Blog Archives

Day 12: First FRAPPY of the year

Today I introduced the FRAPPY process to my new AP Statistics students.  The term FRAPPY is an acronym for Free Response AP Problem – Yay!  and was initially introduced to the AP community by Jason Molesky on his website StatMonkey.


Since this strategy has been a major part of my APS course, the writing and resilience of my students has massively improved.  Check it out when you have a chance!



Day 170: Summer Dreamin’

I’m noticing that my posts are getting shorter and shorter.  It’s not that I don’t have a lot to say, it’s just there’s so little time to give to all of the things I want to do.  With spring weather here, I want to ride my bike on the week-ends, walk my Harvey-dog, read books, make cards, grow vegetables, and do all of those things that rejuvenate my teaching spirit.

I so value the reflection that blogging has helped me achieve this year!  It continues to be a great sounding board.  I shared my blogging goal with my end-of-year evaluation meeting and my supervisor was stunned that I had kept up with it DAILY for the WHOLE year.  I’m pretty amazed as well.  Although at times (like right now) I feel swamped, like a moth to a flame, I also am drawn to write something reflective.  So what could that be?


One of the things I do about this time of the year is think about what I can get done in the summer.  Maybe I should re=phrase that; what I want to get done in the summer.  Here are some questions to ponder:

  • Plan/organize my room (will it be a new room with windows or my current room with no windows?  how will I make it more inviting to kids without windows?  How will I keep my sanity?)
  • Think about my courses: what works, what needs tweaking, what needs to be let go, what needs to be added?
  • Think about our department SIP goal of retention: what needs to be retained, should I think in a SBG way, how will I address those missing/weak skills withing the already crammed curriculum, can GradeCam and/or Navigator help?
  • How will I organize for the Comprehensive Evaluation next year so that I cover my bases, collect evidence and data, and genuinely use the experience to inform my practices?
  • Can I develop a community outreach component to my AP Stats program?  What would it look like, who should I talk with, when should I start it, how will I get community contacts?

Just like going to a 4-star restaurant, my eyes are bigger than my stomach.  My plan folder is getting jam-packed with this ideas to think about, that book to read, new techniques to incorporate next year…  And when summer actually arrives, I find I haven’t mastered the balance of rejuvenation time, family time, me time and school planning time.  Maybe this year will be better.

Day 163: Online Collaboration

Isn’t the Internet amazing?!  How did we ever live without it?  Between email, Twitter, Pinterest, and other social media connections, it feels like we have an electronic faculty room at our fingertips where we can get and give ideas, inspiration while collaborating with people you actually haven’t met face-to-face.

One satisfying electronic collaboration experience that happened just this week was when some teachers emailed me about doing the Hot Air Balloon Project (more info about this in the next couple of days) that I presented in October to our Regional Math Conference.  I can’t wait to hear how the experience goes for these other teachers.  Here are some snippets of converations:

Thank you so much for sharing all of this balloon project material.  I have one more question… The tissue paper I have is 20”x20”.  If the kids make gores that are 60 to 80” in length and end up with a smaller balloon, do you know if it will have trouble flying?  Have you had kids make balloons that don’t have enough volume so they don’t fly?



I have always had them be around 3 feet tall as per advice from the original author of this project….the balloons need enough hot air to lift the weight of the tissue and if they get too much smaller than 3 feet, they don’t have enough lift (good ol’ physics at work!).  My students have always had to glue together 2-3 sheets of tissue to make the panels long enough to fit the gore pattern, thus the gluing tutorial. I would suggest making the balloons near 3 feet tall.  On the other end, if they get much taller than 3.5 feet, the weight of the tissue paper becomes an issue again, so the precision of measurements as well as the scaling of the pattern are crucial…good real-life lesson as well.

Best of luck


That is so helpful!  These are the kind of things that you hate to learn at the end of the project when no one’s balloons are flying.  I’ll let you know how it works.  This is such a fun way to end the year, thank you for presenting this last fall.


And then…

I saw your presentation at the NWMC and was interested in doing the hot air balloon project you presented. I know you had a packet and I think a video that showed the balloons being launched.  Could you please direct me or perhaps email me the packet and the link to the video?


I am also trying to occasionally comment on other peoples’ blogs.  Reading and commenting was a suggestion put out there by the MTBoS (Math Twitter Blogosphere) and so I’m trying it out!  I haven’t yet put my name in as an “official blogger” #chicken  #wobblyknees.  I’m still getting comfortable with my “public” writing.: am I really worthy and do I really have anything worth saying that others would find worth reading?  Maybe I’ll take the plunge soon.  It might actually increase my comments and hits.  Am I ready for that?!

comment on post

As we draw close to the end of the year (not really, but I’m dreamin’ sunny days and cool breezes!), I find I have to adjust almost daily what the timeline will be.  I want my students NOT to feel the stress and strain on the time we have left before the end of the year.  We have so many 30 minute periods and assemblies and….

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Day 134: Learning from Our Mistakes

Yup, today I needed to get caught up with grading.  There are times when I like to grade tests, especially when I believe students know the concepts and are well practiced in the skills.  I felt this way for the Two Sample Inference test I gave to my AP Stats kids.

So, some background.  The previous test on One Sample Inference was particularly tough for them.  Lots of types of errors as they took the test: misunderstanding vocabulary around decision errors, wrong process, incomplete condition checking, poor conclusion writing, and the biggest contributor to their poor performance – multiple choice.  I find this is true every year despite tweaking, changing, overhauling the experiences every year.  Still have not found the “Golden Lesson Plan” for this unit.  I’m almost resigned to the fact that “mistakes lead to deeper learning.”  Well, students make lots of them in this first attempt at hypothesis testing.

So in anticipation, I have a test correction opportunity ready with a large reflection component.  Below are a few of my students’ reflections.

Test Corrections

I was particularly struck by the continued reflection “I didn’t read the problem carefully” or its cousin, “I didn’t read the entire question.”  Anyone with ideas about how to help students with this?  I have tried to blend in practice during the unit (mostly as Openers) but I think the pressure of the test environment plays a big role.

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I am always enlightened by what students say about their errors.  And their reflections.  They are usually honest, and as the year has progressed, they are becoming more specific and reflective about their mistakes.

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How does this play into today’s post, you ask.  Well, because of (I believe) my students’ reflections and corrections on the previous test, these much more challenging questions were met head-on and generally conquered by all!  Sure made grading easier.  I also chose to use actual AP questions this year and used the grading rubric to assess responses.  I was a little more strict on certain aspects of the responses since this was not a cumulative assessment like the AP exam.  But the performance by ALL of my students improved to the point of no D’s and no fails.  YAY!

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There is still much work to do on the Multiple Choice aspect of the test.  This is where students continue to struggle.  I also gave a Midterm that was 30 multiple choice questions, mostly from 3rd quarter with 5 previous semester questions sprinkled in.  I used GradeCam to assess the results.  It is very apparent that when we get back from break, we will be doing daily MC questions.

How do you prepare your students for multiple-choice questions?  Do you have any activities or experiences or advice that would help me help my students become better MC question takers?


Day 132: My Twitter Trembles

Guess what?!  An old dog CAN learn new tricks!  I’ve been teaching way north of 30 years, but I’ve always prided myself about keeping current, especially with technology.  Yet I have to say, these last 5 years, with social media and phone apps seemingly taking over our lives, I’ve begun to feel like I’m missing out on connecting with this new generation of teachers, and students.  I do not have a Facebook account (but lurk behind my hubby’s account – aren’t I pathetic?!), but I did start a Pinterest account about two years ago (at the urging of another teacher friend) and really love the anonymity and ease of access.


But, try as I might to understand and use Twitter as a PD source and to connect with educators around the globe for the last two years, I’ve felt my age.  While at the TI 2013 conference, I attended a PD that encouraged us to sign up for Twitter and gave us the basics (and I mean basics).  Since then, I just couldn’t seem to understand how to follow conversations and was deathly afraid to post.  I didn’t even know what some of the abbreviations (like DM and #stuff) meant.  I’d even attended the Twitter for New Users meeting groups at various conferences.  Once again, I was a lurker on Twitter, a wall flower watching everyone else seeming to have a great time.

So I decided late last  year that I really wanted (needed) to figure Twitter out.  I connected with our Technology TOSA, pleading with him to help me get into the Twitter world. He has really helped me get a sense of what is going on without making me feel my age.  I pinned a lot of sites about using Twitter in the Classroom/School in Pinterest to at least get more familiar with the lingo (and this helped me understand how not having the right words can be a barrier to access).  I practiced at a conference posting and such.  Still had trouble following conversations or finding posts I wanted to see again, but my Tech TOSA hung in there with me.Tweet

This year I posted photos of sessions I attended at our regional conference, learned how to hashtag (although I’m still learning to attach the #name to the conversation).  And I actually joined my first chat group called #Statschat.  Because of this risk-taking, I’m connecting with people who write impressive blogs (that I’ve followed for years).  When I was having trouble with one of the Geogebra pages I wanted to use with my kiddos, I contacted the original author @giohio via Twitter and he had it fixed within an afternoon.  This evening I’ve been collaborating with another AP Stats teacher about a great graphic he’s putting together to connect hypothesis tests with the sampling/experimental method.  It has been a kick.  And I’m glad I stayed tenacious about learning this new medium for collaboration.

What risks have you taken this year to improve or grow your professional life?

Day 91: Fresh Start

We are starting the new semester today, as many schools around the country are.  The kids seem relaxed and ready to go after their finals experience.  In AP Statistics, I didn’t have time to assess on Sampling Distributions, so the students agreed to put off the exam until after finals…great to have student voice in some decision making (also gave me time to write the assessment – haha).  So today we reviewed the key similarities and differences in sampling distributions for proportions and means via a graphic organizer.  I thought about making a foldable to fit the information, but I wasn’t sure I’d get the biggest bang for my time, since classes were only 30 minutes long on this first day.  So we wrote it out together and it seemed it went well.  I even had a student say that “it finally clicked!”  Fresh starts and rested minds are something to behold!

20150127_064645I am also thrilled that I have been keeping up with the premise of the blog 180 idea.  Some days I get behind, but I usually use the week-end to catch up.  Of course the end of the semester caught me, so I have some back-filling to do.  I love the documentation, but I haven’t used the blog as a consistent reflection tool.  Typing out all of my thoughts tends to take me a long time, as writing isn’t my strength.  I did get Dragon, a speech-recognition software by Nuance. for Christmas, and I’m really excited to try it out.  I believe talking out my thoughts rather than typing might result in some deeper reflection.  But I haven’t installed it yet as we may be getting new school computers and I don’t want to waste my software license.


Day 27: Making Answer Keys


One chore in teaching is making the keys.  It gives me a sense of how long an assignment is going to take students and also if the questions are really getting at the learning I intended.  I also include QR codes periodically so students can scan with their phones to watch an informational video to supplement the concept or process presented.  May need to poll my students to see if they ever actually use them.

Ground 0 (or should I say Day -11?)

Yes, it’s true and I can hardly believe my boldness!  I grabbed my Venti Skinny Decaf Nonfat Latte this morning (my hubby calls it the “why bother” latte) and I noticed the Oprah coffee-sleeve quote was “Your life is big.  Keep reaching.” So I’ve decided to reach and stretch by try this “blogging” thing in what I consider a non-threatening way…. following the prescription of Blog 180 bloggers everywhere: posting a picture and/or comment a day.  I’ve done this in my “other,” non-teaching life via ProjectLife, so this will be my ProjectTeach. I’m almost certain this approach will work for me because I believe in the idea of reflecting daily on how things went in class and I’m motivated by the ongoing commitment to post daily (I do better when I have a schedule, don’t you?).  I try to be a reflective person , but I’m intrigued with the idea of having a running public journal of my daily thoughts.  So thanks to all of you bloggers (see my Blogroll) who have been my inspiration over the last few years!  I’m at ground 0 and blasting off to new heights in my teaching career.  Are you ready to take the plunge, too?


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