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What Is Your Mindset?

In the fall, I taught a new course entitled Conquering College. We have found that many students entering college are not prepared, lack study skills as well as the soft skills of being on time, regularly doing homework, turning in assignments - on time, etc. This class is required for every student who tests into developmental math and/or reading.  It has three purposes:
  1. To enable students to learn and use Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) strategies necessary for persistence and success at the college level, 
  2. To develop a learning plan based upon personal abilities and goals, and 
  3. To become more self-reliant in fulfilling academic goals.
During the sixteen weeks, we spent time focusing on the the growth and fixed mindset. If you haven't heard of the fixed mindset and the growth mindset, I'll summarize it this way - it is our attitudes, thoughts and beliefs about something.

Study the two charts below. In which category do you fit? Where would you place many of your students?

Carol Dweck has done a great deal of research on Growth Mindset. There is a ten minute video on You Tube which is well worth watching and sharing with your fellow teachers. It is called How To Help Every Child Fulfill Their Potential. (click on title) If for no other reason, watch it to discover what 15 years of praising children for their intelligence has done to our students. It is definitely eye opening!

A Go Figure Debut for An Idaho College Teacher Who is New!

Dr. Jan's Math & Science Lab

Jan has been teaching for one million years. (Of course that is better than "since the earth cooled," like me.)  This is her 27th year of teaching, which includes 21 years at the elementary level, and the last six at the college level.  She currently works in a STEM teacher preparation program at Boise State University; so, she teaches future teachers.  

This semester she is teaching the Elementary Science Methods course for the first time, and she LOVES it! The main thing she enjoys is giving future teachers experiences in classrooms to boost their confidence and to show them that teaching science is engaging for kids and so worth squeezing into the busy school day.  For her job, Jan has the unique experience of teaching future teachers student-centered practices, and then going out to local schools to watch them try out teaching.  It is super rewarding when they have positive experiences and decide that teaching might be right for them. 

Jan has three "young" adult children; Zoe who is 23, Drew who is 20, and her youngest Alex who is 18.  Alex will be graduating from high school this spring and heading to college.  She and her husband of 26 years are excited about the next chapter in their lives and officially being empty nesters.  Jan also has two fur babies that she adores.  Ari is an Australian Shepherd, and Mia is a French Brittany.  In her free time, Jan enjoys traveling,  skiing, camping and going to outdoor concerts.  

Jan has 167 products in her store, seven of which are free.  Her focus is on math and science, mostly for grades K-8.  Currently, she is working on creating more middle school level products.  Since she loves inquiry based instruction and Project Based Learning, many of her products promote these practices. 

Only $4.00
One of Jan's paid items is entitled, Design A Dog Park.  It is a fun project based learning project that engages students! Students work in teams to design a dog park. A variety of math skills are practiced including area, perimeter, addition, subtraction, multiplication. ELA skills are also integrated as students write persuasive letters and give oral presentations on their proposals. Giving students relevant contexts to apply skills is a meaningful way for students to construct conceptual understanding and see a useful application.


Jan's FREE item is called Science in a Bag.  It is the perfect birthday gift for students! Simply gather the easy to find supplies, print it off then staple the activity booklet pages and put everything into a quart or gallon sized Ziploc bag. Staple the birthday topper, and you're done! (Better yet, have a parent helper put these together.) The kit includes a mini booklet with directions and questions for three different activities that can be done with little supervision on the teacher's part. If you teach grades 3-6, download it for your classroom.

Jan also writes a blog called Dr. Jan's Math and Science Lab.  (What else?) As an educator, her goal is to share her passion for math and science with as many educators as she can! By having a blog, she hopes to give teachers tools and resources to enhance the math and science education of their students. Be sure to check it out!

Securing Calculators in Your Classroom so they don't walk off!

I teach at a community college which I love. I also spend three hours a week in the Math Lab which is a place where our students can come for math tutoring, to study or just to work in a group. It is staffed by math instructors. We try to have the supplies available that our students might need like a stapler, hole punch, white boards, pencils, scrap paper etc. We also have a set of scientific calculators which our students may borrow while in the Math Lab. 

Most of our items tend to remain in the Math Lab. Of course, a few pencils disappear now and then, but generally, most supplies seem to stay put EXCEPT for the calculators. Now I must say, students who take these home do so unintentionally. They just pick it up, slip it in their backpack and head out the door. Fortunately, most students are honest and eventually return the calculators to us. The dilemma is we only have so many calculators; so, we want to make sure that if a student needs one, it is on hand. We needed to find a way to make sure the calculators didn’t walk off.

One of our team members came up with an innovative but
simple solution. She purchased small clip boards and
attached the calculator to it by using Gorilla tape. The calculators are still accessible, but much too big or bulky to accidentally stick into a backpack. In addition, since they are on a clip board, they are easy to stand and display in the white board trays. At the end of the day, it is simple to count them to make sure none are missing. This idea has worked so well, that some of our math instructors are now using this method in their classrooms.

So if you teach math, and have a set of classroom calculators, why not give this idea a try?

Slope for Vertical and Horizontal Lines

I work in the Math Lab at the community college where I also teach. Last week, I had two College Algebra students who were having difficulty with slope.  They knew the equation y = mx + b, but were unsure when it came to horizontal or vertical lines. By the way, they were using their graphing calculators which I made them put away. (The book said no calculators.) I feel that if they construct the lines themselves, it puts a visual image into their brain much better than if the calculator does it for them. Sure enough, one of the sections in their math books gave the picture of the line from which they had to write the equation. They were amazed that I could just look at a graph and know the slope, give the equation, etc. When I taught high school math, my students couldn't use a graphing calculator until the middle of this particular chapter as I wanted them to physically draw the lines.

First, for those who have no idea what I am talking about, slope is rise over run.  Rise is how far a line goes up, and run is how far a line goes along.  At the right, the line goes up 3 and has a run 5; therefore, the slope is 3/5.  Rise/Run (Rise divided by Run) gives us the slope of the line.

When a line is horizontal, it has no rise, only a run. So the numerator would be zero (for no rise) and the denominator would be a number such as 5 for the run.  0 ÷ 5 = 0  This is true for any horizontal line.

A vertical line is different.  It has rise, but no run; therefore there would always be a number in the numerator, but always a zero in the denominator.  Since we cannot divide by zero, the slope is considered undefined. (I do use rise over run stating that a horizontal line might have 0/5 which is equal to 0 and that a vertical line might have 3/0 is undefined because we can't divide by zero. Our college algebra book uses O/K for okay and K/O for knock out which I like, but I still think the students need to know why.)

I wanted these two students to have a picture that would help them remember the difference.  I thought of a table for the horizontal line and asked them what would happen if the legs of the table were uneven.  They agreed that the table would have slope.  Therefore, the table would have a slope of zero if the legs were even.

I then went blank.  In other words, by creative juices stopped working, and I could not think of a picture that would help them visualize undefined. Since Teachers Pay Teachers has a forum,, I asked my fellow math teachers if they had any ideas.  Here is what some of them came up with.

The Enlightened Elephant suggested using a ski slope. She talks about skiing down a "cliff", which would not be possible (although some students try to argue that they could ski down a vertical cliff) and so the slope is "undefined" because it doesn't make sense to ski down a cliff.  Skiing on a horizontal line is possible so it's slope is zero,  She also talks about uphill (positive slope) and downhill (negative slope). 

Math by Lesley Elisabeth tells her students to use "HOY VUX" (rhymes with 'toy bucks')

             Horizontal - Zero (0) slope - y = ?   
             Vertical - Undefined slope - x = ?

All horizontal lines are =7 or = -3 etc., and all vertical lines are =1 or = 6, etc. Students forget this so the acronym HOY VUX helps them to remember. Once they've mastered the slope concept in Algebra I, for the rest of the school year, for Algebra II (especially equations of asymptotes - a line that continually approaches a given curve but does not meet it at any finite distance) and even in calculus classes for tangent lines, HOY VUX is just faster and more practical. 

Animated Algebra created a video lesson on the Slope Intercept  ($5 on TPT).  She has a boy skateboard down a negative slope, literally right on the graph line. Karen then shows the same boy taking an escalator up on a line that has a positive slope. Later in the lesson, she rotates the line clockwise, each movement with a click, to show the corresponding slope number to link the line to the slope.  She includes lots of other visual cues to help students focus on and pay attention to the concepts.

I did find a video on Pinterest that might help us all. It's called Slope Dude.  My students thought it was corny, but it did help them to remember.

Take some time to check some other great blog posts by my
fellow members of The Best of Teacher Entrepreneurs.
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