Saturday, January 24, 2009

Probability and Poker

My friend, and the math dept. chair at my school found a great lesson in the New York Times on teaching probability using the game of poker. She shared it with me and I loved it! the the dollar store I went to purchase cards. Forget about the fact that I don't play poker and really don't have a clue on how to do so.

I printed the lesson for my intern and myself, then printed the article that goes with the lesson (a classroom set) so that my students could read it. Then also printed a classroom set of General Poker Rules so we could all go over them together.

On Thursday each student had a deck of cards and we discussed the number of the following in the deck:
face cards
number cards
high cards
low cards
red cards
black cards

Then I had them shuffle their decks and deal three hands of five cards. We did some pretty cool figurin' on probability based on what they dealt. It was very fun.

Yesterday we went through the article and talked about reasons Poker is a good learning tool, so that when they had the discussion with their parents about what they are doing in math, they would actually be able to say that I am not teaching them to gamble.

Yesterday we also had a few house-keeping things to do before we started on that, and because none of my students work at the same rate, classes as a whole were cut to about 20 minutes (tops). So during my last two class periods I showed them a great card trick my dad taught me...spent some time fooling them all...then taught them the trick. I know...I know...that is not necessarily in the curriculum, however I do have a theory about just having fun in my classroom. There are very few teachers who would take 10-20 minutes to show them a card trick...but you see, what I'm doing when I have fun with my students, is building relationships. Each time I let my "teacher" persona take a rest, they realize they can trust me and it helps them realize that they truly have an advocate in me. might semi-backfire every once in a while, so that my students think they can get away with stuff, but all it takes to bring that back in is for me to have a conversation with that particular student about the right time to get to work and the right time to have fun, and the problem is over.

Anyway, if anyone would like to give me hints on how to play Poker, I'm certainly open. I really think I should understand a little of it before I really use it as a teaching tool.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I am sitting in the comfort of my house enjoying watching a light snow fall. It's so beautiful...check out the photos at the end of this post. The kids went out first thing this morning, making snow angels and trying to throw snowballs at each other. The snow is so powdery that we can't get it to stick together.

The other amazing thing about today is that I am watching Barack Obama's inauguration on T.V. My dad and step-mom are IN Washington, D.C. with my step-sister. I got a text from my dad about an hour ago...he's roughly 100 feet from the Washington monument, watching the festivities on jumbotron. I wonder if they are planning to go to the South Carolina Inaugural Ball??? They haven't said...maybe I'll get another text!

Isn't this amazing? I am so proud to be an American today. The simple fact that our country has elected an African American is amazing. We are definitely blessed.

Enjoy your snow day!

Monday, January 19, 2009


Back in the day when I was in college, when it was time for us to go into a classroom for our last semester of college and teach, we were called student teachers. Well, things have seriously changed and now those people are called interns. And guess what...I have one this semester! I've never had an intern...she's my first (she was the first intern for her mentor teacher last semester too!). She is going to be good...I can already tell! She has brought her planner everyday that she's been with me, so that's a great sign that she's organized.

I am filled with excitement about this adventure, but I'm also a little scared. I love teaching, and I know that I do a good job, however I'm not the most organized teacher on the planet (please insert extreme sarcasm here...I'm incredibly NOT organized). I am partially responsible for this young lady learning how to teach middle school math, and also partially responsible for her learning to love it. What if I totally screw it up for her! I don't want her to learn everything NOT to do from me.

So...part of my attitude now is to get my poop in a group and be sure I show my intern how wonderful this "job" can be! Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Half Done

The last day of the first semester is tomorrow. We are giving semester exams to our students this week, and my team will have their math exam tomorrow. This is very nerve wracking for me and the kids! They are nervous that they are going to bomb the exam and I am nervous that they will not remember what I've taught them this year!

They've already had their Language Arts exam, and we had some who have had the nerve to say things like "I got bored and just filled in bubbles!" With that kind of attitude, how can we expect them to do well?

We've had a lot of interruptions and problems this week, especially today. I've had three students cry to me already today, and my teammates (as well as myself) are feeling frustrated too, so sensitive students and frustrated teachers are not always a great combination. We have a teacher workday on Friday and a holiday on Monday...both of these are much needed breaks!!!

So when we come back on Tuesday we are starting a new semester...we're halfway done with this school year. This is shocking to some ways, it seems like I just met this group of kids, but in other ways, it seems like I've been teaching for three years with this particular group of kids. I'm trying to come up with a really good, fun, "let's start again" activity for them to do on Tuesday. I am thinking about having them write a "goal letter." When they do this, they pretend they are at the end of the school year, and write reasons why "this has been the best school year ever." This activity always gives kids a little focus and something to work for.

I'm open to suggestions if anyone has a suggestion...we all need a fresh, clean start, don't you agree???

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Happy New Year!

We're back in school now, having started on Monday, Jan. 5, 2009. I can't believe I'm writing the date 2009! I remember when I thought I'd be old in the year 2000 and here I am almost 10 years past I really getting old?

In previous years in my school district we have finished the first semester with the last day of school before Christmas break. Well, last year and this year we have started school later, thus moving our semester end about two weeks after returning from Christmas break. This is very frustrating to me! I need schedules to make sense, and this just doesn't make sense to me.

Also, in previous years, the students who took semester exams at the middle school level were either in 8th grade or taking the Algebra I class. This year we are going to give exams to ALL middle school students....6th graders will take 9 weeks exams, and 7th graders will take semester exams. We will begin giving the semester exams next semester, but we (teachers) thought for a few days that we were going to give semester exams by next Thursday, so this has been a super crazy week. My team has decided to go ahead and give a semester test, but only count it as a test. SO...I will be working tonight and tomorrow to create a study guide for my precious kids to use over the next few days in preparation for the big semester test.

I really want to make a difference for these kids...I would feel this way, regardless of where I was teaching. Please say a little prayer that I will give a fair test and my students will be prepared to take the test.