are the improvements in teacher moves that we can credit to our PD (leading)?
  4. The objective of the card sort activity gets at the heart of what I see killing most PD in districts … too many short-lived initiatives. Keep the broader concepts in mind. Bigger, slower moving targets are easier to hit. 

The Struggle is Real: Tasks, Academic Status, and Productive Problem Solving — Geoff Krall (New Tech Network

  • The Big Take-Away = Developing a culture of productive struggle requires holistic vigilance on the relationships between Quality Tasks, Effective Facilitation & Academic Safety.

  • Protocols for Problem Solving
    1) Make it visual
    2) Estimate Before Solving
  • Record what students know…
    vs what they are assessed on.
  • Promoting Access:
    Example: Make the smallest (or largest) difference by filling in numbers 1-9 no more than one time each.

I am challenged by Geoff’s two graphs of the linear regression of student growth. My Claims-Based Grading needs a little more work in the area of reflecting cumulative knowledge rather than recent learning.

Logarithmic Earthquake Project: An Algebra 2 Project with Real Applications — Tanisha Fitzgerald-Williams & Beverly Heigre (Notre Dame High School)

  • The Big Take-Away = Have students view videos of earthquake damage and do their own research on Richter Scale, before formal presentation of calculating Magnitude difference with Logarithms.”
  • Step 1: Research

  • Step 2: Calculations





  • Step 3: Student Groups make Presentations
  • Note: Tanisha & Beverly also have students offer possible humane response to victims of earthquake presented.
  • There is a google drive folder available that contains materials for this projects: goo.gl/Y197YR

Clothesline: The Master Number Sense Maker — Chris Shore (Me)

  • The Big Take-Away = Number sense and conceptual understanding of current content can be taught simultaneously with Clothesline Math.”
  • I presented the power of the Clothesline to teach Algebra, Geometry and Statistics.
  • clotheslinemath.com
  • #clotheslinemath

There were at least 5 sessions at NCTM Annual in which the Clothesline was a part or the focus of the presentation. 

Fun Sidenote: The ceiling rafters and the carpet print of the convention center had the same Geometric Pattern. I am sure there is lesson to be created out of this.

There are videos of keynotes, ShadowCon and Ignite
at NCTM’s Conference 2017 web page.

The city of San Antonio enhanced an already fantastic trip!





Confirming Answers with Graphing Software

I added two components to a lesson task on rational equations. The first was an idea called Hint Cards which I discussed in a previous post. The second one was having students use Desmos to confirm numerical answers that they found algebraically. This lesson is worth sharing, because of what I discovered that the students didn’t know how to do and what they learned from the activity.

The students had just completed the  Optimum Bait Company task. I gave them 5 minutes to check their answers with Desmos. Mathematically speaking, they needed to confirm that for the equation, , the following were true:

  • C(1000) = 4.45
  • C(4000) = 1.3, C(8000) = 0.775, C(12000) = 0.6 and C(42000) = 0.26
  • The horizontal asymptote is y = 0.25
  • C(5600) = 1

I was struck by how utterly stumped they were on using a graph to check these answers, even though they possessed all the prerequisite knowledge necessary. They understood the context of their answers (The average production cost of 1000 lures is $4.45). They knew how to find a y-value from a graph given the x-value (C(1000) = 4.45). They also were experienced at graphing equations with Desmos (y = (4200 + 0.25x)/x), and they knew how to establish a domain and range for axis in context. While my students had each of these four connected skills, they were missing the connection between them all, so I embraced the teachable moment.

I started with the basic idea that the equation we need to graph was the one for the average cost:  C(x) = (4200 + 0.25x)/x. A major problem faced them, though, when they first graphed this equation… they couldn’t see the rational function in the default window.

Bait Desmos Blank

So my next move with the class, was to use the numeric results to determine the domain and range. The range was simple since we all of the monetary answers were between 0 and $5.00. The domain needed a bit more discussion because the one value of 42000 lures compressed the graph so significantly that the class thought it better to leave it out of the visible domain, so we agreed upon 0 < x < 13000.

Bait Desmos Window

From here I could have just traced with finger along the screen to show where a point with a value of x would be located on the curve, but I wanted to tie in the writing of horizontal and vertical equations, and solutions of systems. Therefore, I had the students enter the additional equation of x = 1000, and click on the point of intersection.

Bait Desmos 1K

The students were getting happier and more confident so we kept rolling by entering a table with the additional increasing values of x, representing the number of lures.

Bait Desmos Table

The table confirmed the students answers and supported their common response that the values were approaching a limit of 25 cents. This appealed to their sense of context that the cost per lure could not drop below the original 25 cents per lure. That made for an easy connection to the finding the horizontal asymptote of the rational function for which the degree of the numerator and denominator are equal, which in this case was also 0.25. So we graphed this as an asymptote. It turns out that it was easier to see how closely the curve approached the asymptote if we temporarily increased our visible domain to the 42000 lures.

Bait Desmos Asymptote

Finally, we entered the equation y = 1 in order to see the number of lures required to drive the average cost down to $1 a lure.

Bait Desmos 1 Dollar

This serendipitous exercise was amazingly productive for reinforcing understanding of graphing in general, as well as the connection between numerical values, algebraic formulas and context.

Neuron Problems & Classroom Norms in Algebra 2

Day 3, Fri Aug 12, 2016

A vs Don-stepmom-shoulderTarget: Recognize that  Voice = Choice when it comes to having a growth mindset as we solve problems about our amazing brains.

Entrance Ticket
I greeted the students at the door, but today I was checking homework. They only had to do one problem of their choosing from the Neuron Facts last night. If they did not have it, they had to quickly do one outside. Message sent: You are doing your homework in this class.

Growth Mindset
On the growth mindset web site they make a point of the “voice = choice,” meaning that we have a choice whether or not to listen to the fixed mindset thoughts that we all have, They give a 4-step breakdown of how to shift from a fixed to a growth mindset. I had fun soliciting the help of a very ancient visual of a devil and an angel on your shoulder.

Voices choices

Neuron Fact Problems
So then came time to practice recognizing the fixed voice and talking to ourselves in the growth voice, while doing challenging math problems. They already sit in groups of four, so I had them spend the rest of the period working through the Neuron Fact Problems, which I created from the Facts on the front side of the paper.  They were to call out any fixed mindset words or actions demonstrated by their partners. They actually did. I worked the room with Neuron stickers and Nicki. I honored about half the groups. I was pleasantly surprised at how well my crew worked.

During the lesson, as I worked the groups, I asked  one student how she got her answer, and she told me that she had copied from her partner. I praised her for her honesty, then paused the class and brought their attention to our classroom norms.


These were originally shared with us by Dr. Juli Dixon (@thestrokeofluck) in a math training at our district. They became very popular among our teachers. Our new principal has implemented them schoolwide, providing posters for every classroom. I drew the students attention, that we “Share, Don’t Copy.” When we share, one person explains, the other listens, then question follow if we don’t understand or if we disagree. If these three norms are occurring then writing down someone else’s solution is not copying.

After a half hour of solid work, we debriefed where we saw evidence of a fixed mindset and where we saw evidence of a growth mindset. This whole activity was very well received by the students. I gave them advance notice that Monday we will be debriefing their actual solutions to the problems.

Wrinkle Sprinkle

  • Share, Don’t Copy.
  • The equals about 3 lbs.

Introductions & Neuron Facts in Algebra 2

neuron vertical
Day 2, Thurs Aug 11, 2016

The Brain Surgeon
Today, we began my regular routine of designating a daily Brain Surgeon. Since this was our first day of the Brain Surgeon, I introduced the routines of the Drum Roll, Reading of the Dual Target, Music Cues, and the Wrinkle Sprinkle. The students seem to embrace the spirit of of it all.

Student Introductions
As with every new school year, I had each student briefly state their name and something interesting about themselves. When they were all done,  I recited all their names. That always impresses a class. Then I told them things about myself. I state that yesterday we started with math, because that is what we are all about here. But since I teach math to them, they are also important and I need to know who they are.

Growth Mindset
Most of our Course Teams across the district agreed to do some kind of growth mindset activity. Here was mine.

I started by summarizing the plethora of lists of fixed vs growth mind set statements with two pictures. I told the students that research in student learning is showing that self-perception of talent as a limit or as a starting point has a tremendous influence on their learning.

Talent Wall

Then I shared that scans of the brain of someone with a fixed mindset versus a growth mindset, shows something very interesting. When faced with a challenge, the fixed mindset brain “goes cold.” It literally shuts down. However, when faced with the same challenge, the growth mindset brain “fires up.” It knows that more is being asked of it, so it kicks into high gear to meet the challenge, rather than duck it.
Brain MindsetsNow it was time to test out where we see ourselves demonstrating  a fixed or growth mindset.

Neuron Facts
I gave the students the worksheet with the Neuron Facts on the front side. I found these on the internet and thought they would make for a good lesson since they highlight the amazing function of our brains. I added the subheadings of Fast, Crowded ,etc. I started with a common practice of mine Notice & Wonder popularized by Annie Fetter (@MFAnnie) of Math Forum.  My Gradual Reel-In process looked something like this:

  1. You Do: Independent response.
  2. Ya’ll Do: Each member of the group shares both their notice and wonder.
  3. We Do: Each group decides on one Notice and one Wonder from those shared. These get shared out by each group as I write them on the board.
  4. I Do: I summarize the major point(s) that I want all students walking out with. Here it was the process of Noticing and Wondering and how we facilitate group discussion in class… And of course how amazing our brains are.

The groups were then tasked with doing one problem together. Homework was to do one more.

Wrinkle Sprinkle
Tying into the concept of the plasticity of the brain, I joke that when we learn we get a new wrinkle on the brain. Each class then concludes with what we learned that day. The brain surgeon leads and records the discussion. The students today stated that they learned…

  • Negative thoughts shut down your brain
  • Speed of the brain cell
  • The amount of oxygen the brain uses

First Day – Algebra 2

Day 1, Wed  Aug 10, 2016

{I am new to Chaparral High School, having transferred within my district as a Math Specialist.}

Opening Quiz Alg 2 on the 6Cs: After greeting each student at the door with a high-5, I started the year by answering the transformation question: “How will you (the students) be different in June than you are now, because of my class?” I am still answering that question with the same 6Cs that I launched 2 years ago. My Claims-Based grading system and the students portfolios are structured as such also.

6 Cs PicAs I do with all classes each year, I gave the students the blank copy of the quiz below, and told them this was not to be graded nor was it a test of their previous knowledge. It was like a movie trailer of things to come, but I still wanted them to give me their best shot. I then gave them my standard 3-response speech.

As a mathematician I cannot always give an accurate response; I cannot always give a complete response; but I can always, always, always give an intelligent response. Blank is not intelligent.

I pressed them to give me something… numbers, equations, drawings … anything intelligent.

Opening Quiz Alg 2 Pic

They worked on these independently, then in groups, then as a class, followed by my summary. I wanted to model this process of “gradual reel-in” (as opposed to gradual release) right away, because I use it often.

During the class discussion, one senior claimed out loud, “This is the 5th time that I have taken this class!” (She had failed two semesters as a junior, then 2 semesters in summer school.) I told her that this year she will pass because, “You are that smart, and I am that good.” I had the students repeat this:

Me: “You are that …”
Class: …smart!”
Me: “I am that …”
Class: “…good!”

This was a set-up for the Growth Mindset discussion that was coming over the next few days. In the meantime, I hope I sent the message that I believe in them, and that I believe in my ability to teach them (The 3 Growth Mindsets).

The students brought some terrific energy. I’m so looking forward to my first year as a Puma.