Friday, February 24, 2017

Test #6 (Day 106)

Here is today's Pappas question of the day:

A person is jogging around a 1/4-mile track at 6 mph. If they jogged for an hour, how many times did they go around the track?

Well, if the speed is 6 mph, then in one hour six miles would have been jogged. Since there are four laps to a mile, six miles is 24 laps. So the answer is 24 -- and of course, today's date is the 24th. This is the sort of problem I could give in either my sixth or seventh grade class.

Today is the day of a major test. The eighth graders tested on statistics and substitution, the seventh graders on integer operations and equivalent expressions, and the sixth graders on percents and the simplest equations.

The eighth grade test is fairly easy. This is mainly because the 100-point test structure covers the last two standards, with more emphasis on the penultimate standard as they've been exposed to it for a much longer time. And that standard was statistics -- obviously it's easier to determine whether a graph shows positive or negative correlation that it is to solve a system of equations. Next week's general quiz, worth 50 points, should be completely on solving systems.

By the way, I plan on introducing the elimination method next week. The next standard, 8,EE 8c, is on applying systems of equations. Just as this week's homework was set up for substitution, next week's is set up for elimination -- the questions are set up as "The sum of two numbers is ... and their difference is ... What are the two numbers?" A system with x + y = something as one of the equations and x - y = something as the other is just begging to be solved by elimination.

Meanwhile, the seventh graders struggled the most on the test. Integer operations form the bulk of their test, and with this class not meeting on Wednesdays, there's less practice time. Since there aren't many topics that are much more important than negative numbers, I may consider having most of my upcoming Warm-Ups be on negatives, even as we move on to other standards. This extends my predecessor's idea of having more eighth grade systems practice well beyond the current unit.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- I call the current lesson "integer operations," but notice that the word integer doesn't appear in the Common Core Standards. Instead, the current standards are technically about rational numbers. The field Q of rational numbers includes fractions and their negatives -- since the students already learned about fraction operations in fifth and sixth grades, learning about signed numbers extends their knowledge to the entire rational field.

More sixth graders pass the test than seventh graders. The percent problems are tricky, of course, especially when they must rewrite the percents as fractions -- but at least they don't have to add (or subtract) any of the fractions, which is always harder than multiplying them.

The simple equations section is a little tricky only because inequalities are included. Many students are tricked when the variables are on the right side of an inequality -- we must remember that in an inequality like 4 < x, x is actually greater than 4. Students should either plug in various values such as x = 5 (so 4 < 5 is true), or just reverse the inequality as x > 4.

Today's song for music break is all about solving equations, as all three grades are working on them:


When you see an equation,
Or problems that involve it,
All you have to do,
Is solve it!
A letter alone on the left side,
A number alone on the right side.
That's all you have to do,
To solve it!

Alternate 7th grade verse:
When you see an equation,
Or problems that involve it,
All you have to do,
Is solve it!
Whatever you do to the left side,
The same done to the right side.
That's all you have to do,
To solve it!

Alternate 8th grade verse:
When you see an equation,
Or problems that involve it,
All you have to do,
Is solve it!
Move the variables to the left side,
Move the numbers to the right side.
That's all you have to do,
To solve it!

There are a few other things going on today. First of all, my grading software suddenly changed all of my classes. For some strange reason, instead of the STEM classes that I've had since the first day of school, I'm now considered to have separate math and science classes! This change applies to sixth, seventh, and eighth grades. And all the grades that I've entered so far this trimester suddenly appear under the science classes, even though they're for the most part math grades!

I'm still trying to figure out what this means for my grades. It could mean that now I'm required to give separate grades in math and science. Changing all of those science grades to math could be a major inconvenience -- but more importantly is the fact that I haven't done much science, especially in sixth and seventh grades.

I'm still waiting to hear from the administrators regarding this issue. If it turns out that I need to establish science grades, then I'll declare next week to be a science week. All lessons next week will be on science, except for the usual math Student Journal day (Wednesday for sixth and eighth grades, Thursday for seventh grade). In particular, the 50-point general quiz scheduled for next Friday will become a science quiz.

So what sort of science would I teach each grade next week? Well, I'll cross that bridge when I get to it -- notice that Monday is going to be coding no matter what, so hopefully I'll find out whether I must establish a science grade by Monday night. I'm not counting on the Green Team curriculum being ready by next week, but it would provide a great project for the third trimester science grade.

What I don't want, though, is for me not to find out I need to give a science grade until the day that grades are due. This would result in a epic embarrassment -- I have to give a science grade yet didn't teach much science, and the students and parents would see my big science failure on the report card!

Second, it turns out that this upcoming Wednesday is the day that the curriculum developers from England will be coming in town (and not earlier as I thought). I'm assuming that this is part of the Common Planning meeting, but sometimes they come in to observe as well. In addition to the science situation, such an observation would also affect my lesson plans for next week. Recall that the Illinois State text also has a science component, so I could do a science assignment from the text that day.

Meanwhile, during SBAC Prep time for sixth and seventh grades, I was actually able to administer an online practice test. This was not without problems though. It takes a long time to make sure that each student has the correct ID number, and the Wi-Fi connection required for the students to access the site fails for 10-15 minutes during the sixth grade period. But at least the students can begin to familiarize themselves with the SBAC platform.

By the way, here's something interesting about the SBAC platform that I found out -- the official online calculator for the California version of the SBAC is Desmos. You might remember Desmos from the past MTBoS challenges -- the topic was My Favorite Lesson, and teachers kept mentioning Desmos in their lessons. I didn't have access to Desmos, and so I never used it in my lessons (especially not as a substitute teacher).

Well, I may be using Desmos sooner than I thought, now that it's a part of the SBAC. There have been some eighth grade Illinois State STEM projects that require the use of graphing calculators -- and my classroom has only one graphing calculator, my own. So maybe I could try using Desmos on the laptops the next time there's a graphing calculator project -- and then I justify this to the administrators (who may wonder why I'm using software other than Illinois State, IXL, or Study Island) by informing them that Desmos will help the students prepare for SBAC. I'm not sure whether I want to create Desmos accounts for the students, but it appears that students could log on to Desmos using a Google account -- and the coding teacher has already provided them with Google accounts.

Speaking of the MTBoS, here's a link to high school teacher Brian Palacios, the "Day in the Life" participant whose monthly posting date is the 24th. He hasn't made his February 24th post yet, but I do see something interesting for January 24th (and no, there's no mention of Desmos):

Palacios writes:

7:35am | I arrive at school. Today’s the first day of Regents Exams, a.k.a. state exams. They last four days. I enter the main office to move my time card and look for the proctoring schedule for the day.

I've read the blogs of so many New York teachers (including those who participate in "Day in the Life") that I know what "Regents" are. I never knew, though, that they're given at the end of the first semester (as well as, I presume, the end of the year).

In fact, reading Palacios here makes me understand fellow New Yorker Wendy Menard's "Day in the Life" post better. Her posting date is the 21st, but she actually writes about January 25th. This would be the second day of the four-day Regents. It explains why Menard doesn't mention finals, as her students would be taking Regents instead.

Speaking of Menard, Palacios mentions actually seeing Menard at a meeting:

The PLT begins and the theme is Next Steps. The facilitators are Wendy Menard and Jose Luis Vilson. They’re awesome. The discussion gets fairly off topic after some time, but no one seems to mind.

Surprising, Menard doesn't mention this  meeting in her January 25th post, although she does bring it up in a February post. Notice that the main topic of this meeting is race. I try to avoid mentioning race in my school day posts, but nearly half of the Palacios post is about race or politics. This includes a certain book (not movie, but book) that Palacios is reading:

7:40pm | On the train home. I complete The Mathematician’s Shiva and begin, excitedly, Hidden Figures.

Palacios wraps up his post just like Menard's -- by speculating about a new class he'll teach soon:

I’m also super excited about getting closer to teaching a legit mathematics elective course. Mathematics was one of the founding principles of my school and, sadly, there is a glaring lack of mathematics-based initiatives that exist right now. I want to try and change that. What’s great is that I got word from leadership at the end of the day today that there are plans for me to teach a Discrete Mathematics course in the near future.

Well, I may be teaching three "new" science courses in the future -- as in next week. It all depends on what I hear from my school's leadership about the grades.

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