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Math Perspective: 2015-2016 So Far

January 19, 2016

Math 3Anyone familiar with Frisch knows that our week-long celebration, Shiriyah, is more than an elaborate color war. It is a multi-faceted festival run by the students, who create everything from wall murals and hallway installations to movies, songs, and dances that all highlight a Torah or otherwise Jewish theme. It’s a wonderful opportunity for our students to learn and work together on a grand scale outside the borders of their classrooms.

For Frisch teachers, the week during Shiryah gives us time to reflect on our progress over the past five months of the school year and begin working on our individual and group goals for the rest of the year. The math department held meetings to focus on two important topics: the changes in standardized tests and technology in our classrooms.

Mrs. Sabrina Bernath, Frisch Math Department Chair, ran the first meeting, which focused on standardized tests. Each teacher was presented with a thick packet of sample problems reflecting the type of questions being asked on the new version of the SATs. These questions have a greater emphasis on linear equations and graph analysis. The department members worked on these different sample questions and discussed how to help students improve upon these increasingly important skills. Teachers shared their various ideas about how to fit these types of questions into our comprehensive curriculum.

Additionally, the math teachers focused next on the various topics of the SAT 2 level 1 and level 2 subject tests. They closely examined the various types of questions on functions, conics, rational functions, sequences/series, and any other advance topics on each exam. Not only are the topics slightly different, but the emphasis on how to apply that material also varies.

This PD refresher on what our top-level math students need to learn to be successful on these exams was productive. While we are not solely prepping students for outside tests, it is important to keep in mind the various skills sets measured by these external assessments.

The second PD meeting of the department focused on three specific apps /programs different members of the department are currently using in their classrooms. Prior to the meeting, teachers completed surveys answering questions about the use of technology in their classrooms for administrative duties, instruction and assessment. Based on those results, various members of the department were asked to make presentations.

First, Mrs. Bernath showed the functionality of a rubric she created for her 12th-grade pre-Calculus class’s video project. The rubric is an embedded part of her Haiku gradebook—not only can she enter a grade using the various subsections of the rubric, but she can also leave comments for each criteria. Once the grade is made public, students can see their grades and comments from the teacher. The members of the department were excited by this enhanced feature and its possibility for extensive customization.

Next, Mrs. Katya Gourge, a new teacher, showed her incredible creations using Geometer’s Sketchpad. Ms. Gourge makes unique demonstrations to teach her 9th- grade Geometry students many of the most difficult properties and theorems of the course. Her one-of-a-kind creations help students visualize the theorems and ideas of the course. Her skill set with the program is impressive and the members of the department immediately requested further PD time to learn more about this incredible program.

Finally, Mr. Michael Gatto, another new teacher at Frisch, highlighted key features of GeoGelgbra, a free, Web-based program that helps students visualize topics not just from Geometry but all areas of mathematics. Teachers also requested extensive PD later this year and into the summer to learn more about this program. When the meeting ended after an hour, several teachers continued the discussion in another location and Mr. Gatto continued teaching several other math teachers how to use GeoGebra in their classrooms.

As we begin winter break, Frisch’s math teachers are already looking forward to returning and employing the various new things they’ve learned during Shiriyah.