Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Mindset Assignment

This is from the July 31st email for your reference.

Algebra Parents and Students,

I hope your summer is going well. We'll be starting school in just under three weeks (woo-hoo!) and in a few days I'll be emailing some more information about our class and some tasks for the students to do. In the meantime, however, I wanted to give both the parents and the students a joint "assignment." Now, just to be perfectly clear, this assignment is optional, but I really, really, really (did I mention "really"?) think it would be helpful for each one of you to do this assignment between now and the start of school.

Okay, so here it is. As your student is about to begin high school they likely (and naturally) have a lot of fears. Many of those fears are social (we've never had freshman stuffed in a locker, although I've wanted to a couple of times), and many of those are academic (we've never had a freshman's head explode from doing too much homework, although a few have cracked a bit).

This assignment tries to address some of the academic fears that many students have. By the time they start high school, many students have decided that they are "smart" at some things, and "dumb" at other things. While this is true of all subjects, it seems to be especially true in math. The thing is, those students are wrong, and not just the ones who think they are "dumb" at something, but also the ones who think they are "smart" as well.

We know from brain research that people aren't "smart" or "dumb" at things, but that everyone can learn, and that it turns out students' attitudes about learning have a surprisingly strong effect on how well they learn. This is referred to as "mindset" in the research, and the assignment I have for you to do involves learning a bit more about how your brain works in order to perhaps change your mind(set).

Again, this is optional, but I really, really, . . . (oh, you get the idea) . . . think you should consider doing this. Ideally this assignment will be completed by a parent(s) and student working together, at the same time. I've divided it up into three "sessions" as a way to break it up a bit (perhaps even over several days or weeks), but you are welcome to do it however you'd like. Simply visit this website and work through as much or as little of it as you'd like. I think you'll find this assignment very worthwhile and I hope you consider completing it.

Either way, enjoy the next few weeks and I look forward to meeting all of you soon. Again, look for another email from me in a few days that will have additional information about our class as well as some specific tasks for students to do.

Thanks for your time,

Karl Fisch
Arapahoe High School

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

May 27th Email to Parents

Here's the email I sent out to parents on May 27th in case you need to reference something in it.

Welcome to Flipped Algebra!

I want to share a few things with you about my Algebra class now, and then you can expect another email or two later this summer.

First, it would be very helpful if you and your student could fill out a few short online forms for me.
  1. Skills Survey: This one is for your student to complete, although you might want to sit with them in case they have questions. This brief survey is just to give me a better idea of which math topics your student has seen, and which they have not, in order to help me plan for next year. It is not expected that they have seen/mastered all of these topics.
  2. Parent/Guardian Contact Information: This one’s for the parents.
  3. Student Cell Phone Information: This one’s for the student.

If you could please complete these forms by June 12th, that would be very helpful.

Second, the AHS Math Department has created a Math Skills Assessment that all incoming freshmen need to complete in order to prepare them to be successful in mathematics at AHS. Our first formal assessment will be within the first few days of school over these skills. Students who are still struggling with these skills will then need to devote extra time - and their unscheduled hours - to master these skills in the first few weeks of school. Since those first few weeks are both exciting and extremely busy, it would be much better to use some of their time during the summer when things are more relaxed to make sure they have mastered these pre-algebra skills.

Finally, while you obviously don’t need to go shopping just yet, I wanted to share the materials your student will need for my class now. That way if you come across any great sales you can purchase early, and perhaps you might just want to purchase early since back-to-school time can be pretty busy and stressful for a lot of folks. Here’s what your student will need for my class:

  1. Laptop Computer - You should have already received an email with information about this. Please complete the laptop survey form by June 12th.
  2. 3-Ring Binder - Probably a 1-inch binder will do. For organizational purposes, it’s going to be very helpful to have 3 dividers in that binder as well.
  3. Notebook Paper - Your student will be taking notes, working problems, and sketching diagrams on a daily basis, probably several hundred sheets would be good to start with.
  4. Graph Paper - This is Algebra, so graph paper is a must. Probably about 100 sheets would be a good amount to start with.
  5. Writing Utensils - The old standby #2 pencil is going to come in handy. Some students will also find either colored pencils or pens (like those 4-color pens) handy in order to better take notes and illustrate their thinking.
  6. Calculator - The only requirement is that your student have a scientific calculator of some sort. While graphing calculators have many advantages, they are not required - especially considering your student will have a laptop. There are many pieces of software and browser plug-ins available for their laptop, see this link for more information.
    Even though they’ll have their laptop, they’ll most likely still want to have a separate calculator, as they won’t always be able to use their laptops on assessments. A great, relatively inexpensive scientific calculator available in many stores as well as online is the
    TI-36 Pro (Scientific, ~$18)
  7. Optional USB Flash Drive - For all of their classes, a USB flash drive will come in handy at times for students to transport files among various computers.
  8. Optional Headphones - For all their classes, headphones/earbuds that can be plugged into the audio port on a computer are helpful.

I’m hopeful that you find this information helpful. If you have any questions, please let me know. Expect another email or two from me this summer. Thanks for your time and I’m looking forward to having your student in my class this fall.


Karl Fisch
Arapahoe High School