Anti-Math Club

So… I have had some thoughts ever since I saw Rochelle Gutierrez speak, but I’m having trouble solidifying these ideas. The idea of what I want to do is around getting kids involved in math that is not part of the standards, and that is fun and engaging. I want kids to start to see that math is an art form that is beautiful and that everyone can do it. Here are some of the thoughts I am struggling with.

  1. I would love to get kids that normally do not excel in math to try to help them see the fun in math more than they’re used to…. but I’m not sure how to get them to come. Those who will want to come most are probably the kids that always love math!
  2. I’m not sure what activities to do. I can do puzzles, games, etc. but I don’t even know what all is out there in terms of fun stuff that’s not in our standards that’s accessible to different freshmen – seniors.
  3. I’ve also thought to let the kids decide what math we will do. I could present math munch and other sides (though I’m not sure which yet) to let them explore. I’m not sure how easy or hard it would be for them to come up with ideas.
  4. I’d love to include in the club the hidden agenda behind – to allow them to see that math is not just everything they are made to do in the standards. That it can be more engaging when there is time to delve more deeply into topics and take as long as we want to explore them. To allow them to see the math that is done throughout the world and how it is different than what they have learned. I’m not sure how to structure this.

I’m posting this partly to get my ideas down, but I would also love love love feedback and help in creating this club! Comments please!? 🙂

#middleschool abc’s

Okay, Anne, I’m in. I’m way down on my 30 posts in May, so this will be fun.

A- Age: 37 (for a couple more weeks!)
B- Biggest fear: Spiders
C- Current time: 2:27PM
D- Drink you last had: Water
E- Every day starts with: Pressing snooze (or trying to)
F- Favorite song: Don’t stop Believing
G- Ghosts, are they real? I think so
H- Hometown: Chattanooga, TN
I- In love with: my scholars
J- Jealous of: Amazing teachers
K- killed someone?: um, no
L- Last time you cried?: Last week – rough time with mother’s day and a scholar’s dad died, which hit me hard
M- Middle name: Lynn
N- Number of siblings: 0, but 1 sort of sister
O- One wish: To make a positive influence on people’s lives I encounter
P- Person you last called: My sort of mom (the mom of my sort of sister)
Q- Question you’re always asked: Why do you smile so much?
R- Reason to smile: beauty (favorite quote: happy people are happy because they find beauty every day)
S- Song last sang: Try Everything
T- Time you woke up: 5:30 (my husband made me because I asked him to make me, but I was not happy at 5:30)
U- Underwear color: Summer ME undies
V- Vacation destination: Italy / India / Africa…. I could keep going
W- Worst habit: Forgetting what people important to me tell me
Y- Your favorite food: Southern green beans (cooked in bacon grease)
X- X-Rays you’ve had: Mouth, stomach
Z- Zodiac sign: Gemini

Nominate 8 more people

Um, I don’t know many people on Twitter. My old math friends in credential! Traci, Melissa, Amanda, Kelly, Jackie, Lyndsey, Brian Lawler, Bryan Meyer

Notice and Wonder

I did a notice and wonder day because of Dan Meyer’s recent post on the Blue Point Rule. It didn’t have anything to do with the blue point or transformations, but I really liked how he laid out Before we do….., ask……

Although I love the idea of notice and wonders, I haven’s used them super effectively yet. We are in the middle of a rational functions unit for our sophomores in math 2 and it’s blowing their minds. I am trying to get them to understand simplifying rational functions, graphing rational functions, asymptotes, holes, adding/subtracting, etc. It’s a lot for the last 2 weeks of school.

My original idea for today’s lesson was to give them the following fraction and ask them to simplify it.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 2.16.27 PM

However, after reading Dan’s blog, I decided instead to give them this.

Screen Shot 2016-05-18 at 2.18.54 PM

I randomly called on multiple scholars from the room to get their noticings and wonderings. It was beautiful!

  • It’s a polynomial divided by a polynomial
    • Great! What’s that called again? 🙂
  • It has a 5, 6 and 7
  • It has an x^2 and an x
  • It’s a quadratic divided by a line
  • There is a vertical asymptote at -1
    • This one was my favorite and everyone agreed that this would be true (we hadn’t talked about holes yet).
  • Yesterday’s function had an x/x^2 and today there is an x^2/x
    • This was great too because the scholar remembered what causes horizontal asymptotes.

I next asked them to try and simplify the fraction, reminding them that 5/10 is also 1*5/2*5 and since 5 is a factor of both, it becomes 1 and cancels.

Going around the room, some factored more easily and went onto the graph. Some had to think about what it means to factor. Some noticed that after simplifying, it gave a linear equation. Some graphed it and noticed it gave a line.

Whoa – what!? How could this type of function actually give a line?

Anyway – both of my classes were interested and engaged in this, whereas my previous idea would have produced neither. It turned into a great discussion about simplifying rational functions and holes!

I feel like a winner today – I needed that. 🙂

On motivating scholars

So this is something that I really haven’t figured out as a teacher. I have scholars who despite my efforts to support them, talk to them about their lives, offer endless help with the content just throw in the towel and don’t put in any effort. I have 3 scholars who I have had in math for 2 years who have struggled all along, but have put forth good effort for most of it and now at the end of the 2nd year, they all are just throwing in the towel. I feel like I have failed them completely! They all know that I care about them as humans and that I believe in them in terms of their ability to do the math, but yet they have chosen to do very little at the point when they need to be pushing through.

People say we can motivate them best by building relationships with them. So maybe the relationships I’m building are not the right ones? I’m not sure. Before I came to my current school, I kept seeing an attitude of “if the kids don’t put forth the effort, there’s nothing we can do as teachers”. I still hear this at times, but for the most part, neither myself nor the teachers around me buy into this statement. We put forth every effort that we can to try to help scholars succeed. If they don’t believe in themselves, we work with them and help to show them how capable they are. If they are having an especially tough time at home, we get the school counselor involved and we work with the family and the scholar to support them as best we can.

I want more tools in my tool belt for motivating scholars. I want to incorporate who kids are into my daily classes. Maybe if we have days to just play with random math outside of the curriculum, these scholars would be more engaged. I’ll have to try itj out and experiment.

Clear credential!

After a semester of prerequisite classes, a year of credential and student teaching including taking over a master teacher’s classroom for the last month, and 2 years of teaching in my own classroom, BTSA, etc. etc. etc., I just got an email from CTC and my credential is cleared. Yay!! I’m a real teacher now! Not an imaginary one (in honor of the imaginary numbers my sophomores learned about today). Not to toot my own horn, but… TOOT TOOT! I promise I’m not crop dusting you. 😜

Folklorico Dancing

I have a freshman who dances in the Folklorico style. It’s a traditional Latin American dance that emphasizes local folk culture with ballet characteristics. I’ve watched videos of her practicing, but told her that I wanted to see her when she had a performance. In Old Town this weekend, there was a 2 day competition, so I brought my 5 year old daughter down on Saturday to watch.

It was awesome! The dresses were beautiful and the dances were too. I loved the music and that the announcer spoke only Spanish. I was able to understand more of it than I expected and even translated for my daughter.

My student went on at 10, so we got to see her group perform but also stayed for another hour and a half and watched people of all ages dancing. I ran into another scholar from last year as well who was going on later in the day to dance. It was so nice to get to watch this part of a scholars’ life and it just made me want to get more involved in their community in general. I want to start attending more community activities in Escondido where I teach so that I can learn more about my scholars and perhaps that will help me bring their lives into the classroom on a more regular basis.

Here is a picture of my scholar, Zaira, myself and my daughter, Kayla as well as a video of Zaira’s group performing.




It’s been one of those weeks and I’m glad Friday is here. I’m going to do what Anne did yesterday and give 30 things that made me smile today – thanks, Anne for the idea!

  1. Scholars clearing no marks (ie, passing tests that they retake)
  2. Time hanging out with Anne
  3. My 10th graders seeing the proof for the quadratic formula
  4. My 9th graders engaged in trying to figure out the multiplicative identity matrix.
  5. An invite to a colleagues’ wedding who I adore
  6. It’s Friday!
  7. It rained
  8. Jumping in puddles in the rain this morning with my daughter
  9. Wearing super fun rain boots
  10. Doing this activity of coming up with 30 things which seems super hard, but it’s making me smile to do it!
  11. A group of my 10th grade Hispanic girls took a history AP test
  12. Telling my 1st period that they are good at questioning the system
  13. Dinner with my lovely daughter and husband.
  14. Texts with Anne
  15. my daughter saying that what she loves about me most is that I like to cuddle (true that, right Anne?)
  16. the sun after the rain but with still some cool black clouds in the sky.
  17. Scholars wanting to come into my classroom before school, during breaks, during lunch and after school. They feel comfortable there!
  18. grtting to take my daughter and see one of my freshmen in a Mexican dance competition down in old town tomorrow.
  19. Friday night margaritas on seis de mayo.
  20. Scholars making origami in my class this morning before school.
  21. Chats with a scholar about good books and sharing Kurt Vonnegut with her.
  22. A freshman scholar who hasn’t done much all year but who has started trying recently and getting it more and keeps persevering.
  23. A scholar who was having some severe anxiety and depression and medication issues who is starting to get back to his self again.
  24. A scholar whose dad is still around even though in critical condition.
  25. The fact that scholars feel comfortable sharing their lives with me. You’re right, Anne Schwartz – that’s why we teach!!
  26. seeing my daughter and husband so happily laughing and playing together.
  27. Singing “singing in the rain” during break in the middle of the halls at school… Oh and morning meeting too… Oh and in the rain this morning too.
  28. The idea of an anti-math math club (more on that another time)
  29. goid food, friends and family!
  30. Sitting in the toilet at 9:30 on a Friday night finishing this post. 😀

Subversive Teaching

I heard Rochelle Gutierrez talk at ShadowCon but didn’t get to see her full talk there. However, I just got to see her at SDSU and OMG…. mind blown. I will say that my mind was blown on math education first by Brian Lawler during my math methods class at CSUSM, but Rochelle has done it again. Hopefully it’s okay I’m calling her Rochelle instead of Dr. Gutierrez? I got to have a conversation with her, so we’re BFF’s, right? 🙂

So Bryan Meyer asked me some really good questions on my math rant video that I posted and I have to admit, I didn’t fully understand what he was saying. I LOVE talking to Bryan and he always asks me great questions that get me thinking deeply about teaching. Anyway, during the talk, I went back to some of his questions and got it! Are we reinforcing the status quo of who does well in math by what we ask scholars to do?

Big ideas I got out of this talk:

  • Perhaps some scholars are not “good” at math, not because they don’t get it but because they don’t see the learning applicable to them.

I have been terrible about telling kids that they should learn math because it will make them form connections in their brain and be better problem solvers, blah blah blah. But we all know that a lot of what we teach we teach because we’re told that’s what we have to teach. I keep having the thoughts that why is the math we teach the math we teach? I want kids to be able to play with math and have fun and explore, but with everything we are told to cover with our standards, there is not enough time for many of our scholars to play with math or consider it for how they see it, vs. how we want them to see it. I see the math we teach as interesting, but a lot of kids don’t. And why should they!?

  • Students don’t feel like active participants because we’re just asking them to know what we know or be like us as mathematicians.

Who’s to say what it is we should know in math or how we should act or learn as mathematicians? Bryan also said in his comment that the discovery learning that we call it is not really discovery. Or rather just re-discovering what we already know. Why aren’t we asking new questions or letting scholars ask their own questions? One of the comments that Rochelle said at ShadowCon that I heard again tonight is we need people doing math who have not historically done it because they’ll ask different questions.

  • Why do we always look for misconceptions? Why don’t we allow scholars to have conceptions until they butt up against something that changes their conceptions?

We want so badly for kids to see things how we understand that we don’t allow them to think in their way and make sense in their way up to a point that they see that maybe something doesn’t make sense. Or maybe it does in a way we don’t even know!? She said let’s allow students to run with their conceptions and see if we can make sense of them.

  • Past advances in math happened because people questioned the system and what was known and accepted.

Currently and for a very long time, we’ve had these ideas of what math is and what kids should know. But why!? Why is what we know the way of math? What about other possibilities of math? Why not allow scholars to question things and maybe take them in new directions?

  • The idea of ethnomathematics and that there is not just one mathematics – there are many.

I learned more about this based on a talk I went to at NCTM and it interested me. I’m definitely going to look more into this but the idea is that people learn math very differently depending on where they live. The mathematics we teach in the United States is not the math taught everywhere. I don’t mean by this that we have an achievement gap with other countries – this is for another bullet. What I mean is that there are a lot of different ways to doing math and thinking about math that we don’t consider. Even just addition, subtraction, multiplication and division are thought of very differently in different places in the world. Rochelle said that during some studies she did in Mexico, she realized that the math education in the US is very based in quantitative reasoning and algebra whereas in Mexico, students thought much more in terms of geometry and the physical world as a way of explaining math.

  • The term achievement gap is based upon what we see as what scholars need to achieve.

This forces us to see certain scholars as deficient of achievement. But who is to say what achievement is correct? We make math measuring, categorizing, quantitating in a way to get them ready for calculus. But why!? Why is calculus the end all and be all of math? I for one love calculus, but how many professions actually use it? I’ve been fighting for a while that statistics is more relevant to most professions. But now I’m looking at a whole new set of ideas of what might be important to keep kids lifelong learners in math!

  • If education is ever going to change, we need to engage in some creative insubordination.

Stand up for scholars and their ideas. Deconstruct messages and images for scholars. Let them know that much of what they’re learning is not because they’re going to use it or because it’s going to help them except that they have to do it to play the game. The way our society is structured right now, to get the high paying jobs or graduate high school or …. you need to succeed in math. It’s not fair or right necessarily but get them involved in the discussions and perhaps once they are in our places, they can enact more change!

  • So Bryan asked the question we were all thinking, “What would a math classroom look like if our current standards and what math education must look like didn’t exist?

Rochelle’s answer was beautiful. She talked about moving away from the quantitative reasoning and algebra that define our current system and moving towards more aesthetics in math, such as topology or graph theory. She talked about using this knowledge in things such as protein folding and other areas in the body, which I’m super interested in coming in from biotech! She talked about using math to look at the sustainability of our planet or things that bring more harmony, instead of being focused on economics and war like it is now. She has a math club that looks into these things and suggested taking little bits of time here and there to let kids play with math that isn’t in what we have to teach and being transparent with them about this. Then, having them teach other classes or present their work to others to help them to feel ownership in it. This is after I asked her what we can do now in the classroom – how we can start to enact change even though we have to cover all that we have to cover.

So when I reflect, apparently I write extremely long blog posts. Not sure anyone will get to the end, but if you do, tell me… What are you doing in your classroom to enact changes?

Today’s lessons – a win and a loss

My 10th grade scholars were introduced to vertex form in quadratics today. I opened the lesson giving them a quadratic in vertex form and asked them to find the x- and y-intercepts. This was an entry point where scholars were able to get started and multiple different methods came out. This was a good teaching move for the day and it enabled me to get them engaged and understanding vertex form and interested in what the point of it was.

My 9th grade scholars are in a unit on matrices. So far, they have been doing pretty well with it and though they were confused at first as to why why were interpreting analyses of shoe sales, they quickly caught on to matrix analysis, addition, subtraction and even multiplication because they made sense of it because of the context. Today, however we got into properties of matrices, including commutativity of matrices in addition, additive identity and additive inverse matrices. My scholars were not at all engaged in this lesson. I struggle with how to make this interesting. Properties of a new mathematical element – how to create a need in this. In fact, a scholar asked me! Why would you ever need to add a zero matrix so that you end back up with the same matrix? I failed on this one.


Teaching has so many emotions involved. Last year, it hit me extremely hard at some point during the year when realizing what crappy home lives many of my scholars have. This year I see more of the same, but I’ve now had a couple of kids lose parents. Maybe because I also struggled with the loss of my parents young, I have intense feeling involved knowing what these kids are going through. I feel so deeply for them and want nothing more than to take away their pain and suffering but I know that’s obviously not an option. I want to be a good support for them but am not even sure how best to do this. I think back to what I would have wanted and I think what I appreciated was supportive teachers who cared about me. I do care about them… I just want to do more. I don’t know what. I give an open room and open ear for them to talk if they want and I check in with them, but beyond that what can we do? Create a safe classroom environment – push them to do their best – understand that they will not be at 100% or even at 20% during these rough times. Cry for them. Try to be a role model. I hope I can learn how to be better there for them. It’s amazing how much emotion is involved for my scholars. I really love them – I had no idea I could have so much love and caring for over 100 kids. What a job!