October 2013 archive

shortcutting: Oleana whipped feta

By Kristina

Tested out this recipe for Oleana’s whipped feta tonight. I decided to shortcut it by buying a roasted red pepper from Whole Foods (conveniently located near the olives and feta cheese past the produce aisle). I am down with saving 35 minutes of prep time on a weeknight, so into the snack rotation this goes 🙂


happy mathoween

By Kristina

mathoweenOdd Number, Prime Number, and Cop

Photo on 2013-10-31 at 10.13

Me lamenting the misinterpretations of my costume: Math Chef, Cheffin’ It Up, Prime Beef, Prime Meat, Number Chef, Even Number, and Apron Count.



around the world in 21 days

By Kristina

We are working on a financial math unit in IB Math Studies. Some students have balked at things like currency exchange (ironically, even those who want to be business majors). I wanted to do some kind of shopping project, but as my sister pointed out, when a website detects your IP address, it’ll often just do the currency conversion for you. So I went a-googlin’ for some currency conversion projects and found some travel ones for consumer math. I added in a requirement to fly to three different countries, purchase those flights on a credit card and pay them off, take out foreign currency from Travelex, and then spend that money on food and excursions.

My version is here.

Things I’ve Found Interesting So Far:
1) I’m learning to be okay with “lost” classroom time because I’m happy to see students engaged in the work.
2) Some students didn’t know how to search for flights. I had to state that they shouldn’t come back to Boston after each country to fly back out. One group then started to plot out how to optimize by distance between countries (though I didn’t ask for that).
3) Students automatically assumed they’d be on a budget even though I didn’t state a limit on cost for flights or hotels. However, some went all out on their purchasing and were surprised by the ludicrous cost of airline travel. One group bought first-class flights for their three cities and were horrified to find that the bill came to $43,000.
4) Google has a flights feature now.
5) Having students provide their work to me via Google Docs is awesome for commenting on it and providing feedback.
6) I didn’t give them a template to fill in because I wanted them to have freedom with presentation, but I almost wish I had.
7) Only one student tried to use a 0% intro APR to get out of doing credit card math.
8) I need to teach the screenshot command (Command + Shift + 4) and how to use Google Docs.

advice from a friend

By Kristina

I’ll let the friend wisdom speak for itself (a.k.a. how to be an efficiently energized duck).

“I decided a long time ago that I only have a certain amount of energy to give to things and it is much better to give that energy in a positive way rather than fixating on the negative and the bad things. It has helped my health too.”

“In the end, there are a lot of things that seem to pull us away from truly doing service to the kids. Ignore all of that as much as you can and be there for the kids. They are the real reason we love our jobs…in the end, it is about the kids and they will bring you the most joy anyway. They don’t know anything about [bureaucracy] or policy changes or whatever is going on in your school. All they know is that they need a teacher and they need to learn. If nothing else, immerse yourself in that and try to let the other stuff slide off your back.”

hello chicago

By Kristina

I like making metaphors. Today my metaphor is “Chicago is the Washington Redskins of education.” The Redskins have languished since their heyday in the early 1990s (with the exception of a few playoff years and the wonderful existence of RGIII) but in general, their acquisitions of the “next big star who is supposed to bring the Skins back to their former glory” have flopped. Chicago is pulling a major Dan Snyder by replacing 50 closed public schools with charters staffed by TFA. That’s a quick fix alright…but at what long-term cost to the community, the learning, and the new TFA staff who would likely burn out and never stay in education?

“TFA has become the handmaiden of the privatization movement. Without TFA’s ready supply of eager and inexperienced young college graduates, willing to work long hours without a union and with meager wages, it would be impossible to expand these private-sector schools at such a rapid clip.” Handmaiden of Privatization sounds eerily right…TFA sure is exemplifying that “up or out after two years” strategy consulting model, but with much more meager wages.



that moment when…

By Kristina

You realize why it’s important to get involved in politics or education policy.

“Under No Child Left Behind,  all children are supposed to have highly qualified teachers, school districts are supposed to let parents know which teachers are not highly qualified, and these teachers are supposed to be equitably distributed in schools. They aren’t. It turns out that teachers still in training programs are disproportionately concentrated in schools serving low-income students and students of color, the very children who need the very best the teaching profession has to offer. The inequitable distribution of these teachers also has a disproportionate impact on students with disabilities.”

I find it a travesty that our legislative system is setting up the urban school systems to get even further behind by designating TFA as “highly qualified.” No one is “highly qualified” without on-the-job experience or without adequate preparation for said job. In my sixth year in a low-income school with students of color, I am finally starting to feel *somewhat* qualified. The Ivy League degree on my transcript and gold stars on my resume correlate in no way with my qualifications as a teacher. I had about 45 more weeks of training than TFAers do, and I still struggled to make incremental gains over my first two years. Bringing in neophytes with two-year contracts makes more financial sense than investing in a teacher who will only end up costing more as she advances up the pay scale, but it’s perpetuating a vicious cycle of inequity in the schools which need the most support.

math birdhouses

By Kristina

In our world of email overload, sometimes gems come through that make you glad that Google Groups was invented. Amid the usual sea of sub coverage announcements, IB assessment planning, and various field trip information came the announcement of math birdhouses to our staff email list. I’m really glad that our Social and Academic Remediation (SAR) math teacher informed us about the project, because otherwise it would have only been known to a couple of neighboring classrooms. It makes me wish that teachers could have better mechanisms for sharing their successes or developing cross-curricular projects–isolated classrooms don’t do very much for that.

2013-10-10 13.06.10

The SAR students are building birdhouses as part of a cross-curricular unit on birds. Through the building process they are learning geometry and expressing themselves creatively. They will be selling the birdhouses, with proceeds going to a student-chosen charity, future projects, and a pizza party for the students.  I brought in my own Nancy Drew book for the top of my birdhouse, picked out a paint color, and picked out decorations (a vintage key and gold numbers spelling “314” in honor of my favorite math holiday). The students had already made a lot of birdhouses by last week–looking forward to seeing the next batch!

introducing SBG with games

By Kristina

I introduced SBG this year in two different ways to my seniors.

For the smaller, quieter class:
I wanted to draw them out more and push them beyond “quiet note-taking mode,” so we played Math Taboo in teams using these cards. I picked a topic that they learned in 10th grade math but likely forgot, and cut out the cards and glued them to index cards (for easier shuffling/handling). I’m going to start using Fawn Nguyen’s mailing label method for future games. The students wanted to play boys vs. girls, so we had each team play one two-minute round to see how many terms they could get their team to guess. After the first round, I gave them some time to study the cards and come up with ways to improve their score before the second round. Both teams’ scores improved, and then we talked about how studying with friends and correcting mistakes can make a huge difference in one’s learning.

For the larger, louder class:
This group doesn’t need to be drawn out of their shells as much, but I wanted as many people engaged as possible. With Taboo, there is potential for lost interest and disengagement by students who don’t feel confident about coming up with guesses or who get discouraged when a few students start to monopolize all the guessing. I knew there were several athletes in this group, so I borrowed a cheesy name game icebreaker for their game and used my mathsketball from last year.

1) Arrange the group in a circle.
2) One person starts off by saying the name of someone else in the circle, and tossing the ball to them.
3) That person then in turn says the name of a different person, and tosses the ball to
someone else who has not yet received the ball.
4) That continues until everyone in the circle has received the ball once.

I timed the group and told them their initial score was 54.8 seconds. I asked them how much better they thought they could do. One boy yelled out “we can do it in 20 seconds!” Some other students protested,  but others started chiming in with ideas to cut down on the time and with positive comments to drown out the naysayers. As a group, they came up with a strategy of lining up in a circle and having the first person run around with the ball while everyone said the names. They cut their time down to about 8 seconds. Similarly to the other class, I emphasized the important of working with others to correct one’s mistakes and improve upon past assessments, and that it’s better to persevere than to rage-quit.

Photo Credit: http://www.wikipedia.org


By Kristina

From a former student’s Facebook post: “The most organized I’ve probably ever been is for Kristina Buenafe math class. My binder was golden. Now if only I could get my life to do the same.”

I’m glad to see that the binder organization resonated with her almost three years later. Funny how much little things like that stick with you.

the mouse problem

By Kristina

I asked one section of students to create and solve their own geometric series word problem. After my repeated tirades about seeing mice in the classroom over the past two weeks, one provided this:

“There has been a mouse infestation inside JQUS. The first day there was 4 mice seen. On the second day there were 12 mice, third day 36 mice. How many mice will there be on the 26th day?”