Category Archives: Teaching Philosophy

Easy Medium Hard Regents Questions

From the Jan 2016 Common Core Algebra I Regents:

The level of challenge on the Regents like any exam varies quite a bit.
After posting about #1-19 of the Jan 2016 Common Core Algebra I Regents, challenge level is being added to each problem.
Please comment if you feel a problem is misclassified as I am only right about 80% of the time.  Most importantly, students need to know what they find easy medium hard (often abbreviated as EMH)

that was easyc

click on the word easy for blog posts for Jan 2016 1 3 4 5 8 9 12 15 16
click on the word medium for blog posts for Jan 2016 2 7 13 14 17 18 19
click on the word hard for blog posts for Jan 2016 6 10 11 20

Increasing the Math Willingness of Students

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Boosting Math Confidence is most of what I do in the classroom and one-on-one.  I named my website Math Confidence as it is the opposite of Math Anxiety.   Grouping students may increase classroom discussion although sometimes the sharper students will just tell the reluctant students.

Here are some things I do to encourage participation:
Note: this may not lead to everyone being part of the whole class discussion but at
least it makes the more reluctant students do Math 😉 and it gives the teacher a lot of material from which to lead the discussion.

Independent Work

5 or so mins of independent work (the room is slient) so I can walk around and work with s’s one on one.  This could include comparison type questions, matching, or other low-intensity tasks.

Surveying without Student Names

low tech: index cards or Post Its
high tech: Nearpod, Poll Everywhere or Kahoot (disclaimer: I have not used Kahoot yet but plan to next year)

blind voting:  everyone puts their head on their desk and votes (I can see but fellow
students cannot!)

Increase Self-Awareness

A lot of Math mistakes are “fuzzy errors” rather than conceptual errors.  A lot of the questions I ask are self-reflective, metacognitive questions such as “Is it bigger or less than 1/2? Why?”, “Easy, Medium or Hard?” and “Is that your final answer?”.  And for reluctant students, building confidence often comes from being ok with making mistakes and correcting them.

Allowing/Requiring Open Book/ Open Note Exams
Math is not about memorization and I have the great fortune of being able to allow students to use their notes/textbooks during quizzes and tests.  This boosts confidence for many students that they do not have to memorize but instead figure it out!!
I also share that iif they write nothing then their score will be nothing and talk to students about reading over the entire exam before they get started and figuring out their “Easy, Medium or Hard?”.

Launching into a Lesson (vs a Do Now)

stomprocketThe best time to teach something new is usually when the period has just started and students are freshest.  A Launch is a question or a pattern or something to think on to introduce a new concept.

In contrast,  a Do Now is usually ties to something they already know.  A Do Now can be great for starting the class with a routine so students settle into class. although sometimes the Do Now can take quite a while and “Now” can become “Later”.  If you must have a Do Now, keep it short and sweet and try the Launch right afterwards.

Do you want your students to know what you are going to do before you do it?  In some schools, the culture is to have routines in the classroom and I can understand that perspective.  But too often the Do Now is followed by going over Homework and the opportunity to learn new material is put off until there is not much time left in the period.

Here is an example of a Launch for Exponential Functions   from the most recent College Algebra lesson.

Enjoy these definitions of launch and feel f any launc(

launch 1

(lônch, länch)

v. launched, launch·ing, launch·es


a. To throw or propel with force; hurl: launch a spear.
b. To set or thrust (a self-propelled craft or projectile) in motion: launch a rocket; launch a torpedo.
2. Nautical To put (a boat) into the water in readiness for use.
3. To set going; initiate: launch a career; launch a business venture. See Synonyms at begin.
4. To introduce to the public or to a market: launched the new perfume with prime-time commercials on the major networks.
5. To give (someone) a start, as in a career or vocation.


1. To begin a new venture or phase; embark: launch forth on a dangerous mission; launched out on her own after college.
2. To enter enthusiastically into something; plunge: launched into a description of the movie.