Wednesday, August 18, 2010

I Scared The Math Out Of Myself

I found out recently that will be teaching Math Models this year along with my other courses: 7th grade math, Pre-Algebra, Jr. High TAKS prep, Geometry, and Calculus. What can I say? There are only 2 math teachers for the Jr. High AND High school where I work and the other teacher has his share of classes too. It was just the way it was scheduled. There tends to not be a lot of flexibility in the schedule with only 2 math teachers teaching 6 grade levels. Anyhow.

I was preparing some activities for this new class. I have never taught it before and hadn't seen a book so I wasn't completely sure what it involved. I looked online at other school's descriptions of Math Models and it didn't seem too daunting. I decided to look at a textbook website to see which book I would be using. The only one there that I didn't know was called Texas Advanced Mathematical Concepts and the tiny picture to the left was all I could see.

I started to go through the chapters and I was reading topics such as these:

Relations and Functions
Composition of Functions
Graphing Linear Equations
Graphing Linear Inequalities

Those sounded all right, they are Algebra topics. I was surprised that it started out with these since some of the descriptions I had looked up seemed much easier. Then I dug deeper into the book and saw these topics:

Solving Systems of Equations in Three Variables
Determinants and Multiplicative Inverses of Matrices
Continuity and End Behavior
Linear and Angular Velocity

Whoa whoa whoa. Wait a minute! I was going to have to reteach myself some of this stuff and then try to teach it to my students?? Math Models is not an advanced class. It is taken BEFORE Algebra II to help prepare them for the TAKS test. These were advanced high school topics! (Just like title says! Although I didn't notice that until later.)

I got scared! It was going to be like Calculus all over again where I would spend hours after school doing the homework I assigned just to make sure I could do it. I just knew that my students were going to have a hard time with this and it was going to be like pulling teeth with no Novocaine to get them up to par on the Algebra parts just to get to some of these topics. All they had taken so far was Algebra I and Geometry. This just seemed to jump!

I walked down to the book room to see what math textbooks we had. Maybe I was looking at the wrong book. I didn't see the Texas Advanced Mathematical Concepts textbooks anywhere but I did see all the other levels of math that we teach. There was this one set of textbooks that I was not familiar with, Math Matters 3 as seen on the left. I looked at who it had been checked out to the previous year and it was a student I knew had taken Math Models. I looked through that book and it was MUCH simpler!

Some of the topics I will be teaching and I can handle with no difficultly:

Essential Algebra and Statistics
Geometry and Reasoning
Triangles, Quadrilaterals, and Other Polygons
Probability and Statistics


P.S. When I started to write this blog I was looking for a picture to go with that harder textbook. I found one on Amazon and it was bigger than the one on the textbook website. Big enough, in fact, to see that was I was looking at a Pre-Calculus textbook. No wonder!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Mesquite Bean Jelly

The recipe:

a big handful of yellow (ripe) mesquite beans
4 cups of sugar
4 cups of bean juice
1 package of Sure Jell (may need extra depending on how thick you want the jelly to be)

The process:

Pick beans off tree that are ripe (they rattle when ripe) but be sure to check for holes. You don't want those beans. If you choose them you will end up with no telling what kind of bugs all in your house! Wash the beans, cut them into smaller pieces (2 to 3 inches), and put them in a pot covered with 7 cups of water.

Mesquite Beans

Boil for twenty minutes. Let beans cool and strain the liquid through a cheese cloth or if you don't have one a coffee filter will work. Discard the beans. The liquid should be the color of green tea and have a good clean slightly sweet earthy smell. The picture below is scratch 'n sniff, so you can know what it should smell like. ;)

Mesquite Bean Juice

Put 4 cups of the juice in a clean pot, add 1 package of Sure Jell and bring to a boil. Boil for one minute. Be sure to watch that it doesn't boil over! Add 4 cups of sugar (if you want to use half or none be sure to pick the correct Sure-Jell product), bring to a boil, and boil for another minute. One way to check if the jelly is ready is to use a metal tablespoon that has been sitting in a glass of ice water. Take a half spoonful of the mix and let it cool to room temperature on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency you want, then you know it is ready. Otherwise, add a small amount of extra Sure Jell and boil for another minute.

Pour into clean canning jars and seal while it is hot. Refrigerate for 24 hours to let it gel and use within 6 to 8 months.

Mesquite Bean Jelly

The results:

Mesquite Bean jelly on toast

Yummy! It is tangy and sweet and not like any other jelly I have ever had. I made it with only one packet of Sure Jell and it was a little runny compared to commercial jellies. It wasn't anything that was unacceptable though.

This was the first time I have ever made jelly and the first time I have tasted mesquite bean jelly. Have you ever had mesquite bean jelly or made it yourself. Is there anything you can suggest to make it better?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Dear Dairy Queen

Below is a copy of the email I sent Dairy Queen headquarters. The mini Blizzard was $2.29 and a small was $2.89. The picture is not the size of the mini, it was just the only picture I had that dealt with Dairy Queen. At the time of purchase I did not realize that the mini was about half the size of the small, which is 12 oz. or I would have gone ahead and gotten the small. Live and learn, then email the company to complain. :)

Dear Dairy Queen,

I am writing to you today to let you know that I feel the price of the mini Blizzard is entirely too high for the amount of product received. From what I have gathered it is about half the size of the small yet only a mere 60 cents less than the small. This was the case at the Dairy Queen I went to, at least. I understand that Dairy Queen is in the business to make a profit, but must they do so through such a high mark-up?

Please consider lowering the price of the mini Blizzard to a more reasonable level. I would like to suggest a price of $1.29 to $1.79. By doing this I feel you will have much happier customers. Besides the price, I must say that I enjoyed the size of the mini Blizzard. It was a good size to help me with portion control. Thank you for your time.

Jennifer H.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Last Chance At Freedom

School is going to start soon, not that we talk about it in our house. But since we know it is coming we decided to take one last trip and we went to Austin, Texas. We have been there plenty of times but this time we were going to do something we hadn't done before and eat at one of Austin's cool restaurants.

We went to Esther's Follies, which is a comedy show with some added magic. It was very funny. There were some skits where I laughed so hard that I had tears. I would recommend it, but it is not suitable for children. I didn't care for some parts, but there were more funny than not. We both had trouble sleeping that night. We figured it had to do with over stimulation of humor from Esther's Follies!

We also went to the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum. It was a great experience. We ended up staying there about 4 hours! There was so much to see on the three floors, including an IMAX, two other theaters, and a cafe.

There is a huge star that greets all visitors.

star floor level

The museum is named for Bob Bullock, who was the Lieutenant Governor of Texas during the terms of Governors Ann Richards and George W. Bush.

Bob Bullock

Inside the museum was the original statue, the Goddess of Liberty, that adorned the state capitol dome from the 1880's until the 1980's. It was starting to show its age due to the zinc material it was made of. The new duplicate Goddess of Liberty is made of aluminum. (Had to get her back as she is not a pretty lady!)

goddess of liberty and texas neon

Being the TEXAS history museum there are, of course, Texas things all over the place.

The carpet.

texas carpet

The tables in the cafe.

texas table

And definitely in the exhibits.

texas cutout

The restaurant we chose was the Magnolia Cafe.

magnolia cafe

The menu was so varied that is was hard to choose. I made sure to at least try their famous gingerbread pancakes and I was not disappointed. They were wonderful! The Magnolia Cafe is cool because they didn't keep that wonderful recipe to themselves. They shared it with the Food Network! Get the recipe here.

All in all we had a good time and hope that it will hold our travel bug in check for awhile.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Country Life: Sheriff Reports

I knew I lived in the country...

country life

...but it was really brought home recently when I picked up a copy of the local paper and was reading through the county sheriff report. There were, of course, thefts and general criminal mischief, including drugs. We aren't immune to that in the country, unfortunately. There were several stray dog reports, and even one cat problem.

But then there were the reports that you just might not see in a city report...

7/12 - 12:30 AM - Advised of two horses in the roadway.

7/12 - 5:07 PM - Wild stallion in their yard tearing up yard.

7/13 - 3:58 PM - Keeps hearing shots being fired

7/14 - 4:03 PM - Neighbors are burning constantly and the smoke keeps going into her house.

7/14 - 4:05 PM - Illegal tie in stealing electricity.

7/15 - 12:29 AM - Throwing bottles at a vehicle.

7/17 - 6:04 PM - Large pig running around the neighborhood tearing up yards and property.

7/19 - 4:02 PM - Loose bull.

7/19 - 6:37 PM - Theft of a saddle.

7/23 - 12:52 PM - Advised a small white horse in her yard.

On the last one, I wonder in exactly what matters she advised the horse. Self esteem issues about being small? Which flowers were not good for consumption? How to find the way home?

I guess I will never know.

Monday, August 2, 2010

New School Year New Math Decoration

It is a new school year so it is time for a new math art project. Last year, I made a pi out of Styrofoam and small flowers. You can see it here. This year I had one idea about a huge mobile for the center of my room (I have a really high ceiling) but I couldn't decide how to make it.

I finally decided to make a faux stained glass picture. I could incorporate all kinds of polygons and circles into the piece and it would be full of color. I am lucky to have plenty of windows to put the stained glass near. So I started to plan.

A friend had given me a large wooden frame (22.5" x 19") with glass but no backing, which made it perfect for a stained glass project. I had made a small one earlier (8" x 6"). I don't really like it, but I think I will put it in my room anyhow. I like the colors, but you can tell it was a first attempt. I got the pattern from a website called Free Stained Glass Patterns. The pattern was very large so I only used a small portion of it.

Stained glass project

On both pictures I used Glass Gallery products by Plaid. I bought a kit at Hobby Lobby that had about 30 small tubs of different colors and now that I am done, I wish I had just bought the few colors I needed in larger tube form. The tubes with spouts are much easier to use and give better smoother coverage, especially for larger areas.

For the big frame I had a problem. It was much larger than a single piece of paper. I couldn't print out the pattern and put it underneath the glass to trace. I wouldn't cover all the glass. It would have been a huge pain to try to break up the pattern myself to print onto several pieces of paper. So I looked online to see what my options were. I found two options.

Block Posters - This one can be used online without downloading any software. It has its limitations though. I could only print my pattern out in certain sizes and none of them fit my frame that well. It is good if you don't really have a set size you want the final product to be. You do have to trim off the borders on each piece of paper, which are not easily marked, if you want to have a clean look. They had examples of where they left the trim on and it looked good too. I guess it really just depends on what you want and like.

Posteriza - This software had to be downloaded but then could be used offline if needed. It had a few more options for tweaking, which allowed me to get the pattern to the right size. It took four pieces of paper to get the whole design and then I had to use scissors to trim off the borders that were marked before taping it together. It worked great. I am thinking of using it to make a HUGE (5 pieces of paper by 5 pieces of paper, huge) formula chart for my classroom. That would be AWESOME!

The pattern for the large frame was one that I made myself. I did found the boot online and used only the outline, but the rest is my creation. The boot and the D are for my school mascot and name. The school colors are purple and gold so I made sure to incorporate those in as well. It is all said and done and here is the final project. It looks better than the first one, but still I need more practice. I think it will grow on me, though.

Math Stained Glass

And, of course, because he is feeling so much better after his "snack", Pan had to be in one picture in the way.

Pan admiring the picture

In all it would take at least two days for this project since you have to wait for the black leading paint to dry before using the coloring paint. Hopefully, you can get some ideas for your own classroom!

Have fun and feel free to comment!