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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Formal Observation Follow Up

I had my formal observation follow-up with my principal this week.  I like that we are asked to determine two areas that I need to work on for the following year.  Here is what we decided:

1) Questioning techniques need development to engage all students in using their brains to the fullest.

My first thought is to turn to my online colleagues and get their advice.  I'm looking for a book to read to help me in this area.  John Golden (@mathhombre) did suggest that I read Mosaic of Thought.  I will have to look into this more, it seems very interesting.

The universe works in strange ways.  Just as I was asking for a book to help me with my questioning skills, I received one....for free.  I attended a conference for the wrap up of a 4-year study on standards-based grading that I was a part of.  They gave each attendee a copy of Implementing the Common Core State Standards through Mathematical Problem Solving - High School. 

Hopefully by the end of summer, I'll have some good news for you on my new-found questioning skills.  

2) Explaining PARLO to families has dropped off since it is an expected practice and they are not shocked by it.  Continual efforts to promote proficiency based learning may help to expand it.  In addition, Mrs. Oswald and JTAHS will benefit by more self promotion of her numerous efforts and methods to help students learn.  

I have to admit, I haven't been communicating with families as much as I should.  To be honest, I think the only contact I had with parents this past year was if there was a problem.

Not only do I need to contact specific parents individually about their child, I believe I need to have something that is similar to a newsletter.  I'm thinking about a twitter hashtag that the parents, students, and I could use to have a whole group discussion about what is happening in class.  Maybe even setting up some twitter chats with the parents/students would work.  I can't get them to come in for parent-teacher conferences, but maybe I can get them to go to their laptop. ?????  Anyone try something like this?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Global Math Department Stuff as Promised

If you weren't able to participate in the Global Math Department Webinar this past Tuesday (June 17th), you can still view it and see all the comments here.  Or you can see it below:

As promised in the webinar, here is the blog post that contains information on the games I spoke about:

The Line Game:

Here are the links that contain the materials you will need to play The Line Game, The Parabola Game, or the Sine Game.  

Domain Rangers:

Here is a link to the files.  This link also contains the next lesson that use in class after playing the game.

Here is a link to the video of me and Bob playing Domain Rangers.  I found that it's easier to explain while playing the game.  

Bounty Hunger:

I really don't have much information to share about Bounty Hunter at this moment.  The plan is to have something digital near the beginning of the next school year (2014-15).  Until then, we'll wait patiently.  

Monday, June 9, 2014

Okay Games Vs. Captivating Games

On Tuesday, June 17th, I will be conducting a presentation through the Global Math Department about the difference between okay games and engaging games.  I will also go through some of the classroom games I have created in more detail so you have something you can use in your own classes.

Right now I'm working on a blog post that will have all the documents for you to use based on the presentation.

I hope you can join us.  Tuesday, June 17th  9:00 - 10:00.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Clash of Clans has Algebra!!!

I like to play the games that my students are playing.  A few weeks ago, they introduced me to Clash of Clans.

At first I thought the game was okay, it must be a teenager thing.  But then I was hooked.  I just need a few more coins so that I could upgrade my elixir storage, and if I upgraded my elixir storage then I could upgrade my gold storage, and if I upgrade my gold storage I could upgrade my elixir collector.  You see what they did there?  Yes, one variable depends on the other.  Right now I'm saving up my gold so that I can upgrade my wizard tower to level 2 (a whopping 360,000 coins) and my elixir so that I can upgrade my barracks to level 7 (240,000 elixir).  

Last night I asked myself if it was worth it.  Should I upgrade my gold mine or let it go?  When you upgrade a goldmine, you are unable to collect any gold during that time.  Here are the details:  My one goldmine is at level 7 and collects 1600 coins per hour.  It costs 28,000 elixir to upgrade to level 8 and takes 24 hours to do this.  Once I'm at level 8 the goldmine will collect 1900 coins per hour.  I thought to myself "Do I really want to upgrade and not have any coins collected in this 24 hour period?  Is it worth it?"  And then it hit me.....this is ALGEBRA!!!

Let x represent the number of hours and let y represent the coins collected.

Equation without upgrading:  y = 1600x + 38400    (the 38400 is the amount collected during the 24 hr period)

Equation without upgrading:  y = 1900x + 0  (0 because you are unable to collect coins from that mine during the upgrade)

At what time with the coins be equal in amount?



1600x + 38400 = 1900x

38400 = 300x

128 = x
5 1/3 days!!!

I need 360,000 coins to upgrade my wizard tower.  

It would take 128 hours (or 5 1/3 days) for this upgrade to be worth it.  
You can see from this screen shot that I have 201,785 coins right now.

Now my question is, "Will it be faster to collect these 360,000 coins by upgrading this goldmine or by leaving it alone?"

I have a total of 5 goldmines:

Goldmine 1     Level 8     1900 coins per hour
Goldmine 2     Level 8     1900 coins per hour
Goldmine 3     Level 7     1600 coins per hour (thinking about upgrading this one)
Goldmine 4     Level 8     1900 coins per hour
Goldmine 5     Level 3      500 coins per hour
I collect a total of 7800 coins per hour without the upgrade.  I need 360,000 - 201,785 = 158,215 more coins to upgrade my wizard tower.  That would take 158215 / 7800 = 20.3 hours.

Since this would take less than 24 hours to do, it wouldn't make sense to upgrade the gold mine.

I haven't tried any of this with my students yet, but I can't wait to see what individual questions they come up with for their own villages.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Flipped-Mastery Classroom - My Thoughts So Far

I have tried the flipped mastery model in most of my classes at the point.  Flipped mastery is where all the direct instruction is on video and the students work through the material (worksheets, activities, labs, etc) at their own pace.  

Starting Small:

I really wanted to give this a try and wanted to test the waters by starting small.  Some good advice I received a while ago was "If you want to try something new, try it in the spring with students you are familiar with and can work out the bugs.  This way you'll know if it's something you want to do in fall with your new students."  I decided to try flipped mastery with my last period Algebra 1A class on the topic Absolute Value Equations and Inequalities.  

Since I was starting small and this was a lesson I usually don't have time for in the curriculum, I only had direct instruction and worksheets.  I know that's terrible, but I'm starting small remember???  I posted all the videos on my website, created all the worksheets that corresponded to those videos, and gave each student a packet of papers.

The one problem I ran into here was that since I was starting small and only flipping one outcome, there had to be a deadline.  I was going back to my regular teaching habits after this.  

What I liked:

I loved that the students could work at their own pace.  In that particular class there were about 2 students who were incapable of listening and taking notes at the same time and either had notes they didn't understand or listened and didn't have the notes or the entire lecture took twice as long as usually so the entire class could wait for them to keep up.  

I was able to work with students one-on-one during this time.  Since I was no longer standing in the front of the classroom, I was circulating.  I was watching facial expressions for confusion or frustration, I was making sure students were on task, and I was spot checking for understanding.  

With the spring sports season here, I was missing 3-4 students everyday due to early dismissal for games.  Those students no longer 'missed' any information, they picked up where they left the next day.

In our district, our homeroom is called PODs and it's 40 minutes long.  It's used for assemblies, club meetings, remediation, the problems of the day, etc.  Because of PODs I was able to have students come to my room during that time if they were falling behind with the work and not making up for it at home.  

Activities, games, and labs will be more personal.  Again, I haven't done any of this with the flipped mastery yet.  Since students will be a different places at different times, I will be working with smaller groups of students for these things rather than the entire class.  

State Exams.  If I decide to go all the way with flipped mastery, the motivated students will have the opportunity to finish the curriculum before the state exams are given in May.  Every year I feel like I do these students an injustice because they are held back by the slower students and could possibly do even better on the state exams.  

Homework.  It's now up to the students if they want to do homework.  Is tonight a good night to get some work done?  It's their call.  I feel that this is a great skill to be learning in school.  

What challenges I ran into:

Some of my students have very little time-management skills, but again, this is an important skill to have and learn.  At the beginning of each class I wrote on the board what the students should have completed to be on pace.  If any of the students were not at that point by the end of class, I wrote them a pass to come during PODs.  Some of them didn't show up and this falling behind business builds and builds.  I believe that under this model the student at least have the opportunity to learn time-management much more than under traditional models.  

I feel that flipped mastery is an all or nothing concept.  The first few days after going back to my regular teaching, my Algebra 1A students were very challenging.  It was only 8 school days that we were under the flipped mastery model, but they didn't want to listen to me anymore.  Sitting still in their seats and having all of their attention in one place a the same time wasn't what they wanted to do.  I'm still trying to get their attention back.  Plus, not all students finished the outcome at exactly the same time.  Some finished early and some are still not finished.  And the students missing class, this feels like such a hassle now.  I really wish I had the rest of my curriculum flipped.  

Where do I go from here:

I am still feeling the guilt with the state tests coming up at the end of next month that I decided to focus my energies on flipping the remainder of my curriculum for CP Algebra 1 (CP is College Prep).  There are students in there who are bored to tears waiting for their classmates and I can't sit here with the tools and knowledge to let them move ahead and not use it.  

I am willing to share all of my materials, you will just need to go to my Algebra 1 tab at the top.  It will have the videos, worksheets, activities, etc.  Help yourself and of course leave feedback :)  As of today (4/5/14) I have most of outcome 19, Writing Linear Equations, available.  

For next year:

In our district many of our freshmen struggle with passing an Algebra 1 course in one year, so we split it into a two-year course:  Algebra 1A and Algebra 1B.  They receive 1 credit for each one.  There is one very small problem with this: There are students who are either misplaced or they mature over the summer, but whatever the case may be, but they probably could have passed the course in one year rather than two.  This holds them back from taking courses like pre-calculus and calculus because of the required prerequisites.  Under the flipped mastery model, these few students could work ahead and potentially pass both courses in one year and be able to move on to Algebra 2 the following year.  Almost like they were in CP Algebra 1 instead.  

Summer Math:

Here is what we have been doing for our summer math program for the past few years.  

The students are required to complete 10 problems from 10 sections successfully on  During the first week of school, we ask our students to log-in to their studyisland accounts and show us this information and it is their first grade for the new school year.  
The problem is that some of the students pay other students to complete the work for them.  We have no idea who took the tests and it has become a real problems in our school.  
In order to put some students out of business, why not have the summer math requirement be to learn the first 1 or 2 outcomes for their next course using the flipped mastery model?  And, if a student is so inclined, he could complete more than 2 outcomes.  When they come to school in fall, they can take the outcome tests they are ready for.  You can't hire someone to learn something for you.  Maybe these student 'business owners' will become tutors instead ;-)

Thursday, April 3, 2014

SBG Questions and My Answers

Recently, I received an e-mail asking me to share how I used SBG (Standards-Based Grading) in my classroom.  For those of you who use SBG, feel free to respond to these questions as well either in the comments, or leave a link in the comments if you post about this. Here are the questions posed:

1) How do I convert proficiency to a grade (eligibility, report cards)?
2) How many levels of proficiency?
3) How do I measure proficiency (3/4 problems = proficient?)?
4) How does group work fit in (who gets credit for being proficient)?
5) What counts as having demonstrated proficiency (quizzes/test, classwork)?
6) How do you motivate students to complete projects or other assignments if they have already demonstrated proficiency?
7) How do I create a list of outcomes?
8) How do I track data?
9) How do I communicate data to students/parents?

My Answers:

2) Let me start by answering the second question first.  How many levels of proficiency?  In our department, we use three levels.  Not Yet Proficient (N) is when a student doesn't prove that he has all the skills required for the outcome.  Proficient (P) is when a student does show all the skills required for an outcome.  And High Performance (H) is when a students takes the knowledge from the outcome and applies it.  Before our department started SBG we all sat down and decided what particular skills were needed for each outcome.  We are still tweeking those skills to this day and my guess is that we will still be tweeking until we retire.  

1) I know that many schools require number grades and parents want to see those as well.  It helps with eligibility and class rank.  So until everyone becomes more familiar with SBG we will need some way to convert grades.  To convert to a number grade, we start be determining what percent of the outcomes a students is at least Proficient in.  Next, we determine what percent of outcomes the student is High Performance in.  Then we add those two numbers together and finally use the following conversion chart to determine their number grade:

3) How do I measure proficiency (3/4 problems = proficient?)?
You won't be doing any math like this under this particular system.  The reason is because you may have a student get 3/4 of the problems correct, but might be missing some very important skill.  Instead of a certain percent of the problems correct, you will be looking for a certain set of skills.  I want to write about a few different examples.  In both examples you are giving an exam on graphing linear inequalities.  Solid lines, dotted line, graphing lines correctly, and of course shading.  

Example 1:  A student does everything correctly on the test, but most of the shading is incorrect.  Under traditional grading the student might pass the test because she received partial credit for the problems.  My issue with this is that this students doesn't understand how to shade an inequality and this is a problem.  She will need that skill for a later outcome.  With this SBG system, the student would be required to retake the test because she didn't prove she knew all of the skills necessary.

Example 2:  A student makes a few careless mistakes on the exam such as miscounting when plotting the y-intercept, or in one problem accidentally uses a positive slope when it should have been negative.  With the traditional grading the student will most likely pass the test, but now it's impossible for the student to receive 100%.  Test cannot be retaken and those careless errors will be holding him back all quarter.  With SBG the teacher asks herself if the student is proving that he has the skills required.  Making a one-time error with slope or carelessly counting doesn't mean the student doesn't know how to graph linear inequalities.  Perhaps he should take more time to look things over though.

4) How does group work fit in (who gets credit for being proficient)?

Personally, I don't grade group work.  However, I do try to hold students accountable to their groups by giving incentives other than grades.  Just recently we used Monopoly Boards in group work.  Sometimes I think the incentive with group work is being able to work with each other.  Also, when there are group members who are not doing their fair share in a group, they are usually the ones who do poorer on the test and that could be considered their 'punishment' for not contributing.  

5) What counts as having demonstrated proficiency (quizzes/test, classwork)?

This answer is easy:  Whatever you want to count, will count.  More often than not I use a test to prove proficiency.  That may not be the best way to go about it, but for now it's the easiest thing for me.  I'm actually glad you asked this question because it has forced me to realize that I should broaden my resources in this area.  Perhaps I'll have an update for you later on this.

6) How do you motivate students to complete projects or other assignments if they have already demonstrated proficiency?

One thing that motivates students is getting High Performance.  I do have paper-and-pencil High Performance tests for each of the outcomes I teach, but I also allow and encourage projects.  I am much more diverse for High Performance than I am for Proficiency.  

7) How do I create a list of outcomes?

That's the hard part.  Our department spent a lot of time working on our list of outcomes.  They are geared toward our state test, Algebra 1 Keystone Exam.  You are welcome to use those if you like and you can find them here.  

8) How do I track data?

You will need to either speak to your IT person or do this manually.  We use to do the grade conversions manually, student by student.  But our IT guy did something (I don't know what) in PowerTeacher so that we can put the grades in there directly.  

9) How do I communicate data to students/parents?

This is another problem we still face in our district.  We have tried open meetings, sending e-mails home, sending papers home with the students, asking the students to explain the process to their parents, I have information up on my class website, and I talk about it on meet-the-teacher nights and parent-teacher conferences.  I think we have so much confusion with parents because their child in now in 9th grade and I'm changing the grading system.  Their entire educational careers were based on traditional grading, and at least 9 years of the child's grading was traditional too.  Unfortunately I don't have a great answer for this question.  I believe that many parents become less involved once their child reaches high school.