Thursday, January 31, 2013

Quotes of the Week [QOTW]

Have your students said something that completely moved you?
Was it insightful?
Was it relative?
Was it an epiphany?
Was it a proclamation?
Ok, let's not get carried away.

I hope you know what I'm talking about. Those comments become even more powerful when students see you acknowledge them and they didn't even think you were paying attention. I'm talking about those insightful things students say while they're collaborating with their peers, discussing solutions, or completing tasks. They blurt out something that catches you off guard (in a good way). The first semester has come to a close and I'm reflecting on student quotes. Quotes of the week: QOTW.

My students have said some great stuff and I was lucky enough to start telling myself to capture it on our front whiteboard. Why are there so many opportunities to hear what they say? Because we do a lot of group work and collaboration so they're bound to say something sensational. It's not about me. It's about them. They don't think I'm listening, but I am.

There's a section now carved out on my whiteboard for student quotes. It happened out of happenstance. This wasn't planned. I didn't find this idea somewhere on the wild internet (although it'd be cool if someone started a site for student quotes). A couple of students said something toward the beginning of the year and I wrote it on the board to share with all my classes throughout the day. They went nuts. Students were quoting the quote. I snapped a picture of it to make room for the next big quote and away we went. I'd like to share some of my favorites with you as I shared them with my students today.

"There has to be an easier way!" This is the one that started it all! In response to solving a weekly PS (Lucky 7’s) given to me by Fawn Nguyen, a group of students was filling their pages with numbers as they worked through exponential rules. Shawn continued the pattern for a long time on his paper, badly wanting to figure out the nth term in the pattern, lifted his head and let out this gem. The rest is history.

"Do it really neat so no one writes any bad stuff." After getting our new whiteboards and whiteboarding for a few days, students walked the room dishing out some harsh criticism to each other and their work. After addressing this criticism with them, students realized the importance of keeping their work clean, organized, and neat. Before beginning their task, Will verbalized his desire to be neat as to motivate his group. Good idea!

"We're actually learning." Yes, girls we’re actually learning. That’s because you’re actually thinking on your own while exploring math and not being told some procedure to regurgitate back to me. This was the result of my geometry class exploring parallel and perpendicular lines in a coordinate plane. These two girls were struggling for a day or two without any intervention from me and on the third day they had their shining moment. 

"That's upsetting me!" A quote is only as good as the context that goes with it. If you look at this quote, it could be your typical math student after doing the typical math question, resulting in typical frustration. However, Elle was working with her group on my Transversals, Tape, and Stickies task where they were given limited clues and had to identify twelve angles created by three intersecting lines. The bell rang and as she was heading back to her desk, let this one rip. She wanted resolution and was upset she didn't complete her task before leaving for the day. She came in the following day and conquered it with her group! Tenacious!

"Is that the opposite of PEMDAS?" In solving equations using inverse operations, James asks if the procedure is basically the opposite of PEMDAS (order of operations). Why, yes James it is. This was an "a-ha" moment for him. I couldn’t let this one escape.

"I plugged mine in. It worked! It's ALIVE!" You know those stories where someone says, "You had to be there." This is one of those stories. Elijah was checking his answer to an algebraic equation. Sure he could've just got a number for his answer and stopped, but he didn't. This is Elijah plugging in and verifying that his answer is the only solution. His excitement that the solution worked is hard to capture with an EXPO marker, but he took on the persona of a mad scientist, a la Frankenstein. I didn't write it on the board, but his "It's ALIVE!" was followed by "MWOOHAHAHA!" I love it!

"That doesn't make any sense." Another quote that could be any math student at any time. We've all been there. We've all heard this before, but what's the story here? Sierra said this after doing her calculations for our Stacking Cups task. She received some weird number of cups to stack as tall as Mr. Stadel. She immediately points out to her group that it doesn't make any sense. I love how students might be getting numbers, but they're checking those numbers for reasonableness before applying them. Back to the drawing board she went.

"We're demanding more information." The classic case of eating your own words. This past week we were exploring both Fawn Nguyen's and Dan Meyer's infamous Graphing Stories. All my classes began asking for more information as we progressed through Dan's videos. I continually praised them for demanding more information. We were working on the MARS lesson "Interpreting Distance-Time Graphs" I stole from Fawn and the students wanted more information as they wrote a story for Tom. I repeatedly refused any help by saying, "no" or "be creative" or "use the information on the page." Sean quickly replied, "But, Mr. Stadel we're demanding more information." You got me Sean! He practically jumped out of his seat when he saw me writing his quote on the board. FUN, right?

Expect a blooper's reel when doing this. you'll have the clowns that want to force something or think they're saying something sensational. That's my George. "I like colors." I don't think so George. You can stop now.

I can't make this up. I'm not paying my students to say this stuff. It's not contrived. It's natural. It's authentic. This board reminds my students that I'm listening. The more I can capture these and write these up, I believe the safer it is for my students to take risks, share their thoughts, and explore math. It's all them, but remember every quote has a story. So keep listening!


Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tip Jar

Vimeo has a feature where their users can add a "Tip Jar" option to a video. Yes, viewers and users on Vimeo can monetarily tip other users to show their appreciation for a video. Today, I activated that on most of my videos.
I started typing this blog giving some examples in life where I gladly tip, reluctantly tip, and refuse to tip specific services in life. I changed my mind as I'm not here to cause waves, offend people, or get into an argument about tipping when the decision to tip a service is completely subjective.  Bottom line: I gladly tip others for their services when the service was completed in an efficient, professional, and satisfactory way, the service was something I can't do on my own, or they're sharing some passionate artistic talent that touched my heart in a compelling way.

I'm not putting my lessons, videos, or pictures on Teachers Pay Teachers. I don't work for a textbook publisher who pays me to do this stuff. I'm not selling this stuff to teachers, schools, or curriculum writers for profit. I've simply put it out there (on that wild internet) for others (teachers) to use, enjoy, and most importantly use with their students for learning math. Please don't think of this as a tip jar at a restaurant or specialty food service. Think of my Tip Jar as that open guitar case in front of the person pouring their heart out on the street giving you a few seconds of raw talent to brighten your day. I might sing out of key a few times, forget the right chord, or might have a string out of tune, but I'm sharing this stuff because I'm passionate about it, love doing it, and enjoy seeing other students learn math. If you feel obliged to tip, my gratitude will be eternal. If you don't tip, I still love you for taking the time to check out my stuff and possibly use with your students. That's the best tip you could give me!


Sunday, January 20, 2013

Styrofoam Cups

Tuesday, I was on my way to BTSA and my subconscious screamed something at me. Find Dan Meyer's Stacking Cup lesson. Seriously, go read his post right now. I hadn't read this post for over a year now and I had to get my lessons ready for the next couple of days as my Algebra classes finished up Pixel Pattern. I was on the road dreading the idea of sitting through a couple hours of BTSA, so I asked Dan if he had the link to his lesson since it wasn't in my bookmarks (that was silly of me) and he came through like a champ! Seriously, check out his post. I'm promoting his blog post more than anything further I have to say here.

First, by all means, spend about $10 and do the lesson with your kiddos. This is one of those 3 Act lessons that just screams "hands-on" activity with your kids. It's tough to capture the overall excitement and energy with a video. If you can't do the "hands on" with your kids or you want to be environmentally friendly, here's my version of the Styrofoam Cup 3 Act lesson: a cheap backup.

It felt most natural to stage this so the cups stacked to the top of the door frame. Even then, I'm not convinced my Act 1 screams the question I'm looking for, "How many cups will stack to the top of the door frame?"

Enough about me and the video, to my classroom with the students. Dan's got a great script for you to follow, so do it! One of my classes was actually able to finish writing their rules before the bell on Friday so we had time to actually stack cups. Check out their rules and predictions for stacking cups to my height.

We started stacking with the lowest number and went from there. The kids went bonkers. Each group thought they were the best, but knew that they all couldn't be correct. When we revisit the lesson this next week, we'll be discussing where groups went wrong in order to learn from those mistakes. Watch Styrofoam Cups - Act 3 Stadel to find out who won. But I recommend you watch the door task also.

Styrofoamed out,

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Best Halves [Square]

A few months ago Dan Meyer reached out to Timon Piccini, Chris Robinson, Nathan Kraft and me to participate in what would eventually become his Best Midpoint, Best Square, Best Triangle, and Best Circle series of 3 Act lessons. I was honored to be part of a stellar group and great lesson. I love the potential of these lessons and can't wait to use them with my geometry kiddos later this year. Currently Dan and Dave Major have kicked it up a notch with some great interactive play/learning for better best squares, also providing us with an interactive teacher's guide. Check it out: I nearly cried tears of joy upon reading their two posts: Dan and Dave.

Recently, I've had conversations with Fawn Nguyen about fractions and although fractions aren't the spotlight of my Algebra and Geometry curriculum, I'm still fascinated by them and in turn want to help students build their number sense or spatial reasoning. I had an idea to extend Dan's Best series into the realm of fractions and emailed him for his blessing, hoping I'd do it justice. Here's what I came up with so far:

You might notice
it closely resembles Dan's format with very few stylistic differences. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." That's my motto here. I called on Dan and a few other comrades to make an appearance and compete in this first installment of Best Fractions. This first installment: "Who drew the best half?"

Thanks to Dan, Fawn, Sadie Estrella, and Shauna Hedgepeth for taking the time to contribute. They were great sports! I still don't know who drew the best half yet.

I see a lot of geometry potential here: area, perimeter, midpoints, distance, coordinates, polygons, etc. I'd love to target primary grades with this activity as well (not just secondary), finding an entry level that elementary kids are capable of exploring. I'm not too sure calculating the area of trapezoids would be appropriate for a 4th and 5th grade classroom, but I might be wrong.

I'm not pretending to nail this 3 Act lesson and I'd love some feedback on how you would apply this in your class or make it better. I'm still working on the Act 2 information and will gradually chip away at it over time.  I gathered enough information from the contestants to keep me busy for the next year. I plan to release other installments of Best Fractions, specifically the best half, third, fourth, and fifth of both a square and circle. Just imagine the fun with circles: area, sector area, arc length, degrees, percentages, and more. Stay tuned!

Test it out on your students in the meantime and give me some feedback. Click here for directions and handouts to use with your students.


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Estimation 180 update & RSS

Head over to Estimation 180 and throw the blog in your RSS feed. I usually update the site once every week or two and the RSS feed will alert you of those updates. Don't worry, they're not daily and it's definitely not s-p-a-m, as I despise s-p-a-m.

Huge update of estimates today starting at Day 78 and going through Day 91 (over halfway done). Home Depot was just so fun.

*Can you spot something suspicious on Day 86?


Sunday, January 6, 2013

Bottomless Mug

I found this glorious sign a few weeks back at Bruegger's Bagels and ended this post with saying I'll work it into a 3 Act.

As promised, here is the 3 Act lesson.

Act 1: My question: How much money could you actually save?
Other popular questions can be found at I like getting to that initial question because many of the others will be answered along the way.

Act 2 info would look like this for my area, but the cost of a medium sized cup of Bruegger's coffee might be different in your area (for a limited time, of course). Check their website.

Now you know the cost of the mug, but I find the 3 days, 5 days, and 7 days per week (the rate where you live next door) very intriguing. In solving this one, my natural tendency was to round that cup to $1.90. Be careful, that difference could buy you a bagel or two. Anyway, have fun with this one. My wife and I just celebrated the birth of our daughter on New Year's Eve day. I don't drink coffee, but I do enjoy iced tea and this Bottomless Mug Club is starting to look rather appealing now.

Personally, I like the sequel tasks more than the original task. Sequel tasks include:

  • On what day in 2013 would you break even if you get coffee 3 days/week, 5 days/week, everyday?
  • When would be the last day to buy the mug and still save at least $1.89?
  • What could be the prorated price of the mug if bought in January? February? March?... 

Have a sequel to add? Toss it in the comments.

Happy 2013,