Pop Machine Functions

I teach functions using pop machines! Which in my opinion, is the best way for students to remember functions.

The first pop machine is a function.  Every time you push button 1, you get a Dr. Pepper.  Every time you push button 2, you get a Sprite.  Sprite’s pretty popular with these people (or at least I tell students that), so there’s another button for it.  Every time you push button 3, you get a Sprite.  Every time you push button 4, you get a Coke.

In the second pop machine, every time you push button 1, you get a Diet Coke.  But if you push button 2, sometimes you get Cherry Coke, and sometimes you get Fanta.  For someone that only likes Cherry Coke, they’ll be so mad to get a Fanta! [Every time you push button 3, you get water.]  Because button 2 leads to angry people, this is not a function!

I purposely made the first machine so that there would be two buttons going to Sprite, since a lot of students get it mixed up and think that means it isn’t a function (instead of the problem where one x goes to two y’s, which does mean it isn’t a function).


When we do an actual problem, I still draw it like a pop machine:

After drawing the pop machine and filling it in, I prompted students asking if there would be happy people or angry people, and then label it as “function” or “not a function”.

Snapchat Scavenger Hunt

  1. Students love Snapchat (and being on their phones in general)
  2. I want students to know their vocab

So: Snapchat Scavenger Hunt

I gave the students a list of vocabulary they’re learned already:

  • point
  • segment
  • ray
  • opposite rays
  • plane
  • collinear points
  • acute angle
  • right angle
  • obtuse angle
  • straight angle
  • adjacent angles
  • vertical angles
  • complementary angles
  • supplementary angles

…and showed them how I was going to allow them to use Snapchat in the middle of class.

I told them to take a picture of one of these things in my classroom (being as creative as they could and without just taking pictures in their textbook) and use Snapchat to draw and label it.  Because not everyone has a phone or Snapchat, they could work in groups of up to three students.


I gave them about five minutes to go around my room looking for the vocab and they were so into it!


Afterwards I just went around looking at their pictures and chose a few that I thought were creative and deserved prizes.  I could’ve put the pictures up on the projector, but for the sake of time, I just pointed out where they took the winning pictures and which word it went with.

Quick Go-to Math Games (almost no supplies needed)


I was looking for an activity/game that I could do with my students that would review order of operation and came across Witzzle; while it is good practice for order of operations, it’s also just a good general practice and I plan to keep using it throughout the year.  I think I changed the rules a bit, but it worked for my class.  I don’t do warm-ups, but I do an activity during our block days on Wednesday, so I needed an activity that could take ten-twenty minutes, or any length I desired.  I gave them the 3 x 3 square board (just written on the board) with the numbers 1-9 in it (I started looking for boards online, then realized I could just randomly put the numbers 1-9 in, so no need to actually buy Witzzle Pro).  I asked them to number their lined piece of paper from 1-30, and try to find combos that would make those numbers.  You have to use three number from the grid, either from a row, column, or diagonal, and have to use all the numbers and can only use them each once.  This took quite a bit of explaining to get my students to understand, so here’s an example:

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We started looking at the column with 1, 5, and 7.  We started by adding all three together and got 13, so I had them write next to the 13 on their paper, “1+5+7”.  Then I showed them they could do “1*5+7” which gave us 12, so I had them write that by 12.  And so on.  Make sure to show them an example with the number in a different order, for example, “7-5+1” to give us 3.  I told students they could move to a new column/row/diagonal whenever they wanted.

With the amount of time I had, I asked them to try to find 15 of the 30 numbers; you could easily change this with the time limit you have.  The first three people to get fifteen expressions correct earned a reward dollar.

You can actually have them get a target number between -12 and 36, but I decided just to go for numbers 1-30 to make it simpler.

If you want to use this for daily warm-ups: some people do it for daily warm-ups and just use the date as the target number.



This is a game I grew up playing and was pumped when I found a copy of it brand new at a thrift store for 50 cents!! It “builds cognitive, logical and spatial reasoning skills as well as visual perception skills” (from their website: setgame.com).  I think not as many students are playing games at home that involve thinking and logic, so I’m planning to use this in my class! You try to find three cards that make a set.  The cards come in three colors, three shapes, three numbers, and three fillings; a set has to have each category either the same or different.


Ex: this set has all red cards, they each have two things, they all have the pill shape, and they all have a different shading.  Here’s a few more examples:


I have a copy of this game and plan to take pictures of some cards up and put it up on the screen using my iPad, but the website also has a daily puzzle here: http://setgame.com/set/puzzle. Bonus: if you find all the sets in the daily puzzle, you can enter to win a physical copy of the game.


Apathy is something that has been discussed in our teachers’ lounge and meetings multiple times this semester, specifically related to our freshmen.  It seems that at our school we have a culture that is fine with a passing grade, and for some students, even fine with failing.  I’m most frustrated with my algebra classes; throughout the semester I’ve had between 25% and 50% failing my class.  In the beginning of the semester we spent a decent amount of time stopping and reviewing because students weren’t doing well on their quizzes;  I’ve had required tutoring time for students that were failing during lunches (and have since decided against this); and of course I’ve emailed home, but nothing seems to work.  We had our last quiz today and the work they put on their quizzes made me think they didn’t study at all or at least not enough.  Exams are next week and about half of my algebra students are failing.  Students have the ability to retest (although not during the week before exams) and yet I have students that are failing and aren’t retesting, not even during the usual last minute panic to raise their grade at the end of the semester.

Long story short, I want to know what you do to motivate your students and tackle apathy.  My math colleagues and I got talking this afternoon about the idea of reward systems in high school.  I’m toying with the idea, but I hate the idea of rewarding things that are just expected.  What are your thoughts on a reward system for freshmen (and perhaps sophomores)? Other ideas to tackle apathy?  I want to get started on this already for next year, because at this rate I’m going to burn out if I can’t get students motivated.

Questioning questioning

I’m going to be honest.  The prompt for the third week came and I had no idea what to write: all because I don’t think I’m asking good/big/deep questions, nor is it really even on my radar.

In my school, it’s enough work to get students to understand how to do a problem, that questioning isn’t my biggest focus.  Sure, I ask my students if they understand what I’m doing, if they’re following along.  I ask them what 2 times 6 is and I ask them what the next step is as we do a problem, but those are all surface questions.  With my students, is that enough?  I ask these kinds of questions and still have students that can’t answer them.  I guess I have the mentality that if we’re just struggling to get the basic material, how could I possibly ask bigger questions?  Perhaps I’m underestimating my students; perhaps they would surprise me.  But is it a good use of my time to ask the big questions when I could be using that time to do more problems and explain more, hoping for the content to finally stick?

There’s no good way to end this blogpost.  I’m rather frustrated with myself, thinking perhaps I’m selling my students short. I know I push them hard and have high expectations, but are my expectations focused on the right things?

My favorite way to get to know my students

Let me introduce you to a thing I’ve created called HLP’s.

I love my students so much and love chatting with them and finding out about their lives, but I find I don’t have enough time in the day to talk to everyone; plus I have some introverted students that don’t like to speak up much.  So I created HLP’s, which stands for High, Low, Prayer Request.

Every Friday, my students pick up half of an index card as they walk in the door.  On it they write their name, as well as a high from their week, a low from their week, and a prayer request; they turn it in during that class period.  I have learned so much more about my students than I ever thought I would.  My students are so open and willing to share when they are able to write it down and know only I will read it.  Highs vary from winning their basketball game to talking to their crush; lows vary from pets being sick to being depressed; and prayer requests vary from praying for good grades to sick family members.

Every Sunday night, as I lay in bed before going to sleep, I read through the HLP’s and pray for each student.  Every once in a while my students ask me if I actually read through them and they’re rather surprised that I read through them all.

These HLP’s have deepened my relationships with my students.  Each week I get a special peek into their lives, often of things they wouldn’t say aloud.  It has led me to care for them even more, each and every day.

Parallelograms, Rhombuses, Rectangles, and Squares: a project to help remember theorems

There are a lot of theorems related to parallelograms, rhombuses, rectangles, and squares.  But I felt just giving these at the top of a quiz was too easy, so I expected my students to know them for the quiz.  It didn’t seem fair to just have them memorize them, so I had them do a project where they could draw a picture, write a rap, write a song, or come up with something else to help them remember.  Below are the projects they came up with.  A lot of them didn’t want me to record them, so I only have the lyrics.  Here is a favorite from last year:


Rectangle: four right angles and diagonals congruent


To the tune of “#Selfie”

A rhombus is a parallelogram with four congruent sides with diagonals bisecting opposite angles.  Oh my gosh diagonals being perpendicular, that’s very impressive.  Do you think that the rectangle is trying to make me jealous? I don’t think so.  Why does the DJ keep playing the song Parallelograms.  So can we go to the classroom because i need a math problem to figure out.  Why does rectangle have four right angles because that’s legitness with diagonals being congruent but first let’s make a rhombus.


Story about a Rectangle

A long time ago in a distant land there lived a rectangle who was trying to earn his stripes in the armed forces.  FullSizeRender-2

He was always bullied by the squares for being a rectangle and not being able to go through the obstacle course as fast as the squares could.  Rectangle tried and tried but he could not go as fast as the squares.  Rectangle wanted to get his rhombus stripes to be labeled as a square like the others.  One day rectangle got tired of being bullied so he faced his fellow squares and they told him “if you make it through the obstacle course in under 0 minutes then we will give you your rhombus stripes”.  Rectangle accepted the challenge, he made the time, and the squares gave him his stripes and rectangle became a square.


The end.

Rhombus: crayons mark four congruent sides, diagonals perpendicular, and rulers bisect opposite angles


To the tune of “Hello” by Adele (I wrote this one)

Hello, it’s rhombus.  Were you wondering about the four congruent sides I have? Or my diagonals, you see.  They are perpendicular and split the angles right in half


To the tune of “Let’s Groove” by Earth, Wind, and Fire

Let’s groove tonight.  Share the shapes of life.  Baby draw it right.  We’re gonna pair it tonight.  Let this rhombus make congruent sides, let this shape, stick in your head.  Perpendicular diagonals make this shape, oohhh, gonna tell diagonals split angles in half.

Parallelograms let you know opposite sides are congruent.  Diagonals bisect. Consecutive angles add to 180.  Opposite angles congruent, pair congruent and parallel.

Let this groove once again.  We’re gonna show you one other shape.  Can you guess what is his shape? Rectangle oooh ohh.  Let this shape make other shapes with a rhombus ooohh.  Gonna let you know that diagonals are congruent, it’s a rectangle!


To the tune of “Hakuna Matata”

It is the rhombus.  What a wonderful shape! It is a rhombus, ain’t no regular shape.  It means 4 sides all are the same length. It’s our song to sing, so we remember these, what is a rhombus.  Why! Diagonals split the angles.  Diagonals split the angles!! Very nice.  Than you.  Well diagonals are 90 degrees this is the rhombus we hope you’re pleased.

Rectangle: four right angles and diagonals congruent

To the tune of “The Monster” by Eminem and Rihanna

I’m scare of the rhombus that’s under my bed, four sides are congruent, diagonals bisect.  Perpendicular diagonals scare me to death.  I am a rhombus, I am a rhombus, not a square!


A Day in the Life


My day starts at 6:30 when my alarm goes off; I get ready, eat breakfast, pack a lunch, and I’m out the door by 7:40, if not a bit earlier.  I live on campus, so I have about a minute long walk to get to school.

I walk into the teachers’ lounge to put away my lunch and I’m wonderfully surprised by some donuts a fellow teacher brought in; I take one with sprinkles.  I make my way to my classroom where my desks are a mess, so I spend five minutes putting them back.IMG_6852

There are textbooks left all over, but I’ll leave those for students to pick up 🙂 I wrote a note on the board reminding them their textbooks need to go back in the cupboard.

My mornings before school starts are usually used to grab retests off the printer, put names on them, and deliver some to our academic support teacher.  I also double check to see if I missed any and need to print more.  Since we haven’t had a quiz yet this semester, there are no retests to print.

As the buses arrive, my classroom begins to fill; a lot of the sophomore boys like to come and hangout in my room before first hour.  This means I always get filled in on NFL games 😉

First hour I teach Algebra 1 to 17 students.  Each class period usually looks the same (excluding block days when we do activities and quizzes).  I check homework, walking around to check completion, while the answers are projected on the screen for students to check their work.  Then we do our lesson and usually have time for them to start homework at the end.  Today we started covering standard form, learning how to solve for the x- and y-intercept, graph it with the intercepts, and graph vertical and horizontal lines.

Second hour I teach Geometry to 25 students; today we learned about special parallelograms: rhombus’, rectangles, and square.  Break in the teacher’s lounge while students get breakfast; yes I ate another donut, but only a half.  Third hour I teach Geometry to 14 students; they got ahead of 2nd hour because of snow days, so we did some practice for the AMC.  Fourth hour is my prep; today I made our quizzes that students will take on block day.  I also had to run home and to the admin building.  Then we have chapel; on Tuesdays one of the teachers leads chapel.  Then comes lunch, and on Tuesdays I have lunch duty.  Fifth hour I teach Algebra 1 to 21 students, teaching standard form again.  Sixth hour I “teach” math tutorial to 9 students.  This is basically a math study hall/academic support class.  I have students that are in Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2.  Seventh hour I teach Pre-Algebra to 8 students; today we learned about adding and subtracting algebraic expressions.  I’m allowed to leave school at 3:45.  On this particular Tuesday I need to go get my allergy shots, so I leave right away once school is over at 3:20 to get my shots before they close.  On my way home, I stop at Subway for dinner, which I eat at home.  Then I head over to watch the JV basketball game.  I decide not to stay for varsity since I watched them a few days ago, so I go home to sit and watch tv :).