Monday, December 7, 2009

Triangles are Forever!

I haven't posted to the blog in a while, but that is about to change.  Today we began the unit on triangle congruence, which is the underpinning of the rest of the course.  Nerd that I am, I had a great time proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that the measures of the angles of a triangle add up to 180˚.  Here is the solution to today's Challenger.    Can you come up with a check of the problem to make sure the answer I got was correct?  Tell me about it, and you shall be rewarded......

Check out my new Voki - and follow her instructions!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

On Logic, the PSATs, and Opportunity

Today in Geometry, we delved into the study of Symbolic Logic and one of my inquiring students asked why we study Logic if we will never use it.  Using what teachers refer to as a 'Teachable Moment,' I spoke about a liberal arts education and the value of learning how to prove something to be true, step by step.  But I have been thinking further on this all day, and I want to add something to my argument.  First of all, we study Logic to develop what we call Habits of Mind.  I truly believe that it is always worthwhile to learn something that teaches us to discipline our thinking, and to impose some order on the chaos that is in our brains.  I have done this as an adult (and do so continually), and find the process both intellectually and personally rewarding - that moment when something becomes more clear because I have worked at it, and then I own it.  A small personal challenge met, a victory all my own.  And the more that I do this, the more I challenge myself and work at learning new things, or clearing up old misconceptions, the better I get at it, and the more I grow.  If you think learning stops once you graduate high school, or college, you are wrong - you can be a lifelong learner if you choose. 

Tomorrow morning the sophomores and juniors will take the PSATs.  Right now, I am sitting with my daughter who is a junior in high school, going over some practice questions, and she is stressing and complaining. "Why do I have to do this?  Why study?  Why cram?  What good will it do?  I'm stressed enough as it is."  I agree.  The night before the exam is not the time to prepare. You can prepare for tests like the PSAT and the SAT, but with time and effort, and you can improve your scores.  Are the tests stressful?  Definitely.  What do they mean about you as a person?  Probably not much.  BUT they can be the key to the opportunity, and for this reason, it is important to pay attention to them.

Everyone knows getting accepted to college is challenging and competitive.  And once you are accepted, going to college is expensive, even if you go to a public institution like SUNY or CUNY.    ANYTHING you can do to improve your application or resume, or make yourself look just a little better might be the thing that earns you notice, admission to the school of your dreams, acceptance to a travel program or internship, or scholarship money.  So while college may seem very far away, and the PSAT may not seem to be important, remember that we don't always know how significant something is until after it is over.  Another reason to do the best you can do, as often as you can do it.

So get a good night's sleep (no chatting/Facebooking/texting until 2 am!), eat a good breakfast, and don't forget your pencils tomorrow.

One last thing:  you are not a test score.  This may seem to contradict everything I just said, but realizing that your exam scores are but one facet of the total package that is YOU may put things perspective.  So try your best, but remember there is A LOT more to you than a number.  I know that, and I hope you do too.  

Good luck, Geometers and Living Mathematicians! 

Monday, September 28, 2009

Parallel Lines, Parallel Universe

How great are 3 day weekends?

I was walking around this afternoon trying to find examples of parallel lines and angles in the real world that might help my students see the relationships better (yes, this is really what math teachers do in their spare time).  All the examples everyone gave in class came back to me - the lines in the sidewalk, the train tracks, the painted lines that divide the street into lanes - there seems to be no end to models of parallel lines in the real world.  And I was thinking how abstract this concept may feel to some students, but how important it is in the physical world that lines that are meant to be parallel actually are (studs in construction, for example, and walls in houses).  While there are many examples of buildings that use lines that aren't parallel in their design to beautiful effect (as above),  we still need the floor to meet the wall at a right angle.

Here's a question - are the frets on a guitar parallel?  what about the strings?

See you tomorrow -

Ms. M

Monday, September 14, 2009

Points, Lines & Planes - oh my!!!

I was so impressed today with everyone's focus on the basics of geometry - all of the students seemed to be working hard to internalize the concepts of these very important building blocks, taking copious notes and making lovely sketches.   I know that if we can take good care with this beginning the material, the rest of the year will be much more successful for everyone.

At the moment, I'm a happy math teacher.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Addendum to Day 2

It's almost time for Project Runway (one of my family's favorite shows!).   If anyone reads this tonight and watches the show,  look for examples of symmetry and/or scale, and make a post or send me an email - more extra credit!!!

After Day 2

I can't believe we've only been back at school for 2 days - in some ways it feels like everything is brand new, and in other ways, it feels as if we never left!  Even though there are a lot of new names to learn, I really enjoy the prospect of finding out about my new students.  It's great when other teachers tell me, "Oh you're going to love him" or "She's so terrific in class!"  I look forward to learning about these people on my own.

In Geometry, many of the students emailed me with examples of symmetry.  My favorite example was from a girl in my 3rd period class, who described to me the process of folding a tissue over and over to create new lines of symmetry.  And then somebody else wrote about their grilled cheese sandwich, cut symmetrically along the diagonal.  Right now I am looking at my black cat, whose face looks pretty symmetrical, but it probably isn't exactly. 

I'm still waiting to hear from the Living Math students about scale, although one student sent me an excellent example of a scaled image of another scaled image - a pocket subway map!  I appreciate everyone's indulgence of my own scaled drawing on the SmartBoard ; )
Well, it's on to Multiple Intelligences for everyone - I'm really looking for ideas from my students as to how they think they can best express their understanding of math.  More on this over the weekend.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Getting Ready

"And that’s what I want to focus on today: the responsibility each of you has for your education. I want to start with the responsibility you have to yourself. "

This quote is from the speech President Obama gave today at a high school in Arlington, Virginia (you can read the entire speech here -   I hope my students heard his speech today, and that they realize that doing well in school isn't for their teachers, or their parents or families - but for themselves, for creating their own opportunities for the future.  And I hope they also paid attention to his plug for math:

"You’ll need the knowledge and problem-solving skills you learn in science and math to cure diseases like cancer and AIDS, and to develop new energy technologies and protect our environment."

Tomorrow the teachers go back to school, and then on Wednesday, all the students arrive.  And thus another school year begins.  I wonder if the students have the same questions that teachers do - Who will be in my classes?  Will the classes be interesting? Who will be eliminated this week on Project Runway?

My lessons for the first week of school are ready, and I am currently preparing math-y artwork with which to decorate the classroom, trying to include themes of geometry, math in the world, and humor.  Even though it's fun to set up the classroom myself, I love the way the room takes shape as the year progresses, as my students create work which shows what really goes on in Room 303. 

And even though it is hard to say farewell to summer vacation, I have to admit that I am excited for the new adventure that the school year brings.  Every year, every class presents new challenges and new possibilities.  So on to the possibilities......

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

But it's only August!

It's time to test out new ideas for the school year - and this is my first! It's a brand new day....