Tuesday, June 13, 2017

My Week at Space Camp

Alabama Legislators provided a week at Space Academy for Educators at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama! I met so many new and awesome teacher friends and have so much stuff to bring back to my kids in the classroom! My Harmony team leaders and the staff were the best and filled the week with more than I imagined! It was an amazing experience and you need to go!

It was an honor to be in the presence of amazing people in the space program. We listened to Ed Buckbee tell his inside stories of the Space Cowboys and share amazing behind the scenes photos of getting them to the moon. Space Shuttle Astronaut Wendy Lawrence wowed me with her stories of how she became an astronaut and her adventures in the space program. Homer Hickum, author of Rocket Boys, read from his book with emotion and inspired me to "aim high." Amazing people!

We trained like astronauts on the Multi-Axis Trainer that simulates the disorientation an astronaut would feel on reentry into Earth's atmosphere during a tumble spin. We also walked on the moon in a 1/6 gravity chair modeled after one the Apollo astronauts used for training.

We had two successful missions. One to the Space Station and one to Mars! It was super fun!

We survived being dropped from a helicopter into water like a splash down. Used our brains in engineering competitions where we made a lander and rover, built rockets and blasted them, wrote programming for a rover to go over Mars, and made a solar sail for our cubesat.

We had a blast and learned so much they graduated us. My team, Harmony, won the missions and received a special patch at graduation for our flight suit. We also created our own team patch, took so many photos and airdropped them we probably threw something off orbit!

I am now in the elite group of educators that call themselves Space Academy Alum! As Ed Buckbee said, "Keep the dream alive!"

Monday, May 8, 2017

Eratosthenes' Method = Fun

One of our high school math teachers shared an email with me she had received from a teacher in Chicago. Of course I jumped at the chance to take math outside of our classroom and {bonus} outside our state!

Yes, we would LOVE to measure the world using the sunshine! So the emailing started to set a date for estimating the Earth's circumference! We needed to sync our watches so our measurements would be taken at the same time. It needed to be when the sun was due south so we did 12:47. I had to borrow kids because that time is my planning. We used a meter stick with a level to be sure we had the stick vertical. The meter stick is one leg of the triangle and the shadow is the other leg. We had to determine the angle that is opposite from the shadow. That angle is the key to measuring the Earth! I knew I needed to call in the big dogs for this because my 8th graders' minds were going to be blown! Enter my amazing Math Consulting Teacher and 8th grade science neighbor, Go Team!

The meter stick was held vertically on the sidewalk, using the level to be sure it was as vertical as possible, putting the shadow as horizontal as possible.

Since both our stick in Alabama and their stick in Illinois were vertical, they were pointing to center of the earth. We needed to find the angle that our two meter sticks created.

At earth's distance, sunlight approaches parallel, so we assumed it was parallel for our purposes. ANGLE 1 (in Country Club Hills, Illinois) minus ANGLE 2 (in Foley, Alabama) would give us ANGLE 3 (in the center of the earth).

There is my Math Consulting Teacher blowing minds! After he walked them through Eratosthenes' method of calculating the circumference, he talked the kids through finding the angles and setting up the proportion. They used google maps to see where the school was we were working with. The whole thing was amazing!

Parallel sunshine and math with kids saying this was so awesome, not a bad day at school!

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ms. Pac-Man Transformations

I have been trying to talk less and let kids figure out more on their own this year and in searching for a way to introduce transformations found this AMAZING lesson from Robert Kaplinsky. You guys, I didn't even have to teach it! My kids caught on so quickly they were describing multiple transformations like it was nothing!

I followed Robert's plan by using the intro video (you can download it from his blog) that showed translations, rotations, and reflections. Yes, we gather like we are in kindergarten, when I really want their attention!

We watched the video a couple of times and I asked, "How can you describe Ms. Pac-Man's movements?" They answered she is moving right, up, left. I asked for them to be more descriptive and they began to start speaking the transformation language with turning and flipping. I stopped them when they said turning and gave them the mathematician word rotation, the same for reflection when they said flip, and translation when they said go right/left/up/down. It was magical! We continued our math talk for the next two videos that had single transformations, reflections and rotations.

Next, I had them divide up on the vertical whiteboards. I played the next video that showed all three transformations and asked them to write the movements. After a couple of times through the video, I asked them to look around at each other's notation. They noticed how some groups were more descriptive than others. Some groups had just arrows, some had used the words flip and turn, a couple had used translate, reflect, rotate, and my shining stars had added the unit "dots." We talked about how we could be more specific with our notation by using direction and degrees for rotations, lines of reflection, and by using a unit of measure.

At this point I showed them the last video that has a coordinate plane overlay and had them write the movements on their foldy in their interactive notebooks. The video was on our classroom so they could stop and go at their own pace in groups of two or three. I also gave them mini Ms. Pac-Man's to manipulate as they moved around the board. We said Ms. Pac-Man could not be upside down when she ate. I just let them go and answered questions as they came up. When then same question was asked a couple of times, I stopped everyone and we talked about it. It was super fun to watch them be so engaged and use vocabulary to describe the transformations.

The next day we needed to sure up the notation with direction, degrees, reflection lines, and units. I used this extension from mrmillermath because my competitive kids can't resist a game with points!

Just look at that notation after just a day of discovery from Ms. Pac-Man! Another game we love to play is Turkeys in the Oven from everybody's fave (and Teacher of the Year) Math=Love!

I did Footballs in the Helmet for graphing equations and they were so in to it I thought it would be fun to do for Ms. Pac-Man, Ghosts in the Ms. Pac-Man.

They work a challenge on a dry-erase communicator, in this case, writing the transformations that got Ms. Pac-Man from one location to the other. They work so hard to get ghosts which means chances for points...unless you put them all on the one that turns out to be negative!

I made Challenge #5 have a point where she had to flip then rotate like in the video. This group kept missing it so I had them get out their mini Ms. Pac-Man from the day before and manipulate her for each movement. When they got to the sticky part, they were able to think back to the last video where the same thing happened and we had math talked it out.

They get it checked by me and when it is correct, they get a ghost. They put their ghosts on one of the four Ms. Pac-Mans but don't know the point value. After time is up, I write the values on the board and they add up their points.

So much math love for the MTBoS who never cease to amaze me! And make me a better teacher! I can't wait for Twitter Math Camp!

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Happy Pi Day, Nerds!

Happy Pi Day! This math teacher's fave day! It was perfect timing because my students were dragging today after the time change! We did the Pi Chain, shared it here, and it did not disappoint. I loved watching 1st and 2nd block kids come back at the end of the day and see how much had been added!

After the first row of numbers, it starts to go really fast! Each class has their own little system of assembly.

We also borrowed Pi-kus from Math = Love. They came up with some really great ones.

Definitely the best thing about the poems was watching the kids clap out the syllables! I also gave them a challenge of reciting the digits of Pi. We are going to do it Friday because they wanted more time to memorize. The winner gets a "real chocolate pie" so they are pretty motivated! To make our day complete, we had a Pi Day Sing Along! Yes, I can get 8th graders to sing Pi songs to the tune of Christmas songs. Yes, they loved it! Here is a sample for your listening pleasure!

The Pi Chain was 1,300 links. It filled our room and had to go into the hallway and they were begging to do it tomorrow. When you leave them wanting more, it feels like success! Hope your Pi Day was super fun!

Monday, February 6, 2017

My Year of Politics

My year of politics started and ended with
this sweet Representative, Steve McMillan
This is my ninth year of teaching and I love it just as much now as I did my first day of school. I hope I have modeled for my kiddos (college freshman and high school freshman) how it feels to be passionate about what you do and they find something they love. I hope my students see my excitement for school supplies and math and it makes them excited to learn. So when the governor said that we "suck" I won't lie, it hurt, a lot. When the legislature makes decisions about my profession without consulting any educators, it feels wrong. It hurts because I give my all everyday for the children. Every teacher around me gives their best for them. We are all in our classrooms teaching our hearts out, closed off from the real world, without a voice.

Matthew Brown, State Board of Education Member showing off his
math skills. Having an engineer do math with my students was amazing.
Last year, I decided to venture out of my classroom and into the world of politics. I joined our 2016 Alabama Teacher of the Year, Jennifer Brown, in an effort to get as many legislators in my classroom as I could before the 2017 session started. We wanted them to see what school looks like.

Harry Shiver, Representative talking football with the guys!
I started last January emailing every legislator in my district asking them to come do math with us. I only heard from one. He came the last week of school. I guess he told all of his legislator friends how fun math was in my class because the next round of emails I sent out got lots of replies! The response was incredible with a State Board of Education member, three Alabama Representatives, and a Congressman coming to our classroom and participating in our learning. They all appreciated the opportunity to be inside a classroom.

Representative Alan Baker knows how to make a teacher feel appreciated!
He even called to congratulate me on receiving Teacher of the Year!
My students were proud to show them our classroom and activities. We felt empowered by building those relationships with the legislators. It was exciting to be part of something bigger than our classroom. My students were the experts and the voice our legislature needs to hear from. 

Congressman Bradley Byrne was a good sport as
we made him walk the football field to find distance!
The 2017 Legislative Session starts tomorrow and I wish all of them good luck! My hope is that these legislators hear our voice from our classroom and do what is best for every teacher and student in our state. Thanks for coming to do math with us, we loved it!