Drinking the Kool-Aid

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap

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Apr 04 2012


I like doing math. I love doing math! I love the feeling when you know you’re riiight on the brink of figuring out how you’re going to go about solving a tough problem. I love when you can do a page of work, box your answer, and answer someone when they ask “ok but where…

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Mar 22 2012

Patience Like Tin Foil

I can’t give you problems basic enough. There is no question leading enough. “Doing Math” to you means you saying “I don’t get this” and me telling you the answers. You see math and everything it entails as a huge changing frictionless landscape with nothing to hang onto, and I can’t destroy enough of that…

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I don’t know why everything is so confusing for my juniors. I’m extremely careful–like paranoid careful–to always start back at the basics of basics, but I just don’t know why it seems like nothing is ever retained. I’m explaining things as conceptually as I can, making them do as much sense-making as I can fathom……

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A bunch of the tests I took in college wouldn’t look great in a good, thorough TFA-style analysis. I remember always being a little nervous heading into my diffEQ tests, because the professor was SO good at throwing in questions we’d never seen before but (if we had a good handle on what he’d taught…

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Nov 03 2011

Milking Students

One of the things I’ve really, REALLY improved at this year is grades/grading (I say that with the asterisk that being good at grades has meant being bad at failure rates). Last year, I gave way too much credit for completion and way too many “participation points,” and I came back strong this year by…

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Oct 11 2011

I don’t know enough math.

One frustrating thing about our district’s curriculum is that it’s wholly composed of an online program that has a lot of depth and make some pretty relevant connections, but is really hard to plan lessons around that don’t involve kids staring at a screen for an hour taking notes. Another thing that makes it hard…

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Sep 04 2011

Know thy content

I’m pretty good at remembering the math I learned in high school and college, and pretty good even at remembering how my teachers explained it to me or how it was that I formed the understandings that I did. Sure, I might need a refresher here and there on specifics, but usually takes no more…

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May 10 2011

Two or Three Biggest Lessons

Teach For America: “What are the two or three biggest lessons you’re taking away from your corps experience? These could be lessons about your students, yourself, the community where you work, the achievement gap (its causes, the most promising solutions, etc.), our schools and school system, education policy, Teach For America-specific lessons, or anything else–we’re…

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Apr 26 2011

The Real Pre-Sophomores

I’ve always been told that the sophomores at my school are the ‘problem children.’ The faculty tells me they’re the rowdiest, rudest, most boldly disrespectful… but I barely interact with any non-sophomores, so I have nothing to compare them to. Also, I worry that the few instances that do confirm that generalization only do so…

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Apr 08 2011


It’s crazy how this job teaches you the SAME things—over and over and over—but more effectively every time. If it were possible to organize all of these lessons and digest them in a logical sequence and at a sensible pace, I wouldn’t have to repeat so many of the lessons I learn. But I’m here…

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Scene:  In a coffeeshop open late, Tired-But-Wired Teacher (T-B-W) sits at the table, hoping to plan a Friday-before-Spring-Break lesson that packs a punch. Already on her second cup of Texas Pecan, she’s finally caught up on emails, checked her facebook one last time, and said her last g-chat farewells. T-B-W (Out loud,  to self): “Aight. One…

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Mar 10 2011


Partly out of guilt from all of the mornings I spent in his classroom whining and complaining during the fall, I told my sort-of-mentor teacher next door that I’d co-sponsor the Robotics team with him this year. I warned him that I know absolutely nothing about robotics, to which he replied, “you’d be surprised how…

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I still get to see some of my kids who were switched into resource, because they’re only pulled out of core classes (not Math Intervention). Webbie and my Bass Drummer are two who would be doing pretty well in regular geometry if they hadn’t been thrown under the bus. I showed them this site, and…

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I’ve always believed in rigor and Bloom’s and teaching higher-order thinking. Of course! Of course I want to teach my kids to think at a level higher than the state tests require. But today, the Mirror of Teaching revealed some assumptions I can’t wait to shed. . This particular Thursday morning, I was feeling guilty…

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Jan 18 2011

Snapshot 1.18

Today’s lesson was not my best. It’s the first lesson in 2011 that has pretty much flopped, though, so I’m not too broken up about it. When my lessons flopped before, I could see it coming—I knew I’d planned it too hurriedly or carelessly, or I knew there was something involved that the kids wouldn’t…

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Jan 13 2011


I’ve always hated probability. It was my least favorite part of Stats, and I still had trouble with combinations and permutations, even at some math teacher training in November. Over the last two weeks, my intervention classes played with M&Ms, Skittles, dice, and”Trashketball” as they learned about probability. As usual, some kids got some parts…

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Jan 07 2011

Take Away

This afternoon, I had two goals for my hungry student: 1) find missing lengths of right triangles and 2) find various areas of composite figures. We were working on the latter, and came across an interesting problem; instead of being given the triangle’s lengths, you were given other measurements that could lead you to deduce…

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The following is a post by the lovely leader of the Upper Math community on TFAnet, and my reply to it. I’m interested to see what non-math teachers have to say about it, and she just said so many things exactly the way I feel them that I decided her words belong in my blog.…

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“…Well, the 14 here is the diameter. Remember, diameter? … Diameter is all the way across the middle of the circle. In our formula, there’s an r. What does r stand for?    …  What’s an r-word we’ve been talking about with circles?  …   Okay, well, R stands for radius. The diameter goes all the way…

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There I sat, trying to figure out how to make a 3 x 3 x 3 cube puzzle with five different pieces of no less than three and no more than six cubic units each, with no two pieces being the same shape. Naturally I wanted to be the first one to finish the task, and…

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