Thursday, October 15, 2015

Slope-Intercept Card Sort - Google Drawing

Click here for a link to a copy of the card sort.

The link above is a copy of the drawing, so feel free to change (and use) it how you like, it will not effect mine. :)

I was creating a notes template on google drawing when it occurred to me that google drawing can replace my card sorts.  Yes!!  No more paper to print, copy, cut, and laminate!!

Students simply open the copy of this google drawing, click and drag each equation on to the corresponding graph and submit their work.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015


This is my school district's first year in their 1-to-1 initiative called Project OLE (Olympian Learning Environment).  Our mascot is an olympian.

Because we are 1-to-1, I think it's time I try a learning management system in my classroom.  At first I assumed that Google Classroom was the way to go.  My IT showed me how to use Google Classroom and then mentioned Schoology.  I know very little about either one, but decided to try Schoology because I hear it has more bells and whistles.  

So, without any training or anytime to play around with it, I jumped in.  Honestly, what's the worst that can happen?  (<-- That is not foreshadowing)  I created an account, gave the students the class code and POOF, I now have a learning management system.  Yay!  It's so easy.  

You hear this all the time but it's true:  You don't have to be an expert in technology to use it in your classroom.  The students are very knowledgeable with technology and are eager to help.  I started the class by being open and honest with the students and told them it was new to me and I wanted their help.  

My favorite feature so far: grading.  This is wonderful.  No papers to collect, no papers to carry back and forth to grade, and students can submit from home.  

Anyone else use schoology?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Expression Polygons

In the August 2015 issue of Mathematics Teacher the article Expression Polygons by Colin Foster caught my attention.  A quick google search lead me to a PDF of the article if you'd like to read it.

Just this morning my colleagues and I were talking about the struggle that students have when faced with an expression.  They are programmed to solve, so they insert an equal sign where ever they can.  Even Algebra II students.  I feel that this activity is a great way to help students understand the difference between expressions and equations.

In a nutshell, the students create 4 expressions and set each one equal to the others, so that there are a total of 6 equations:

Try it myself:

Before I try a new activity with students I like to try the activity for myself.  Here are the requirements I'd like to give the students:

  • Create 4 expressions where the 6 solutions will all be different integers.
  • Two of the expressions are of the form __x +- ___.
  • One of the expressions is of the form x +-____.
  • One of the expressions is a constant. 
It took me 6 minutes to come up with this, so I think it's a reasonable assignment for my students.  

For the Students:

I introduced the project to the students, put them into groups of 2 or 3 students, and gave them this link for a copy of the template.  Click here for template.  

I gave each student a copy of the rubric.  Click here for the rubric.

There was a lot of productive struggle going on in my classes.  One thing many groups were doing was not getting an integer answer, so they erased the entire equation rather than working backwards for a solution.  

Many times I hear the students say that the assignment was hard (not as a complaint though) and I was ready for them to give up and say that it was impossible.  But, this assignment must have had the right amount of flow to keep them going because not one group of students gave up.  

I also like all the bonus stuff we got to talk about other than solving equations.  First was vocabulary: expressions, equations, vertex, and polygon.  Students had many questions as to what an integer was since all the solutions had to be an integer.  And believe it or not, in high school the students wanted to know if there was a difference between 5 divided by 1 and 1 divided by 5.  

Action Shots:


Here are some of the students' work ,worts and all.

I found this one interesting with all the same solution of 5.  

Monday, October 5, 2015

How to Implement Games in the Classroom

Since playing more games in my classroom, I've been stumbling though the implementation part of it.  Trial and error really.  My hope with this post is two-fold.  For one, I want to reflect on my lesson/game planning.  And two, if any of you are considering using games in the classroom perhaps you can learn from my trials (and errors).

This is a little tricky, since different games have different objectives.  For instance, some games are created to introduce a topic and should be played before the lesson.  However, other games are meant as more of a review or reinforcement and would be played after the lesson.  Here is my flowchart of a unit of study.


The idea of previewing a topic before pre-testing is new to me.  Typically I would start by giving students a pre-test.  I read about previews in the book Mindsets in the Classroom by Mary Cay Ricci.  The book suggests that before giving a pre-assessment, to quickly preview the material.  It even states that 5 minutes or less will do.  We could show a few examples on the board, watch a short video clip, or have a class discussion.


I teach Algebra 1 and most of the material that I cover has already been touched in to some degree in previous courses.  But how much was covered and how much do they remember?  You won't know unless you pre-test them.  Remember to share the results with the students, but be careful with their egos the first time.  I seem to get students who are not accustomed to pre-assessments.  They often tell me they feel stupid.  Once they become familiar with pre-assessments they understand that they will feel better once they have the chance to compare the pre- and post- test results.

Play the Game:

Most of the games that I play with the students introduce the topic so I'm going to focus on game play that takes place before the lesson.  I generally don't tie the game to curriculum with introductory games until after game play.  Every once in a while a students will say something like, "I enjoy playing this game, but shouldn't we be learning some math?"  Ah, but you are.  I like this element of surprise when I show them how the game is actually teaching some math concept or at least a connection to a math concept.  I think this sudden and surprising learning experience is effective.

Teach the Lesson:

When game play is over and it's time to teach the lesson, I often refer back to the game.
"What numbers would you use to capture this city?"
"Pretend this ordered pair is one of the character in the game.  How would you get him to this ordered pair?"
Just as it is important to help student make connections between topics in our curriculum, it's also important to help them make connections between the game and the topic it covers.

Post Test:

Once I feel that almost everybody will be successful, I give the post-test.  However, once in a while I will give the students a test even when I know they're not ready.  I use it as formative assessment to see what areas still need reinforcement.  Sometimes this includes the game and sometimes it doesn't.

Repeat as Necessary:

I feel it's important for students to know that the teacher will work at their pace.  If a class is struggling with a topic, the teacher will go back and help them.

There you have it.  This is my general guideline for playing games in the classroom.

What I Learned from my High School Social Studies Teacher

Back in high school there was this Social Studies teacher (Let's call him Mr. A) that made teaching look easy....almost too easy;  like ...