How to Handle a Class that Has Gotten Out of Control

Published: Saturday, October 27, 2018

I recently wrote a response for Larry Ferlazzo's Classroom Q&A blog at Edweek on the question "How do you turn around a class that you've let get out of control?" In my response, I highligted four questions I often ask myself in these situations: What else are students going through? Which students act out the most? Is the level of work appropriate? Is the work predictable? I also advised not taking student misbehavior too personally. I've had students curse at me one day and give me a friendly greeting the next day as if nothing had happened!

My full response is at http://bit.ly/2OVoGvW . A podcast on the same topic featuring me and other teachers is at http://bit.ly/2Nx6vqU .

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How Fair Is the SHSAT?

Published: Thursday, October 18, 2018

The Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) is the standardized test used as the sole criteria for admission to the eight specialized high schools in New York City, including Stuyvesant High School, the Bronx High School of Science, and Brooklyn Technical High School. Today's Wall Street Journal had an interesting article that points out that Mayor de Blasio's plan to admit the top 7% of performers in each middle school would allow students who didn't pass state seventh grade tests to be admitted into these schools.

As I said in my quote in the article, it's hard to imagine that students who failed state tests could succeed in a specialized high school where coursework is more rigorous. However, that doesn't mean that those students don't have other skills that would enable them to do well.

Besides, replacing one controversial test with another controversial test doesn't seem to address the serious inequity in the specialized schools, where the proportion of black and Hispanic students is far below the citywide proportion.

The full article is here: https://on.wsj.com/2OvhCG6.

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Think Inside the Box (Part 2): Using the Box with Polynomials

Published: Sunday, August 12, 2018

The “box” or tabular method of multiplication is a great way for elementary, middle, and high school students to make mathematical connections. In this second of two articles, I discuss how the box method can be used to multiply and divide polynomials.

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Think Inside the Box (Part 1): Using the Box with Numbers

Published: Sunday, August 12, 2018

The “box” or tabular method of multiplication is a great way for elementary, middle, and high school students to make mathematical connections. In this first of two articles, I discuss how the box method can be used to multiply and divide numbers.

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Why Do We Still Use a Graphing Calculator that Hasn’t Changed Much Since 1994?

Published: Monday, March 26, 2018

News articles on education usually don’t bother me. But this one did.

Last week, National Public Radio’s Morning Edition published a story called “Why the Graphing Calculator Hasn’t Changed Much Since 1994.” The story argues that “the fact that the graphing calculator hasn't changed much since 1994 is exactly what makes it so valuable. If it were updated, there would be no real reason for it to exist.” Peter Balyta, president of education technology at Texas Instruments (TI), explained that “we could easily add features to our calculators like a touchscreen, Wi-Fi or a camera, but we don’t….When someone's buying a graphing calculator, they're not just buying a graphing calculator. They're buying really a solution for a classroom.” The story concludes that students “love” their graphing calculators – either because they have to spend a lot of time doing math or “maybe they are just excited about something that managed to escape the forces of creative destruction.”

I’ve taught math at large public high schools in New York City since 2005. In my experience most students hate their graphing calculators, mostly because they’re expensive and difficult to use. This creates a major – and sometimes insurmountable – barrier to learning.

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