Friday, March 9, 2012

My day is Pi Day!

We celebrated Pi Day today. I am fully aware that the official Pi Day is March 14 (3.14, in case you don't speak nerd), but we're on Spring Break next week, so we always celebrate the Friday before.

We've been planning for a few weeks now and I'm relieved to say that everything went very smoothly! With over 130 sixth graders, this is the largest group I've ever done this with! Plus it was the day before a break and a full moon, so pandemonium was almost a given. But the kids were soooo excited to have a whole day of fun activities that they were really enthusiastic and well-behaved. We integrated math, art, language, writing, and reading so everyone would have something that appealed to them. Oh, and food. Who doesn't like food?

The rest of this post is going to be logistics for fellow teachers who are looking for their own Pi Day activities, so I won't be hurt if you skip the rest. Most of the stuff we did I found online and pinned to my Pinterest page here.

Me reading "Sir Cumference and the Dragon of Pi" to a class.
Notice my awesome pi hoodie (ThinkGeek) and Pi bracelet (etsy)!
I made "Passport to Pi Day" booklets for all the kids so they wouldn't ask me "What's next???" eighty-seven million times today. We did five 45-minute rotations, with breaks for P.E., lunch, and one class had their regularly scheduled art time. I left five minutes between each rotation for travel time and catch-up if we needed it. It was just the right amount of time.

These are in no particular order.

Rotation 1 - Math lesson on the area of circles

In my class we used pizza boxes and menus from Famous Joe's, a locally owned pizza place that was kind enough to donate the materials for us. After discussing the derivation of the formula, which we'd done in class previously (If you take the radius of a circle to form the length and width of a square and find the area, that area will fit into that circle 3.14 times), we found the area of their 12" and 16" pizzas, then they got to pick their three favorite pizzas from the menu and calculate the "cost per bite" (square inch) and write a summary of which they would order and why. The cheapest per bite, the large cheese pizza, was $0.07 per bite and the most expensive, the Avery (a yummy concoction with grilled chicken, roma tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and a balsamic glaze) was $0.15 per bite- over twice as much! I made a data record sheet to help them keep everything organized.

Rotation 2 - T-shirt decorating

Everyone brought in a plain, colored t-shirt to decorate with bleach pens instead of boring fabric markers on white shirts like we used to do. I got the idea from several Pinterest posts, such as this one. We learned several things for next year:
1. Don't put the bleach gel on too heavily or it's too hard to rinse off.
2. Use the Science Lab because it has larger sinks to rinse the shirts!
3. 100% cotton shirts in dark colors (with the exception of red) work the best.
4. Leave plenty of space between letters because they do bleed into each other.

I thought the shirts turned out really cute! Mrs. Betts and all the wonderful parent volunteers were real troopers putting up with the bleach stench and cold water all day!

 Rotation 3- Pi Poetry

The awesome Mrs. Benefield came up with several different poetry prompts to inspire pi-related prose. She had rhyming dictionaries for each group and examples of limericks (St. Patrick's Day tie-in there) to get them started. As they shared them with each other, they got to enjoy their pie!

"When I first learned about pi,
I thought I was going to die.
There were so many digits,
I started to fidget,
and looked up in the sky."

Rotation 4- Math lesson on the circumference of circles

Mr. Thaxton read "Sir Cumference and the First Round Table" to his class, then they got to make fortune tellers (remember those?!?) that gave them lots of practice with circumference in a really fun way. This was the first year we did those as a fellow teacher found the activity here

 Rotation 5 - Pi jewelry

Mrs. Armstrong is really crafty, so she did the Pi jewelry. Using colored paper clips from Staples, each digit was assigned a unique color. Then they were given the first 20 digits of pi to put into order on a paperclip chain. Lots of schools do bead or paper chains to see how long they can make it in a day, but I like this because they all get a visual representation of pi to take home with them.

If you have time, you can do a musical clapping game to help them memorize the digits. The kids can sit or stand in a circle and clap-snap at 60 bpm:
3 point.
3 point 1.
3 point 1, 4.
3 point 1, 4, 1.

And so on. They can all do it together, or make it a contest and if you mess up, you're out. Keep going until you have a winner.


Since we had some down time with some classes at P.E. or Art and others weren't, I printed out several geometric coloring sheets involving circles. Everyone got to pick one, color it with colored pencils, then cut it out and glue it to colored paper to make a "Happy Pi Day" card to give to a math geek in their life next Wednesday, the real Pi Day!

All in all, a really fun day. I'm so glad I work with a team that likes to do crazy stuff to keep the kids engaged, and that we have such wonderful parents that send in supplies and volunteer their time so we could all have a great time!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

In the event of inclement weather...

Remember last Friday how I was checking out textbooks and was really interested to see how the publishers were going to integrate technology into the mix? Yeah, not so much.

My friend Elizabeth and I carpooled and after much driving up and down US 31 (yes, Indiana peeps, the same one), we finally realized we were looking for a sturdy campus building, when in fact we should have been looking for a metal shed. Granted, it had a very large sign on it announcing its presence, but we're math teachers. We don't read.

So this warehouse where we were supposed to spend our day was really just a steel frame with a metal roof and walls. Not very reassuring considering the weather forecast for the day. In all honesty though, no one thought it was going to be bad until around 2 p.m.

Our poor presenter was from Arizona. In the whole 15 minutes she got to speak I think she said, "I've never seen this much rain!" three times. Oh, you poor ignorant woman. When the tornado sirens went off and we all huddled over our phones and iPads checking the radar, she said, "Now, let's all focus!"

What? We were focused. Very focused. Just not on her.

Here's where it gets good.

The organizers interrupted and said there was a tornado (duh) and that the building was not safe (duh) and we needed to seek shelter immediately (duh) and we should all GET IN OUR CARS AND DRIVE TO THE STUDENT UNION THREE MILES AWAY. Seriously?!?

Power goes out.

Panic mode sets in.

What would you do? We were being forced to leave, the tornado is very nearby according to the radar (And was in fact very nearby. We had difficulty getting home because of large trees and power lines in the road), and we're in a town that we're only semi-familiar with. I didn't drive, so I hopped in someone else's car and we followed the lead car, as ordered, parked a block away from the building, and ran for it. We made it inside, soaking wet, and waited. About the time they told us they were canceling the event because the weather didn't look like it was going to improve and the power could be out for quite some time, a man from the university told us they were shutting down and we all had to leave the building! Gee, thanks.
The city of Athens on Friday morning. Wait, you can't see where Athens is? Oh yeah, that's because the tornado tracks are RIGHT ON TOP OF IT.

I don't know whose cat I ran over, but my karma must be seriously messed up.

In the end, we did get home safely, but I wouldn't wish that mess on anybody. The tornado we narrowly missed was an EF3 and did some considerable damage. If it had hit us directly, either in the warehouse or when we were driving, I'm not sure I'd be here today.

I've had it with tornados, but I have learned some valuable lessons that may help you in the event your city decides to get pummeled by severe weather every other month.

Lesson #1

Cell phones are not reliable. At all. Even if all the towers haven't been taken out (like last April), everyone and their brother is on the phone at the same time. On Friday, I had four bars and couldn't get a call out. Luckily, someone I was with brought a WiFi hot spot and I had my iPad already tethered to it, so I could use iMessage to text or use email. Last April all (and I do mean all) of the AT&T towers were out, but Verizon had at least one still up and working. Best to have friends on different networks.

Lesson #2

Assume you will not have power. No power means you can't charge your cell phone. See what I mean about cell phones being unreliable? I saw on Facebook last week that when the weather was getting bad, everyone put their cell phones on the charger. At least you can go into it at 100%. And stay off Facebook! It drains your battery.

Lesson #3

Get cash. Another hard lesson from April. Even if you could fight your way to the front of the line at the gas stations, there was no power to run the credit card machines. No cash, no business. Last Friday the AMTs emptied quickly and even the grocery store had a sign that said "$25 max cash back."

Lesson #4

Buying milk will be of no help when you have no power for six days. And you just wasted your cash. Good one.

Lesson #5

When all hell breaks loose, you'll wish you were married to an enginerd. Thanks to Garrick, I think we may very well be the model of preparedness. Seriously. We now have an underground storm shelter that is fully stocked for eight people. Yes, the fire station knows we're there, and yes we used the ADPH list to stock it with the appropriate supplies. We also keep a back-up battery in there that can charge our cell phones and has a light so I don't get scared. We added a fan, which wasn't on the list but seemed necessary if we're stuck down there in the summer.

Our generator is wired correctly through the electrical panel to run our entire house on natural gas. Unless something fails on the gas company's end, we don't need to worry about that going out. We have the weather radio app on our cell phone and a real weather radio. We're about to get a newer, better one with more features. I think it puts a forcefield around the house or something.

THANK GOD we haven't had to use the storm shelter yet because it's coffin-scary, but I rest easier knowing we have it. My biggest problem is I want everyone I love safely in it with me. On Friday I was calling everyone to come over if it got bad.

One friend realized, "do you have room for all of us?"

"Well, maybe not. Just pick your favorite kid and send him down with us."

That poor woman from Arizona probably got on the plane home, never to set foot in this state again.

So whatever happened with the textbook expo? It got rescheduled for this Friday, which is when we're celebrating Pi Day. Which will be my next post. :)

Friday, March 2, 2012

The new lives of textbooks

I'm about to head off to the math textbook adoption expo, where all the publishers get to persuade us, the teachers, to buy their book. It's a real turning point for us as a system and for the industry. As publishers develop flashier products with more interactive features, apps, online tutors, I'm afraid the content is suffering. With all the other "stuff," the number of actual problems is diminishing to make room for it all. I'd love to compare a sixth grade math book from 1950 to the ones I'll see today and see how many examples there are for each lesson, how many practice problems, and how many lessons in the book. I bet I can guess how they'd compare.

Keeping my fingers crossed I can find a book that has:
1. Clear examples that correlate with the homework problems
2. Plenty of practice problems that get progressively more complex
3. Useful supplemental materials
4. Online access (across the board, this is what my students' parents want without exception. They didn't agree on the rest)
5. A student book that doesn't weight 10 pounds!

Wish me luck!