First 6 Weeks in Algebra 1

Algebra 1 is a fun but challenging class to teach. So many thoughts run through my head when I think about the beginning of the year in Algebra. One of the biggies is how much do the students remember from their previous math class? This is especially a big question since last year our district went to a distance learning format. I’m not sure what to expect from the incoming students, so I need a plan.

This year will be interesting. Our district has decided to have both online learning and in class learning. I’m working hard to make sure I have plenty of lessons that will work for either scenario. I’m going to start the year off with a two day review of number sense, order of operations and basic operations with integers. I’ve used this in the past because I always get a range of abilities, so I want to know where the students are. I have a print version of what I use and I’ve recently made a digital version. After I do the two day lesson, I give the students 3 quizzes (yep 3… because I want the repetition and plus it’s a challenge). All the quizzes are similar to each other but ask slightly different questions. The quizzes contain 15 questions. To move to the next quiz, students must make an 80 or better. If they don’t, they retake it. (These are timed because I don’t want the students to take too long. Either they know it or they don’t.) This can last up to 3 weeks. It’s not hard to keep up with because I take a grade on each quiz. Here’s a peek at the print version of the quiz vs. the Google Forms version:

The majority of the six weeks should (and hopefully will) be spent on solving equations. The days in the plan are block-schedule days. We have classes every other day for 80 minutes except on Fridays when the classes are only about 35 minutes. Below is plan that I will follow with the activities:

# of Days Topic
2Pre-Algebra Review – PDF Version or Digital Version
1Patterns (Boom Card Lesson)
1.5*Setting up and Solving Equations and Inequalities
1.5*Solving Equations and Inequalities
1*Literal Equations
1*Review Equations and Inequalities
My First 6 Weeks Plan

*Get all of the resources above in a bundle: Equations Bundle

I’ve linked the topics to some of my lessons and worksheets that I used in my TpT store, but as I see the need, I go find content in other places. My district uses a couple of resources that I pull from as well, but our students know how to find answers online for these assignments, so I don’t like to use them for homework.

If you’ve never used quizziz.com, you should try it. The kids really enjoy doing these. I like that the students can do them more than one time. I have the students show work in their journal. Basically it’s just a digital quiz with 4 answer choices. These are teacher-made and there are a ton to choose from on just about every topic.

One of my favorite digital resources is Boom Learning. If you like task cards, then you will love Boom Cards. Again, these cards are teacher-made. There are a variety of ways kids can answer questions. I started creating my own decks. I used two of my own creations the first six weeks. One set of Boom Cards covered patterns and how to write an expression from a pattern. The other set was for practicing solving equations and inequalities. The kids can go through them as many times as they want so they get a lot of practice and get the best grade possible. To use Boom Cards, you need a teacher account. The free account is perfectly fine, but you don’t get to see the reports. The best thing to do is to get a paid account which is only $15 – 35 dollars a year depending on which plan you choose. Make your own decks or purchase decks. There are free choices as well. Click here to go check out my store. I’m brand new at making these, but I can already tell that this will be something I work on because all of my classes love Boom Cards!

After I get used to my students and find out who has gaps in their learning, then it will be time to dive into tutoring. I will engage my students through online tutoring this year. It will be an interesting year to say the least. I know that I will need patience and I will need to be flexible. I’m ready for anything and I hope you are too. I wish you well in your new year!

Happy Teaching!

Inductive vs. Deductive Reasoning

One of my favorite Geometry lessons is the one introducing inductive and deductive reasoning. It’s fun and engaging. I like to open the lesson by showing the students a YouTube video: Monty Python Deductive Reasoning (Should be called Inductive Reasoning, but oh well!)

This lesson has many opportunities for discussions on how people reason and come to the wrong conclusions. You can bring up the media, social media, racism and many topics where people might come to the wrong conclusions. I also like to talk about predicting weather. the topics are endless.

My lesson from Teachers Pay Teachers has several handouts that can be added to the student’s interactive notebook. One of the activities is to have students cut out the examples seen below and place them with the correct headings: Deductive or Inductive.

The lesson also includes some 12 task cards. I like to group the students into fours and have them turn their desks together. They put the task cards in the middle of the tables and select a card, answer it on an answer document and then place the card back into the middle of the pile. Here’s a sample:

Finally, the lesson has a short 3 question worksheet that I like to use as a group quiz. I have the students work together through the quiz. They all have to write on their own paper. I assign each person a letter and they put it beside their name. After about 15 minutes or less, I spin a spinner that has A, B, C, or D on it. The person with the letter I land on, puts their paper on top and that is the one I grade for the group. I tell them this ahead of time. This gives them incentive to work and make sure everyone is participating.

Here is a copy of the resource that I have on TpT. Take a look. It’s also a part of a unit as well as in my Geometry Curriculum.

Study Guides for Math Portions of College Entrance Exams and College Readiness Exams

When you think of college entrance exams, I’m sure the SAT, PSAT and ACT come to mind. More high schools are offering these tests during school. Some students will take these tests 2 or 3 times or more. Why? Because they need a certain score to gain entrance into a school or to apply for a scholarship. The PSAT is a nice warm up to help students know where they stand before they take the real thing.

Every October, schools offer the PSAT/NMSQT to their juniors. Although sophomores can also take it , only the junior scores count toward the National Merit Scholarship competition. Schools are also starting to offer the PSAT 8/9 (for 8th and 9th graders) and PSAT 10 (this is the regular PSAT, but does not qualify for the National Merit Scholarship competition).

It’s good that schools are offering these tests to their students so they can see the format of this test and the way questions are asked. The SAT is a very important test for students planning on going to college. Colleges use the SAT (and/or ACT) to make admission decisions which makes these tests very important for students that want to go to a certain school.

The ACT is another college entrance exam. Some schools are offering this test during the school year to their juniors. The ACT is different and has a science section where the SAT does not. Again, this test requires practice and there is no pre-test like the SAT.

There are a couple of more tests worth mentioning. Nowadays, colleges want students to take a college readiness test to see if students have the skills to start taking college courses. The ACCUPLACER is used by many states. Texas has their own college readiness test called the TSI. Both the ACCUPLACER and TSI are similar. Students scores will determine if they are able to start their English and Math courses on level or if they will need to take some remedial classes first. The ACCUPLACER and the TSI can be taken as early as the 9th grade and in some cases, earlier. Early College High Schools have their students take the college ready tests the summer before their 9th grade year to give them plenty of time to retake them until they pass.

I’ve been teaching high school math for 30+ years, and it was not until I became a teacher at an Early College High School that I became fully aware of all the tests students take. I realized that I needed to be the one to help them get to where they need to be. I know how important it is for high school teachers to help incorporate college entrance and college readiness practice into their curriculum, especially math teachers. I’ve spent a lot of time creating many resources to do just this.

Below, you will find links that will take you to my Teachers Pay Teachers Store where I sell these resources. There are many options, but the option that I recommend if you are planning on doing a ton of review is the Math Test Prep Bundle for College Entrance. It contains the SAT Bundle, ACT Bundle and a TSI/ACCUPLACER Bundle that you see below:

College Readiness and College Entrance Exam Bundle
ACT Math Prep

3 Reviews – 86 Questions

SAT/PSAT Math Prep

6 Reviews – Worksheets, Bellringers and a 5 Week PSAT Plan.

TSI/ACCUPLACER Math Prep

7 Reviews!

I’ve recently started a digital version of the TSI/ACCUPLACER College Readiness Bundle (this is the exact same, but for a digital classroom setting). It is incomplete, but will be finished by the start of the next school year.

It is so important that math teachers take the time to prepare students for their future. Start making a plan now on how to meet the needs of your students. We all have different situations, but I’m sure you can find a way to include study material that will increase your students’ chances of success on college entrance exams and college readiness exams. Good Luck!

Where to Start with Distance Learning

Many teachers are in the same boat. You might be thinking…I do a few things online with my students, but not much. If the extent of your online teaching/learning has been Kahoot or Quizlet, then good job! That’s a start. Don’t be ashamed. If you have dabbled in Google Classroom, then Yay! The key is not to be afraid to try new things. There’s always a learning curve, no doubt about it. The more you become familiar with something, then the easier it will be. The key is to start!

So how will you reach your students? Your district is probably scrambling to come up with a plan. I know my district has been having internet issues… as in a virus attacked our whole system. Google Classroom was being used by most of our teachers, but when our website and internet wasn’t working, we couldn’t access Google Classroom. Luckily I was using Blogger. If you’d like to read more about how I use Blogger, then go here: Using Blogger for Online Teaching. I love Blogger because I do not have to rely on my district for anything which is a blessing!

I think it is important to find something you feel comfortable with and something that is free! If you already use Remind with your students, this would be another way to guide them to where you want them to go. If you’ve never used Remind, then check it out here: REMIND. It is not a website, but it is a way to communicate with your students, so let’s say you wanted your students to go to a video, or go do an online activity, you could tell them through Remind!

Once you know how to stay in contact with your students, it’s time to figure out what activities to give them. The reason I love Blogger is because I can use a picture of my resources and place them on my blogspot. Here’s an example of what I recently gave my Geometry students: My Geometry Lesson on Blogger. How do I check to see if they did it? I’m planning on checking their journal at some point. Right now with COVID-19, I don’t know if we will go back to school anytime soon, so the next thing I gave them was a Quizziz.com activity to see if they understand this material. I love this platform because I can look at the report to see if they did it, how many times they attempted it and how well they did. I stick with these free online tools to check for understanding as well as to teach:

  • Google Slides – like PowerPoint (use with your google account…if you have gmail, you have google slides)
  • Google Forms – Good for assessment (if you have gmail, you have google forms)
  • Quizziz – Self-checking
  • Boom Learning – Self-checking
  • YouTube – Video Learning Tool
  • Khan Academy – Video and Tutoring Tool
  • Flip Grid – Video Tool (students explain a concept on a short video)
  • Desmos – Graphing Calculator Tool with Free Lessons – There are two places you will want to use: Free Calculator and Teacher Resources
  • Screencast-O-Matic – Video your computer screen while you are explaining.

My suggestion is not to overwhelm yourself or your students. Pick a couple of resources that you feel are best for you and stick with them for a while. Ask other teachers in your school what they are using. Get with teachers in your department and share the workload. Some other tools that I will be checking out in the future is Google Hangouts and Zoom. These are video conferencing tools where you can actually see your students live.

If you are a secondary math teacher, then I have several distance learning activities in my Teachers Pay Teachers Store that you might be interested in. I also have a Boom Learning Store called Time Flies. You can go to either store and find all kinds of things that would be helpful. Here’s the link to my distance learning resources in my Time Flies TpT store.

I wish you the best in your online teaching journey. You can do this! If you have any questions, please feel free to comment below. Good Luck!