Friday, May 31, 2013

Interesting perspective on teaching math.

I was doing research on the internet to find some real world math problems that I could have my students do and I stumbled across this blog
In it, the author has a short video of Annie Fetter from the Math Forum in which she says we should use senarios with questions like What do you notice? and What do you wonder? You are not after the students to actually solve it just look at it and find information.  The class has a discussion on it and then for homework you have the students write about what they talked about in class that day.  Toward the end of the entry are three websites, one of which has some great things to use for that. 
This is a cool way to integrate writing into the classroom while being able to assess student thinking and understanding of certain math ideas. 
I am always looking for new ways to integrate writing and to assess student understanding.  My students due to cultural influences are afraid to make a mistake and want you to check all their problems.  I need to help them be less afraid of making mistakes and being willing to work independently.
If anyone has ideas or scenarios I could use in a High School math class, I would love to hear.

Thursday, May 30, 2013


As I was working on deciding exactly what my students should know in each class I teach, I realized that factoring is extremely important in more than algebraic fractions.  I discovered a nice game on prime numbers and prime factorization that also shows factoring in a way students can see how prime numbers are used as factors.  It is Prime Smash by Panasonic  and Risupia.  This game has three levels where balls bounce up one at at time and you decide if they are prime numbers or composite.  If they are prime you tap and if they are composite you swipe the number to split it up, tap a prime or swipe a composite and you break it down till it has been totally factored. Sometimes the program splits a number into a prime and a composite or two composite numbers.  You have to think quickly when you play this game.
It has a nice fun facts sections that defines prime numbers, defines twin primes, shows emirps and Palindrmic primes, and talks a bit about how to distinguish prime numbers and how they are used for incription.  This is a free app and a really nice one.
I am having fun on the easy level learning to play the game.  I've tried the medium level but its a bit fast for me quite yet.  This game is actually lots of fun once you get the hang of using it and I can see having students play this game on a regular bases.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Preparing lesson plans

I am rewriting my lesson plans to utilize technology better.  One of the things I've done is to look at what I usually teach and divide the topics into units and not as a weekly thing.  Next I am breaking down the units into the concepts they really need to know to move on in Math vs trying to get through the chapters in the book.  Once I identify the concepts, I figure out what they should already know.  For instance in algebra 1 and 2, students will be using fractions with variables.  I know they struggle with finding LCM and GCF using only numerical denominators.  In order to find the LCM and GCF, they need to know prime factoring.  So my first unit in algebra 1 will be a review unit to cover prime numbers and prime factorization, LCM, GCF, expressions, and order of operations.  Simultaneous to breaking down things, I have been checking the iTunes Store for apps that can easily reinforce these concepts.  I am also going to set up work in Subtext and a couple other apps to ensure that they actually read material associated with the topic.  I want to make sure that any technology I use will further their understanding of math.  Tomorrow, I am going to review a nice game on finding primes.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Middle school math 7

I downloaded the grade 7 free app by the same people who made yesterday's app.  The first four topics are free and include adding and multiplying negative numbers, absolute value and order of operations.  Each topic has three levels and it keeps track of your score and your time.  Again the student can send results to the teacher. Both apps offer the student a chance to reset s ores and do the whole level again. In this game, the student helps the monkey move down a ladder, stopping every so often to pose a question.  I think this app is much more appropriate for middle school, pre-algebra, and lower performing algebra students.  I plan to have my algebra one students play these games over the first week or two of school to help them review after a summer off from school.  I hope my students like the app.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Middle school Algebra 8th grade.

The app shows up as Math 8 on my ipad.  it is an app that has a lite version and a paid version.  It has a monkey on the face of it and is a game where you tilt the ipad to move the monkey to the right or left.  If you get the monkey in the right spot, it gives you a problem. After 8 problems it gives you a score.  Each of the 4 topics has 3 levels  and you can do all three levels to become quite familiar with the process.  The four topics that come with the free versions are 1.  Words to expressions, 2.  Evaluating Expressions, 3 solving 1 step equations and  4. 2 step equations.  If you purchase the paid version, you can get linear equations, multi-step equations, solving inequalities, systems of equations, rational equations and exponential functions.
I think the free app will really do lots of good in my class as I can see having my students practice changing words to expressions using this app.  Since many are ELL, this will allow them to practice the topic in a fun filled way.  Actually all 4 topics are ones that my students need practice in.  I can see even using this app in Algebra II as a review for solving one and two step equations.  I like what it has to offer and I can use it for Pre-algebra, Algebra I and Algebra II to reinforce the skills. 
I think my students will enjoy using this program and will practice the skills since it is a game and it will prepare them better to do the actual work associated with the topic when I finally hand out practice sheets.  The company that makes this also makes a middle school grade 7 and 6.  I looked at those and just looking at them, grade 7 has students practicing using negative and positive numbers. 
I plan to download the grade 7 free app to check it out.  I just discovered there is a way for students to e-mail scores to the teacher so that I can monitor their progress.  The full versions are 99 cents and allow you to access all levels, not just the first four.  Furthermore, they are labeled the same except with the word pro. 
I am going to recommend getting this for school in the fall and I am going to integrate it into lesson plans.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Thoughts on the volume app

I have given some thought to the best way to use the volume app I mentioned a few blogs ago.  The videos are well done but it has a mechanical voice which may make my students dislike the videos  I am going to create a set of questions to answer as they watch the videos  This way they have to actually pay attention to what is being watched.  I am also going to include some problems based on the material in the videos so they have to attempt to work some problems to see if they understand the process. When they are done, they can check a QR code to see if they get the answers correct.  I am going to use those QR codes more often beginning in the fall. 
I am now on holidays but will spend the summer actually writing lesson plans and units with more integration of the iPad.  As I come up with ideas and plans, I"ll share the information with my readers.  I will be starting Monday and hope to post something from then.

Thursday, May 23, 2013


I have recently started using the Reminders app on my iPad and am realizing how great it is going to be to use in the classroom.  Sine I am going to use learning menus and plan to assign the project at the beginning of the unit with a due date of the end of the unit, I think the Reminders app will be great for my students.  With the first menu, I can tell the students what reminders to put in so they know what part should be completed by a certain date.  This will help them learn to set goals so as to complete an assignment over a period of time rather than waiting till the night before.  My students have issues with planning and setting goals and I think this will help them with learning that skill.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Infographics and learning

I am still working on lesson plans using the volume app but we recently got our state test results and they were not as high as hoped.  So I was thinking of a way to improve student understanding of their results and one way for me to increase my monitoring of their learning.
In regard to their understanding of their individual results, I am thinking of having each high school student I teach take their results and the state results and create a graph from that data to insert in an infographics they create of their data.  Right now we just review the data, talk about it and go on as before.  Maybe if they put the data into a visual display, it might make more of an impact on them.
As for monitoring their learning, I am seriously considering using some sort of weekly testing process.  If I set up a quiz on, I know I can get a download of how the students did on the quiz and on each question to provide me with data for my instruction.  My school is stressing data given instruction so this is one way to gather the data I need.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Surface area

One of the topics I have been covering is surface area.  I have discovered that most of my students have issues with understanding it and understanding scale.  One project I have had students in the past is to design their dream bedroom.  They were to draw a floor plan, the walls, and ceiling with all lights, windows, and doors marked in.  Many of my students took it a step further by adding in the furniture.  The problem came with furniture and windows that were out of proportion with the scale for the room.  The surface area comes in when they add the cost of flooring, wall covering, and ceiling up to get a total cost for finishing the bedroom.  I found a nice app called room planner which allows students to create a floor plan, add windows, doors, and furnishings and view it in 3-D.  I think  having a 3D view will help students "see" their dream room better.
In reality, this is really the only type of surface area that most of my students will use in their lives.  I know very few folks who need to find the surface area of a pyramid, or cone or other shape like that.  I am writing this in the airport as I wait for my connection in a couple of hours.
I hope to revisit the volume app in a couple of days.

Friday, May 17, 2013

App for teaching volume

I found a nice little app called Geometry: Volume of solids lite.  It has short videos explaining volume for rectangular prism, cylinder, sphere, pyramid and cone, the most common shapes our students are required to learn.  I downloaded it last night and plan to check it out over the weekend so I can give a more accurate review.  I watched a bit of the pyramid one and it had a 3 dimensional representation of the shape that turned around so students get a full look at all sides of it.  The introduction takes time to show how they derive the volume formulas for the shapes.  The best thing of all is that this is a free app.  I plan to explore other apps by this person.
Last day to get the book free.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

More thoughts on Infographics plus apology.

I've been playing with infographics and discovered a couple web sites that allow me to make my own infographics.  I have been playing around with them.  One is and the other is  I've only played with each site a short time but so far the first one is much easier to use for me.  I am going to check out some other sites over the summer and play with them to see which I like best.  I want to use them to produce posters that I will target exactly what I want covered on certain topics.  I want to bring in pictures such as a slide for slow and show that the stairs going up have positive slope and the slide down is negative.  My students need to see real world examples to start relating and I will also be building prior knowledge.
No for the apologies.  I got my dates mixed up the my ebook "Teaching math using iPads" is offered today and tomorrow for free.  Please enjoy

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Infographics + finding information.

Most of my students are below proficient in writing.  That is the last part of the state test they tend to pass.  I was playing with infographics yesterday and had a great time.  In the process I decided that I am going to see about importing infographics into a program such as subtext and adding some questions so that my students have to find the information and reply using complete sentences.  I can also add in some compare and contrast activities.  Since many infographics have actual stats, it falls neatly into math.  Right now, the students get out early on Wednesdays so teachers can have their weekly meetings.  The length of the classes on Wednesdays are perfect for this activity.  I think I will also do one word problem on Wednesdays using the KWC process. They need to work on taking the time to find information rather than asking me immediately for help.
Tomorrow and Friday, my ebook on Amazon is available free. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

rewriting my plan of attack.

Last night I got to thinking that many of my students go through the motions of doing the problems without developing a deeper understanding of the math itself.  This means I have not spent enough time in my teaching helping them develop the understanding so I need to focus on making assignments so they require higher level of thinking.  I know too often I resort to the simple calculations. 
I've decided when we do linear equations, I am going to have them find real life examples that use slope along with providing an explanation of what slope tells us.  I think an infographic or similar activity would be good for this.  It is time to revisit what I need taught and how it will be done.  Up to know I've used previous plans with technology inserted as best I could but now I am going to rethink my plans and ideas to see if I can improve .
I need to consult Blooms digital taxonomy to see if I can utilize higher levels of thinking so maybe they will do better. 
Tomorrow and Thursday my ebook on "Teaching Math using an iPad will be available on Amazon for free.  It is a short ebook talking about certain types of apps and specific suggestions for using them in the math class room.  I admit this is geared for older students but you might find some things applicable in the elementary rooms.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Thoughts on mastery

I just got some of the results back from the state on my students.  One or two of the ones who should have passed did not.  I realized today one reason they may have had difficulty is they want every single problem they do in class checked to make sure it is correct and they want me there guiding them on each problem.  I think they are afraid to make mistakes.  So I am going to implement a weekly mastery test on the computer so they can do 4 or 5 problems once a week and they will select the correct multiple choice answer.  I hope this will help them prepare for the State Tests better and will give me a better assessment tool to use. 
I struggle to get the students past the "I can't do it so why even try" attitude many of them have.  If I can help them succeed, their attitude changes and many go from disrupting the class to actually working. 
I am open to suggestions.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

update on myscript calculator

I did a bit of reading on the web and tried it out a bit more and discovered a couple things about it.
1.  You can write an equation like 2x ? + 1 =9 and it will write 2 x  4 + 1 = 8.  It will actually solve the problem.
2.  If you do 2 x 3 = 5, it will give you the answer 2 x 3 = 5  + 1  so it takes your answer and tells you how far off it is.
3.  Since it only does nth roots by using the fractional form of the radical signs, this means that students get more practice on converting radicals into fractional exponents.  I like this because too many of my students have trouble with the connection.
Finally, the student I let try it out for some work, loved it. 
I am going to continue exploring it this summer but I think I will put it n the iPads in the fall.

I showed the subtext app to the principal who used to be the science teacher.  His first comment out was that you could set up a whole week doing this type of app.  He was impressed.
So I have 3 to 5 apps that I will be working on over the summer to prepare for the fall.  I will be sharing things as I set them up.

One last thing.  My 9th graders love using the Venn diagrams to find LCM and GCF  because it allows them to see the relationship between the two.  I am going to see about creating a document that I can use with subtext or with the students that they can fill out for themselves.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Gem of a free calculator app

Last night I stumbled across a neat little calculator program that so far is great for many HS math classes.  It can also be used at the lower levels.  Most calculator apps mimic a real calculator with the buttons, clear, memory, etc but this one does not.  My Script calculator is quite different. You write the problem out with your finger and it transforms it into print and gives you an answer.  It does ln, log base something, nth roots using the exponential form of the radical.  It even recognizes pi and changes it to 3.14 for calculations of volume or area.  I discovered it does sin, cos, and tan using either degrees or rads automatically.
The only down side I have found but I am planning on checking with the company that makes the app is that it gives answers to all problems in decimal form, even fractions.  Other than that I love it and I think it is faster for the students to use as they are not hunting for various keys.
I showed it to the sped dept and the lady in charge loved it.
Has anyone used this particular app? How do you like it?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Flipped classroom

I just read an infographic on ways to flip your classroom and many of the suggestions do not require that my students watch a video on the internet.  This opens more opportunities for me to be able to flip my classroom.  Many of my students do not have internet at home and have a limited data plan so they cannot watch videos on their mobile devices.  I feel stupid for not knowing I could have them interview a parent to see where math fits into their job, or read a blog, or write something or even visit the library to find information.  I am glad to have options because my students would get bored watching a video all the time.  If it involved reading up on a topic, maybe I ask students to install certain apps on their mobile devices so they can take the work home to do on the device and then put the answer in a QR code to return to me.  Ohhh the possibilities.  Homework could become more mobile......LOL

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

QR Codes and student work.

I was looking at ways to use QR codes in my classroom.  After reading about putting a QR code on the homework that has the answers in the code, I wondered if the iPad had an app that would allow a person to create a QR code on the iPad.  I found one that will allow text.  This got me to thinking, why can't I have students create QR codes with answers to reading for meaning questions, mastery quizzes and other types of activities that needs short answers.  That way I can scan their QR codes on my iPad and read the answers.  This might cut down on the assignments that some of my students forget to turn in.  I do not know how it will work but it is worth a try. 
I hate using half a sheet of paper for things.  I have been thinking of what method I will have the students use to share completed work such as presentations, etc.  That is one thing I will be working on over the summer.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

There is a push for my students to do more reading and writing so they do better on the standardized testing.  I've been thinking about how to include in my classrooms.
1.  Word problems - Use the KWC  after underlining the important sections.  Perhaps even have a short video or illustration included so my students can see what it is.  My students tend to be so remote that they have little or no prior knowledge of some of the situations.  For instance driving the car from Philly to NYC.  We don't have cars and they have no idea of the distance involved.  So I  end up rewriting the problems to use boats, snow machines or ATV's.  If I included a map, perphaps a google trip using google world so they could see the actual routing that might build some prior knowledge.  They could fill out a short pdf form for the KWC and then on the bottom write in an explanation for how they came up with their answer.  This would add reading and writing into my math class.
2.  NASA math problems.  I've tried these but the students do not do well with them.  Again, if we had a pdf form to help them organize information, pictures or videos on the topic so they can "see" what is being talked about and perhaps have them create a video to record how they came up with the answer, it might help them improve their mathematical vocabulary.
3.  Finding real life problems such as telling how long a body has been dead using logs and temps.  Include a web page with the information so students can find the equation used to determine the time since death.  Provide them with a scenario where they are the corenor and they have a body.  They discovered that the body temp is such and such and they make a report on how long the person is dead. 
These are just three ideas I came up with to incorporate more reading, writing, and technology into my lesson plans for next year.  I did not mention iPad apps because there are several that could be used.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Three apps

I have three apps I just downloaded from the apps store and I will be working with them to decided if I can use them in my classes and if I can plan ahead by making presentations, etc to use with them.  I am mostly thinking of the best way to use them.
The nearpad application which allows the teacher to share a presentation, quiz, etc with the students and actually be synchronized with student iPads so you swipe and it changes the page on their iPad.  One concern is giving a quiz during the time.  I think I would place that towards the end so each student has the chance to work at their own pace.  What impressed me simply is that you can try nearpad using your pc or mac instead of another iPad or iPod.  It worked quite well.
The ask3 app states that you can turn the ipad into an interactive white board with sound recording etc.  When I investigated it, it appears I can only set it up for one class and cannot carry the material over to the next semester.  The company stated they are working on that feature.
Subtext is a lovely app that allows you to pull in a worksheet, reading or book, add questions, notes, etc so that it becomes an interactive experience and helps the student improve their reading.  I can see using it for word problems and for material out of the book.  At this point in time, it does not do pdfs but they hope to have the app use pdfs come fall.  You have to convert the pdf to epubs first.
Now that I know about these apps, I can figure out how to incorporate them into my lesson plans but first I have to convince the tech dept that I need my iPad on the wireless system so I can use them. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

plans already

The school year here is down to the last two weeks.  We are finishing up inverse functions and I"m having the students use  a graphing app to graph their inverse functions.  Its been educational for me in that I will have to figure out news ways of teaching the material so they can see a continuity between the equations and their inverses.  They treat each problem as a new problem, different from all the others before.  I think this might have something to do with the local culture.
I had down loaded a couple apps that advertised they could be used by students to practice algebra or geometry.  The problem with these two apps is simply that neither the student nor I have a way to select the level or type of questions.  Since I had no voice in the selection of the questions, my students were getting questions that might be on material at the end of the year rather than at that moment.  In addition, the questions might quiz the student on something I am not teaching because it is AP material. 
I am going to explore apps over the summer to see which ones can be used to create more indepth teaching experiences for the students.  I want to use activities that are further up on Blooms digital taxonomy.  I want them to experience more authentic work.  Over the past few days, I have taken time to ask students where we use certain things in real life to try to build their knowledge base.
As I check out apps, I'll let you know what I find.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Factoring and Showme or educreation

I was able to use the venn diagram today to show my students to find the LCM of an algebraic fraction.  It worked beautifully and helped several of my students understand finding the LCM of this type of fraction.  They could find LCM's for numbers but had trouble extending their knowledge to an algebraic fraction.
I am thinking of having the students make a presentation showing how to use the venn diagrams for finding the LCM of algebraic fractions.  I am thinking of having them use showme or educreation which is what I'm familiar with.  I am going to research apps tonight to see if there is an app that would make more of a podcast type presentation with video/sound/etc. 
This might help them connect with their prior knowledge.  If anyone has  suggestion on apps that would be good for this type of presentation. I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Neat app for word problems.

Found a new app called Subtext.  It allows you to take a book or web page or document and layer things like questions, quizzes, assignments, etc to make it more educational than just reading.  Right now they do not do PDF's but they are working on it and hope to have that facet available by next school year.  I've heard great things about it and it seems to be mostly used for literature or reading.  I tried to think of where I could use this actual application in my math classroom and at first thought about worksheets.  Once they get the PDF feature up and running that would be a possibility but this morning, it hit me.  Word Problems.  Most of my students take the numbers provided in the word problem and guess the operation, hoping for the correct answer.  If I used word problems with this application I could incorporate the KWC  (What do I want to know, what do I need to find and what considerations or special conditions do I need to keep track of).  This is something I could easily layer into the material.   Honestly I do not do enough on word problems and this could give me a tool to help them practice doing word problems.