Summer week 2

Posted: June 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

I am assisting with our township technology training this week.  It is always fun to help other teachers find useful tools that can help engage our students.  We are including training with smart notebook, youtube, chromebooks, brainpop, GAFE, Google Drive, and other digital content.

I have introduced Symbaloo to most of the sessions that I have assisted.  I love being able to have all of my bookmarks organized in a meaningful and visual manner.  I have multiple tabs for personal, school, math blogs, twitter article links, and about 50 other tabs.  I am on different computers all day long from my classroom, to the computer lab, and then home.  Symbaloo allows me to link all of my bookmarks no matter what computer, web browser, or electronic device.   Yes, I even use the Symbaloo app on my iPhone.  It is user friendly and there is an ease to create, modify and to move tiles/links.



I have also started uploading and converting my Microsoft Word files into Google Drive/Docs; in hopes that my students will each have Chromebooks.  I have been pleasantly surprised how well math expressions written using the equation editor in Word have been converted to the Google Document.  Google still needs to do some work on an equation editor… and yes, I know there are extensions and add-ons but Word is still easier.  Maybe, because all I have ever known is Microsoft.  As of now, I will still create in Microsoft and then convert any docs needed by students.



Aleks vs. Kahn

Posted: June 4, 2014 in Uncategorized

We currently use to remediate students who are on not on level coming in to Algebra 1.  There are a lot of bells and whistles that they offer that make the program useful in my classroom.  I love that I can link it to the textbook so material is presented to the student at the same time it is presented in the classroom.  I appreciate the number of reports that are available so that I can consistently look at data to show student growth (or lack of).  The algorithm that Aleks uses to determine student need is remarkable.  Students aren’t bogged down by what they already have mastered.  Students can see growth, I can see growth, and they are constantly assessed.  Students can see worked examples and I can link other resources to topics that students struggle with learning.That all being said Aleks cost money and I am lucky that my principal sees the value.

Kahn is now offering a free version of remediation via the Kahn Academy.  I was never a fan of Khan Academy videos but am curious about how their remediation works.  Is it something we could offer students who are not in the remediation class?  Kahn offers a coach/teacher option which is similar to Aleks, but is it as good as what I already have?  I like the idea of videos but I am not sure all my students would watch them (I just got my students to buy into taking notes on the worked examples).

Anyone have any experience with Kahn or Aleks that could help determine which we should move forward using?

Always a nerd

Posted: June 1, 2014 in Uncategorized

Summer vacation is here… the kids have filed out of the doors and the hallways are empty.  As teachers, we hope that they do not forget what we have worked so hard to teach.  As teachers we can be good role models.  I have so much on my plate this summer that I might be more busy than I was during the school year.

I lead and attend PD offered by my township.  These help keep me up-to-date on what is working in other classrooms in terms of technology.

I am also attending an AP summer institute this month for training to teach AP statistics next school year.  Super excited about this one…career goal of teaching everything from remediation to AP will be met.

I am also leading a NMSI training in July in Indianapolis.  This is something I am passionate about.  NMSI and Laying the Foundation have made me a better teacher and are a wealth of resources.  They have a few free lessons available, so check it out.

All this while keeping up with my twitter and blog PLN… I am confident I will grow this summer as a professional.  I just hope my students don’t forget 🙂

What’s my grade?

Posted: May 20, 2014 in Uncategorized

I was intrigued, challenged, inspired, and instantly could not resist the urge to try this.  

I didn’t put grades on their simplifying radicals and radical operations quiz.  I circled errors like I always do, then didn’t write points scored, and copied the quiz (just in case this attempt went south).  We went over 3 examples of student work from the review and found errors and talked about how many points would be awarded if the student was the teacher.  Then, I passed back their quizzes and a colored pencil.  I gave them the task:  grade your quiz.  (the closer you get to my score, the better.  If we greatly disagree, I will divide my score in half).  

It was amazing… who would have thought it would actually work?!?!  Out of 42 quizzes the score I gave and the score they came up with on 41 of them were within 5% points.  1 student actually scored themselves way lower than I did.  Yet, that isn’t the exciting part!  The conversation that took place was breath-taking and stopped me in my tracks.  While it didn’t last as long as I would have liked, they TALKED to each other and some asked their neighbor to help them find their error.  I even had one group get into a 5 minute discussion about one point… one point.  

Normally, I pass out the quizzes.  By the time I pass out the last quiz, half of them are already in the recycling bin.  Not this time… and not the next time, because I think this technique is not going anywhere.  We are at the end of the school year, but I better go out and invest in colored pens for grading next year!  Thank you Learning to Fold!


I use desmos whenever we need to look at functions through graphs, tables, points, etc.  Typically my A1 students just watch while sitting at their desks.  I also have the graphs saved before class; and then just turn on/off graphs as needed.  My students have watched me use desmos, but today was their day.

We did a bouncing ball experiment to get data points so they could find a line of best fit to predict bouncing it from a much higher height.  We are trying to prepare ourselves for Bungee Barbie next week.  I handed out laptops, meter sticks, and tennis balls.  I gave them explicit directions about the experiment but released them once it came to using desmos.

Here is what they discovered:

  • they could zoom in and out on their data 
  • they could type in all points in one table or one by one
  • they could turn off points that they do not think were correctly measured from their experiment 
  • they could graph multiple lines to determine which one was best fit
  • they could trace their line to get their result for the higher height
  • they could email me their results and so I could print their graphs out

I didn’t have one student ask me how to use desmos, but I did have a group ask if they could input their graph in point-slope form or convert it to slope intercept form (as needed with a TI-84).

It was a huge success and I am already looking into getting other investigations for next year!

SBG needing answers

Posted: May 14, 2014 in Uncategorized

I am taking the leap next year.  I will continue to teach Algebra 1 Enrichment next school year so I want to “record” some of my thoughts about trying SBG.  If you have feedback, I would greatly appreciate any help from those who have been in the trenches.

I have broken down the lessons/skill I need to teach to prepare my students for the End of Course Assessment (Indiana’s standardized test).  With each skill, I have directly linked the state standard.  Because of the diversity of my student’s knowledge; I, already, and will continue to  tier each set of practice problems based upon their initial knowledge base.  (we currently address moving between knowledge groups every 9 weeks)  I have not worked through whether to SBG each skill or each standard.  If there are multiple skills or objectives in a standard, do I quiz each one or use the umbrella of the standard?  (i.e. how many quizzes are needed for factoring x^2+bx+c, ax^2+bx+c, difference of squares, and grouping method for 4 terms?)   For re-quizzing, I want to create a small stack of index cards with questions.  I could have students pick two cards to re-score their Standard Based Quiz grades.

  • How long do you allow students to requiz for?
  • Should I make students complete practice problems before re-quizzing?
  • How often should I make a “new” standard based quiz available?
  • Do assess multiple standards on the same assessment?
  • How do practice problems, skill quiz, SB quizzes all fit into a grade on the current system?
  • How do you communicate SBG to parents who do not come to back to school night?

Class Survey

Posted: May 9, 2014 in Uncategorized

Next week my Algebra 1 Enrichment class will take a survey to help give me feedback on what to change/keep from this year’s class.  I taught these students in a double block.  We were together for 47 minutes in the morning for Algebra 1 and then 47 minutes in the afternoon for “enrichment”.  I tried a few different teaching methods throughout the year during the Algebra 1 section.

  • We tried ISN’s for a semester and a half.
  • We tried typed notes for 9 weeks.
  • We tried differentiated (more like tiered) assignments/quizzes for 9 weeks.
  • We substituted worksheets for whiteboards for 9 weeks.

The afternoon section we utilized the majority of the time to work on

I am tossing around the idea of standard based grading for next year.  I love the idea of knowing what skills they know and what they still need to learn.  Standard Based Grading is exactly the answer to this.  These students are “chosen” because they are a predicted fail before they walk in to the high school.  They lack some basic skills.  I have some that struggle with their basic operations, but are still willing to try.  They are great kids and we have grown very fond of each other.

I am curious to what questions I should include on the survey that would give me the best feedback on their feelings towards math.  I am curious about what methods they feel like were the most effective.  I am curious about what they feel like made them more successful in my class vs. any other algebra 1 class in our school.

So what questions would you include???