Super Math Teacher

The thoughts of a middle school math teacher

Tet Fair (Celebrating the Lunar New Year)

Each year, we get a 2 week vacation in order to celebrate Tet, also known as the Lunar New Year.  At AIS, there is an annual Tet Fair, held a week before the holiday, so that the school can have a celebration.

In the past, the Tet Fair has been one big celebration, lasting either a whole day or half day, for the whole school.  This year, the celebration was for a couple of hours, and was celebrated in each building.  Teachers, staff, and students get an opportunity to wear traditional dress (if they choose) in order to celebrate.

As usual, there was the traditional Dragon dance.  It is always fun to watch!

Now there are only a few days left until the holiday.  Chúc mừng năm mới!


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Asking for help

I always encourage my students to ask for help.  Most of the time, they just give up.  This week, however, I had to ask for help.

My students are working on solving systems of equations.  This week, I introduced the dreaded word problem.  As soon as students saw the problems, I immediately heard the moans and groans.  The  “I hate word problems.”  So we walked through the steps, using a template, courtesy of Sarah Carter at Math Equals Love (follow her blog if you don’t already!  She is amazing!!)

I gave my students an assignment, which they started in class.  I always work out my answer keys by hand, so that I can anticipate where students will struggle.  Sure enough, I ran into trouble.

Writing my equations for one problem, I could only come up with one equation.  When I did get a second equation, it gave a negative answer, which made no sense in the context of the problem.  So I emailed a friend back in the US, asking her for help.  She sent 2 equations.  I decided I would graph the system, in order to make sure of the solution.  I had 3 equations, which unfortunately did not have a single point of intersection……They had 3 points of intersection.

Knowing my students would struggle, I reached out for help from a former student.  Thai is taking Algebra 2 as a freshman, so I figured he could help.  after he made some fun of me (which I knew would happen), he gave me the correct equation.

The next class period, I told my students about what happened.  I wanted them to see the value of asking for help.  Hopefully, they will appreciate the fact that I showed them it was okay to ask for help.


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Cap and Gown pictures

We have been back in school for a week now following Winter Break.  So far, we have had the graduation cap and gown pictures, an early release day, gotten a new student, lost a really good student, and started to narrow down the Junior Math competition team members.  A pretty busy week!

Graduation cap and gown pictures came early this year.  It makes the year seem so final,  even though there are a full 2 quarters to go.

Of course, we still had to get everyone in place, and fix all the tassels, and make sure no one had their eyes closed….with and without teachers in the picture.


Of course, Mr Chris had to get in the spirit of things.

Students won’t wear these again until June…..


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Christmas Card

It is just a few days left until Winter Break.  This year, I am flying to the US, for one night, before joining family on a cruise through the Panama Canal.  I am so ready for this break!

This has been a challenging week.  Not because of what I am teaching .  I love teaching linear equations.  IT has been challenging because the students are ready for break, and are also overwhelmed with their tests, projects, and school stuff at the end of the quarter/semester.  Needless to say, I have been frustrated a great deal this week.

My day was made with the arrival of a Christmas card from a cousin.  Since mail is unreliable to have delivered to my apartment, things are sent to me at school.  Of course, it came during homeroom.



My students were fascinated by the mail.  THey weren’t curious about who it was from.  Their comments were more along the lines of “Who sends mail?”  and “How much did it cost to send?”  I messaged my cousin top let her know I received the card, and that it took about two and half weeks to arrive.  I shared her response with the kids.  “It cost more to mail than the cost of the card.”

The card was a great pick me up after a frustrating week.  Tomorrow should be better.  It is Friday, casual day, an A day, and the opening of the new Star Wars movie (which I already have tickets to go see, with a group of friends).

I keep telling myself…It is only a few more days!

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Slope and Linear Equations

I like teaching about linear equations. Over the years, I have started using more hands on activities in order to help students make connections with the different types of equations.  Desmos, if you have not used it before, has a wealth of activities that are available.  This year, I created my own introduction to slope activity.


Students were definitely engaged!  They remember What Slope Dude says. (I personally, cannot stand the Adventures of Slope Dude, but my students loved it!

In addition to introducing slope, 2 classes were able to use the activity Land the Plane.  Or, as they called it, Crash the Plane.  This was more challenging, since it had to be EXACT, but students had fun.  They also played polygraph and which is steepest.  All of these are available from Desmos.


In the room, we do a version of Simon says, only with slope.  Students are very competitive, and it was fun to watch the students who usually struggle actually be the winners, while top students were more likely to get out in the first few rounds.


We also did a matching activity with slope intercept form.  It was easy to match the equation with the slope and the y-intercept, but then they had another point that was on the line.  Students had to determine which point was on which equation, without graphing!  The discussions among pairs of students were incredible!

Coming up: Point Slope form and Standard form….stay tuned.

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Week Without Walls 2017

One of the things I have come to enjoy about teaching internationally is the Week Without Walls trip.  This week was my 3rd trip in 4 years (last year, the grade 8 trip did not happen).  As the lone female teacher in the 8th grade, it was a given that i would go.  Three other teachers came, plus 2 Vietnamese staff, the nurse and one other staff member.  In addition, there were 44 students.  We also had 3 staff members from teh company that organized everything.

I enjoy these trips.  Yes, it means I am basically in teacher mode 24/7 for the duration of the trip.  However, seeing students trying new things and getting out of their comfort zones is always a treat.

This year, we went to Phan Thiet and Mui Ne, beach towns that are a 4 hour bus drive from Ho Chi Minh City.  Prior to this trip, I had not visited Mui Ne yet.  The beach here is relatively clean (for a Vietnamese beach).  WIth the recent typhoon, there seemed to be less trash than one normally finds on a beach here in Vietnam.

The kids had the opportunity to spend all morning nat a sailing center.  They went sailing in small sailboats, got to experience stand up paddle boarding, and try to steer a traditional Vietnamese fishing boat, called a coracle (which is a round boat).  Teachers have the option to participate as much or as little as they want.  I spent most of the morning on shore, taking pictures, but I did go out in the small coracle.

For the middle of November, it was nice to be at the beach and getting sun.  The water was nice and warm.  Of course, the warm water had its drawbacks…..jellyfish.  We actually had a couple of students get stung by the jellyfish.

After lunch, students went to an organic farm.  These are rare here, so students learned what it means to be organic.  They also got to help out and plant some lemongrass.  Then the Students Council members presented the owner with some seeds as a thank you.

One aspect of this trip is the opportunity to do some service.  Planting the lemongrass was one way.  Earlier, at the beach, students picked up trash on the beach.  There were few complainers about participating.

The trip always has a bonfire the last night.  What better setting than on the beach?  As the fire slowly died down, there are marshmallows to roast.  Many have never done this except on these types of trips.  Students get to relax and just have fun.

Although this was a short trip (just 3 days), there was a great deal packed into it.  It is also my last one in Vietnam.

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Slope and Linear Equations

Quarter 2 is my favorite quarter of the year.  Mainly because of the content in Algebra 1.  We have just finished functions, and are ready to start Linear equations.  Of course, there are 2 days of class before the 8th grade trip for Week Without Walls to Mui Ne.

WHat better way to start then to utilize the computer lab.  I created a Desmos activity (Intro to Slope).  Okay, so that was tricky, and I spent 1 day creating it, and another 3 days tweaking what I had.  Still, for my first time creating an activity, I think I did OK.

slope 1

This gave some interesting responses.  Some students thought that A was the only one going downhill.  Others thought A would be the most fun.  Some thought A was suicide.  Reading the responses gave some insight into student thinking about slope.

When students finished with the Desmos activity, they then used Desmos to graph some equations and see how changing the constant or coefficient changed the graph.  Interesting comparisons were made by students.  I enjoyed watching students play with Desmos, but could tell that they were trying to determine the answers.  Many students had forgotten what a constant was, which made the question “Describe what happens to a graph when a constant is added” difficult to answer.

Today’s lesson definitely was one with high engagement and I look forward to reading student responses in Desmos over the weekend.  I have high hopes for this unit, if today was any indication.



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Fall Break

We just had our fall break.  This means it was end of Quarter 1.  🙂

I decided to spend my break in Dubai, UAE.  I had never been to this part of the world before, so I was looking forward to visiting a new part of the world.

I took advantage of the break to relax, take a couple of tours, and enjoy myself.  The highlight was the desert camel safari and desert dinner.

I can say that while visiting and staying in Dubai is expensive, Singapore is more expensive.  Just food for thought.


Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building



Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai


Spice Souk, Dubai


Old Souk, Dubai


Abra, Dubai Creek


Ready for a camel ride!


On the camel


Camel safari at sunset


Dressed in abaya at Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi



Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi


Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi


At Ferrari World, Abu Dhabi


Sunset over Dubai

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Equations and inequalities

I changed up how I am reaching this year.  I am not following the order of the textbook, but have grouped different sections together to make the units.  Students are taking more responsibility by completing their notes (I still provide Cornell Notes handouts for each section).  I am not using a PowerPoint for every lesson, like I have done in the past.  Students are more engaged (they have to be!) and it seems to be working.

I still use many of the activities that I always use.  The order is different, and many times they are used for discovery instead of culminating activities.  One of my favorite is the Inequality Story.  We talk about Inequalities, and then students have to read and identify the inequality phrases.  Using them, they then write inequalities symbolically, and then answer some questions that are unrelated to the story.  As usual, students get to work with a partner, so they can discuss the different phrases and what it means.  This was the introduction to inequalities.

After this, we worked with solving equations and inequalities.  Students saw the similarities (yea!) and realized the same steps were used.  Even though we then moved back and forth from equations to inequalities, students were successful on many assignments and activities.  Even the quiz was a success.

We made several different foldables to help us during the unit.  By far the most frequently used one was the Solving Multi Step Equations one:


Students referenced this during most of the activities in order to help them remember what needed to be done and in what order.  It did not matter if they were solving equations or inequalities.

There were lots of hands on activities.  This helped even my most reluctant students to make connections and solve equations and inequalities successfully. If you look carefully, you will see the foldable being used by some students as they work through equations activities with a partner of their choice.

A few pairs made it through all of these, and began to work with my challenge activity of solving multi-step equations with the variable on both sides.  There was definitely a sense of accomplishment as they saw success.  Students even had to discuss the No Solution and Infinitely Many Solutions they encountered (I did not give them any hints!).


Reflecting on the quarter, I have seen much more collaboration among students.  There is definitely more discussion going on in the room.  I am not talking nearly as much as in the past.  I hope I can continue to keep this style of teaching up throughout the remainder of the year.

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Moving on

Okay, so I haven’t written anything in a month.  I have been busy, and well, what I wanted to write about needed to be finalized first.

So what is going on?  I knew I wanted to explore other job options at the end of my contract year this year.  So I had already activated my profiles with SEARCH and ISS.  I got everything updated over the summer, so that it would be ready when active recruiting started.  Recruitment for international jobs gets underway in October.  In fact, at AIS, we won’t even get our intent forms until we return from Fall Break on October 23.

Imagine my surprise, when a school reached out to me the beginning of September.  After a few emails, and 3 Skype sessions, as well as talking with a few people I know in the International community, I decided to accept the job offer at the school.

The school is a top school, located in……….are you ready?……………Ankara Turkey.  In spite of the current political turmoil in Turkey, after talking with some current and former colleagues and some future colleagues, I feel that this is the best decision for me.  I will be teaching Middle School Math (grade level to be determined) starting in August 2018 at Bilkent Laboratory and International School.  It is time to move on.

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