Sunday, February 24, 2008

Running the Numbers

I came across this website from the blog of another Bay Area math teacher. Students (and Americans in general) have a hard time conceiving what large numbers actually represent. The numbers get so huge that eventually there's no difference in our minds between a million and a billion. Congress approved another million for whatever? Why not a billion? The impact of poor number sense has a huge impact on this country.

The pieces on this website, besides being aesthetically, offer concrete representations of statistics that are difficult to connect with. I'm hoping to bring this into my class somehow when we do scientific notation in April. I can also see the benefit everywhere from elementary school when kids are learning large numbers for the first time all the way up through college level statistics classes. It's never too early or too late to develop a strong number sense--and a strong sense of social justice.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Best Year Ever

It's pretty disappointing that I'm only at Stanford for one year. I really love it here and I hate that in June I'll no longer be a student here. It's hard to take advantage of all the traditions, etc. in only 12 months. However, I also feel fortunate that the 2007-2008 school year ended up being my year of choice. Stanford won Big Game, our basketball team is ranked in the top 10, and now they just announced a commencement speaker who overcompensates for the fact that I missed Bill Clinton at Michigan last year.

So maybe my friend Andrew (quoted in the article) isn't too excited, but other reactions from my friends have been sufficiently appreciative:
"I think that just bringing couches to jump on while proclaiming our collective love for Katie Holmes might be fitting."
"Oh, and you think she'll hook us up with Jobs in her school in South Africa?"

If nothing else, it's pretty much guaranteed to be better than the Oprah Show taping I saw that was all about people who are addicted to plastic surgery. Or maybe that'll be the topic of her commencement speech. Hard to say.

Friday, February 15, 2008

End the Trend

Obviously there is a generational gap between me and my students, so of course there are things they do that I just don't understand. I try not to judge because really what's to say that their music is better than mine or their slang makes more sense than what I grew up with? However, trying not to judge just isn't enough when I see some of the stupid stuff they wear. Here are some of the top fashion trends that are long past their prime.

3. Sweatpants over jeans. This is a female thing, and I don't get it. I understand wearing sweatpants over, say, shorts because it might be too cold to wear shorts. Sweatpants over something indicates to me that you're planning to change later, probably for sports. But jeans? Are jeans too formal for school that you need to dress them down by covering them with sweatpants? And don't they get hot?

2. Tags left on your clothes. Okay, I get it. You spent a ton of money for your Sean John hoodie and your RocaWear cap. You didn't buy fakes and you want everyone to be clear on your disposable income level. But leaving the tags dangling off your pants and the stickers still on your cap? It looks like (1) you forgot to cut the tags off or (2) you're planning to return your clothes at the end of the day. And maybe you are. That's cool too, but I wouldn't go advertising it.

1. Grills. This is one that I really really want to let slide. I understand that kids do/wear stupid things that they will later look back on shamefully (and what fits more squarely in that category than fake gold teeth?). I sympathize; I wore slap bracelets and flannel (not at the same time, of course--that would've been unfashionable). But what I can't handle is the way the kids treat their grills like retainers. They play with them with their tongues, pushing them around their mouths. And even worse is when kids take them out and "store" their grills behind their ears. Really, you're hanging something over your ear and then putting it back in your mouth? Gross. And unattractive.

Sorry kids, youthful innocence has its limits.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Feasible Region

Me: "When we graph an inequality, what does this shaded part of the graph mean?"
Student: "Those are the points that make the inequality is true."
Me: "Who remembers what we called that area the other day?"
Other student: "Feasible region."
N. (yes, the same N. whose mom I met with last week): "Feasible... Feeeasible... I like that word.

Later in the period, something surprised N. His reaction: "What the feasible?!"


Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Long Ago and Far Away

It was one thing when February was blazingly hot and I was living in Australia or New Zealand. The heat felt weird in the middle of what should have been winter, but at least I could attribute my confusion to living in the opposite hemisphere.

Now it's February once again and Michigan is below freezing and covered in snow. I'm sitting outside sunning myself in 65 degree weather. Considering that I'm back in the northern hemisphere, all I can seem to attribute it to is that I've picked a better place to live.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Parent Teacher Conference

Starting last week I officially took over teaching one of our classes full time. This means that I am now responsible for everything from planning to grading and, perhaps even scarier, my CT is no longer in the room with me. Needless to say, the students have been testing me and I've had some pretty rough days. Yesterday I was fed up (again) and I said that the next person to get sent out of the room was getting sent to the counseling office with a referral. N., who I had already told multiple times during the period to stop talking and go back to his seat, got up to pull down the window shade and when it wouldn't go, he started banging it against the wall. I sent him out, feeling completely guilty because he wasn't being that "bad" and I was really just making an example of him. Fortunately for my conscience and unfortunately for everything else, my guilt was quickly relieved when he yelled "This is hella gay!" as he stormed out.

Then the fun part: Last night I got an email from my CT saying that the 9th grade counselor had called N.'s mother and she would be coming in this morning to meet with me. My CT wouldn't be there, and the counselor would only be there part of the time--they felt it would be a good time for me to establish myself as the teacher. Great.

Why do parents scare me so much? I told myself over and over that this was the perfect opportunity to get N. back on track--he's a super-smart kid, but his grades have been slipping because he goofs off all the time and doesn't get his work finished. Parents invariably want their kids to succeed, which is the exact same thing I want for them. We're on the same team, so why the fear? I guess it's hard to feel like I have much of value to tell a parent when I'm closer to their child's age than to theirs, and when I don't feel like I have any expertise in the first place.

Of course the meeting went well. N.'s mom never questioned my judgment or what I was telling her about her son. It was not the first time a teacher had told her that he talks too much in class. We both focused on how when I tell him to do something, it's because I'm trying to help him, so he needs to accept that help. I made sure to bring up the many things that I like about N. (and I think his mom was pleased to hear that). Everything centered around how we could support him. It was all very textbook.

N. was awesome in class today. The true test for him will be to see if it lasts. But the true test for me will be to see if how much I freak out next time I have a parent meeting.