On my bike ride to work today I was thinking about the quote by Bob Dylan, “A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.” So then I asked myself, “What do I want to do today?” I decided that what I didn’t want was to spend all day inside. Continue reading

# Problem Solving

# Bare Bones Lessons: Paper Airplane Competition

We have three weeks left and my three Algebra 1 classes and I are working on a statistics project to finish off the year. More on that here. To learn about some of the stats concepts, I decided we would hold a paper airplane competition. The idea was that they would make planes that fly straight and far, we would take them outside, and throw them along a given line. It was to be a competition between my three classes. The first problem was to figure out how to make and throw the best airplanes for the competition, the second problem was to figure out which class won. Simple right? Continue reading

# I’m Fried. Here’s Some Circles.

It’s the middle of May and I feel fried to a crisp. Like bacon, or fakon, or sopapillas, or beignets, or churros. I have done some research and have found that I am not the only teacher who feels this way. My students, most of whom hated school to begin with, are right there with me, and sometimes against me. I could go on and on about this but that’s what happy hour is for. Instead, I need to write about something that reminds me why I am teaching. I could talk about in-roads I am making with kids in really tough, sometimes dark situations, but let’s keep it light-hearted today and talk about something less important but fun. Here’s a math lesson: Continue reading

# Ramping Up the Inquiry

Is real inquiry-based learning possible in a ninth grade algebra class full of struggling learners? If so, what does it look like? Is it rigorous? Can you cover the content?

Here are my quick answers to the respective questions: Of course it is; See below; Yes and schools don’t understand the meaning of rigor (more on that in a future post); Don’t care.

For the past 5 or 6 weeks my algebra 1 kids and I have been working on a project about the X-Games. Specifically we have looked at skateboarding and mega ramps. I chose this project because I currently teach in a school that has a set curriculum and I have to teach quadratics right now. Since the real world application for quadratics has to do with things being launched in the air, I thought the kids could explore ramps and think about what it would mean to bring the X-Games to our town. Continue reading

# The Death of Math Class

One of my principals asked me once what I thought we should do about the math department and how we could improve math education at the school. My response was pretty quick and seemed to make him leery of taking me seriously, but I wasn’t joking. My two cents? “Get rid of math class.” He didn’t ask why I thought that, nor do most people when I say it. Sometimes I tell them anyway. Now I’m telling you. Continue reading

# Bare Bones Lesson: Marionettes!

This was apparently a math problem given to a third-grade class either for test-prep or an actual test. It came up on a Facebook group that I belong to:

Jessica has a 45-inch-long piece of yarn. She cuts it into a number of 4-inch pieces. She has 13 inches of yarn left. How many 4-inch pieces does she cut?

Which equation can be used to solve the problem?

a) 45 – 13x*n* = 4 b) 45x*n* – 13 = 4 c) 45 + 13×4 = *n* d) 45 – *n*x4 = 13 Continue reading

# Cutting Up Your Melon

A couple of years ago, we had some friends over for dinner and I was cutting up watermelon for a recipe. While doing so, I thought of a math problem and posted it on Facebook. It went like this: A recipe calls for 4 cups cubed, seedless watermelon. I am trying to double the recipe and am having trouble getting cubes out of the watermelon pieces. What is the best way to cut 1/2 inch cubes so that I use as much of the watermelon as possible? For simplicity’s sake, go ahead and assume the watermelon is a perfect ellipsoid. Continue reading

# Box Spring Problem

Everyone knows, deep down in their gut that math teachers are liars. We tell you that solving bullshit ‘real world’ problems in a textbook will somehow help you in life. When pressed about how the specific problems or the techniques given in the chapter will ever be useful, we say stuff like, “it’s good for developing problem solving skills.” Or, “math will help you be ready for all kinds or real challenges.” No one believes us and that is why they would rather tag our desks than factor special polynomials. Real problem solving happens everyday, regardless of someone’s grade on that polynomial quiz. Here is an example from my world this past week. Continue reading