#WODB Nearpod Warm-Up #VariablesBothSides


#WODB Warm-Up

If you haven’t used Which One Doesn’t Belong? with students, you might be missing out on some pretty awesome dialogue.  The idea that there isn’t just one cut-and-dry answer makes justifying one’s choice a safe challenge.


Rookie Mistake…

Students have been solving multi-step equations and had this Nearpod for homework last night. They knew coming in to class today that some equations have no solution and others have infinitely many solutions.  Since I already saw their Nearpod HW data and work (which included correct equations as well as typical distributive sign mistakes) we started class with a #WODB Nearpod warm-up to get things rolling.  With scrap paper handy and iPads nearby, students worked in pairs to solve the four equations.  Going into an activity like this, I think it’s important that students know that there isn’t just one right answer.  Simply ask students to take a stand, and be ready to justify the choice.

IMG_2577My favorite part about any task that promotes communication and reasoning is just walking around the room to listen to my students.  They take a stand.  They change their minds.  It’s so tough to choose just one equation!  They make mistakes.  They try again.  And… they know they will be held accountable.

Once students solved the equations and made a choice, they entered their choices and justifications through an Open Ended Response question in Nearpod.  I anonymously shared student choices and we talked about each one.  A lot of great correct thinking… and quite a bit of great incorrect thinking to straighten out too.  Fifteen minutes well spent!

Here’s the quick Nearpod so you can try it out.  If you use this #WODB warm-up with your students, I’d love to know how it goes!

Here are just a few student responses from today:

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 6.16.55 PM




Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

You Don’t Teach

Okay, let’s be clear.

I *DO* teach.  A lot.

But students don’t often know how to articulate that *how* I’m trying to teach may differ, at times, from some of their past math-class experiences.

They might not know exactly how to say,

“You teach by having us discover stuff on our own before you just tell us a formula.”


“You teach by having us talk to one another and work to be ‘patient problem solvers’ rather than just telling us what to do next.”


“You teach by answering our questions with other questions designed to make us think, or to encourage us to test stuff to see if our theory works or falls apart.  You don’t own all of the knowledge in this room, and you want us to own it, and not be afraid to make mistakes along the way… because that’s how learning happens.”


“You teach by discouraging memorization and ‘tricks’ that really have nothing to do with understanding math, even though I really… REALLY want you to tell me tricks.  Deep down, I’m a young learner who just wants you to tell me something that will work, all the time, for every problem.”

“You don’t teach” actually means, “Teacher, you’re doing a great job of being ‘less helpful’.  I’m frustrated, but when I put the pieces together and form my own meaning from all of this, I’ll really, REALLY understand it.  And I may even thank you for it… but probably not this year.”

I was a bit down in the dumps last week after some student comments like this, accompanied by some test grades that were less-than-desirable.  I take it to heart when my students don’t succeed.  But I have to remember that they’re still working on it.  They’re not there (here comes that ever-important word) YET.

New TEKS (Texas standards), new books, higher expectations… growing pains are inevitable.

But we’ll get there, even if we’re not there… yet.

Thanks to the #MTBoS and particularly my pal Kyle Pearce for encouragement and empowerment to keep pressing on… because I’m not done… yet.  We’re just getting started, and we’ll get there!

A timely post from Kyle can be found here:

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Gettin’ Into The Groove Hodge-Podge… Featuring Classkick

I can hear the announcer at our high school’s football game as I type on my iMac here at home.  So nice to be getting settled in to a “new” house that is closer in to the city, our schools, and the general action of this fine town… especially as far as traffic is concerned!

You’d think spending WAY less time in Austin traffic would somehow afford me some time back… and yet, sitting down to reflect and exhale has still been tough to do.  I have to grant myself some grace, as it’s still September… and things will settle down… right? :-)

This is year two with new TEKS for me (Texas standards, for those who follow the CCSS or other such standards).  Last year, Texas students in grades K – 8 took on new, more rigorous math standards, and new textbook resources.  This year, Texas students in high school math courses are enduring the same transition.  It’s a blessing to have had half of my teaching schedule impacted last year (my Math 8 students) , and the other half this year (my Algebra students), versus having my entire teaching schedule shift all in the same year.  Lesson planning and designing new resources and assessments is both exhausting and refreshing.  So that’s how I feel this fine Friday – exhausted and refreshed, if that’s even a thing…!  That means, it’s time for another hodge-podge post!  So… what’s new, you ask?

IMG_1322This week, my students went pretty bonkers over an app I’ve been meaning to try, as it seemed to have great potential for problem-solving.  I didn’t even realize it’s been almost exactly a year since Dan Meyer blogged about it until I began drafting this post tonight, but that’s where I first heard about Classkick.  It’s an iPad-only freebie that allows students to work at their own pace as the teacher looks on from his/her own iPad screen.  As students work, the teacher can see real-time thumbnails of student work… from each and every student.  Kiddos can raise a virtual orange hand to ask for help (the little icon appears on the teacher’s iPad) or raise a virtual green hand to ask the teacher to check their work.  The teacher can provide written feedback in real-time on the screen as well… which totally freaked out my students!  They wigged OUT (in a good way) when I started giving verbal feedback from across the room while my writing appeared in ghost-like wonder on a student’s own screen simultaneously!  And… you wouldn’t believe how hard a group of 8th graders will work for even the *chance* that they might receive a digital sticker from me on one of their work pages.  I am not even being the slightest bit sarcastic… I really mean it! :-)

What was interesting to me is… with a class of 31 students… there was NO POSSIBLE WAY that I could thoroughly check EVERY student’s work on 4 problems, in detail, in the time it took them to try the problems.  (Sheesh, even a second glance at the screenshot I shared above includes some interesting misconceptions that I wasn’t able to address during class… and this only shows work from FOUR students!) That didn’t seem to impact their motivation… just the *chance* that they could receive written feedback, or a digital sticker, seemed to keep them gung-ho about dare-I-say pretty typical multi-step equations problems (consecutive integers, for example).  What was even more fascinating is, if students so much as witnessed me giving a nearby peer a sticker or written feedback, they were as pumped about using Classkick to solve some equations as though the feedback had been given directly to them.  The novelty of it all made the room buzz, and they even begged to do homework using Classkick!  While I wasn’t quite ready to grant that request on the fly, I later learned through interactions with Classkick on Twitter that it can be used asynchronously as well.  If I wanted to go and give detailed feedback to every student on every page of digital work, I could do it right now, and they’ll see it all the next time they log in with the code they got from me in class today.  (BTW… there is NO teacher prep to get kids to log in to Classkick – it generates a code, you share the code with the kids, and they appear in your class.)

If you give Classkick a try, I’d love to hear about it!  Granted, it will be overwhelming.  All of the kids will want your immediate digital attention.  And that’s okay.  Don’t *NOT* use a tool because of your own limitations as one human being.  Give it a try, give as much feedback out as you can muster in the moment, and decide afterwards if giving more feedback later (asynchronously) is worth it… or if you just grant yourself grace to do what you can in class, and know that this is one experience among many when your students will be providing you with a formative work sample.

I haven’t tried a seemingly nifty feature that permits students to anonymously give one another written feedback.  It’s only September, and I feel like I need to get to know these folks a bit more before giving them that kind of power.

Next week, I’m looking forward to giving Zeal.com a try.  The folks at Zeal were kind enough to give me a private tutorial over the phone this past week, and I think their platform has great potential for progress monitoring!


In other news, it was a thrill to recently be interviewed by the folks at NBC in this back-to-school feature!  Having a reporter from New York contact me out of the blue was quite a compliment!

Thanks to Lisa Johnson’s visit to my classroom during one of Eanes ISD’s iLeap Academy site visits, she kindly featured my students and some classroom strategies in this Edutopia article, which was published today.


Honored to be included in this article, which includes many ways Nearpod can be used effectively for professional development and in the classroom.

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

First-Two-Weeks Hodge Podge

Today may be the last day of summer vacation for some.  Others of us have already been rocking and rolling for two weeks with a new crew of students.  So many ideas and resources have crossed my path that I’m not sure where to start.

So… in no particular order:

  • There’s a Desmos Activity Builder.  I know… my jaw dropped too when I first heard this news.  Did you know there’s already a Desmos Activity Bank with over 1,000 teacher-created activities…?!?  I can’t wait to use this!
  • Zeal.com is an option for K-8 “Exit Tickets” that I hope to use with my RTI math students first, so I can learn the platform before using it with a large group.  I used Zeal last year to track student progress and give them a novel way to “compete”, but the platform has been updated quite a bit in the past few months and I hardly recognize it!  It’s completely free.  Anyone using this?  How do you use it?  I’d love some classroom feedback!  I’ve also seen Kyle Pearce share about using KnowledgeHook’s Gameshow platform, and I’d like to compare it to Zeal.
  • I keep hearing that folks are enjoying ClassKick.  I haven’t used it yet, but the idea of seeing student work in real-time sounds like a plus to me… though seeing 30 students’ real time work simultaneously sounds a bit overwhelming!  Nevertheless, I can’t knock it until I try it.  When I do, I’ll share back.  Anyone using ClassKick in math class?
  • I recently gave Atlas Learning’s Apollo a try, and I feel like I have a lot to learn.  In Apollo, there’s a random student picker that my students enjoyed.  Student faces quickly scroll horizontally across the screen, and as the “picker” slows down to choose the “winning” student, kids go crazy (in a good way)!  The chosen one’s prize is control of a virtual pen, and in our case, the privilege of writing the next line of work in an Order of Operations problem.  As a student digitally writes, the rest of the students can see the work on their own screens too.  I understand they also have the option to go back and watch the problem being worked again in a digital-movie sort of way.  Novel indeed, but I couldn’t see how this was any more beneficial than handing a dry erase marker to one student and sending them to the board as everyone else watched.  Anyone else using Apollo for math?  Maybe I am missing something, so I’d love to learn from your experiences!

In other news, Texas Education Agency updated their calculator policy for state testing this week… now students across the state are permitted to use tablet graphing calculator applications during STAAR testing like Eanes ISD students did in our pilot last year!

And, in my spare time, I’ve been preparing for this.

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Tech Access Day 1 Needs to Be a Priority

CNdtvb1UkAAI0TyWeek one of a new school year – check!  If you’re back-to-school with students, I hope your year is off to a fantastic start.  This will be year four of 1:1 iPads for my students and me, and I still feel like I have a lot to learn.  I love how having access to technology empowers my students and me, but also keeps the learner hat firmly in place on each of our heads.  There will ALWAYS be a new tool and a better way of doing things, so we’re committed to learning together for the long haul.

This year has had a different start for me than prior years.  In the past, we have had “iPad Roll-Outs” several weeks into school.  That was a HUGE bummer, because getting to know students’ mathematical strengths and weaknesses through non-tech tasks had been so inefficient.  And… nothing says downer like giving a paper-pencil pre-test during the first week of school – blah!

Well, not so this year!  The majority of my students took advantage of the opportunity to KEEP their school-issued iPads over the summer, and have had them from Day 1 of school.  Additionally, most of the students who did not opt to keep their school iPads have personal phones, so most students who did not have access to school iPads yet were still able to take part in class activities.

We’ve been working through foundational ideas, like number properties and order of operations, and using tech tools for class tasks and homework has been so valuable.  I have never started a school year knowing so much about my students’ prior knowledge.  Many students have had homework nightly in ThatQuiz.  They crave the feedback.  They want to know what the class average was.  We’ve used ThatQuiz homework to practice AFTER a review lesson has occurred.  We’ve used ThatQuiz homework to pre-assess BEFORE a review lesson took place… then we duplicated the quiz AFTER the lesson, took it again, and celebrated our progress.

And no one seems to care that none of this is going in a gradebook.  We are focused on learning.  We are focused on growth.  At first, the question, “Is this for a grade?” happened often.  Now, they aren’t even asking about that.  They just want to know how they did, how the other classes did, and, when given the chance to try again, if they did better.

I am swimming in feedback and data, and it’s helping shape my teaching, communicate with students, and with parents.

How important is it to have access to devices on Day 1 of school?  Now that I’ve experienced it, for me it’s HUGELY high priority.


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Summer of 2015 Summary

IMG_2019Non-boring summers are my favorite, and this summer has been anything but boring.

We bought a fixer-upper closer into town and have been attempting to fix it up (or hire good people to help with that process… things have not always gone as planned on that one *ahem*.  I’ll save the contractor woes for other online forums and venues, don’t you worry…!)  iPadpalooza #iplza15 in Austin in our very own Eanes ISD kicked off the summer with a punch of PD. Travel to Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to visit family and co-present with @mryenca, @techgirljenny, and @sjgorman at ISTE #ISTE2015 was a blast.  Vacationing in Orlando and having the famous Harry Potter butter beer did not disappoint.  Presenting at iPadpalooza South Texas #iplzaSTX in McAllen ISD and vacationing on South Padre Island further provided that perfect balance of PD tech-geeking and milking summer vacation.  Life is good.

As I enjoy the view of the south Texas beach from my balcony, breathing in the salty sea air, I thought I’d post all the materials from the sessions I presented and co-presented at summer conferences this year.  If you’ve never visited this blog before, this chunk of resources summarizes much of what’s been happening in my 1:1 iPad middle school math classroom, and hopefully empowers you to try something new in the 2015-16 school year.  If you have been kind enough to visit this blog before (thank you!) you still may find this post to be a nice one-stop shop of ideas.  Click on each image below to access each jam-packed Smore or Tackk.

May these dog-days of August provide you with rest and refreshment as you gear up for a new year and a new batch of kiddos!

Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.00.36 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.00.22 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.00.07 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.00.54 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 9.59.58 AM Screen Shot 2015-08-03 at 10.01.08 AM

Posted in Algebra 1 | Leave a comment

#iplza15 and #ISTE2015 Brain Dump

I had the opportunity to attend and present sessions at both iPadpalooza 2015 in Austin as well as ISTE 2015 in Philadelphia the past two weeks.  What a thrill to be able to meet and connect with so many passionate people!  I loved hanging out with educators from around the world, as well as developers of so many of the digital tools that have become essential to the learning experiences in my corner of Hill Country Middle School.  The ThingLink below includes links for you to explore.

At our annual iPadpalooza “learning festival” (thanks to the hard work of @mrhooker and his ed-tech team of iVengers) we paid homage to the “Keep Austin Weird” message.  Think of folks dressed up in tie dye… or as unicorns… eating at food trucks… live music… elements that make Austin the fun-filled city that it is.  But please, don’t stop there.  This event, which I’m proud to say is held in the district where I have the privilege to teach, is anything but fluff.  A simple glance at our list of speakers is evidence that this “festival” features respected educators whose work impacts classrooms globally on dare-I-say a daily basis. Keynotes from Adam Bellow, Guy Kawasaki, and (THE) Eric Whitacre, as well as a stellar line-up during a “Mini Keynote-a-Thon” included common threads about equipping our students to share their learning by creating content.  I thoroughly enjoyed sessions presented by math buddy and fellow ADE Kyle Pearce.  Tim Yenca (@mryenca) and I co-presented our first session together!  I also presented a session on my students’ experiences as math authors using the Book Creator app.  

My ISTE 2015 Session Schedule

My ISTE 2015 Session Schedule

On to Philaldephia!  This was my first ISTE conference and it did not disappoint!  Tim and I presented our iPads Out-of-the-Box session, and I also had the honor of presenting a Twitter session with fellow ADEs Sue Gorman and Jenny Grabiec.  I got to meet #MTBoS friends Bob Lochel, Justin Aion, and Jedidiah Butler in person!  I was thrilled to meet author of the “iPads in Education for Dummies” series, Sam Gliksman, and seeing him feature the Book Creator work of my own students in his session on student-created media was an honor!

Author Sam Gliksman features Book Creator projects done by our students in Eanes ISD!

Author Sam Gliksman features Book Creator projects done by our students in Eanes ISD!

Other highlights for me, personally, included meeting up with almost all of the Nearpod Content team members, meeting Sheela from CueThink, talking to the ladies at Tackk during my week as reigning “Top Tackker”, playing Kahoot with the kind Kahoot folks, meeting Daniel Tu-Hoa immediately after Mathspace won TWO ISTE start-up awards, meeting Susan Oxnevad of ThingLink EDU… and being a finalist in the Ed Tech Karaoke Voice of the Year competition!  Finally, I never tire of spending time reconnecting with my amazing Apple Distinguished Educator friends, so many of whom attended either iPadpalooza, ISTE, or both conferences.

Feel like I haven’t done these conferences justice?  Me too.  Next year, you have to go! See you there…?


Check out a great problem-solving app – CueThink!

Teaching folks how to use Twitter for PD and in the classroom - with @techgirljenny and @sjgorman

Teaching folks how to use Twitter for PD and in the classroom – with @techgirljenny and @sjgorman

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Celebrating the 2014-15 School Year With Animoto

UnknownI shared this video with students and parents, with shout-outs on Twitter to many featured digital tools and resources that have become a regular part of my practice.  Thanks to every one of these tools, and the folks that keep improving them, for enhancing teaching and learning for my students, and for students around the world!

In New York, I knocked on Animoto's door, but alas, no one was home that day.

In New York, I knocked on Animoto’s door, but alas, no one was home that day.


In other news, I was so proud to learn this week that the Nearpod office in Miami now sports a feature wall with the faces of Nearpod-loving educators globally.  Honored to be included in this “Wall of Fame” among many respected educators!  Woot!      

As your school year comes to a close, I wish you much rest and relaxation, and I hope to connect with you in person at iPadpalooza here in Austin, or ISTE in Philadelphia!

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment


Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 7.14.11 AMSo, your students are a little squirrelly lately too? ;-)

For many of my students, all of the high-stakes testing has passed, and sadly that fact brings daily comments like the following:

“Can we just not do anything today?”

“Are we going to, like, actually LEARN something new today?”

“Is this the last homework assignment we’re going to have this year?”

“So what ARE we going to do in class the last week of school?”

“I have an idea!  Let’s just watch Kid Snippets the rest of the year!”  (This suggestion was actually quite tempting…)

My answer is always the same, delivered with a grin.

“Learning never stops.”

There’s still plenty of learning to do, and holding students accountable for this learning is key to having successful last-few-weeks of school.  “Accountable” can mean traditional assignments like quizzes, tests, and homework, but a healthy competition with Kahoot is also quite effective… especially with the GHOST MODE feature.

Before I share specifically about GHOST MODE, I like to add a disclaimer: In math class, use Kahoot carefully.  Not all math should be speedy.  We don’t want to make kids feel unnecessary anxiety or reinforce that fast math = you’re good at math. However let’s not throw out a tool that KIDS LOVE.  As with all tools, using Kahoot when appropriate can be very effective, and kids don’t always realize they’re learning because it’s just SO MUCH FUN. (P.S.  There are well over TWO MILLION Kahoots available in the Public Kahoots section – have a look!  I’ve shared a few at the end of this post as well.) Content assessed, in my opinion, should be mostly at-a-glance stuff, like:

What is the solution to this linear system? (provide a graph or a pair of tables of values and four sets of ordered pairs as answer choices)


Simplify: -24  (provide choices that force misconceptions to the surface)   

If you’ve Kahooted before, you know the drill.  Students join the game on their devices using a PIN that’s generated on the spot, they ring in their answer choices for each question, a bar graph shows students’ responses, and then… the coveted LEADER BOARD showing the top 5 scores fills the screen, bringing mass chaos to the classroom.  Love it.

The game ends, and a winner is established – yay!  “Would we improve if we played the same game… again?  What if I told you we’re going to play the same game… against our virtual selves?  GHOSTS, if you will?”  Select “Feedback & results” and then “Final results”.

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 7.15.51 AM


Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 7.14.15 AM







Select “Play again”. :-)  Seriously, no one will complain about whether or not we’re “actually going to LEARN something”…

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 7.14.03 AM

Now, the class will appear to have twice as many bodies in it.

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 7.13.20 AM







That’s because all of the students are playing in real time against their virtual selves who played the previous game.  It’s true!  Their virtual selves each ring in at the precise moment of Game 1, while in real time, students are desperately trying to improve their score in Game 2.  No one wants to lose to a GHOST, especially their OWN GHOST!

Screen Shot 2015-05-16 at 7.47.19 AM







At this point, I can attempt to describe the energy in the room.  I can even post photos, or share this Storify with you.  But nothing I share here will do the experience justice.  You seriously have to give this a go.




Don’t tell students ahead of time that you’re going to activate GHOST MODE.  And once students know GHOST MODE may be a possibility, you’ll probably want to collect all scrap paper and provide some new work space to avoid the “clever ones”.  They’re the kids who write down absolutely NO MATH during Game 1, but have a sheet of scrap paper full of shapes.  Nice try, buddy. #CheatersSometimesWin






Here are several Kahoots I’ve used recently – some I create, while others are Public Kahoots shared by educators around the globe!

Classifying Numbers in the Real Number System

Linear Systems Review

Exponent Practice

Factoring Review

For some additional (and REALLY clever) ideas for using #ghostmode, click here.


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , | 7 Comments

Using Desmos on iPads… for the STAAR Test… Really!

Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 9.34.33 AMDear Desmos,

(with the help of Casper Focus)…

You made a liar out of me.

Isn’t it amazing that a task that was thought to be impossible was accomplished so quickly with gusto?  It’s true – my Math 8 students were among the first… in the world perhaps… to use their iPads on a state assessment.  Not only does this year mark the first opportunity for Texas Math 8 students to use a graphing calculator on state tests, but our students had the option to use a TI graphing calculator… or Desmos on their iPads… or both tools!  The process leading up to STAAR testing day was paved with preparation and practice, and it paid off.

Our Director of Innovation, Carl Hooker, shares details in this post of all the technology preparation that had to happen both behind the scenes as well as with students through several “test runs”.  Using Casper Focus, student iPads had to be “locked down” in a version of Desmos that was standardized-test-friendly.

This meant that the Desmos we all know and love had to be stripped down a bit.  I was honored to be part of the process of helping advise ways to tweak Desmos to be a test-friendly tool, resulting in the FREE Desmos Test Mode app.  The folks at Desmos are such a pleasure to work with, even responding to a passionate student of mine who contacted them in hopes of employment with Desmos some day!  Yes, one of my 7th graders loves Desmos SO MUCH that he’s looking for ways to connect with them already.  Thank you, Desmos, for responding to him and acknowledging and encouraging his excitement!

If you’ve read Carl’s post, you know the background process.  Now that testing day has passed with success, I decided to follow up with my students to ask a few questions about having access to both TI calculators and Desmos Test Mode on iPads.  In terms of instruction, and knowing that students would have the opportunity to use both graphing tools on the STAAR test, I did my best to encourage the use of both tools throughout the year.  Together, my students and I aimed to learn to use each tool effectively, as well as make wise decisions about which tool was best/most efficient to use for each mathematics topic we studied.

Using Socrative to gather quick feedback, I first asked students which tool they prefer to use.  The results surprised me!  With both tools in hand all year, I was sure most students would say they liked the tools equally… well, that didn’t happen!Screen Shot 2015-04-24 at 9.26.05 AM

I also asked students to provide me with a list of lesson topics for which they preferred the TI calculator over Desmos, and vice versa.  Here’s a spreadsheet of their (anonymous) responses.

Desmos Versus TI Graphing Calculator Yenca

Perhaps these iPad STAAR Test trailblazers’ feedback will help Desmos continue to improve.  For now, at least with my tiny sample of 49 students, it appears TI still has a strong role… even in the 1:1 iPad classroom.

Thank you, Ed Surge, for chatting about Desmos Test Mode and featuring our excitement here. :-)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
Posted in Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , | 8 Comments