Algebra – 2nd and 3rd Grading Periods – Moving Toward the STAAR!

This is a continuation of some of my earlier posts. I was so proud of my students last year for passing the Algebra STAAR, so I wrote about it here: How I Got a 100% Passing Rate on the Algebra EOC Part 1 and Part 2.

I promised that I would keep anyone interested up-to-date this year on my progress. I love doing this because I’m going to be able to look back and see where I want to improve after I get my results this year. Here’s my post on the first six weeks: First Six Weeks in Algebra I

I lumped the 2nd and 3rd 6 weeks together in one post because I have so many interruptions during this time. Every time I turn around there’s a field trip, a district benchmark, PSAT, TSI or other disruptions. My strategy has been to get through as much content as possible. I know my students very well at this point and I know who to keep an eye on.

The content that we’ve covered heavily is seen below:

I’ve pressed on and given lots of quizzes, tests and homework.

Some of my favorite activities have been some boom cards that I’ve made. The set of cards in the the resource below has 20 questions. Click here to go do the first four cards in the student view.

So far I haven’t pulled many questions of old STAAR test. Their minds were blown when I was explaining the recursive formula in arithmetic sequences. I did look back into old STAAR test to see how often sequences have been tested. The only question I could find from the the past three years was this problem from the 2017 released test:

In general, arithmetic (and geometric) sequences are not a big part of the test. The 2019 test did not have any questions on the topic. This question below is from the 2018 test:

I suspect that they rotate questions from the TEKS and that next year there will be at least one question like #22 or #9 above.

I wanted to start some recycling of the first six weeks through practice sheets like I did last year but life happens and I did not start this. (Side note: I’ve been teaching for 33 years. I always make plans to do this or that, but I’ve learned that I cannot always get to everything. Please don’t beat yourself up if you do this too. A lot of things in education and the school environment cannot be controlled. Don’t worry if you have visions of grandeur but it doesn’t always work out.) One thing I do feel good about is that I do not let the students use a calculator every day. They have to do math in their head. They did a lot of solving for y and manipulating formulas so they did get a taste of some of the things from the first six weeks which was mostly solving equations. Another thing I feel ok about is I know that I’m about to do systems which will also be good for practicing solving equations. We will also hit inequalities again through systems, so recycling information is going to happen naturally!

While on the topic of systems, if you are behind in your curriculum, this is a good time to try to catch up. Systems are important, but you can save solving for systems for after the STAAR test. Teach them how to set them up and solve them on the calculator for now. I hate this, but at the same time you have to make sure you cover all the material. Save solving systems algebraically for later if you need to.

I promised myself that I would make sure and have students explain the math they were using more. I wanted to know if they really understood how to solve for y and graph equations, so I made a flipgrid question when we got to solving and graphing inequalities. The students really enjoyed it and it was an eye opener for me. Students have a hard time with the vocabulary and I could tell who was bluffing their way through explaining the process.

The second semester has started and now it’s crunch time. I have to be deliberate in everything we do. We are starting with graphing and writing linear systems and then on to exponent rules. Check back to see what happens next!

This comes in a regular version too!

9 Exponential Functions Activities That Are A Must!

I could do exponential functions all year. I really enjoy them and think they are super fun. When I got my master’s degree, I did a study on exponential functions. I learned so much and I found that I was really interested in them. I created this first lesson more than 10 years ago and have been using it ever since! Creating that first activity sparked me into creating more and experimenting with some other ideas. I’m excited to share with you my list of 9 Must Do Exponential Function Activities!

(1) Exponential Function Poster Activity:

This is my very first exponential function activity that I ever created. It’s not the first lesson I teach when I’m starting this content, but it’s my favorite. This activity is the ultimate collaborative and differentiable activity. There are so many interesting exponential function situations! It’s been tried, tested and tweaked. Basically this lesson is a collaborative activity where the students are given an exponential scenario. The groups must create a multi-rep poster where they collect data, draw a graph, write an equation and answer a question.

The lesson opener is a bacteria problem. I want every student to get a feel of how they should work through one of these scenarios. The bacteria problem talks about what bacteria are and how they can multiply very quickly. I help the students go through the multi-representations to make sure they know what is expected of them when they start their poster.

Next, I show them their choices which are:

  • A Chain Letter Problem
  • A Zombie Situation
  • A Tournament Bracket
  • A College Football Situation
  • Making Friendship Bread
  • A Lovely Cockroach Scenario

Every situation usually gets chosen. You can entice students to create their own situation too. The college football situation was a student idea from years ago that I have improved upon to make it work better. Your students are amazing and creative, so don’t think that they wouldn’t be able to make up a situation of their own. The student of mine that created the football problem was not one of my top students, but because he was the one that thought of the scenario, he was interested and did a great job of completing the task.

After the bacteria problem, I turn the students loose and let them start their work. They are told to be creative and display the information in a way that is interesting and pleasing. I tell them to title the poster and make sure every person in the group writes on the poster. I supply the poster paper, the markers and the scenario sheets.

I’ve learned to watch out for misconceptions. Some students when creating graphs, will take the exact y-values and place those numbers on the y-axis. Here is an example below that I didn’t catch until it was too late. I cringe when I see this! (Not a very creative poster either…ugh!)

Once the posters have been created, it’s time for the Gallery Walk! I want the students to check out at least 4 posters. I’ve created a page that students fill in while looking at the posters. They have to write the title of the poster, determine the domain and range, decide if the situation is growth or decay and then write down one thing they may wonder about the situation. The conversations that I hear are amazing. They love getting to look at the other posters and they love to critique them as well.

I’ve had feedback from teachers that have taken my activity and changed it to fit their needs. One teacher used a speed dating strategy where the students worked through a problem on their own and became the expert. The possibilities are endless. Each teacher has their own unique way of teaching and their own unique classroom situation. If you have a group of rowdy kids that you don’t want up running around, then let them do their own problem on notebook paper or graph paper. You could even let them create the table and graph in excel and present the problem in a PowerPoint.

Check out this activity in my store: Exponential Functions Activity

(2) Exponential Function Activity in Google Slides Form

Out of necessity last year, I created a Google Sides version of the lesson above. I’m having a hard time deciding which one to use this year. Instead of making posters, the students create the table, graph and equation in Google Slides. This doesn’t sound very exciting except that my whole class was in the same Google Slides all working at the same time. I was 2000 miles away monitoring the activity. They asked me questions and I could see them working in real time. I loved it so much that I’m honestly going to have a hard time deciding what I should use. Maybe I’ll let one class do the posters and one class do the digital form and compare the two. If you are big into digital resources you will love this. I now have this version in my TpT store: Google Slides Exponential Functions Activity. Below is one of the slides that I graded. Looking at this now, I should have asked the students if this situation was discrete or continuous.

(3) Tower of Hanoi

Find a Tower of Hanoi game on the internet or have the students download an app on their phone. The object of the game is to move the discs from one stack to another stack in the least amount of moves. You can never put a larger disc on top of a smaller one. The number of discs and the least number of moves is an exponential function. It’s fun to let the students play a while and get them to create a table of the number of discs and the least number of moves and then see if they can figure out the exponential function.

(4) Twizzler Decay Activity

Tasty and fun. This is a freebie I’d like to share with you! I love using this as a quick lesson opener. Students measure a Twizzler and jot down the data in a chart. The student folds the Twizzler in 1/2, cuts it and measures it. Each time the student continues this step until there is not enough Twizzler left to work with. They plot the table and then lots of discussions can take place about decay or even the concept of half-life. Click Here for the Freebie: Exponential Function Twizzler Freebie

(5) Exponential Function Unit

This is the first thing I start with when I introduce Exponential Functions in Algebra 2. I refuse to stand up and lecture over this topic so I let the students work through this unit at their own pace. I copy the pages as a booklet. Students can use a calculator and even partner up if they want to work with someone. I let them work through the unit and figure out most of the information by graphing and using the information that they have already learned earlier in the year about transformations and domain and range. I do have to talk about asymptotes because we have not discussed this concept much up to this point. I teach on a block schedule and it takes most students a good 2 class periods to get this packet done. Topics covered are transformations, e, compound interest, 1/2 life, growth, decay, domain, range, y-intercepts, asymptotes, an inverse problem, writing equations from tables, growth and decay model scenarios, a paper folding activity, assessments and bell ringers and lesson closers. There’s a ton of information. I usually get the students to trade and grade after all is said and done. I feel like they learn a lot by working through this on their own. Students need to see that they can work on their own and figure things out. If you are interested, click the link: Exponential Functions Unit.

(6) Exponential Function Task Cards

I have a set of 20 Exponential Functions Task Cards. For some reasons, students do very well with task cards. If you put these same 20 questions on a worksheet, some students will be bored or are overwhelmed with thinking about doing a 20 question worksheet and they will give up. Take the same 20 questions and put one on a card, now they will sit there and work through them. It’s amazing! This set of task cards would be a great review right before an assessment. The task cards cover recognizing growth and decay from an equation, transformations, key features of graphs, the growth and decay model and compound interest.

(7) Sierpenski’s Triangle

How do you get all of these activities done? Part of my strategy is to do them in stations. Really math labs or centers would be more accurate. It would be hard to time these stations and expect students to be completely finished with each task. The Sierpenski Triangle activity, the Tower of Hanoi and several more exponential phenomena are discovered and tinkered with during my Exponential Stations Resource.

I love the Sierpinski Triangle activity because not only do the students create beautiful art work, they have to collect data on the number of shaded or unshaded triangles. We then put all of the triangles together to make a giant Sierpinski Triangle!

(8) Compound Interest Study

Students are told that they have inherited some money but to receive it, they must follow some rules. Every student in the class will probably end up with a different situation. Each student gets 4 cards that tell them how much money they inherited, how long they have to invest it and 2 different compounding options to compare. They work through their problem and then share their information. This study sparks lots of good conversations and helps the students realize that compounding doesn’t make much difference but time invested does make a difference! Get the Compound Interest Study Here!

(9) Marble Slides Exponential Function Desmos Activity

If you aren’t using the Desmos Graphing Resources, you need to start. I love the Marble Slides Activities and so do the students. There are several Marble Slides Activities for various functions. The object is to change the equations so that when the marbles are dropped, they travel the correct route and hit all of the stars which means success. Students learn how to manipulate the equations so that the marbles do just what they want. Very fun and engaging!

So there you have it! If you can get most of these activities and lessons done, then your students will know tons of awesome math content. I have all of these activities bundled (except for the google slides activity) into one package for 20% off. If you are intersted, then click on the pic below. If there is something that you can’t find, please let me know. I’d love to add things that teachers are looking for. Thanks for visiting this article.

Happy Teaching…