My Math Class Weblog

July 22, 2014

I’m in Heaven!

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 5:04 pm
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Actually, not in real Heaven, but I’m in math teacher heaven. I accepted a job teaching at what I assuteacherheavenme is as close to heaven on earth for a high school math teacher. Read more about my decision here.  But back to the title … Why do I consider my new job heaven?

  •  The school is a selective school for highly motivated students.
  • I will have two preps, Precalculus and AP Stats. I’ll have no more than 40 students total. 
  • The school is a dormitory school and the students are woken up 2 hours before school starts so they can study and prepare for class. They also have a mandatory 2 hour study hall after the school day has ended. 
  • My department chair has said they want me to teach topics that I enjoy teaching. 
  • When broaching the subject of using standards based grading to assess the students, the dean of faculty said … and I quote “We really don’t like to tell teachers how to assess the students.”

I know right! Well, I’m excited about the opportunity and the challenge. I know that it will be challenging to develop strategies and methods for a group of highly motivated students, where as for the past 10 years I’ve been working with less than motivated students. But I am up to the challenge. 

I will be keeping standards based grading (only for precal) and I’ll be running a flipped classroom. I am coming to the school during their second semester (they start their school year in January instead of August). So I may not fully use interactive notebooks until the next school year starts in January. I plan to further implement the upside down teaching method advocated in Cathy Seely’s book.Smarter Than We Think. I love Cathy Seeley ever since I read Faster Isn’t Smarter. So many aHa moments! (prepare for a future blog post)


April 13, 2014

10 year Anniversary Gift

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 9:48 am
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In January of 2014, I celebrated 10 years of working with the Houston Independent School District. I remember when I received my pin for 5 years of service and I was shocked. I turned to my friend and told her that if she was here when I received my 10 year pin, that she should stab me with it!  Its not that I wasn’t appreciative of the district or that I hated my job … its just that I have never done anything for 10 straight years. Every year that I had been teaching, I would say that it would be my last year. Well, …. for 10 years it hadn’t. So I made the decision a couple of months before my 10 year anniversary to put in my notice that I would not be coming back. 


A few months before one of my former co workers, who is teaching overseas, told me of a possible job opening at his school in Europe. I was all gung ho about the idea of moving overseas since that was a bucket list item of mine, I went on and applied and told everyone I was moving to Europe. After 3 months of waiting, I found out that teaching at that Europe school would not be an option.  It never occurred to me to go back to the district so on a referral from a teaching friend I registered for The International Educator (  At the beginning of March, I was traveling and had a 4 hour wait at and airport so I paid the $40 to register for TIE. I uploaded my cv, letters of recommendation, my cover letter, etc …. and I forwarded my information to several schools on TIE that were advertising secondary math openings.  Three days later I had three schools contacting me (only 1 of the ones that I had contacted) and 7 days after that I had three job offers from those three after 2 rounds of skype interviews each. God is good! 


My former co – worker told me that the hiring season for international schools ended in February, so the fact that everything happened so quickly in March was even more of a blessing and a pretty awesome 10 year anniversary gift from God!



January 2, 2011

What is the role of a teacher?

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 8:21 pm

Quietly as it is kept, the role of a teacher is the most misunderstood concept that future teachers have. I thought, like others do, that I was hired to teach : share knowledge so that students would learn that same knowledge. Boy was I ever wrong.

My initial attempts at understanding my role as a teacher failed miserably because I was under the mistaken impression that being a teacher is mainly about teaching. How wrong was I! If that was really my responsibility, than I was performing it day in and day out exceptionally well. Unfortunately, the students weren’t learning. The I attended a workshop where the presenter said that we as teachers our hired not to teach but to get our students to learn.

It shocked me and was definitely a game changer in how I perceived my responsibility as a teacher. The title of teacher no longer demonstrated what I did, but really and truly exemplified what I was doing wrong. So every year when I get more and more frustrated at the lack of effort of my students I remind myself, that I must be doing something wrong and I need to stop trying to teach them and instead focus on facilitating their learning.

So I’m reading/listening to Dan Pink’s book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. I hope that after finishing this book I’ll have more of an insight about what I need to do to better facilitate my students’ learning.

Back at it again…

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 7:46 pm

Of course a pervading new (school) years’ resolution is to do more blogging. But as I revisit my blog at the beginning of this new year, I can’t help but notice that the last post was August 2010.

But like I tell my students, whats worse than not reaching your goal is not learning from the mistakes you made that prevented you from reaching your goal. So I commit (again) to doing better with this blog. Not that I think that there are tons of readers out there anxiously awaiting to hear from me via my blog. Probably 2 people will stop by and read this. But I’m doing this for myself, not for others.

August 9, 2010

Interactive Math Notebook Files

Filed under: Interactive Math Notebooks — KymInKorea @ 9:53 am

It occurred to me that I haven’t posted the files I use for my interactive notebook startup packet. (I posted a link in a reply, but that is all). So I created a google docs folder for everyone to see.

Google Docs Interactive Math Notebook Link:
As well as an alternate link with just the startup pages in msword form.

August 7, 2010

“I don’t get it!?”

Filed under: Lesson Planning — KymInKorea @ 12:40 pm
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I absolutely hate that statement when it comes from my students. As hard as I try to not show my disapproval with that statement, I fear that my facial expressions are a dead giveaway of my feeling. Unfortunately, students think my hatred is because they don’t get it. So I often have to follow up with, “Please be more specific about what you don’t get, because I haven’t quite mastered the ability to read your mind yet. ” (Yes, I’m that sarcastic with them, and surprisingly they don’t have a problem with it.)

During the 2009 PCMI Professional Development session, we focused on questioning. By far it was the best aha moment I’ve ever had as a teacher because they encouraged us not to just question for assessment purposes, but to question for probing purposes. Getting our students to think deeper about a topic by simply (well actually its not that simple) asking them a question designed to get them to do just that. I was so excited to incorporate that into my classes the next school year. Unfortunately, my attempt to integrate that fell flat on its face.

I forgot the cardinal rule of teaching, “Know Your Audience”. I was teaching 14-17 year olds who for the past 9-12 years had been trained in a different way on how to question and answer questions. I realized that instead of diving head first into the ocean, I had to test the waters first and come up with a plan to make the transition easier. Here is what I realized.

1. Students use statements of feelings to ask their questions.
The “I don’t get it!?” or “This is too hard!” phenomena is what they consider asking a question, even though their purpose for making the statement is to express their confusion or frustration in hopes that you can either relieve them from any responsibility or help alleviate their confusion/frustration.

2. Students answer every question you ask of them.
We as teachers are trained to identify verbal or hand responses to questions and often think that our students aren’t answering the questions if we don’t see either one of those responses. I’ve realized that if I look at the non-verbal cues, that I can determine the students response. Raising their hand or voicing a reply to respond a question says “I’ve thought about the question and am confident enough to share with you my response”. For the students who didn’t raise their hand or make eye contact or verbally respond, it doesn’t mean they didn’t answer the question, it just meant that they weren’t comfortable with their response to say it in front of the class. (Understandably enough, their response may have been a “I don’t get it” or a “I have no idea” or even a “I know the answer I just choose not to waste my energy answering it”, but the point is they still answer it.

3. Students don’t know how to effectively ask questions.
I find myself having to ask them questions after they have asked their question because they haven’t given me enough information to effectively respond. Often times the question they ask is not what they mean.

4. Initially, students are cognitively lazy.
In other words, you have to build up to deep questioning. Don’t just start off the class with a probing question, first, warm up their brains by asking Level 1 & 2 Blooms Level questions. Let them become comfortable with those questions and then gradually ask them the deeper thought provoking questions.

After I came to these realizations, I know have formulated a plan to ease the process for entering the ocean of effective, high quality questioning.

  • Incorporate asking and answering quality questions into their grade. As tedious as it may be to record that, I understand that for most students if I tell them its a grade, they are more apt to take it seriously. If questions weren’t part of the grade, then asking good questions or answering probing questions was of no benefit to them.
  • Model how to ask questions effectively. The 5 Ws (Who, What, When, Where & Why) are very important in journalism as well as in questioning. Who is this question for, What exactly are they asking, When was this question initiated, Where as in what situation prompted the question, and Why is this question of importance to me. It may be lengthy but it doesn’t have to be. Here is an example: Bad question: “Miss, why are they right angles?” Good question: “While I was doing the homework, I didn’t understand why in example 2 on pg 134, the book said that angles A and B were right angles if they didn’t list the information as given.”
  • Plan out my questions and their questions in advance. As tedious as this may sound, it helps me think of ways which I can lead the students toward the more probing questions while maintaining the flow of the lesson.

August 1, 2010

My apologies …. again

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 1:54 am

I had the best intentions of keeping up this blog last school year, but a year later and no more posts lets me and everyone else know that I failed miserably.  I could just recopy the post from a year ago but to be truthful I don’t know how I will maintain this.  Maybe I should add a tether to my laptop or download a wordpress app for my phone. I’ll have to think on this.

August 3, 2009

Write the vision

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 1:03 am
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Write the vision, make it plain. My plans for the upcoming school year.

I apologize for not keeping this blog up, nor responding to the comments in a timely fashion.  That will change this school year. I need to be more reflective on the teaching strategies I employ. I will be using this blog to do just that. My goals for the upcoming school year (kids return on August 24th) are simply to employ a more student centered learning environment. I plan to implement that by having the students do more graphical organizers (foldable and frayer models), use their interactive notebooks more, and have more discovery based lessons that involve and engage all students. I will be using the Exeter problem sets to introduce and explore concepts. I also will be questioning not only for assessment but to also probe and push students thinking. I will be teaching Pre-AP Geometry and Math Models, so I anticipate a wide array of learning styles and challenges. What are you planning to do for the upcoming school year?

March 9, 2009

Two different perspectives

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 2:01 am

The first four years of teaching I earned a reputation for being a difficult teacher. Not because the students couldn’t understand me. Not because I didn’t give them chance after chance to improve their grade. Not because I wouldn’t bend over backwards to work with them one on one when they didn’t understand a concept. And definitely not because I was making the assignments to difficult or lengthy. But the reason why I was/am a difficult teacher is that their grade in my class is not based on effort but on mastery of the skill concepts.

Time and time I have heard from students and their parents the age old question of “Why did I fail them?”.  I explained that the grade they received was based on how well they learned the material we covered in class. The usual response was “But I tried, its just too difficult, …. at least I should get a (fill in the blank with any grade higher than D)”.

What is frustrating is the idea that a student’s “effort” in the class (totally subjective on the student’s part),  should be a major component of the student’s grade.  My response is always “If I go to a mechanic and they charge me $600 to fix my car, I don’t want to hear that they tried to fix it, I want to know that they did for the money I paid them.”

So I am reading this article and I am basically nodding my head in agreement throughout. My favorite statement is the last sentence which says  “ that being successful means worrying less about what you expect, and simply doing what is expected of you.”   Unfortunately, that is not the mindset of the youth today. They have it all figured out and anybody who comes along and requires them to do more than what they figured to do, all of a sudden that teacher is “too hard” and thus thereby absolves them from anything wrong (cheating, copying, stealing) to achieve a passing grade.

How do I counteract this effect?  Have the student calculate their own grade. I use to give the students a weekly progress report with their grades already calculated for them. This time I won’t give them the final grade, but they will have to calculate it on their own.  If they see why they receive the grade, then they will stop thinking that I am giving them a grade and start seeing how their grade is calculated and more importantly how their “effort” to turn in subpar work hurts their grade, not helps them.

February 25, 2009

Homework … Why I give it (almost) every class

Filed under: Uncategorized — KymInKorea @ 10:08 am

I teach Geometry and Algebra 2. I give homework (almost every night).  Do all my students do it? … The ones who pass do. Here is my homework formula  as it is now.

1. Assign no more than 10 problems a night. Mostly all of my homework assignments come from the textbook that I direct them to leave at home. (Mostly all of my classwork is not done from the book.)

2. Let the problems be practice problems not “solve it and earn a math phd” problem.

3. Assign the odd numbers because the answers are in the back of book. 

4. Grade the homework on the day its due and go over it in class.  Grade a random 1/3 of the problems to grade quicker, but take note of the unaswered questions and direct students to do the problems on the board.

5. For the people who did not do the homework, assign an alternate assignment (usually the even numbers) and let them turn it in up to a week later without penalty.

6. Repeat steps 1-5 every class period (except after skill test days).

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