Book Recommendations (Vol. 04)

How have we reached the end of 2017? I know that to many of us, 2017 has been the year of continuous fighting back at the inequalities of the world, constant exhaustion from the 24/7 news cycle, stress and trauma and hurt. I think that is part of the reason why this year marks my highest reading total ever – I made a semi-conscious decision to back away slightly from being on social media as much, watching as much tv, etc. and have spent much more time this year just reading.

That said, everything that’s been happening has certainly affected my reading choices, and I think you’ll see hints of that in this quarter’s top 5.

This book recommendations post completes a full year of recommendations! I’ve really enjoyed putting these posts together, even though they get less views than my math teacher resource type posts (certainly that makes sense, I am a math teacher and this is ostensibly a math teacher blog, not a book/reading blog), because I like to go through and remember the best books I read each set of 3 months. Hopefully one or two of you picked up one or two books because of me this year.

I’m going to TRY to hit a top 5 of the entire year at the end of this post as well. That’s gonna be tough.

Read previous editions:

Vol. 01 | Vol. 02 | Vol. 03 |

I’ve now read 80 books this year – wow! – making that 20 books since my last recommendations post. It’s also fair to point out that I will probably finish a good 4-5 more books before the end of the year, since we’re only halfway through December, but as I don’t really want to write this post over winter break…those books will get included in first quarter 2018!

Here’s the top 5 for 4th quarter 2017:

Dear Martin – Nic Stone

Justyce is a high school student who excels. He’s bound for the Ivy League in the fall. He has a lot going for him…until he gets arrested for trying to help his ex girlfriend get home safe and not drive home when she’s drunk. After that, he starts noticing a lot of ways that people around him casually say and do things that are…pretty racist. He decides to start a self project – trying to live like Martin Luther King, Jr would have. It’s going pretty well and helping him figure some things out, until he and his friend Manny drive up to a stoplight next to a police officer one day.

This book is raw and so personal. I love the way Stone wrote it in a voice that really sounds like it came from Justyce – it’s the voice of a high school boy. He doesn’t understand everything that’s happening. He waffles back and forth about what upsets him and what he should let go. He can’t quite find the border between right and wrong, can’t quite figure out who is on his side. He can’t quite figure out what his side is. His emotions are real and on the page, you feel through every decision and scenario with him. Through his experiences, you’re forced to grapple with the casual racism that exists in our society and to think about which side you are on. Bonus that this one is a pretty short read, which means you might be able to get some reluctant readers to read a pretty important and stellar book.

Before the Devil Breaks You – Libba Bray

This is the third book in the Diviners series, set in 1920s New York. The Diviners are a group of people with paranormal powers – they can walk in dreams, feel the emotions in everyday objects, read minds, and see ghosts. In this installment, they’re faced with a strange group of ghosts out on Ward’s Island where the asylum is, and constant haunting visions of the man in the stovepipe hat.

Since this is a series, you should definitely start with book 1, The Diviners, but this one is the best yet. The ghosts and the man in the stovepipe hat are TERRIFYING, but still not too scary to read – I’m not normally a scary movie/story person, but these are creepy enough that maybe I didn’t want to read right before bed, but not creepy enough that I was losing my mind. Then there’s Libba Bray’s MASTERFUL inclusion of current race issues in America into this book that takes place in the 1920s. It’s a great reveal of how the things that we’ve been realizing in 2017 as being wrong with our country…have been wrong for a long time. A beautiful story about how we all matter, and how the American Dream that the country was supposedly built on is a lie for so many of us. This is probably one of my top books of the year.

Turtles All The Way Down – John Green

Aza didn’t mean to be a part of the investigation into the disappearance of her childhood friend’s dad. It just happened. She didn’t realize what reconnecting to this friend, Davis, could mean. All along the way, her brain is fighting against the rest of her, telling her she is dirty, contaminated, that her own biome is disgusting and needs to be cleaned. She’s fighting against the ever tightening spiral of her own thoughts and trying to be a good friend, good daughter, and a good investigator. It occurs to her – does she even want to know what happened?

I love John Green. I love his books, I love his YouTube works with his brother Hank, I love his philanthropic efforts. I was able to go to the live show that John and Hank did to celebrate the release of this book and it was one of the most beautiful nights I had in all of 2017. The book puts you inside Aza’s brain in a way that I had never seen happen before – after reading, I felt like I was almost capable of understanding what is happening in the mind of someone who has OCD or anxiety. It was harrowing to read the way Aza was fighting against…Aza. But there was also joy in the book, and an exploration of our purpose. This video would be a nice watch to get you in the spirit of that part of the book.

Refugee – Alan Gratz

It is 1939. It is 1994. It is 2015. This is Nazi Germany. This is Fidel’s Cuba. This is war-torn Syria. Refugee is the story of three children, in different times and different places, fleeing the countries they called home because they are no longer safe there. It’s the story of their journeys, and the heart pounding fear that they may not reach safety.

This story is juvenile fiction, but I enjoyed it so immensely as an adult. It was so well written, the three stories woven together seamlessly. You see the children go through the exact same fears, thoughts, victories and defeats at different times through history. You worry for them. You get angry at the people who made them need to leave their homes. I kept turning pages and turning pages, hoping that on the next page they would find their new safe home to stay in. I thought this was a masterful telling of the reality of refugees, with an intensely personal connection through the lives of Joseph, Isabel, and Mahmoud. There are so many lessons to be learned from this, so much to think about.

What Made Maddy Run – Kate Fagan

Madison Holleran was a freshman track athlete at the University of Pennsylvania. She was not having a good of a time running track as she had in high school – it didn’t feel fun anymore. Her parents were concerned about how she was doing. Her and her dad had a conversation at the end of winter break about getting help – seeing a therapist, quitting track, taking the time to figure out what was wrong and why she wasn’t enjoying things. It was the last time he saw her. Maddy jumped off a parking garage and committed suicide, leaving only cryptic clues about why she made that decision.

Wow, this book was devastating. It’s true, by the way. This happened. Kate Fagan is one of my favorite sports reporters, and I read her original piece about Madison on ESPN and felt a hugely heavy sorrow. It appears Kate did too – she got permission from Madison’s family to keep pursuing and telling the story. As she worked on the book, she kept finding more athletes who admitted that they struggled with mental health. College athletics are an intensely difficult world, and we definitely don’t give the athletes the mental help they need – in fact, we often push them away from that help, asking them to tough it out or suck it up. They should be happy, because they have everything. But being happy is not always a choice, as Kate discovered about Madison. There are so many heartwrenching realizations in this book: the realization that many of her friends saw things were wrong, but because of the stigma against discussing mental health none of them pushed her about it. The realization that this wasn’t just Madison, but a more widespread thing in college sports. The realization that she tried to get help, tried to take actions to help herself find happiness again, but it wasn’t enough. This book made me think so hard about so many things – still thinking about it. I’m thankful that Madison’s parents allowed her story to be told, because I think it will truly help many young adults find their way and avoid an ending like Madison’s.



*** 2017 Top 5 ***

Before the Devil Breaks You – Libba Bray

What Made Maddy Run – Kate Fagan

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi


the princess saves herself in this one – Amanda Lovelace

Another Day in the Death of America – Gary Younge


Fantastic reading in 2017 – cannot wait to see what stories I discover in 2018!

Happy reading!


Algebra 2 Unit 4 Interactive Notebooks

This year I’ve committed to posting each unit of both my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 INBs.

My district is moving to a standards based curriculum, and has identified priority standards for every course. These are the standards we are required to address and assess our students over, so they pretty much form our units.

Other Algebra 2 INB Posts:

Unit 1 | Unit 2 | Unit 3

Algebra 1 INB Posts:

Unit 1 | Unit 2


The fourth standard we cover in Algebra 2 is F.LE.4:

For exponential models, express as a logarithm the solution to abct = d where a, c, and d are numbers and the base b is 2, 10, or e; evaluate the logarithm using technology.

A lot of this unit ends up being prerequisite skills to that actual standard, as these students have no prior exposure to logarithms. It would be difficult to go straight from never seeing a logarithm to solving exponential equations with them!


As you can see on the index page, I split this standard up into 6 skills. This is one unit that actually kind of corresponds to one of the book chapter units that we were using previous to going standards based, so it was the first unit of the year that I mainly transferred and updated last year’s notes for! Last year in Algebra 2 was my first time using INBs and I was excited to get to reuse a lot of those resources. You can see more about my index pages in the Unit 1 INB posts from this year. As you can see in the picture, I was on the struggle bus a little bit on deciding how many pages would exist for each skill in this unit…


Skill 1: I can use the properties of exponents to find equivalent expressions

This is a review of exponent rules. Most of my students had a vague remembrance of these rules, but definitely needed the practice to remind them! I based the idea for the poof book off Sarah Carter’s Book of Exponent Rules. I think we needed more than 4 examples to practice multiple rules at once, but even the examples I had took way longer than I was expecting them to! Before we went through the book of exponent rules, we did a short exploration activity that had the students look at expanded form of exponential expressions to try to remember/figure out the rules on their own first. I think that in the future, I will give them a lot more time with that exploration than I did this year because I do think it helped solidify the information before I just told them the rules.

Skill 2: I can use exponential functions to solve problems

This covers basic exponential growth and decay models. The students find this pretty easy and enjoy doing it, especially with the M&M decay lab we do to model how it works!

The biggest mistakes I get here are with calculating the growth or decay rate, so I’m really glad I put a page of just practicing finding those in this booklet. For the “hilarious joke” example, you would need to adjust your starting value and where you stop for the size of your class/school – you may need a longer table, as we have a small school, but we also have smaller classes.


Skill 3: I can translate between exponential form and logarithmic form

The notes for this skill come from Sarah Carter and can be found at her blog post here. I like how many examples there are within this foldable – we ended up doing about half of them when we took notes the first time and then came back and finished the other half after a weekend to refresh our memories!

We practiced this by playing LOG WARS – war, but with logarithms. You can find many versions of this if you google, here is one. Students love this and get really competitive, and it’s really great practice without feeling repetitive to them. I swear I took pictures of them playing this this year, but now I cannot find them, so here’s my #teach180 tweet of this from last year!

Skill 4: I can use the properties of logarithms to find equivalent expressions

I created these from Sarah Carter’s logarithm property foldable, but then I went in and used my snipping tool best friend to put typed examples for us to do on the inside instead of leaving it blank. I also used this same foldable twice, and had students write “split” on one and “combine” on the other. Last year, I used this foldable and students did well if problems were going in the same direction as the properties were written on the front (for example, if the property read log m*n = log m + log n, then they could split a log with factors up into adding logs), but struggled to go the other direction (in this case, combining added logs into a logarithm of multiplied factors). I think using the foldable twice helped my students to use the properties in both directions. We also did some practice using multiple properties at once, which was also a helpful update from what I did last year.

We talked about the exponential-logarithmic inverse property, and I think the way I approached this this year was really helpful. We converted all of the expressions to the form they were not in (exponential to logarithmic or vice versa), and then saw that it was “trivial” to see what x needed to be. Only after we did all of the conversions did I ask them what they noticed about all the problems. They noticed that the x value was already in the original problem, and that all the exponent bases matched all the logarithmic bases. We had a brief discussion about why this might always work out, and then took the little note that you see in the corner. Even so, only a few of my students actually used this as a shortcut on our subsequent quizzes/practice – most just converted logarithms to exponents and treated it as a normal case – which is great! (I kind of hate “special cases” as a thing, and prefer that they just understand how the concept works overall)

We also solved some one-to-one logarithms, and as you will see later…I…forgot…about extraneous solutions. I won’t lie to you. I just straight up forgot they were a thing. Oops. Then I was looking at the district assessment and final notes to make sure I had covered everything, and felt like an idiot. So they got thrown into Skill 6. Basically, ignore these one-to-one logarithms notes (or make sure you ADDRESS EXTRANEOUS SOLUTIONS when you use it), and just use the extraneous solutions foldable I used later on. Glad I caught my error when I did, but still way later than I should have.

Skill 5: I can use logarithms to solve exponential equations and change the base of a logarithm

My students thought changing the base was magical. They loved getting a “weird decimal” solution, substituting it back in for the variable to check it, and getting the right result. That’s right, they loved checking their answers! How do I get that to happen forever and always? I’m not sure, but it was great.

I added solving a linear equation to the beginning of solving exponential equations in the thought that it would help students see this as the same process, not as a whole new thing they had to learn – and it did! They got right into inverse operations and properties of equality, and saw how it would help them not have to guess and check exponents in a calculator. Very pleased with the structure of this one. Also, I love the way the tri-fold foldable gives a slow reveal of the information. They only see the linear equation at first, then they see a simple exponential equation, and then they get to see all the complicated equations that they get to practice!

Skill 6: I can evaluate expressions using the natural base, e

I made natural logs and equations involving e a separate skill because it is such a new concept to my students. It’s really remarkable how we never ever talk about e in all those times we talk about pi…

We watch a video to introduce the concept of what it is and where it came from, and that’s where they fill in information for the top 3 boxes from. The formulas/information I have them put in the bottom box is information on how e shows up in their particular assessments and practice, so if you have different ways they will be required to use e, feel free to include other information there as well.

Also, here you see me fixing my complete erasure of extraneous solutions. I liked the idea of bringing it back to domain, because they graphed logarithmic functions in our last unit and did really well with domains on them, so this helps them understand why the extraneous solutions don’t work out. Going back to quadratics was a struggle for my students and there was a lot of complaining about how they didn’t remember because it was too long ago (probably around 2 months ago) – luckily they have their INBs to flip back in!!!

You can find the files I used here, in editable Publisher form and PDF.

Roll-A-Solution! (Systems of Equations Activity)

We started off our unit about systems of linear equations this week with a definition and a discussion of what a solution means. We learned how to check to see if a set of values was a solution or not in two ways – manually substituting values in (with parentheses!) or storing values in a TI-83 Plus.

I thought I would bring a little bit of a competitive aspect into their practice for this, since just checking potential solution points over and over is not super fun!

I wrote a set of 16 systems of equations that all had solutions whose x-values and y-values were both between 1 and 6 (aka, able to be rolled on a standard die). Each student received a set of cards with these 16 systems on it, a die, and this template in a dry erase pocket:


They drew a system of equations card and placed it in its spot, then rolled their die twice for an x and a y value. They then could check their solution however they chose, and I walked around and checked in on them as they worked.

The competition part is that I had them raise their hand anytime they found a solution to a system, and if it was a true solution, that student earned a point!

A few minutes into them working, I announced that if they found a point that wasn’t a solution, but they thought they knew what the solution should be, that they could change their values to that point and check to see. Keep in mind that they haven’t learned anything about how to solve systems yet, just how to check to see if a certain point is a solution or not. This had the result I was hoping it would, that many students started to really reason with what the equations were telling them and trying to logically figure out how to adjust a false solution to find one that would work! One or two students abandoned the dice all together and were trying to just find the solution from the beginning, which was awesome!

Here’s some pictures of my students in action on this activity:

I laughed a lot at how frustrated the students got when they kept not finding solutions. We talked about how small of a chance there was of rolling the correct solution (a 1 in 6 chance for x and for y…).

Students started yelling things out like, “Miss Mastalio, 8 is NOT equal to 17 and I’m really mad about it!”


“This point works in the first equation and I’m going to THROW A FIT if it doesn’t work in the second one!”

Overall I had excellent engagement for this activity, and I think a lot of students really got a deep understanding of what these solutions mean.

Here is the file for both the dry erase template and the systems cards, as an editable Publisher file and as a PDF.

Algebra 1 Unit 2 Interactive Notebooks

This year I’ve committed to posting each unit of both my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 INBs.

My district is moving to a standards based curriculum, and has identified priority standards for every course. These are the standards we are required to address and assess our students over, so they pretty much form our units.

Algebra 2 INB Posts:

Unit 1 | Unit 2 | Unit 3

Other Algebra 1 INB Posts:

Unit 1


Our second unit in Algebra 1 addresses A.CED.2 for linear functions only:

Create equations in two or more variables to represent relationships between quantities; graph equations on coordinate axes with labels and scales.


I honestly hate how I broke this unit down into skills. This unit is VERY long, because we have to cover both graphing and then writing linear equations, and there are a lot of components to both of those things. What I WISH I had done, and what I will adjust to do next year, is to split this standard into two “units” for the purposes of their INBs, and done one unit on various things they need to be able to know before working with linear functions (see skills 1, 2, and 5) and one unit on completing the actual standard. Maybe I’ll call it “Pre A.CED.2” and “A.CED.2” 🙂 I also wish that I had added a few skills or adjusted what a few of the skills say, but I’ll get to that as we get into each skill.

You can find more about my index pages in previous INB posts linked above.

Skill 1: I can identify a function and describe its domain and range

This is the first year that I have NOT EVER said ANYTHING about the vertical line test when teaching about functions, and I think it was fairly effective. I really focused on the definition of each x-value being paired with ONLY ONE y-value, and that one idea translates better to graphs, tables, mapping diagrams, and other representations. I liked the extended Frayer diagram and using a highlighter to identify what components of the non-functions made them non-functions.

We used the cards from Sarah Carter’s Function Auction as a card sort for our INBs. I had students sort them on their tables, and then we went through each relation and debated whether it was a function or not, again highlighting components that made non-functions non-functions. I had them choose three functions and three non-functions to glue into their notebooks as examples, and emphasized that they should choose three that they were potentially confused on before we discussed, because those things would probably confuse them again in the future. I also suggested that they choose one table, one graph, and one other representation for each category.

For the domain and range notes, I only wish that I had not put separate graphs for domain and range. When we got to assignments, students struggled with finding both on the same graph and kept asking if they could have another copy of things to do domain and range separately.

The function machine notes come from Sarah Carter – my students this year did a better job with not freaking out at function notation than ever before, even though I also used these notes last year!

Skill 2: I can identify when a relationship is linear

For this skill, after we took the notes on how to identify linear and discrete/continuous situations, I had them complete the card sorts on the first two pages of this Desmos activity I made. (I froze the pacing to the first two pages and then we completed the rest of the activity later as practice) Students then chose 3 examples for each case from the card sort to include in their notebooks. We went over the correct sorting as a class before they did this part, and had discussions about cases where there was disagreement.

They continued struggling with the whole discrete vs. continuous idea throughout the unit – I would welcome if you have better ways to explain that! In the end, I didn’t stress too much about that because it isn’t explicitly assessed, but I do wish that they felt more comfortable with the concept.

Skill 3: I can graph a linear equation written in standard form (Ax + By = C)

This skill went pretty well, although my students struggled to retain this skill throughout the unit, so I obviously didn’t sprinkle in enough standard form practice problems later on! I don’t think I gave them quite enough structured space on the inside of this foldable to find the two intercepts, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with that. The discrete or continuous one they definitely did not have enough room to write – you can see that I barely had enough space and I am organized and know how much space to plan for and don’t have high school boy handwriting…so that one needs some adjusting.

Skill 4: I can graph a linear equation written in slope intercept form (y=mx+b)

Students did well with this one, although I wish that I had gone with my original plan to use my giant bedsheet graph and make students walk out the slope for each of the examples, because I think most of them copied my graphs from the board after we had walked through and so they didn’t physically go through the same process to get the two points as I did and then later struggled with how to create the two points themselves. Some kept wanting to back to the origin to do the slope from, some were reversing the variables in the slope, and a host of other misconceptions. I think making them walk out the graph and seeing their classmates do it would have sealed this in their brains more firmly from the beginning.


**side note in the graphing section, I wish that I had made a separate foldable portion for horizontal and vertical lines, because even though we watched Slope Dude later and went through them within these examples, they struggled every single time they came across one of those cases.

Skill 5: I can find the slope (rate of change) of a linear function

I actually kind of screamed a little bit, on the inside but also out loud in my classroom, when I came across this slope foldable on teachers pay teachers (for free!). First of all, it gives me a space to incorporate Slope Dude, everyone’s favorite video of all time (I say frequently to groans from my students, but one of them asked if we could watch it again “if they all did well on their tests” as a reward or something, so I think it really is their favorite), and second, it almost looks like the Deathly Hallows symbol when you open it up!!!!! Yes!!!! Harry Potter Slope!

**side note: I just youtube searched “Harry Potter slope” to see if anything existed there and this is probably the funniest thing I’ve ever watched.

I wish that I hadn’t tried to include the extra examples around the outside of it though, because it just got incomprehensibly covered. I want to make a poof book foldable with extra examples, and also want to add in initial value to both those examples and the “slope in a situation” foldable.

Skill 6: I can write an equation in slope-intercept form

This is where it became obvious to me that I should have split this unit somehow. My students already felt like this unit had been going on forever, and were getting overwhelmed. It just needs to be divided into smaller pieces for them somehow.

I split this skill into three sources to write equations from: graphs, tables, and situations/scenarios. The graph notes are from Sarah Carter.

None of these were bad, persay, there isn’t really a particular thing I would point out that I really disliked about how I presented this, but I just need to rethink how I come at this next year. My students said that the pocket notes about creating all representations were “way too much writing”, but I’m honestly not sure of a shorter way to get practice with that content. Again, just some rethinking needs to happen. I welcome suggestions!

Skill 7: I can write an equation in point-slope form

Point-slope form, on the other hand, went much better than I think it ever has before. The consistency of putting the form again at the top of all three foldables helped, I think. I even had a substitute during the day they were practicing using point-slope form from x/y tables and I came back to almost all proficient practice scores! That being said, I could tell this was at the end of a very long unit for them and they were just worn out from trying to keep everything straight. If I adjust the structure of a lot of these sections for next year I think it will go much better.

If you want to use any of these files, follow the links included for those I got from other places, or download PDF’s and editable files of the ones I created here.

Algebra 2 Unit 3 Interactive Notebooks

This year I’ve committed to posting each unit of both my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 INBs.

My district is moving to a standards based curriculum, and has identified priority standards for every course. These are the standards we are required to address and assess our students over, so they pretty much form our units.

Other Algebra 2 INB Posts:

Unit 1 | Unit 2

Algebra 1 INB Posts:

Unit 1


Unit 3 in Algebra 2 covers F.IF.7 part e (only the exponential and logarithmic functions):

Graph exponential and logarithmic functions, showing intercepts and end behavior.

On the index page, you can see that I broke this standard down into four skills. Writing the equations from the graphs is not explicitly stated in F.IF.7e, but it’s under one of the supporting standards we are using in this unit and it is on our assessments for it.

You can find more info about my index pages in previous posts.IMG_2479


Skill 1: I can graph an exponential function and identify its key features

I borrowed resources from Kathryn over at Restructuring Algebra for this – I added a definition for asymptote to her description of exponentials. For the examples, I added listings of the key features for each graph, which got a little cramped, but it got the job done. All of the pink writing you see on the examples foldable I just handwrote before I made copies. I will probably type out a nicer version of this for next year. Here is Kathryn’s post about these resources.


Skill 2: I can write an exponential function based on its graph.

Again, I borrowed Kathryn’s resource talking about the y-intercept and the based, except I cut off the bottom row where she talked about the x/y table because our material only really focuses on being able to write an equation starting with a graph. Then I created a poof book from Sarah Carter’s template so we could get some practice in! I think Sarah has a more updated template for poof books somewhere possibly but this is the post I always find when I’m looking for it…

The biggest mistake my students kept making here was dividing the points in the wrong order to get the base. Definitely need to emphasize that more next year – I would probably add something about just recognizing growth or decay so that they could immediately tell if their base should be >1 or <1.



Skill 3: I can graph a logarithmic function and identify its key features.

This is a new skill for Algebra 2 this year – previously, they had to be able to translate between logarithms and exponentials (which is the next unit I will teach), but only had to deal with graphing exponentials.

We started with a brief introduction to logarithms, since they have not seen them before. In the next unit, we get more into how they work, but a basic overview of what the calculator buttons are doing was good enough here.

The main thing that was a struggle here is that my students didn’t want to make the graphs go out far enough to get that good third point, and then their graphs weren’t good and their key features were a little off. I suppose I could have printed pre labeled coordinate grids for them to graph their assignments on, but they have to be able to label the grids themselves too!

I also did not make them find exact values when an intercept was really large (not on their graph), because we won’t learn to solve logarithmic functions until the next unit. We will revisit this thought briefly then, but for now I just had them note down that it would be a really large number somewhere off one side of their graph.


Skill 4: I can write a logarithmic function based on its graph.

Another skill that was not previously in our Algebra 2, and that I’ve never had to teach before! I kept it to logarithms that have no scale factor, since that’s all they encounter in their assessments, and used the transformations.

This is a pretty short and sweet standard, since the next standard is about actually calculating things and solving things with exponents and logarithms. This is just focused on translating between equations and graphs, and I think my students did a pretty good job with it! They’re certainly getting better at domain and range!

You can find all the resources from this post HERE, in editable (Publisher or Word) and PDF format.

Opinion Abandonment

This time of year is always a bit stressful for teachers. It’s the time when the newness of the school year has officially worn off, most high schools have ended their first grading period of the year or are getting close to it depending on their structure, and for our district in particular, we barely have a full week of school from mid October until winter break. People think having a short week sounds great until you actually experience high schoolers on a short week of school. It’s like it short circuits their normal human behavior wires in their brains or something, having one less day in a school week. Not always bad behavior, just not their usual behavior.

Regardless, it’s a weird part of the school year. Love, Teach calls it DEVOLSON. Yesterday, one of our district teacher leaders posted this image on her facebook page and I shared it on my twitter.

The response to it tells me that I’m not alone in this feeling at the moment. I process the world best when I have lots of information about everything, and also lots of control over things that I make and do. I like to have lots of data to work from, and to be able to revise and edit and think about things thoroughly without putting them out into the world. (My staff did the Real Colors personality test at professional development last week, can you tell? I am a Green.) When the school schedule is as weird as it is, it’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by a feeling that I’m not able to process things in the way I want to process them. Letting go of things is hard for me.

I saw that yesterday, and then today the vlogbrothers (John and Hank Green, who have been making YouTube videos together since 2007 and of whom I have been a fan for almost as long) posted this video:

First, ignore the Pizza John if you don’t understand. As they say in the video, it’s not something you explain, it’s just something you accept. Second, this video made me laugh after a really weird day that I would say was a bad day except nothing really that bad happened I just felt bad about it.

Third, opinion abandonment. I think this is a thing that I desperately need to adopt. We have too many opinions! In fact, I pride myself on being very opinionated about things and being able to have a vaguely informed opinion about almost anything. But I think the thought that I don’t need to have an opinion about everything might just be super freeing. If I care so much about every little thing that happens, if I have to formulate an opinion about ALL OF IT, then no wonder I feel stressed and overwhelmed and want to detach a bit.

So I’m going to start abandoning some opinions.

I will no longer have an opinion on other teacher’s grading policies in my building.

I will no longer have an opinion about Stranger Things.


Phew, I feel lighter already!

(shoutout to Tedi for having an opinion on what I should abandon my opinions about!)

Slope Intercept Form Dice Activity!

I tweeted today about my students getting randomized practice using dice today:

I figured I would blog about the templates!

We just started our new quarter this week, and we had learned how to graph using slope intercept form before finals last quarter, but I knew students still hadn’t mastered it, then we started this quarter out learning how to write slope intercept form equations starting from a graph. I decided to make this randomized practice for a few reasons:

First, I asked the students to have me check their work after each problem before they could move on. This really let me know who was getting it and who wasn’t, and I didn’t let them move on to the other side of the template until I felt confident that they knew what they were doing on the first part! They all started with the graphing and then moved to the writing equations side.

Second, I wanted any “special cases” like vertical or horizontal lines to come up naturally when they were writing equations. We had already practiced the special cases enough in the graphing for me to feel comfortable that they were okay with those, so it wasn’t too big of a deal that you couldn’t get those cases on that template.

Third, it’s kind of fun to let the dice decide! I think students feel like this is a bit less in my control so then they tend to take even the more challenging problems in stride instead of just getting grumpy with me for assigning them a “hard one”.

Here is the “graphing” side of the template:


Notice that the differences between options 1-4 are where the negatives are. When I use this activity again, I’ll probably change #5 and #6 to be horizontal and vertical lines, so y=___ and x = ____.

Here’s the “writing equations” side of the template:


Some of these create lines with y-intercepts that don’t show on this graph window, or are non-integer values. When my students ran into these, I had them estimate where they thought they would be and let them know that there would be another strategy to deal with these that we will learn in a few weeks (we will be learning about point-slope form equation later this unit). I made the sets of A and B points so that many of them would result in integer y-intercepts and easily simplified slopes, but that some wouldn’t. This was intentional to preview the need for other types of linear equation forms.

My students who mastered both of these skills with enough time left in our class period, I asked to give me a written explanation, in words, of how you write an equation to go with a line. I’m trying to give them more practice writing in math class, communicating their ideas. They’re very reluctant to do this and aren’t very confident yet, but I got some fairly decent explanations (most were incomplete or lacking a lot of detail, but we’ll work on it!).

Download these templates in editable Publisher form here or in PDF form here.