Friday, January 31, 2014

The futures channel

Our school has  been hosting a basketball tournament since Wednesday afternoon and it will finish tomorrow afternoon.  Throughout the tournament, I've spoken with students about the uses of mathematics in the real world and most kids laughed in my face.  I need to show them more examples of how math is used in real life.  This is where The Futures Channel comes in. This is a website which has all sorts of videos that show how math is used in real life.  When you go there, they highlight two or three videos.  Most videos are between 3 and 7 minutes.  I've shown several covering designing and making backpacks, creating sunglasses, becoming a zoo keeper and making bicycles.  In each video, they interview a person who shows how the math is used in their line of work.  There is usually a follow up activity for the students based on the video.  Although most videos are available by subscription, there are a few available for free and they change regularly.  The cost is not too bad at $13  per month but they also have an option of getting many of the videos on DVD so you have copies available for use at the school.  I highly recommend integrating these videos into the classroom.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Not enough data

Today I got done with a 6 hour meeting on what we got out of the RTI (Response to Intervention) conference so we can do a presentation to the rest of the staff on Monday.  When all was said and done, we decided we didn't have enough diagnostic data to have our teachers begin the first steps in implementing RTI so we put it on the back burner.
This experience lead me to think about the tools I already have at my disposal to create and use data for RTI.  I have some diagnostic tests in a book but I have no way to really use them because I would have to analyze the individual questions.  So a big ah-ha hit me that I can place the info in a test program such as and then use the info from the reports to analyze my student's weak places.  Once I get Exit Ticket figure out, I can use that for on-going formative data collection. 
While at the RTI conference, I was given two websites that are free and which will help me monitor students work but they only go up to 8th grade at the highest and I teach high school.  That said, I can use the websites to help my more struggling students. 
Teaching has changed so much since I began.   Now its considered the dark ages with chalkboards and film projectors.  I'll investigate the websites and report back on them.

QV lite

I had several of my classes today try the QV lite.  The QV is short for quantitative vocabulary and has the two sections. I had most of my ELL students try the grade 3 quantitative  and most of my students did ok but didn't get 100%. These ELL students are in 9 to 12th grades, so it didn't really surprise me.  The higher performing students in grades 11 and 12 tried the 9th grade tests and they struggled.  I suspect they would have even more trouble with the vocabulary part.
I know that I have to use different methods due to the majority of students being ELL.  I just bought a book called "The trouble with Math is English."  It addresses the issue of teaching math to ELL students and after a quick glance it looks like it will provide me with some really awesome ways to help my students.  I plan to read it and choose one or two methods to integrate into teaching.
I have decided to change my homework assignments.  Instead of more practice from the book, I am looking up complex tasks or performance tasks to assign. Research is indicating that having students do such problems will help improve their understanding of math.  I will hand out the homework assignments and post a digital copy in either Showbie, Schoology, Edmodo or the wiki but I think our school wiki is having issues.  I figure if a student has a digital device, they can download the appropriate app, do the work on the app and then submit it back to me.  Even with digital devices I have a few students who will loose both digital and hard copies.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Barron's Painless Pre-algebra app and QV Prep lite.

I just put QV Prep Lite which  stands for quantitative and verbal for grades 3 to 10.  Although the verbal portion is for English, the quantitative ability is for math.  Each grade level  has 10 practice tests and each practice test has 3 to 5 questions and each question requires some thought, especially if it is someone who is not strong in word problems.  If the student misses the problem, a dialogue box pops up showing the correct way to do the problem before moving on.  I am going to have my students try the 3rd grade level.  They are high school students but most are classified as English Language Learners so I'm curious to see how they do.
I had a student try Barron's Painless Pre-Algebra App, the first  quiz.  In order to unlock the race game, he had to score 80% or better and he managed it on the second or third time.  The quiz had him answering signed problems such as -3 + 7 - (-3) -2 and there are four answers to choose from.  The young man enjoyed the racing game in which watermelons and wrenches were thrown out of the lead car while the second car worked on avoiding the objects.  I am also going to have my 9th graders work try both since we have really short periods tomorrow.  I will post their reactions.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Understanding math and a first impression of an app.

I just got back from attending a Response to Intervention conference and came back with some really awesome things.  The one thing that stood out and agrees with a recent comment from the NCTM is simply we need to have students learn to communicate how did the problem.  Not just using the mechanical means but using writing or verbal explanations.   They highly recommended complex tasks or performance tasks that give a scenario like you have dogs and chicken for a total of 40 heads.  Each dog has 4 legs and each chicken has 2 legs, how many dogs are there?  This type of question is open in terms of how they will solve it but it can help us as teachers figure out misconceptions.  This website talks about misconceptions that students have and these are the same ones I've seen my own students have.  I may try this exercise in class later this week to see what my students have to do.
As for apps, I discovered on that uses algebraic tiles at a high school level.  So far, I am finding that it is frustrating for me when I try it and I know the answer is correct but the app tells me I have the incorrect tiles.   Its a math app called Algebraic tiles from the center for algebraic thinking.  It uses tiles but until I can figure out how to use it fully I cannot have my students use it or they will get frustrated.  The other thing is when I tried the factoring choice, the x^2 square was the same size as the x and the constants so the students are unable to see how the x^2 is different from x and it is something they need.  I will get back to you all on this app.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Too much to do and not enough time.

I am heading off to Response to Intervention (RTI) Training tomorrow.  I also got the paperwork filed so I can present at the statewide Technology in Education conference next month.  I am doing a one hour session on integrating the iPad into the High School Math classroom. So I've been trying to work out the details of using certain apps in the classroom.  That is one reason I've been working on getting my Exit Ticket app up and running.  I got the date corrected for a practice session but I think I forgot to unhide the ticket so I have to check on that.  I'm excited about this particular app if I can get it running.
I've also got to work out the fine nuances of Showbie and Edmodo so I'm ready for my presentation.  I found a couple apps I need to play with that will be fun to put talk about.  I am excited.  I am going to hopefully be back on come Monday and I hope to report back about a few new apps I'm looking at.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Exit Ticket and other things

I got my students to set up their own user name and so now I have people registered for the classes I set up.  I have to go in and figure out why one young lady had problems but other than that it went quite smoothly.  Tonight I am going to set up exit tickets for each class and have them complete it before leaving the class.  The app works pretty well on the iPad and I am excited to see the app take care of grading it and giving me the results of the short quiz I have scheduled for tomorrow. 
I just got a notice today telling me that 3 out of 5 people turned in an assignment I gave them last week.  I am going to check the assignments that appear to have been turned in.  I am excited about this.  I have to start integrating several of the apps I have put on the iPads. This is turning into a great learning year as I try these new apps to see how well they work.

Saturday, January 18, 2014


I didn't get anything posted yesterday due to waking up to a nasty blizzard with total white out.  I couldn't see school, the lake and barely the edge of my post.  This also meant that my internet was messed up all day.  Today is much better.
I just ran across an announcement for an event this summer in June called the ibookhack  where teachers come together to create interactive ibooks with multitouch content.  I saw this and thought it would be a great place to be able to create several interactive math books.  The books do not have to be these long full length books but maybe smaller ones that cover a particular topic so that the sizes are manageable and cover only the material one would put on a test.  I know how to put together ibooks but I don't have the time but something like this would give me the time and a chance to put together things under the supervision of someone who is experienced with the materials.  I looked at the schedule for topics and they cover everything from basics to expert.  This could open up some great possibilities.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Geometry pad.

I am having fun having the kids explore this to help them learn more about transformations.  I started by having them practice creating reflections beginning with coordinate points.  They graph the points and then create the reflection.  I am using this as a way for students to discover the way reflection works.  Tomorrow, we are going to use the application to learn more about translations.  I know we can use it for rotation, but I just have to see if it can be used to help them discover dilation
On the other hand, I tried to figure out if any of my math apps offer the summation and didn't find it on either calc made easy free or free calc graph.  The my script calculator does not recognize the summation symbol.  So I need to do further investigation.
My seniors are really enjoying using the free graph calc to explore transformations of log base 10 and log base something else.  Even in Algebra II, I am using this app to help them learn to "read" the graph for real zeros, domain, range, y intercept etc for quadratics.  I've found over the years that my students need visual representation to help increase their learning.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Increasing reading and writing using the iPad.

Wednesday is the day I work with my students on learning to solve word problems.  Since so many are classified as ELL, I make them write down the answers to the following questions:
1. What do I know?
2. What do I need to find?
3.  What things do I need to consider such as special formulas, the operation, additional information to keep in mind or other things.
4. The work.

I need to start using something like Showbie so they can annotate, underline, etc any information in the word problem before writing the information on their worksheet.  I think taking the time to underline, identify and comment on things before writing the information down will help increase their English, cut down on guessing and get them to slow down and really check out the information. I am hopeful this skill will transfer to the mandated testing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Showbie Update.

Yesterday, I got a class set up in Showbie to try out to see how well it worked.  I used my first period which has 8 students who are working on passing the state graduation test.  It was quite easy to set up the class and the first assignment.  This morning, I scanned a copy of a worksheet and sent it to myself via school e-mail.  Then I downloaded the pdf to my computer and uploaded it to Showbie as the assignment.  I had the students create a login without using their e-mails and then they used the code and were in to download the assignment. It was quick and easy.  Just before the bell rang, I had the students write on the worksheet and then erase their work.  It worked well.  Tomorrow, I have them write answers on the page and then turn in the work.  I will let you know how well it works.  I am excited about this app.
I found out the reason we are not using google in all forms at school is that they took certain filters off and our children can look at inappropriate pictures so we can't use google or google docs till further notice.

Monday, January 13, 2014


Due to reasons beyond my control, I cannot use google docs at school so I have to look into alternatives.  I could possibly use the wiki at school but the server is weird and the tech dept cannot get to it even with admin rights. When I ran across an app called Showbie, it sounded like something that would allow me to share files with my students and have them share files with me.  I had it downloaded and installed on the iPads
Today, I went online and set up a class.  I have a code that students can use to get into the class and download their first assignment.  Tomorrow morning, I"ll upload the file prior to school starting and try it out on one class.  Once they are done with the worksheet, I want to have them turn the worksheets in and I'll se how it goes. 
I know that there is dropbox for sharing documents but the tech dept is discouraging the use of it and google docs.  I am hoping to get Showbie up and working along with something called Exit Ticket. It appears to offer a way to monitor progress of students and keep records so I want to attempt integrating it into my classroom.  As always, I have so much I want to do and not enough time.

Friday, January 10, 2014


I had the students use simple mind to create mind maps and it worked quite well.  The students needed little instruction to create the map and it took them about 5 min to get the first part done.  Since the semester just started, I decided to have students create a graphic organizer for the topic such as quadratics, similar triangles, exponential and logarithmic functions and simple inequalities for 4 different classes.  The first part that was added was the material we covered this week.  For instance, the first offshoot for quadratics was one that dealt with graphing, x and y intercepts, vertex, domain and range, max and min.  As we go through the chapter, we'll add more offshoots until the whole chapter has been studied and mapped so the students see the whole picture.  About half my students are classified ELL so I am hoping this activity helps to increase their understanding of the concepts.
Simple mind is a free app that is so easy to use and seems quite intuitive for the students to use.  They really enjoyed using it.  I know this is not the only free mindmapping app but it is the one I am using. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Mind-mapping and processes.

I need to start having my students create some sort of flow chart/mind map to show the steps involved in identifying the y intercept, x intercepts, vertex, max and min for Algebra II.  To show how to solve inequalities in Algebra I.  To create and apply ratios and proportions in Geometry.  I think a mind mapping application would be good for this as it would allow them to create a graphic organizer that would organize the material so that it is easy to understand the concepts.  I will be trying this tomorrow so we will see how it works.
I think I am also going to run an activity where I give out problems and they have to solve them on either a draw program or gloss. I find they get totally involved in the activity and discover time went by so fast. 
I will let you know how the mind mapping goes.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Math is Fun

I often catch myself getting in a rut doing the same thing over and over again and I don't bother varying what I do in the classroom.  Today I sent my students to the website Math is fun in three classes.  This is a website I use but not as much as I should.  What I like about this website is that it has clear examples and explanations followed by 6 to 10 question quizzes.  At the end of the quiz, students get a score and if they miss a question it shows them the correct answer and the correct way to do the problem but it will not let them change the answer unless they get all the way out of the quiz and restart it.  Furthermore, when they are done, the program shows them which questions they missed and which are correct.  I use it to monitor their understanding of the material we are covering. 
Tomorrow, I'll talk about another website I use on the iPads.  Unfortunately, not every website will work with an iPad.  Most of the NCTM online interactive activities cannot be used on the iPad due to its uses of java.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Graphing and Mathduko

I had planned to post yesterday but we had internet issues both at home and at work.  So I had to wait till this afternoon to do it.
I discovered Mathduko while I was on holidays over Christmas.  It is like suduko but it uses math.  It begins with a 3 by 3 grid and the numbers 1, 2, 3.  It will tell you whether to put a specific number in a square or highlight two to three squares and tell you 6+ which means all three numbers must add up to 6 or 3x which means the two numbers must have a product of 3 or 2 -  meaning when you subtract two numbers, the difference is 2.  From a 3 x 3 grid you move up to a 4 x 4 grid and use the numbers 1 to 4.  I like it in that it is fun and teaches logic. The best thing besides being free is that it works on both iPads and androids.
Today, I was able to incorporate the free graph calc app into two different periods.  We just started graphing quadratics in Algebra II so I had the students graph a quadratic and we took time to go over how to find the x and y intercepts and the vertex using the graph.  I used grapher on my smartboard to show the students how to read their graphs.  Then I had them switch over to the table mode so they could read the numbers to find the vertex and the x and y graphs.  The class went quite fast.
The second class I used it in was College Prep.  I projected some basic exponential functions on the smart board and had the students make observations.  Then I graphed functions such as f(x) = 4^(x+3)  or g(x) = 4^x + 3  or h(x) = -4^x.  The students made observations about each of the graphs and things they had in common.  I had a student ask how I knew it always crossed at (0,1) and I showed them why 4^0 or 7^0 = 1 and why -4^0 is -1.
I gave them 10 problems to work on using the free graph cal and they immediately started doing the problems and seem to truely understand exponential functions. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014


I have been off traveling and visiting relatives who either do not have internet or dial up so I've not been able to be on to post anything.  I did find a neat app that I downloaded and have been fun playing.  I"ll talk more about it tomorrow.  My first semester ends on January 10th and I plan to have several apps put on to integrate into classes.  I will talk about those apps and a couple other things through out the week.