A Slice of Pi
An Electronic Newsletter for HCPS Mathematics Teachers
March 2014
Volume 3, Number 3
In This Issue
Sites of Interest
Math Websites
A Slice of Pi newsletters
Contact Me

Skip Tyler
Secondary Mathematics Specialist



Teaching to Win

We just had the Olympics and the Super Bowl. We have March Madness getting ready to begin. As a society, we recognize people and teams for their accomplishments. How does this relate to teaching mathematics? Simply put, the SOL tests are coming. Just as athletes train for their competitions, you are training your students and preparing them for mathematics content. Different teachers have different approaches in their classroom. Here is a question that I'd like you to ask yourself - Are you "teaching to win" or "teaching not to lose"? NCTM President Linda M. Gojak wrote an article on this topic. Here are excerpts from that article.

Teaching not to lose focuses on—

  • showing and telling students by giving them step-by-step directions rather than providing rich experiences to help them understand mathematics (and, if they do not “get it,” we show them bigger and tell them louder);
  • demonstrating skills and procedures rather than developing deeper understanding of concepts;
  • making mathematics easy for students rather than recognizing the importance of productive struggle; and
  • preparing students for the test rather than teaching for mathematical understanding.
Teaching to win involves calculated risks and would focus on —
  • reasoning and making sense as the fundamental goal of every lesson;
  • maintaining high expectations for every student, aware that some students will need more time and support than others to be successful;
  • devoting the necessary time to develop understanding rather than “covering” the content;
  • providing rich tasks that prompt students to use strategic thinking and metacognition to develop mathematical content and practice;
  • believing that effective instruction is the best test preparation;
  • thinking about teaching mathematics as a creative activity rather than a mundane exercise; and
  • collaborating with colleagues to plan a coherent curriculum that explicitly connects mathematical thinking both vertically and horizontally.

We must sharpen our focus on what is important to teach, how we teach it, and how it connects to the mathematics that students have experienced before and will experience after our time with them. And, perhaps most importantly, we must understand that we cannot do this all at once. We need to develop a plan that allows us to make change in reasonable steps by prioritizing our goals, building those goals into our teaching practice, and creating a means of checking ourselves on the progress we have made.

Pi Day is Coming!

PiDayDid you know March 14th is Pi Day? That's right - 3.14! It is never too early to start planning Pi Day festivities and Pi Day falls on a Friday this year. What better way to end the school week than with some Pi Day activities? Check out the sites below to find ideas for every age group from K-Gray!

tart planning now for SUPER Pi Day in 2015 - 3.1415! At 9:26:53 on 3/14/15, you would have replicated pi to several digits - 3.141592653. How often does this happen? You won't be alive the next time it does...

HCPSMath Olympics Recap

Henrico County Public Schools led the way in the 2014 HCP Math Olympics by winning 60% of the medals! A total of 264 teams entered from 14 different school divisions. The teams were representing 6120 students!

Henrico secondary schools were led by Lee Mayo's Friday Afternoon and Michele Turlington's Turlington-6 who won 16 total medals each. The total medals by district are shown below. A detailed medal count can be viewed on the Olympics website.


March Madness

One of the teachers competing in the Math Olympics shared a great idea about how to simulate college basketball's March Madness using SOL content in her classroom. It starts off by creating teams across all of your classes to set up a bracket of 64 (or 32 or 16) teams. Each team will create their own name. Using SOL practice problems or other review problems, the teams compete head to head. Here's where the fun begins! Instead of students being eliminated from the tournament, the team that wins will absorb the opposing team that lost. Each winning team keeps their team name and advances to the next round. By the end of the bracket, it's half of your students versus the other half. Bragging rights can go to the original team name members!

If you are going to do this, let me know and I'll help out!

Complicating Equations

Complex Math

Teachers of the Year!

Time to send some shout outs to our fellow math teachers! Look at all of those math teachers who were selected as Teacher of the Year at their school. Make sure to give them a pat on the back, high five, round of applause, bear hug, or some other compliment when you see them.

  • First Year Teacher of the Year
    • Kayleigh Llewellyn - Tuckahoe Middle School
  • Gilman Teacher of the Year
    • Margaret Christensen - Moody Middle School
    • Shemia Porcher - Highland Springs High School
    • Lauren Gilkey - Hungary Creek Middle School
    • Samantha Gould - Wilder Middle School
    • Tammy Wallace - Varina High School

Summer Essentials Programs

Want a part-time job this summer? Fill out an application to teach summer school or the Essentials support programs. Here is the pertinent information.

Dates: Session I: June 30 – July 17, 2014           
          Session II: July 21 – August 6, 2014
          11 days, Monday through Thursday
Hours: 7:30 am - 1:00 pm
          5 hours instructional/30 minutes breaks
Grades: Rising 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students
Sites: Brookland, Byrd, Fairfield, and Pocahontas Middle School

The identification of students for the Essentials programs is changing. Students will be invited to the program based off of SOL and NWEA data from Research and Planning.

Released SOL Tests

The following tests will be released in spring 2014 (hopefully at the end of March!): Grades 3-8 Mathematics, End of Course (EOC) Algebra I, (EOC) Algebra II, and (EOC) Geometry.

Each of these tests or test item sets will be released in a PDF format and will include an image of the item as it would appear in the online version of a test. A link for students to experience the items in TestNav, the online testing software, will also be provided.  The TestNav version of the tests will NOT provide scores for students; however, the PDF version will contain the answer key for all items in the test or test item set.

Math Chivalry

I hope you get this joke...


Student Performance Analysis

2013 SOL Student Performance Analysis - Middle School courses are now available!
Statewide results for the spring 2013 grades 3-8 mathematics tests have been analyzed to determine specific content that may have challenged students. Narrated PowerPoint presentations have been developed to provide information about the content for which student performance was weak or inconsistent.  They are intended to provide educators with further insight into the concepts that challenged students statewide. Make sure to also listen to the audio for additional comments!

Sites of Interest

College Board partners with Khan Academy on new SAT
The College Board announced Wednesday that the SAT exam would undergo a major overhaul in 2016 to focus more on college readiness. Among other things, the exam no longer will include the penalty for incorrect answers, make the essay optional and return to a 1,600-point grading scale rather than 2,400. The College Board is partnering with the Khan Academy to offer free, high-quality courses to help students of all economic backgrounds prepare for both for the current SAT and the new test. "Our intention in this partnership is this will be the best thing out there," said Salman Khan, creator of Khan Academy.
Educator shares "learner-centered" resources for co-teachers
Special-education teacher Elizabeth Stein explains in this blog post how "learner-centered" classrooms enhance inclusion. Stein offers tips and online resources for this model. She also notes that the method allows for better student engagement and control of their learning, plus more opportunities for both teachers in a co-taught classroom to be engaged in student learning.
Using Universal Design for Learning to teach all students
Universal Design for Learning can help educators teach all students in the same classroom, writes Katie Novak, an educator in Massachusetts. In this blog post, Novak offers tips to help teachers get started with UDL, which she writes is a better method for planning lessons. "In UDL, all planning is intentional, so every activity, assessment and instructional choice should be deliberately chosen to help all students reach your standard," she writes.
How one NYC high school uses common core in geometry
High-school students attending public schools in New York City will participate for the first time this year in assessments aligned with the Common Core State Standards. This article shines a light on how the new standards are shaping geometry instruction at one high school. In a recent lesson, students learned about geometry using a blend of traditional and digital tools. Collaboration also played a key role in the lesson.
Students learn about the science and math of CSI
High-school students from several schools in Florida recently learned how math and science are used by crime scene investigators. The weekend CSI program spotlighted how math and science are used in determining bullet trajectories and chemical analysis. "There is so much science and math in everything we do," Highlands County Sheriff Susan Benton said.
Why giving students a chance to "fail" improves their learning
Students who first struggle -- and even fail to solve -- challenging math problems on their own are better able to learn and transfer that knowledge when faced with similar problems later, according to the work of Manu Kapur, a researcher at the Learning Sciences Lab at the National Institute of Education of Singapore. Kapur's research outlines three steps to help students learn from what researchers call "productive failure," including giving them problems that "challenge but do not frustrate" them and allowing them a chance to explain their reasoning.
12 ways teachers can use social media in the classroom
In this blog post, teacher Vicki Davis writes that despite what teachers have been told, using social media in the classroom can benefit lessons and does not cause distractions. Davis shares 12 ways teachers are using social media now, including posting on Facebook or tweeting as a class, writing blog posts about what students are learning and using Facebook to get feedback on students' online projects.
9 ways to address classroom discipline, create a positive climate
Zero-tolerance policies, made popular in the 1990s, are not effective and disproportionately affect minority students, writes Russ Skiba, a psychology professor at Indiana University Bloomington. In this blog post, he writes that several school districts nationwide have begun using other approaches because of research showing such policies are ineffective. He also offers nine ideas to address classroom discipline, including differentiated instruction so students are challenged in the classroom.
Teacher: How to connect with students' lives outside of the classroom
Teachers need to make meaningful connections with students and show interest in their lives away from the classroom, high-school teacher Nicholas Provenzano writes in this blog post. Among his suggestions are for teachers to use the first five minutes of each class to engage students in casual conversation, as well as attending extracurricular activities to connect with parents and students. "Parents feel more comfortable talking with teachers they feel are invested in their child's success," he writes.
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