Wednesday, January 20, 2016

With Shiriyah hours away...the math department took time to play

Anyone familiar with Frisch knows that our week long celebration and grade level competition called Shiriyah is more than an elaborate color war.  It is multi-facet 100% student created extravaganza of movies, dance routines, murals, banners, and songs highlighting a theme or holiday aspects of Judaism.  It is a chance for our students to learn and work together on a grand scale outside the confines of their classrooms. Though I am a 15 year veteran of Shiriyah, I still find the incredible display the students collaboratively put together simply astounding.

For Frisch teachers, the inherent schedule of Shiryah gives us time to reflect on our progress over the past five months and start to work on our group and individual goals for the remaining part of the year.  The math department used some down time during this past week then to focus on two important topics: the changes in standardized tests and the various uses of technology in our classrooms.

Mrs. Sabrina Bernath, Frisch Math Department Chair, ran the first meeting which focused on standardized tests. Each teacher was present with a thick packet of sample problems which reflect the new type of questions being asked on the new version of the SAT.  With even more emphasis on linear equations and students being able to analyze various types of graphs. the department worked on these different sample questions and discussed how to help students improve upon these ever important skills. Members shared their various ideas about how to fit these types of questions into our already packed curriculum.

Additionally, the math teachers focused next on the various topics of the SAT 2 level 1 and level 2 subject tests.  They examined closely the various types of questions being asked about functions, conics, rational functions, sequences/series, and any other advance topics on each exam.  Comparing the two exams brought to light their different focuses which is not obvious just from reading descriptions of the tests on the College Board website. Not only are the list of tested topics slightly different between the exams but also the emphasis on how to apply that material varies also.

This PD refresher on what our top level math students need to learn to be successful on these exams was a productive and effective use of time.  While we are not solely prepping students for outside tests, it is important to keep in mind the various skills sets measured by these external assessments.

The second PD meeting of the department focused on three specific apps /programs different members of the department are currently using in their classrooms.  Prior to the meeting, teachers were asked to fill out a survey answering questions about the use of technology in their classrooms for administrative duties, to instruction to assessment.  Based on those results, various members of the department were asked to present.

First, Sabrina Bernath showed the functionality of a rubric she created for her twelfth grade Precalculus video project. The rubric is an embedded part of her Haiku gradebook and not only can she enter a grade using the various subsections of the rubric, she demonstrated also how she can leave comments for each criteria. Once the grade is made public, student can not only see their grade but also comments from the teacher.  The members of the department were excited by this enhanced feature and the extensive customization you can do with it.

Next Katya Gourge, a first year teacher at Frisch, showed her incredible creations using Geometer's Sketchpad.  Ms. Gourge makes unique and elaborate demonstrations  to teach her ninth grade Geomtry students many of the most difficult properties and theorems of the course.  Her one of a kind creations help students visualize the theorems and ideas the course. Her skill set with the program is impressive and the members of the department immediately requested further PD time to learn more from her about incredible program.

Finally, Michael Gatto, another first year teacher at Frisch, highlighted key features of GeoGebra.  This program has even greater capabilities to help students visualize topics not just from Geometry but all areas of mathematics with pre-made templates and user- friendly interface that allows teachers to easily to create their own custom programs.  With the incredible accessibility for both teachers and students as a free Web based program, the members of the department also requested extensive PD later this year and into the summer with this program. Though the meeting ended after an hour, several teachers continued the discussion in another locations and Mr. Gatto continued teaching several of the other math teachers how to use GeoGebra in their classes.

As we begin the winter break, the math teachers at Frisch are already looking forward to returning.  They can't wait to show their students all their worked on during Shiriyah also.  Maybe not as exciting as the students' stomp routines but just as important to their overall education.