Trying to find math inside everything else

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Theatre Pricing

So I’m seeing Aladdin tonight on Broadway (very exciting!) and as I wait for the show to start I thought I’d blog. Our tickets were not very expensive and, as such, we are way up in the balcony. I recently purchased tickets at a different show and noticed certain patterns in the pricing structure. For example, the center front of the mezzanine is the same price as the side of the orchestra towards the back. The price for the center orchestra changes farther back than on the side.

All of this is not news to people, but I wonder how these prices are determined? How do you decide that two disparate sections are worth equal amounts? Certainly the angles of the show and thus what you can see are different, but maybe that can be calculated.

Even better, this is the 21st century – why have the same price for a huge section of seats when the seats are obviously not of equal value? You could come up with a formula to determine the price of seats by location, surely.


Last week our school had a Quality Review, where an outside team from the city came and reviewed documents, data, budgets, etc, as well as visited classrooms, sat in on meetings, interviewed students and parents. It’s a two-day process, and at the end of the first day, the review team saw mostly newer teachers, and then the second day saw the more experienced teachers, which included my class.

I was struck by that, falling into the “more experienced” category. I certainly didn’t last year. But by my reckoning, it’s true: last year I was in the lower half of the experience range for my school, and now I am in the upper half. (I was going to make box plots for these, but I was just guessing for some of the years, so I didn’t.) It’s strange because I’m only a 4th year teacher, and yet there it is. I’m not in the upper quartile yet – still a good number of long-timers ahead of me. But by my estimation Q3 is around 8 years for my school – I wonder if it would take me that long or if the boundary will move. (Or if I will.)

Throwback Thursday

In previous years I had my statistics unit towards the beginning of the year, thinking that it could serve as a nice foundation when we work with messy problems later in the year. It never really worked out that way.

This year, I decided to move the stats unit to the end of the year, with the intention of using it as a kind of review. Today’s lesson exemplified that. The goal of the lesson was to take a data set and find a regression function for it using the calculator. That part was easy, but the trick was to determine what kind of function it was. So I decided that, for the data sets, I’d use ones we used previously in class, such as from Stacking Cups, The Skittles Lab, World Population, and The Showdown. Back then when we did them we would do things like average the data to make a function, or try to fit a graph on the points using Desmos. Now the calculator unlocked the secrets of precise graphs! (Luckily, no one complained that I didn’t show them before.)

My warm-up was also a matching activity that was on their first exam back in October, so these two things combined caused a student to exclaim that it was Throwback Thursday.

Morning Person

Out of curiosity, how much of the work you do outside class gets done in the morning, in the afternoon after school, in the evening, at night?

Today was the first time I left school fully prepared for the next day in weeks. I try to do things in the afternoon while I’m still at school but I’m just so beat, it doesn’t happen. I’ll usually get a little done at night, but I get the bulk of my work done in the morning. I’d rather wake up an hour early and be very productive than try to slog through something in the afternoon when I’m tired (and it’ll probably take twice as long because I can’t focus). And yeah, maybe there’s a little of that old procrastinator in me, but I think I just like the mornings. Heaven knows if I didn’t being a teacher would be even harder than it is.

No Sane Person…

So today I did Dan Meyer’s Red Dot lesson, which is still one of my favorites for that great reveal. In his post, he writes:

It was only important to me that the students experience a hand which they absolutely should fold, a hand which a sane person would only hold onto if he could see his opponent’s cards.

If I’ve had one problem with this lesson in the past few years, it’s that, well…teenagers are not sane. Today I had a total of 6 boys (and it’s always boys) who would definitely bet on that last hand, even though everyone else agreed they shouldn’t. I even changed the hand to make it one pair, and still they would bet. Maybe I should make it high card only when I try it next time. I’m not sure if even then that will deter them.

The Downside of Incorporating Student Interests…

So in my quizzes I like to include some interests of mine that also happen to be student interests. My quiz this morning involved translating sentences from English into Mathematical Symbols. So I had sentences like:

Luigi can jump higher than Mario.

The Water Bending of Katara is greater than the Water Bending of Aang.

Knuckles can stay in the air longer than Tails.


The downside, of course, is that the students want to argue with me about the content of the sentence rather than translate the structure. Which is silly, because I am always right.

The Start of the New Year

The kids come in on Thursday and, unlike last year when I felt like floundering, I’m looking forward to it, head held high. One of the major reasons is that the 9th grade team has met several times this summer and we put together an awesome project for the first two days.

That’s right! A project, right away! And it even involves a field trip!

We wanted to start this year with a launch into something meaningful, and not just paperwork. So we are having a study of perspective that will feed into each of our opening units. The idea is to take notice of what some people find important and others do not, and see how yours are different.

What started all this was a trip to the High Line. The Friends of the High Line have a map on the pamphlet they give out, and I noticed many things on the High Line weren’t on the map, and some things (like the Wildflower Field) I wouldn’t have even noticed without the map. So we’re going to bring them on Friday morning and have them walk through, taking pictures and making observations on what they see, and comparing to how that’s different from what other people see and notice.

On Thursday, they’ll need to prepare, so they’ll be visiting stations that give them the tools they need:

  • How to make observations
  • How to take good photographs
  • How to compare points of view
  • How to set up a field guide and take notes
  • How to interpret a map and make your own

As well as some stations about perspective and point of view. (One involves examining the HSBC Different Values ad campaign, which I always loved.) On Friday we bring them to the entrance and let them go in groups of five, camera in hand, while the teachers fan out to stations along the line, every few blocks, so they have the freedom to move on their own, as long as they stop at the checkpoints along the way. (Don’t worry, the stations are by the exits to monitor them.)

We created this great field guide (mostly the work of fellow teacher Ms. Barnett for the layout) and we all hope to launch from this opening common activity. ELA to talk about identity, Science for scientific observation and experimentation, Global Studies for maps and geography, and myself into the Trip Line and benchmarks.

If the rest of the team agrees, I’ll see if I can put up the field guide here.

This is vacation?

I can’t stop thinking about school. What I did this year, what I’ll do next year, how to change my assessment, my curriculum, good problems…a recipe for burnout? Or a dedication to the profession? I dunno, but it’s hard to get into the spirit of vacation. Maybe it’s because I still went into work on Wed and Fri (to interview new teachers) and I know Tuesday is the 4-day conference in DC, so it’s not really vacation yet.

The End of the Year

The Regents exams are over, and tomorrow is Rating Day, but for me I somehow have a whole lot to do. I’ve managed to become in charge of programming a schedule for next year, just by dint of being good at it, and willing. I have a bunch of student work to grade and get those grades in, because I kept pushing back the deadline for them to hand in essays (math essays! They loved them, I need to use them more next year) as much as I could, as it’s never too late. Which I tell them often, and they like to hear.

But maybe I pushed them too far? It’ll be a busy day tomorrow. I’ll have to follow my own catchphrase advise. I have 7 hours in the work day, I need to “use my time wisely.”

(By the way, isn’t it great when students can finish sentences like that without you? It really makes me want to have more routines like in next year. Besides, you know, for the classroom management benefits. Those…would also be nice.)