Friday, January 28, 2011

Algebra: Homework Reminder

Friday Fun: Everything's Amazing...

You know, I wanted something fun but as I thought about what students (and teachers) have today to help get the content they need I am amazed at how much has changed in just my carreer. Props to Louis CK for really putting it all in perspective.

Algebra: A Polite Warning

Students who knowingly give classmates higher grades than they deserve while we grade papers in class will lose points on their own assignments.  If we cannot grade each other's homework in class then I will be forced to collect them to be graded personally, and students will lose that time to review their work. 

I realize that many students do not like having their homework graded and I understand, completely, the pressure to overlook some wrong answers when it's a friend's paper.  This is not, however, an excuse.  Homework is not "just" practice, and we cannot wait until the day of the test to worry about knowing how to do these problems.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Techincal Difficulties

I have to apologize, I just discovered that the microphone on my laptop has been dead for a few days.  That means that many of the videos I've been posting are silent films.  I'm very sorry and assure students and parents that I've got a temporary fix for future videos.  If there is demand I can go back and put in an audio track for some of the videos.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Geometry: Quadrilateral Hierarchy

For students who did not get this last semester, or who lost those notes, or who forgot what they were doing with it, here is a break down of how the various quadrilaterals relate to each other.

As a Tree:

As a Venn Diagram

Geometry: Quizzes and BA's

Since we started chapter 6 before the semester break here is the current up coming list of dates for Quizzes and BA's:

Friday 1/28:  Quiz on 6-1 through 6-5.  Chapter 6 Review Guides will be available.
Wednesday 2/2 (4th hour) or Thursday 2/3 (1st hour):  Chapter 6 BA test.

Mark your calendars.  Also, I have posted an "event" on the Facebook Page for the BA.  I will only be doing that for BA's, and not quizzes or tests.  If you're not sure how to find the FB Page, here is the link:!/pages/Mr-R-Ostermans-Page/190134860999203

Monday, January 24, 2011

Algebra: Revised Homwork Policy

Homework is to make permanent the practice we complete in class.  Repeating mistakes in homework only makes those mistakes permanent.  Therefore, homework must be taken seriously and every effort must be made to complete it accurately.

For my algebra classes the following policy will be in effect for the second Semester:

1)  Homework will be graded for accuracy.  Students are expected to complete all assignments to the best of their ability, and to have it ready at the start of class.  I will work to make assignments shorter so that students aren't penalized with long stretches that they can't finish and it will be less common for me to assign problems where the answers are in the back of the book.

2)  Papers will be graded in class.  Students will exchange papers, score them, and then turn them into me to be recorded.  Students will put their names on papers that they grade and will be expected to grade them honestly and fairly, just as they would expect their own paper to be graded.  Once graded, all students will have a few moments to see what problems they missed before turning them in.

3) We will review problems as a class once they are collected.  I realize that this means students will not have their own work to review during this period.  Students will make notes in their notebooks as we review the homework.  Some will get their papers back to show their work on the board.

I'm trying to balance a lot of things here and so here's part of why these are going to be the new rules:

a)  Students deserve immediate feedback and review.  It's not valuable to make students wait a day or two to see how a problem is supposed to be done.  For that reason I really want to keep homework review the day the assignment is due, and not a day later when I pass it back.

b)  Grading every assignment myself every night is not sustainable.  I will still grade every quiz myself, and I will review the homework to be sure that it's being graded fairly, but at this age I believe students can share some of this work.

c)  I do not want students tempted to change their answers or work during the review period.  This is why I prefer to collect it and to have students write down the correct solutions in their notebooks.

d)  The homework grade should be a reflection of how well a student is progressing though the material and the unit. 

Lastly students will have a chance to redo assignments.  This will be reflected in an "extra credit" category and students can earn up to half the points they missed on any given assignment if they show that they can indeed do the work with review and reflection.  Also if a student has consistently low grades on a given set of home assignments I may offer them the chance to do a "make up" assignment to show that they now have mastered the ideas.

Geometry: Midpoint Review

In case you forgot how to do midpoints, here's a quick example that we didn't get to in class that might prove helpful in both remembering the formula but also in applying it here. This is already posted on the FB group, so fans will get it twice. As I said in class I won't do that often.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Geometry Finals and Grade Scales

The Geometry Final Exams are scored and in Skyward.  Grades are not yet finalized as I have a small stack (pronounced "Mountain") of makeup quizzes, absent work and other things to enter.  Overall the grades were good and I am proud of all my geometry students and the success they showed me on their exams.

I did want to take a moment and explain grade scales because I can with the data I have here:

The traditional scale, and the one used on this final is the standard 10% split for all grades.  The exam was out of 75 points so the scale goes like this:
A:  75-68, B:  67-60, C:  59-52, D:  51-44, E:  44 and down

Now for one of the two classes, I won't say which, the mean score was a 64, median was 67, and there was a Standard Deviation of 15 points.  So if we had used a Curve to figure the grades we'd have a different scale:
A: 75  B: 74  C:  73-59  D:  58-43  E:  43 and down

That means that to get an A you had to have landed right smack dab on a perfect paper.  Why?  Well remember that with a true Curve, the objective is to have the majority of your scores be considered "average" or a C.  With this grade break down, because everyone did so well, it pushes that curve upwards and makes a B and an A harder to get.  Also, remember that with a Curve you should have roughly the same number of A's (3 students out of 30) as you do E's (3 students out of 30). 

Because grade curves are highly competative, I generally don't use them.  They just put too much presure on students to do better than their peers rather than to do the best they can do.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Algebra: Quiz Review

Hopefully this video will help you guys review for the first 15 questions on your final (the Absolute Value and Weighted Averages BA). I strongly encourage you to review your worksheets on absolute value (they were the less successul problems on the quiz) and to pause this video as often as you need to digest the material.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Algebra: How to for Study Guide

What follows is not the answer key for the final exam but rather a set of hints, plans and strategies for the review sheet.  Not every problem is included but a lot of information on how to approach the problems and some answers here and there.  It is offered up to help you work on your study guide.  Good luck!

(click on the read more to see them)

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Some Test Prep

Well here we are.  One weekend remains, followed by one day of class, and then:


Here's a bit of a "Link Dump" to help you find some of the tools already floating around the Innerwebs just from our class alone.  More resources are coming and there may be Brownie Points for students who find additional resources to share as we prepare.  (Yes, BP's carry over to the next semester).

How I Prepared for Tests:

The notecard and other stuff:

The YouTube Channel:

Playlists for:
Chapter 2 is absent as we hadn't started yet recording them
Chapter 3:
Chapter 4:
Chapter 5:

Chapter 1 is absent as we hadn't started yet recording them
Chapter 2:
Chapter 3:
Chapter 4:
Chapter 5:

And officially if you're a Facebook user:!/pages/Mr-R-Ostermans-Page/190134860999203

Happy Studying!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

So when is this Review Due?

I'm going to be fielding this question a lot over the next few days so let me do my best to address it here.  For both Algebra and Geometry I'm not planning on grading or collecting the reviews.  This is becuase we are, literally, days away from the final exam and we have, a lot of ground to cover and review before that.  I want students to do their best on the review but I do not want to rush them to have it done and not take each item seriously.  Likewise I do not want students to come to class with a blank review and to fill it in as we go; that won't be useful either.

Here are some "Due Dates" to consider for each class as of this posting tonight:

Due on Block 2 (Wed or Thurs):  All Book Review problems (covering chapters 1-5)
Due Tuesday:  Review Packet Problems (passed out on Thursday)

Due on Block 1:  As much of the review packet as you could.
Due on Block 2: All Weighted Average Problems, rest of Review Problems.
Due on Tuesday:  Any Additional Review.

Note:  On the day of the final exam students in Algebra will be taking the Absolute Value/ Weighted Average BA as well as the final exam.  There will be time for both and students may stay after if they need more time.

Coming Soon: Facebook

It's a work in progress.  It will be announced when it goes live.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Let's talk about Finals!

Here are some things to think about as final exams begin to creep up on us.

On all of my finals, students are allowed one (1) 3 inch by 5 inch notecard which they can write on both sides of.  Alternatively they can bring any paper that is limited to 30 square inches of space or the equivelant of two sides of a 3x5 card.  Yes, I specify units because I've had students and classmates who have taken advantage of teachers and professors who don't specify.  You only need to have a class mate bring an 8 foot by 11 foot piece of paper to a final exam and say "You said 8 by 11 paper, and this, I assure you is 8 feet by 11 feet" one time and you know never to let that happen in your classroom.

On Monday 11/10 all students will have recived or will recieve a printout of their Benchmark tests to date and what objectives they did not show mastery of.  Students absolutely must review these documents to focus their studying.

For the specific finals:

  • Chapter 2:  Equations
  • Chapter 3:  Inequalities
  • Chapter 4:  Linear Functions
  • Chapter 5:  Graping and More Functions
  • Absolute Values
  • Weighted Averages
  • Chapter 1:  Introduction and Review
  • Chapter 2:  Logic and Reasoning
  • Chapter 3:  Parallel and Perpendicular Lines
  • Chapter 4:  Triangle Congruency
  • Chapter 5:  Special Triangles
  • Some of Chapter 6:  Quadrilaterals
So we all know exams start on January 19th:
1/19:  1st Hour Geometry
1/20:  3rd Hour Algebra, 4th Hour Geometry
1/21:  5th Hour Algebra, 6th Hour Geometry

Did you get a Kinect?

I did!  I have to admit that I did not expect to get a video game for Christmas, especially as my mother has been complaining about me "shooting aliens" since I was 8 when nearly all games were about shooting aliens, or what were supposed to be aliens but were in fact shapes made up of 8-10 squares.

But there's a recent news story that I just have to share with students about the future of gaming and the future of technology.  Why do it here?  Because the people who are pioneering this, the ones designing it, who will be writing the story of the games, and writing the programs that bring that story to life, are the ones who stick it out, get degrees, and get the good job.  Folks if something this cool can't keep you in school, well I'm sure there are other things that will, but this is still pretty danged cool.

From Wired:

A Microsoft Kinect hack lets World of Warcraft players cast spells, fight opponents and maneuver their characters using simple hand gestures and body movements.

Using Kinect and an open source framework tool called OpenNI, University of Southern California researcher Evan Suma and his team at the school’s Institute for Creative Technologies hacked together a middleware program called the Flexible Action and Articulated Skeleton Toolkit, or FAAST, which lets World of Warcraft players plug Kinect directly into their computers’ USB ports. Then the software translates real-world gestures into in-game commands, so players can level-grind with their fists.

In the demo video Suma and his team released this week (embedded above), the researcher shows off his implementation of FAAST in Warcraft. He uses his left hand to move the in-game camera, his right hand to select attack spells and his body to walk. The number of possible gestures is currently limited, but Suma says more will be available in coming weeks.