Monthly Archives: August 2013

Rational Expressions – Count On It


Flipped Classroom – First Week as Department Chair

It hasn’t been a full week yet, but I’ve had a great time with my department!

This morning, at our morning meeting, most of them showed up wearing blue shirts and khaki pants!! Of course, this was the ONE day I didn’t wear my signature colors. How embarrassing.

But what an unbelievable surprise!! Thank you guys so much!! Here’s to a great year!!


Rational Expressions – One-Liner


Flipped Classroom – New Year’s Resolutions

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Well, this is officially my second year flipping (yes, I made that logo) and it’s time to make some changes – add some things, keep some things, and take some things away. While I wish I could say it was in the name of educational progress, I have to be honest and say that it’s because I get bored with my own curriculum after each passing year, and my own compulsive behavior forces me to change it.

Firstly, this year will already be different since it is my first year as Math Department Chair. I’ve already been experiencing a lot of the stress (and I stress “stress”) associated with that, even though the stipend doesn’t kick in until this month’s paycheck. The added DC responsibility means that I am only teaching 4 out of 7 periods instead of my normal 5 out of 7.


Another change for the school this year is that all students have been issued iPads, and the expectation from above is that teachers will be finding ways to incorporate them into their daily activities … frequently. My principal gave an analogy: “It’s like when I give my son the expensive skateboard he’s been wanting – I tell him that I had better see him using it a lot!!” I think that’s reasonable, and I’m actually quite excited about the possibilities!


  • Room Layout – I absolutely love the changes I made to the layout of my room: my desk against the wall, student tables in groups of four, and blank walls that will eventually display their work. Unfortunately, my class now needs to hold 32 kids instead of 28, so it will be slightly less spacious. I may have to lose some weight to get around the room, but I should probably do that anyway.

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  • Raw Hundo Club – I also love the “Raw Hundo Club”, a series of framed pictures of those students who achieved perfect scores on assessments before the scores had been curved. It reinforces my message that while perfection is not a reasonable goal, it’s something that needs to be recognized when it happens.


  • Overview Day – At the beginning of each unit, I will introduce the topic in a very general way, and students will spend the rest of the day researching that topic, finding out as much as they can on their own. Then they will share their findings as a class, prompting questions that will guide the curriculum from that day until the day of the test. This will give students complete ownership of the day-to-day calendar so that the learning is their own.
  • Recap at Start of Class – By popular request, I will be providing a summary of the previous video at the beginning of each class, not by lecture, but by way of a more challenging question that they try on their own and discuss together.


  • iTunes U – For my seniors, along with the website that stores all videos and video checks, they now have the option to follow the curriculum through an iTunes U course that I created over the summer. It’s a lot like the website, but more iPad-friendly. (Plus, it allowed me free use of a MacBook Pro over the summer, which is much nicer than my clunky old Dell.) Also, the videos are all my own now. (Sorry, TMatsu131, we had a good run.)
  • Flip Mastery – This means I will be using the Flip Mastery model with my seniors. Hopefully this approach will get them ready for college next year. (They were epitomic “last minuters” last year, and hopefully that will change when they see all that is required of them as IB seniors this year.)
  • Flip Discussion – With my underclassmen, I will use the Flip Discussion model, allowing their discussion to drive the curriculum instead of using my own calendar. I noticed that my students loved to talk and argue last year, so hopefully this will channel that gift in a more meaningful direction.
  • Alternate Assessment – Also for my underclassmen, I also plan on providing alternate assessment opportunities for those who don’t want to take a paper-and-pencil test. I was going to create a menu of options, but, to make it even more student-directed, I will allow students to tell me how they wish to be evaluated. (Obviously, I will have to approve each idea beforehand, otherwise I may get a lot of Play-Doh “masterpieces” that are worth less than the tub in which they came.)



  • Busywork/Tedium – Worksheets, definitely no more worksheets. While I agree that students need practice, and I should give them resources for practice upon request, I am not requiring all students to do the same set of questions, especially since some of them don’t need as much practice as others. Instead, I will give chapter reviews at the beginning of each unit, so that they can struggle with how to solve tough problems without having all of the information and/or strategies yet. “Intentional withholding of information,” Dr. Ramsey Musallam called it. And of course, the solutions to those reviews will be provided eventually.
  • I think the whole “this-is-how-to-do-it-so-do-it-with-these-examples” idea will be gone from my classroom activities. My videos definitely cover the basics of each concept, but the next day, they will have to incorporate other prior knowledge along with what they just learned in order to solve problems. They just won’t know ahead of time what prior knowledge they will need. It sounds evil, which I like, but it actually helps them.

  • This notion was reinforced in me when my flight got canceled and I was stuck overnight at the airport, in a strange city, with my two boys, and my wife already in the air on a flight that did not get canceled. Under the pressures of not knowing where I was, a crying two-year-old, a fast and curious eight-year-old, and no one manning the information booths at the airport, I had to do my best. And I did okay, despite not having watched a “how to find quick inexpensive accommodations in a strange city for yourself and your two sons” video. (There is no such video, by the way.)

In summary, the concepts of creativity and critical thinking will play a strong role in my class this year, because they are truly important. But more importantly, I will be focusing on fostering curiosity in students and building strong relationships with them. I started this last year, with overwhelming success, and if it’s possible to have an even better year than that – for them, not me – well, it’s worth every ounce of effort I can give, every single day.

Rational Expressions – Blaise of Glory



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