Monday, September 30, 2013

Updates, etc

I just updated the iPads to iOS 7 this past Tuesday mostly because students were trying to download the new operating system. Of the three, one downloaded successfully and the other two generated the plug screen of death.  Friday, the students are telling me about the update but agreed to let me do it later today, so during my prep period and after school, I'll be downloading the newest version of the operating system.  I can say, my kids like the new look and feel of the latest operating system.
I had the students in Algebra 1 use popplet to create a map of relations, functions, domain and range, and the vertical line test.  Several of the students understood the difference between relations and functions at the end of the exercise but popplet won't do what I wanted in terms of being a notebook so I found another program to use.  So far, having a different notebook app for each period is working well on the shared iPads.  It is interesting to see the students creating notes for themselves. Some just shove something together while others take the time to make some awesome notes and if I had had to predict everyone who would make great notes, there were a few I would have been wrong on.
Later today, I am going to have to track down another graphing program that will allow me to graph conic sections without rewriting problems into the y = format.  I used it last year and it has a small tutoring section so the students can read up on the topic if they forget.  Actually, I need to go through past blogs to find the name of it but I use it when I teach conic sections.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

increasing higher order thinking questions

I really don't like writing on weekends but I wanted to talk about way's I've been increasing my students critical thinking skills and improving their English.  About half of my students are classified ELL (English Language Learners) and they often have trouble distinguishing the differences in word meanings among common conversation, specialized usage and slang.  One way I increase their understanding of definitions is to do vocabulary exercises where when students define words, we put the mathematical definition, the common usage, and slang if it applies. 
AT the beginning of the year, I would use at least one open ended question such as choose 3 different numbers and two different operations to equal -4.  This shows students that not all mathematical questions have only one answer.  This week.  I put up general questions and had the students write the question.
1.  Write a word problem based on the rate x time = distance formula from here to a certain village.
2.  Write a word sentence or problem using the word ratio, 4, 1/3
3.  Write your own "Which one does not belong?"

These types of questions help improve mathematical vocabulary and thinking.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Interactive notebooks part two

I and my students are finding out more about the individual notebook programs we are using.  For instance, Goodnotes allows my students to take both pictures and screen shots and import them into their writings so they can add annotations with their finger or with a text book.  Unfortunately SAS Notebook requires the students to use a scratch paper to bring in photos or other type of picture.  They can hand write annotations, comments, etc but we are still working on adding typing.  They cannot import the scratch paper material into the text page so students will require two pages.  For inkflow the students were helping each other figure out how to create examples using the geometry pad or geoboard apps, take and crop those pictures and import them to the page.  Every single student was on task in all three classes and it was fun watching students who are not normally engaged doing the assignment.  I have one period left and that is my 9th grade math class.  We are starting with popplet and they will do one or two rectangles/cards a day
The QR codes for warm-ups are going well and a couple students asked me why I was not doing the practice standardized test questions via QR code.  I told them I"d try it for next week and the kids are buying into the technological integration.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Implementing digital apps

Tuesday I downloaded 4 different notebook apps so each of 4 classes would have their own set of digital notebooks as these iPads are shared.  For two periods I had the students write down notes and for one period, I had them write what they knew about midpoint, distance and angles.   The biggest thing I forgot to do was plan time in so they could explore the application before writing things down.  Just for your reference I downloaded SAS Notebook, Goodnotes, Inkflow and Popplet lite.  It turns out Inkflow comes with a 10 page instruction manual the students read.  When they started writing, I had students help answer each others questions on using the app such as "How do I delete something?"  "How do I start a new notebook?"  This way I don't have to answer things. 
I am hoping to have students use these apps as their digital journals. 
In the future, I plan to have them create posters, foldables, take pictures of certain worksheets and use the annotation abilities to highlight certain important items.  I am going to try to have them create posters or word salads on line and import the finished project into the journals. I am hoping this way, it becomes more interactive than just a straight writing exercise.
Only time will tell how it works.  I have one more period today and we'll see if we even get to the app as it is a shorter period than usual due to a pep rally.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Flash cards

I am having my students do word problems today and it became apparent that my students have issues with some of the vocabulary in terms of operations. 
I introduced students to the KFCW chart which is a math version of KWL.  They have to list what they know or information they are given.  F is used for the part of What do you want to find?  C is what do you need to consider?  This is where they write down what operation do they need to use? Is there some formula they will need to use?  How are you going to solve the problem?  Finally is W which stands for Work. This is where the student shows their work and the solution.  I showed it to the new Science teacher and she is making her students use the same form for science word problems.  I like the consistency between the two classes.
As my students are working the problems they get to the words telling them what operation to apply and they don't really know those words.  I have the SAS flash card app on their iPads, so I think beginning tomorrow, I will have students create flash cards for operation vocabulary so they can test themselves and learn the vocabulary.  I like the SAS flash card app because they can make either text based cards with the word, a picture, a voice over and the answer or an actual math problem. 
Yesterday, I managed to update the OS on all the ipads and downloaded a few different notebook type programs so I can use a different one in each period.  I am hoping that this will eliminate the issue of one student messing with another student's work.  I am hoping to begin the notebooks around mid October.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Interactive notebooks

I"ve been reading up on ways of creating and using interactive notebooks in Math.  All of the ways I"ve found use a composition book and foldables to create the notebook.  I know I am trying to use more technology in the classroom so I can avoid using more paper and have more things my students have to keep track of in class.  So I am wondering if I could use a book creator app or even ibooks author so my students can create interactive math notebooks.  I need to research this a bit more as I want students to be able to bring in their drawings and work and not just rely on what they can import from the internet.  I am also wondering if they can design something that flips or moves for the notebook. 
On a different note, I had my seniors start using mind map for sin and cos graphing.  The areas are altitude, shift both horizontal and vertical, phase, and frequency.  So far, it is going well.  The one thing I learned is that it takes time for them to use the mind map app right now and we are only going to be able to add one or two strands a day.
I am hoping to have my algebra 2 students use it beginning Thursday for finding linear equations.  I have to make it Thursday because some students took the initiative to download iOS7 and one or two got messed up so I have to spend part of today getting the iPads up to date, imaged, and running.

Monday, September 23, 2013


I was doing a search for using mindmapping in Math to get more ideas for using mindmapping in my math classes and ran across this site called mathsrevision from Scotland.  It has nice mindmaps that can be used by the teacher in the classroom using a smartboard and each thought or point will appear one at a time as you click the screen. I am still experimenting to see how well it works on the iPad. 
Once I redid the way I entered my search parameters, I finally got more of what I wanted.  I found you can use it for problem solving and the website gave lots of nice mindmaps. 
I am going to try it with my Algebra 2 later today to see how it works for finding equations of linear equations from graphs, with the College Prep math class for trig and maybe with the geometry class for the basics. 
I downloaded a free mindmapping app and I'll report back tomorrow on how it goes.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Thoughts on typing, calculators and mobile devices.

I remember taking the mandatory typing and bookkeeping class where I learned to operate a 10 key machine.  Times have certainly changed.  When we took typing, we learned touch typing with the home row and keys and were so happy to get to 35 words per min when we finished the class.  After I graduated and went to college, both the typing and ten key helped me land jobs as I worked my way through college.  Now, I don't know if schools are offering typing much anymore because most students who own mobile devices use their thumbs quite effectively to type in messages. They are much faster than those who use the hunt and peck method.  I've seen them do this on their iPads in class when they have to type things. 
The new mobile devices allow the user to do so many things that you really do not need a computer anymore.  I know typewriters for the most part have gone by the wayside and I'm wondering if desktop computers will be going that way in a few year.
As for calculators, you can now find some that let you use your fingers to write the problem and the application translates it into print.  I wonder if this type of app is going to take over for regular calculator apps and make them obsolete in a few years.  It will be interesting to see where the future takes us.

Friday, September 20, 2013

algebra game

I reported on an algebra application over the summer.  It has a blue background with a monkey on it and is written by Monkey in the Middle apps people. I had my first period class play the game and they enjoyed it. When you click on the first topic - words into equations, it gives you three choices, a game, flashcards or a timed challenge. The game has you helping a monkey go up the platforms and along the way you get 5 multiple choice questions.  If you get the questions correct, you keep going but if you miss the question, the monkey has to start again.  I had one student who did not want to quit when the bell rang.
I am finding games provide a venue where I can have students practice and reinforce skills which they need to work on and not having to take extra time to reteach the skills.  I like doing the games during the last 5 to 10 min of class.  One student even said "Where did the time go?" today when I asked them to clean up.  He is one who normally complains about time going too slowly.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Construction lite

Today in two different classes we used apps to help the students learn.
In the college prep math class we used free graphing calculator to learn what the graphs of sin and cos looked like and what happens if you add this or that to the equation.  We discussed it, played with equations and the kids really had a blast.
We started with y = sinx.  I took time to have them read the unit circle so that we could connect the unit circle to the sin graph.   They graphed y = 3sinx on a different line so they could have both equations on the screen at once.  This way they were able to tell me what happened to the graph by adding the 3.  I had them graph y = sinx + 2,  y = sin(x+pi/2) and y = 3sin(x + pi/2)+2.  After comparing and contrasting the graphs, I was able to lead them to seeing how the transformations from earlier math classes applied to trig graphs.  It was awesome.
I downloaded and had my geometry students use construction lite which simulates using the compass and straightedge.  The first two sections are unlocked in this free version of the app.  The sections are lines and angles.  We looked at copying a segment and constructing a perpendicular bisector.  The app shows the student how to do each activity and then allows them to do it themselves using the digital compass and straightedge. 
I just let my students loose to try the sections themselves and as one figured out how to do something, I would have him or her go help others so those who finished early were working as peer tutors with the others.  Although only two topics are available, there is a sketch function that will allow me to have students follow the construction directions in the books and I don't have to keep track of all the compasses, pencils etc.  The kids enjoyed themselves.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Next step in process

I've got the iPads and I've got the students trained to grab an iPad and scan the QR code for the warm-up.  They do this before they get their folders.  After yesterday's origami lesson, I was going to have students write a short summary of the relation of origami to points, lines, planes and intersections but the e-mail was not set up.  So I spoke to the tech dept and they assured me that with the new OS7 I would not need e-mail because it has airdrop which will allow students to turn in their work.  There are assignments I'd like to have them do in a paperless way so that I do not have to correct the paper. This is also going to cut down on the "I turned it in" but its found in their folder/locker/home syndrome.  I can hardly wait to try it out.
Once that is up and working, we can use a spread sheet to program rate of change and use that for an activity in a couple of my classes.  I can have them make presentations on showme or Haiku deck and have them turn it in.  I am just excited.
Ohhh in regard to the origami exercise yesterday, first thing my students said was "When do we get to do that again?".  I am thrilled because they don't usually get excited over math in general.  I know we can use it for angles, types of triangles, etc.  This is going to be a fun year.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Foldables, origami and geometry.

Today in Geometry we had a blast doing origami.  We just started learning about points, lines, planes and intersections yesterday.  Rather than bore them with standard learning activities using points, lines, planes and intersections, I decided to incorporate origami.  After the warm-up I showed a video on the science of origami which was quite fascinating.  Dr Robert Lang, a person who can fold just about anything from a single sheet of paper, shared how origami has helped in science.  I didn't know that the way a scorpion is made in origami is the same type of folding used to put the airbag in the steering column.  The video was only 1:46 long but the kids were so interested in the material, they asked me to show the video again.
I had loaded two origami apps onto the iPads earlier this month.  One is Origami instructables while the other is "How to make origami" .  Personally, I prefer the latter because each step allows you to have the app show the actual fold if you want more than just the directions.  My students had so much fun, they didn't want to put away the iPads when the bell went.  Tomorrow, I will have the students create a summary of how they used point, lines, planes and intersections in this activity.
A couple weeks ago, we had a short after school class on Foldables created by Dinah Zike.  I wasn't sure my high school students would buy into them but they did.  They were focused and on task.  For Algebra II, we will be filling in the information over the next couple of weeks while in College Prep math, we created a foldable for the 6 basic trig ratios including as they relate to the unit circle.  It was awesome. I think that high school kids still like to make things and don't often get the chance unless they are enrolled in an art class.  I have to pull out my book on using foldables in math.

Monday, September 16, 2013


In my advanced math class, my students are studying trigonometry.  Last week I showed a short video on the unit circle itself from teachertube.  It did a really nice job of showing how the values are found.  Today I showed a video on how to use the unit circle to find values of various problems such as sin 270 degrees.  It laid a good foundation for how the values relate to sin, cos, tan, csc, sec, and cot.  Tomorrow, I have an activity to reinforce the other ways of looking at tan, csc, sec and cot using only sin and cos. Finished off using a free app for Trig to reinforce the basic identities of the 6 basic ratios.  The app icon is blue with a red X^r on it and trig 1 under it.  The kids are having fun practicing the basic ratios
If I could, I would have students watch the videos at home so I'd have a more flipped classroom but so many of my students do not have internet or limited bandwidth so it is really impractical to do it. 

Friday, September 13, 2013

Thank goodness it is friday.

Due to a couple of students taking tons of photos during class rather than working on the assignment, I spoke with a tech guy at school and  he suggested we adjust the profile to turn off the camera.  Great, so I did that and the scan program did not work due to the camera being off.  So one hour later, I redid the profiles so the cameras now work.  These students will be doing their work using pen and paper rather than actually getting to play some of the games.
I just found out that the state mandated test will be given online beginning next year so I'm preparing the students for it.  I am making quizzes that will be given via the computers and many of the games I've down loaded require the student to select the proper multiple choice answer to gain points. 
Over the weekend, I am going to be creating some learning menus with a variety of projects to choose from.  The work will be due one week after we finish the unit and will have things like prepare a 2 min lesson on Showme.  Or create a book on the topic using book creator.   I am hoping this will help more students learn the material and will provide a certain amount of differentiation.  It will be several weeks before I know how well it works.
I had students go to and it worked well on their iPads including the practice problems. Unfortunately, not every website with activities or material works with the iPads.  
I don't know if I mentioned it but the CILC has a series of programs which cost money but are well worth it.  I found one on origami and geometry that I am going to see about requesting with my students. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Downside to technology

Our school has discovered the downside to technology during the past two days.  We use an automated bell system so that the bell schedule changes on Wednesday for the early out.  No one has to mess with it.  Unfortunately, someone made a change that resulted in having a lock down drill go off instead of the first bell for lunch which tells us we have 5 min to lunch.  my kids don't mind it  as they are allowed to sit in the corner with the iPads and have been having fun trying out various educational math games while we wait for the all clear.
On the other hand, I am trying to use the CILC or Center for interactive learning and collaboration which has some nice topics with which to supplement and add to a students learning experience.  I will let you know how it goes tomorrow.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

First full day of iPad integration.

Overall, it went quite well.  I had the students come in and scan a QR code after getting their iPads.  They actually sat down and did the warm-up nicely.  Once we'd gotten over the beginning part of class,  I took time to let the students explore the apps, Gloss and my script calculator.  This took about 10 min out of the period but it was worth it because we then worked on doing one word problem.  We started by listing what we know, what do we have to find and what do we have to think about to answer this question.  It was awesome the way the students worked when I said they had to work in pairs and use one or the other or both apps to solve it.  I saw some really awesome discussion.  I have one period that went to a site to take a test I created and then they read up on-line about square roots.  Tomorrow, all students will be watching a video on the material they are learning.  I see some great things happening with the iPads in my classroom. I did have one student who thought the iPad was a wonderful toy because he took 135 photos during class and he'll discover he'll have a problem tomorrow when we use the iPads......LOL

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Google Earth

I have run across this before but keep forgetting about it. There is a great website called Real Math whose author created over 30 real world math activities based on google earth.  I know there is a google earth app for the iPad because I put it on my own.  So now I can add it to my classroom set.  The author has divided the lessons into 5 groups, concepts, project based, measurement, exploratory and space.  Under exploratory, I found one titled whale watch that sounds quite interesting.  In addition, he has tutorials and teacher materials in addition to the student materials.
I look forward to trying some of these activities in my classroom so it gives students some experience with seeing the connection between math and real world. 
I also got a note about illuminations from NCTM reminding me about this.  Unfortunately, many of the lessons require flash and cannot be used on the iPad.  Illuminations has 108 online activities and 607 lesson plans.  It just means you try some of the activities on your iPad to see if it works.  Many of the lessons do work.  So give it a look.

Monday, September 9, 2013

NASA space math problems

I forgot about NASA space math problems until I got one of their regular updates in my e-mail this morning.  The latest problem is Problem 607: The Launch of LADEE to the Moon.
The description is :
Students plot the altitude, range and speed of the LADEE rocket launch and investigate rates of change including acceleration by graphing the tabular data and determining the slope of the graph using the definition of the slope of a line between two points.
This is a wonderful example of rate of change in a real situation where students can try it themselves.  The material NASA offers covers grades 6 to 12 and has all the past problems available for use along with some other items such as a space math book for grades 6 to 8 which is a standards based with multi-media math resources. 
The information is in PDF form so I can bring it into an app like subtext to interject questions, tags, activities, etc.  Most will require use of a calculator/graphing app, a drawing or note app and they could place their answers into a QR code to turn in.  Hmmmm the possibilities.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

I am trying something with QR codes

Yesterday the iPads were delivered to my room and I finished training on using Apple Configurator so I can add and delete apps as I need to.  While I was adding a few apps this morning, I wondered why I couldn't set up my warm-up questions as QR codes so students would immediately get the iPad out and start working while I am taking and record roll and  get my Smartboard up and running.  Up to know I've had to juggle the white board with the smartboard so I could take and record roll on the same computer that is connected to my Smartboard.  I had to go over to school this morning, so I set up the warm-ups in a QR code for Wednesday to try out.  We have an inservice scheduled for Monday and Tuesday so I cannot try it till Wednesday.  In fact, for my first period class I have QR codes set up for them to take an online quiz followed by reading up on simplifying square roots.  I am hoping this make the flow of class better and has the students stay more occupied.  I'll report back on how well it goes and in the meantime I am going to work on becoming more knowledgeable on SubText and nearpod.  I want to use both in my class.

Friday, September 6, 2013

MIT Blossoms

I was doing a search looking for MIT App Inverntor and discovered they also produce the MIT Blossoms website filled with videos for math, various sciences and engineering.  They cover a variety of topics including using geometry to build simple machines.  That looks like a cool one to use as an introduction to Geometry and its real world uses for my class.  In addition, they have a huge list of online resources for math, the various sciences and engineering.  I think that is sooo cool
On the other hand, they have my classroom set of iPads ready and I will get them during my prep period.  So this weekend I am going to set up my lesson plans to incorporate them.  I already have one plan for the students who have to retake the state graduation test.  I am going to put the practice tests on-line so they can do them and the program will produce data to help me figure out what my students need help with.  It will also help them prepare for when they must take tests on computers.  It will take a lot more work but I think it will be good for them in the long run.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

More thoughts on QR codes

It looks like I'll get the iPads for my classroom within the next day or two.  The tech dept wants my list of apps for the classroom set and I decided to have a QR reader and a QR creator app installed.  I am also thinking of requesting students make sure they have installed a QR reader on their personal devices because the iPads are shared.  The reason for this is simply I am tired of repeating the assignment or pointing to where I have the assignment posted on the board.  I am hoping that by making using QR codes, the students will learn to keep the assignment on their devices or the classroom iPads so they can refer to the information each day.  Maybe they'll check as frequently as they check their phones for text's from their loved ones......LOL
On the topic of QR codes, I found a wonderful collection of suggestions for using QR codes in Education that I plan to explore this weekend.  It is nice having so many items in one place instead of trying to search the web.  Three headings that have gotten my interest are:
1. Implementation of QR codes in the classroom.
2. Using QR codes in student projects.
3. Using QR codes in homework.

I've used QR codes before to send students to specific websites that have work or a reading for them and to list an order of activities I want them to do in class.  So this is a way of learning more ways to use QR codes.  I do not have to reinvent the wheel.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Using Word salad and other apps in Math.

I saw someone recommend Word Salad as a good app for the classroom.  Since it resembles Wordle, the first thing that entered my mind was simply "Can I use it effectively so the students learn?"  This was followed by "Can it be used to help build higher order thinking skills."  So while looking up more information I stumbled across this column in which the author suggested using word salad in combination with fotobabble to explain their their word salad.  Nice idea.  The other thing about this column was the author gave ways of using the iPads for think, pair, share and jigsaw.  This gives me a starting point on integrating technology into these activities.
As a side note.  I teach mathematics to students who are either ELL or who do not have a huge vocabulary and they have difficulty solving word problems. They grab numbers and try anything till they get the answer. So today I had them do Think, Pair, Share to find the information they are given (Know), Identify what they have to find, and to consider how they will solve the problems.  Since it was the first time I've done this it went a bit roughly but the students did actually talk.  I'll find out what they found when I grade papers a bit later.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

More real life possibilities for Math

After I wrote yesterday's post, I did a bit more research on sites that offer lessons and activities to connect math to the real world and stumbled across this post in Education World.  The author found 24 places on the internet divided into five different areas.  The first, collections of real world math activities, includes one where students from around the country wrote the word problems.  Then there are the online math activities with specific focus, online data sources (authentic data), math collaboration, and more real world math ideas at Education World.
I pulled up a few sites to check them out and was rather impressed with the ones I viewed.  Also some of the sites are no longer viable including one on using math with planes.  I thought this would be of interest to my students but it does not seem to be up and running, so check each one.
On the other hand, I did not see NASA's educational web page with some really awesome problems.

Monday, September 2, 2013

"When will I ever use this in real life?

This common questions is asked by students who need a reason to study mathematics.  I can point to a chart on the wall, answer it with examples but they still just shake their heads and tell me they are never going to need it.  I stumbled across a lovely website called Appreciate Math which gives some nice real life examples.  There are not too many examples but it looks like the site author recently started.  The entry on Math in Nature has a short 2:44 video I can show my students to give them a chance to see mathematics in real life.  I may even take the entries and have my students read and summarize the material as a way of helping answer that question and to get them to practice their reading and writing skills.
Most of my students see reading and writing as something that only happens in English or Social Studies.  As a school we are trying to increase test scores by increasing reading and writing across the core subjects.