Efforts to Increase Engagement

It’s the summer. And for me that means spending many hours caffeinated and thinking about math. I’m in LA currently at a coffee shop. Yah it’s supposed to be my vacation, but math is fun and therefore I will sit, caffeinated, and mathematical. As always. Funny and true story: last night at a comedy show I got the entire audience to chant “MATH MATH MATH MATH.” Why? Uh well it’s a story that’s easier to explain in person.


I want to find ways to increase the mathematical engagement of my students. If I want to increase engagement that most likely means I need the time to do cool things. If I want time to do cool things, I’ll have to cut some of the questions from the current book. I’ve cut it down to 65 pages of problems and some of these pages are very light as I’m hoping they line up with when assessments will occur.

I want assessments and efforts to be catered to the students and their levels. My current ideas for new things to try next year:

Dissertation Style Defense – Some students LOVED the summative journals I had them do last year. The kids that put lots of time into it ended up doing really well on their exams. I do have a handful of students that struggle with writing for various reasons and I felt like forcing them to do essentially a 5 page paper was unrealistic for some students. I even had one parent tell me “I don’t think my son is capable of producing this work” when I showed her an example from another student. The reason she said that is that a combination of learning differences makes writing for some students such a task that beginning the assignment feels impossible. What I learned from working with some of these students is that they can talk about math way more easily than they can write about it. My solution: give them the same writing rubric but tell them to make PowerPoint slides instead of writing it. They can present it to the class or to me during office hours. It will be an option and we’ll see if it works. I’ll also use this as an opportunity for high achieving students to push themselves and essentially lead class reviews of entire topics.

Math Art Show- I would like my students to curate their own art show for public display. They could make any piece of art and tie it to math. Every student at my school is either in an amazing studio art, photography, film, or music class. They can weave math into any of their existing projects for their other classes and then we’ll use our school studio to put these on display. The Dean of Academics at my school is the one pushing for this so I feel like it’s doable.

These are ideas for now and we’ll see how well they can be implemented!

Amortization Scheduler

Today on the first day of summer I woke up to a beautiful sunny sky.  I looked at my solar panels and thought “That’ll do pig, that’ll do.”

Last month I made a big payment towards my solar panels and I wanted to know if I should be aggressive in the coming months to finish it off.  I wanted to know if making a big payment now would do enough damage to where I could just ride out the rest of the loan with the regular scheduled payments.

So I figured it out.  Screen Shot 2016-06-09 at 9.02.03 AM

It turns out my $2500 payment 7 months in saved me near $1400 in interest.  I made a few mistakes in my first iteration but after posting to a Personal Finance forum I tweeked it and decided to make it publicly accessible.  It can be used to figure out the advantage of any financial loan payment decision. Let me know if I need to make any edits!

Try it out here!