Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Student Reflections: 8B End-of-Year Project

       As part of my process as a teacher, I ask my students to reflect on their learning and experiences in my math class. I have the fortune of getting to loop with students, sometimes for three years, and that allows us to build a long-term relationship. I have this idea for an end-of-year project in eighth grade where students will create a representation of their math journey. I ran out of time to scaffold the project this year, but I decided to dive in and see what would happen. I received the whole range of products, but at the heart of it all, I got very honest and personal reflections on students’ experiences in my class and with mathematics. They ranged from posters, written paragraphs, timelines, poetry, stop-motion video, and comic strip. I am excited to refine the project and try it next year.

      One of the reflections moved me to tears. The journey that this student and I have been on began in sixth grade. It may not have the same impact with out knowing EB and how far he has come, but the essence of this piece will be something I will cherish forever.  He has given permission for me to share it here. This will be something that I will read when I am feeling down on my chose profession and the difficult work that is teaching.
Thank you, EB!

Math Reflection

        When I started doing basic math I liked it a lot because I understood it. Then later in 4th and 5th grade I started to hate math because didn’t have a good understanding of the math we were doing. My grades had gone down, from their usual perfect four to a less less good but still respectable three. In 5th grade and throughout elementary school I was told that middle school would be so much harder than elementary school. And math was no exception. Except it was. Math was much easier once I got into 6th grade and it only got easier as I started to like math more and more. There is a very apparent correlation between how much you like math and how well you understand math and most of how well you understand math comes from how well it was taught. It goes to show how well I was taught in middle school.

       I really like math now, more than I ever have. Almost everything about math is very interesting to me. I often felt bored of it, but I realized that was because I thought of it as work that I needed to get through and be done with to move on with my life, but if I stop thinking of the work as something that is a hurdle in my way that I must overcome and start thinking of it as a piece of something that I can look at, mess with, explore, and really think about it becomes a journey into a theoretical world. I learned this fairly recently. Recently enough that it has not fully ingrained itself in my head.

        I often don’t write out my math, but I find when I do (especially on a whiteboard) I have a greater contact with the math itself and it helps me understand the math much better. When I was 5th grade, 6th grade, 7th grade and even most of 8th grade I considered writing problems a hassle and not needed. I still find myself doing a lot of math in my head, but sometimes I will write everything down and often a math problem is not a problem at all for me to do when I write everything down.

        Often I’ll will be fascinated by the simplest math. I’ll be amazed that one plus one equals two. Just like I was in Kindergarten or First Grade or whenever I learned math at first. So at the beginning of my mathematical career I was amazed at math and here I am today still amazed. I spent a good amount of time thinking math is simple and uninteresting. I did not know this at the time but my Kindergarten self who looked at simple math with fascination was in my opinion smarter than the self who scoffed at simple math.

        I used to think that math was useless for most jobs , especially the one I want to do (I want be a musician), but math is extremely useful in music. A lot of music is understood through the lens of math. Math is very useful. To close this off I have to say one simple thing: I love math.

Missing in Action 17-18

Where did the year go???

I began the 2017-2018 school year with every intention of documenting and reflecting our work, but the universe had a different plan for me this year.  This school year turned out to be very tumultuous and full of change. There were changes in school personnel, personal tragedies and struggles, a long bout with illness, and the normal break-neck speed of school. 

I will post a few reflections and document a few highlight of the year in retrospect. 

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Snapshot: 7A/7C Data and Representation

The seventh-grade classes began the school year by exploring the different ways data can be represented. We collected three different data sets: birth date, bed time vs. wake-up time, and favorite ice cream flavor, topping, and container. Observations and deductions were made on the first two data sets. Students made astute observations and deduced information about the classes based on the data. They made predictions about how adding the data from 7B might change or re-enforce our observations and deductions. We invited 7B to share their data with us too. We discussed the value of representing data in visual formats and how it can help us find patterns that may not be evident in the raw data form.

For the favorite ice cream flavor, topping, and container data, groups of students were asked to represent the data collected in a graphic manner. Students had to grapple with deciding which data to include, how to sort or organize the data so it was easier to consume, and which tool or strategy would best communicate the information. The diversity of representation was impressive.  A small sampling is located below. Please stop by the upper hallway in the Athena building to take in the rest of the posters. We discussed how the same data set can be distilled in so many different ways. I hoped to illustrate that graphs and data sets can be helpful, but we must be careful to ask questions like: Which data was used? Which data was left out? What is the point of view that is being shared or promoted?

We will practice our observation skills and make sense of patterns and representations throughout the year as we make our way into algebra and algebraic thinking. 

We are back!

Welcome back to the 2017-2018 school year. I am back for another year of teaching math at Black Pine Circle. This is a blog space for Ms. Seto's math classes at BPC.  I am beginning my third year and I am looking forward to sharing our journey through mathematics.

My hope for this space is that we can provide a glimpse into the work we are doing in the classroom, and give you a sense of how we are approaching our exploration of mathematics.  My hope is that students develop a set of skills that will carry them throughout their mathematics education.  The eight mathematical practices we will be working on developing are:

1) Understand and Persevere
2) Logic and Reasoning
3) Justify and Critique
4) Model with Mathematics
5) Strategically Use Tools
6) Attend to Precision
7) Utilize Structure
8) Utilize Patterns

For students: this is a portal to access materials and resources for class, a place for class notes and shared documents, and a place to share our reflections with a greater community.

For parents: this is a window into the math classroom and an opportunity for you to access to what happens in your child's day. It can be a tool to connect and create conversations with your child.

For others: this is a place to share our learning and to reflect on our mathematical journey.

I hope you will join us on our journey!

Thursday, June 1, 2017

7B Room Design Project

The seventh grade curriculum lends itself to many real-world projects and activities. It is the last concrete and tangible mathematics the students encounter before being thrust into the abstract world of algebra. 

An end-of-the-year project I like to do with the 7s is a room design project. Students measure their bedroom, draw a scale drawing, calculate the surface area of the walls and floor, calculate the amount of paint needed, calculate the amount of flooring needed, calculate the cost of paint and flooring and sales tax, all on a budget. We tackle this project as a series of phases to be completed with many small deadlines to keep them on track. Students get into drawing their blueprints with architectural symbols, picking out paint chip colors, deciding on the finish of the paint, and negotiating how to spend their budget.  It is a practical and real world application of many of the concepts and skills learned in the seventh grade curriculum.

Last year, I had a student independently tape all of his drawing together into a net of his room.  It was brilliant! So this year, I added it to the project and the students liked seeing how their 2D net could be transformed into a 3D representation of their bedroom. I felt like I could imagine standing in their rooms from their scale models. I learned a few things from the construction process that I would change for the future, but it was a great addition to the project. The science teacher and I discussed the possibility of having the students 3D print their rooms next year. I love the idea of cross-curricular integration.  We just need to make the time to plan and execute it next year!

Snapshot: 8A Food Deserts

Berkeley, CA
As a final project, I like to find a way to incorporate a social justice lesson into the eighth grade curriculum. Last year, the class spent the final weeks of the year tackling the question, "Is minimum wage a livable wage?" They explored by calculating living expenses for a year (rent, food, transportation, entertainment, etc) and then compared it to what you would earn if you were working a minimum wage job. They had a a guest speaker from the Human Resources department come and talk about the taxes and deductions that are taken from a pay check. In the end, we had a good debate/conversation about whether or not you can live off of minimum wage.

This year, the class took on the idea of food deserts. This is a project I have been tossing around for about a year. The essential question was, "What is a food desert? Who is impacted by food deserts?" We researched and defined a food desert. They looked at research about the impact of food deserts. For four classes, a group of students were charged with locating grocery stores on a set of maps from AAA of the Bay Area, Lake Tahoe, and Portland, OR. They had to cut out 1-mile radius circles to represent the reach of the grocery store. The areas that were not covered by the circles are defined as food deserts. These maps are not comprehensive because we were limited in time, but students were able to get a sense of how food deserts occur and who is impacted by these deserts. 

Our discussions centered around how they live in an region of the country were access to fresh fruits, vegetables, dairy, and whole grains is easy. They recognized the high density of markets and grocery stores is high in the Bay Area and that affluent areas had great overlap of circles. Some students were able to recognize living in Northern California is not representative of the issue of food deserts. If we had more time and I had planned ahead, we would have done a second round of maps that represent cities where food deserts are a significant issues, such as New Orleans, Atlanta, and Detroit, and compared maps with the Bay Area. I would extend this to look at grocery stores per capita and other ratios that might have helped us understand the issue further.

This activity turned out better than I had hoped and I was pleased with how we were able to use math to explore this topic. I look forward to refining and extending this project for future classes. 

Oakland, CA

El Cerrito and Richmond, CA
San Franciso, CA

Lake Tahoe, CA
Portland, OR

Snapshot: 6C Sugar Packet Posters

As part of our study of proportions, 6C did an activity by Dan Meyer called Sugar Packets. They watched this video and had to figure out how many packets of sugar are in a bottle of Coca Cola. 

We extended this activity to other beverages. They predicted which beverages had the most sugar and the least amount of sugar. They recognized that the sugar content could not be compared if the volumes of the beverages were different, so they made unit rates of sugar to volume so they could compare like amounts. Many students were surprised by the sugar content of some of their favorite beverages.

The last phase of this activity had the class take a point of view and promote one beverage based on its sugar content over other possible beverages. The students had the freedom to pick which point of view they wanted to promote, but they had to use the math to support their claims. 

These are a sampling of some of the more creative and unique posters that were created. I was impressed with the class' use of humor and puns to catch people's attention. There were a few new ideas that made us think. I have never had anyone compare the sugar content of different milks. The comparison of different waters was a new spin on this project. 

I really like this activity because it forces students to think about how proportions can be used to compare different items. I like adding the dimension of having a point of view and supporting it with numbers. It helps to dispell the idea that numbers to not lie and that data can not be manipulated if it is numerical. It provides an opportunity for students to look critically at how numbers and data are used to express a point of view and how they can be used to manipulate how you see something. This project is an opportunity to practice clear communication and sharing of ideas.