most students could find the area when given the radius but if I gave them the area and asked them to find the radius they were stumped. I could just show them how but I realized that the issue lay in algebra so that is where we have returned.

Algebra is often a huge stumbling block for students. I’ve been doing a lot of reading and research that I may post about later but for now I’ll focus on what we are doing in class.

First we revisited that the equal sign means that both sides of the equation are balanced or the same. Surprisingly, some people don’t really realize that. To reinforce this idea we used Cuisenaire Rods as models.

The students made a “train” with the yellow and black rod.

They had to find other trains that were equal in length to the yellow and black together and then write down equations to express equality.

This photo shows our progression through simplifying the equation. The letters represent the colours of the rods. The rods can also be given numerical values. The distributive property came out during the discussions! I was so excited I actually jumped up and down and squealed a little bit!

At this point, I knew I had to be explicit about the commutative property of addition and multiplication and the distributive property of multiplication over addition (which you can see in the photo above).

I struggled with how to present it and luckily Kyle Pearce wrote a post that helped me out (and I attended three online webinars presented by Kyle). These animations by Kyle really helped me to present the distributive property first with numbers (modeled by Cuisenaire Rods) and then with variables. We did this on the SMART board with Cuisenaire Rods but, alas, I did not take photos! I know some of the students did though so I may update this post with their photos.

Next the students practised a few times on their own (we NEED a Cuisenaire Rod App for the iPads!) like this (sorry I can’t embed it):

Then, still following Kyle’s lead we did this:

I did a few more examples using Alge Tiles and then the students proceeded to practice making models and writing down the simplification of the expressions. Some still needed a fair bit of scaffolding, but they are getting there. I also had some students who did not like models and just wanted to simplify using the numbers and letters only. I think it’s important to use the models though so they aren’t simply memorizing procedures.

This went fairly well, but there are still a few students struggling. We will move forward into solving for the variable by performing the same operation on each side of the equation. Then we will circle back to formulas for circles and apply what we’ve learned about algebra to measurement concepts. Most posts to come to show you our path.

Don’t forget, we’ve also learned the origin of the root word circ in English! It all ties together in room 133!

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The Challenge is a way for teachers and students from around the world to connect and learn about blogging whilst learning about one another and different cultures. Blogging gives students a genuine audience for their writing, an audience that can give feedback. An important part of the challenge is commenting on other blogs thus improving our communication skills.

Every week there are a variety of blogging challenges to choose from. In the beginning, we write about ourselves, how to leave quality comments and about Copywrite law and proper attribution. Then we get into deeper issues and ideas. I am excited about the challenge and we have already connected with a class in New Zealand, Mrs. Hogg’s class which is an International Baccalaureate PYP class.

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Here is the list of words we started with:

Here is some of the work the class did:

We discovered that we could put some of our root words together.

phil means love of and soph means wisdom so

phil + soph + y is philosophy and means love of wisdom.

We’re making a chart of the base words we know.

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Our inquiry has involved looking a photographs of people and making inferences about them. Since photos are static in time, we can’t use clues such as behavioiur and actions, language (what they say), thoughts (like in a narrative), or how they relate to others. That leaves very few clues to any inividual characteristics yet we makes inference just the same based on physical characteristics and perhaps some action that we can see. We decided that we use clues about group traits and individual traits to analyze and evaluate people and characters in texts.

**Group Traits might include:**

Race, sex, class, stereotypes (jock, goth, etc.), profession, age, etc.

Individual traits include:

Courageous, intelligent, kind, rational, proung, arrogant, loyal, etc.

We talked about how we infer these traits based on clues in the text and our schema. We make assumptions about people and characters based on these inferences. We read short passages about a variety of characters and watched some episodes of Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (the show has exaggerated characters). The students recorded their observations and inferences about the characters in their thinking books and then we had a class discussion about each of the characters. It’s pretty interesting that we all came to very similar conclusions based on the evidence and our background knowledge. Perhaps culture plays a role here?

Our next step was to look at an open answer / short answer type question about a character and analyze it using the Ontario Achiement Chart. That will be the topic of a future post.

]]>We are in the beginning stages of our inquiry, looking at prefixes, suffixes and base words. I assign some words and the students try to figure out the base word and then find its etymology (history – which language it originates from). The groups then find other words that share the same base and create a word matrix which clearly demarcates the different parts of the work. My hope it to get to the level of word knowledge that we can do inquiry like the Wordy Nerdys do!

Here is some of our work so far.

Click to view slideshow.Another way to increase our vocabulary is to read daily.

and here we are reading!

]]>**Act 1**

I’m starting to make my own videos to match the grade 8 curriculum.

This is **Act 2**. Ideally, I would have actually wrapped the Pringles can with paper but….sometimes time is a factor so I have an ongoing goal to keep adding videos when I have time.

Working on it:

We discovered all of this!

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Next we watch Act 2 which provides some more information and a problem to solve. The students solve the problem, present their solutions and then we watch Act 3.

Here is the first one we did. It was created by Kyle Pearce @mathletepearce at Tap Into Teen Minds

Cookie Cutter

Act 1

The students came up with many excellent questions including the questions we were going for: How many more cookies can we make?

Act 2

Here is some video of two of my students sharing their solution. I started to use the time-lapse feature on my iPhone and we found it is too fast. I’ve downloaded an App now that I hope will be better for next time.

Finally, we watch Act 3

We had some discussion about why Kyle Pearce was able to get more cookies than we calculated. What do you think?

I started blogging for this class on Evernote and Pistach.io but I found it didn’t have the features I need so I’m continuing on here. If you want to see the first few lessons leading up to this check them out here. They give some background on Pi, deriving the formula for the area of a circle and Mindset.

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