A Slice of Pi
An Electronic Newsletter for HCPS Mathematics Teachers
March 2012
Volume 1, Number 4
In This Issue
Sites of Interest
Math Websites
Contact Me

Skip Tyler
Secondary Mathematics Specialist



Setting a New Trend Line in Mathematics Achievement

Testing results from the fall administration of EOC mathematics SOL tests (Algebra I, Geometry, and trendAlgebra II) have come in, and as was expected with the implementation of the more rigorous SOL, scores are down compared with last year’s fall results. 

What does this mean for you? First and foremost, it does not mean to expect less from your students because you know the scores are going to drop a bit. I think it is the other way around! We have been given advance notice and can learn from those who have already gone through the process. My recommendations for preparing for the upcoming SOL would be to require students to explain and communicate their mathematical thoughts orally and in writing. Expect students to make connections between concepts. Focus on modelling and using concrete objects and manipulatives where appropriate. Use technology and calculators as an instructional tool. Ask your students "Why?". Assist them in taking ownership in their own learning. Help them to be ACTIVE LEARNERS.

Do not get discouraged that the scores are falling. Use that knowledge to evaluate your own teaching and questioning techniques. Ask yourself if you are truly assessing what the state will be assessing our students. Teaching test-taking strategies is good but the focus should be on the comprehension of mathematics. You already know that though!

When speaking about the drop in scores with your parents and community, you may want to reference a quote that Dr. Wright, our state Superintendent of Public Education, said to the General Assembly. -- “…this [pass rates falling] will be an indication that we are now expecting more of students, not that they are learning less.”

Collaboration and Cooperation

I recently received an email containing an invitation from HEA/VEA to view an inspirational movie called Mitchell 20. The movie trailer discusses how teachers are the main determinant of whether or not a child will succeed in education and ultimately in life. It is a story of 20 teachers in an inner city school who decided to improve the quality of their teaching. Click here to view the Mitchell 20 trailer.

Based upon the trailer, this is a great opportunity for you and your colleagues to get a much needed morale boost. This is a chance for you to remember why you are a teacher. Bring a group and generate some discussions about your school and student population. It's a chance for you to "rally the troops" as we begin to enter the SOL crunch time. Here are the details.

March 14, 4:30-7:00
Hermitage High School
Free to all HCPS employees!
5 recertification points for attending!
Conversation afterwards with VEA president Kitty Boitnott
Click here to RSVP by March 12

Irish Mathematics

St Patrick's Day (3/17) minus Pi Day (3/14) equals about three days (Pi).
Okay, this is a stretch but I tried! You try coming up with an Irish equation!!!

Pi Day - March 14 (3.14)
Coming soon to a calendar near you! Are you doing anything exciting in your schools for Pi Day? Let me know and I may report it in the next newsletter!

SOL Spotlight - Enhanced Scope and Sequence Lessons

ESSMathematics Enhanced Scope and Sequence (ESS) Sample Lesson Plans help teachers align instruction with the 2009 Mathematics Standards of Learning (SOL) by providing examples of how the knowledge and skills found in the SOL and curriculum framework can be presented to students in the classroom. The lesson plans are accessible using a keyword search, or by selecting specific SOL objectives organized by grade level and reporting category.

The Enhanced Scope and Sequence lessons contain the following:

  • Reporting Category
  • Primary & Related SOL
  • Materials
  • Vocabulary
  • Student/Teacher Actions
  • Assessment
  • Extensions and Connections
  • Strategies for Differentiation

I STRONGLY encourage you to view all of the lessons in your content area to help you prepare for the new SOL tests. You can download the files as PDF or Word documents. Click here!

Good News!

COMAP released the results for last November’s 2011 HiMCM Competition. Godwin’s “Varsity Math” team fielded 7 teams, who had to choose from one of 2 problems, and had the following results:

    • 1 team Honorable Mention
    • 2 teams Meritorious
    • 3 teams Regional Outstanding (top 15%)
    • 1 team National Outstanding  (top 2%) - team members: Pascal Dangtran, Jeffrey Holste, Shakthi Ganesan, Stephen Thompson

Great Job!

MATHCOUNTS is a national enrichment, club and competition program that promotes middle school mathematics achievement. Tuckahoe Middle School hosted the MathCounts Chapter Competion held on February 11.  Fredricksburg area schools joined the Richmond Chapter for the first time.  Nineteen schools and 139 students participated. Henrico County was represented by Moody, Holman, and Tuckahoe Middle Schools.

  • The Moody MATHCOUNTS team took first place for the fourth year in row!  The team will advance to the state competition in March. The team was made up of Matthew Baka, Uday Patil, Shreya Shetty, Tip Wolfe, Jack McGlorick, Vibha Patil, Lynette Sequeira, Goutham Thiagarajan and William You. Matthew won the countdown round and placed 2nd in the district, Tip placed 3rd, and Uday, 4th. 
  • The Tuckahoe team was comprised of Henry Roberts, Jack Provance, Jake Sitison and Yun Hee Jeong and placed 6th in the competition.  Henry Roberts placed 6th in the Countdown Round and 5th in the Individual competition. Other students from TMS that competed in the Individual competition were Qian Wang, Jonathan Yu, Yun Soo Jeong, Trey Holsten, and Oliver Hamilton. Henry Roberts will be going to the State Competition. 
  • Holman had a team of four students and six individuals who participated.  It was their first year with a team and they did quite well finishing 9th!

Let's see if we can expand our middle school involvement in MATHCOUNTS next year!

MATHia Software Tip of the Month:

See It, Try It: The See It, Try It feature is a tool for students to interact with mathematical concepts using animation, videos, and virtual manipulatives.  This feature supplements and enhances the content provided in the static lesson and in the problems sections and can be accessed in the lesson openers of the MATHia Software or on the Resource Center.  Another way to use the See It, Try It feature, is to project with an Interactive Whiteboard and share with the class during teacher-led instruction. MATHia contains over 35 "See It, Try It" modules!


Brain Exercise 

I've seen this with the letters out of order, but this is the first time I've seen it with numbers.

F1GUR471V31Y 5P34K1NG?

7H15 M3554G3 53RV35 7O PR0V3 H0W 0UR M1ND5 C4N D0 4M4Z1NG 7H1NG5! 1MPR3551V3 7H1NG5! 1N 7H3 B3G1NN1NG 17 WA5 H4RD BU7 N0W, 0N 7H15 LIN3 Y0UR M1ND 1S R34D1NG 17 4U70M471C4LLY W17H 0U7 3V3N 7H1NK1NG 4B0U7 17, B3 PROUD! 0NLY C3R741N P30PL3 C4N R3AD 7H15. 
PL3453 F0RW4RD 1F U C4N R34D 7H15. 

MusicalCalculus: the Musical!

Randolph-Macon College presents the Know Theatre of Cincinnati production of Calculus: the Musical!

March 12 at 7pm
Blackwell Auditorium
Free and open to the public

Co-sponsored by C.A.S.E. and the R-MC Department of Mathematics
For more information contact Eve Torrence, etorrenc@rmc.edu, 752-7372

Did You Know?

Hiroyuki Goto is the current world record holder for the most digits of Pi memorized. He spent nine hours and recited 42,000 digits correctly in 1995.

How many digits can your students remember? What memorization strategies could your students use to assist them in reciting the digits?

Sites of Interest

District tackles math with student-centered approach
A Virginia school district is using a student-centered approach to teaching math, in which students use problem-solving and reasoning to complete math problems. The change -- introduced to help students prepare for new Standards of Learning math tests -- are in place in elementary and middle schools. The teaching strategy also requires students to explain how they arrived at their answers.
Study finds classroom technology has positive effect on student learning
Computer technology in schools benefits students most when it is used to support classroom teaching, according to a 40-year retrospective study by researchers at Concordia University. Researchers studied evidence both in support of and against classroom technology and concluded it has a positive effect on learning when it is used to ACTIVELY ENGAGE STUDENTS, and recommended schools view such technology as a worthwhile investment.
Debunking 7 myths about student learning
Education blogger Valerie Strauss addresses seven misconceptions about how students learn -- some of which are driving school reform. She asserts that basic facts can be included in engaging lessons; teachers talking should not be the focus of class; covering a lesson does not mean the material was taught; students' interests can be used to teach; acceleration does not equal rigor; a quiet classroom does not mean quality learning; and traditional schooling does not prepare students for life.
3 ways to use video in classroom lessons
High-school social-studies teacher Ron Peck in this blog suggests three ways to use video in the classroom. Among his suggestions are to use Animoto, a free website that allows students to create 30-second videos. Peck also suggests guiding students in the creation of CommonCraft, which features paper cutouts and dialogue. For more advanced students, Peck recommends a video project that includes a green screen and planning.
Many students chose to skip AP exams
The number of public high-school seniors who took classes and passed at least one Advanced Placement test rose to 18.1% in 2011, compared with 16.9% the year before, a new report from the College Board shows. However, the report also shows that many students who may have succeeded on AP tests chose not to take them or lacked access to the courses, and this gap particularly was apparent for minority students. The states with the highest percentages of students taking and passing AP exams were Maryland, New York, Virginia, Massachusetts and Connecticut, the data show.
Students create YouTube videos solving algebra problems
High-school algebra teacher Vito Ferrante has students create YouTube videos as a way to increase their engagement in learning. Students use their own Flip cameras and smartphones to create videos of themselves solving problems, which gives Ferrante insight into their understanding of concepts. "It seems like they're catching their problems a lot more quickly, and they're not just doing the same things over and over again incorrectly," said Ferrante, who teaches at Jesuit High School near Sacramento, Calif.
Addressing concerns about flipped instruction in the classroom
Greg Green, principal of Clintondale High School in Clinton Township, Mich., in this blog post addresses questions about implementing a flipped-instructional model in schools. For example, the model does not replace teachers, but serves to make them more valuable as they are free to facilitate understanding and learning in the classroom, rather than spending time delivering lectures, Green writes.
How to keep students in urban schools learning in the classroom
High-school teacher Kadhir Rajagopal advocates the CREATE method for keeping students in urban schools engaged in classroom lessons. The approach incorporates instructional elements aimed at closing the achievement gap. It breaks up the class period into smaller segments in which students review material, "teach back" new concepts and demonstrate mastery before leaving for the day.
Apple releases app for viewing textbooks on the iPad
Apple officials on Thursday announced the release of iBooks 2, the latest version of the company's e-book software for the iPad tablet computer that includes new features designed for viewing textbooks. To provide access to the textbooks, Apple is creating a new section on its iTunes store, with a selection of titles available for $15 or less. The company also introduced iBooks Author, a free app that offers a set of interactive tools for creating e-books, and released the iTunes U app for iPad, which allows educators to create and teach online courses using the popular tablet computer.
Are students too reliant on calculators?
Sophisticated calculators have become more common, leading some to question whether graphing calculators have replaced student problem-solving. Calculators are allowed on the SAT, some Advanced Placement exams and some state tests. The National Council of Teachers of Mathematics supports "selective and strategic" use of calculators in the classroom, and President J. Michael Shaughnessy says he expects calculator use to increase.
Improving learning-engagement for students who are gifted
Students who are gifted often do not fit a single stereotype of a self-sufficient learner and may need help focusing or getting organized, says teacher and gifted-student consultant Carol Strip Whitney. She advises educators to collaborate with parents and brainstorm new ways to keep students who are gifted engaged in learning.
Calif. district expands use of online math tutorials
After testing the use of online tutorials in math lessons, a California school district expanded the practice this year. The district's fifth- through eighth-grade students now use the Khan Academy, through which students learn via online videos and use class time to work with teachers or in groups. The program also provides teachers with an online feature that allows them to more easily track their students' progress.
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