Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!!

Before I go out and start stuffing my face with turkey (yummmm!!!) I wanted to take a second to say Happy Thanksgiving to all of the Americans out there - and to all of the other teachers out there, not from America, have a WONDERFUL day!

I am so thankful for Teachers pay Teachers and so thankful for all of the teachers out there!

Teaching is a tough job! There is a lot that goes into it, and sadly, it's usually a thankless one. I personally am so thankful for all of you though. You are changing lives every day in the classroom, and are making the world a better place! <3

Be safe!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Giving Credit Where Credit Is Due: Grading Fairly

***Disclaimer: The thoughts shared in this post are my opinion. I would love  love to hear other peoples thoughts on best grading practices.
My 6yr old daughter has spelling tests every week at school, and I hate it. I feel like spelling tests are pointless. Being able to write a word one week doesn’t mean anything to me – especially if you don’t understand what the word means or how to use it. So far, Dixie has done well on her tests. However, every week I anxiously wait for her to bring the graded test home so I can see the grade and breath a sigh of relief. I get anxious because I know how much each word is worth – 10points. Missing 3 words on the test means getting 30% of the test wrong and earning a C grade (70%). Misspelling 4 words would give her a *gulp* 60%. The most annoying thing to me is that if she has 4 words like 
(from this week's list): those    woke    stone    joke
and spells them: 
She would have missed only 4 out of the 18 letters she needed to write down correctly. Adding in the other 6 words on her list, missing 4 letters means missing 9.3% of the test (there are 43 letters in all that make up the entire list of words). 

In my book missing 9% of a 100-point test, should not constitute a near failing grade.  Should it?

Having an elementary-school-age child has changed my philosophy on grading in the classroom. Throughout the years, I’ve gone through a plethora of ideas on best grading practices. Originally I was a teacher who if you solved a problem like 2x+6=4 and wrote x= 1, would make the problem wrong no matter what, and move on to the next one. The more I think about it though, the more I dislike the black and white “wrong is wrong” line of thinking when it refers to grading. Why do I think this? Because I feel, it is mathematically incorrect.

Here’s an example why:
When I teach students how to solve equations, I am teaching them steps they need to follow to correctly solve equations. I am not teaching them that 4/2 = 2 (teaching that was someone else's responsibility). I am teaching students that when they see parentheses around an expression that includes a variable they can remove the parentheses by distributing. I am teaching them that when they see a variable multiplied by a coefficient on one side of the equation and a constant on the other they should isolate the variable by performing the inverse operation (division) to both sides of the equation. In the situation above Jessie is showing me that he has a good grasp of the method I’ve taught. The mistake he made was big enough to change his answer, but it is not big enough for me to mark the question as entirely wrong.

I give credit for work done correctly. I do not believe in marking a problem completely wrong because a minor mistake led to a wrong answer. If I were to give a 10 question, 100-point test on solving multi-step equations (like the one shown above) each question would be worth 10 points. When I grade work my line of thinking goes something like this:
If this question were worth 10 points on the test, I would give this answer 6 or 7 out of 10 points. Jessie completed the majority of the steps correctly – and his grade should reflect that. I do not think it is fair to allow a minuscule mistake like this to cause a failing grade.
I don’t want to get into this too much (this post is already longer than I anticipated) but one of my major issues with standardized testing nowadays is that they do grade students in black in white, “wrong is wrong”, “right is right” form. Standardized testing ignores everything a student does right and puts all of the attention on minuscule mistakes made, which is unfair. Outside of school in the real world we recognize that mistakes are part of being human. Standardized testing ignores that part of human nature and expects absolute perfection.

 I for one would take pride in receiving an answer like the one given by Jessie above. It shows that Jessie is grasping the methods I’ve spent time teaching in class. Standardized testing ignores that anything was done correctly to solve a problem. Jessie would receive the same grade for his work as a student who chooses to go through the test highlighting random answers without doing any work at all – which is wrong.

 How do you grade students work? Do you give credit for work done, or mark everything wrong if the answer is wrong?

IDisclaimer:: I asked my daughter to write the words incorrectly for me so I could add a graphic to the post. She asked me to make sure I shared with you that she does know how to spell the words above correctly. :)

Picture for the title post is from:: Robert Couse-Baker
Clip Art is from: Lovin Lit 
Fonts are from: KG Fonts

Friday, November 14, 2014

Task Card Relay

I was thinking about games in the classroom the other day and had a new (to me) idea. I know I've written this before, but task cards are awesome! Students enjoy them much more than they do completing worksheets. Having one problem on a card vs. 10+ makes them seem less challenging. 

So, here’s an idea to try: 
Divide students into group of 4-6. On a large table (or on the tray under a whiteboard) set up stacks of task cards. Put enough task cards in the stack to make sure each student in a group will be able to have one. If there are 4 students per group, set up stacks of 4 task cards. Then, have students stand in rows (separated by group). Count to 3, and on the first students quickly walks up to the board, grabs the top task card, and solves it. Once they finish, they tag the next person in their group. That student grabs a task card, solves it, then tags the next person.

If the task cards are on a subject students are struggling with, have groups of students team up so that 2 students are working on each task card problem.

The first group to complete their task cards CORRECTLY wins!
*Task cards with QR Codes would work perfectly because rather than scanning an answer sheet to see if students have the correct answers, the teacher (or teacher assistant) can scan the cards and see if answers match.

The hard part of playing games like this where students need to be quick to win, is that some students are just slow. I always try to make sure each group has an even number of slower students, and I try to make sure those students are the first in their group(s) to go, so that they aren't left at the end, embarrassed and sad that their team didn't win.

What do you think of a “task card relay”? Do you play games where students race each other to complete problems in your classroom? How do they work for your students?

~In other totally unrelated news, I woke up this morning, checked out the weather via my weather app, and thought about crawling back into bed and letting my daughter skip school today when I saw the temperature was 23°*gasp* 
 I mean, it's only November. Here in AL it Jan & Feb. are out coldest months. We live down South to avoid the cold. Brrrr.....Anyone else freezing today?

Fonts for this post came from: KG Fonts
Clip art is from:

Friday, November 7, 2014

Bundle of Math Resources 80% Off!

Math Teachers of TpT CD Bundle

I am thrilled to be one of eleven Math Teachers of TpT to team up to bring you Volume 2 of math resources for 3rd through 9th grades at a deep discount.  

Included in this bundle is $125 worth of product for only $25 plus shipping! That’s 80% off!  The sale ends on Sunday so make sure to purchase your copy soon! They’d make a great gift for all your math teacher friends - so get your holiday shopping done soon! 

Here is a preview of what is included in the bundle: 
Click on the picture above to purchase the bundle.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Math is Real Life: Thanksgiving Holiday Expenses

Math is Real Life:  Thanksgiving Holiday Expenses
Some of my fellow Math TpTers host a  monthly link up called “Math is Real Life.” I’ve gone through and read all of the previous posts – and LOVE it! I’m so excited to link up this month! 
Link up is hosted by: 
I use math every day -  mostly, for budgeting. Thanksgiving is coming up and my husband asked me to figure out what extra Thanksgiving holiday expenses I expect – so that he can include it in our budget for this month.

 There are 4 main parts of our Thanksgiving holiday expenses.
We budget around $700 for grocery money each month. This year we will be hosting Thanksgiving dinner for part of our family, so there will be extra grocery expenses from that. Since school is out the entire week of Thanksgiving, and since my husband is off work that week, we also plan to do some traveling, which means we’ll need extra gas money set aside! I’m super glad cyber Monday ends up in December this year – so any money we spend then will come from either December’s budget, or our Christmas savings account. However, black Friday spending money needs to be budgeted from our November pay checks, or from our Christmas savings account.

Food Budget:
Turkey Breast: $25
Stuffing: $2
Cranberry Sauce: $2
Gravy: $1.50
Potatoes: $4
Green Bean Casserole: $6
Pie: $8
Total: $48.50

I purchased fall themed napkins last year on clearance, and I have loads of heavy duty paper plates, so I'm set on that (yay!!)
Gold Leaf Place Cards: $4
(Take a maple leaf, spray with gold spray paint, then use permanent marker to write name)
Candles: $10
Ribbon to put around Candles: $6
Total: $20

Gasoline Money:
We plan to travel approx. 1000 extra miles Thanksgiving week.
If gas stays around $2.80 (it’s $2.67 right now – yay!!) and our Camry gets around 30miles per gallon we’ll need less than 34 gallons of gasoline with puts the approximate total at:  $95.20

Black Friday:
This one is hard! I haven’t seen anything in any ads that I *have* to purchase yet. However, I know that no matter what sometime this winter I will be purchasing a tool for my husband that costs $250. I am going to go ahead and set my Black Friday budget at $300. If I do not find gifts for anyone else – I’ll at least purchase my husband's Christmas gift.

Total Thanksgiving Holiday Expenses: $463.70
Note: $300 is going towards gifts!

Now that we have an expected amount, it can be stuck into our budget for the month, which will prevent us from overspending! No surprises!

Where do you see/use math in real life?

Make sure to check out the other Math is Real life Posts which can be found here: Math is Real Life November Edition

Clip Art from: Ink n Things @ Teachers Pay Teachers & Ashley Hughes
Font is from: KG Fonts