Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Fun activity for linear systems

I got this idea literally on my way into my classroom today, so I'll make it better next time, but based on how well it went today, I'll definitely try it again:

This is what I told them to do, and how I demo'd it for them on the board:

Me: Next work out how much x + y is for your ordered pair, and write the equation to express the result like this, but of course put your own result:

Me: Next work out how much x - y is for your ordered pair, and write the equation that expresses that result:

Me: Ready? Okay, Susie, tell us how much your x + y and your x - y were:

Me: How can we figure out what Susie's ordered pair was?
Class: Guessing? Asking Susie? We can't?

They didn't see this as a system of linear equations, which is weird because that's what we were doing yesterday.....it seems that since they each had a secret ordered pair and equations of their own making, it all looked different than it had yesterday.

So I gave them a hint:

Me: What happens if we add the two equations together?

Class: Oh! We get 2x = 18..... so x = 9?

Me: I don't know......Susie is that right? Was your x = 9?

Class: Whoah!!!!!!!!!! For real?

I swear it was as if I had just levitated. Like I had David Blain-ed right there and then.

Now that the cat was out of the bag, it was a simple matter for them to find Susie's y coordinate. Next I asked Joe to give us his equations, and for everyone to direct their solutions to him. Now Joe got to have that feeling of satisfaction that we (sometimes) get - to say to someone yes, you're right, you got it!

All I said next was okay who wants to go next and my board lit up like a geogebra Christmas tree. Everyone wanted someone to figure out their secret ordered pair.

Then I told them that this is how teachers make up questions for them - starting with the ordered pair, then working out equations using it, but of course the equations aren't usually as simple as x + y = ... or x - y = ....

Take-aways for me:
  • Getting them to SEE something clearly is so much harder, but so much better, than getting them to DO something correctly
  • The initial steps were simple enough to bring everyone in, unsuspecting of the learning that awaited them
  • The system was just easy enough to solve quickly, so good to start with that, but next time I'll have them make up more complex linear equations afterward
  • Each person made up their own unique numbers, so they kind of owned them, which made it more important that someone else get the right answer than if I had made it up
  • I have to hand it to me, I shut up really well, and let the owner of the solution give the nod each time
  • Nice lead-in to the next thing we're doing, which is solving word problems using systems. I'm hoping it'll help them make the connection between the variable and the quantity it represents.
Weird how the best inspirations seem to hit me at the least convenient time, like on my way into class, but it happens often enough that it can't be a coincidence. Desperate need truly is the mother of invention!

Friday, December 16, 2011

A horrible moment

Sometimes I think someone could write a sitcom using my life, and it would be really funny. But it doesn't feel funny at the moment.....

To get how horrible today was, you have to understand that I teach online, in a live classroom, in which I cannot see my students, and they cannot see me.  But I can share my screen with them, and give them control of my cursor. Who would do that?

I would. And I was doing just that this afternoon with my students. I shared a geogebra file, and I gave cursor control to one student. He then inadvertently minimized my geogebra file, which revealed my twitter @mentions page, which was still there because I had checked it just before class. A couple of kids said haha miss you're on twitter, bad teacher! I didn't think anything of it, I just minimized that and got geogebra back, and we continued.Then class was over. I logged out of class, went back to twitter to see what they had seen for those few seconds.

You know how sometimes you get people following you and you immediately block them because they are clearly, um, not using twitter for the same reason you are? Well one of those people had, just moments before class started, sent me a message that was, in this person's words, "naughty and nice." I had immediately blocked that person, but that doesn't erase it from the display.....and that is what my students saw when geogebra got minimized.

Not exactly I Love Lucy, is it? This is what I looked like, I'm sure.

All I hope is that by the time Monday rolls around, I will be able to laugh at this. And be employed at the same time.

Friday, December 2, 2011

A wonderful moment!

Today one of the things I wanted my students to do was to go to a site that I love called www.betterexplained.com, read any post that they fancied, and leave a comment right there on the site. I wanted them to read Kalid Azad's brilliant blog, which is not only brilliant, but brilliantly written.

I also wanted them to experience firsthand some of the wonderful resources that are out there, and maybe even get an appreciation for blogging, since they'll be doing that soon for me.

Well, during class, one student posted a question very quickly, because he had already read an article earlier in the week (why? because it's a flipped class, and students can go at their own pace!). Fine. They are all working, I'm helping kids etc, when literally 6 minutes later, this young man private messages me:


And he had! During class! Talk about your teachable moment! I stopped everything, we all checked it out, and they were pretty impressed that there was someone from "the outside world" communicating with one of ours!

I had reassured them that he would answer them, but this was completely unexpected! The fellow who left the question said he felt kind of famous! Couldn't have asked for a better way to show them that there is a whole world out there, in which they can safely and joyfully participate in lifelong learning.

Thanks, Kalid!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Gotta love geogebra tube!

Now that geogebra tube is here, it's super easy to give anybody a geogebra worksheet to play with, even if they don't have geogebra installed on their computer. I just give the kids this link, they do the activity, take a snapshot (amazing how many don't know how to do that, talk about just-in-time learning) and upload that to their dropbox for me to see.

Tried embedding it here but having problems getting it to appear exactly as it should, but the link works great.