Calculus Projects 2019

Today was as fun and as exhausting as expected!

My calc kids presented their projects today (on Pi Day, no less!) and they did not disappoint. I wish I could show every single one here! Kids wrote poems, created board games, made music videos, constructed volumes of revolution and volumes with known cross sections, taught lessons to friends and family members, related calculus to physics, music, and basketball, and more. One of my students who is going to go to college to be a theatre teacher said that this project helped her realize she also wants to become certified to teach math!

I was blown away by their creativity.

Here are some where pictures can capture some of the genius:

Slope field in the style of van Gogh

The last line… ❤

Start here…

Then revolve the region about the y-axis!

Canculus: a board game that teaches the importance of calculus and recycling

Calculus Land (read the card titles)

Part of the “ABCs of Calculus”

We also had some amazing music videos. Two are uploaded to YouTube; you can watch them here and here.

As much as I loved watching my students present calculus, what I loved even more was watching them cheer each other on. They were so supportive of and impressed by one another.

That to me was everything.


Limits and Pi

We started calculus today in precalc!!!! We finally made it! All the hoops of trig, all the review of algebra, and we finally made it to limits.

And what did my sophomores do?

They got it without batting an eye.

They incorporated all their past knowledge and vocabulary like it was the most natural progression.

I wish I could just scoop them all up and take every single one with me to calculus next year.


Pi Day baking has consumed our house the last two nights. One of my best friends (who loves baking as much as I do) came over and helped me make 128 mini strawberry cupcakes with chocolate ganache frosting the last two nights after Jonas fell asleep.

Our finished result!


One of my PreCalc kids came in with this beautiful 3D card today:

“I made it for you that week I was gone for the funeral.”

Shouldn’t I be the one sending the card in this situation?

How many times do they hit me with these role reversals? These moments of, Wait. I thought I was the teacher? And instead I blink and they’re the ones teaching me.

It happens on the daily, I feel.

I’m thankful for these moments of grace. These times when I’m reminded that–actually–I need them more than they need me.


My calc kids had their last unit test today! I’m so incredibly proud of how far they’ve come this year.

After the test today, I had this conversation with a student:

These connections we have with each other…we cannot take them for granted. They are the reason we’re here. We were made from community and for community; I know this in my heart of hearts. And any little thing that brings us closer to community: it should be cherished.

A seat

Our school has launched an early college program in conjunction with our local community college where students can concurrently earn both a high school and associates diploma. Our first cohort is our current sophomore class.

I’ve been in love with this idea for a decade, if not more. My initiation into the world of teaching high school was via concurrent classes. But even before I taught, I myself was the benefactor of concurrent enrollment as a high schooler.

I’ve always said it was the best thing I did in preparation for undergrad, which then allowed me to go to graduate school.

So when my school announced that we would be the first in our metro area to offer this degree, I was thrilled for our kids. With the rising cost of college tuition, I knew this would be a game changer for many families.

Now our first cohort is in the middle of enrollment for next year. I don’t teach any of the concurrent classes but I do have some kids who are in the program.

I emailed the director of the program–who is also my work mom–that some kids were concerned they wouldn’t make it to AP Calculus if they stuck with their degree plan. And boom–just like that–I had a seat at the table. Just a little teacher saying, “Can we talk about this?” and my ideas were immediately entertained.

I don’t think that happens at many places.

Today I got to listen to the math options for kids in ECHS. I found myself getting emotional (yes, we’re all shocked) at the thought and time and energy that has been poured into these kids’ education…and they probably don’t even realize. I mean hundreds of hours of planning and revising and processing…all for them. All because some adults want the best for some teenagers.

And when this little math teacher said, “Can we talk?” even more planning and revising and processing went into this.

All because we want the best for them.

I’m so honored to be a part of a family that values its students and its teachers.

I love that we all have a voice–a seat at the table. In this way, we feel valued…and I fully believe valued people then seek to add value and worth to other people.


I was home with a sick babe yesterday. I left my calc kids to work on their project which is–basically–summarize a calculus concept creatively and then share it with the class. On one level, I felt Hey, good day to be gone–they need to work on their own anyway. And on another level, I felt They’re going to waste an entire day without me there to police them.

I told the sub to leave a list of any kids she needed redirect. I told the kids that landing on this list would result in a ten-point deduction on their project.

You can imagine my joy when I arrived this morning to a note that said, “No issues at all. I loved watching your students collaborate on their projects.”

They collaborated?!

This project is going somewhere?!

Without me and my continual nagging to get back to work?!

*Angels rejoice*

Then today I got to talk to each individual/group about their ideas. I think we are going to have some amazing presentations. This is the first year I’ve done anything like this, and I’m really excited to see where the kids take it.


Making up for no post yesterday–we are juggling taking turns with our sick kid over here at the Peterson household!

Yesterday my calc kids had their last homework check of the year! What! Come spring break, we will be in review mode. As I was grading their homework, I had the thought (as I often have had this year) that these kids have done more homework than any other group I’ve ever had. I’m sure I’ve said that before in this space. But it’s a big deal to me so I feel fine saying it again. I think it’s a mix of them being awesome, my school adopting a new book (which I had half the say in), and learning that often less is more when it comes to homework. I liken it to the eating habits of my three-year-old: if I start out by giving him just a little, he’s quite likely to finish it all and ask for more. But if I start by piling on more than he feels he can handle, he won’t even attempt. He shuts down.

By starting with less, he often accomplishes more.

Yes, friends, it took me ten years of teaching and three years of parenting to realize what most probably realize in a few days.

It’s ok. It’s a marathon, not a sprint, right?

This is not to say I don’t give a decent amount of homework (as any one of my kids would attest to, I’m certain). But I’ve scaled back. I also focus more on the calculus; less on the algebra and trig in order to level the playing field a bit more.

And as a result: kids are doing homework.

Can I stop all “cheating”? No. But I know lots of kids are working because I get messages at all times of the day asking for homework hints.

And that makes my heart overwhelmingly happy.

Congrats on finishing the course’s topics, Loves. Now for the finish line…