Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Mathtoon Exponents

Today, my algebra I class worked on scientific notation.  After a video and guided practice, I had the students go on and do the first quiz under exponents as they are supposed to be fairly good at using exponents.  Unfortunately, the average score was about 5/10.  I think many of the students just put an answer to get done rather than really looking and trying. 
I do enjoy these apps because they give me a way of getting immediate feedback on student performance and behavior. In addition, it gives students a chance to practice taking computer based tests.  Their major state tests will be computer based and any practice I can give them will help.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Ten Marks by Amazon

I received something from Ten Marks the other day offering videos and online material for various math classes.  I looked at the Algebra I class and some of the material listed is material I am unable to cover in my classes with the new standards and limited time.  So I decided to sign up my smaller Algebra I class to try it out.  I set two topics up as assignments and beginning tomorrow I hope to have students log in and practice material at least two times a week.
I think this will be an excellent resource to help scaffold my weaker students, provide time to learn and practice material they should be exposed to and get them used to computer based programs to prepare for state tests.
It was easy to sign up for the site.  It was also easy to create a class in the site.  What is nice is the site provides login and passwords for all students in addition to a letter to send home to parents explaining the program.  Furthermore, I can preview the material before I assign it and set solid due dates. 
I plan to have students try it either tomorrow or Wednesday and I will get comment on how well it works.  In addition to covering high school math topics, it also covers elementary math.  I've sent the information to a couple of elementary teachers to try and let me know what they think of it.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Playing with QR codes and quizzes.

I currently use QR codes to hold the warm-up questions so students have something to do when they come in and I use it to put the answers on the homework but while giving a test today, I wondered if there was a way to use QR codes for students to relay their answers to me. 
I have used a QR code maker on the iPads in class with the students in the past.  I've asked a question or put a mathematical problem on the board and had them create the answer in that app.  I would use a QR code reader to check the answer as they left. 
Sometimes I would like to keep the information or receive all the quiz answers.  I need to find out if I can have them either e-mail the QR code to me, have it loaded up to schoology, put in dropbox or maybe use the airdrop feature to send the codes to me.  I am working on ways to save paper but I also wonder if requiring answers only is a good thing for Math.
On the other hand, I could have them download the quiz, write on it to show their work and then upload the completed work.  Gives me food for thought over the next few days.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Article on using a watermelon to teach math

I subscribe to the NCTM Math Education Smart Brief.  In today's edition, there was a short article on two fifth grade math classes who made estimates of the circumference, weight and number of seeds of  a watermelon.  The students then checked the circumference, found the actual weight and ate the watermelon to find the number of seeds. This gave them real life data to compare with their estimates.  As a final step they put the data into a spreadsheet and created a bar graph. 
This is a neat hands on activity that I had never thought about.  Usually, I do activities with m and m's or skittles but this makes a nice change and could be done outside since watermelon gets rather messy.
I think you could do this with cantaloupe, or cucumbers both of which has a fair number of seeds and are good to eat.  I like the teacher included a technology element in the lesson.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Learn Zillion part two.

After I wrote the post for the blog, I ended up showing two more videos from Learn Zillion for Algebra 2 and College Prep math classes.
I found a nice video on Functions which has a nice example of relations vs functions and being able to tell which is which.  They used two candy stores and rules which helped my students since they often purchase candy at one of the two local stores.  I will find out tomorrow how well it helped.
In college prep, their video on sinusoidal graphs was excellent. At one point, the video is showing an arm going around the unit circle while the flat graph is being produced. This is actually the first time I've seen an animation in a video like this.  It really helped students begin to see the connection.
I plan to use this web site more in the future as videos are an important part of my instruction.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Learn Zillion

In the past few days I've run across LearnZillion while looking for videos to use in class.  At my school, youtube is blocked and if you want a video from there, you have to put in a request at least a week early to have the block removed so you can download the video for class.  I used two different videos from this place today.
The first video was on percent of increase.  It was short but very much to a point and provided a way for students to figure out the rate of increase or decrease while using the same formula.  I had my students watch the video and then we started working problems.  By the 5th problem, most of the students were able to work independently.
The second video was on complementary and supplementary angles.  Again, the video was short but full of information and quite clear.  Even my students who struggled, learned from the video.
When I went to the site I discovered they have both lesson plans and video for various grades, including high school math.  Although the material is free for registered users, they do have a premium subscription for districts. 
I plan to explore the lesson plans to see how well cover the material I want covered.

Monday, September 22, 2014


I have high school 9th and 10th graders for Algebra I.  Today I had them draw 3/4 in three different ways.  It was amazing how many either wrote 3/4, 3 to 4 or 3:4 or drew a circle, a square or a rectangle that had three parts out of four shaded in.  I showed them it could be that or three items shaded in out of four or three out of four groups.  So towards the end of the period, I put them on a fractions app by BrainingCamp to learn more about fractions.  It starts out with lots of visuals as they begin what are fractions and moves on to more complex topics.  I think I am going to have them work on it this week. 
I've found the high school students I work with are wonderful at the mechanics but have lost sight of the visual concept behind them and that is one thing I am working on. I hope this helps make their mathematical understanding more comprehensive and much better. 

Friday, September 19, 2014

2 + 1 math rocks videos

I was looking around for a video on types of angles for my geometry class today and discovered this nice rock group called 2 + 1 math rocks.  They have produced many songs and several videos.  The videos can be found on both youtube and teacher tube.  The video on angles sounded like it was in the 3 dog night style and my kids paid lots of attention to it.  Later in the day I tried their please excuse  my dear aunt sally video and several students were humming along to the tune.
It appears the songs and videos are focused on middle school but I can see using them in my math classes that have students who struggle with math. 
The pictures in the videos are funny and the whole experience was enjoyable for both teachers and students.

More on EXY Trigonometry app

It took a while for my students to get the hang of using it but they had fun using it to do their assignment.  They used the unit circle itself to see where each value such as 125 degrees was and then used the app to find the actual value for sin, cos, tan, cot, csc, and sec.  In fact they even used it to help them draw the angle and identify the reference angle because it was clearer for them to read than the unit circle on paper.
I think part of the reason is that the paper version of the unit circle gets rather cluttered and the app shows only the one measure on the circle and all the values underneath rather than having the students calculate every value..
I do struggle with the question of doing it all on technology or making them do it as I did it when I was in school.  I've decided to go mostly with the technology due to the fact they all have mobile devices they can put apps on.
In a slightly different vein, I have three young men, two still in school and one who graduated a few years ago who are coming in regularly to use the SAT and ACT math apps I have on the ipads to practice for the December test.  Two of the young men were the ones who regularly got expelled, blew up at teachers, etc and now they are model students.  The other had no focus and is now ready to move on.  I even borrowed the ACT book from the library so they can have practice tests.  I am amazed but they are coming in after school, during my evening study halls, etc.  I think they are going to do well.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

EZY Trigonometry app

My advanced math class is beginning the year by studying trigonometry.  We just started the unit circle this past Monday.  They have read the book, watched a video and we started filling in the degrees and radians.  Tomorrow, we will finish filling in the degrees and radians and then I will have the students use EZY Trigonometr app.  

This is a very nice app because it gives values for every single value on the unit circle. This means that students can fill in the unit circle values and notice the changes due to this being a dynamic circle instead of being static.  In addition, this app contains values for all the trigonometric ratios.
On a side note, I had most of my students doing word problems.  I have them use the KFCM version of the KWL model.
K stands for "What do I know?"
F stands for "What do I need to find?"
C stands for "what do I need to consider?" Or things to think about when solving the problem
W stands for doing the work.
My students call this "Kentucky Fried Chicken Work" as a mnemonic.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Wow what a day

I had my first two classes, both Algebra 1, take notes using a different note taking app.  One class used istudious lite which is fine but none of us could figure out how to add a second page to the section.  It also comes with a flash card option but I could not figure it out. Neither is as obvious as they should be.  I am hoping to figure that out shortly.  The other app worked out quite well.  In Geometry, I had students begin making a set of flash cards using the SAS flash card app.  They made fill in the blank flash cards with pictures.  Tomorrow, we are going to make a few more.  I am hoping to complete a deck of vocabulary that they can review vocabulary on a regular basis before their quiz later on.  The afternoon classes did fairly well with notes.
One thing that was common with many of my students was that if it was not immediately obvious to them on how to use the app, they would get frustrated and want to shut down, even when I provided step by step instructions with the appropriate pauses.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Mathtoons apps.

Mathtoons apps have 10 quizzes with 10 questions each.  If they miss a question, there is a quick note that flashes up to tell them how to do it correctly.  I used the equations one, the geometry one, the trig one and the calc intro one as a quick way to pretest most of the kids to see where they are starting this semester.  For the most part my students took it seriously and they were in the 5/10 to7/10 range.  I figure I will have them retake the quiz to see how well they have improved.  Tomorrow, I think we will begin making flash cards for vocabulary.  I think that will help the students review the vocabulary a second time.  The first deck of flash cards, we will work together to create vocabulary cards with pictures that they make, with definitions and with sound.  I am hoping that will help them develop language.  I think we also need to start making mind maps to add to notes tomorrow and Wednesday. 
Apparently I forgot to ask for a QR scanning app.  So I put it on a new request and hopefully will get it soon.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


Beginning tomorrow, Sept. 15, 2014, I get to use a classroom set of iPads.  I plan to use a QR code with the warm-up, assign a note taking app to each class and begin having them use it this week.  Some of the note taking apps have a voice recorder so students can add verbal notes to their written notes.  In addition, I hope to introduce them to a mind mapping app so once the graphic organizer is finished, my students can take a screenshot of it and import it into the note taking app.
I will be setting up schoolboy classes with due dates, etc. for all the classes and start issuing exit ticket quizzes later in the week.  I want to decrease my work load a bit and help students who have lousy handwriting, learn to take and keep notes without losing them.
I started the process last year and want to take it one step further. I will keep you posted on how well  it works.

Friday, September 12, 2014

5 dice app and warm-ups

Due to some strange things happening at the last school board meeting, the high school is changing from a 8 period day to a shorter 6 period day and there was some training for both teachers and students.  This means that for two days, I was missing half my students and since we are changing schedules, I needed something to have students do during class as warm-ups.  So Wednesday, I opened the game and copied the first screen under + and - up on the board for the warm-up. It was amazing how involved my students were with this warm-up.  After about 10 min, my first student found the answer and I had them write it up on the board.
Yesterday, I chose the first screen under multiplication and division and put that on the board. Again, they were so involved that I told them to think about it over night and we'd try again on Friday (today).  I have study hall every Tuesday and Thursday evenings.  I had several students come in and work on it.  The reason I told them to think about it, was simply that I had not figured it out.  I finally came up with the solution at the end of the day.  Today I gave them about 5 min and then placed a hint where I rearranged the dice into the proper order. After another 5 min, I showed them the solution.
This was a really great activity and I may do it again.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Inequality Kickoff

This is a lovely app that took me a few days to figure it out.  I do not know how intuitive it would be for my students but it is good practice.

This game has ten levels which go from simple problems to more complex inequalities.  This game is set up as a football game where the kicker sets up on a certain yard line to make a kick.

You are given a specific inequality to solve by placing the football on the proper yard line.

Then you make the ball solid if there is an equal sign involved or translucent if not.  This is done by using the change button.  The next step involves setting the direction of the ball so it goes left or right based on the inequality.

I like the way it gives the student a chance to try several more times if they do not get the correct answer the first time.  I look forward to trying it with my students.  I also like that the app has a multitude of levels to meet the needs of students from pre-algebra on up.

Friday, September 5, 2014

A way of teaching order of operations.

Today, my algebra I class practiced using order of operations.  What I noticed is my students could tell me the Order of Operations but they had trouble applying the rules.  They seemed to want to do which ever operation came first as they worked left to right.  Many times they ignored the multiplication when a number was located right next to a parenthesis and do the addition or subtraction first.
So I got the bright  idea of having my students take the longer more complex expressions and work the problem out in detail with one step per line.  Then I had them identify what operation out of the order of operations.  This made them slow down and think about the next step.  It was awesome because it made them really think about the order of operations. 
I am still waiting for my ipads to begin integrating them again.  I am thinking that I can have students do their work, snap a shot of the work, annotate it by writing down the operations and submitting it to  me. 
I think I could also have them comment in their journals about what they leaned through this exercise. 
On a side topic, I am creating an interactive book on triangles using iBook Author. It is about 3/4 done and when it is ready, I have an apple trainer, someone who works for the state school board and my principal who all want copies.  This is something I did not expect and it means I have to get it finished sooner.  I'll keep you posted on its progress.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Algebra with linear equations.

 This is a lovely app.

There are three levels of play that range from solving one step equations to more complex equations.

Each level is timed but you add time with every correct answer.  The idea is to get as many correct answers as possible.

This program is a nice way for students to practice their mental math in solving equations. I am not sure I would have labeled these problems as linear equations because there were several problems with cubes or squares mixed in with linear equations.  By definition, linear has a power of one.  Other than that, it is a nice program as it goes from solving one step equations to multistory equations.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Diamond factor

This is a lovely app to use for practicing the diamond method of factoring.  

The top blank is for the product of the factors while the bottom blank is for the sum of the factors.  The factors are a and c from a standard trinomial.

If a student fills in the blanks correctly, they are told they did a good job.  If not they are told to try again.  The nice thing about this app is there are 7 levels which progress form simple to complex. 
This is a sample of a more complex problem.

In addition, students have a choice of practicing where there is no time limit and the iPad does not keep score.  Once a student selects play, there is a time limit and it keeps score.  This means the students who struggle can do the problems without the pressure of time.  
I plan to use this app for both my algebra 1, algebra 2, and college prep classes.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Coverup math

This app is put out by the center for algebraic thought.  The author is The same one who made the lovely algebraic tiles math app with the blue face that says Algebraic Tiles.  This app has five levels to choose from.  When you choose a level, the face spins like a slot machine and at the end there is an equation to solve. First level problems are the simplist while the level five are quite complex. The problem in the illustration is a level 1.

Students have the choice of solving the problem two ways.  They can solve it using the tradition way.

Or with the variable covered up so you can solve the problem by seeing what is missing.

This next shot is from level 5.

So this app would work for students from pre-algebra to algebra 2 or even higher.  It will work for practice, remediation or reinforcement.
They are still preparing my iPads and the tech dept requested a list of apps so I went looking and found several new apps that look really nice by the center for algebraic thought and these apps are free.