Why do I blog?

Kate (@k8nowak), who blogs at Function of Time (Check it out, it’s awesome!) wrote a blog post and mentioned it on Twitter last night, since I do SO much better at blogging when I have a reason or need of my own, I told her I would write a post and help her out, as many others did too.

Here are the questions she posed:

1. What hooked you on reading the blogs? Was it a particular post or person? Was it an initiative by the nice MTBoS folks? A colleague in your building got you into it? Desperation?
2. What keeps you coming back? What’s the biggest thing you get out of reading and/or commenting?
3. If you write, why do you write? What’s the biggest thing you get out of it?
4. If you chose to enter a room where I was going to talk about blogging for an hour (or however long you could stand it), what would you hope to be hearing from me? MTBoS cheerleading and/or tourism? How-to’s? Stories?

And my responses:

1. I got hooked on blogs back in 2006 during a hiatus between masters degrees and looking to expand my knowledge. I knew what blogs were, but definitely didn’t know the knowledge they held or could hold. I know I initially followed Dan Meyer because I came across his post on How Math Must Assess. I was hooked with that post, the idea behind it and started researching Standards Based Grading right then. I didn’t implement SBG until 2008-2009ish, but that started my love of blogs and trying to find more. I didn’t know what a reader was back then, so I had (& still have) a folder of blog I followed in my IE Favorites that I would check every once in a while.

2. Resources, ideas, problems, solutions, challenges, good things, bad things, collaboration…it all keeps me coming back. I get ideas from reading blogs, things I can use in the classroom the next day…it’s like a daily PD session where you walk away with something useful. Actually, I don’t read daily, but when I do catch up on blog reading I walk away with so much more to help my students, to improve my teaching, to think about and mull over and to reflect on.  I also like the math problems that are posed; I like doing math on my own just to do math, so I find that fun as well. I enjoy commenting to solidify a point or to ask a question because I didn’t understand something and it then becomes a conversation where all who are reading and/or commenting benefit from the comments and questions from others.

3. I started a little over a year ago because after lurking for SO long, I finally felt like I wanted to give back.  I also wanted to reflect more on my teaching and the things I do. The MTBoS Blogger Initiation was what got me started finally.  I like blogging because I like the feedback I get from others…ways to change and improve things I have come up with, that’s what I enjoy the most, taking something I’ve done and having others help me make it better. I also like knowing that I am freely proving something other teachers may find useful. And I like reading blogs and knowing that I am not the only one to feel a certain way because sometimes teaching does feel very independent.

2 & 3 combined. I am the only Geometry teacher in my school, so the blogs I follow and the people I follow on Twitter have become my online Personal Learning Network (PLN). I like being able to bounced ideas off of someone and I know that no matter when I blog or when I send a Tweet, someone will respond to offer me help, share ideas and help me become a more effective teacher.

4. Hmmm…good question. As a current blogger, I would like to hear stories about how bloggers have created something together that was awesome. Something that might not have been created if not for the connections made across state lines, across countries, across the globe.  I am selfish and I want MORE math teachers to blog…why? Because I want more ideas to read from them and I want them to help me become a better teacher by helping me reflect on my own work. So anything that would involve more teachers to get involved would be cool.

Side note: I am going to NOLA in April and look forward to seeing Tweeps in person (#TMC13 & #MTBoS) and I will be attending Kate’s session for sure!

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Why I teach Math

It’s 11:15pm (when I started this) and I was at school until 6:30pm, came home, ate dinner, and have been on the computer working on more school stuff since 8pm. (darn you Common Core!)  It was about 5 minutes ago that I remembered it was Tuesday, NOT Monday, and my New Blogger post is due before midnight.  Oops!

Why do I teach? It’s all I really ever wanted to do. I grew up playing school with my little sister, older cousin and sometimes my stuffed animals and even my barbies played school. We had a huge metal teacher desk in the basement that my dad got from work and I filled the drawers with workbooks and worksheets. We even had two metal student desks that lifted up to hold things inside. Sadly many a finger was squashed by those lids…sometimes accidental, sometimes intentional. 🙂 I started as a mother’s helper in 5th/6th grade and babysat through high school.  I loved being around kids, it was natural for me to be the one at the family parties always playing with and entertaining the little ones. I started teaching swim lessons at 15 and loved it; there were lesson plans to follow and create and I enjoyed all of it. Everything that I did and enjoyed pointed towards teaching.  All of those career “tests” you take in high school put me in the category that included teachers. The ONLY other career that I considered was a Marine Biologist, so I could train whales and dolphins. But the next best thing is that is the career my sister ended up in.

Why Math?   It’s kind of funny actually…I knew I wanted to teach, in fact I SWORE I wanted to teach 2nd Grade, so I majored in Elementary Ed.  I took Spanish for 4 years in High School and took a placement test for college and tested out of 12 credits of classes.  Since I had to have a minor and I only needed 24 credits, I thought having Spanish would be easier to finish (less classes, yeah!) and that it would be helpful in teaching because it was becoming a more prevalent language. Freshman and Sophomore year went by and in the middle of my Junior year we had to start talking and figuring out student teaching placements for the end of my Senior year.  It was January, on January 15th, we had to pay for a month long trip to Mexico as part of the Spanish Minor. I think I met with my adviser January 12th. She asked me what grades I was interested in student teaching, by that time I had clearly ruled out 2nd grade and had been in a 4th grade room too and thought maybe 4th or 5th.  She then explained that I had to do half of my student teaching in an elementary setting and half in a middle school setting and that in the middle school I would be student teaching Spanish. I asked why and she said, because that’s your Minor and at the middle school level you usually focus your teaching in your minor area.  (This was before they changed many state rules to say that you had to have a minor or 24 credits to teach more than one class of a subject in middle school/junior high).  I told her that I didn’t want to teach Spanish, that I just wanted it for knowledge and it’s usefulness in the future.  She pretty much told me tough.

So….in January of my Junior year of college, I switched from a Spanish Minor to a Math Minor.  I completely dropped Spanish and was only one Mexico trip and one class short of having it as a minor. I chose Math because I was always really good at it and I loved that it was all problem solving and that you could get to a solution.  Plus, I definitely didn’t want to teach reading or writing (LA), History or Science and since I was thinking of the middle school part of my student teaching…it came to Math. I took 3 Math classes in the Spring of my Junior Year (Linear Algebra, Modern Geometry and Elementary Statistics). I took one class in the summer as I stayed up there just to get math courses done and I took 3 math courses in the fall semester (Calculus, and two I can’t remember right now).  I would NOT recommend taking Calculus with two other math courses, that was brutal. And finally I took an Independent Study (had to BEG the teacher) during January since no math courses I needed were available. I had to stack the classes in because they didn’t allow you to take any courses during student teaching, other than student teaching seminar.

While I would definitely NOT recommend going about it the way I did, I am amazed at how teaching Math just “fits” me.  I can’t imagine doing ANYTHING else, even on the really really bad days. I ended up getting a student teaching internship for the Spring of my Senior year in 6th grade Math at a Middle School and was completely sold on Middle School and the upper grades. And because it was an internship, I stayed there for my entire student teaching experience.

I pretty much jumped into Math headfirst and happily ended up exactly where I was supposed to be the whole time.

My Algebra 1 Skills List

I have enjoyed becoming part of the online math world. I have been a lurker for a very long time and have always appreciated how much everyone shares, helps and collaborates with each other.  We have PLC’s in my district and have had them for a few years now. Mine accomplished a lot in the first year, very little last year and this year we are just trying to figure out 8th Grade Common Core and the curriculum that goes along with it that we were given by our district, little attention will be paid to Algebra.  Then again that’s okay in a sense because the curriculum isn’t changing this year.  We don’t know what CC model the high school will move to, which may or may not change Algebra in the future.  Either way, it is kind of refreshing that 2 periods of math a day I know what I am doing and where I am going because it is Algebra 1.  I LOVE teaching Algebra 1.

I adopted SBG a few years back, gosh I think this is my 4th year doing it?  I can’t be sure, it’s all a blur.  🙂  I only started SBG in Pre-Algebra last year and have no idea how it will fit with our new CC curriculum this year, so I don’t want to share that one. Because I teach 8th Grade Algebra 1, I have to fit my skills into the Quarter grading system.  That was the fun part. After my years of doing SBG in Algebra 1, I think I finally like my skills list, which came from many of your lists online, our state standards, the way I intro and explain things and the district curriculum. I want to add more 21st Century Skills because we will be doing more activities that are in line with them, but I decided not to this year.  I am going to try the INB and figured that was all the change I wanted to do in Algebra 1 this year.  Here is my current Algebra 1 skills list, what do you think about it?

I am curious how the INB will go this year and if I will see improvement in their skill mastery.  I am nervous about the INB (in both Algebra and Pre-Algebra) and setting it up, keeping up with it, and being creative enough to come up with good right side stuff for them and good ideas for what they create on the left side.  I am all over everyone’s posts on INB, Everybody is a Genuis, Math = Love, and cheesemonkey wonders I am LOVING all of your INB posts!

I am so happy I jumped on the new blogger bandwagon. Thank you for making me feel welcome on here and on twitter. Have a great Wednesday!

Shiny new iPad!

Yippee!!! I have decided that I am getting a shiny new iPad tomorrow, I have most of the money saved up, but I decided that I want to start the year off using it and learning how to use it in the classroom (especially since we now have to take attendance electronically every period – I teach middle school.) Rather than get it in another month or two from now when the entire first quarter is over with, it just makes more sense to get it now. 🙂 I might be up early enough to be at the store when they open.  I know crazy, but I’ve been contemplating it for a while now (and saving for it) and decided to just take the leap.

I posted on twitter asking what apps are out there that are really helpful to teachers and necessary to help the organizing and everything that we do, then I realized that since I am so new in the mathtwitterblogosphere no one knows me and I don’t have that many people following my twitter to even get my tweet. (But I do have some awesome followers, yeah!!!) I thought posting here would help too…but it’s also so I can post the apps that I find while doing internet searches late late into the evening tonight, so maybe they will help someone else in the same situation.

To be updated with apps as I find them…

New Blogger Initiative Post #1

Happy Monday! Today was my first day back to school for the new year, not with the students…I will see them on Thursday, but it was good to be back and see everyone.  Between all of the normal start of school year administration items to cover, we didn’t get any time to work in curriculum groups or share ideas yet. We should have some time tomorrow (hopefully)!  I wish they could make this day more interesting or more interactive, I keep thinking of all of the things I want to do in my classroom and redoing these first day meetings with those type of ideas.  How much fun would it have been to cover the same back to school information like rules, reminders, changes, hints, by a scavenger hunt through the school for QR codes that brought us to websites or recordings of the information they needed to share.  We would learn a new(er) technology and how it could be used AND get those pieces of information that are necessary to share without having to sit just about the entire day.  Sitting around today listening to all that stuff (while also multi-tasking on the laptop 🙂 ), gives me a pretty good idea on what it is like for the students to come back to school.  That’s why I don’t go over my rules or syllabus until next week and even when I do, it is not me just telling them, there is an activity with it too. When I start a box.net subscription, I will post stuff there.  Goal to Remember: students need interaction, movement and fun while they ease back into the school year (heck, they need it all the time!)

Okay…let’s get to my post! I am so excited to finally be blogging, I feel like this initiative was a open door to join you all in the blogging world.  I know I didn’t need anyone’s permission, but it is a little daunting, especially when I have been following so many of you for years. (Can you say LURKER?!?!) We were given six prompts to choose from and I appreciated that they included a variety of topics.

I am responding to the following prompt: Where does the name of your blog originate? Why did you choose that? (Bonus follow up: Why did you decide to blog?) – I’m wondering how many points I get for the bonus? 🙂

A year ago I considered starting a blog because I kept responding on many of your blogs, but didn’t have a login to use so it would come up anonymous most of the time. And I had a few fun things I wanted to share.  What stopped me? Trying to pick a name! I’ve read many of your posts (and recently the thoughts posted on Mathtwitterblogosphere) about how some think it is important and others say it doesn’t matter so much. But to me it did/does because I have to be anonymous due to school policy and all that jazz, not that I plan to say anything bad, but it is a little easier knowing that parents and students and administrators can’t find me.  So my blog name was important because it is my online math teacher identity. A year ago I had a list of blog name ideas, a GREAT list of ideas, written on an infamous purple post-it that magically disappeared into the world of important lost post-its, similar to the land of lost socks.  (I can never purchase the ones that actually stick long enough for the post-it and what you wrote on it to be useful, but I continue to use them.) Of course I couldn’t for the life of me remember any of them, so I had to start over.  And I had to start over fast because I signed up for this initiative right before the last minute and realized I needed to set up a blog, pronto…while getting all of my school stuff planned.  I racked my brain for words, thoughts ideas, then I looked through an online math dictionary for words I liked.  Most were too long and I wanted the blog name AND my new Twitter name to be the same, so I was checking them in both places…that was FUN. I came up with two that I ultimately liked and put it to a vote. They were Teaching Pi-oneer (which was still to long for Twitter, but I liked it too much) and Algebrainiac.  A funny thing happens when you put things to a vote to your friends and family via text, you realize which one you want them to vote for.  So, Algebrainiac I became!

What does Algebrainiac mean? To me, I say it Alge-brainiac, long e like Alga or something like that.  Since I teach Algebra and it is my favorite subject to teach, that’s where Algebra came from.  I thought the ending fit as brainiac, however at times I feel like I could get away with Algebra – Maniac, like the middle of the year time when things need a little shaking up.  Either way, I just liked the way it flowed when I said it.  I mean, it would be cool if my blog became a “household name” like Sam Shah, Kate Nowak, Dan Meyer (and many others that I am failing to mention…sorry!); I nearly fell out of my chair at a district PD day in the spring when someone mentioned Dan Meyer’s blog and we watched his TedX-NYED talk. I kept thinking, I’ve been following him for years and all of the fantastic math teachers that I found online because of him and his blog! They have changed the way I teach, I was so happy they were sharing it. While my district likes to think they are cutting edge, they are entirely too large to actually be cutting edge, so they tend to come late to the game, but as a teacher we are allowed freedom to do what we want in order to hit the curriculum goals.  With CCSS, that freedom is changing a bit, but not too much.

Why did I decided to blog? Because of TMC12, mainly. Because it was free and you gained so much, example I just found out Dan Meyer is coming to Chicago to present in April and I WANT to go, but it will cost me $225, ouch (but I know it would be worth it). Insane jealously over everything that you learned and I missed.  I feel like the absent student who returned after some fantastic lesson/activity/lab and finding out it was awesome saying “What did I miss? What? You mean it was that cool? Darn it! What was it about? Can you explain vvveeerrryyy slowly so I can write it all down and soak it all in?” And I decided to blog to better myself, to reflect more on my teaching and what I am doing in the classroom, to share ideas, to get feedback (from people who don’t immediately say “we can’t do that here because of x-y-z. or The schedule won’t allow it.) to get feedback from people who share suggestions or ask questions about why I set it up this way instead of that way.

PHEW! I am SO very sorry this was so long! I will try to be a little more concise in the future. I guess my excitement to put myself out there makes it easier to write! Have a great Tuesday!

P.S. My district just started using edline for our teacher websites and such (we can’t use outside class websites), does anyone use it and can offer helpful suggestions?  I have already played around with it, but it is quite different than Blackboard that we have used for 10 years, even though it is made by the same company.  Thanks in advance!