Children's Books for Algebra 2 Part 2

Children's books are a great way to get students interested in your content. Picking the right book is more difficult for the topic area. Here are three more children's books perfect for Algebra 2 class.

We are Growing by Laurie Keller

This book shows grass growing, yes literally. A theme the book has is that being unique is okay and that everyone is different.

A great math topic for using this book would be introducing unit rates or graphing linear functions. You could have some real grass growing in different stages per day and ask them if grass growing is linear or not? It would be a good exploratory lesson on linear functions.

You can further go into graphing and think about what non-linear grass would look like? How long would it take to cut the grass?

Giraffes Can't Dance by Giles Andreae

The giraffe believes he can't dance, but with words of encouragement he learns that he can dance in his own way.

In the book there are a bunch of different animals dancing. It would be a perfect time to look into transformations, you can look at it in a variety of different ways from linear transformations to parabolic transformations.

It will be good for students to look for similarities and differences. With the book you can even include more social learning skills learning about kindness and encouraging others.

Dragons Love Tacos by Adam Rubin

Dragons love tacos. They love chicken tacos, beef tacos, great big tacos, and teeny tiny tacos. So if you want to lure a bunch of dragons to your party, you should definitely serve tacos. Buckets and buckets of tacos. Unfortunately, where there are tacos, there is also salsa. And if a dragon accidentally eats spicy salsa . . . oh, boy. You're in red-hot trouble.

In the classroom this book would be a great introduction to probability. You could talk about what goes in a taco. What ingredients it would take, alternatives, how many different types of tacos are there?

My Favorite: Marshmallow Catapult

When graphing parabolas I had lots of students ask when are we going to use this. One way I wanted to answer the question was by getting their hands dirty and make things. As of lately I have been big into the maker push, where students learn best by building and making things.

Next year I will teach and introduce the catapult at the same time, but this year I used it as more of an activity in between graphing parabolas and solving parabolas. 

To start we watched this video to get their interested sparked: 

Students received 10 popsicle sticks, one spoon, and 7 rubber bands. Their challenge was to create a catapult that will launch a marshmallow more times than any other group. Once students have created their catapult they will test and launch a marshmallow.

Students will take a burst photo and combine these photos on an app called SplitPic. On SplitPic you can have multiple photos overlapped onto one image. Students will put this in Desmos and find the equation of the parabola.

Students will use this picture in a Seesaw activity.  They had to describe the graph of the parabola and what it meant, how using the graph would help them, and do you need to change anything?

Here were some example blog posts:

The next day I gave students 10 minutes to practice, then we put their catapults to the challenge of getting as many shots into a paper bag as possible.  Here were some of the photos of our competition.

Polynomial Video Games Using Floors

As we were progressing through our polynomial unit in Algebra 2 I thought looking back that the focus was on factoring polynomials and not too much on graphing polynomials. I wanted them graphing polynomials and learning about polynomials without traditionally learning about polynomials.

First, I had students go the graphing calculator on had them enter the expression
a x^3 + b x^2 + c x + d = 0

I had them enter sliders and each one around. 

Students had to determine what a, b, c, and d did.

Then they had to find three graphs that interested them and make a video game floor based on those three graphs.  Students had to create 3 levels of a video game based on the three polynomials they graphed. By the end of the weekend they needed a playable working video game and will be peer assessed based on their video game.

Here are some of the students working on their levels.

Teacher Christmas List

Here is a list of the top 10 things to get your teacher friends or loved ones. These are relatively new products that would be great in any teachers classroom. If you are a teacher leave a comment down below for something you would want for your classroom. Or if you are not a teacher leave a comment down below a different gift idea. I know you can find these products anywhere, I am listing all of these products from they have been my go-to shopping a month out from the holidays and normally shift to Amazon when closer to the holidays.  All of the links go directly to the products.

1. Stikbot Studio Pro 

Stikbot is the social-sharing easy to post figurine! It's stylish design allows for easy posing for photographs and stop-animation filming! Includes a free app for iPhone and Android which makes it super fast and simple to shoot stop animation videos of Stikbot and quickly share to social media sites! Includes tripod to quickly and securely set up your smartphone for filming stikbot!

It is currently $51.94 on 

This would be great idea in any high school classroom where lots of students have their own devices. Teachers could even use their device in middle or elementary school. It would be a different way for students to show what they know using stop animation. 

2. Miracle Cube Timer

The Miracle Cube Timer is the world's simplest, yet most versatile timer: No more buttons, no more switches, no more dials, the Miracle Cube allows you to manage your time with simplicity and in style. The four sides of the cube simply state the minutes that you would like to start timing. Merely turn it on the side needed and it will immediately start timing. When the time is up, a loud, unmistakable alarm will ring. Simply turn it back to its upright position to silence it. Its that easy!

It is currently $19.33 on

Timers are being used more and more in classrooms, especially non-traditional type classrooms where students are doing activities and projects and have short but timely deadlines. Great for any classroom.

3. Bluetooth Keyboards

Bluetooth keyboards are the perfect companion for your iPad and other Bluetooth enabled devices. This ultra-slim and stylish keyboard includes the new wireless technology that offers lower battery consumption, higher security encryption and 8x faster transmission speed than Bluetooth 2.0, with the same great wireless distance of 30 feet. 

It is currently $26.19 on

Teachers that are 1-1 with iPads or students can BYOD can easily connect and type using the keyboard. 

4. Universal Mini Cell Phone Stand

Small stand for your phone that allows you to easily see your screen without having to have it in your hands the whole time.  A different but similar product is called Mobile Handz works the same.

It is currently $1.69 on

At the middle and high school grades it is impossible to to have students not look at their phones, using this it can be out on their desk and can easily use it (when it is appropriate). In my classroom I like to see students use their phones respectfully and knowing what is appropriate with their phones and when.

5. Cardboard VR Glasses

  • Experience a truly stunning, engrossing VR experience with cinematic HD visuals from your smartphone's screen
  • Compatible with Android 4.2.2 OS or newer and iOS 8.0 or newer with screen no larger than 5.1"
  • Comes with a headband which can let you use with bare hands.

It is currently $2.99 on

I have a set of VR glasses in my classroom and they are great ways to spark student curiosity. I can introduce different topics and work in a wide range different phones. 

6. Bondic Plastic Welder

Bondic is the world's first liquid plastic welding tool! It's not a glue, so don't use it as one! It's the ONLY product that works where glue fails! It's a liquid plastic that never dries until you want it to! Simply squeeze out the desired amount and use the UV LED Light to cure it in 4 seconds and it's done, the world's fastest drying bond! You'll be amazed how fast it works!

It is currently $39.95 on

I have personally never used it, but my wife the media specialist says that everyone should have one in their classroom. Things break all the time, now you can fix them. When the side of the projector remote breaks you can now quickly fix it.

7. Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty

Crazy Aaron's Thinking Putty Heat Sensitive Hyper-color, Twilight, 3.2 oz Color: Hyper-color Twilight. Just as an evening sky melts into the dark of night, Twilight Thinking Putty's deep purple color disappears with a touch of heat to reveal a fluorescent blue complexion.

It is currently $10.99 on

If your students have never used this thinking putty they are in for a treat. I use this silly putty in my classroom because students love the color and different effects that this brand has. Students can easily manipulate it and it isn't messy. 

8. Post-it Big Pad

Hold meetings and presentations with the 3M Post-it Big Pads. They stick to nearly any surface and remove without damage or residue left behind. The bright-colored Post-it sheets grab attention to showcase your display in style, and the rigid backing is excellent for portability and capturing ideas wherever you go. This package includes 30 self-adhesive sheets that stick and stay on smooth vertical surfaces. The adhesive allows you to remove and re-apply them without damaging the surface. These durable and versatile 3M pads are suitable for school use and professional environments. 

It is currently $8.41 on

I love using big post-it notes in class. It helps foster student learning and students can collaborate. The number one reason I love big post it notes is that it helps get student work on the walls. I love when student work is up around classrooms using this is the best way.

9. Bluetooth Tracking Devices

Keep track of your important items with the Tzumi Tag It Discrete Bluetooth Tracking Device. This piece easily attaches to almost anything. The Bluetooth tracking tag, black, helps you to locate missing items. Just download the app and when you need to find something, press the button to see on a map where the item was last located and the distance between you and the tracker.

It is currently $7.16 on

I had a Tile that did the same thing, but at $25 a pop it was expensive to get it replaced every year. With this tracking device you can find your keys, bag, or maybe a missing student assignment.

10. Arctic Trail Tumbler

Enjoy your favorite beverage on the go with this Ozark Trail 20-Oz, Double-Wall, Vacuum-Sealed Tumbler. It is ideal for a range of activities including hiking, camping, sporting events and commuting to or use at work. The durable high-grade, double-walled, stainless steel construction ensures that it can hold up to almost any task.

It is currently $7.74 on

I have a Yeti and I love it, but I keep an Arctic Tumbler at school. Yeti performs a little better especially when outside temperatures differ from whats inside the cup. But at school it keeps ice just as long as my Yeti.

Centers of Triangles: New Amusement Park

A developer plans to build an amusement park but wants to locate it within easy access of the three largest towns. The developer has to decide on the best location and is working with an construction company to minimize costs wherever possible. No matter where the amusement park is located, roads will have to be built for access directly to the towns or to the existing highways.

I gave students the option of choosing their own map or using a pre-selected map. I chose two other towns around Schuyler to make it more meaningful.

Most students chose Columbus and David City for their other points.

In the task students will determine the location for an amusement park by finding the centers of a triangle. The centers will be new to the students but not the constructions. Make sure students remember the significance of points on the perpendicular bisector of a segment (equidistant from the endpoints of the segment) and the points on an angle bisector (equidistant from the sides of the angle). As students work through the tasks and present their solutions to the class make sure they emphasize the name of the center found, how it was found, and its significance. 

 Students did an excellent job of finding the altitudes, perpendicular bisectors, medians, and angle bisectors. This was a great activity to get students to see the interest and real-world applications of central tendency of triangles.

Find more here: Centers of Triangles Lesson

Creating Mathematical Art (PBL Unit #1)

Schuyler Central High School has started a Project-based Learning Class for students who are struggling in general education classes.

Students had to find surface area and volume of all the shapes on their own, using computers and equations to find all of the measurements.

Students then once completed had to make a work of art based on the measurements they found. This is an example of one.

I took some pictures along the way here they are.

Since the beginning of the year I have been slowly gaining students, I am now up to 5 students. Since they have been slowly trickling in this has been an excellent project to get them started.

This project for most of the students has been a 2-3 week project.

Gene Davis Inspired Math/Art Project

One of my favorite projects we do is at the end of the first quarter. After we have gone through perpendicular, intersecting, and parallel lines I have an art project that students do. Students have to split up their piece of card stock into 4 equal shapes with a ruler on the front and on the back split the two on the front right down the middle.

I never tell students what the lines are for on the back, but they are for postcards for their upcoming parent teacher conferences. I hang up one set in the classroom and send the others home over time.

When I have them split up the front of the card stock I have them put different types of lines in each rectangle. One for perpendicular lines, intersecting, and parallel lines.

The last rectangle is for Gene Davis.

We talk about Gene Davis the artist and what he did and his accomplishments. I show them different artworks and ask them about what he did and why it is so amazing.

Some of the students think that what he does isn't art and then we look at his artwork on scale about how big each painting is and how time consuming it is for each line.

So after the artist study we finished drawing and filling in each rectangle.

Some of the different artworks are down below:


At the end this is what our Gene Davis Inspired Wall looked like. Students got to take home another one of their creations to put on the fridge and remind them that parent-teacher conferences were coming up and I was looking forward to meeting them.

Being Engaging Isn't Everything

A couple of months ago my wife and I went with her family to go see "The Piano Man" himself in concert on Wrigley Field. As a baseball fan myself and less of a Billy Joel fan I went to see Wrigley Field. As we were standing listening to him play hit after hit the person in front of me sat down and got out his phone. (Hard to see in the picture)

This sparked something inside of myself, if Billy Joel can't get 100% engagement why am I trying so hard to get 100% engagement in my students?

I know you are asking yourself Billy Joel is playing for tens of thousands of people and he is trying to engage 25 at a time. (Different circumstances)  It's true, but Billy is an entertainer, he makes his living playing music and entertaining people.

One thing I will always have over Billy Joel is that he can't form relationships with everyone in that crowd. With 25 students for 49 minutes a day it can be difficult, but not impossible to form relationships with everyone. Some are easier, some are more difficult, but that is how I get 100% engagement. Get students to buy-in to me.

I didn't buy into Billy, but I bought in to the experience that I now share with my wife. I definitely bought in to Wrigley Field.  Just like the guy in the picture maybe didn't buy in today.

I might not have buy-in each day from every student, but I play everyday, not just once and leave.

My take-away from this experience is that being engaging isn't everything, forming relationships is.

Finding Mr. President (Revised)

A while back I did this activity:

Students had to find President Obama and his missing hot air balloon. Students had to write and graph inequalities. I did this for Algebra last year and thought it would be a great activity for Algebra 2 at the beginning of the year.

I use to cut out three 3 clues, but this year I changed it up a bit. I still gave students the direction sheet. I did change the other 3 clues to make them look more official.

I blacked out some of the information on the original document and added some of the text of the original clue to the bottom. Plus the top secret on the top looks very cool.

Next was an official letter.

Last was suppose to be a order fill out form from the FBI, I altered the text in the middle to make it a phone transcript.