22 Oct

SIFE = Students with Interrupted Formal Education.

I’m not too thrilled about the title of this new class, but it is what it is, I suppose. This class is comprised of students who just recently immigrated to the country and who had significant gaps in their formal education from their home country. They are 9th through 12th graders, 14 to 18 years old.

Not quite sure if you can imagine this class, so here’s just a few things to paint the picture.

  • It started with 5 students, is now at 26 in 12 weeks, and it will continue to grow.
  • 100% of them hardly speak English. Only about 4 of them can understand limited English, the rest, this is their first exposure.
  • 1 is from China, 1 from Brazil, a few from El Salvador, the rest from Guatemala.
  • I teach it mostly in Spanish. My Chinese kid will probably learn Spanish faster than English… =/
  • Almost all of them never used a binder before, let alone dividers. They used to constantly open their binders backwards and then get confused and try to rearrange their dividers again. They would put in their lined paper with the large white margin on the bottom, then write on the back side of the page first with the 3-holes on the right.
  • I had two students not know their birthdays. (Apparently, some cultures celebrate their patron/ namesake saint’s day instead?)
  • I have one student, 15 years of age, who keeps taking out her Hello Kitty coloring book to color instead of doing the classwork.
  • They have never seen or used negative numbers until my class (except for the Brazilian student).
  • For a handful of them, they touched a computer for the very first time.

If you know this population of students and know me, you’ll know that I LOVE this class, both the students and the course. The students are incredibly sweet and respectful and so glad to be here. They were also pretty terrified when they first came in which makes me mother-hen them even more. As for the course, I have no curriculum that I have to comply to and finish in a certain amount of time. I’m teaching for the sake of teaching again!! I can make it as slow and applicable as I want. I haven’t been this excited to develop curriculum in years.

Everyday I can see them absorb a certain amount of knowledge. For some, they are ready for the math. They started never having seen a negative number and are now adding and subtracting them better than many of my Algebra kids. For others, their English is growing in leaps and bounds. They ask me daily how to say certain words and phrases in English and I can hear them repeating and saying them aloud to themselves. Some of them are just proud to be students. They come in showing off their new bags and binders and study their flashcards at every opportunity.

After 12 weeks since the beginning of the course, I’m constantly stumped at how to introduce concepts I’ve never introduced before (like a negative number for the very first time) and answering questions I never considered before (like what is Homecoming Queen/ King?). I’m also excited and terrified of introducing concepts for the very first timelike fractions and Algebra because I will have no screwed up prior knowledge to deal with! … 

(We’ll leave that last one at that for now. If you know, you know.)

Anyways, lastly, there really should be a list of things that ELD teachers deal with in math so that I don’t have to learn from scratch. Anyone have any ideas, tips, training to share?!?! Here’s just a few that I’m finding:

This says 21 - 17. (He got it wrong b/c it was a dictation quiz and I said 21 - 70).

This says 21 – 17. (He got it wrong because I said 21 – 70).

  • Most of them write their 1s like 7s. Their 7s they just cross with a dash. I debated whether or not it was ok to make them all just write 1s as a single vertical line or not and I decided it was necessary. If written anywhere outside of a math worksheet full of numbers, they can’t have $15 looking like $75.
  • They switch their decimals and their commas. If you’ve ever traveled in other countries before, you’ll have seen this. $2.000 for example or $20,99.

I’ll try to keep you posted on the progress of this class (I hope!)

10 Dec

2013-12-10 20.33.43

A book, I’m pretty sure, compiled by teachers. And perhaps I’ve been teaching too long when some things don’t make me laugh as much as they make me cringe… like this…


This next one made me laugh though. =) Instead of a banana car, I’ve gotten monsters, rainbow lands, and narwhals. Same plea though.

2013-12-10 20.55.45


20 Aug

The new school year has begun!!

While Common Core Geometry is consuming my time, a quick share:

In creating a floor plan for their “dream home,” not a single student included a laundry room. 

I found that amusing.

Length, Area, and Volume

17 May

Them-PosterDid you know… that if you DOUBLE up the size of a chair by doubling up its dimensions in every direction, you will need FOUR times as much paint to paint that chair and that it will weight EIGHT times as much?

Did you know… that if a gorilla was to really proportionally increase to be the size of King Kong, that his guts would just explode and gush out of him from the sheer weight of itself? (The same concept prevents an elephant from ever getting a c-section!)

Did you know… that if an ant was really the size of the ants in “Them!”, not only would they not be able to stand up on their legs, they would also suffocate immediately?

Did you know… that if you proportionally double up in size, you’ll only be able to jump the same height as you did when you were normal size? Likewise, if you got 100 times smaller, you will also be able to jump the same height as you did when you were normal size! (So how long should it have taken for the kids in “Honey, I Shrank the Kids” to get home?) 

tumblr_m78krxad8d1qiceiuo1_500Interesting, right?  All these facts  take into consideration that very first “Did you know…,” that changing a linear dimension changes the area and volume differently. Intuitively we all have some understanding of this. I mean, imagine making an itty-bitty model of a wee little ant out of Play-Doh. How easily will the ant stand on its tiny legs? Now can you imagine building a 2-foot model of the same ant? You’re going to have some difficulty making it stand on the same proportional legs.

So I found it all the more interesting when I went online to search for great lessons on this concept and found NONE. I had never been able to teach this topic to very much detail due to our crazy pacing plans and, frankly, due to my hazy knowledge of the science behind it. However, this year, I had a couple of advantages that allowed me to actually try to plan a lesson- time, of course, and an awesome student teacher who is ridiculously skilled in the sciences!

Anyways, Day 1, I started with a lesson on the basic concept* and followed it up with a follow-up to an exit ticket from the area chapter. It was pretty interesting to see how many students didn’t make the connection to the worksheet that was previously given. I’d say it was about 50/50. Half who figured it out and half who simply multiplied the 52 square foot tiles by 12 inches per foot… (I posted this student’s work because she had asked me if she could simply multiply by 12 or if she had to convert all the numbers on the page first and re-work it. Like a good teacher should, I said, “Exactly! Test it!”)


The next day was the fun day though. I had almost an entire block period to now talk about the implications of same concept in reality.


Again, looking online, I found almost nothing fun, nothing very deep, and nothing very useful to me, except these notes… which I devoured. And from these, we came up with this lesson


FACT: If you double up the dimensions in every direction, then the area multiplies by ____four____________ and the volume multiplies by ______eight________.

QUESTION: If you have a chandelier barely hanging from a rope and you doubled up the size, including the rope that it hangs on, will the chandelier still hang or will the rope snap?

Why or why not? (Make your argument here. You will not be graded based upon whether your answer is right or wrong, but on how well you make your case.)

 By this point, most students understand that although the dimensions are doubled, the weight of the chandelier has now become 8 times heavier. However, italicizing the part about the rope has them also consider the fact that the rope has also gotten 8 times heavier proportionally. A very true fact. I have them in groups and ask them to talk about it and then write out their argument, emphasizing that they will NOT be graded on correctness. 

I then take a vote. The vote for all 3 of my classes was close to 50/50. I say awesome, and before I give away anything else, I have one person from each camp make their case. I then take out a piece of rope to begin my “Consider…” lecture:

Consider… a really heavy object hanging from this piece of rope. I want to make it stronger and so I double up the length, like so, because I know that this will increase the VOLUME by twice as much. Will that make the rope stronger? [Class agrees, no way!] So then, how do I make the rope stronger?? … exactly! I need to double up the rope by making it thicker. So what does that mean? What does the strength of the rope depend on? The volume? (no) The thickness (yes!). And how do we measure thickness?? … the cross-sectional AREA!

So will the rope snap of the chandelier snap or not?! Discuss…

So yes, the rope definitely snaps. The cross-sectional AREA only increased four-fold (which is what the strength of the rope depends on) while the weight increased eight-fold. In this case, two chords of the thicker rope will hold the larger chandelier.


FACT: The height that a body can jump vertically is directly proportional to the ratio of muscle mass to the total mass of the body.

jump height

, where C is a constant (enough).

QUESTION: If a human being who can jump 1.5 feet is doubled up in size (pretending like it’s actually possible), how high will the new larger human be able to jump? Explain.

 This was the section that my student teacher had helped me out the most in. He came back w/ an equation that we boiled down and simplified to the one above (apologies to any physicist who might get offended by this). I helped to explain what this equation meant and how it made sense. I made sure they all knew that working out actually made your muscles heavier, which makes total sense in this equation. I had them discuss and then take a vote. 

Their logic behind this one was so adorable. Most of them completely ignored the equation and went straight to guesses. “If twice as tall, muscles get bigger so they’re stronger… they can jump higher.” But the winner of all arguments…

He jumps shorter! Like Mario! When Mario grows, he can’t jump as high! 

The group cracked up and then voted, yes, he jumps less than 1.5 feet… like Mario. 

Final answer? This person will jump the same height of 1.5 feet. His/her muscle weight will definitely increase eight-fold, but so will the person’s total weight, canceling each other out. 

QUESTION: Now reverse the idea. If the same human being is shrunk to half the size, how high can the new small human jump?

Likewise, the smaller human can jump 1.5 feet.

(So how long would it have taken the kids in “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” to go home?!)

It would’ve taken the same amount of jumps as when they were full size! This was an awesome discovery after reading that one professor’s notes.


FACT: Ants don’t have lungs. Air is received through “blind tubes” that cover the surface of the ants’ bodies where air enters through.

QUESTION: If an ant was to be blown up as big as the ants in the movie, “Them!”
(pretending the physical structure is possible), what can you conclude about the
air intake of the giant ant?

 We didn’t have time in class to go over these, but these should be easier after all that we’ve learned. I should’ve given it to them for homework… 

 FACT: With larger animals came the development of blood circulation and lungs as a more efficient way of oxygen distribution. Lungs increase the surface area available for oxygen absorption by the blood.

QUESTION: If a human was blown up twice as big (again pretending like the physical structure is possible), how do the lungs have to increase along with the body in order to support the oxygen level needed to survive?


Anyways, if there are any other lessons/facts out there that you think are good for this concept, let me know! I didn’t have this much fun lecturing in awhile!

*Some of the problems from that worksheet were either directly taken or modified from the NCTM Illuminations site.

And the winner of the Flashcards is…

12 May!

After attempting my own templates at creating flashcards on Word and Excel, a student showed me this site and I cried, “HOORAH!!!!”

FINALLY! A website that gets it! At least for flashcard needs.

Screen Shot 2013-05-12 at 9.08.21 PMPROS:

  • It’s FREEEEEEE!!! At least until you need to upload your own images. Otherwise, it’s $15/ year. I happily paid it so that I can freely use screen captures and whatnot for geometry figures and algebra graphs.
  • They have an APP for it!!! Tap to flip, swipe for next card. Awesome.
  • Super easy and clean spaces for you to put in your words.
  • They have multiple languages you can type in, including MATH. =)
  • Your students can look you up and freely print your sets, or even create their own sets!
  • And my favorite?! They have 5 different print options!!! –>


  • You can’t input images on both sides. Therefore, my cards are not all flipped in the same direction. I print, cut, and rearrange which way they should face, if and when it matters.

You can see the sets I have already created by searching my full name, jinnahwang (or by clicking here). I like to create class sets for them to practice with and have my own set to do my verbal vocab with. I’ve had students often ask me if they can get a copy and its always been clunky in printing out a PDF and then posting it on my website. I LOVE the print and fold flashcards as well so I can quickly print them on regular paper for students who are not-so-web-savvy and they can create them at home.

Love it!

Toblerone Challenge –> Can Top Challenge

28 Apr

Here was another fun one.

The Word file here: Toblerone Challenge

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 11.20.36 PM

A few logistics:

  • They got to work either alone or in partners. Winner gets ONE Toblerone bar, so if partnering up, they must share.
  • 20 minutes was all that they had. After the Play-doh activity the previous day, they understood that the winner would be the BEST net for this Toblerone box in those 20 minutes. No extension of time.
  • Only one sheet of cardstock was actually passed out to the groups. All other materials were available to them for pickup, if they needed- rulers, scissors, compasses, protractors. They had to build everything until they needed the gluing, pretending like I was the one who will be gluing (there was no glue involved).
  • Collect all nets immediately and put them aside to determine winner when they are doing classwork.
  • At the end of class, when announcing the winner, I took apart the real Toblerone box under the doc cam to see how the actual engineers did it. I then wrapped the chocolate bar w/ the winning net and awarded the winners their chocolate.
  • Hw was to find the lateral area, base area, and total surface area of the box.

Immediately after they turned in their net and before any kind of clean-up, there was a 5-minute bonus challenge.

Screen Shot 2013-04-28 at 11.36.11 PM

I had the actual can in my hands w/ the actual label on it. The label was only taped down on one side so I could show how it wraps around the can and opens up to be a rectangle. I pretty much laid it all out save handing the can to them. I think I still only had about 2 groups per class understand how to find the perfect circle to go on top of the can. Most of them just eyeballed it. Ha!

Winners of that challenge got a mystery can that I had pulled the label off of last year for last year’s lesson. At least the expiration date was on there to prove it wasn’t expired yet! They just wouldn’t know what it contained until they actually opened it. Heh.

Play-Doh Solids

28 Apr

(The lessons from this chapter are not coming out in the proper order, but hopefully they can still be useful independently…)

20130409_161828What better way to gauge how well your students understand solids than by PLAY-DOH! This was tons of fun.

Each team got one tub of Play-Doh, some fishing string (to cut), and a plastic knife. The Play-Doh had to rotate hands every challenge. The challenges were on Powerpoint, one challenge per slide.

First slide, person #1: in 3 minutes, build your best… tetrahedron. GO!

At the end of the 3 minutes, everyone has to throw their hands in the air and wave ’em around like you just don’t care!… or just hold them there. I collect all the CORRECT tetrahedrons and then judge the BEST ones for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd.

The challenges/slides go something like this:

  • build your best tetrahedron
  • octahedron
  • dodecahedron
  • model of what the following net will build:
  • Regular pentagonal prism
  • Polyhedron whose cross-section is a triangle
  • model of what the following net will build:

You can add or subtract what you like to the slides and to the time allotted for building.

To consider for next year: Add a drawing section and have them next DRAW THE NETS to a given solid.


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