Finding Balance on Freshman Retreat

Post 2 for #MTBoSBlaugust checking in from Freshman retreat!

Our school has an advisory/homeroom that you follow through their high school career. I just graduated my 1st homeroom and it was truly bittersweet. I spent 4 years getting to know these students. After graduation, I was nervous starting over with freshman would fee like an uphill climb.

But as we’ve spent time on Freshman Retreat doing icebreakers, paddling canoes, and attempting the ropes course, I’m reminded of one thing. THEY ARE STILL KIDS. Friendship, room to grow, and “play time” need to be a part of our community and classrooms.

As we head back to school, I hope to push them academically and stretch them mentally. The right tasks, lessons, and ideas can bring learning, play, and community together. But I also need to recognize when to pull back some. More procedural problems probably isn’t the answer. Overloading doesn’t do anyone any good.

Give them time for sports, clubs, and friends/family. Help find a balance between Algebra and Fortnite. Ask myself, “Will a few more probability questions make that much difference?”

And I hope I remember my successful paddle boarding and the feeling of relaxation of coffee on the deck. Because this can be fun for me too!

Reflections and Reassessment

Here it is my first post in the #MTBoSBlaugust Challenge…

I wasn’t initially sure what I was going to write in these challenges. I have a few topics in mind that I’m sure I’ll come back to, but once again it was the #MTBoS to the rescue. I sent this tweet a few days ago..

I’ve attempted reassessment and a loose system of standards based grading before. The idea of growth and instilling a sense of learning sounded great, but it fell short. It was nothing but a rush of reassessments right at the end of the grading period.

Looking back, I didn’t do enough to change the culture of the classroom. To the students, learning still felt secondary to the grade. 

Back in the present day, I want to show students it is OK to make mistakes. This is what leads to change and learning. I want them to move beyond “I give up” to “I’m on the right track”. Therefore I am having the students regularly reflect on their learning, proficiency, and study habits.

I got lots of great responses! (Click here to see all of them) Thanks to everyone who shared. Here were a few points that stood out to me:

While the advice came in, I was working on a Google Form for the students to complete before each assessment. You can see it here. I am also fortunate enough to have a smaller number of students. So follow-up conversations can be paired with their reflections.Take a look at the Google Form and let me know what you think. If you’ve done this before, let me know what you like best. Find me @MrRisinger.

It won’t be perfect and I’ll have to do my own reflecting.  But I am excited at the opportunity for growth as reflection become a more integral part of my classroom.


Gearing Up…And Dusting Off

Last post…July 2015. I guess I always think it is a good idea to start blogging in the summer. Our family has wrapped up travel for the summer. So that means my brain has flipped to school mode! As I think about what I want to do this year, here is a picture of mind.


Lots of ideas, just all over the place! This got me thinking about keeping myself accountable. So I reset my WordPress password and here we are…

A few years back Tanya Avrith spoke to our staff to kick off the school year. Her simple implementation of technology was impressive and inspiring. Since then, I’ve jumped into programs like Geogebra and Desmos regularly. Quizlets, Kahoots, and QR codes are part of my classroom tech tool-belt. But her message was more than tech integration. She wanted us to share, grow, and help others reach their potential. Go forth and tell your story!

What did I do? I lurked. And let me be clear: this was great for me! Just following and reading the MathTwitterBlogosphere filled my timeline with great ideas and exceptional educators. Resources, lessons, and math art are in no short supply. But I most appreciate the level of reflection found on good days and bad.

While I was willing to let you all share in my success, I was nervous share my shortcomings. I feel like this is where I lost steam 3 years ago. Would anyone read it? Would they respond? Could I handle the critique? It was easier to just not write. (Plus being a teacher is pretty busy.)

A new year is starting and my role is changing. While still teaching,  I’ll be in a position to more directly help my colleagues and steer the direction of the department. In an effort to be more encouraging, vocal, and critical, I feel I need to open my ideas and teaching to the same critique. I hope what you find here will help you reflect and I hope you comment, challenge, and question to help in my own reflection.

Enjoy the end of summer. And I hope everyone did enjoyed something as much as I did catching this fish. Complete surprise and joy as a non-fisherman!



Confidently Predicting World Destruction


As I’m on vacation on Beaver Island, I’ve been reading for pleasure. I came across a confidence interval in Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves.

As a team of astronauts looks down at soon to be destroyed Earth:

“Layepersons understood it as certainly between 717 and 723 days. Scientists would instead say that if you could repeat the experiment of blowing up the moon a large number of times, and keep track of the time-to-White-Sky separately in each case, the numbers would fall into a normal distribution, a bell-shaped curve, with about two-thirds of the instances falling in that range.”

A fun, summer read and the setting isn’t bad here either.

How Old Am I Really?

Each year I always have to decide what to do after the AP Stat Exam. Should I dive into ANOVA tests? Watch Moneyball? I never seem to have a clear plan in mind. Twitter found me this year’s project.

Microsoft recently announced its age-predicting algorithm I submitted my own picture, was a bit shocked, and then moved on.

(For the record I’ll be 30 in September. My dad will 60 next year!)

blog 1blog2I would have been happy to feel a little depressed and move on if it weren’t for @giohio’s Twitter post.


So I begrudgingly convinced 7 fellow colleagues to submit a photo and reveal their true age. Could a measly sample size of 8 determine the accuracy of Microsoft’s algorithm?

summary statsThe table provided is the summary statistics for Actual Age – Predicted Age. With a mean difference of -5.625, one might believe that the algorithm does overestimate the age of individuals. However, a large standard deviation exists that suggests taking a look at the shape of the distribution as well.

How Old Box Plot

The box plot indicates a distribution that is skewed to the left. This is good news for me, as my picture was one of the larger overestimates in age. A skewed distribution may indicate that the median may be the more representative measure of center. With a median difference of 0.5, evidence may now suggest the algorithm does well at predicting the age of individuals.  Even with all the variation in predictions, do we have evidence to claim that that Microsoft’s algorithm is inaccurate?

Consider the scatterplot of predicted age versus real age.

How Old Scatterplot

Our least-squares regression equation is: predicted age = 62.08 – .257(real age). This would indicate the older you are, the younger the algorithm believes you to be. Maybe Microsoft is just secretly trying to boost self-esteem of our older generations while putting youth back in line?

While the sample size is very small (n = 8), the residual plot seems to indicate that this model is appropriate.

How Old Residual Plot

Consider a 1-Sample T-test for the following hypotheses:

Null: μ = 0 , we believe there to be no difference between the actual and predicted ages.

Alternative: μ ≠ 0, we believe there is a difference between the actual and predicted ages.

(Again, a small sample size leads to missing conditions for the test. But here are the results.)

We are provided with a t-score of -1.0637 and p-value of .3228. This means we fail to reject the null hypothesis, and evidence suggests there is no difference in actual ages and predicted ages of faculty members in the sample.

When my students tackled the problem, I encouraged them to identify their population of interest. Some groups chose the student body, but not all did. One group tackled the characters from Game of Thrones. Did the actor’s age match the actual age for the show and the books. Another student set out to see if the students in the Breakfast Club were actually predicted to be high school age. This project was a fun way to wrap up the year and pose a task that can be answered in multiple ways.

Any suggestions for revisions or questions, please let me know.

Interactive Inequality

Here’s an interesting article about family income’s impact on college enrollment.

You Draw It: How Family Income Affects Children’s College Chances

The interactivity is neat. Applets like this can go a long way to encourage discussion. First, they provide a percentile rank of you compared to other “drawers”. Second, the graph shows a dotted line representing the vertical distance between your line and the actual line (a.k.a. residuals). I really enjoyed the phrase, “Your line was not steep enough: There is more inequality than you think”.

Interesting connections to rate of change, function behavior, and context. What would your students draw?

It all starts here…

This is my endeavor into the world of educational blogging. I currently teach high school math in Indianapolis, Indiana. Right now, my courses are Geometry and AP Statistics. I’m particularly interested in problem solving tasks with a low entry point that are “mathematically deep” and encourage technology and collaboration.

I hope this blog serves as a way share my thoughts, communicate with others, and grow professionally.