Thursday, March 29, 2012

Correlation between reading and math

In 2004, there was a .932 correlation between reading and math scores on the California CST ( As Mr. Meyer and others have pointed out, we are thus double penalizing our students for not knowing the language of mathematics.

Early in my math teaching career, I was exposed to the work of Miki Murray ( ) who has done a lot of work with math vocabulary. She suggests that especially for geometry and parts of Algebra, teaching the students the vocabulary is really teaching them the subject matter - it's impossible to teach them the words without teaching them the math! Although at times I've had to adapt different strategies for different subjects, I've found the following strategies very helpful:

- 'foldable' pair-share vocabulary packets: Using a folding vocabulary packet, students can learn to self-quiz and pair-share with vocabulary using whiteboards to draw the word I'm asking them to reproduce.

- constantly use the words in class, even in non-teaching moments: Students are amazed that these are words that can be used all the time/are used all the time without them, "knowing". Especially things like slope, parallel, etc.

- Repetition. Vocabulary contests where students have to draw the words and explain them are great for helping them remember what's going on.

- I've added a page to my curriculum mapping Google Document (almost daily increasing links and about 5 other teachers in FUSD are now using it to help them too!)

Today for a sort of review day before Spring Break, I'm going to give them a bunch of problems - 10 problems per 4 minutes of distributive properties and solving for variable stuff. We'll only do 10 at a time because I want them to also enter the answers via Smart Response clickers after some basic review teaching of how distributive property works and what combining like terms means. Going from practical to theory seems to make sense, but most of these kids have been taught in the Age of Testing which has only stressed how to do it not Why we do it. So they know about Order of Operations, but don't understand there is a very clear reason we do it in that order... they know the order, but if they forget the memorization device they don't know what to do. It doesn't make sense for them to do the 'biggest change' (exponents) first and scale down all the way to negatives. They don't understand that 3x+3-5x is the same as "3x-5x+3" because they just look at the numbers/signs and rush to finish it. Negative signs and adding a negative are the same thing... so that's what we're working on here in Pre-Algebra!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Dan Meyer

I've been a fan of Dan Meyer's blog and website since I heard of it a few months ago, and have followed every blog post since.

He's got this new website where people post pictures as starting points for questions for students to discover. The picture with the most comments or most interesting ways for students to use math to solve potentially could be performance assessments in the classroom. Over spring break I'm going to assign students to look at the blog and post their thoughts/try to solve one as extra credit. That site is here:

and his general blog which is very interesting as a math teacher is here:

Friday, March 9, 2012


I'm currently subbing for my friend and computer teacher Mr. Armstrong so thought I'd take the time to do a little blogging with the students!

The introduction of the Common Core standards in Mathematics (2014) promises to be a great thing for teaching (and coaching too!). With CC, students will be asked not just the ins and outs of performance standards, but be asked to perform, communicate and explain what they know and why they know it. It won't be much different content-wise than what is currently required, but simply arranged in a different way. For example, instead of just having students know how to graph a linear function (any function with only one variable/exponent, such as y=2x), students will have to be able to show they know multiple forms of the same thing - so they need to be able to show they know how to get y=2x from Standard Form, Graph it, and show it in slope-intercept form as well (y=mx+b).

This year that I've had at Computech mostly away from swim and water polo coaching has been really good for me professionally to be able to focus a little more on the mathematics development that at times, I've left lacking. In addition, being able to focus on my Masters Degree with more rigor has helped me maintain a 4.0 in all classes thus far! (only a year left!)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why events?

When Dustin Booth asked me to do a triathlon with him in 2007, there were exactly four multisport events within 100 miles - the Spring Fling, Millerton Triathlon, Shaver Lake Triathlon, and Sierra Kids Triathlon. 5 years later, and there are a multitude: those four events plus the ViTri, Tri-This's Hensley Offroad Duathlon, Splash and Dash, Fig Kids Tri, Pinnacle Cyclocross Duathlon, Tulare Triathlon, Hanford Duathlon, China Peak Triathlon, and Bass Lake Triathlon. In terms of Triathlon Clubs in Fresno, the Sierra Multisport club went away but a stronger TC3 has emerged in recent years, along with the Visalia Triathlon Club, several new Cycling-only clubs, ICAN, Fig Kids Triathlon Club, Pinnacle Youth Triathlon team, and tri-this alone has brought more than 50 youth into the experience, most who are continuing their pursuits of fitness after they graduate high school (we have 8 youth currently who graduated high school but are still either borrowing a tri this bike or Tri-This helped them build their own...).

For myself and Tri-This, we host events partly to support the non-profit financially - overhead costs alone are about $500 a year and last year on bike parts alone we spent $3,000 in 2011 to keep the bikes as safe as possible for our population (thanks to bike shops generosity, they donated about $600). In the first two years of Tri-This, we had about 25 kids solidly involved - 15 of those students had at least one parent who had a job or even both parents. In the last two years, Tri This has had about 35 new students who in contrast, had 25 (71%) whose parents/parent did not have jobs or only one parent involved in their lives, and were entirely dependent on government assistance.

So as the needs go up, Tri-This has done more fundraising (hosting events seems like the most logical way, easier than asking for donations and more reliable than receiving grants) because we believe that income shouldn't be a barrier to a healthy, active lifestyle. By hosting our own events, we can let our kids race those events for free, give back to the community that has given us SO much, and in the words of one kid who camped with us all three weekends last year at the Hensley Offroad Series - "Hensley was the most fun I've had since my dad died four years ago - thanks." It's quotes that like that which motivate me to keep convincing kids to come out for practice, for the camping, for the community - and to Try This!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Big Picture

Since it started in 2007 with a few kids, the goal of giving all kids the multisport lifestyle is getting closer!

Now at a middle school and a dedicated donor and volunteer base, Tri-This is poised to reach even more kids directly in 2012 than ever before.

The goal would be for any kid to be able to say, "I'd like to go mountain biking this weekend," or "road biking" or "trail running" and check the tri-this calender and connect with a leader taking kids out there that weekend... or maybe they just go camping with their friends one weekend and end up getting hooked with being outdoors.

To that end, we went more facebook-friendly this year and update a google calendar at and

We also made cards to give to all the bike shops talking about our events and about our donation program. We don't just give the kids bikes, we make sure they can do basic fixes, and as kids proress in the program they can do more complicated repairs and upgrades. If a kid knows how to replace a Fork, change out handlebars with confidence and install a new chain, I'd say they're doing better than a lot of regular adult cyclists!

Through low-cost and high quality events over a diverse spread of disciplines, we can partner with other groups looking to get kids outdoors. (ICAN, Fig Garden Tri, Central Valley Trips for Kids, etc.) our core focus remains helping kids from low-income areas get involved and then use the training and trips as incentive for mentoring and to help keep them successful.

It's going to be a great year, thanks for an amazing 2011!

Friday, October 28, 2011

Perceived Difficulty vs. Actual Difficulty

In teaching as well as coaching, the main part of our job entails helping students achieve goals. These could be goals we gave them, goals they set for themselves, or goals that no one even intended to achieve.

When I give a test in class, I often will have given them a 'practice test' beforehand - an ungraded/collected by me summary of the types of questions I will give on the real test.
I usually make it much harder than the actual test - so there are MORE tricky plus/minus questions, places where simple mistakes can make. Then, they get to the performance assessment, and it feels easier.

The same goes with a race, except that I've found often no matter how hard you train, the race should still feel difficult! You don't pay money to slack off, right? However, the goal for training is to do more hills on the bike, faster sets on the swim, and more sprints on the run so that the actual race should FEEL easier than that you did in practice.

One of the best coaches and athletes in the Fresno area is Faron Reed. I was once at a talk he did for the Visalia Triathlon Club and he stated, "When I'm on the swim, I look forward to the bike. When I'm on the bike, I look forward to the run. And when I'm on the run, I enjoy my training to the finish line." This was inspirational to me because at the time, I was a good swimmer, enjoying running, but didn't have the time or fitness for the bike. As time has gone on, I've become a cyclist who can hold his own, still a good swimmer, and a struggling runner. But that mindset is inspiration while training to not hate the run, but make it something to look forward too!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Getting back into things

For over five years I've had this blog and used to post to it fairly frequently. Recently I've decided to do so again. I'm starting my Masters in Education at Fresno Pacific University (also my alma mater), and a ton of the stuff - the Masters itself even - is online. It's made me really think about how I communicate online and how I hardly ever actually write online anymore! I need to get back in the practice of analyzing things in a public forum and be ready to respond to criticism, so I will start to update this blog about things that relate to teaching and coaching in a public education system!