Distributive Property Sliders

I’ve been working on the Distributive Property in my Transmath classes.  It’s one of my favorite lessons to teach, but it always ends up taking 3-4 days until all students are proficient.

I was going on my 3rd day of teaching Distributive Property, and I really wanted to try something different.  I was looking through my blogroll on feedly and I saw this post by MissCalcul8 which led me to this post by Restructuring Algebra.  (It’s always great to add another blog to my list.)

Anyway, I’m sure that while I used sliders in my own education, the idea of using them in my high school classes hadn’t quite occurred to me.  My transmath classes will not get to function notation this year, and I’m too impatient to bookmark blog posts and wait to use them later.

So I busted out powerpoint and made my own for distributive property.  This is what the end result looked like:

Distributive Sliders

(We flipped a coin and rolled a die to determine the signs and values of the numbers on the 5th slider)

We spent half of a class period putting the sliders together, and then spent the next day an a half sharing and solving problems that students created.

Could I have given the same amount of problems on a worksheet and said, “Pick five and solve for tomorrow?”

Of course…but this was way more fun!

Distributive Property Sliders

Let’s Play 25


What makes a good survey?

Yesterday, I opened my work e-mail to find a survey about professional development.  We have had a lot of PD this year, and I was kind of excited to give my input.  But time got away from me, and I didn’t get to it until this morning.  In that time, the original sender of the survey said that responses to PD have been overwhelmingly positive.

There were 18 questions total.  I found two of them a little bit odd and thought I’d share.

Question 2

This question doesn’t allow for any comments.  What if I didn’t have a take-away?  What if I’ve already read this person’s books but still enjoyed seeing them?  What if it was an elementary specialist that was largely irrelevant to me as a math/physics teacher?

I look at this one and feel like it’s weighted in the positive direction.  It’s almost like there is a ‘Somewhat Uninformative’ and ‘Largely Uninformative’ option missing from the bottom of the choice list.

This later question suffers from the same problem…

Question 7

As you can see from the rows and rows of bubbles, we have seen quite a few things this year.  Now not every teacher has seen all of them, but I could offer an option on at least 10 of these PD choices.

My big problem again is the lack of a comments box.  Where can I say the things that I share on twitter?  What if I found it insulting that the speaker made fun of the tech generation (while I took notes on my phone) and appealed only to traditional methods?  What if I liked a speaker, but would like them better in a smaller setting or break-outs?  What if I wanna suggest Skypeing someone cool?

I also don’t like that I don’t have the option to say something wasn’t of use or wasn’t good information.  For example, I have repeatedly been shown how to fold a piece of lined paper in half to make t-notes…and this will revolutionize my teaching.  Where do I say that I know where to find graphic organizers online, and don’t need to be shown anymore?  (Please…)

Where can I say that I would like to talk to people who teach the same subjects, but maybe in a different area?  How do you REALLY handle diversity in a math/science class.  How do other teachers REALLY make math meaningful and hands-on?  What kinds of field trips and activities can I use to bring a science class from good to great, even though museums, theme parks and traditional outings are farther away?

So after I answered the survey I drafted and sent an e-mail.  I feel bad because I know that reading my e-mail is more work than slogging through my survey responses, but I don’t really feel like some of the survey questions captured my opinion on the subject.

The rest of the survey was fine, but I wonder how much two poorly worded questions can skew the overall results of the survey to the positive side.

And just to clarify, I believe that these two questions were an honest oversight, and not intended to adjust the results.  But if we’re going to ask for honest responses to PD, we need to make sure that the option to respond negatively is always there.



My Favorite Thing



The Last Day of First Semester, Year Four…


#MTBOS Blogging Initiative

I, Amanda Skinner, resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom up and share my thoughts with other teachers. I hope to accomplish this goal by participating in the January Blogging Initiation hosted by Explore MTBoS.

You, too, could join in on this exciting adventure. All you have to do is dust off your blog and get ready for the first prompt to arrive January 10th!

Wish me luck!

30 Days – What does a good mentor do?

Explain:  What does a good mentor “do”?


30 Days – Post a Picture of Your Classroom

Describe what you see, and what you don’t that you’d like to.


About Time…

On Wednesday something interesting happened in my classroom, and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  This post might be a little bit fluff and story time and a little less content, but it’s definitely something I want to remember in the future.

So for the last two years, 5th hour staffing has taken place in my room every Thursday.  My room has become bright and colorful over the last few years, and I love finding new things to stick on the walls.  I post student quotes in the form of Twitter birds.  I have tons of motivational posters that I’ve stolen from the internet.  I have bizarre artwork that students have left for me over the years.  It’s pretty cozy, and it feels like home.  I try to keep it well-organized, and friendly.  Some of my colleagues like to poke fun at my ‘elementary classroom’, but I find that letting students play and cut and draw and create really gives my class a different spin than the rest of their day.

The decoration in question, however, was a set of arrows.  Before the 2014-2015 school year started, I realized that I was sick of students asking when classes ended, so I made a set of 8 arrows to mark the end of each hour and lunch.  I stuck the arrows around the clock, and it saved me a ton of headache.

Other teachers had really mixed reactions to this particular decoration.  Some thought it was a cute idea, but the majority of people who spoke up would pick on me about it.

“Can’t your kids tell time, Skinner?”

“You can’t hold their hands forever, Skinner!”

“Don’t they have the time on their phones?”

So this year, when the bell schedule changed, I caved and got rid of the arrows.  Maybe the other teachers were right…  Still I noticed myself wanting to gesture to the clock and point every time a student asked when class got out.  Was I too hand-holdy?  Would removing the arrows magically encourage the students to learn to tell time on their own?  I tried not to think about it too much.

But on Wednesday, during 1st hour, a student that I had last year stayed after class to chat.  He hasn’t always had the best grades in class, and even though he wasn’t in the exact same class he took from me last year, his lack of punctuality and general disinterest in school were part of the reason he was mine again this year.  He asked where the arrows had gone.  I told him that the bell schedule had changed, so my arrows wouldn’t be accurate any more.  This is true.

Then he asked me if I’d put up arrows again.  This is the only request this student has EVER made of me, so I asked him why.

“Because I’m not good at telling time, I can never remember the schedule, and I kept a picture of your clock on my phone so I’d know where to go at what time.” is what he said.

So that brings me to today, Sunday.  And you’ve probably already guessed what I’ve done.


The arrows are back. They’re up to date.  They’re snazzy, even.

And I feel like a heel because I let other teachers pressure me into taking a resource away from my students.  I’m ashamed that I allowed them to embarrass me for even a moment.

Because let’s face it:  These are only my kids for an hour.  The rest of the day, they’re yours too!

If you don’t like my classroom visuals, just remember that they’re not for you…they’re not for me.

They’re for him.

This young man wanted them back because this visual of the clock made this classroom feel a little more like home.  Enough so that a student who doesn’t always show up, or do homework, took the time to stay after class to request that this visual come back.

And after learning that it meant so much to him, I’m sorry that I ever took it away.

Lesson Learned!