• Today was one of those days where I felt like the students and I just jelled. In every class it just seemed like we were all in a good mood and getting along and making jokes and telling stories. That’s a good feeling at the end of September.
  • A student said called me a name today {I can’t even remember what it was so it couldn’t have been too disrespectful} so of course I made him say two nice things. He looked shocked at first then quickly said “You’re a pretty good teacher and you’re funny.”
  • Today was Number Talks Thursday and I alternate between number talks and dot talks. When I walked into class, I already heard students sharing their strategies with each other. Then one student said, “I bet I know how you counted them Ms. Miller. I bet you added two dots so there would be three groups of four.” When we do number talks my strategy is always to build up to a 10 so he was using that idea to predict my thinking for the dot talk. He was wrong but it was good thinking.
  • One of my seniors said, “I told my mom how you get all of us something for our birthday and she couldn’t believe it and now she wants to get you something for your birthday.” I never turn down gifts!🙂
  • Seniors also brought up the certificates and two nice things gifts I give to every student at the end of the year and one student said, “Honestly it’s the only award I even care about.”
  • My trig students have already asked for worksheets to take home and practice three times this year…and we just actually started doing trig topics.
  • Yesterday we struggled through some compass constructions in Geometry. I was talking wayyyyyyy too much and then getting frustrated at the students who weren’t keeping up. Today my mood was much better and I felt like I answered the students questions better and with more patience. They seemed to catch on faster as well. Hmm….connection?

Negative Dos

My calc kids learned the product and quotient rules today. At the end of the lecture, I gave them a table with various cells filled out and others not. It’s a bit of a puzzle to figure out, which I love. I usually have the kids spend a few minutes on it in class, and then we work the rest together.  But today I randomly decided to just give it to them and said that if they could figure it out by next week I’d give them extra credit points on their quiz. They were welcome to work with each other, just not with me. Most kids worked on it all hour. Not a lot of “homework” got started today. And I am a-ok with that. 


We have a kid in Intermediate who I think has seriously come to class like five times. And tomorrow marks the end of Week 5. So yeah, he averages about one day a week. Needless to say, he’s behind. Luckily for him, he’s very likeable and respectful.

Today I was trying to explain to him (what I feel is) a very basic algebraic concept. I was clearly getting nowhere. Finally, his friend interrupted (thank God) and took over for me in Spanish. 

I’m a biracial, bilingual immigrant. I get what it’s like to be an outsider. I get what it’s like not to understand a language as well as you think you should. I get the relief you feel when you hear words in the tongue with which you are most familiar. 

So, when these kids started talking math in Spanish, it was just the cutest thing to me. I didn’t want it to stop. They were clearly getting much further than I was. I kept hearing “Negative dos. Negative dos.” Oy. PRECIOUS. 

When the explanation came to an end, I said, “You two are just so cute,” at which they got very shy all of a sudden. I went to go grab them a calculator, and I heard Mr. Absentee whisper to his friend, “She so nice.”

Be still, my heart. 

Yesterday and Today

I forgot to post my one good thing from yesterday. Well, I was observed by a teacher I respect deeply and admire greatly. And I didn’t fall to pieces! (We’re debriefing tomorrow, so maybe I’ll fall to pieces then!)

I also am helping put on a math/art show at my school, and one of the artists (@gelada) send me a set of pieces that needed to be assembled in different ways. So my friend Brendan and I had a blast working on that!


Ooooh, also yesterday a student sent me a spotify playlist for me to play in class (I mentioned offhandedly that kids can share them with me and I’ll play stuff they like sometimes, *grin*). Yes!!! I used it late at night to do work.

Now for today. Recently I’ve been trying out something a colleague showed me he was having his kids do — submit photos of their nightly work using google classroom. Today in Advanced Precalculus, kids were explaining their answers and then I realized I COULD JUST PULL THEM UP ON THE COMPUTER. It was INCREDIBLE being able to show different approaches to the same problem, share student work with the class in a positive way, and ask questions/draw connections. So that rocked.

I was at school late working (I left around 8:15) and around 5 or 6 I got a call from a middle school math teacher. She had been working with a student for a year on math (outside of class). And what she told me made me smile so hard. It was definitely my favorite good thing of the day. She told me that this student — who has me as a teacher — is totally loving math when she didn’t really see herself as a math person. That rocked so much, and it is so appreciated this early in the year, when I have no sense of the interior worlds of my kids.

Today we had our advisory (of seniors) mixed with an advisory of freshpeople, sophmores, and juniors. We were doing a “get to know you” activity, and then we debriefed. When talking with my senior advisory, it was awesome to hear from them about their experiences as freshpeople, and their memories of seniors. They all agreed that I could announce to the younger grades that if anyone wanted to just chat and talk with them about life, classes, social stuff, whatever, that they were game and not to be scared of them. I LOVE THEIR ATTITUDE. My advisory is the best.

I spent about 3-4 hours after school working on coming up with my next advanced precalculus lesson. You see, we’re teaching combinatorics TOTALLY differently. And the approach we came up with is super theoretical/abstract. But the more I think about it and make sense of it, it’s blowing my mind. So although it took me SO LONG to find a way to make the abstract idea concrete, I think I did it, and feel pretty awesome about that! I’m excited to teach using it! The best part? For me, this approach doesn’t make a distinction between combinations and permutations. They are all part of a larger, more coherent structure. If kids get this, they will understand combinations, permutations, reordering words with repeated letters, the binomial theorem, and “path problems.” All as the same thing. It’s blowing my mind, and I don’t know if I can ever see “combinations” and “permutations” the same way again!

Oh, in multivariable calculus, kids found a connection between Pascal’s Pyramid and the trinomial expansion. And honestly, with my new understanding of combinatorics, I understand that connection even better!!! It takes no thinking for me to understand it!

Ohoh! So one of my Advanced Precalculus students was out today — she was getting serious foot surgery later in the afternoon. But she wanted to FACETIME into class. So her groupmate put her on and they collaborated with her on the material. And at the end of class, we moved the laptop around and everyone said “get well soon!” That was so darn sweet. Of her to want to facetime in, of her groupmembers to do it, and of the class to wish her luck!

Okay, it’s 9:22pm. I guess I’ll pick up my laundry another day. Time for me to eat dinner and then get some zzzs.

AP Sets

When I got to my room this morning, this beautiful plant from my secret pal was sitting on my desk! Such a lovely start to the day. 


For every unit in AP Calculus, I give my students 3-4 “AP Sets,” each of which consists of a past AP free response question. These free response questions then show up verbatim on their unit exams. However, to discourage the procrastination of learning said questions, I set due dates for them throughout the unit. On the due date, I randomly call students to work out the problems on the board and explain them to the class. Students are graded accordingly. I’ve found this puts a healthy dose of I-need-to-take-this-seriously in my kids. 

I give all this back story because today an AP Set was due and a couple adorable things happened. 

  1. Several students moaned when they weren’t the ones who were called to present. This is usually not the reaction I get. (Don’t get me wrong: plenty we’re still relieved not to hear their names.)
  2. One student who was called came up and worked the problem incorrectly. This is fine: they are allowed to come back on their own time and present the problem to me for full points back. Usually they do this several days later. But not this girl. She asked to come immediately after school. She did and presented it beautifully. She added, “I’m so sorry I wasn’t prepared, Mrs. Peterson,” and thanked me multiple times for letting her make it up so quickly. Can I have a classroom full of her?


I heard a calculus kid in the back today say, “Man, this is starting to get kinda hard.”

Statements like this really get under my skin. 

“Well, you didn’t sign up for Knitting 101, hun,” I told the teenage boy. 

“You’re right. I’m sorry, Mrs. Peterson.”

I love it when they tell me I’m right. Obviously it’s true. 😜 

The point to my calculus kids is: let’s not be scared of hard, babies. Let’s embrace hard. Because “we can do hard things,” especially if we do them together. 

Caring Cards

I’m out of school for the rest of the week due to a medical procedure. On my last day at school, one of my students got a card and got as many of my students as she could find to sign it. She gave it to me at the very end of the day with a little gift bag full of small things.

Another student and I were talking about a computer science test. I told him that it’d be the online test so that it would be graded automatically – they don’t want me grading while on pain meds! He replied, “Well, yeah, but I just don’t want you to have to grade when you don’t feel good.”

Several of my students are children of administrators. I told all my students why I’d be out, but I didn’t mention it to most of my colleagues. I’ve gotten several emails from administrators saying, “My child told me you’re out for surgery – I’m so sorry I didn’t know! Praying for you!”

These kids continually touch my heart with their thoughtfulness and kindness. They care.

Fried Chicken 🍗 

We’re working on combined work problems in Intermediate Algebra right now. Most of the kids catch on to the procedure very quickly, but I often wonder if they understand what they’re actually computing. I had them create their own problem today because sometimes that can reveal to me if they really comprehend what’s going on. 

One girl submitted this adorable problem. I just love everything about it. 


  • My most difficult student actually let me teach him one-on-one today and put a lot of effort into a quiz. He worked until the bell and asked if he could finish tomorrow. Success.
  • A student that missed a week of school due to pneumonia came in on my plan period to get caught up. As she left she said ‘Thank you’ and I just thought it was nice to be thanked for doing my job.
  • While doing constructions in Geometry, I was working with a student and several others had their hands up. One student got up and just started helping others since I couldn’t get to everyone.❤
  • One of my freshman girls stopped in the hallway today to say, “Ms. Miller, you always look pretty.” It usually takes until at least the end of their sophomore year for them to realize I am a person, let alone give me compliments. =)
  • Yesterday the students had SO much to tell me about their weekends. We spent almost 15 minutes in each period talking. While it may have been a ploy to do less math, I’m hoping it’s time invested that will payoff in the future.
  • Kind I just say that it’s September and I’m still having the best year?

I’ll keep you posted. =)