Sunday, 18 November 2012

Week as Math Educator Roundup

So, before we go back over the five school days, let's have a quick look at the weekend...

Saturday, not much done related to work, in part because of catching up on sleep, on Twitter, and a D&D gaming group I'm involved with that meets periodically on Saturday evenings. I actually feel kind of bad about not getting back to the marking. Though I did respond to an email question from a student.

Sunday, did get back to marking. Also did some finance prep for Monday's class. Over four hours work in total, amid talking to people online and my afternoon yoga class (we learned the rockin' cobra). It does feel insufficient.

Final thoughts will be categorized into headers.

1) Teaching Week Itself

Time Working: About 9 hrs
Time Blogging: About 2 hrs (multitasking)
Approximate words: 2590

Time Working: About 8.5 hrs
Time Blogging: About 2.5 hrs (dedicated)
Approximate words: 3650

Time Working: About 11 hrs
Time Blogging: About 2.5 hrs (mixed)
Approximate words: 2660

Time Working: About 9 hrs
Time Blogging: About 3 hrs (multitasking)
Approximate words: 2600

Time Working: About 8 hrs
Time Blogging: About 3 hrs (dedicated)
Approximate words: 1900

Time Working: About 4.5 hrs
Time Blogging: About 2 hrs (this post, multitasking)

TOTAL WORK WEEK: About 50 Hours
(Lunch is in there, but it's less than 45 minutes (on a good day). Balance that with travel time, which is roughly 45 min per day (>3.5 hr/wk) and we're back over 50 hrs. At 7 hrs sleep/night, I'd be sleeping less per week than working. But I do sleep in weekends.)

I felt like Monday and Thursday were the most "typical" days; maybe Thursday was a bit more hectic than usual. Tuesday is typical of those days where my head is a bit off. Wednesday was obviously the outlier, yet I usually have at least one long work day per week too.

Interesting thing I discovered about the jobs of other teachers, when I had the chance to peruse their posts - their schedules vary by day! (Not 3 teaching classes, 1 prep period, rinse, repeat.) Some have what seem like very different schedules depending on the weekday, up to 8 separate periods, and may not see the same set of students every day. Huh.

2) Shifting Narrative Perspectives

I wanted to try changing up the narratives, both to see if I could do it, and so that people would have something different to come back to every day.

Thus in order of most to least difficulty:

5) Friday- Third person plural, that was more of a mess than I thought it would be. (Yeah, three hours of dedicated writing to produce the smallest entry.) I wanted to avoid the cop-out of 'they = this guy and his thoughts', but using 'they' as a teachers collective made me worry educators would read it and say 'I wouldn't have done that at all', hence everything sliding into the theoretical. Not so pleased with the result, but satisfied.

4) Wednesday- Third person singular. Kept slipping into first person. Part of the trouble is a phrase like "Prep period ends, test still hasn't been written" could work with 'His' or 'My'. Pretty sure I caught all the slips at least, as I tend to reread sentences as I go. Didn't have time to give the posts detailed editing after the fact.

3) Tuesday- Second person singular. Surprisingly, a bit of a toss up between this and Thursday, but since multitasking was done with the latter, I'll claim this was the harder perspective. The hardest part was that since YOU meant the blogger, I could never use YOU for the reader. I had to refer to readers in third person.

2) Thursday- First person plural. About the same difficulty as Tuesday. The 'job shadowing' excuse made it easy enough, yet there were some difficulties. The 'our wife' remark towards the end was actually rooted in a few earlier attempts that had to be rewritten. 'Our car'? 'Our formal wear'? Not wholly accurate. Plus I did start to feel a bit like Gollum, and I'm not big on LOTR.

1) Monday- First person singular. Obviously the easiest. You're reading this perspective now, and most blogs follow such a format. I probably should have saved this for the END of the week, when I was feeling tired... but then, reversing the order might have turned off first time readers, and Day 1 is the day with the most hits. (My first ever post to pass 100 views actually. Day 2 still under 70.)

Of course, there is the lurking variable that Thursday and Monday felt like more "typical" days. Would it have been easier to do third person on a day that didn't run so long? I don't think so, but I can't say for sure. I do wonder if people found the variety interesting, irritating, or simply didn't care. Feel free to comment below.

3) The Personified Math

Well, the two people who've actually read my web series followed me over! The lack of ANY other remark leads me to think that the web series will continue to tool about in my subconscious, as I spend former 'blogging time' in the coming week doing other things. The series WILL be back, make no mistake, you're not getting rid of them. (Sorry?) But I may not throw myself back into ramping up the story buffer (including Hevvi) until the holidays.

With respect to the actual characters I used, Tangent surprised me a bit, both in her selection and that she's a bit more kindhearted than I'd imagined (as well as mischievous). As I said in the comments, maybe I can get students to sympathize with choosing her ratio? Hevvi got short shrift, saddled with the hardest narrative perspective. The conics were par for the course (I didn't offer Hyper because I had no card prepared for her). And Para...

Um. I really am crushing on Para a bit, aren't I? *^^* Most entries, quite by chance, were about 2600 words. In part due to her asides, she blew past that by an additional 1000. The quadratic does strike me as someone teenagers could relate to though - often misunderstood, causing trouble even though she's never trying to be difficult, insecure in particular when she's compared to Expona... so yeah.

I still think I need to find a voice for Para too, for video episodes. I'd co-opt my wife, except I've made the Quadratic a singer. I'd ask my friends, except I'm a bit worried about their reactions. It's funny, I'm really good at male voices/accents, but I'm much better at drawing female characters (plus, X chromosomes = algebra), so now I'm in trouble.

Yes, I am putting far too much thought into something that's only really yielded any professional dividends in terms of stretches and compressions. But it's fun, damnit.

4) Topics for Comment

Finally, a few key things that come up over the course of the week. As I'm still interested in opinions for them, if this is the only post you're going to read, I'll summarize:

1. ROUNDING. In mathematics, rounding is generally bad. It introduces error if you're about to multiply by a large number, it throws off ratios, and we prefer to use "exact" radical values most of the time anyway. Yet on Wednesday, students were mentioning that in science, rounding is mandatory, related to the number of significant digits in measurement. This seems like a necessary disconnect, but how are we supposed to deal with that in the classroom in a way that minimizes confusion?

2. CONICS. I really am curious where this is in other curricula. It was removed from the (Gr 11) Ontario curriculum back in 2003 when five years of high school got compressed back into four. (That's also when proofs were removed, because when it was proposed removing calculus instead, post-secondary institutions were up in arms.)

3. JOB SATISFACTION. This came up on Thursday, with the remark that when students "are getting it", a teacher feels happy - in fact, may feel it a bit even if it's second hand and not their own student. Does this work the same for other teachers, and what about people in other jobs? What is 'satisfying'?

4. THEME SONGS. I threw those in on a whim after making an offhanded remark on the first day. Did anyone actually click on the links? If so, did you think they were interesting? (This kind of relates to my web series too, since I always had at least a link a day in them... but not much point doing that if no one follows links.)

Finally, for those wanting more, there's now a tumblr site for all the posts of all participants:

I think that's everything. Thanks for joining me this week! I hope you will consider checking in on me again from time to time, or following me on Twitter. (Or, y'know, telling me why you'd never do that so that I can at least be more aware of my follower demographics. :) )

Friday, 16 November 2012

Week as Math Educator - Day 5

You don't know me. Well, maybe you do know me, but I know you haven't seen me like this before... my name is Hevvi. And the H is silent! I'm also known as the Heaviside Step Function. I mean, you didn't think this was the complete cast of math-tan characters, did you?

Welcome to Day 5 of "A Week in the Life of a Math Educator".

As to a theme song for today, well, yesterday's was impossible to top. So, unless we can piggyback on some more famous tune... I'm guess I'm like, f(u).

Funny thing about today though - it's a Professional Development (PD) day. So if you've ever wondered what goes on during such days... this is not the posting to read. Because Ontario high school teachers are, as I mentioned at the start of this week, taking job action. Which means that, while normally the agenda would be Board directed and effectively a Professional Activity (PA) day - oh, there is a distinction between PD and PA - today teachers are making the choice to do self-directed PD instead.

For context, here's roughly how the last PA day went. After arriving, there's breakfast, a presentation from our Police Liaison about the problems of sexting, a presentation from another teacher colleague about Technology in the schools, some group work involving strategies for difficult students, break for lunch, then meetings in departments to discuss the school improvement plan (SIP) and assessment and evaluation policies of the Board. Which is valuable (well, most of it), but at the same time, is geared more globally than individually.

So, if a teacher didn't HAVE to do that, if they could throw out the agenda and spend a day doing self-directed professional development... what would that look like? What might such teachers end up doing?

They might do the following.


They might again wake up before their alarm, wonder why (stress?), and head to their computer to catch up after a night of blogging instead of having read posts. They might finally think they had the time to fully read the DITLife blog of someone else (who commented on theirs), and comment back. They might also not wear a tie, end up leaving the house just after 8am without worrying about being late for class, and even take a moment to muse about the frost on the grass.

They might hear Katy Perry on the radio while driving in, and start singing along, except using the tune "Polynomials" instead of "California Gurls", because it's more mathematical. Well, okay, I find this last possibility highly unlikely for most teachers, but statistically speaking I suppose stranger things have happened. Math educators can be an odd bunch. (Also, that's correct spelling for the original song, because apparently "Poor Literacy is Kewl". Also again, one more more traffic circle yesterday and again today, well done keeping track.)

Such teachers arriving on a PD Day might potentially then get to the prep room at 8:25, the time they'd normally be going to class, and walk down to the staff room with another colleague. Which I'll say is a lot more likely, even taking into account the fact that this would be one particular teacher's first time into the staff room this month. Yeah, it really is way off in the corner of the building, almost like an afterthought after the planners put in the cafeteria.

Anyway, the colleagues might soon find themselves chatting with others while in line for breakfast - ones they rarely have the chance to interact with on a regular basis. The group may even end up sitting together at a table, all the while discussing such topics as: Formal Day Thursday, the format of PD Days past, how having kids can change opinions on teaching, the state of the school play, the fact that Christmas displays are up too early, and the fact that it's colder in the building without the body heat generated by students.

The principal (who was required to create a PD agenda for the day anyway) coming by the staff room is also an option, particularly if it's to bring some flowers to present to the cafeteria staff for a job well done.

Ultimately, teachers in this position might head back to the prep room at about 9:25am, whereby they might work on refining a lesson delivered a few days ago. Seeing as there's no time to really revise such things once they're done, needing to be so focussed on where they'll be going with it tomorrow. After all, revisions, they can happen next time that lesson is needed - like next semester, yes? Or, alternatively, now. Teachers might even relish the opportunity to do a lot of this revision planning, spending most of the morning on it.


While some colleagues clue in to doing the above, others, and this blogger in specific, might be doing some marking. For instance, resuming the marking of papers that had been continually getting chipped away at all week. Of course, teachers doing this might have occasional brief interruptions, such as when a Vice Principal comes by to reassure that things will be in place for the Math Contest next week, and then again when they decide to check both their board and internal email... and of course there are occasional conversations with the other math (and family studies) educators.

One teacher remarks in passing that they can't recall last time a PD day was this productive. Another is getting memories of Thursday confused from reading this blog. (John C. Reilly? Okay then.) Yet another has computer issues. And notable, a comment regarding a student from a senior math course, who has a mark under 60. Is this student misplaced? Is this student being forced to take the course by their parents, or their choice of career? No. This student knows they aren't very good at math, but has said they are taking this extra course "because I like it"! Thus perchance they have a greater incentive to continue, compared to other students.

Lunch, in many such scenarios, would be announced before noon. Teachers who are like the one blogging though, who are close to finishing the set of tests? They might prefer to keep going. They might also be inclined to ponder the fact that they've done 2 hours of marking as self-directed PD. But when you consider that there are PD days at the end of the school year, which are pretty much only for frantic marking in order to get totals together in time for commencement... it's not that unusual. Moreover, this stuff has to get done, so this might actually free up a couple hours on Saturday. Then again, since test totaling is yet to be done, probably not.


It's a reasonable assumption that most teachers on this day would eventually get upstairs, to the library, for lunch, before 12:15pm. There, they might have the chance to talk with some educators who are different people from that morning. Topics now being such things as: Sports pools, how factors in getting teachers together during a regular day might include school size and necessity, the troubles with the economy, and how classes are going in other departments.

After lunch, teachers are willing to help put away the plates and cutlery, as leftovers are brought down to the custodial staff. They'd then all return to their offices. Again with an eye to this blog though, there is the matter of a car still at the garage... and checking voicemail reveals a notice to phone to arrange a pickup. This is done. Then, having made one phone call, an educator may feel they're on a roll, and they would then phone parents regarding missing assignments - this being the calls that were not done late yesterday. (Hating the phone, that's not necessarily unusual, but phoning earlier rather than later can alleviate stress.)

By this point a certain teacher, or perhaps by extension most teachers, would at least consider networking with someone else teaching the same course as them. At 1pm this happens here, and they both look over a course summative as suggested by another who taught the course previously. Though this being finance work, and there being those who find it worse than phone calls, it does necessitate actually going through and creating a personal solution set too. That done, they can discuss tweaks, leaving only the final individual planning for Monday.

But with it now being 2pm, why not finally do some more fun self-directed PD? After all, in addition to the songs by the math-tans, there are many other students and staff in the world setting math concepts to music. This is the point in the day when they turn up... the f(u) link "theme music" was found at this time, along with some others that also connect to calculus concepts. These songs can be added to a certain list being compiled, even if they are a bit beyond high school.

Conceivably, there is also the opportunity today for all interested teachers to fully catch up on email. Connected to this, they might scan through the email links to a backlog of "Technology Times" articles, a weekly publication within the Board. (A couple items are bound to be Tweeted later, if anyone's interested!)

Finally verging on 3:30pm. Many have left since the day officially ended a half hour ago, but some remain. They may still have a few key things left to do, such as creating a summary file of teacher courses for their Gr 12 data class. Not being aware of any easy way of grabbing this data, it's entered manually, flipping between windows, which fortunately only takes about half an hour (and saves needing to do it Monday).

Teachers, they came and go at all times, and this time of year, it's usually dark for the goings. But there is still light at 4:15pm when they might be leaving to pick up their car, were they to have left it for service at a garage the day before. Upon arrival, the loaner can then be swapped out, and the car with new winter tires would get driven home.

The blogger and his math-tan thoughts, they are indeed home for about 5pm, which means they are the first arrivals at the house. At this point, there is a good chance they choose to write up their blogging, but fall asleep in the process, waking up only at midnight, having completely missed dinner.  They would post, and go back to sleep.



They begin a writeup of their blogging, including doing some additional sketches. Their wife comes home, and they have something quick and microwavable to eat. Eventually, before 8pm, they head out to a birthday celebration for a friend.

Following that, and returning home before midnight, the blogging resumes, until the point that has now been reached. It takes longer, in part because writing in third person plural style is somewhat more difficult than many might have first anticipated.

As for the somewhat hypothetical nature of this entire post... well, again speaking as Hevvi (the H is silent!), I may also be theoretical. Certainly I'm non-canonical until Logan's Gazebo chances to find me. Whether that happens sooner or much later will have at least some connection to the interest, or lack thereof, on the Other Blog, of Math Personification. The one involving the characters you have seen this week. So feel free to comment here or there; worth doing?

Final thoughts on this entire experience will be posted this Sunday, so come on back then!  And as always, Tina's roundup of other educator posts is at her site, Drawing on Math: Day in the Life, Part 4

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Week as Math Educator - Day 4

My name is Tangent. I win by two votes. In an election where only two votes were cast. One of them calling me 'tan-tan'. >.<  Politics these days - I'm sure I wouldn't have won if my older sisters, Sine and Cosine, had run an ad campaign worth millions of dollars. But, they didn't, so I guess you're stuck with me blogging about Day 4 of "A Week in the Life of a Math Educator"!

I'll effectively be shadowing the actual blogger all day today. We should get some positive energy going to start, what do you readers think? I'm thinking lots of you are teachers, so how about a theme tune of "You Have Made A Difference", which you can listen to in English at this link, or alternatively in French at this link ("Vous Changez la Vie"). If nothing else, carry that with you into tomorrow, okay everybody?


On to the day... we know we need to be leaving earlier than usual, since the car is getting a tune-up, rustproofing and some snow tires; appointment was booked last week. We wake up before the 7am alarm (again!) and are out by just after 7:30pm. Drop the car off, pick up the free loaner (it's a wonderful garage, just ask for info if you're local!).

Root(64) am. (See what we did there?)  Leaving the place in the replacement car, need to reset the clock to daylight savings; lots of the radio presets are okay though, they've even got CBC. News: It's five weeks after Amanda Todd's suicide in BC. The 15-year-old was was cyber-bullied, so we get some press about Bullying Prevention Week at last, from her mother. Oh, and British Columbia's Education Minister told the mother not to attend an anti-bullying conference, after 'expert advice'. What is that I don't even. Moving on.

82*100 am.  We get to school - it's formal day, so we've got the pink bow tie, jacket, and cardboard top hat. The latter seems to be the big hit as we head to the office to empty our mailbox. We're back in the class fifteen minutes before the bell; students start arriving pretty soon, on account of the test (drawn up last night) and there still being questions.

One student verging on tears is wondering if she can do the test next week. Personal policy hasn't changed - if you can bring in a valid note from home indicating there's external issues, okay, otherwise, life goes on here. She elects to write. Another student is also looking miserable with similar hopes. Tell him that if work on the summative task next week is better than what he does here, we can reassess, but no note, we're proceeding.

Warning bell; the underlying theme of the "get to class" music is recognizable, it's Yankee Doodle, but this is the jazzed up instrumental version that we haven't located on the web after five minutes of searching, so you'll need to visualize. We're busy answering questions of students at this point anyway. Incidentally, a couple of the guys are also observing the formal day, looking nicely dressed.

DCCCXL am. PERIOD 1: Gr11 MIXED. Playing of the anthem, and morning announcements. From there into the test. Four absences, one we know about (death in the family, haven't seen her at all this week), the others will be getting calls. Once everyone's writing (some spent more time with their notes first), go to check mail on the computer. We get a little popup... Norton Antivirus is upset. Why? "Computer does not have all available operating system updates installed."

First, we don't have the authorization to install anything. Second, we're not even sure what the OS is, so we check... "Microsoft Windows XP Professional Version 2002: Service Pack 3". Yup, that seems about right, so what's the problem? Whatever, message is gone now. Forgetting our email, we scan back through the test, notice one of the questions could be seen as ambiguous, thus jot a clarification on the board.

A bit later, a student asks something - an answer seems wrong, but she can't spot her mistake. We tell her to keep doublechecking, even as we suffer a momentary panic attack because we don't immediately spot it either. Is it possible we created a question with a nonsense solution? No, we reassure ourselves... but at the same time, it's finance. So useful, yet we're probably as anxious about finance questions as other people are about trig identities. We don't broadcast this, obviously, but don't pretend we're an expert here either.

The period wraps up, some students will return to finish at lunch, a couple others think they'll be able to take ten minutes off their second period class if they check with their teacher. We allow them to do this. Then we suffer another little panic attack - we're missing one of the graphing calculators! Nope, it's on the desk. Okay, deep breath, need to get going with next period.

By the way, any of you out there started reading this like we're Gollum yet? We likesss the mathematicsss, the math is our precioussss... while we hatesss the finansssse. (Sorry, that was evil of me, now you probably won't be able to unsee that perspective for the rest of the post, huh? Hm. So is it wrong I find that funny?)

LOG (10^10) am. PERIOD 2: Gr12 DATA. We ask students if we should be taking up yesterday's sheet first, or saving that for after they have time to work today in class... in other words, no point taking up homework if it's not yet done. Vibe is, launch the new topic. That would be causation. So we present a silly scenario, discuss, then hit them with definitions, and fifteen to twenty minutes to work on either last night's stuff, or new stuff, while we circulate to answer questions.

As well as get Summative Topics from those who haven't come up with them yet. Secondary sources are due next Monday after all, plus we need to come up with groups before next Wednesday! Eventually we regroup to discuss the scenarios of today. Then a little discussion of the Placebo Effect, not strictly in the curriculum, but how can you not at least mention it when dealing with causation?

Also this period, we remember to give a notice to a student about an event happening Monday, the recycling for the room is brought by a couple students down to the loading bay when the announcement is called, and of note, about the same percentage of students as first period going in on the Formal Day, including one female.

DATE am. (11/15) LUNCH. First dealing with students returning to finish their tests. Gives us time to deal with attendance, checking mail, and saving files to upload to the course websites. One of the missing students from this morning turns up! Said she slept in, wondering about writing now. Lunch is shorter than a period though, so we offer them same rules as always - if she can get a note, Monday will be okay, otherwise both now and after school. She goes to phone her mom. Comes back - she'll have a note Monday.

Once students are finished, to the prep room to phone those still missing! We reach one parent, child wasn't feeling well, for the other we leave a message. Also check our voicemail, but the garage hasn't phoned back yet about our car. Our heart soars a little now at the discussion going on here... colleague is saying how it's so satisfying "When they [students] see trig and are getting it, realizing how x is cosine...". (We ask to quote her here, she's good with that.)

Question comes up: What gives OTHER people job satisfaction? Coding something really nice? Making money for a company? For us, it's students. For you? Comment below, maybe?

Conversation shifts to introducing quadratics; suggested to do it by throwing things around the room. Better suggestion is raised - attach a streamer to the things you're throwing. Hah! Have to head back to class after less than ten minutes though... we have students arriving early for next class, regarding the task they didn't write Tuesday. We do compliment another teacher on her formal dress in passing though. Which she says she's supplementing with a shawl to conform to the dress code.  (Yeah, so my midriff baring top would not work out here... anyway, that's a whole other identity.)

We get to the classroom, answer some student questions prior to class, then we're immediately on again. Had time for a mouthful or two of food in there.


Time: The amicable number pair of 1184
(1184's divisors: 592, 296, 148, 74, 37, 32, 16, 8, 4, 2, 1)

PERIOD 3: Gr11 U. More students dressed in formal attire this period! We compliment one guy on the sweater vest, and ask one female student how she got her hair pinned that way. Notably one student spilled his drink in the hall as he hurried to class from lunch. But in the chaos it was handled by a VP and care staff member nearby, before we could suggest to said student that he get some paper towels.

Start this period by doing a Seat Switch - finally, we remembered to do this again after the success of two weeks ago! (Forgot this morning, and blogged about that back here.) Then flashing up yesterday's notes for the five people who'd been legitimately absent, and address any questions based on yesterday's work on exponents. Very few questions, and most of them are working in new groups now discussing the unit. Well, this is awesome.

Some of them ask for the quiz early; we make sure all of them have it with 40 minutes left in the period, to allow for ten minutes to take it up at the end. The level four question, solving an exponential equation, is engaging a number of them. We like this. Many are now seeing they need the same base, but aren't sure how to proceed from there. (Logarithms is Grade 12.)

Bit of a hiccup as one student gets a spontaneous nosebleed. The math is that exciting. He goes to the washroom, the person sitting behind him is a bit perturbed by the sight of a couple blood spots on the desk. We go to wipe them up, problem solved. A little thereafter, we take the quiz up, they seem to follow the logic of setting exponents equal! Collect in quizzes to have a look, remind them of test next week.

(11^2)+(3^2) pm: PERIOD 4 aka PREP PERIOD. Before we can get going here, there's commotion in the halls. Long story short, someone has sprayed odour of foxglove around (it's not a good scent), so we phone the office while another teacher asks students about this. Principal comes, we learn this also happened upstairs, and identity of person is likely known.

This seemingly dealt with, we go back to the prep room. Phone is in use, so we double back to class to respond to an email that connects to the math contests we're coordinating next Tuesday. (A student asked about them at some point today too, forget when.) Another student arrives at this point about writing the test which he couldn't do after school yesterday. Right, he has a spare now.  Got confused as to when he was coming by.

We give him the test, then double back to the prep room. Phone is free, we check our voicemail, one message... the parent of the absent student from this morning? No, the garage about our car. We phone back, talk for a bit, even sit down briefly; the tech is going to check on the availability of a cheaper brand of winter tires, we'll phone him back later.

That's one thing about teaching - no one can reach you during the day, unless it's an emergency. Car tuneup, dinner plans, online chats, all of that isn't emergency, therefore impossible during the day. (But those sorts of things don't happen much in other jobs either, do they...?)

Double back to check on student, organize desk, talk with him, he's done all he can. Back to phone the garage. Again long story short, no cheaper tires but other minor savings, and won't be picking the car up until tomorrow. This changes things! We won't need to be leaving the school before 5pm. So we take a half hour to finish our lunch and do a quick Twitter scan. (Haven't checked Facebook since Wednesday morning as it's blocked at work...) Respond to an @mpershan tweet.

Now 490/2 pm. End of school day. Student comes by to write task, as we prepare the next day of teaching (which would be Monday, given the Professional Development day tomorrow). She finishes after 4pm, about the same time we finish getting everything arranged. We go to photocopy necessary handouts. No one else in prep room when we return, but then a couple coaches come through after practice. Chat briefly.

At this point, we would phone some parents of students who have outstanding assignments, but job action is such that we're not communicating outside of school hours. It can wait until tomorrow anyway. Check voicemail once more though - good thing, garage wanted clarification on something, phone them back before they close. Then, a knock at the door - a student is wondering if one of the coaches is still here. No, they left... which is bad, because he left his cell phone in a room that is now locked. However, we may have that key.

We go and rescue his cell phone, asking to be reasonably certain it is his. We have now "saved his life"... oh, good for us! After 5pm now. Would start marking, but since nothing can be handed back tomorrow, typing up minutes for the math meeting last Monday takes priority. Also brief distractions online again. As well as taking a moment to set up the following photograph in our room, since we're blogging about it... remember, Formal Day.
Actually my classroom. Rare photo!

Verging on 6:30pm, one of our students chances by in the hall (back from some event, presumably). He's surprised we're still here, asks how long we normally stay. We say this is about right. He's... impressed? We hope that's the emotion. He moves on, Meeting Minutes done, about time to get going in order to get to the drycleaners before they close at 7pm.


Home a little after the aforementioned 999999/142857 pm. We chat with our wife (our wife? Oooh, okay, the first person plural is failing us a bit on THAT remark... maybe we'll drop that now), and she was able to hear a radio broadcast related to a friend of ours and NaNoWriMo. He may well be reading this now too, all the best to him in his efforts! There's a bit more chatting about the day, decide that for dinner to just toss a pizza in the oven.

A bit of final work is necessary on the Math-Tans membership card at the top of this post, not having entirely anticipated the Tangent result back on Sunday... yeah, bad enough that the students forget me as soon as they learn Triangle Laws, now even my own creator is handling me after Sine and Cosine. But it's okay. I have Lyn to hang out with whenever I'm neglected on the Trigonometry side. :)

Continued blogging through 'Elementary' and 'Daily Show' which brings us to 11:30pm and time to post up. In fact, think this day was the most typical of any of the days blogged so far!! Glad I could share it with you! Remember, "You Have Made a Difference"... and perhaps I have too.

Tina's roundup of other educator posts at her site, Drawing on Math: Day in the Life, Part 3
She'll also be posting her day today, if memory serves.
We'll be back tomorrow... or will we?

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Week as Math Educator - Day 3

My name is Circe. I still maintain I have Greek in me. I also WIN the vote, and so I will be the one blogging about Day 3 of "A Week in the Life of a Math Educator"!

Ahem. It was a tie. I got a vote too.

What? No! Too late! Besides Elly, you're not even IN the Ontario high school curriculum anymore!

I might be in the American curriculum somewhere. I don't know enough about it. Anyone care to comment below?

Well, until you find out, this is MY show, okay?!

So defensive. I was only going to interject occasionally. But by all means, continue to rant and make readers think you're a crazy person.

...Agh, why did fate put me in such an eccentric family?! I need a moment. Look, readers, while I compose myself, you should go listen to ViHart, the mathemusician, sing about a circle! It doubles as our theme song today!


The math teacher in question wakes up before his alarm again. This is unusual for him, despite the fact that it seems to be happening every day this week. Today's more like Monday - he goes to check out his Twitter before coming back to get ready for the day at 7am. (Incidentally, has a new follower, adds a couple back, which puts him over 100 following.) Oh, and I make him wear his circle tie. (Yesterday he wore the coloured mice tie, to match the dark shirt with coloured stripes.)

A check of Facebook includes a link to a CTV News video update on the state of teaching in Ontario this week. He watches, and if you like you can too by following this link. The people they talk to include the Student President of Trustees, and a guy named Joel Westheimer, Education Research Chair. The math teacher heads out to school after that.

Traffic circle! Come on, how can I NOT give a shoutout to that?!

Event check: School, before class.

He heads through the prep room and on to the office to check mail and photocopy that handout he'll need this afternoon. (The one he finished about 4:45pm last night before donating blood.) There's another couple teachers there, and they chat a bit. He follows another out when finished, still talking - and he's referred to as 'Mr. T'. Insert joke about the "chain rule" here.

A bit more chatter in the prep room, then head to class for just after 8:20. A custodian is still there doing the floors - in part because all the desks are still separated from doing the task in class yesterday. In other words, it's now easier to clean than when they're together, so she's taking advantage of the opportunity. Good call.

You know, a day in the life of a school custodian, or office worker, might be rather interesting too...

Speaking of calls (and ignoring Elly despite her valid suggestion), his classroom phone rings - it's the other teacher who has this course. The same one referenced yesterday around 4:45pm. She's noticed a field trip, we'll need to alter our plans for next week a bit. Which is no problem, and he's glad she noticed that. Then, with the computer booted up, mail check time.

Warning bell, and the first few students help put the desks back into sets of two. Voluntarily without being asked, though one of them is a student who's been late a few times lately, so the teacher quips that he hopes this isn't turning her off being on time. He then heads to the door; doesn't recognize the 'get to class' music today. Rock with guitars or something.

Event Check: Period 1, Gr 11 Mixed

After morning announcements (it's Formal Day tomorrow...), time for him to get students going with TVM solvers for Finance. He posts up three general questions as the class goes on, solving them every fifteen minutes or so. One student away yesterday asks if the information from then is on the course website yet. Yup! He also has to lend his textbook out to the same person as he did yesterday.

Brief interruption partway through related to the Penny Drive at the school that's starting. A number of students donate pennies - he doesn't have any, despite remembering about this last night while blogging. Mainly because he didn't find any in his change. Also a few students asking about the marking for the test too, and "what's a level 2 question" or "what's a level 4 question". He describes as best as he can, but it's hard to nail that stuff down definitively.

His class in general goes smoothly. He's hopeful that the test tomorrow will go well too, and reminds them that he'll be available for last minute questions ten minutes before class starts. (Assuming there's no problems with the dropping off of his car tomorrow morning to deal with snow tires, but he doesn't tell them that.)

Event Check: Period 2, Gr 12 Data

First ten minutes is spent fixing up the mess that was left behind yesterday, regarding extrapolation. (There was also the fact that he'd misplaced his solutions and thus was winging it the latter half of yesterday. Para didn't even mention that!) Then he moves on to talk about two variable graphs that involve NON quantitative data, for instance, double bar graphs. Things are pretty much covered with a half hour left in the period, so that's time for the class to work and catch up.

And it's time for HIM to confront the people who didn't hand in their assignment on Monday, as collated yesterday. They'll "be in tomorrow for sure"... so, phone calls and/or emails if not. Also get more topics from students, which are needed by tomorrow to work out the survey groups for next week. Also a student who was away for a week asks him if they're still on for the test rewrite after school today. ....sure! Also he lends a student fifty cents so that they can print out an assignment in the library at lunch.

In the last five minutes, he sings to them. Yeah, I'm serious. The song is "One Line" adapted from the group Hedley, all about scatterplots. You can see the rewritten lyrics here. Does fully engage some students at least, and they were getting each other to quiet down so that there was time for this too. After, one of them was overheard to remark that Lyn's facepalm was funny.

Event Check: 11:15, Lunchtime

Is it just me, or is Wednesday going faster than the previous two days...

I'm cutting to the chase today! Too many asides in those previous days, not to mention readers probably have a good sense of this guy's day by now anyway. Assuming they started at the beginning anyway. So where was I? Right, lunch. Except the first fifteen minutes of that is his attendance, uploading lesson files to the web, and finding and slightly modifying an old test to give to that student as a rewrite for after school day. With that done, back to the prep room.

He has time to sit and have lunch with colleagues today. One mentions that she saw him at the blood donating last night; he was oblivious. There's some additional talk about food, politics creeps in, then things one can do with a Grade 10 textbook. Eventually things break up, then warning bell at 12:05, and he heads to get some stuff from class.


Student shows up. It's pointed out that this is a Day 2, not a Day 1, and the student quickly hurries to the proper class.

Event Check: Period 4 aka Prep Period

He starts by getting a quiz together for tomorrow, even though he should be working on tomorrow's first period TEST. He then modifies yesterday's task slightly for the few remaining people who will need to write it, which involves looking up some numbers. Finally he checks for a review, and unlike yesterday when he couldn't seem to locate anything, this time he turns it up almost immediately.

With everything figured out for Thursday EXCEPT for Period 1 (Sheesh), he heads back to the prep room to retrieve printouts. Ends up in a conversation related to the Gr 11 College level course, which he's teaching next semester, one colleague is doing now, and another did last year. After this, he heads to the office photocopier once more.

He runs into the math/music department head there. (Yes, it's the same department, just like tech/art are one department.) They chat briefly - apparently his coworker actually writes his own music when needed for play tests, which he didn't know, so that's kind of neat.

Speaking of music, have you ever noticed that whole notes look a bit like ellipses?

No. Also, seeing as I'm writing, ellipses remind me less of you and more of those three dots... which is totally off topic. So, stop that. He goes back to the prep room, and decides that with the amount of time left (about fifteen minutes) he'll use his laptop to print off the electronically submitted student assignments from Monday. Since the school computers can't open OpenOffice properly.

This also gives him the chance to check email and see if anyone's actually commented on his blogging to date. Because, yeah, narcissist. (And nobody tell me it takes one to know one!) Anyway, no new comments since last night. Which should be no surprise, because seriously, who has time to read blogs during the day? No, honestly, I'm curious, is there an occupation out there that allows for that??

Anyway. Prep period ends, test still hasn't been written, and no new marking accomplished. If only it COULD be done magically overnight!

Event Check: Period 3, Gr 11 U level

A number of students away here, but he knew about that in advance. Lesson on exponential word problems. It goes well, a number of people make the connection to percents real fast, others have classmates explaining it to them as he gives them some time to work on questions. He also schedules those people who need to do yesterday's task tomorrow.

Now here's something interesting that comes up.

He's been emphasizing don't round, rounding causes difficulties in calculating exact exponential ratios, and is not mathematically precise. Yet apparently in chemistry, they're getting penalized for NOT rounding. Because of how you're only supposed to end a question with as many significant digits as you started. If you start with 79.7, and cut it in half, you can't end up with 39.85 because that's more digits of precision than you had initially, so use 39.9.

Mathematics and science seem to be at cross purposes here.

Why does this come up, exactly? There's a big chemistry test next week the same time as our exponentials test is scheduled. Seems the chem test was scheduled first too, so to avoid confusion (and by popular request of at least a half dozen students), our blogging math educator bumps his test forwards a day - with the understanding that he'll be talking about the next unit on the original test day instead.

Event Check: School, after class.

The school day ends uneventfully; there are a few additional questions, but by 3pm, attendance is entered, files are uploaded, and he's headed back to the prep room. Oh, and that student from Period 2 who was going to write the test returns to indicate he cannot, owing to some issues related to his last period class. So hopefully tomorrow.

From 3pm to 4pm, he pulls out that same set of tests from last week to mark. (A student asked about them today. He's still trying for Thursday, but at 4pm, he's sure it's not going to happen, in particular because even if they're marked, they'll take an additional hour or two to total. Yeah, he has trouble with that.) Brief conversations with colleagues occur here too, at one point there's about six in the office.

At 4pm he decides he can't put it off any longer, and goes to his class to create a finance test for tomorrow. Normally he has these things done at least a day in advance, and in fairness, he does have a good sense of it in his head, but the thing about money problems is the numbers should make at least some sense, and he has no idea if a car costs $5000 or $20000. Finance... the simultaneously most useful and most annoying unit.

First, he sees a colleague he hasn't seen yet this week, and says hi... it's one he works with on drama productions, and they're friends. Amazing the number of people you work with that you really don't see on a daily basis, unless you chance to run into them in the office or something. He starts preparing the test by looking over one another colleague actually gave. Then decides he needs music. Back to the prep room - he's going in circles, and it's not my fault!

I'm sensing a lot of trouble coming from what will happen next.

He gets his laptop, which has good music. Decides to take a moment to check Twitter. Particularly interesting article talking about how False Memories Linger for Years. Reminds him of the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Retrospect" on a similar theme. Though in a more mathematical sense, maybe this explains why some math mistakes keep coming back? There's a false memory somewhere of that method actually having worked, even though it didn't? Quick scan through more articles. And now it's almost 5pm. He FINALLY starts pulling together the test. Sheesh!

Called it.

Music from a 'Dance Dance Revolution' mix plays as he writes up the test, then prints, then checks for accuracy and tweaks, and then an additional question is devised for the students to consider over the weekend, since there's more finance coming next week. Once all this is handled, it's 7pm, and photocopying still needs to get done since there won't be time for that in the morning if there's additional questions.


Copies made, he heads out, needing to stop by the store to pick up some groceries on the way. Having done this, it's back around the lovely traffic circle and heading home. Oh, also a deer (or something) is spotted near the side of the road, despite the darkness. So, wow.

Event Check: Home, 8pm

His wife made dinner last night, so his turn, and he'll be starting on that now. Excepting he hasn't done dishes since Sunday morning, and there isn't a large frypan available. So, multitasking doing the dishes while cooking dinner too. Also chatting with his wife about their respective days.

Dinner is ready a little after 8:30pm, and enough dishes are done to take them through to the weekend. (Maybe even to Sunday - seeing a pattern? Don't read too much into it.) Time to check email and another quick scan of Twitter before starting this post.

Which is shoved slightly into the background at 10pm, because he does online Roleplay on Wednesday night, and so for over an hour he's all about killing vampires or somesuch, while pretending to be a British person in New York. It's text based, not like those crazy MultiUserOnline things. And I guess I can't complain THAT much, because in a sense I'm also Roleplay.

The lines are blurring again. Must be late.

Yeah, it's actually just after midnight now. Good thing tomorrow's the last teaching day, with Friday being Professional Development. We'll see if our creator and math educator pulls through - more power to him. (Hah! Get it? More power, and I have powers on both of my variables? Because I'm a circle? ...feh, fine, whatever.)

Looks like tomorrow will be Tangent. Hm. Not what was expected.

Oh, and as before, Tina's roundup of other educator posts at her site, Drawing on Math: Day in the Life, Part 2

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Week as Math Educator - Day 2

My name is Para. I'm a quadratic. Obviously female, because one doesn't see a lot of XX representations out there that are male. Also a bunny girl, because of the way the ears curve. But I've covered this before. And you... you know this. You're the one who created me. I dare say I'm your favourite. That's why I'll be the one reporting for you... as we begin Day 2 of "A Week in the Life of a Math Educator".

Still no theme music, so here's the theme to our web series instead.


You had a nightmare last night; something to do with a crazy woman sending police after you. So you wake up at 6:40am feeling out of sorts, and (in my opinion) can be forgiven for staying in bed until the actual alarm goes off at 7am. This time news of strike action is the last story. Shower, dress, cereal for breakfast, check Twitter. Scan someone else's 'Day in the Life' but no time to read in depth.

Time check: 7:35

You go to get your lunch from the fridge, fumble and drop it on the floor. (I'm quadratic, I might have been able to calculate it's descent!) Fortunately, most of it stays in the tupperware, just a quick cleanup. About fifteen minutes later you say goodbye to your wife and head out. Driving, traffic circle, driving, and arrive at school.

Time check: 8:10

You forgot your nametag in the car (having forgotten to remove it at school yesterday), and double back to get it a few steps away from the school entrance. Passing colleague teases you about leaving already; cute. You have nice colleagues. You head through the prep room to drop off your jacket then on to the office.

Even though all your photocopying was done yesterday, you still need to check your mailbox this morning - yes, there's new items there, a notice for a student among other things. Back to the prep room to take care of some of that. You also chat briefly with someone. Then on to your classroom.

ASIDE: Hm, I'm starting to feel like the narrator of a "Choose your own Adventure". Except here, as reader, you actually have no choice. Well, there's the choice to stop reading - oh dear, I hope I don't make people stop reading!!

Time check: 8:25

You log in, you put solutions on the board for a couple of questions from the end of yesterday, and check email. You're still feeling a bit out of sorts this morning, but I don't think you let it show. Warning bell goes. The "get to class" music today... 'Requiem For a Dream' theme song. Brings to mind the following Anime Music Video.

A couple of students arrive to say they're on a field trip today and will be away. There's actually a number of absences today, and the student who suffered a death in the family last week still isn't back. Morning announcements time; the Day 1 crew call the viewers "wonderful people" and interview a teacher on staff who recently won a coaching award. There's also a penny drive starting. Well, Canada's not minting those anymore.

You also read an additional announcement that was left in your mailbox about the diversity club. Then the mathematics starts - Gr 11 Mixed in the Financial Unit, for any out there who didn't read yesterday. Incidentally, it's true that some time is lost to Announcements in Period 1 every day, but that means it doesn't tend to get hit with other interruptions - Period 2 might have it worse.

Time check: 9:10

Having given them time to work with the TVM solver again, you make an effort to summarize the finance unit regarding interest and annuities. You also mention down payments, which you left out yesterday, figuring there'd be time today now that the test is Thursday.

That throws them off - you help a number individually, then consolidate. Once all is said and done, the additional questions you'd devised will have to wait until tomorrow too, so they have another ten minutes to start looking at other review. Perhaps it's just as well - more of the class might be there Wednesday. (Though there have been two late arrivals since the initial bell.)  End period 1.

Time check: 10:00

Period 2, Gr 12 Data Management. A number are absent here too, owing to a different field trip. Last day of working with scatterplots and you're worried they haven't really been doing any work outside class. Check for questions about least squares and median-median line? One person with some questions, so you go there while the rest can look at the new 'residuals' information on the SmartBoard.

Then you're talking about residuals. You mention that based on seeing a residual plot, "a quadratic model might look best", so I feel like that's a bit of a shout-out to me... I haven't seen much action in your classes since last month, and even then it was the Grade 11s. I hope they don't forget about me. Sometimes I worry that students actively want to forget about me; a lot of them already call me 'difficult' even though I'm not TRYING to be a problem, really I'm not! I probably shouldn't worry. Though maybe I'm developing a complex. Or maybe it's just that my roots can be complex.

Ahh, sorry, where were we?

Residuals seems to be throwing this class off the same way down payments threw things off last period. Rather than continuing to talk about outliers, you pause for them to work more with it, and visit individually to address more questions. Regroup later. Then outliers, with the lesson adapted from Raymond Ho's presentation at OAME about three years ago. The students don't seem engaged, or is it that you're reading the room wrong?

You have a video for the end though, regarding extrapolation. Maybe that will hook them back. It's a quick clip related to North Carolina's attempt to outlaw non-linear models of sea rise, from last June 2012. Yes, that really happened. What's not happening though is proper video playback... as you fight with technology, you're going to run out of time for the entire clip. Yup, you do. This period was mistimed; only one student seems inclined to stay to see the end of the video.

Time check: 11:15

You're now feeling like the whole morning has been a bit of a flop. I think you're being too hard on yourself - things like this happen to everyone from time to time. You don't even entertain the thought of sugar coating this either, thinking maybe it's valuable that other teachers see a less than perfect day. You and I both know they're not about to laugh at us. Though I suppose casual blog readers might.

After you enter the attendance, a student from your afternoon class arrives early with questions in advance of the Exponential Task. Ooh, I should probably take a moment to explain Tasks. Even some teachers in your school aren't sure what is meant by that.

ASIDE: A test is a set of questions with answers, but not much in the way of open thinking questions, except maybe on the last page. A task is an open ended problem where there's no one right answer (or no one right method), students need to explain how they're tackling the problem.

You're rather pleased with the task you came up with, because you always feel like you're not very good at this sort of thing. Oh, can't link to it yet, since some students still need to write, but if anyone out there wants a copy, email! Suffice to say, it involves looking at a table and constructing an exponential equation. Then an equivalent one. Then another. Oh, and decimals are involved, which we hadn't directly dealt with in class. So tasks also involve a slightly new context. Cool, huh?

I think I got off track again. Sorry, sorry. ^_^

So you explain some stuff to this student, and another one also comes to do some studying. And then another. You DO need to drop something off in the office before the end of lunch, so sensing more will be incoming, you get them to a pause point, and you head to the office at 11:35. On the way back, you spin through the prep room to grab the slice of pizza you'd been saving for the end of the day (leaving lunch for later), as well as fill up a water bottle.

Normally, you wouldn't bother (like yesterday), but you'll be donating blood today, so you need to keep up your fluids. (Hence the no-longer-end-of-day pizza.) Colleagues are chatting about the mechanics of Friday's Professional Development day (self-directed due to the strike action) as you head back to the classroom.

There's about five students now, talking about the mathematics and even modeling one of Friday's homework questions on the SmartBoard, which you left on for them. This is slightly unexpected, but wonderful. It brings back some memories of the Math Club that you started last year, then gave up in September of this year in protest of Bill 115. Ahh, maybe you're getting a bit too emotional about it though - make sure you get some better sleep tonight.

You get about three mouthfuls of pizza, then are addressing more questions. At about 11:50, you allow students to start early if they wish. One does, others regroup. Things are now about to get a bit hectic.


It's shortly before the warning bell for Period 3. Pizza is left unfinished on your desk as you deal with some students wanting to start the task early, others just wanting their help sheets, and then there's the student who's been away for valid reasons for the last three days. You get him... two of the three necessary handouts, whatever happened to the last one? Sigh. Well, there's equivalent textbook work.

He's content to work on catching up now. However, the student who wasn't here yesterday, who also can use this period to make a help sheet, thinks she might as well just leave instead. Uh, no, even I'm aware it doesn't work like that. The other student who wasn't here that you spoke to at yesterday lunch also needs a blank help sheet, and the bell must have gone as other people are now needing the task. Right.

Time Check: 12:10

When the dust settles, one student is away (she told you yesterday), two students are working on catchup and help sheets, and one student left for a guidance appointment but didn't leave me a slip. So unless she returns, that's an absence, and we'll sort it out tomorrow.

They're now writing. You never feel like you can just sit at your desk and do work in a situation like this though; in particular you did that once last year and caught two students cheating but only after the fact. So you wander. And one student needs a calculator. Check that - three students need calculators. (Really? Students don't bring calculators to a math task?) You don't have three spare calculators, only one.

One student remarks on the graphing calculators that weren't returned after this morning's finance lesson. Good problem solving! Besides, the graphing capabilities really won't help them here unless they already know what they're doing. That dealt with, back to a bit of wandering. End up by the computer; as it's not projecting on the board, use the chance to check mail. Message from a student who was absent this morning; quick reply sent there.

A hand goes up. Circle the room while answering little questions. They seem to be getting it! Or at least recognizing the issue of the asymptote and initial value, if not necessarily dealing with them perfectly. You feel like this is more promising.

ASIDE: Me, I have mixed feelings. The class didn't do well on the Quadratics task back in September. A lot of them had false assumptions or made things out to be harder than they really were. So it's good to see that they're performing better here... but at the same time, this is Exponentials. Expona's already got a bit of a superior attitude. She outpaces me on the Cartesian Plane, she doesn't really need to do so here as well, does she?? Sigh. I guess people just prefer the bad girl to the bunny girl.

Halfway through the period, you give a time check. Hand out extra paper as needed. You could organize your desk, but don't want the shuffling of paper to disturb concentration, and eating your lunch would simply be rude. Mostly you're just tired at this point, having been on the go since something like 8am. There's some activity out in the hall, but there's also a VP there, so you leave it to them.

Time Check: 1:25

End of period, most have already handed it in, or do so now. Five still writing; you'll give an additional ten minutes then offer notes to get into their next period class. You feel a bit bad about this, but they could have started early, and it's not like the opposite hasn't happened (students arriving late to math class on account of other courses).

Once the last leaves, we're already in Period 4 - your prep period (which was right after lunch yesterday).  You head to the math prep room, toss pizza back in the fridge, and have some lunch.  It's 1:45pm.  Only one other person in there now too, so you boot up your computer and take a scan through Twitter while eating.

Time Check: 2:05

At this point, you would normally go to Study Hall, the location for students with absent teachers who have left work. But with the strike action, teachers aren't doing supervisions (or on-calls) - administrators have to hire supply teachers behind us on the first day of absence, rather than waiting for subsequent days. You indulge yourself another five minutes, then it's back to the classroom to tidy that desk.

You collate yesterday's assignments. Counting the people you've spoken to, that still leaves FIVE students who are now a day overdue. You make a note that you'll need to speak with them tomorrow. Today's tasks all seem to be there though, and you're reminded of the off-by-one count of help sheets, which now seems like it might have been a miscount.
Marking that's come in the last two days: 24+25 = 59 items
Marking that was supposed to come in and hasn't: 5+4 = 9 items
Marking that's still sitting in the backlog: 56 items. Some of it partially done.
Time available for marking: 0 minutes

Because you still haven't figured out what to do for your U level class tomorrow, or that test for Thursday. You finish straightening things up as a student pokes their head in and says 'hi'. You respond and, um, shouldn't they be in class? They remark that they got kicked out; after you get the whole story, you suggest the office as being a better location than a random classroom. Student heads off. That was peculiar.

You head to office, photocopy some handouts, return to the prep room, check voicemail, have some more water, and oh yes, visit the washroom. Time's up now - last bell rings, and a number of students are coming after school, some for help, some because they wanted to know their mark. You always tell them to see you outside class time for that, at lunch or after school.

It only seems to matter to them while in class though, because the only person to actually be there is one for math help. You talk exponentials with her; she seems to get it. You then end up talking a bit about math anxiety, tasks in general, and what the next strand will be.

ASIDE: You also ask how she feels about exponentials as compared to quadratics. She thinks, then says the quadratics, while the more difficult thing in Grade 10, don't seem as bad as the Exponentials. I'm blushing! She picked me! Maybe I do have some fans. But then, maybe it's just that she hates me less? Oh dear. Maybe I'm not so excited after all. I think maybe I do have a complex...

Time Check: 3:40

You start prep work for tomorrow... you're pretty sure you have a handout that will make things easy. Except you can't find one that includes solutions. You thought you had a version with solutions on it. So begins the hunt; it's not in the usual binders. Sudden insight! The College Technology course also includes Exponents!

Not there. But you find the handout that you'd been looking for two weeks ago; you adapted something else at the time. Looks like you may have to do so again, as this solutions handout you expected is nowhere to be found, and it's now less than an hour before you're donating blood. The clinic is actually being set up right at the school though, so not like you have to travel far!

You cobble something together to use tomorrow. Everything's now set there, but Thursday is a bit of a shambles... well, no time left. Back to the prep room, where three of your colleagues are also still there working. One of them is also teaching the Mixed 11 course, so you take some time to discuss where you're both at and where we're going, including setting a date for the Finance Summative. Off to donate blood now.

Time Check: 5:00

Last time you donated blood was the start of September, and there were actually a couple of students you knew through theatre who were there. This time, there's two teacher colleagues who are also donating. They come in a short while after you queue up, so again, about five minutes of marking is actually accomplished at school today.

You end up chatting with colleagues as you're processed through the system of blood testing and questionnaires and such. Mostly about the idea of a task and summative based on the new assessment and evaluation policies. Yes "the answer is 22x^2, suggest possible questions" is a valid form of math evaluation - though I'm not sure exactly how that would look in law or economics.

Brief sensation of lightheadedness partway through donating, but you focus on your shoes and it passes almost immediately. Probably a good plan to wait more than the recommended two months before next donation though. Always tend to need a tensor bandage to ensure the bleeding's stopped too. Another gentleman joins the conversation as we have cookies and pizza when it's all over, and there's a bit of discussion about who the new Ontario premier might be.


Time Check: 6:15

You elect to head home, rather than attempt to work more. You were tired at the start of the day, and losing blood didn't help. It's dark again by this time; home via the traffic circle again. You get home just after your wife. Have some crackers while checking email. With the arm bandaged, makes more sense to type rather than mark papers, or at least that's your excuse. (Personally, I think it's a valid reason, not an excuse.)

Time Check: 7pm

You decide to time shift to watch the Mercer Report right now (out of New Brunswick). For you Americans, he's sort of the Canadian equivalent of Jon Stewart, except he leaves the studio and his political satire isn't always as scripted. And he's once a week. For those who already knew this, @rickmercer notes on Twitter that this is the episode he wears tights and uses a chainsaw.

With that done, you decide to start in on this blog post. While alternately listening to the radio and songs on your computer. Which actually brings us along over 2 hours, to 10pm. (Your wife made dinner during this time, because she's wonderful.) So now you figure it's high time that at least SOME marking was accomplished today, after all, you saw those numbers earlier, right?

ASIDE: Now I feel like I've been a bit of a distraction. Again, I really do try not to be difficult!! Aw, you console me, and remind me that it was your decision to try and do this post all in second person. Plus if you weren't doing this, you'd be watching NCIS, thus just replacing one distraction with another. I'm reassured. Or maybe you're reassured. The lines are getting all blurry now.

Time Check: 10:55pm

Having done a little over half an hour of marking, you feel that's better than nothing. Quick check through Facebook and Twitter (vihartvihart's being vocal...), while Daily Show is on TV, before calling it a day again. That's it for me. If you stuck it out this long, I hope you enjoyed your time on this blog!



Back to first person - as I mentioned in my initial post, I'm changing perspectives daily. Tomorrow will be CONIC, third person, so choose either CIRCE (the circle) or ELLY (the ellipse).  Thursday will be TRIG, but again, you can comment to choose either SINE, COSINE (her twin sister) or TANGENT.  Friday I have something in mind.

Vote now!  (Vote often! I don't get many comments.)  Also feel free to join in on the fun with an entry of your own.  As I said yesterday, Tina has put up a data entry website here, and she has a roundup post of other days to this point.  Also search Twitter #DITLife, as I did yesterday.  Thanks for reading!

Monday, 12 November 2012

Week as Math Educator - Day 1

I've been having some strangely vivid/memorable dreams of late. Last night, it was me trying to sneak into a country with a jack o' lantern or something, which I naturally did by talking to people at customs. Meaning what, exactly?

I woke up this morning at 6:45am, fifteen minutes before my alarm went off.  Welcome, everyone, to Day 1 of "A Week in the Life of a Math Educator".

...I need theme music.


6:45am - Being awake, I sneak out of the bedroom (my wife's still asleep and doesn't need to go to work today) to check my email for any info about possible Strike Action in Ontario. (See yesterday's post regarding this.)

6:55 - Having checked email and Facebook, I now check out Twitter. @standupmaths is up to some new tricks.

7:05 - Actually go to shower, dress, and such things. Wearing black today. Decide on the Star Trek tie. No, the black one.

7:20 - Breakfast; bowl of cereal. Having already checked Twitter, follow some LinkedIn emails to threads.

7:30 - Teacher job action is the lead story on this radio station.  No mention of Prevention of Bullying week.

7:40 - I brush teeth, kiss my wife, head out fifteen minutes early. Radio stations now mostly talking, feel like music. Flip to my anime CD, hit random. Here's what I get. Sweet.

7:55 - Orleans Traffic Circle.
8:00 - Flip back to CBC News
8:05 - Arrive at school. Head to the prep room.

ASIDE: Math shares our prep room with Family Studies. It's a long, thin room with desks down either side, also with room for a small table near the sink and fridge.

8:06 - Brief commentary about me being in earlier than usual. One person even remarks that I'm not the only one, and was there a memo, or something? I make a quip and head to the main office photocopier.

ASIDE: Broadcasting students play music in the morning, heading to the office it's "I Wanna Dance with Somebody".

8:10 - Photocopy student solutions of the test I finished marking on the weekend to put together. Colleague comes, wonders about how long I'll be; not long. They copy as I splice things together, someone else comes.

8:20 - Head out, checking mailbox for any notices. Stop by prep room again on the way to class.

8:23 - In class, going to actually time how long for my computer to boot up.
8:23:15 - Switch on.
8:25:00 - Log in.
8:25:15 - Norton running. I hate it.
8:27:30 - I can finally open folders. (This is why we log in then go do something else.) I enter the marks for the recently corrected tests.

8:31 - Try to check my mail... system's running real slow. Oh, Norton's still busy with it's Startup Scan. Sigh.

8:35 - Warning bell. Respond to the 'hello' from first student in, head to the door to have a look at what's happening in the hall. The "get to class" music today... sax music. Alright.

8:37 - Student arrives, says practice went long, can she still go to her locker. I ask her to wait until after the next bell.

8:38 - Admin person walks by, remarks "it's still wrong". Teasing me about the correct answer to the math question posted on my door, which was different than what they worked out in detention last week. Heh. (Also, mental note, new week, put up the new question.)

8:40 - START PERIOD 1. My Mixed 11 class; 17 students. First, the playing of 'O Canada'. Hats off.

8:42 - Anthem over, I close the classroom door; TV's already on. "Laurier Live" broadcasting students have a self-described "Intense Morning Broadcast!" including a mustache special, and misinformation about strike action. Well, can't win 'em all - they got it from the media.

ASIDE: "Laurier Live" is on YouTube, but I hesitate to provide the direct link myself, just for privacy.

We're in the Finance unit now, so I have students check work with the TVM Solvers of the Graphing Calculators once Announcements are over. Which is good, as I now recall I didn't work out the next set of questions. I do this in time to give them to the student who has to leave at 9am.

Handout the next sheet to everyone even though only a couple probably ready for it. Students start asking me questions about it. (Yeah, I'll be talking about it, but it builds a bit on stuff that you still don't have finished from Friday so maybe do that first.)

Talk about the new sheet (Present Value of Annuities) from about 9:20 to 9:40, soliciting responses as I go. We're not ready for a test Wednesday (suspected as much from the start), so it'll be Thursday. Give them another ten minutes here to start the new work or ask questions about what we talked about.

Return the tests at 9:50, with five minutes left in the period. Gives me enough time to hit the main errors and tack up the solutions I copied that morning. Finish right at the bell. Timed it perfectly! Except didn't give time to retrieve the graphing calculators. Crumbs! Handed in on the way out.

9:55 - Period change. Take the opportunity to load up my SmartBoard lesson for next class. Use metre stick to turn on the projector that has no remote.

10:00 - START PERIOD 2. My Data Management 12 class; 29 students.

Start by taking in Media Assignments. I now have more marking piled up for this class than any other - need to put a dent into two sets of tasks and one test at some time today. Also need to go around and talk to students about their Summative Topic.

Give handout that goes with the lesson for them to work on while I check with students. Do half, then pop up the graph they need, then talk with the other half. One student is leaving for a few weeks, and has extra stuff to give me that we discussed previously. Another student arrives late at 10:30 for valid reasons.

About 10:30, start talking about the correlation coefficient and related items. Handout is corrected, other questions addressed, new questions given. Finished by 11:10 to deal with anything else. One student remarks on extrapolation, which, right, need to adjust something tomorrow. Another notes a few people will be away tomorrow for a field trip. Okay, I can work with this.

11:15 - End of class, start of lunch. Save the SmartBoard file to upload to the website; also need to enter Attendance.

11:20 - Get paged. Question from the office about a student; can be done over the phone, but I have to go there anyway to get some coloured paper that I forgot this morning. So I do.

11:25 - Head back from office to the prep room. Grab lunch from fridge to chat with colleagues. Some of them are in a lunch club where one person brings food for the group.

ASIDE: The staff room in the school is way off in the far corner by the gymnasium, so I don't go there much; nor I think so many other staff (aside from phys ed teachers).

People are a bit in and out at this point. Topics range from food to the weekend to the Remembrance Day assembly last Friday to, yeah, politics.

11:50 - I head back to my class to check my internal email (which I haven't done yet today) and to do attendance.

11:55 - Student from afternoon class drops by with some questions, she won't be there last period. We talk briefly.

12:00 - Back to email.


12:05pm - Warning bell for Period 4 (it's a day 2, afternoon switches).

ASIDE: This is my prep period. I could spend it in the prep room, but there's only two computers there, and my classroom isn't actually being used this period. (That's rare - usually another teacher would be in here.) So I stick around on this computer.

12:10 - PERIOD 4.  I poke my head out once to encourage students to be in class, then once again about 12:15 as I hear another teacher saying something similar.

Make the little change to my MDM lesson, now I need to plan a Finance summary for my period 1 based on what I saw this morning. I use some examples from a previous teacher of this course as a basis. (Did I mention I haven't taught the 11 Mixed before? Some similar material to other courses, admittedly.)

1:00 - I think I'm good to go for Tuesday now. Go to update the website with this morning's stuff and some homework in advance. End up putting the wrong stuff in the wrong course area. Fix it.

1:10 - Back to the prep room, where I can get my printouts. Also check my voicemail on the communal phone since no one's using it. No messages. Also visit the washroom.

1:15 - Can now start on marking... I have ten minutes left in my prep.

1:20 - Another teacher arrives (there's now four of us in there total), and we end up chatting briefly about Remembrance Day yesterday.

1:25 - Period change. I head to class. My University level 11 class; 29 students. Field a few questions before class even starts.

Some new work on the SmartBoard as I walk around to check on how things went with Friday's homework.  We're doing Exponentials, and I created the handout myself from pulling together a bunch of other sources; I'll try to include it here if anyone likes... uh... okay, think this failed. Email me if you want it.

1:50 - Regroup to talk about common problems, and to solve the new work on the SmartBoard. Ask for equations. Three separate students give three separate valid equations which is AWESOME, and an amazing starting point for conversation. Things going well especially as we're preparing for a Task tomorrow (an evaluation that's not a test).

Was going to intro word problems, then work on help sheets, but instead (about 2:10) launch from this into them writing up their help sheets. Sensed momentum. Regroup again at 2:25 for a bit of word problems. Student asks whether there's any supplemental questions. Right, the homework; give questions. Also say I'll be available from 11:50 tomorrow.

In last five minutes, as students are finishing the sheets and packing up, I remark on the medals a couple of the guys are wearing, as they won the football championship on Saturday. Yeah, they've been wearing them the whole period, only noticing now - I'm not the guy you want as dress code monitor.

2:45 - Last bell; school day over. Tally up; one student didn't give me their help sheet. Sigh. Will need to figure out who.

2:50 - Student returns to talk briefly.

3:00 - Have now done attendance and uploaded the day's lesson to my site. Get tomorrow's handouts together to photocopy.

3:05 - Care staff member comes to empty the trash. We chat briefly. She notices a Yop container left by a student, and I notice a muffin wrapper. Sigh. Into the trash. The down side of not sharing the classroom is I know it has to be someone I teach doing this.

3:10 - Back to the prep room. Again talk briefly with people there before heading to the office to photocopy.

3:15 - En route to office, see some teachers I know discussing political situation. Stop briefly to hear/join discussion. We stop as a student approaches from the hall to ask something, I continue on my way.

3:25 - Leaving office with necessary photocopies, and a student assignment left in my mailbox. Back to prep room; normally would hang around longer, but have a meeting to get to.

3:30 - In class, checked mail before shutting down computer; office message regarding the math contests running next week is good. Student sent a message - I reply quickly.

3:35 - Out to the car, just missed the 3:30 news. Catch the weather and traffic... apparently traffic is light, which is good news.

3:40 - Passing site of @174Sinkhole while listening to the radio. Is Kristina Maria getting playtime outside of Ottawa?

3:55 - Reach downtown for my meeting at least 10 minutes sooner than I expected, traffic really was light. Probably due to people in government not working owing to the Remembrance Day observation.

4:00 - In room for meeting, there's light refreshments. Realize I have had NOTHING to drink since a glass of water at 7:30am. (Tend not to remember at lunch.) Rectify that.

4:15 - Meeting starts. It's the local chapter of the Ontario Association of Mathematics Educators; I'm secretary.

4:45 - Meeting ends. Faster than I'd thought - plan had been to find somewhere to mark papers for an hour before meeting friends, but now I've got almost two. Decide to go home.

4:55 - Heading out of parking lot, MATH PARODY SONG COMES ON THE RADIO. Time to sing along!

5:15 - I get home. And it's dark now. I need my map light to scribble the math parody song into my notes of the day.


5:20 - I say 'hi' to my wife, take off my tie, drop my school keys, head into my office room to mark papers. Listen to the radio while I do so.

6:35 - Knock at our door. Helpful passerby noting that I left the map light on in my car. I'm a tool; I go to turn it off.

7:00 - Finish one of four pages of the set of tests. That took about 1.5 hours, which means about 3 minutes per student, which is a under a minute per question. (Though there WAS that five minutes from 1:15-1:20 also...)

7:05 - Check home email, and scan through Facebook mostly because I figure it'll be faster than scanning through Twitter. Someone's posted an article I flag to read later.

7:20 - Head out with my wife to meet with friends. We do this every Monday night; group of Shad Valley Alumni.

7:35 - Reach downtown venue of choice. Chat about life. Actually outside for longer than 2 minutes too; apparently a record high was set today. I can believe it.

8:50 - Depart downtown, head back home.

9:00 - Take out the trash for tomorrow. Go in to read that article I flagged earlier and check Twitter. Bunch of tweets about it too (comparison of East vs West Cultures in teaching). I retweet something about blogging.

9:30 - Start work on this blog entry.

10:00 - Start multitasking this Blog Entry with Canada's Worst Driver (Season 8). Wow, host actually swore (censored) at one point, but that did look damn scary.

11:00 - Change channels to The Daily Show, still multitasking.

11:30 - Finished. Now to post, and Tweet, and prepare for tomorrow.


As I mentioned yesterday, I'm changing perspectives daily. Tomorrow I'll be going Polynomial.  Wednesday will be CONIC, but I'll leave it up to those who comment as to whether you'd prefer:
 CIRCE (the circle) or ELLY (the ellipse).
Thursday will be TRIG, but again, you can comment to choose either:
 SINE, COSINE (her twin sister) or TANGENT.

Vote now!  (Vote often! I don't get many comments.)  Also feel free to join in on the fun this week with an entry of your own.

Tina has put up a data entry website here.
Also Prime Factors blogged today (faster typer than me...).  Until tomorrow!