Math Goes to the Movies!


At my school, the week back after winter break is known as “winterm”. Winterm is a time where teachers can explore their passions by creating and teaching any class they like. Some teachers plan trips for students to go on as well. There are two classes each day. The morning session is from eight til eleven and the afternoon session goes from noon to thurl.jpgree. Teachers also have the option of teaching an all day class. I decided to teach an afternoon class called Math goes to the Movies!

Let me start off by saying that 3 hours is a LONG class to plan for. That’s 15 hours worth of content!! Students don’t receive a grade for their winterm class either so besides intrinsic motivation to learn something new, students have no motivation to be engaged. This class also consisted of students will all different levels of math, so it wScreen Shot 2016-01-07 at 10.17.05 AMas tricky finding material that all students could do.

My original plan for the class was to have students work through Pixar in the Box on Khan Academy the entire time. Pixar in a box is really cool because it explores how animated movies are made using math. However, after the first day I realized how long (and kinda boring) three hours at a computer is!


Day two I decided to change it up a bit. I started class by showing clips from tv shows and movies that mentioned math. I showed a clip from the show The Office where Oscar is explaining what a surplus is to Michael. For my baseball fans, I showed a clip from Moneyball and briefly discussed the use of statistics in baseball. Next I showed a clip from Like Mike. This clip looked at different types of triangles in geometry. Lastly I put on the clip from the Wizard of Oz where the Scarecrow incorrectly states the Pythagorean theorem. After we watched the clip by students worked through a worksheet from Mathbits (scroll down the site page for the worksheet)  that deals with triangle inequalities, the Pythagorean theorem and indirect algebraic proof proving the scarecrows theorem to be false.

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Next I had students choose any activity from Pixar in Box to work on with a partner. I found that letting them work with a partner added more discussion about the activity. The last activity of the class was to watch the TV-show Numb3rs.  If you haven’t seen Numb3rs I highly recommend it. It’s a show all about using math to investigate and solve crimes.

Day 3 started out with exploring the New Starwars movie. We did a Desmos Activity that had students make box office predictions for Stars Wars VII: The Force Awakens, based on the first six days of release.IMG_6852

We also did a Race to the Death Star with a prize of candy for 1st 2nd and 3rd place. It’s pretty simple math, but it was a fun way to incorporate math into Starwars.

Next we did Dan Meyer‘s Activity involving the movie the Italian Job. This was a really fun activity dealing with the common misconception of the conversion of feet and inches (ex) that 3 ft and 4 inches is 3.4 feet). I highly recommend checking it out.

Students then worked on another Pixar in the Box and then we watched another episode on Numb3rs (they are really getting into it now!! 🙂 )

On Day 4 had students research a movie/tv-show that included a math topic with a partner. They had to research the following:

  • Why is the topic included in the show?
  • Thorough explanation of the math topic, going beyond the given information in the scene.
  • Any historical background on the topic.
  • What the topic is used for?

At the end of class, they had to give a brief presentation of their findings to the class. I originally got this idea from a pre-calculus project I stumbled upon.

Day 5: We watched A Beautiful Mind. What an awesome movie!  🙂





MTBoS Blogging Intiative



I, Julia Finneyfrock, resolve to blog in 2016 in order to open my classroom up and share my thoughts with other teachers. I hope to accomplish this goal by participating in the January Blogging Initiative hosted by Explore MTBoS.

You, too, could join in on this exciting adventure. All you have to do is dust off your blog and get ready for the first prompt to arrive January 10th!

Life Size Function Machine!!!!

Functions are always fun to teach in Algebra 1. I’ve seen different function machines used to explain functions and the idea that every input has exactly one output. I LOVED Sarah Hagan’s unit on functions. I used a lot of her worksheets when I taught Math 1 last year. I love that she had an actual function machine that changed the inputs into outputs.  I wanted to create something that was interactive for my very energetic students to help them understand functions. I decided that I wanted to create a life-size function machine for my students to go through. However, we didn’t use the function machine until day 2 of functions!

Day 1 (50 min) 

I created a Peardeck presentation to introduce relations and functions. I started by using the Fryer Model to define a relation. I actually took a picture of my Fryer Model and discussed it, instead of having my students fill it out. On Peardeck, students receive takeaways from the lecture, so my students have my model in their google drive. After discussing relations, I asked my students to give me examples of a relations  using ordered pairs. We then did the same thing for defining a function. Students then gave me examples through peardeck of functions and explained the difference between a function and a relation. We practiced function mapping using x and y coordinates and also inputs and outputs.

Next, we moved into our discussion of domain and range.  I used Sarah’s mnemonic device  DIXROY with my students. DIX: Domain, Inputs, X-Coordinates. ROY: Range, Outputs, Y-Coordinates.  My students found that DIXROY was funny to say, so whenever I would say it they’d all laugh  We will see how well it well help them remember everything though!!

Day 2 (95 min) 

I started day two out with vertical whiteboarding. I have 11 students in my algebra 1 class, and they each got in groups of two or three and stood by the white board. Each group only had one marker. On the board I had a list of ordered pairs. My students had to identify the domain and range of the ordered pairs and state if it were a function or not. Because each group only had one marker, the group had to work together to come up with an answer. It seemed as though most of my students retained the information from the class before.


Next I introduced function notation. I started by giving my students a function, but writing it as y= 3x +2. Still on their whiteboards, I had students solve for y if x= 2, x= 5, x= 10 ect. I then introduced function notation… first with an example using x and then we used symbols (hearts, smiley faces, apples). After showing a few examples, students worked through the functions using symbols on the whiteboards. It wasn’t until after the symbols that we practiced function notation with numbers.

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My students are extremely rambunctious and sometimes it’s hard to get them to focus. Vertical white boarding keeps them focused and constantly working. I can also see everyone’s work from the middle of the room which is AMAZING. . Thanks for the great idea Anna!!

Now it was finally time to bring out the FUNCTION MACHINE!!!!!! 


I made my function machine out of a refridgerater box from Lowes and then decorated it! On the top of the machine I had a “function calculator”. I really wanted my students to understand that there is exactly one output for everyone input.  Taped inside the box were blank square green cards and markers. These green cards were the output cards.  I had students break out into their same groups and each group recieved a function. Each group had a chance going through the function machine with their function. When they were going into the machine I gave them a blue “input card” with a number on it. Insde the machine they had to figure out the output and write it on the green card. They left their input card inside the box and brought their output card out with them. I had the other students try and guess what the output would be.

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After every group went through the machine, I gave each group a secret function. I told them that only their group memebers were allowed to see the function. Each group had to come up with inputs and outputs for their functions. They then took turns going through the function machine with inputs and coming out with their outputs. We kept a table of the inputs and outputs on the board. The rest of the class then had to guess the pattern to figure out the function.

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This was a great activity. My students were engaged the entire time and really started to understand functions. Next time, I plan to make the functions into a type of necklace that each student can wear so they feel like they are the actual function. I may also create a worksheet that students can fill in during the activity.

The next day was spent figuring out patterns and function rules using an online function machine. This site was great. Because my students already played around with the life sizse machine the day before, they understood this machine and looking for patterns right away. After working the machine for about 20 minutes, we had a great discussion about finding the function rules.

Overall, this unit has gone pretty well. The life-size function machine was a lot of fun!!! I really liked that my students went in with an input and then had to figure output while inside the machine. Let me know if you have any questions!!! More pictures of the function machine are below!!

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Using Instagram in the classroom #mathcrushmonday

I’m always trying to find new ways to connect with my students and encourage them in and out of the classroom. At the beginning of this year I decided to make a class instagram. At first I was a little unsure of the idea, but I knew that Instagram was this generations most used social media. Although they were a little mad that I wouldn’t follow them back my students loved that I had an instagram just for them! I use my Instagram to post pictures of students working together in class, fun activities, motivational memes, and their class and homework! I also let my students direct message me pictures of their homework if they have questions. This way I am able to see their work, and I get a notification on my phone right when they send it.

Today I decided to use Instagram another way. I want my students to be exposed to more than just the curriculum, so I decided to start #mathcrushmonday. When students walk in the door on Mondays my Instagram is up ready on the SmartBoard with a mathematician as my latest photo. Today my students saw Euclid on the board. For the first few minutes of class students looked up facts about Euclid and posted them in the comment section of the picture. I was constantly refreshing my Instagram page so the whole class could see as facts came through.

I think that this activity went really well. It’s a great relaxed way to start class on Monday, and students got to explore mathematicians they may have never heard of before. Today I chose Euclid because I teach three-sections of Geometry. I thought that it was important for my students to know where geometry came from.  Between each of my sections I deleted the facts from the class before so every section had the same experience.

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Math Office :)

So this year instead of having my own classroom I have all my things in my MATH OFFICE! The math department decided to put all of our desks in one room and then rotate classrooms to teach. I was slightly skeptical at first… not having my own room and moving so much could be stressful, but I actually LOVE IT! Our math office is huge and our desks have plenty of space. It also is great for collaboration. My desk is located in an ideal location. I have across from my mentor and next to the teacher who is also teaching geometry. I am constantly surrounded my resources. The setting also promotes productivity. It is also nice because students don’t come in the math office to “hang out”. They will come in to ask questions and that’s about it. Although I love my students it is nice to have a place that is separate. So far the math office is definitely a success!


New job, new city, new life. First day of school

The past few months I graduated college, moved to Charlotte, and started my first real job… Hectic right?! So far I love the city and LOVE my job.   I am teaching Geometry and Algebra 1 (mostly freshman) at the Cannon School. I am teaching 4 sections and have 58 students.

The first day of school was super exciting and overwhelming. We had shorter classes and lots to get through. Before handing out the syllabus I decided to do a Kahoot with my students. It worked great!!! The Kahoot covered the main points of the syllabus and kept the students engaged the entire time. It was a great way to quickly review the syllabus, and get students talking to me and each other.

Over all successful first day 🙂