The Positive Side of a Rough Math Block

This morning I put up a blank number line running from about 0 to about 3 with the goal of placing fractions on it using benchmark ideas of being close to 0, 1/2, or 1. I expected it to be tough but it was even tougher than I expected. We began by discussing what we noticed about the line and they had some great thoughts there. However, when I asked what fraction they might want to place (with the goal of being as open-ended as possible) a student suggested 1/9. I was surprised, but she is usually spot on with things so I asked her where to put it. She suggested just before 1.

Fraction Line

Now I can’t remember how she explained her thinking, but it had something to do with the 1 in the fraction. So I drew the fraction on the board and asked if it was close to 1. My students were definitely not certain. So I asked them how to make 1 using ninths. This was also a challenge but by looking at the 1/9 picture and talking with each other they figured out it would be 9/9. Yay! But wow.

I decided we couldn’t work on benchmarks today so we began brainstorming other ways to make 1 in fractions. It took a bit but they began to get it, naming 10/10, 2/2, 4/4, and more. I sent them off to list as many as they could think of in just a few minutes (mostly to give them a chance to get up off the carpet!).

When we came back together I asked them how they would explain to a new 3rd grader how to determine if a fraction is equal to one or not. The discussion was good, but it is clearly not something they truly understand yet.

For the short time we had left we brainstormed fractions that are less than one and fractions that are greater than one. Again, not ideas that are solidly understood yet, but definitely movement in the right direction.

While we didn’t do what I had thought we’d do and my students’ understanding of fractions isn’t where I thought it was, this lesson really helped me have a better sense of where we are, where we need to go, and possible routes to get there.



I tried something new this year in AP Calculus. I had my kids who plan to take the AP Exam sign a little contract (and asked for a parent signature too). I asked them to state one learning goal they could commit to. Honestly, many answers seemed very thrown together, with little thought put in. But today I read this one, and I swooned:

Her comment of “if we’re not here…” refers to the impending teacher walkout. These kids have not ONCE made me feel guilty for leaving them right before AP Exams. What do they do instead? Instead they say, “Do what you need to do, Mrs. P. We can handle this.”

And I know they can.

They’re my heroes. They’re why I’ll walk.


A student asked me today what they could be doing to help with the teacher walkout. I said that going to the capitol with us would make a huge statement but that I wasn’t yet sure about bussing for students.

“Oh I will take my own car and fit as many kids as we can. We will be there–whether there’s a bus to take us or not. I will ask off work that day.”

I am telling you: Not. Mere. Mortals. They are made of some very special dust, these Loves.


At our faculty meeting, the school spirit award was presented to one of our building engineers, Emilio. The teacher who presented it spoke of Emilio’s constant joy and helpfulness. He truly is the best–we all know it. As soon as she said his name, he received a standing ovation.

Something struck me in that moment: we feel more unified as a building now than ever (or at least in my tenure at this school). The state of our state is terrifying. But some really good things are blossoming, not the least of which is our school’s support of each other.


My calc kids are on their first week of our review unit. A few years ago, I started giving two packets a week during this unit: one FRQ packet (on one topic) and one MC packet (on a different topic). They quiz over these topics each Friday.

This year, I’ve reformatted their FRQ packets a bit, and I really love the improvements I’ve made. One of those improvements is that I took out a problem and replaced it with “Now you make and solve your own Area/Volume FRQ. It must have four parts, a-d.”

I graded two of my three hours’ submissions today. And I was so very pleased with their work.

In the midst of all of the political turmoil in my state, I am reminded daily how incredible these kids are. And what an honor it is to help prepare them for their bright futures.

I made this tonight. Oh, darlings, you will go so very, very far. What a joy it is to watch you grow…


I ran out of Kleenex yesterday. I chided myself for not keeping better tabs on my stock this year.

I recalled what a principal told us: “Please do not put the burden of classroom supplies on our kids. Ask us for whatever supplies you need, and we’ll do our best to help you out.” I thought to myself, I guess I’ll give it a whirl.

I sent an email asking for Kleenex. I got two half-size boxes. They’ll last me the rest of the week. No more.

But how can one building really supply two boxes a week for 40 weeks in over one hundred classrooms? That’s not exactly feasible, either. I don’t expect a secretary to run tissues by every time I run out.

“Siri, add Kleenex to the shopping list…”

My heart was not in the right spot, I’ll be honest about that. (Maybe it had something to do with the fact that I’ve been called selfish, a part-time worker, and an extortionist in the last week.)


Today, a student came jogging into first hour, three big boxes of Kleenex in tow. “I brought you these!” she announced, with the kind of joy we should all strive to have.

Friends, these kids are not mere mortals…

They have taken on our battle. They are coming alongside us. They are carrying any burden they can possibly think to carry for us, before we even know it needs carrying.

We. Will. Fight.

Because I want the kids who buy their classmates Kleenex to at least consider raising their kids in this state. And for that to happen, we have some work to do, Oklahoma.

This is fun!

My 3rd graders will take a district-wide assessment in math tomorrow and Thursday. Today we spent some time on something that’s been a challenge, in the hopes that it would click. We used pattern blocks to work on fractions. I told them which one would be the whole for that question and then asked them to make a fraction. For example, if the trapezoid is the whole and they’re making 1/3, they need the triangle. If the hexagon is the whole and they’re making 1/3, they need the rhombus. Making mixed numbers was a real struggle at first, as were fractions greater than one. But slowly kids were getting it.

One said, “This is fun!” The girl across from him said, “No. It is not.” She was clearly annoyed. He was getting it. He was beginning to understand what he was doing and it was still foggy for her. So he was having fun but she was still frustrated. A few minutes later it began to click for her and she started to see the fun in the challenge. It was such a delight to watch them move from frustration to enjoyment.


Last Friday I shared the letter I penned to my calculus students about the walkout here.

Today, we read the letter together.

The support has been unreal. Students have shared it on social media and I am honestly at a loss for words for the amount of solidarity being shown for Oklahoma teachers.

Tonight we had a board meeting to vote on the walkout.

I wanted to read my letter to the board. But then both my boys got sick and I knew there would be plenty of people speaking up for us. Still, I was disappointed.

Then, just as I was leaving school, one of my first hour students called. She said she originally was on the fence about the teacher walkout, but not anymore. She wanted to know if it was ok if she read my letter to the board.

I burst into tears.

She advocated not only for me, but for my son.

And for that, she will forever have my heart.

The fight is just now beginning, friends. It may be a long one. But we have supporters all around us.