Desmos FTW (as always)

Making this fast tonight as my body has made it clear it needs rest and fluids or it will revolt against me. 

I made a task on Desmos (God bless everyone who works there) for my calc kids to discover the derivatives of y=sin(x) and y=cos(x). They did really well with it, for the most part. My favorite part was that in addition to discovering two new rules, they also created graphs and (I think) started to get a feel for what derivative functions represent. 

You can check out the tasks here:

It’s super exciting to be creating and growing. I love calculus. And I hope that comes across to my Loves. 



I’ve noticed two of my calc girls that sit next to each other tend to be more of a distraction to each other than a help. I had planned to move them with my next seating chart. 

Today, I greeted them at the door as they walked into class together. One of them came back out and said, “Would it be ok if I moved seats? I think I’m too distracted sitting next to ___.”

Be still my heart. 

When they self-regulate…doesn’t get much better than that. 


I’ve got about a week and half left of calc intros. These kids’ stories continue to amaze me. I honestly feel unfit to be in their presence half the time. They’ve built up more courage, vulnerability, and resilience in 16-18 years than I have in three decades. 

I understand slightly more the teachings of Jesus–how He insists that the last will be made first. When I look at my kids who have truly endured hell and back…I realize that they have something the rest of us don’t have. Even though the world has treated them so very unfairly, they’ve still decided to treat others better than they’ve been treated. 

They have so, so much more to teach me than I could ever give them. 

What I ever did to deserve this job is beyond me. But here we are. And, yes, it’s hard. It’s really hard. But it’s so worth it to learn from these amazing kids, and to hopefully be an adult in their lives who they know will always be in their corner.  

“Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Power Rule Success 

I went ahead and taught the power rule today in calculus. Every year, I’ve been disappointed at how hard the computations have been for my kids. This is supposed to be the easiest lessson of the year, I’ve thought to myself year after year. As all calculus teachers know, it’s not the calculus that trips them up; it’s the algebra.

This year I finally got my act together and before we did any calculus, we did two days of “Algebra Bootcamp” a la Sam Shah. 

Oh. My. Word. 

This lesson has never gone so smoothly. Each class was able to compute -16(4)^(-3/2) without a problem. “So what did you all get for the slope of the tangent line?” I asked, cringing, expecting to get confused and frustrated looks. Instead? “-2,” without a bit of fanfare. Like it was no big deal. Like, “Duh, Mrs. P, please stop talking and let us get on with our homework.”

I am so delighted. 

I’m thrilled that I’m still coming up with ways I can better serve my kids. I’m so thankful for a job that I’ll never master.


We’ve been working on combined work word problems in Intermediate Algebra. I had a problem on the board, and one of my calc kids asked if it was a Calc BC question (I don’t even teach BC). I thought that was so cute though, and shows that our Intermediate kids are doing some math that impresses even my calc kids. 

Speaking of combined work problems, we watched Dan Myer’s classic “bean counting” videos yesterday. If you’re not familiar with it, Act 1 shows Dan counting beans (takes him 22.6 minutes) and Chris counting beans (takes him 5.6 minutes). After watching Act 1, I asked the kids for predictions. “How long would it take if Chris and Dan worked together?  Person with the closest time gets a cookie.”

After their predictions, I showed them how to solve the problem algebraically (takes 4.5 minutes if Dan and Chris work together). And then a winner was named. 

Then I played Act 2, which shows Dan and Chris actually counting together, and lo and behold, it takes them 4.5 minutes. 

One of my kids said, “But we already found that.”

He was basically saying that we didn’t need to watch the second video. Obviously our math was correct. 

Can’t argue. 

AP Sets

I have my calc kids print off what I call their AP Sets for each unit. I give them points just for printing them and bringing them to class as this saves me about two thousand copies over the year. If everyone in the class has his/hers on the day they’re due, everyone gets 11 out of 10 points. This is to encourage students to watch out for each other–to print an extra set when you can; to take an extra set from a friend when you need it. 

Also, it sure makes my life easier if everyone just has his or hers on the due date. 

I asked my kids to have Unit 2’s Sets printed today. Every student in every class was able to produce a set. In second hour, two girls had printed extras, and they were both needed. They explained that for the last unit, they took someone else’s extra copies. “So we learned our lesson!” one of them said. 


We looked at the limit definition of the derivative today. I’m really lucky to work at a district whose PreCalc program is quite rigorous and really preps our kids for calculus. All our kids were taught how to find derivatives using the formal definition in PreCalc. This affords me time to get to focus on the theory and not worry too much about the computations.

I derived the limit definition of the derivative for them today, and several ooohed and awwwwed as they were able to conceptualize why the formula is what is it. 

That’s one of my favorite things about teaching calc: I get to help students make sense of why they’ve been building all these skills.

LCR and Ghost Blitz

The first two hours of the day (calc) seemed hectic today. Nothing bad; I just felt rushed.  

The next two hours are my Intermediate Algebra classes. I had planned to do a make up day; Friday Fun for the kids who were all caught up. Friday Funs are always a gamble. The kids usually enjoy them, but they can sure take it out of me. Between the explaining of the rules and the classroom management issues that can ensue…I just wasn’t sure if we should tackle our first Friday Fun after all. 

But, despite my better judgment, we went for it. 

I taught them two games: LCR (a probability game) and Ghost Blitz (a game of logic and speed). 

Omg. It was so fun. 

They honestly did so well. They played with people they normally wouldn’t sit by; they were inclusive; they laughed. A lot. And loud. 

During LCR, one kid said, “How they be gettin all those dots?! It’s like one in six chances!”

“Are you sure about that?” I asked. “How many dots on one die?”

He picked one up and examined it.  “Awwwhhh! Man! There be THREE dots on one? 50/50 chance. Now that makes more sense.”

Ahhh! I love when they use math all on their own. 

And Ghost Blitz was just as much of a success. I’ve never dared explain it to a whole class at once, but I bit the bullet and attempted it today. And they loved it and understood it and had a good time just being kids. 

Which is sometimes what they need more than anything. 


My friend (English teacher) and I are attempting to teach a virtual, pass/fail, half-credit course during lunch during first quarter for PSAT prep and accountability. I say attempt because I’ve never taught a virtual or pass/fail or half-credit or lunch course ever. Let alone all those things combined. 

Last week I was pretty frustrated with how it was going. I was frustrated with myself for not being able to foresee all the challenges we would face. I was frustrated with the kids for not prioritizing their practice to the extent I feel they should. I was down about it, honestly. I had really high hopes for this course, and I just felt them crashing down on me. 

And so we decided to switch things up. We gave the kids a very concrete task to finish for this week’s check-in (as opposed to minutes worked). And it went so, so, SO much better. We don’t have the participation that was initially indicated, but you know, juggling all high school has to offer junior year is actually really very difficult, and I applaud the kids who have stuck with it/us. 

The kids are learning math, English, and study skills; I am learning patience for myself; and we’re getting better together. 


I got these two lovely notes of affirmation from students I had in calculus last year. They were needed. 

And I realize that these notes are more prone to come from the high-achieving kids. If I taught Intermediate all day long, I would get few of these, if any. 

Yet, there are plenty of teachers who don’t get these words of encouragement nearly as often as they should, simply because of the population they teach. 

If that’s you, know that your work is not going unseen. Read these words from these kids and know that teachers like you make a difference…


Our IT specialist worked on the laptops in my room yesterday after school. To no avail. Truth be told, I was somewhat thankful. My frustrations with these machines were validated. 

In she comes third hour. “Mrs. Peterson? I have a new laptop cart for you. Windows 10 on every one of them. Can I just switch it out?”

I looked at my co-teacher. 

My co-teacher responded for me: “You’re going to make her cry of happiness.”

I’m so excited for my PSAT and calc kids to be less frustrated with the technology and more focused on the real stuff. 


I tested in both subjects today. So many tests to grade. BUT all were graded by the time school was out! Special thanks goes to my co-teacher, sixth hour plan, and the best $7/year I spend (aka a ZipGrade subscription). 


I met with five more calc kids today. While I will enjoy gaining back an hour of my day when these intros are over, I will seriously miss getting one-on-one time with my students. The intros have been a total game-changer. I wish I would have implemented them sooner.

All three of my afternoon intros went way over the target ten mintutes. The kids were just super interesting and were willing to talk to me, which I count a gift in and of itself. I am continually humbled by how thankful they are just for a little time. Time just for them.  Time with no distractions. Time where we can focus on getting to know one another. 

It’s so simple–being a good teacher/parent/friend/fill-in-the-blank. And yet not necessarily easy. Not with all the directions we are pulled in every day. 

All they really want is our time. 

And isn’t that all we really want, too…

I like to ask the kids about their past math experience and feelings about math in general. One girl said last year was the first year she felt like she really understood math. “And this year, with you, I feel like a genius!”

Because you are, darling. 

“Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid.”

-wrongly attributed to Einstein, but a great quote nonetheless