Simply Impossible

I’ve been working on a foldable for my AP Stats class for three weeks. Honest. I keep sketching it, thinking about it, discussing it with my carpool buddy.

I want my students to have a quick reference for all of the tests & intervals we’ve been learning. For proportions and means. One and two samples. My key issue was “how the heck do I set this up?” Organize it by means? Proportions? I found this awesome study guide, which helped me be sure I was catching the info I needed, but I was still stuck.

My students are getting hung up on which test to do where, and a list of tests, with conditions and calculations and calculator names, wouldn’t fix that. I’ll spare you my three weeks of circular thought process and cut to the chase–here’s what I came up with:

Some notes: It does not line up perfectly. I quit after an hour. It’s pretty darn close, at least on my printer. The margins are (intentionally) set outside the printable area, so the outer edges don’t show up (also why I center justified the tabs). When you print you get an error message that some of the document lies outside the printable margins; do you want to proceed? Just hit yes.

We started today and so far they found it very helpful. I felt kind of useless because I was basically wandering around while they started filling out the two-sample part (test tomorrow) and answering minor questions. But I think the foldable (especially the concept set up, not the technical part) has taken me longer than any lesson I’ve done in a very long time. It was especially frustrating that all that got me was two single pages–not exactly impressive looking. Here’s hoping its helpful!

What’s your favorite foldable format?

Equation Strips

When I saw Radical Equation Strips by Miss Calcul8, I was intrigued.

She downplayed their genius in her post, but I wasn’t fooled. I printed them out, using one color per problem, made 15 sets (split into two problems each, so enough for 30) and had them laminated (and then had to cut them all again).

Instead of giving students a format for writing down the steps I told them to write each problem in their notebook, adding in any steps I missed. They did one of the problems with a single radical, then traded with the pair behind/in front of them, then did the other single-radical problem. Then they did one of the two problems with two radicals. This was enough for them to write their own steps for solving radical equations. We did one more problem together, using it to refine the steps for solving a radical equation, and most students felt they were good to go.

This activity went so well, we tried it again, with exponential equations. These were actually made by my resident (student teacher), as well as a logarithmic set.

[OMG this is the first time I’ve ever successfully embedded something!!!!!!!]

I love that it gives students a chance to see all of the steps, and I wish I had used this with equations in my lower level classes. Especially for students that make so many computational errors, seeing and writing correct steps but with their own input is so powerful.

Can’t wait to use this in our lower class!

Binders: The Advanced Class

I’m sitting on the living room floor surrounded by paper right now. Specifically, everything I have about Producing Data, Chapter 4 in my current AP Stats text. I’ve taught Stats before, but not for the past two years. My binder organization is a post-AP two yearl old relic. “Great, hole punch everything, stick notes, everything else, then quizzes and tests. Done.”

I’m pretty sure I didn’t look at it all in the intervening two years. And while making binders perfect can seem like a waste of time, I think its about a lot more than that. I hope to be always improving and changing and growing. I get a lot of resources, I see things on blogs or pinterest or at a PD that I like. And I want to be able to use it. So I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately about how best to set up everything I have so I might be able to use it again.

As I work with my two resident teachers this year, I am realizing all over again how hard it can be to keep track of what you’ve done so you can use it again. That’s really a shame, because I think of one of the things that contributes the most to great teaching is having more time to make things great (instead of ok) as your career progresses. The first year I teach something, I’m keeping my head above water. I don’t have the best idea how everything fits together. I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with the curriculum. I may happen upon a couple of great ideas, but there is a lot of, “I should have _____. Next time.” involved.

“Next time” is when the real fun comes in–when you get to start tweaking and changing and refining. That process is individual for everyone, so I could use someone else’s rockstar activity and need to tweak it so its a better fit with my personality, the way I’ve taught past topics, my students interests or whatever else.

Anyhow, I can’t tweak anything if I can’t find it. And I can’t use a great new idea if I no longer remember it or if its too much trouble to find once that topic rolls around.

This is a really big topic (for me at least) so I’m starting micro–with Stats. Its more of a closed system for me–most of my materials fit in two huge binders and overlap to other courses is minimal.

…and yet I haven’t broken out my binder once this year. I’m teaching the course from memory. That’s not impressive. It’s just dumb (with some disorganized mixed in). I have great resources, both my own and others–and I owe it to my students to use them.

Which is where I am now, sitting on the floor, with an open binder (just the first five sections of my master stats binder) and pages (the upcoming chapter) spread all over the rug.

Consistent order is good, although I’m not sure I like mine–the things I would look for should be in the worst spot, not the best, since I’ll look for them anyhow. Things I should try get first and last spots, where I can say, hey, whats this! And the most recent copy of that chapter’s schedule (which I revise yearly) always is the first page.

But is that enough? I think I should have some kind of a cover sheet to each chapter/section, where I can list what’s in there and also refer to other places (like blogs etc) where I saw something. If I know I pinned “Experimental Design foldable” to my Math Ideas board, I might go look for it, but if I have to sit there wondering if I’ve seen anything else good for experimental design, I might make it nowhere, even though something amazing is out there.

Stats seems like a good place to start, since some of the things I want to keep track of are done for me–like the suggested AP questions my book lists for each chapter.

Any brilliant ideas for keeping track of great teaching ideas in one manageable place?