## How I Teach Function Notation

I’ve found that function notation can be a challenging topic for my Algebra 2 Honors students.  My first year, it was a constant struggle and they always looked so overwhelmed.  So the next year, I totally revamped the way that I presented it and have had much greater success.  My biggest goal is for them to realize that it’s really just a different way of writing things they already know about.

I usually start by telling my students to put their pencils down, watch, and participate.  This always gets their attention.

First, I tell them that I’m going to write an equation, but that it’s going to look strange.  I write the first equation on the board.  Then I say, “Ok, I’m going to change a few things.”  and I write the second equation on the board.

I ask the students what the changes are.  Someone always says, “You drew a heart instead of writing x.”  My only response is, “ok”.  Then, I write something like the next equations on the board.

Again, I ask about the differences between the two.  At least one student will tell me that I just drew smiley faces and I barely respond.

Next, I write something like the next two equations on the board.  They will tell me that the difference is an a instead of an x.

I continue this process with the equations below.  I don’t simplify anything at this time.  I just want them to notice that I’m simply replacing things.

Then, I tell my students that we’re changing gears for a minute.  I put this picture up on the board and ask them to silently! see if they can figure out the pattern.  I totally ripped this idea off of Druin at Stat Teacher.  It’s such a great idea (go read it, really!).

After a few minutes, I ask if anyone wants to share.  We have a discussion about what is going on and what the notation means.  Then, we talk about how it relates to the problems we did before.  I usually go back and simplify the answers from the previous problems and make sure everything is following along.

All of this takes maybe 15 minutes, but it makes such a world of difference for my students!

What do you do to teach function notation?  What works for you?

So, I just have to tell you about the best mini-project I have EVER done.  EVER.  It was awesome!
Friday was our last day of school before Thanksgiving break.  We usually have TONS of absences that day and have shortened class periods.  Last year, only half of my students were present.  So in Geometry Honors, I decided to give our unit test over Quadrilaterals on Thursday, and doing a little project on Friday.

I actually gave very little guidance on this project.  I told my kids that they needed to choose a quadrilateral and create a dating profile or a social media page for that quadrilateral (dating profile, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, etc.).  They needed to include 10 facts about quadrilaterals.  I told them that they would get 10 points (two homework grades) if they included all the facts and it looked nice, and they would get a sticker if it was extra awesome.  No rubric and very few guidelines - I just wanted to see what they would come up with.

Their projects were amazing.  I love them.  I wanted to share what they came up with :)  I will definitely do this project every year that I teach geometry.  In fact, I might bulk it up a little bit to make it into a bigger project that’s worth a quiz grade.

Other great quotes:
Square:  “I’m a quadrilateral with all angles and all sides congruent.  I’m hot because I’m the best of both worlds.”
Square:  “I’m not looking for rhombuses or rectangles because they look too similar to my family with their congruent sides.  I want a more exotic shape.  However, if you don’t have four sides and your angles don’t add to 360, forget it!”
“All my angles sum to 360.  #beat that triangle”
“Isosceles trapezoid has congruent diagonals.  #TwinningTuesday”
Square:  “I can be ya’ll, but ya’ll can’t be me. @rectangle @rhombus”
Rectangle:  “I’ve got all the right angles #LOL #punny”
“That moment when… you realize you’re an awesome kite with perpendicular diagonals, but can’t fly.”
“I’m looking for a trapezoid, because I like big bases and cannot lie.”

Trapezoid:  “I’ve got a rockin’ bod with exactly one pair of parallel sides.”

## Dollar Store Finds for the Classroom

I don’t go into the dollar store very often.  If I do, there is usually something specific I’m looking for.  Well, the other day I just so happened to be at the dollar store and was just impressed with the number of things that would be great for a classroom!  I started taking pictures and thought I would share!

Construction Paper - I love construction paper for my proofs cut-out activities.  There are so many great uses for construction paper, even in high school classes.

Magnetic Containers - How cool are these?!  My whiteboard is magnetic.  These would be so cool to hold little things and just stick on the board.  They would also stick well on file cabinets.

Dice - Um, 10 dice for \$1?  Yes, please!  There are so many activities that can be done with these.  (If you need more than 10, this isn't a bad deal on Amazon!  100 dice for less than \$8)

Foam Dice - These are just cool.  It could get expensive if you needed a bunch, but think how quiet they would be!

Playing Cards - I have several decks of playing cards right now, but they were all \$1 each.  2 decks for \$1?  I can do that.

Microfiber Towels - I use microfiber towels to clean my whiteboard.  They are the very best.  When they get dirty, I just bring them home and run them through the washer and they’re as good as new!  They do stain pretty bad, but they’re just for cleaning the board, so I don’t care.

Plastic Baggies - I’ve used gobs of plastic baggies in my teaching career.  I put all of my sets of matching cards, task cards, and everything in plastic baggies.  My kids wreck the bags over time, so I don’t want to spend a lot.  I prefer the bags that fold over.  That way I can press them down to squeeze the air out without unzipping the bags.

Plastic Silverware - I saw this post awhile back about taping spoons to pencils to prevent them from “walking off”.  Cheap plasticware would be great to use.  They had all kinds of cool colors!

Zip Ties - Organize any cords in you classroom with zip ties.  There are tons in the package, so you could use them for years.

Scissors - I have a class set of scissors that I purchased from the dollar store.  When I was buying scissors, I couldn't afford to buy the fancy ones that are \$3 or more per pair.  I bought them for \$1 each from the dollar store and they’re great!  This would be an especially good buy if you use interactive notebooks.

Stickers - This was the whole reason I stopped at the dollar store.  Whenever my students make an A on a test or quiz, I put a sticker on it.  My kids love getting stickers :)  Target Dollar Spot usually has good stickers around back to school time as well.

I bought these :)  For some reason, I think they are SO funny!

## 5 More Ideas for Using Task Cards in the Classroom

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Earlier, I wrote about 7 ideas for task cards in the secondary classroom.  Today, I'm giving you 5 more ideas!

1.  Solve 'N Switch - Students work in pairs and each pair gets their own “deck” of cards.  Each partner takes a card and solves it.  Then, the students switch cards and solve the problem again.  They can compare answers and discuss if their answers don’t match.  When their answer is correct, they move on to the next cards in the stack.  I love using this, but it does take many “decks” of cards.

2.  Tic-Tac-Toe - Students work in pairs and each pair gets their own “deck” of cards.  They draw a tic tac toe grid.  One student will choose a card from the face down stack.  The student will work the problem on the card.  If they are correct, they get to put an X or an O on the board.  Then, the next student takes their turn.

3.  Mix, Pair, Share - This is a Kagan cooperative learning strategy.  This is similar to Quiz, Quiz, Trade.  Music is played while students walk (or dance LOL) around the room.  When the music stops, they freeze and pair up with the student closest to them.  They share the problem on their cards and work the problems.  When all of the students have solved their problems, the music starts again.

4.  Traditional Partner Games  - Students work in pairs and each pair gets their own “deck” of cards.  A student will draw a card and solve the problem on it.  If they are correct, they get to take their turn, if they are incorrect, they miss their turn.  The students continue playing until someone wins the game.  My favorite partner games to use are checkers and Connect Four.

5.  Scoot! - It’s helpful if the desks are moved into a circle for this game, but it’s not necessary.  Give each student a task card and they work the problem on an answer sheet or scratch paper.  Then, students move to the next desk when you say “Scoot!” or “Rotate!”.  When the students have gone through a certain amount of cards, go over the solutions as a class.  My students don’t really like this one because they only have a certain amount of time to complete this card.  However, I like it because it helps me see how long it is taking them to solve certain kinds of problems.  It’s helpful for me if I’m having a hard time gauging their understanding with other formative assessments.

I hope you found some useful ideas!  You can always find task cards in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  How do you use task cards in your classroom?