Sunday, March 30, 2014

Flipped Classroom (the first 10 minutes of class)

I am really experimenting with the first 10 minutes of class lately.  It is my 10 minutes of whole group time.  On Mondays, we play "the White Board Game" for state test review and to keep something consistent.  Any other day is up for grabs.  

With my first ten minutes I am trying to accomplish a couple tasks.  First, general review of a learning target.  Second, practice and feedback for every student on a learning target.  Third, exposure to all the types of problems on a learning target.  

Students can work different "levels" of a learning target in my room.  So a 7th grader may practice most of their time working on circumference of a circle, but never practice finding the "arc length" of a sector of a circle.  So I at least want all students to have exposure to that type of problem.  

One of my favorite activities to open class with is My Favorite No.  If you have never seen the video on Teaching Channel, you should watch it.  Pretty cool stuff.  (Here)

So I have expanded "my favorite no" to include student choice.  I started with posting 2 problems instead of 1.  The problems were on different "levels."  The students were asked to answer at least 1 of the problems.  

An 8th grade example would be two Pythagorean theorem questions.  1 question was about finding a missing leg of a right triangle.  The second question was solving a distance formula problem from 2 coordinate points.  When I did this with the 8th grade students, most students answered 1 question only.  It led to two quick discussions of each problem.  The best positive out of this was that the "level 2" students, saw a level 3 problem, and some thought that it didn't look that hard and were inspired to go try level 3 stuff.  

Last week with the 7th grade I expanded it even further.  I posted 3 questions.  1 from each of the Levels (2, 3 and 4).  I asked students to try 2 of the questions.  It was on Circumference of a circle.  

Level 2:  Find the circumference given the radius.
Level 3: Find the radius given the circumference.  
Level 4:  Find the arc length of a sector.  

The good news was that most students answered 2 questions, and some answered all three.  All students were exposed to the arc length problem.  Some students even used notes from the My Favorite No to skip the video, and go right into the level 4 practice.  I am okay with this as long as they write down their notes and get the practice done with some feedback.  The goal is learning right?

So I am at a point now where I am trying to plan the progression of my first ten minutes to lead students through all 4 levels of the learning target.  Sometimes this is difficult with students going at different paces.  However, in the end it seems to be a good review for some, exposure for the others, and good practice for the rest.  

So my first ten minutes of class are taken up by:
     White Board Game
     My Favorite No
     Daily Algebra Challenge (
     Number Talks
     Peer Instruction (also leveled)
     Other Various quick games

So a progression through all levels of a learning target could stretch over a 1-2 weeks.  Using the various activities above to slowly progress through all the levels of a learning target.  

Now if I could just make my last 5 minutes of class as productive...

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Exponential Relationships & Mythbusters

Every year around this time, I get to tell the famous rice on the checkerboard story for exponential growth.  Every year I love it, but I always feel I need to do more to bring home how quickly exponential growth can happen.  

This year I plan to try to put together two ideas into one amazing or mess of a lesson.  

Tomorrow this is the plan.

1. Introduce the Myth of trying to fold a piece of paper more than 7 times.  We will discuss this problem and probably have a couple students try to do it.  Hopefully we will get to the point that students realize that every time you fold the paper, the next fold is twice as hard.  

2.  We will introduce the Mythbusters clip about the paper folding myth.  The paper size will be given to the students and they will calculate the area of the paper.  The students will be asked to answer the following questions:
    How many times will they be able to fold the paper?
    What will the area of the paper be when they are done?

3. We will then watch the paper folding clip on Mythbusters.   

4. We will discuss the results and the students' answers.
At this point I don't expect students to come up with any kind of equation, although some might.  I just hope they get how fast exponential decay happens.  

5.  We will then turn the discussion to how the paper grows in height when it is folded.  We will watch the first part of this TED ED video.  It talks about how paper grows in height as it is repeatedly folded. 

6. I will ask students to answer the following question:
    How tall will the paper be after it is folded 30 times.  

7. We will then watch the rest of the video.  Again, I don't expect students to come up with an equation at this point.  I just hope they realize the idea of exponential growth.  

I am not sure this will be more effective than rice on a checkerboard, but I hope it will get the students thinking.  I think the problems and videos relate nicely to each other and show both the idea of exponential decay and exponential growth.  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Teach Like a Flippin' Pirate Update

I just got my confirmation that I will be presenting at MCTM (MN math teachers' conference in Duluth).  That is pretty exciting and nerve racking.  I will be presenting on how I am implementing a flipped/self-paced classroom.  So with that, I thought a little update and reflection would be good.

I have just switched my 7th grade sections over to a flipped/self-paced style of classroom.  I made a couple changes and tweeks to the system as I re-launched with this group.  I made a new video to introduce the ideas to parents.  Here if you would like to watch.

The system still puts emphasis on differentiation according to difficulty and student choice.  The students work their way through different learning targets

The class generally is split up into 3 segments.
1. Whole Class Introduction
2. Learning Target Work Time
3. Reflection

Learning Target Work Time
Step 1
Each learning target starts off with a short 5 question pre-quiz using the Schoology LMS.  The students are then directed to either Level 2, Level 3 or Level 4 according to their PRE-quiz results. 

Level 2 is the basic knowledge of the learning target.  
Level 3 is the meeting the standard of the learning target. 
Level 4 is exceeding standard of the learning target.  

Step 2
Students watch a video.  There are 3 videos made for each learning target, one for each level.  The students watch the proper video, take notes, and then fill out a google form summarizing their notes.  I created a page using Google Sites that contain links to all the videos and the google form to fill out.  Everything is centralized to try to make things easier for the students.  

Step 3
Students complete 2 practice activities out of 4 choices.  The choices are usually either web based practice (IXL, buzzmath, etc...), a worksheet, an activity, and/or creating some evidence of their learning.  Students have made movies, posters, websites, etc...

Step 4
When the students have completed their practice they take another 5 question post quiz, also on Schoology.  They must get 4 or 5 right to pass the quiz.  If they pass, the level is completed.  If they fail to pass, then they must complete another practice activity and correct their quiz mistakes.  This is done with a lot of remediation from me.  When this is done, their level is completed.  

These steps encompass the "Learning Target Work Time" of the class.  This takes up about 30 minutes of each day. 

I have found this really puts the learning in the hands of the students and I am really the guide on the side.  

Classes are exhausting as I bounce around the room meeting with small groups and individuals helping them further their understanding.  I do try to connect with every student every day.  I don't always succeed, but I am getting better at this.  

This is just the basic set up.  I have also made changes to:
   a. How class begins as a whole group
   b. Grading 
   c. Tracking progress

However, this has gotten to long already.  As I get my google presentation together, maybe I will post that as well.  


Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Kids trying algebra again and again...

Last Friday I was at a small but spectacular tech conference.  One of the sessions was by a local math teacher and how he uses tech in his room.  He had a lot of great tips and resources, but the one I used today in class was the website

The website has various math, science, vocab, geography and foreign language questions.  All topics can be controlled for length and difficulty.  I have seen the website before but was never sure how to use it effectively.  On Friday, a math teacher shared his amazing approach with this website...

So today I started class with the "Daily Algebra Challenge."  I chose the skill of simplifying like termed expressions and set up a ten question quiz.  The quiz then gives a hyperlink so the kids can get right to the quiz with the parameters you chose.  

I took the quiz 1 time, got 100% right in 29 seconds and left the score open in a tab in my browser.  

So when the students came in for class I introduced the new idea of a "daily algebra challenge."  I told them where to find the link, and anyone that can tie or beat my time wins the challenge that day.  

I have never seen the effort or determination from some of the students like I saw today.  Students trying, failing, and eagerly trying again to defeat the challenge.  It was amazing to see.  Of course some students won the challenge in the first 4-5 tries, but other students played 10, 20, or more times.  Some students accomplished the challenge and some did not, but all students got a lot of algebra practice.

Of course some students tried to cheat and change the settings to make their time faster, but they were easy to spot.  

The greatest thing about this website is the ease of it to use.  There were no usernames, no logins and no hassle.  I just found a quiz I liked, clicked "make url" and then posted the URL on my website. 

Super easy, super engaging, and super fun stuff!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Marshmallows, Scatterplots, & Line of Best Fit

Marshmallow Challenge & Scatterplots

I recently watched this YouTube video about the famous Marshmallow Challenge

It got me wondering how I could use this challenge for a math problem beyond the problem solving, team building skills that are naturally in the challenge. 

Here is my plan for 8th graders studying scatterplots, correlation and line of best fit.  

Day 1: 
Each team gets the normal materials from the challenge.
1 yard of tape
1 yard of string
1 marshmallow
20 sticks of pasta 
The teams build the structure and measure the height.  
Data is tracked for all teams.   

Day 2:
We repeat the marshmallow challenge, only the team gets to choose a "power up".  The team can get more tape, string  and/or sticks of pasta.  I was thinking of letting them pick 2 more items from 1 yard of string, 1 yard of tape, and 20 sticks of pasta.  We will then repeat the challenge.  

Day 3:
Students will then combine the data and plot it on various scatterplots.  
Height vs tape used
Height vs string used
Height vs sticks of pasta used

We will then analyze the scatterplots for correlation and line of best fit.  The students will then have a determine which "power up" had the most effect on the height of the structure.  

I am not sure what to expect out of this little experiment.  I hope the students stay engaged over this entire week dealing with the same type of problem.  

I am thinking of having them make a prediction from the scatterplot about what would happen with more supplies.  Maybe they should look at the three scatterplots and try to figure out which supply makes the most difference.  Then they can make a prediction of what happens when that supply is increased.  

We will see what happens...