It’s July!!!! ????

Seriously, I can’t believe it’s after July 4th already.  Since my school year typically ends at the beginning of June and we start in the middle of August, July 4th is about the halfway point that starts the slippery slope to the school year.

This year I have SO much to look forward to…I am no longer the Math Specialist/Interventionist and will be teaching 7th grade this year with a fantastic team of teachers.  I have never taught 7th grade before, but I did co-teach it a few years ago, so the content isn’t foreign to me.  I took time the last few days of the school year to print new signs/posters for my classroom, get them laminated and cut so they are all ready to go for the new year. I then spent the first two days of my summer going through all my classroom stuff that was in my garage the last three years, tossing, keeping, donating and getting excited to start a new adventure in the fall.  (WHY do teachers keep SO MUCH STUFF?!?!)

I gave myself June to relax, travel, focus on my grad classes (getting my Administration degree/certification) and “think” about school…but to try and not take much action.  A lot of that was due to waiting patiently for the Illustrative Math Open Resources curriculum to come out…I am still waiting…but it will be out this month.  I didn’t want to plan a bunch of stuff and then see the IM stuff and want to redo it all, so I decided to wait. I spent a lot of June sending myself links, saving things to look at later, creating posters (that’s another post), reading all the edu books I have picked up in the last few months and enjoying the fact that it was summer.

But now…it’s July and it’s time for me to hunker down and start figuring out what kind of classroom I want to have, what kind of teacher I want to be and what kind of difference I want to make.  I love a new school year because it’s always a fresh start, I can change the things I didn’t like from previous years, try something new and raise the bar for my students. I think that’s something I love about being a teacher….I can always be better, do better and help my students be better…there isn’t an end to my learning and trying to be the best I can be for my students.  That’s also what I like about teaching middle school, by 3rd period my lesson for the day is solid and all the errors or issues made earlier in the day are worked out and noted for the next year.

I am already a little overwhelmed with where to start and how I want to kick off my school year because I don’t want to mess it up and I do want my students to know from day 1 that we think, do, create and challenge ourselves in my classroom.  I also want them to know I care and trust them to be good students.  I have done Jo Boaler’s iMath to help with growth mindset in the past, but our 6th grade teachers have used it before, so I am trying to avoid hearing “we did this before”.  There should be a new week of iMath out before the year starts, so that will be something I will definitely check out.

So I decided to take to Twitter, my favorite PLN, to find out how others start their school year.  The responses have been awesome and helpful.  Why do I forget about Sara VanDerWerf’s stuff??? I have now saved the links shared and will use it this year too.

The best part about Twitter is being able to ask a question and get helpful responses within minutes AND get helpful responses over the course of time because people see the tweet at different times and will respond on their own time.

So…it’s official…I have started planning for the school year and I couldn’t be more excited!

Holiday Circles

Hi…I know I got some of you to read because 1. I haven’t blogged in forever and 2. The title may have sounded like something you could use in your math class.  I promise there is math involved, but it isn’t as apparent to the non-math folk when they hear about these things.

In the last 24 hours, I have seen people in my facebook feed posting about joining a holiday circle/loom for $100 and at the end you get paid out $800. They say it’s a great way to get some holiday money this season. PLEASE don’t be sucked into those holiday gift circle/money loom things and in fact, educate your students about them because at some point these will rear their heads during their adult lifetime. They are absolutely a scam, sure you MIGHT get your money but someone definitely won’t because it’s impossible. They are unsustainable because of exponential growth. (See…there’s the math)

Holiday Circles seem like such a great thing. They tell you everyone freely gifts $100 into person A’s paypal account and in a bit it you get to decide what to do with your $800. (They also float around in other start up amounts too.)

Wow, you say as the wheels turn in your head. Two fb posts later after seeing a friend post pictures of her paypal account growing by the hour, you freely send the $100 via paypal thinking of all the things you can do with $800. (Which is really $700, since you paid out $100, but they just assume you will understand that.)


You may even sign a special ‘contract’ that looks all legal and everything that says you voluntarily gift this money without any expectation of ever getting it back. Of course, as soon as you pay in your money you become one of the blue spaces above. Once there are eight new blue spaces, the purple person in the middle gets their $800 – an 800% payoff. The chart then splits in half and everyone moves up a level. The two pink spaces are now their own charts and they are purples, the green moves up to pink, and the blue are now one step closer to their own big payoff. Maybe.

Now, nobody is required to bring in new special friends to gift money but how else are you going to help make sure you have fun holiday money to spend?  That, plus as soon as all your “blue spots” get eight new people to kick in you get one level closer to your own $800 jackpot. You start dreaming about what kind of things you can do with $800 and many people even join multiple looms once they start seeing and dreaming about the payout.

Posts by people involved that sound like this make it seem all okay, “It’s like pulling off of the church Christmas tree at Christmas time and shopping for a kid in need. Do we actually know if they get their gifts? No, but we only hope. We’ve all spent useless money for no reason at all. While you may be a skeptic, at least you know you helped a family at Christmas time this year. If we spread the holiday cheer we can make a lot of families happy. It’s time to put our own struggles aside and help ones in need. We’re all in here bc we could use the extra cash for Christmas. But blessed money comes from those who help.” And “its not a scam.. call it a “pay it forward tree” because that’s what we are basically doing”

I asked someone in my fb feed who is participating and posting to get others involved how does it end because mathematically I know these things can’t really keep going. After all, the numbers don’t really work. She said “oh, it never does, it just keeps going”. And then she asked me if I wanted in…um, not at all. She shared this with me…


So where’s the scam, you ask? It’s a reasonable question. Most of the time the people involved don’t see the crime, either. After all, the $100 is a gift that they give freely and without any expectation of any return so they’re not victims. Just like a $100 birthday present to your niece, right?


Wrong. Gifting Clubs are illegal pyramid schemes but they will try and tell you they aren’t because one person isn’t making money off the others. They’re done with really slick emotional appeal and promises of huge payoffs but sooner of later these clubs are going to run out of people to scam. It’s simple exponential math.

Lets assume you get in as one of the first blue spots. For all eight of you blue to move up to be green after the first split you need to recruit a total of sixteen new people. Then for all eight of you green to move up to pink you need to bring in 32 new people. It keeps going. All of your initial eight might get paid after 128 new blue spaces join, but to keep going and let everyone in the system receive their own $800 the scheme needs to bring in more people than exist on the planet.

If you do the math, there is logical, rational, left-brained evidence to support the conclusion that these circles are absolutely unsustainable in the end.

There is a mathematical certainty that up to 87% of the people who gift their money into a circle will lose their money.

To see the math in action, see this spreadsheet.  You can play with it  and change the variable on the number of times people re-up after cashing out so you can see what happens when people reinvest in the circles after receiving their gifts.

Bottom line: If 100% of people who complete the circle and receive their $800 in gifts rejoin another circle 3 more times, 80% of people who join will still lose their money.  The best possible scenario would be that every person who completes the circle rejoins 6 times and you still end up with 50% of people losing their money.

Google Forms Gets Even Better

This August, I’m participating in a monthly blog challenge called Blaugust. To see the list of participating blogs, click on the logo below. Please cheer on our participants with either a tweet or a comment on their blog. It can be hard to blog on a daily (or even regular) schedule! 🙂

If you want to join in the blogging fun, it’s not too late!  Go HERE to sign up! 🙂 And here are the directions and some awesome helpful prompts if you need something to help you blog!

I LOVE Google Forms! I use them all of the time for a variety of reasons- both education related, with my swim team and for personal use. They are such a super easy way to collect info into a spreadsheet super quickly!

This may not be NEW news for many of you as Google introduced it at the end of June, but for those of us on summer break who haven’t opened Google forms to use in a classroom all summer, it is new and exciting information.

This new feature will allow auto-grading multiple choice and checkbox questions which can give INSTANT feedback to students and allow teachers to see if they need to spend more time on a topic. SO STINKIN’ AWESOME! I have used the Flubaroo add-on before to do this same thing, but I always found it glitchy and a little hard to manage. I have already played around with this and it is SO easy to use.
Creating a quiz is super simple, here’s how:
  • Go to your Google Drive.
  • Click on New and then choose form.
  • In the upper right corner, click Settings in the top right corner and choose QUIZZES.
  • Next to “Make this a quiz” click the on button to make the form a quiz.
  • At this point you have a few options you can choose to turn on or off,
    • Release the grade immediately after each submission or do not release the grade
    • Change what students can see, Missed Questions, Correct Answer and Point Values.
  • Click Save to save your chosen settings.
After that you just start building your quiz.  You can make an answer key for multiple choice, checkbox, or drop-down questions.
  1. To add a new question, click Add.
  2. Fill out your question and answers.
  3. In the bottom left, click ANSWER KEY.
  4. In the top right of the question, choose how many points the question is worth.
But wait…there’s MORE! You can even add explanations to answers- including links, videos, or websites so students get immediate feedback!
To add feedback, just click on Answer Key and then on Add Answer Feedback.
You can find out even more about creating a quiz with Google Forms HERE.
Way to go Google- YOU ROCK!


Where has my voice gone?

Before I blog about the awesomeness that is #TMC16, I want to share about something that came to light about my personal growth because I attended TMC16 this year.

I miss this community of amazing teachers.

I miss connecting with this community about math and math teaching.

I miss sharing ideas, getting useful feedback and growing as a teacher.

I miss blogging and tweeting.

I miss connecting with teachers in real life about math. In my role, I don’t teach a regular math class, so I don’t talk math teaching with anyone the same way I as used to.  I miss that immensely.

I miss teaching.

Why does my brain not allow me to see the value in the job that I am currently doing? I have been successful in my role over the last two years, students have improved, growth has been seen, gains have been made. But I don’t feel the same way about it as I felt about the first 14 years of my teaching career.  Going from a regular math teacher with a team to a math specialist that works with other teacher’s students is a huge change.

In my role, I have allowed my voice to die down in my school and online because so much I know about what it meant to me to be a teacher is different.  I am not any less of a teacher, but it looks and feels different to me and I haven’t figured out what it means to me. And I haven’t found how I fit in to my school environment or online environment. Two years and I still don’t know how I can bring value to my position and value to others through my position.

And this really came to light while being at TMC16 and being around all these amazing, inspirational teachers who are here because they are pushing themselves to better, to get outside of their comfort zone and to connect with others.  I personally NEED this community because it was inspirational to changing my teaching over the years and I NEED to be more reflective so I can get feedback.

You can only get feedback if you put yourself out there. You can only get better by asking questions and challenging yourself.  I took the easy road the last two years because I didn’t know my role, but I plan to become more involved again because I think that will help me find my role in my job and as a teacher so I can feel better about my contributions to this amazing community.  I need to do what I need so I can improve.

Thanks to @druinok , @Borschtwithanna@misscalcul8 and @anyaostapczuk for helping me think through this on twitter this morning. Thank you for helping me recognize more about myself and pushing me as a teacher.

#descon16 – A WHOLE day of Desmos!

One of the things that excited me about attending #TMC16 was the Desmos pre-conference.  Except that as TMC was getting closer, I couldn’t remember if I had signed up for the pre-conference. 🙂 Couldn’t find it in my email or anywhere.  Then I received the reminders via email along with my ticket as the event got even closer, so I knew I had registered and my excitement returned.  YEAH!

My district is going 1:1 chromebooks in the middle schools this fall, which is going to be a benefit and a curse as teachers learn how to build skills in their classroom in an online environment and find useful resources for students to use.  I think Desmos is going to be key for teachers because of its many uses and the awesome new features they shared with us today.

My FAVORITE PART – Desmos shared a new organization of the landing page, bundles of topic based & sequenced activities with helpful notes on how they build upon each other, and the really awesome labs option which enables teachers to use the brand new customizable feature for the ever popular marbleslides activity and the BRAND NEW  create your own card sort feature. I kid you not, you would have thought it was Christmas the way we all freaked out over the card sort. Well, we also freaked out over the free Desmos socks, but I think the card sort wins overall.

Things you can do with the card sort:
*Drag and drop images from card sorts you already own that are paper copies or electronic copies.  (While this isn’t the BEST use of Desmos, it is the easiest way to get started with the sorts initially.This isn’t the best because you can’t edit and change easily when the cards are images. Creating them using Desmos would be the best, most modifiable option.)
*Gather data on the card sorts…think about doing a paper card sort…you would walk around and see how students were sorting the cards, but wouldn’t really know if ALL of the sorted the same way or if they all had the same misconceptions or the same successes. GUESS WHAT? Desmos gives you data! Like amazing, real time, USEFUL data to guide your lesson, to guide your teaching, to make you a better teacher for your students! It will show you the sorts with all the names of the students that sorted that way…just think of what you could do with that.  Data you didn’t have before and it’s real time in your face, ready for you to use. The impact this can have in the classroom the same day you use the sort is amazing.
*Share your sorts with other teachers easily by sharing the link.
*DUPLICATE a shared sort so you can modify it, enhance it and make it something to work for your specific students.  When you duplicate the sorts, they become YOUR sorts and show up under Custom so you can use or edit them as needed.

Of course, the teachers of the MTBoS that were in attendance started creating card sorts left and right and created a google spreadsheet to share the links to them so you can duplicate and use. Because we are going 1:1 this year, I can’t wait to share the card sort feature with my district teachers. I see it as a great way to introduce Desmos in a new light to get them using it more.

Desmos has also made its graphing calculator fully accessible for visually impaired and blind students. You can enable voiceover on your device (command + F5 on mac)*, Desmos will read the expressions mathematically (ex: reading sin as “sine” instead of s-i-n) and it will give students helpful hints where they are as they work through the expression (ex: saying subscript, superscript, reading the opening and closing of grouping symbols). It is also capable of playing through a graph left to right across the screen to give a pitched audio representation of whatever has been graphed. It sounds like music! So of course a handful of teachers took the task of recreating songs using Desmos. And if they can get so excited about it, imagine what your students would do to try something like that out, even if it isn’t directly content related.  Think of the exploring, learning, stretching and sharing students would do with each other as they work to figure it out.

*It doesn’t work on ipad devices and to get it to work on a PC, try using this and let me know if you can get it to work. I can’t get the native accessibility options to work on my PC. For a Chromebook, Enable accessibility on chromebook. click bottom right (near account pic),choose settings,advanced settings,check enable chromevox.

End of Year 16…

Wow…I just completed my 16th year of teaching middle school math…is it a milestone? a qualification for being crazy? 🙂 Ha ha ha…honestly, it is a great milestone for me.  It’s about halfway through my teaching career, give or take a few years. Heck I don’t even know when I will be able to retire let alone when the state says I can. But I am not thinking about that because I am in this for the long haul, this is not a job for me, it is a career, it is my calling.

Teachers relish the summer to refresh, recharge and reignite their passion for teaching. We don’t lose it, but it sure gets beat down throughout the school year and sometimes we lose sight of our love for it. We use summer time to read books (educational or not), research new methods to teach our subject, start planning for the following year, take classes, attend/present at conferences, reflect on the past school year, rewrite curriculum, relax, sleep, connect with family and friends, travel, pick up or continue a hobby, doctor/dentist/eye appointments, etc. all those things that get pushed off for planning and grading during the school year. Some of us even have a second (or third) job that we do during the summer to help pay bills, to save more for retirement or even just for our “fun” money, so we may not have summer’s off entirely from any form of work.  And even more of us tutor students throughout the school year and summer as well.

Teachers do a lot of awesome things and we get tired like everyone else, but we need to always be able to come back to our WHY…WHY we became a teacher, WHY we do what we do. If we focus on our why, we can continue to reach more students, touch more lives and push the learning curve as far as we can. Summer allows us the time to reconnect with our WHY and redefine it as we continually grow as educators.

So for those who will say they wish they had summer’s off…consider the work we do throughout the year, the hours we put in with your children, who become our children, the sweat and tears we shed over the good and the bad we see each day. Consider the time we put into honing our craft and teaching our subject(s) and the time we put into teaching students to be good people, to take chances, to be different, to not be afraid to fail, but to learn from it and grow.  We not only push to get all of our curriculum in the allotted days, we also stress so many important things behind the scenes. Like the day your student couldn’t focus because they were upset about a misunderstanding with a friend, and I noticed and pulled them aside to listen and really hear them. Or the day that your student came in so excited to show me what they created in their free time and I take an honest interest because I care. Or the day a student thanks another in front of the class for taking the time to help them with a problem, and the student they thanked was someone who typically struggles. Or the day we debated over one problem in class for a whole period and I sent them home frustrated and angry we didn’t come to an answer, only to have over half the class return the next day telling me they spent an hour working to figure it out.

There is so much more to teaching than just a degree or some classes we took…and for many of us, we can’t put it into words, we can’t quantify it because it just is. It is our life, it is our passion, it is our love, it is our drive…it is teaching.


To kick off my year and start right in with Growth Mindset, I used Sarah’s Tweet idea and had my students, my 8th grade gifted who are in Geometry and my 6th grade regular math students, complete a “tweet” telling me in 140 characters or less what they thought intelligence is. We did this before any discussions about growth mindset.  The idea came from Sarah who blogs over at Math = Love, check out the post that inspired me here.

The responses are fantastic to read, so much so I wanted to share them here.  I will let you decided which class is which. 🙂 I did not correct spelling errors, I typed what was written.  Which tweet/quote is your favorite and why?

Class A Class B
I think intelligence is the things in your brain. Intelligence is knowing things that will help you in both school and outside of school in the real world.
Well let’s begin with something we learn, and it is something we use in our everyday lives. It is also what we use to imagineate. Intelligence is knowing things education related and world related.
I think intelligence means intelligent cells. Intelligence is knowing useful facts that will help you in the real world. It’s knowing important facts and ways to do things.
Intelligence is being strong, smart and standing up for others. I mostly think it means smart. Intelligence is the amount of brain power your brain has. An IW test can be taken to see at what level of intelligence you are capable of.
Intelligence is being good at something. Also, it means that you make smart choices because you have to be intelegent to do so. Intelligence is what people do with their brain. If someone is doing good, they are intelligent.
Intelligence is being smart in school and in real life. Intelligence is also not playing into drama and making good choices. Intelligence is what you know currently, and what you have the ability to know.
Intelligence is when you do think about something and don’t just say you don’t know and don’t care to know. I think intelligence is someone’s competence about everything in general and their ability to think and learn new things.
Intelligence is someone who is smart. It is also means that you are good at something. Intelligence is the art of being smart and showing the right characteristics of understanding any problems in all subjects.
I think intelligence is standing up for other people and doing the right thing. Intelligence is being able to make wise decisions and process new information well.
I think intelligence is having a lot or somewhat knowledge of many things. Intelligence is based on being in the right mind when making decisions. It is not about how smart you are, but your effort and thoughts on things.
Intelligence is when you say something smart. I think intelligence is an ability that everyone has that lets them understand or figure out concepts and things.
Intelligence is when you really know something or guess. Intelligence is the ability to learn and retain new knowledge to use in experiences outside of your learning environment.
Being smart about what you do and act like you know what your doing. Intelligence is a topic that you have mastered really well that you could teach to someone else.
I think intelligence is something that your good at. I believe that intelligence is not only the knowledge that a person obtains but also the determination and effort the person uses to answer.
I think it’s someone or something that has a good ability to do something. Intelligence is a thing that is used to measure someones basic level of brain power. One’s ability to be smart.
I think intelligence is about when you help someone out and you listen in class. Intelligence is how your brain can react to certain situations and find a way out.
I think intelligences is being smart, but not in all subjects. Intelligence is when someone has the knowledge to answer multiple types of questions easily. Intelligence also means to be fairly smart.
I think intelligence is how smart and valueable someone is. Intelligence is being smart and being able to have a lot of knowledge.
  Intelligence is how much knowledge your brain has.
  Intelligence is being smart consistently for ever. Being intelligent also means being good at many subjects at once.