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Raffle Tickets to Teach Perseverence

8 Apr

Again, back to this area chapter. Once the basics of finding area is taught, it’s a great chapter to get them to start thinking of different ways to solve a problem. But how do we get our little trained monkeys to do so?! Especially when they are so used to teachers teaching them exactly how to do a problem and then having them mimic our process? I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand hearing “but you didn’t teach us how to do this!” when there’s really nothing new to have taught!

Here’s one solution: Raffle tickets!

I used this for group work on one very difficult problem that required multiple steps. For example, for this chapter, ONE problem that looked similar to the following examples. (This came after finding the area of a regular polygon given the apothem and a side length.)

  1. Find the area of a regular octagon with side length 6 cm.
  2. Find the area of a regular octagon with radius 20 in

  3. Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 9.26.35 PM

  4. Screen Shot 2013-04-08 at 9.28.48 PM

Every group had these hints written under their one problem:


  • Did you try drawing a picture?
  • What do you need in order to answer the main question?
  • Can you draw any other parts that might be useful?
  • Did you try it multiple ways? (Try to re-draw, rotate the picture, split the picture, etc.)
  • Did you try using our extremely useful RIGHT triangles?
  • Did you double check your work? (Make sure you did not make any assumptions, that your answer makes sense, used units, maybe even try it a different method, etc.)
  • REMEMBER: You already have all the information you need in order to solve this problem!

Raffle Rules:

  1. Every team receives 5 raffle tickets to start.
  2. Up to 3 bonus raffle tickets will be awarded for the correct answer with proper and clear work.
  3. One bonus ticket can be earned for working well together.
  4. Each question that the teacher answers or hint that the teacher gives will cost 1 raffle ticket.
  5. Answer check is free only when the problem is finished. If correct, receive award. If incorrect, it will be made clear that there is a mistake. Each group can either try to find their own mistake without losing any tickets, OR teacher can point out where the mistake is at a cost of one  raffle ticket.

20 minutes were put up on the timer to solve just one of these problems on their own as a group of 3 or 4. In my classroom, each group also had their own large white board to work on.

And wow! did they work their butts off! It gave every student an incentive to fight through the problem. I had a couple of groups refuse any hints and tried to find the mistake themselves. I had a few groups not get the extra 3 tickets because they did not finish on time, but they still kept the first 5 so they still had a chance at the prizes at the end. It was awesome. At the end, they all wrote their group number on the back of their raffle tickets and we pulled one ticket from a shoe box and the whole group won a prize. Can’t wait to try this again soon.

My worksheets used here.

I hate EXIT tickets… but not these!

8 Apr

I know every observer loves to come in and, especially if they don’t know math pedagogy, say that I should try incorporating exit tickets.

I see what they’re saying. It’s probably better for the students than my frantic end of the period shout of, “Don’t forget to copy down your homework! Put your stuff back! BYE!” I think I just don’t believe that they help me as much as my observers seem to believe they do. Of course, there are the occasional surprises still, but not usually worth the time and paper that exit tickets take.


My new exit ticket strategy. I choose one solid problem and have them explain or justify one of their answers. Nothing new. The new part is that I only comment on these and help them improve their terrible explanations. The next day’s exit ticket is to actually rewrite the explanation but this time for an actual grade.

And they do get better!

Each problem is short enough so that it doesn’t take a ridiculously long time to grade the writing that we math teachers dread so much. And for the effort, this is actually worth it to me and I actually wish I can remember to do this more often than I can remember to…

Here is the format that I actually picked up from a CCSS speaker who was saying the same thing about the importance of rough drafts for math arguments (I’ll try to post his name soon =/)…


I just made a bunch of copies and put them in my file so I can make up a problem on the fly if I have to.


Trained gratitude

10 Mar


Oh, the things that can make a teacher’s day! -finding nice rulers, 4 for a $1! And cute little erasers for a $1.50.

And the best thing about it? I’ve trained my classes with janky wooden rulers that are so bumpy and dirty that they will actually appreciate these rulers as raffle gifts!

Excel Flashcards template

12 Mar

Holy moly. Why didn’t I think of this sooner? I just created an excel template for 12 flashcards per page, where the inputs go into a table on the first worksheet and the flashcards are created on the second worksheet. This way, I don’t have to constantly try to align and rethink where the corresponding backs of each flashcard go.

It’s not perfect in that equations are a bit cumbersome. I would honestly just write in the exponents and such before I make the copies onto cardstock.

I’ve just been making class sets of useful flashcards for my Geo classes. This would be great for vocab! I created it originally for factoring perfect squares, as partner work. I’ll drop both into the Box widget, to be edited as you please. Please be careful of the “12flashcards ppg” file because it is a TEMPLATE file to be saved in your Templates folder…

1st worksheet where the data is input

2nd worksheet of the actual flashcards for print

Dear Basketball…

2 Mar

Kind of random, but I had this assignment come up in conversation and so I went back to re-read the letter before sending it out to a friend and I was reminded of just how good it was. Of just how good he was.

It’s a letter to basketball written by Michael Jordan after his second retirement. It was published in the LA Times on April 20 of 2003. Read it. You’ll enjoy it.

Dear Basketball,

It’s been almost 28 years since the first day we met. 28 years since I saw you in the back of our garage. 28 years since my parents introduced us.

If someone would have told me then what would become of us, I’m not sure I would have believed them. I barely remembered your name.

Then I started seeing you around the neighborhood and watching you on television. I used to see you with guys down at the playground. But when my older brother started paying more attention to you, I started to wonder. Maybe you were different.

We hung out a few times. The more I got to know you, the more I liked you. And as life would have it, when I finally got really interested in you, when I was finally ready to get serious, you left me off the varsity. You told me I wasn’t good enough.

I was crushed. I was hurt. I think I even cried.

Then I wanted you more than ever. So I practiced. I hustled. I worked on my game. Passing. Dribbling. Shooting. Thinking. I ran. I did sit-ups. I did push-ups. I did pull-ups. I lifted weights. I studied you. I began to fall in love and you noticed. At least that’s what Coach Smith said.

At the time, I wasn’t sure exactly what was going on. But, now I know. Coach Smith was teaching me how to love you, how to listen to you, how to understand you, how to respect you and how to appreciate you. Then it happened. That night, at the Louisiana Superdome, in the final seconds of the championship game againstGeorgetown, you found me in the corner and we danced.

Since then, you’ve become so much more than just a ball to me. You’ve become more than just a court. More than just a hoop. More than just a pair of sneakers. More than just a game.

In some respects, you’ve become my life. My passion. My motivation. My inspiration.

You’re my biggest fan and my harshest critic. You’re my dearest friend and my strongest ally. You’re my toughest competition. You’re my passport around the world and my visa into the hearts of millions.

So much has changed since the first day we met, and to a large degree, I have you to thank. So if you haven’t heard me say it before, let me say it now for the world to hear. Thank you. Thank you Basketball. Thank you for everything.

Thank you for all the players that came before me. Thank you for all the players who went into battle with me. Thank you for the championships and the rings. Thank you for the All-Star games and the Playoffs. Thank you for the last shots, the buzzer-beaters, the hard fouls, the victories and the defeats. Thank you for making me earn my keep. Thank you for #23. Thank you forNorth CarolinaandChicago. Thank you for the air and the nickname. Thank you for the moves and the hang time. Thank you for the Slam-Dunk Contest. Thank you for the will and determination, the heart and the soul, the pride and the courage. Thank you for the competitive spirit and the competition to challenge it. Thank you for the failures and the setbacks, the blessings and the applause. Thank you for the triangle. Thank you for baseball and the Barons. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for the assistant coaches, the trainers, and the physical therapists. Thank you for the announcers, the refs, the writers, the reporters, the broadcasters and the radio stations. Thank you for the Pistons and the Lakers, the Cavs and the Knicks, the Sixers and the Celtics. Thank you forPhoenix,Portland,SeattleandUtah. Thank you for the Wizards. Thank you for the believers and the doubters. Thank you for the education and the experience. Thank you for teaching me the game, behind, beneath, within, above and around the game… the game. Thank you for every fan who has ever called my name, put their hands together for me and my teammates, slapped me five or patted me on the back. Thank you for everything you’ve given my family. Thank you for the moon and the stars, and last but not least, thank you for Bugs and Mars.

I know I’m not the only one who loves you. I know you have loved many before me and will love many after me. But, I also know that what we had was unique. It was special. So as our relationship changes yet again, as well as relationships do, one thing is for sure.

I love you Basketball. I love everything about you and I always will. My playing days in the NBA are definitely over but our relationship will never end.

Much Love and Respect,

Michael Jordan

Pretty awesome, no? I have some of my math classes read it and write a letter to Math at the beginning of the school year. (I got the idea from some speaker about 8 years ago I can’t remember… =( ) The results and insights from their letters are pretty telling actually and I get a rare sense of their writing skills that I don’t normally get throughout the year. Maybe someone will find it useful for the end of this school year or as a midyear check…

Homework Wheel

17 Jan

There are typically 3 things I want my kids to do when doing homework every night:

  1. Actually attempt the work and show all work.
  2. Correct their work in class
  3. Learn from their mistakes

So how do you check and keep them accountable? Committing to one method always run dry after awhile and both students and myself slack off. I finally found a way that I’m happy with to get them to do this. A homework wheel!

When students walk in everyday, I put up the answers on the board and they all get green pens to make corrections, start the work, and/or work with their neighbors. I just walk around making sure no one is cheating and using pencil. After about 10 minutes of neighbor work or me doing the problems on the board, I spin the wheeeeel!!

  • 2 problem check means I collect their work to give them credit for 2 problems that required work.
  • Green pen logic  means I collect their work and I give them credit for their corrections done in green pen in the beginning of class. (They have to explain what their mistake was also.)
  • Homework quiz, of course, is when I choose two exact problems from their homework and they get tested on it instead of me collecting the hw that night.

The binder check section is actually the initial reason why I even came up w/ this idea. I hate doing binder checks and I always forget to do them, though I believe in the value of teaching my kids organization. This way, I at least will check their binder about 2 out of 15 days (the fraction of that slice).

The FREE slice is just for fun. Though honestly speaking, I think it’s mostly for me. =)

{The wheel itself is just an Ikea Lazy Susan I bought a while ago for a trig activity I never did. I drilled holes onto the bottom and attached it to my wall. This is also only used for my Geometry class so far since it’s the only class with hw that I’m teaching right now.}

Free Graphing Calculator!

6 Dec

Oh Google, how easy you make it to love thee.

Now you just have to type in the equation into the Google box and it’ll graph it for you, for FREE! It’s really basic, but kinda nice for that very reason. You can even type in multiple equations at once. =)

Vocab Scavenger Hunt

29 Nov


I used to hate introducing new vocabulary words.

I still swear by my Verbal Vocab for constantly reviewing vocab words throughout the school year, but oftentimes in Geometry, the lecture on the introduction of over a dozen new vocab words in one class can get so dull, dry, and just boring. Kids mostly tune me out by word three anyways.

But Geometry is all about definitions. Not just definitions, but properties that arise once these things are defined. It’s so nit-picky, but it can’t be ignored. I’ve tried having them create a portfolio, but the thing took me forever to grade and the students were not huge fans of them either.

So I had a scavenger hunt this week instead for classifying quadrilaterals. I normally do this at the end of the school year on a field trip and it becomes a monster project, but I find so much value in it that I keep trying to incorporate parts of that project into the school year.


It’s two in part. The first part is a book scavenger hunt w/ fill in the blanks, a picture, and a non-example (which they are used to doing).

The second part is a photo scavenger hunt. I release them on to the campus in groups of 3 and have them search for the vocab words. They must email me the picture with their team name and an explanation of why that picture works.

It was fun. They had fun. Grading was easy (file after each period, search their name for all their emails) . I hung colored hall passes around their necks. I made them check in w/ me every 15 minutes. Book hunt took 15 minutes. Photo hunt took about 50 minutes.

Assignment is attached in Box widget as Intro to Quads Scavenger Hunt.

Research on Motivation

21 Nov

A good Monday morning to all!

I saw this falling asleep last night and I had to share as soon as I had the chance. It’s a TED talk by Daniel Pink on motivation.

Basically, providing incentives to complete a certain task, like rewards and punishments, actually only get better results if the task is rote, mechanical, and very focused. 

If ever you need creativity or critical thinking, on the other hand, incentives actually produce significantly poorer results than not providing any incentive at all.

Interesting, isn’t it?! I’m a huge stickler for creating accountability in all my activities, ideally by motivation, but often by incentives. Even if part of me understood some of the ideas here, it really makes  motivation just that much more tangible to reproduce.

For example, activities that might be productive to use incentives for are times table drills, identifying a series of triangles as SSS, SAS, ASA, AAS, or HL, practicing solving equations, etc. I’d say most other activities should stray from using incentives.

So how do we build intrinsic motivation? That IS the big question, isn’t it. Well according to Dan Pink, there’s 3 main elements:

  1. autonomy
  2. mastery
  3. purpose

Perhaps what we do most days is helping students build the first two. Purpose is the big challenge though. Helping students understand WHY these concepts are interesting and worthwhile. I think I’m going to try to focus on that once again. Maybe I’ll try an open-ended project in Geo.

Anyways, on a side-note, when people ask me what made the biggest difference for my Calculus Camp and those scores, it was definitely the motivation factor that camp gave them to pass. They had the know-how, the capability, just like all the classes before them, but why would they sweat over passing an AP Calc exam, when all of them only paid $10 for it and about half of them were thinking about community college anyways? Taking them up to camp changed that, but more importantly, it changed that for them together as a class. Those who never had competitive, college/univ. bound friends were not only mixed in w/ those who were, but they were all becoming friends.

If you teach/taught in a low-performing school (not that my LA school is low-performing anymore!! =)), one of things you would’ve quickly realized is that “they just don’t care.” Even the brilliant ones seem to take on this “C is still passing” attitude (not all, but most). What else can you expect when no one else, neither family or friends, expect any more of them?

Well, up at camp, we got away together as a class,  did team builders, played ridiculous games, got delirious at night together, ate Fear Factor-worthy things for punishment, and endured 15 hours of Calculus. When they got back, they were suddenly so bonded that they weren’t just trying to pass the test alone, but w/ their entire class. It was AMAZING. They suddenly wanted to pass this test because that was what we had spent the entire weekend focused on and even the weeks prior in getting it funded.

I only wish I had done all that on purpose. I had only taken them up b/c I remember having gone to Calc Camp when I was a student and finding it helpful. I also remember it being a bit boring so I added some flair. =) I guess I just need to figure out how to add motivational flair to math on a daily basis now.

Movies in Math. Math in Movies.

18 Nov

Here is a website with a compilation of short movie clips on math and physics that you can freely download.

I use the Shrek clip as the introduction to inverses and contrapositives in Geometry.(This one was also on YouTube.) The PowerPoint I used is in the Box widget.