Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Damage Control (Day 58)

Today is the third Pi Day -- the 314th day of the year. Ordinarily this will be November 10th, but because this year had a February 29th, the 314th day is November 9th.

This is what I wrote about the third Pi Day last year:

Hold on a minute! You probably thought that Pi Day was on March 14th -- and the date on which this blog was launched was Pi Approximation Day, July 22nd. So how can November 10th be yet another Pi Day?

Well, November 10th is the 314th day of the year. And so some people have declared the day to be a third Pi Day:

I like the idea of a third Pi Day, based on the ordinal date (where January 1 = 1, November 10 = 314, and December 31 = 365). As the author at the above link pointed out, the three Pi Days are nearly equally spaced throughout the year. So I can celebrate Pi Day every fourth month.

I wouldn't mention the third Pi Day in a classroom, unless I was at a school that was on a 4x4 block schedule, where a student may take math first semester and then have absolutely no math class in the second semester (when the original Pi Day occurs). The only chance a student has to celebrate Pi Day would be the November Pi Day. (Likewise, the second Pi Day -- July 22nd -- may be convenient for a summer school class.)

[Notice that I'm not at a 4 x 4 school -- and indeed, I didn't really discuss third Pi Day today.]

Both November 10th [or 9th] and March 14th suffer from falling near the ends of trimesters or quarters (depending on whether the school started in August or after Labor Day). Classes may be too busy with trimester or quarter tests to have any sort of Pi Day party.

[And indeed, our school is giving the trimester Benchmark Tests this week.]

At home, I like to celebrate and eat pie for all three Pi Days. The pie that I choose is the pie most associated with the season in which that Pi Day occurs. Today, I will eat either pumpkin or sweet potato pie due to its proximity to Thanksgiving. On Pi Approximation Day, I ate apple pie, since it occurs right after the Fourth of July, a date as American as apple pie. And for the original Pi Day in March, I eat cherry pie -- the National Cherry Blossom Festival usually occurs between a week and a month after Pi Day.

Last year, I wrote that I like to post videos for all three Pi Days. Today, I am posting a video of a song parody -- and let me tell you why. Right in the middle of class, some eighth graders start singing the song "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for who knows what reason. So then I told them that there's a math parody of this song called "Pi Shop":

Unfortunately, I wasn't prepared to sing Kevin Lee's "Pi Shop" today -- and of course my mentioning of this song has nothing to do with Pumpkin Pi Day. Some of the students try to guess the lyrics of "Pi Shop" -- for some reason, they think it has something to do with buying fourteen pies!

Yesterday was the strangest day I've had so far in my young teaching career. It all began with car trouble -- on the way to work, my car suddenly slowed down and could no longer start. As it turned out, I was nowhere near my school -- but I was much closer to our charter's sister campus! So I jogged the entire 2-3 miles to that campus -- I did say (in July) that I was a Cross Country runner!

When I arrived, I explained my predicament with the car. I found out that there were several teachers absent at both schools, including my counterpart -- the other middle school math teacher. As a charter school, it's very difficult to get a sub! And so the administration told me that I would simply sub for my counterpart at the sister campus. Meanwhile, the dean would fill in for me at my home campus.

And so much of this post will be like so many others these last two years -- my day as a sub. There are a few differences between our campuses even though we're part of the same charter school.

First of all, there is no eighth grade at the other campus -- it only goes K-7. It's possible that this year's seventh graders could return as eighth graders, making it a K-8 school. With 6th and 7th as the only middle school grades, there are only two teachers, one to teach English and history, and my counterpart -- she teaches math and science, just like me.

This means that each grade sees each teacher twice a day. So my counterpart can teach full math and science classes -- as opposed to me, with a block for each of three grades and the last block for online programs like IXL rather than an explicit science block (since only one grade has it each day). Keep this in mind as I describe what my day was like. Yes, this is turning into a "Day in the Life" post, even though my posting day isn't until next week!

The first block was seventh grade math. But there wasn't much math during this block because it was taken over by two activities. First, since it was Election Day, a mock election was held. Both sixth and seventh graders gathered into the English/history classroom to cast there votes. Then when we returned, there was only a few minutes until a Playworks Classroom Game Time. Yes, I explained this back in my November 1st post -- apparently the Playworks coaches were on my campus last week and the sister campus this week.

As I mentioned in last week's post, Playworks rendered the whole block useless for math lessons. I was only able to follow one activity from my counterpart's lesson plans -- that's right, apparently she forgot that she'd signed up for Playworks yesterday. That one activity was a three-minute quiz to fill in a 12-by-12 multiplication table. In many ways, this is just like a Dren Quiz -- the idea is that students need to practice their times tables as many of them haven't mastered them. But apparently, my counterpart gives these quizzes much more often than I give my Dren Quizzes.

The second block was sixth grade math. Like the seventh graders, these students began by filling out the multiplication table. This is followed by a Warm-Up worksheet of eight questions. Then it was time to go over questions from the Illinois State traditional textbook -- this was the regular textbook, not the "Student Journals" I've been using at my own school. The first three pages were the previous night's homework, and the next two were that day's classwork. The following standard was covered:

Use ratio reasoning to convert measurement units; manipulate and transform units appropriately when multiplying or dividing quantities.

Notice that in my own sixth grade class, I covered only up to 6.RP.A.3.B (which is on tape diagrams and double-line diagrams) before jumping to long division. Students who finished early were allowed to use the computers for IXL -- so this is how these students get their IXL lessons. The schedule at my own school gives three math blocks and IXL (with science squeezed in), while their school gets two math blocks and two science blocks (with IXL squeezed in).

The third block was sixth grade science. In this class, students were learning about the solar system, and they were to create a scale-model of the solar system. Students begin with a long strip of paper to represent the distance from the sun to the dwarf planet Pluto, which is about 40 times as far from the sun as Earth, or 40 AU (astronomical units). This paper was to be folded in half to represent the distance from Earth to Uranus, or 20 AU, and then it was folded in half again to represent the distance from Earth to Saturn, which is about 10 AU. By the way, the idea that each planet is about half as far from the sun as the following planet is known as Bode's Law:

Notice that Bode's Law isn't exact -- in order to make it work, we have to skip Neptune and include both the dwarf planet Pluto and the asteroid belt, which includes another dwarf planet (Ceres).

The fourth block was seventh grade science. These students were learning about the difference between physical and chemical changes. They learned the rule of thumb that physical changes tend to be undo-able (such as freezing/melting) while chemical changes aren't (such as burning).

I've taught some of these topics in my "science" classes so far this year. But notice that all grades learned only about Earth, moon, and sun -- only eighth graders got the rest of the solar system. And I squeezed in physical and chemical changes for my eighth graders during the power outage last week, when I gave an impromptu science lesson. Unfortunately, my own sixth and seventh graders aren't getting as much science as those at the sister campus.

I think that today's subbing day allowed me to take a step back and reflect on what things I do in the classroom are more or less successful. I have plenty to say about this, but I think I'll save it for my own "Day in the Life" reflection post.

Today I return to my own school (by public transit) -- and yes, it's a damage control day. (But to be fair, my counterpart probably needs damage control today as well, especially 7th grade math.) As it turns out, the Benchmark Tests weren't given yesterday, and so I give them today. Fortunately, I found out that we no longer have to include Benchmark Tests in the grades. As usual, our Wednesday schedule is another adventure. With the music teacher on campus, I saw all three grades before nutrition, but somehow the English teacher, who's never been relieved of her class for a music block, finds the music teacher giving the eighth grade lesson in her classroom!

Also today I'm supposed to have a visit from the curriculum developers in England. Actually, she's in the country today, but gets stuck in Southern California traffic! I'm not sure whether the visit will be rescheduled or not occur at all.

The "Day in the Life" poster for the ninth is Audrey:

She hasn't made her November 9th post yet, but here's a link to a recent activity in her Algebra I class (and no, it's not dated October 9th either):

I see that there are many different types of equations on the cards -- including absolute value equations, which I know will be tricky for Algebra I students (not to mention those literal equations with all variables).

By the way, notice I haven't mentioned the big election yet. Of course, I want to avoid politics on the blog, but during the Wednesday advisory period, I give my seventh graders a magazine article where they use the election to calculate percentages. Some of them ask me which candidate I supported -- normally I don't want to discuss politics in the classroom either, but today I truthfully tell them that I was too busy worrying about my broken car to get to the polls. (To be fair, with my broken car I have no time to get to the store to buy a pumpkin pie for third Pi Day today either!)

So far, I know that President-elect Donald Trump is an opponent of Common Core, so we'll see what affect this will have on the standards over the next four years. (And no, the title of this post refers to "damage control" due to my being out yesterday and is not intended as a political statement.)


  1. Hello, love the post! If you wouldn't mind, could you please remove my last name from this post? Thank you so much!


  2. Done! I apologize for any inconvenience I may have caused, and I look forward to reading your December 9th post.