Graphing Polynomials Using Vases 📈🏺

Polynomials is one of the hardest sections to teach, over the past four years I have acquired different handouts, activities, lessons, and tasks for Algebra 2 students and almost no material for the section on polynomials. Adding, subtracting, multiplying, and dividing polynomials always seemed like an algebraic process and not so much visual or hands on.

Now I have one activity!!! Graphing polynomials was always tricky, but teaching quadratics before made it seem like a piece of cake for them. One of my favorites is graphing polynomials using vases, yes vases.

So to preface this I with I spent a week searching all the Goodwills in the Omaha metro area for different vases and this is basically what I found when you take all of the repeats out.

I did replace the big one in the middle and the one on the far right, well you can tell why.

The way I set this up is I provided each group a vis-a-vis marker, ruler, set of measuring cups, and a vase. Students were given the following directions:

1. they needed to mark off every inch on the outside of the glass 
2. make a table for how many mL in every inch.
3. Put the table into Desmos
4. Find the line of best fit on Desmos (I gave them the different equations)
5. Look at the R squared value to find which one is best.
6. Present your vase to the class the following day.

I had students present from their iPads, but having them create a poster would have been better so they could compare and contrast the vase with the graph to identify key attributes.

What is even better the day before the students presented they practiced with a Desmos activity. At the end of the activity students had to create their own vase and graph.

Below are some photos of my students working on their vase.

Transversal Tag 🏃

One of my favorite geometry activities I did this year was Transversal Tag. I set up the gym so it had the pattern of a transversal, like the picture below:

Students were randomly assigned a number 1-8 and then a tagger was randomly chosen. I am sure this game would have been much better to play with 3-4 taggers and play freeze tag, but we played that if you were tagged you became a tagger as well. Also if you went to the wrong area you could be tagged and become a tagger as well.

The taggers had to decide which angle congruency to say to get the most amount of people. For example, a favorite to choose was alternate exterior angles, because half of them had to run to the other side of the gym. The taggers also had to be smart about choosing ones where the runner will be going. 

Especially closer to the end of the game the taggers had to come together to talk about which one would move the most amount of people and get a specific person out.

Students used the following:
Alternate Exterior
Alternate Interior
Consecutive Interior
Linear Pair

It was a quick fun game that would have lasted longer if it was freeze tag, but the students had fun, used vocabulary, and had fun running around the gym for 20 minutes instead of being in class.

Head's Up: Review Game 🗣️

Head's Up! is a game of charades where the person puts their iPad or iPhone on their head and the audience performs and nods down for correct and backwards for pass. For students this was one of the best review games we used for vocabulary for geometry.

Students stood up in front of half the class and used my phone to show the students. This was excellent for students coming up with moving actions for such words as vertical angles and supplementary angles. Students were better able to self define vocabulary words better than previous, plus students had more fun reviewing.

It costs .99$ for the app and an additional .99$ to make your own cards. Well worth the money.

Coding Inequalities 💻

Coding in the classroom has always been an interest to me, Hour of Code is a great resource for any teacher especially those just starting out. For the past two years we have been doing Hour of Code during the Hour of Code week and that has been the most coding we do all year. What I wanted in my classroom was more coding, because I think coding could be the future for most of my students. I also believe that coding can be a gateway to other mathematical principles that are taught in the classroom such as: growth mindset, support productive struggle, and promote reasoning and problem solving.

So we have started in the math classroom is using one day a unit to work on these skills by implementing a way for students to apply their mathematical knowledge and coding. Students are given a task write code to make a calculator to solve an inequality. Students had to write code in to write their inequality.

We were going to use Swift by my Seniors do not have the iPads supported to do it, so we decided for everyone to use Trinket. Some students really loved the problem solving aspect of coding, using the blocks to get the numbers to do what they want them to do. Other students were not happy about trial and error process to finding the answer.

I have some other upcoming units to try this out with like Pythagorean Theorem.

How I Teach Direct Variation

I use to teach direct variation by having students take notes, but the past few years I have been using Jon Orr's Water Bottle Flip.

There is an excellent Desmos activity that goes along with it. This year I copied and edited my first Desmos activity which was this one.

I added two slides:

I wanted to emphasize direct variation and ask them deep meanings of graphs. One of the questions I asked was looking at the graph on the bottom, what inferences can you draw?

On September 8, there was the NATM (Nebraska Association of Teachers of Mathematics) Conference. During Lenny VerMass presentation, Smoke and you Croak or Huffing and Puffing to Understand Slope, he had a very interesting task. 

Students had to measure how much air filled their lungs. So we exhaled into a balloon and measured (3) breaths and the circumference of the balloon. Then on a big sheet of paper we had to plot all of our data points for the following graphs and interesting things happened. Try it with your students.

Student Created Kahoot

Kahoot is the first tool that seems universally accepted tech tool in every classroom. I can see why, its fun to play against others. I remember when I was growing up we played a game in middle school called hands down, if you were the first person on the bottom and had the correct answer you scored points, it was my favorite.

But, Kahoot has been placed in a DOK 1 or DOK 2 depth of knowledge when students are playing. It is hard to find Kahoots where students are not only just remembering or applying theorems but creating and evaluating. One of the things I wanted my students to know is how teachers choose Kahoots and for them to not only review but practice and evaluate others Kahoots.

Paper Kahoots

We started in the classroom with paper Kahoots as a lesson. We talked about how long it would take to do the problem, where there answers that were misleading, and what did the student know if they got the question wrong. Here are some examples students made.

You can find a PDF version here:


For students to create their own Kahoots I had to change my username and password, since Google Sign-in wasn't cooperating. Some students took off and were self sufficient other students struggled coming up with questions, because of the content. I had to ask them how to be a teacher and what kind of questions I would ask.

Created Kahoots

Most students took the route of pure vocabulary and no mathematical questions, but I did not specify what type of questions, now I know.

Here were some example questions they came up with:

Artist Sol LeWitt and Points, Lines, Angles

Sol LeWitt was an artist born in Hartford, Connecticut in 1928 he was most known for his conceptual art, however in this overview we are going to focus on his Instructables. Instructables are wall art where the artist has to follow a particular set of instructions. Sol LeWitt came up with a large number of different instructions, some he never did himself.

For example Wall Drawing #65 in colored pencil is of follows:
Lines are not short, not straight, crossing and touching, drawn at random using four colors, uniformly dispersed with maximum density, covering the entire surface of the wall.

This is what Sol LeWitt came up with:

This is bad example, because it does not take in the sheer size of the piece. Since it is a wall piece it is so large that you could not fully see it from one spot.

So how does this relate to math?

Sol LeWitt has hundreds of these instructions were he takes shapes such as squares, circles, and triangles. He also loves lines, some straight some not, and vertical and perpendicular angles. So to introduce and apply the first section of geometry points, lines, and planes. We attempted our own Sol LeWitt.

Our instructions were: On a wall surface, any continuous stretch of wall, using a hard pencil, place fifty points at random. The points should be evenly distributed over the area of the wall. All of the points should be connected by straight lines.

I assigned all students a letter and then had them connect to each other, so we only really had 26 points, but our artwork was just as amazing.

It did take a little bit more time than I was planning, but the picture at the top took 8 days to make.

We talked about lines and line segments and this brought up a good conversation about how we name lines. I would ask a student which one is the longest line, but would not let them get out of their seat. So it was easier for the student to name the line segment than point.

I love using art in the classroom and Sol LeWitt's Instructables are an easy way to get art in the geometry classroom.

Below is a PDF with some Instructions to do you own.

Classifying Rational & Irrational

At the beginning of the year one of the first things we do in Algebra 2 is go over types of numbers. We classify natural, whole, integers, rational, and irrational numbers. The next day we do a group formative assessment where in a group they take turns organizing different numbers into rational/irrational numbers. Then I give each of the groups a get a sheet where they have to organize a list of numbers into rational/irrational and explain why.

Students did an excellent job discussing the numbers and classifying them.

The Math Assessment Project has other amazing resources like this one at their website.

Temperature Drop Pre-Eclipse

I wanted to start the day with a Notice/Wonder introduction. So I asked students to discuss what they think would happen during the eclipse. Students shared somethings they picked up in other classes about nocturnal animals becoming away, lightning bugs might show up, and that we might be able to see stars.

My next question focused particularlly on the temperature and asked what did they think the temperature would do during the eclipse? Students discussed in groups some of my favorites:

"How close would it be to a really cloudy day?"

"Would the temperature drop more than ten degrees?"

"Would the street lights come on outside of school?"

I gave them a piece of graph paper and asked them to put temperature on the y-axis and time on the x-axis. I told them they could use their iPads and any resources they needed to answer the question and discuss in their groups. They had ten minutes to come up with a graph and post it on the wall.

Then I showed them this graphic from the 2001 eclipse in Africa.

I asked them how it would be different, how it would be the same as the eclipse on Monday. I described the activity we were going to be doing Monday and the layout of the day.

Since some of the students had questions about the eclipse, we watched this 5 minute really well done video by Vox.

Then we went outside and tried on a pair of solar glasses to see how they fit and what the sun looks like. Some students even got their camera's on their phone to take a very blurry picture. 

Beginning of the Year: Math About Me

Every year I kick off the school year by getting to know the students in a numerical way. The overall goal of the project is for me to get to know the students, do some math that everyone can do, and have other students in the class see and hear their other classmates.

The outline of Math About Me, is that students are to make a poster of themselves and include 10 numbers that represent something about their lives on a personal level.

For example on my poster I include the number of years I have been married, how many siblings I have, etc. Then students are to make their poster colorful. I eventually hang every single one up in the classroom to show to students that their work is valuable and give them ownership of the classroom.

When they have completed the Math About Me, we sit in a big circle and go around and tell the numbers we put on our poster. This lets me see who is already proficient at speaking in front of a group, who is shy, and lets me hear their name in their voice.

I like this project, I have done it the last four years, even though it changes a little every year. I read Tracy Zager's book Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had she explains in her book that she has students write a math autiobiography, students detail their lives as mathematicians. I thought that this would be good to start our writing in math class and then in small groups read the paper and hear each other.

What do you do to start of the school year in your math class? I always hated going over the syllabus on the first day of school, seemed impersonal. Here is my last years blogpost on the beginning of the year.

iPad Apps for Number Sense

Calculator the Game (Free)

You and your calculator gang up to complete different levels. The Game where you'll manipulate numbers by adding them, subtracting them, converting them, reversing them, and stuffing them through portals. You also can change the language now for EL students. 

The best part is for students it helps build number sense and the order in which you can do the problems from front to back or the opposite way. Promotes number sense.

You can find the link here:

Factris (Free)

Factris is a game just like Tetris, but you move each of the blocks in the number of factors of that number. For example, if you got the number 8, you would be able to get the block in a 1x8, 2x4, 4x2, or 8x1. Factris is a classic risk/reward high score game. Resize the dropping rectangles according to their factors and pack them together. Factris is challenging (there is no undo) and you need to pay close attention to the size of the rectangles coming next. Improve your numeracy, packing and knowledge of factors with Factris.

The best part is that students get use to factors of numbers, especially for primes.

You can find the link here:

Shape Fix (Free)

Shape Fix is a game where you need to identify the center of the larger shape and try to estimate. This is a good number sense game where students try guess the center.

You can find the link here:

Eclipse: Math Class

Since we are not exactly in the path of totality we are in the 98% range, I have bought 50 Eclipse glasses through Rainbow Symphony. I want students to enjoy the eclipse, this is my first solar eclipse, but I am also an astronomy geek. Below is what Schuyler, Nebraska will look like at that time.

Day Before Eclipse

I will use this video as an introduction to the eclipse:

On that day we are going to be citizen scientists, we are going to be measuring the temperature change during totality. On this day we will talk about what the temperature drop will look like and what type of graph might that be for the entire day? We will take guesses and put them up on the white board. Each student will be given one of the worksheets below and ask them to fill it out and be as specific as possible.

Here is a link to this graph: Graph Worksheet

After all of the students have recorded their own answers, I will show them the air temperature in Lusaka, Zambia during the June 21 solar eclipse. Ask them how it will differ

I will ask the students how this will be different or the same from their graph, and what the change in air temperature was and how they think they measured air temperature.

We will go outside and test our Eclipse Viewers to make sure all students know how to use them.

You can find the activity here: Temperature Change during Totality

Eclipse Day
For the 2 hours before and after the eclipse we will go outside on the soccer field and measure the air temperature every couple of minutes. For the time that the eclipse is happening, I will take the readings so the students can enjoy the eclipse.

Students will have their own recording sheet, since we are doing our more frequently than the one in the worksheet. I will have to change it.

Here is the link with all of information and this worksheet above attached here: Citizen Scientist

Day After Eclipse
I will compile all of the data that the students took and import it into GlobeObserver for the Citizen Scientist project. Also I will give all of the students the raw data and ask them to extrapolate. I want students to ask questions at the beginning of class and answer them to the group at the end of class. Example questions would include: What the graph looked like? How far were we off? What was the temperature drop? Did the air temperature drop faster or increase faster?

I want to make August 21st a learning experience, but also a chance to see something they may never see again. Some students might not see another eclipse until April 8, 2024. What are other math teachers doing during or for the eclipse?

The eclipse lesson was amazing. The citizen scientist record sheet was a great way to engage students in learning that day while collecting data. The best part of the record sheet was the amount of sun blocked out by the moon, students had to estimate the amount of sun blocked out by estimating.


Our final data they collected and then evaluated the next day was the following: 

We went back into class and recorded what do you notice? What do you wonder?

Orthographic Projects with Blueprints

Blueprints is a board game where you try to score the most amount of points by constructing a building out of dice, first person to win 3 games wins. That was the short version.

There are lots of different ways to incorporate this game into any math classroom. First is the way you score points, it would be a great way to review order of operations.

Basically there are four color dice, when you use them they have different point values. The orange ones increase by two by the
number that touches that specific orange one. Green ones increase by the specific number of green ones you have. Black ones increase by a specific number according to its height. Lastly, clear ones are the top number on the dice that is rolled. When you have a variety of different dice, you get a number that needs to be added in a complex way.

The next is one that I use in my classroom. I bought 4 copies on CamelCamelCamel for about 18.00$ a piece. Students were placed in groups of 4, students were taught how to play the game with a mentor game. In the game you get extra points for completing a specific build. I added extra points if they could draw an orthographic project of their build from the top, side, and front.  On the right is one of mine mid-board game night with the wife.  The cards have a unique view like most of the worksheets when searching orthographic projection, but this makes a good review game. 

Geometry Project Runway

One of my favorites lesson this year was Project Runway. When I think of teaching and learning geometry I think of the most boring lessons, some of the theorems can be hands-on, but to me patty paper is not hands on. It's visual, not interactive or engaging.

We were finishing the very first lesson in circles. Students just learned about chords, radius, tangents, centers, and secants. We reviewed to start the lesson what each vocabulary word was and what it meant.

I put students in groups, you can have them choose their own groups, this class couldn't handle that though. Plus, I was still in my visibly random groups phase (#VRG).

I played the introduction to Project Runway on YouTube.

I told the students you are given 20 minutes to put together a piece of clothing for a fashion show on Project Runway. You will need to include different vocabulary words from our circles unit as your creation makes its way down the runway. You need to include: secant, tangent, chord, radius.

The second part was that they needed to select a model from their group to model down the runway. The two other designers will point out each of the properties of a circle. At the end they needed upload a picture of model on Seesaw and label each of the parts.

 All of the students finished in the 20 minutes. They worked extremely hard the entire time and even though they had trouble finding a path to go down and work as a group, it was a learning experience for everyone.

Here are some of the models as they go down the runway. The students convinced me to play Beyonce softly in the background.


One of the things I need to work on this activity for next year is to give students planning time in the beginning for them to gather their thoughts. Secondly, tell students that they can not write on their project runway clothing.