Monday, 10 March 2014

It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year...for a Math Teacher!

Do you know what Friday is?? If you are a math teacher you do!

It's Pi Day! 3.14!

How do you plan to celebrate?

I love Pi day and always make it my personal mission to make a big deal out of it. I usually start talking it up to my students a week in advance to get them excited.

Here's a glimpse at how I celebrate Pi day:

Every year Pi day looks a little different. I've celebrated the day simply within my math classes, I've celebrated with my whole team, and I've also organized the day for all the grade 8's in my school. I've done small scale and large scale celebrations, and they have always been well worth the organization required. The kids (and teachers) always have a blast!

One misconception I think a lot of teachers have about Pi Day is that it is all about Math...not true! When I first sat down with a colleague of mine, we made sure to integrate our activities within all the core subject areas. This way we were able to convince out team teachers to get on board with us, to make Pi Day an all day celebration! 

Here's just a few of the activities I do throughout the day.

1. Pi Memorization - I don't think Pi day is complete without a memorization competition. A week in advance inform students of the competition and provide them with cards with the first 100 or so digits of Pi. I had a student last year blow my class record of 170 digits out of the water, by memorizing 217! My mouth was literally on the floor!

2. Pi FactsRead interesting facts about Pi to your students throughout the day, or post them around your classroom. If there is time, use these facts to create a short trivia game that students can compete in at the end of the day. 

3. Pi challenges - I do a couple of these throughout the day as quick engagement activities. One idea - get your students to make a list of all the words they can think of that start with "pi".

4. Pi Centers - Have student work through a series of centers to learn even more about this amazing number. One idea - Draw the perfect freehand circle.

5. "Pi"e activities - Pi Day wouldn't be complete without some actual pie. Two ideas - pie eating competition, pie throwing auction - enough said!

Want to celebrate Pi Day, but don't have the time to plan it?
Check out my full resource for a fun-filled Pi Day here.

For more ideas and activities, check out these Pinterest boards, dedicated to all things Pi.

Teaching Math by Hart - Pi Day

4mulafun - Pi Day Activities and More

Miss Math Dork - March 14 - Pi Day!

I would love to hear what you have planned for Friday! Leave me a comment below.

Happy Pi Day to all my fellow Math teachers! Have a good one!

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop #2

I am excited to be teaming up with an amazing group of teacher bloggers, once again, to bring you the "Bright Ideas Blog Hop". This blog hop was created to bring you practical classroom ideas from a variety of teachers, from different grades and subject areas. I hope you find some great ideas that you can easily implement in your own classroom. 

Happy Hopping!

My "Bright Idea"

This month wraps up another term for me at work, so soon enough we will be in full student-led conference mode. Quite a bit of time will be set aside over the next couple of weeks to get the students "ready" to celebrate their learning with their parents!

This year marks my 9th year of teaching, and conferences have changed substantially over those 9 years. Gone are the days of sitting awkwardly across from a parent (usually without the student present) trying to fill the designated 15 minutes with conversation about his/her child. Gone are the "paper" portfolios, which contained work samples most parents had already seen at home. Now students are taught to celebrate their learning by actually "showing" their parents what they have been learning!

Here are some tips on how I go about setting up my student led conferences.

Make the students responsible

At least a week prior to conferences I start prepping my students. I inform them that there will be stations set up around the room, for them to take their parents to demonstrate different things they have learned this term. I provide simple instructions on the wall, but inform students that they are responsible for leading their parents through the room, and answering any questions they might have about the things we have done in class.

One thing I highly recommend doing is a run-through. The day before, or day of, I have the students do a mock-conference. They pair up (one student acting as student, and the other acting as parent) and act out a conference scenario. One thing they must do, is introduce their parent(s) to me, and introduce me to their parents (first and last names - just in case they are different than the student's).

To make sure everything runs smoothly and that the students remember their responsibilities, I create a checklist for them to fill in as they lead their parents through the conference.

Make a checklist

When the students enter the room, the first thing they do is grab a pencil and a checklist. The checklist is meant to be a helpful reminder to the students, as to what they are responsible for showing their parents. Since I work on a team of teachers, we create a checklist that covers all the main subject areas. Recently we added the last point, as most of the specialty teachers have a very slow (and long) night at conferences, this way we encourage the kids to head to these areas, even if it is just to introduce their parents.

I find adding the checklist to our evening, helps hold the students responsible

Make it interactive

Let's face it, not all parents are enthused about coming to conferences, especially in the middle years, so I want to at least engage them while they are in the room.

Here are some things my team and I have done in the past:
  • recreate a scene from a book they read as a class, and have students walk through the scene with their parents while describing the book.
  • set up an experiment for the students to demonstrate to their parents. Have a set of questions off to the side that students can ask their parents as they complete the experiment.
  • set up a competition between parent and child. I often use this in my math stations. I might set up a math center the students have done in class that involves a math game (war, concentration, etc). We've also had students compete against their parents on a 5 minute multiplication frenzy (we do these school-wide to strengthen mental math skills). This is one of the only times I see students eager to complete a frenzy...and most end up beating their parents! A huge boost to their confidence!
These are just a few ideas that are easy to set up, and make the evening a little more meaningful.

Make it meaningful

Once the students have completed their checklists, we usually enter them into a draw for a prize. Gives them a little more incentive to check off everything on the list. Hopefully all the work you have put in at this point has made for a very meaningful evening, for both parent and student. Before the parents leave, we ask for their opinion on the evening with a brief evaluation. These also get entered into a draw for a prize (usually a Starbucks gift card). I find that parents always feel more involved, when they feel that their opinions are being taken into consideration. These evaluations are great for helping plan for next conferences.

One more little idea I just came across on Pinterest from Teach n' Tex was this one:

I think this is a cute way to show your appreciation to the parents who attend. I will definitely put this out for next conferences.

I hope you enjoyed my "bright idea". I would love to hear about any ideas you have found to be successful during your own student-led conferences! 

If you’re looking for more great ideas, here is a great post by Lisa at Growing Firsties on partner reading tips. She shares some great tips that you will definitely want to check out!

Looking for something specific, browse the bright ideas below:

Make sure to check in next month for another batch of "bright ideas"!

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Math is Real Life - March 2014 Edition

 I am happy to once again join up with the fabulous linky hosted by Miss Math Dork, 4mulafun, The Teacher Studio, and Teaching to Inspire in 5th! 

Here we are the first week of March...and it is still WINTER! I'm not one to complain about the weather but this year is enough to give anyone the "winter blues". At least for this month's post I was able to stay warm by the oven as I had a little baking marathon.

I officially worked my last day on February 28, and am now awaiting the arrival of our second child. The best thing I ever did before my son was born was have an all day baking/cooking marathon with my sister-in-law. Having my freezer stocked with prepared meals for dinner, and baking for breakfast made a huge difference after baby arrived! So here I am entering nesting phase for the 2nd I've made a list of things to make and freeze over the next few days in preparation for life with a newborn. At least I will know that while I am busy feeding baby, my husband and son won't starve!

First up, we love muffins for breakfast in our house, so I pulled out my recipe box and decided to make some Buttermilk Berry muffins (since buttermilk just happened to be on sale last week - BONUS!). Now, when I bake, I want it to be worthwhile, so I usually double, triple, or even quadruple the recipe to make sure I am going to have enough to last us awhile. So, here come my math skills into play. I needed to determine how much of each ingredient I would need to make a double recipe. After a few calculations I was ready to bake.

In the end I decided to make 2 separate double batches, one cranberry orange, and one lemon blueberry. Therefore, I technically had to calculate a quadruple recipe, just to make sure I had enough of all my ingredients before I started baking.

Here are the final products. They turned out fluffy and delicious, even with a couple healthy substitutions of apple sauce and oat bran.

I ended up keeping one dozen out to eat, and froze 3 dozen for those inevitable mornings when we will be too sleep deprived to make anything for breakfast.

So there, you have it...math and food...not a new concept by any means, but I find students always relate to something when food is made a part of the equation.

Next up for me, is a double batch of chili, and a double batch of spaghetti sauce...I have to keep my math skills sharp while on maternity leave the next little while.