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Yes, I’m Applying to GTA Again

Yes, I’m Applying to GTA Again

Google Teacher Academy is coming to Austin and even after the let-down of Atlanta, I’m applying again. I took a different route in taking the time to try and creatively piece a video together as opposed to last year’s “last minute like” video. No, it’s not about the video…and from what I understand, it’s only a small portion but to me, this was important.

I have never been a great video editor but I took the “letdown of Atlanta” as an opportunity to learn. I wanted to be better at creating the story so I looked at other forms of video and even watched a few clips in None of those clips did me any good actually!

Basically, I threw out all of the things that I learned in the last few months and instead created from a script and by instinct.

The Question: How do you innovate in the educational community to generate positive change?

I actually wrote three different versions. I wrote one that focused on equity. I wrote another that focused on math and then I wrote this one that focused on creativity. Truthfully, as much as I have done, nothing has been more impactful than sharing Braeden’s story…so with that in mind, I created this…

This video represents me better than anything that I could craft…JUST to get in. This is our story…his story…my story.

Creating the Video

I edited every piece in imovie but I also included clips that I captured using hyperlapse as well as Camtasia Mac. Part of my sharing over time has been posting videos to instagram so I captured a few of those to help tell the story. I recorded my track on my phone in a video and separating the audio from video was as simple as detaching it. I rarely write scripts but I certainly did for this and making that small adjustment allowed me to piece together the media that I needed to tell the story.

As for the title, I made it in photoshop on a transparent background which I like much better than imovie titles.

I learned all of this since August and I am proud.

No, it’s not perfect but it’s progress and that matters more.

When Students Doubt That Their Teachers Care


When I talk about my math classroom, I always cross post to facebook because my audience on facebook is quite different than twitter. That is where my former students are and when I post there, they get to relive our classroom too. At times, they will even comment…suggesting that I return back to school. On occasion, they talk about the lack of caring of some of their teachers. When that happens, there is almost always a fallout of sorts as well as an explanation of the “back ended” things of EDU by other  teachers.

When I read those “but…but…but” statements from teachers, I am always reminded about the quote above that my mother says often and also about Disney World.

Disney World is such a magical place, but there is also a “behind the scenes”, the dusty crates, tools, characters out of costume…etc. No one gets to see the “behind the scenes part”. Yet…we know that it is there. It has to be.

We know that in EDU, so many problems take away from the great things that happen in classrooms. We have test that we have to give. We have meetings to attend and that includes meetings to plan other meetings. We have accommodations, interventions, mandates and all types of acronyms that defy all logic but we have something else that has to come before that…STUDENTS.

When a student feels that their teachers do not care, we can’t explain it or “teacher-splain” it away with…”I had meetings, madates, a test, interventions, no paper, blah blah blah…” We have to listen and we have to adjust. I’m not saying that we have to hide our laundry because it’s there whether we like it or not. However, a student should NEVER feel that their teacher does not care and we should never explain our actions by telling them about “the things that cause us not to care”.

The thing that we have to do is be open to how kids feel.  What students should feel is cared for, motivated, challenged and supported. They should feel that they have a choice in becoming whoever it is that they become. We cannot get upset when they do not feel those things. We cannot go into “explain mode” when they do not feel that we care. What we have to do is look at ourselves and change our approach in order to address how they feel.

Personally, I am more concerned with this reply…

I know they do (teachers care) but sometimes it really just doesn’t seem like it. And I’m so glad that this is my last year, I’m ready for a broader horizon and I’ll get to choose what I do and where my next step will be. I will finally be able to become the person that I wanna be!

Maybe I am missing something…but shouldn’t the things that this student wants be the purpose of schooling to begin with?

Also, see the video of the late great Dr. Rita Pierson if there is any doubt…

Talking Algebra with a Teen Driver #tmwyk

ridingThe richest conversations that I have with my kids often take place outside of math homework. They take place as they happen in the real world. The other day I was driving my niece around and she just happened to make a back handed comment about how slow I was driving. It was exactly 32 miles per hour, this distance between Ennis and Dallas.

Me: If I continued to drive at this rate without stopping, how long would it take me to drive to Dallas?
Niece: Probably 5 hours
Me: Really? How many miles are between Ennis and Dallas?
Niece: like 32
Me: What rate am I traveling now?
Niece: Slow
Me: Seriously?
Niece: I don’t know. What do you mean by rate? If it’s how fast you are going, you’re driving slow so your rate is slow.
Me: Maybe…Ok, let me change the question. How do you know how slow I am going?
Niece: You’re going 32 because that’s what the speedometer says.
Me: 32 what?
Niece: 32mph
Me: Do do you know what mph means?
Niece: (thinks for a few minutes) miles per hour?
Me: Yes! So, if I continue to travel 32 miles per hour, meaning stay AT THIS RATE, how long should it take me to get to Dallas?
Niece: I told you earlier….probably 5 hours
Me: What does “miles per hour” mean?
Niece: How many miles you go in an hour…
Me: So, if I travel 32 miles per hour, how many miles will I drive in one hour?
Niece: (thinks for a few minutes) 32?
Me: And what about two hours?
Niece: 64
Me: What about 3 hours? 10 hours?
Niece: 96, 320…Why are you asking me math questions?
Me: So, again…If I continue to travel at 32 mph and Dallas is 32 miles away, how long will it take me to get to Dallas?
Niece: (thinks for a few minutes…laughs) Ohhh 1 hour…That’s what that means? You should have said it this way before!


Much later in the day, I decided to pick her brain again.

Me: Now, you know that I am not going to drive to Dallas at only 32 mph. However, I will drive 65mph until we get to Wilmer and the speed limit changes to 60mph. What if I asked you to make a chart, graph and equation explaining our trip? Does any of this relate to any concepts that you learned in Algebra?


1. Auntieeeeee!!!!! Do you ever turn this math off?

2. Yes, I can make a chart. That would not be just one equation because your rate changes. The graph would not be just one straight line, it would shift slightly lower because you went from 65mph to 60mph.

3. I remember talking about this in Algebra during class because YOU WERE MY TEACHER so since I forgot about it for a while, I guess that you will need to speak to my teacher. (grins and dodges pillow tossed her way)

4. Auntie, when I got home earlier, I looked for a video about this on youtube. Have you seen this?

Reflecting as a Parent/Teacher

When I taught Algebra 1, I always talked about the math of driving before we went into the specific elements of the lesson. I found that doing this helps students connect to something that they do everyday…ride in a car or drive. I am never surprised at the number of students who miss this basic connection between driving rate and time. This is a conversation that can start when kids are young and learning to say…”Are we there yet?”

When my niece reminded me that I taught her Algebra, it didn’t bother me at all that she did not remember. I tend to think that she was more frustrated with my slow driving than thinking about the math of it because the rest of her connections were spot on and she had to have had a foundation in order to get to that point.

In addition, I am happy that she found the STEMbites video because whether she knows it or not…another conversation is coming.

Conversations with My Son: More Midpoints in Geometry

Conversations with My Son: More Midpoints in Geometry

The other day I published a conversation, a tutoring session, between myself and my son. It was a painful reminder of a problem that is so systemic in math classrooms that students, like my son, are suffering on a day to day basis. It’s called 100% lecture and zero inquiry.

The problem with this method is that lecture does not reach every student. It reaches some…the ones that can see the problem happen visually as they hear it. My son is not that kid. He needs to manipulate, ask questions, manipulate more and ask more questions. Sometimes he needs questions asked of him because there are moments that he still does not see.

When we ignore the necessities of “the hands on learner”, we are sending this message…

You do not matter and you need to learn it as I taught it. If not, that’s on you.

Dear “lecture only up-front-information giving math teacher”, please reconsider your methods for the good of the mathematically thinking universe! The fact of the matter is that if kids are not actively pursuing the what, why, when, where and HOW of math, there is a greater chance that they are not learning.

Regurgitating a given formula isn’t learning. Knowing how to do a problem is one thing. Understanding why you do it and why it works is another. There is a difference.

Tutoring My Son…Continued

When I left off my last post about my son’s pursuit of finding the midpoint between two points, he was at a place where he understood not only the meaning but also how to manipulate the equations. However, when he was presented with a problem where he was given the midpoint and told to find the other point, he was a bit stumped again.

Screen Shot 2014-09-28 at 9.33.13 AM

Son: Ok, so this is different.
Me: What makes this different?
Son: I am given the midpoint and I need to find the other point, like it says.(pure sarcasm)
Me: Alright smarty, what does this mean to you?
Son: Well, it’s like if Ferris (TX) were the midpoint and Ennis (TX) was the other point, I need to find what’s on the other side of that which might be Dallas (TX)
Me: Oh??
Son: Well it makes sense.
Me: So, how would you go about doing that?
Son: Can I use the points that we used before because the pattern should be the same here too, right? (Goes to Geogebra to test)
Son: Wait, I’ve already worked out this problem. (Somehow he chose this series of points last time)
Me: How can you use graphing as you pursue these answers? Do you feel like you understand? If so, are you ready to look at how the formula works?
Son: Mom, when we are at home, can you use “home language” and not “School language”? You sound like a teacher. (insert 5 minutes of off task comedic banter)

My son continued with physically placing midpoints and one endpoint on his geogebra board in order to play around and make sure that he understood. Algebraically, he could easily plug points into the formula and find the other point but on occasion, he made mistakes.

mpWhat he found was that if he “free handed” a graph and points, he could estimate where his answer should be and this gave him a way to check himself.

I must also point out that our formulas can’t always be their formulas if students find a better way.

My son’s way of doing it…

“I feel like this is working backwards. I already have my midpoint so since I added and then divided by 2 to get it, I can work backwards to find either point.

If I take my midpoint and double it, you know….multiply by 2, I can then subtract the given point and I will get the other point every time. See….try it, I bet it works. Or better yet, in your “teacher language”, find a time when it doesn’t work.”

“I bet you can’t”

The student becomes the teacher. That should be our goal…always.


My EduParent Perspective: Helping My Son Understand Midpoints in Geometry with Questioning and Geogebra

The other night, my son brought home a geometry assignment on midpoints that he needed to complete. I recognized the assignment right away because it was a simple worksheet from the “binder”, a collection of district purchased worksheets from 2003. (Imagine eye rolls and a sea of long sighs…Yep!)

As ridiculously bad and basic as this worksheet was, my son had not turned it in because he did not understand how to do the work. Yes, he lives with a math teaching momma, but he’s still not a fan of being tutored by his mom. I get it. (Again…eye rolls…long sighs)

With that said, he is lucky and here is how our “homework help” played out.

His first few problems were simple number lines and after talking about the meaning of a midpoint, he eventually figured out that he could combine points and divide by two. Things changed a bit when he got to coordinates.


Me: What don’t you get?

Son: Well, it has two points. What does that have to do with the number line up top? How am I supposed to graph that?

Me: How would you prefer to graph them?

Son: Probably on a coordinate grid.

Me: Well, you don’t have one. So what’s your plan?

numberlineSon: (freehand draws) Wait, it’s a horizontal line. So, it’s just (-1,4)

(Does next one and sees another horizontal line and says oh, it’s (0,-4))

Son: Cool, I get this part

Me: Wait just a sec. Let’s explore those a bit more. What would you do if the line wasn’t horizontal? What if you had coordinates that weren’t so simple to graph? How would you find it?

Son: She gave us a formula to use. (searches mounds of crumbled paper for notes) [eye rolls...long sighs]

Me: Let’s explore


This is the point where I opened the Geogebra Chrome app and placed a point that we renamed M. I then told him to place two other points anywhere on the coordinate grid. Next, I told him that Point M was his midpoint and his job was to move point M to be the midpoint of the two other points that he placed.

Me: What do you notice about point M in relation to the other points?

Son:Well, it looks like it’s still halfway.

coordinates Me: Hmmm…What do you mean by that?

Son: Well, look at the point (0,9) and point M. They’s like opposite corners of a rectangle that’s 4×2. (I showed him the segment tool and he outlined the lines)

Look at the point at (4,1) and point M. It’s the same. Both are 4×2. Wait, the whole thing is 8×4 and the midpoint is at 4×2. Does that work every time?

(Son knows the drill and proceeds to check several different points. He grins and says…wow)

Me: Let’s go back to your original problem. Where was your midpoint?

Son: Well, it’s at (2,5). [stares at the page a bit] (0+4)/2 = 2 and (9+1)/2 = 5

Son Screams: Oh my gosh…Does that happen every single time?

Me: You know the drill

Son: (Places points at several locations…followed by calculations) Why didn’t we do this in class? All you do is Add x’s and then divide by 2. You do the same with the Y’s. It’s like finding the average of the points.

Me: What about the next part? This time, you are given a midpoint and asked to find the other endpoint.

To be continued…


When it Comes to Tech, Kids Will Figure Out the Darndest Things

Yesterday after school, I was meeting with a group of 3rd grade teachers about how they could make use of the ipads in their classroom. While we were meeting, the most perfect interruption occurred that completely changed the entire conversation. Trust me…I could not have planned it better than this. As teachers were wondering aboutContinue Reading

My EduParent Perspective: Balancing the Two A’s, Advocacy and Accountability

My EduParent Perspective: Balancing the Two A’s, Advocacy and Accountability

If you have children in school, logging in to the online grading system is a necessity. Many of them even have alert settings and getting those alerts is critical to you supporting your child. This is especially important for high school students. In a perfect world, my son would tell me every little detail ofContinue Reading

The Geometry Project, aka When Your Mom is A Tech Specialist

The Geometry Project, aka When Your Mom is A Tech Specialist

About a week ago, my son was assigned a geometry vocabulary project that required him to choose 30 words from a list and visually represent them. The instructions were as follows… “You are to find these images in the real world. You can personally take pictures, find them on the internet, or find the itemsContinue Reading

Inside the Kid’s Homework: Writing Repetitive Math Facts

Every night Braeden will be required to write his multiplication facts three times each and since this is a strategy that has been repeated without question over the years, many will swear by its perceived effectiveness. Before presenting an opinion, let me remind you of a time long ago when teachers used “discipline sentences” to punish kids forContinue Reading