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!


  1. The outside perspective made this fun to read, and you still had a busy day! Hope that grading gets done magically overnight.

  2. Two bizarre dreams/nightmares in a row? Yikes? That can't help with feeling rested when you wake up.

    That's another long day. How you managed to get until a bit before two without eating is beyond me. The marking seems to be piling up, but that might just be me.

    And, is that a watercolour of Para?

    My votes are Circe and Tangent. :)

  3. @TinaC : Thanks! Was vaguely worried that people would find it confusing, and be annoyed by the Asides.

    @ScottD : I think that's partly why I was a bit out of sorts. And not actually eating or drinking until late in the day isn't so unusual. The marking though... it is piling a bit, number of units recently done/finishing. Probably have to use the weekend to fix that.

    I commissioned the watercolour. *^_^*