My Favorites #MTBoS #MtbosBlogsplosion

Happy New Year!

This post is already late – whoops!  However, I can’t pass up an opportunity to share about a few of “My Favorites”.  If you haven’t heard, there’s a BlogSPLOSION happening in the Math-Twitter-Blog-O-Sphere (MTBoS) community, and you should join it!  More info here!

Two of my favorite tools for fostering student metacognition, dialogue, and error analysis are Nearpod and Desmos.  As with any tech tool, it’s not primarily about the tool, it’s HOW YOU USE IT.  Tools that help make student thinking visible, not just to ME but to my STUDENTS to analyze and discuss… are a win!


Favorite “New” Way I’ve Used NEARPOD 

Nearpod provides the opportunity to share static slides and interactive tools with students such that instruction and assessment become one and the same.  While I enjoy creating and implementing complete lessons using these tools, in more recent months I’ve found some fascinating, simple ways to use Nearpod (that I think you should try too)!

Using the “Draw It” feature on iPads, students have used student-paced Nearpod lessons to submit work to me.  I like doing this for homework, so that I have complete access to the Nearpod report before our next class.  A wonderful feature in the iOS version of Nearpod is the ability for students to submit a photo of the work they’ve done on paper.  This way, I have work samples from every student, and those who prefer to use paper can do so.

Before our next class, I like to take screenshots of students work samples from the “report” that are interesting (Note: Many times “interesting” means incorrect).  In a new Nearpod, I use these screenshots as background images for a set of new “Draw It” experiences.  To start our next class meeting, I launch a teacher-paced version this new Nearpod comprised of student work samples.  Students can draw on each problem and “grade” it.  Shocking moment: That moment when students “grade” an incorrect problem as being CORRECT!  To see this in action, read this post.


Favorite “New” Way I’ve Used Desmos CARD SORTS

Is it possible to love Desmos any more than we love it today?  In recent months, Team Desmos has added so many new features and improvements, it’s tough to keep up with them all!  I’m always so impressed with their willingness to listen to teachers regarding feature requests – Desmos is changing the course of history in the way mathematics can be explored and learned.  Period.

If you’ve seen a few of the Desmos creations I’ve been using with students, you’ll see that I love Card Sorts!  Rather than keep the feedback in the teacher dashboard to myself, I like to:

  1. Begin a card sort showing NO feedback on the teacher dashboard
  2. Project the teacher dashboard with student names anonymized initially
  3. Project the teacher dashboard WITH student names once a few “sorts” become entirely “green” (correct) so that these “experts” can provide peer help for those still aiming for “green”.

To see this in action, read this post.

I’d love to hear how you are using Nearpod, Desmos, and other tools to foster metacognition and error analysis with students!

Join the #MTBoS #MtbosBlogsplosion!

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How Old?

The other evening, I was sitting with my husband and son at a candlelight Christmas service, singing carols and feeling merry.  One of the carols mentioned “shepherds” and right on cue, my 11-year-old son leans over and whispers… “There are 125 sheep and 5 dogs in a flock…”  (You Know Your Mom’s a Math Teacher When…)  It took everything in me not to burst into laughter right then and there.  I’m thankful for this holiday moment, as it reminded me to post briefly about the problem scenario – “How Old is the Shepherd?” (Which I may or may not have had my son experience as a guinea pig before presenting it to my own students…)

Perhaps I missed this post shared by Robert Kaplinsky because he composed it on my birthday, but I was thankful that Michael Fenton mentioned it to me in a recent conversation about teaching for understanding.  The minute I saw it, I knew I wanted to present the scenario to my students, and follow up with Robert’s fascinating video.  I also shared the video with my colleagues, who watched in amazement, and also decided to present the task to their students.  I’ll admit it… my colleagues and I were skeptical, thinking our results might be better… that our students wouldn’t fall for it.

However… I tried to put myself in the shoes of the students Robert interviewed.  I can imagine the 8th-grade-me feeling pressured to do math when presented with a problem, a white board, a dry-erase marker, and a one-on-one exchange with a teacher I respected and wanted to please.  Might that pressure have impacted students to number-pick without understanding, feeling the obligation to provide an answer?  If so, how could my colleagues and I reduce that pressure while creating that one-on-one environment where no one student could create a “spoiler alert” by calling out… “Hey!  This problem makes no sense!”

We decided to present the task using Nearpod.  We administered the task using a Nearpod-generated pin that fostered a “student-paced” format, and gave students the opportunity to draw and explain their thinking.  During quarterly exams before we went on break, after students handed in their tests, they completed the Nearpod task.  When students tried to come to my desk to discuss the task with a look of confusion, they didn’t challenge me when I said, “I’m sorry, others are still testing so we’ll have to keep a silent testing environment right now.  Please do the best you can.”

For the record, my poker face stinks.  I am amazed at Robert’s ability to remain respectfully stoic.  Even as students walked away from my desk, confused or frustrated, I had to look away to hide my cheesy grin – yet another reason using Nearpod was awesome, and frankly in my case… necessary.

Nearpod allowed my colleagues and me to maintain access to student responses using Nearpod reports, and comparing then during our PLC time was both interesting and somewhat disheartening… our students’ results were very much like those in Robert’s video.  When I looked at my Math 8 students’ responses, approximately 38% “made sense”.  When I looked at my Algebra 1 students’ responses… I was shocked to see that they, too, had a success rate of about 38%!

Here are some “Not Making Sense” work samples – incorrectly using division was, by far, the most common method I saw:



In spite of our attempt to try to lighten the pressure to provide an answer by using Nearpod as our tool of delivery, some students who smelled a rat clearly also felt obligated to give the math teacher “the answer”:




Some students called our bluff with grace and/or humor:



This information left us (teachers) asking a lot of questions about instructional next-steps.  One idea we had was to use student work samples to create a new Nearpod for discussion the next day in class before playing Robert’s video and asking the follow-up question, “What did you learn from this experience?”

After showcasing and discussing a variety of student work samples and showing Robert’s video, students gasped in amazement and started sharing about how they felt when presented with the task initially. MANY students admitted that they thought the problem was silly, yet felt obligated to do work and “get an answer” to please me or out of fear that I would “grade” it and they wouldn’t do well if they didn’t get an answer.  I’m also glad I asked them what they learned as a follow-up.  Check out a few responses from the Nearpod report at the end of this post.

While I’m left feeling like this experience was a square one in many ways, I know that I’ll be able to reference it during lessons, moving forward.

Have you used this task with students?  

If so, what were your instructional next-steps?

Want to use my initial Nearpod?  Grab it here.

Want to view my follow-up Nearpod?  View it here and create your own using your students’ work.

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Brain-Friendly Ways to Break It

Years ago, I had the pleasure of attending a workshop with Judy Willis.  Willis is a former neurologist who chose to apply her brain science expertise by becoming… a math teacher!  Though her time is spent educating educators now, her career path fascinated me from the moment she told her story in that workshop… dare I say 8 years ago…?  Additionally, many of her strategies impact instructional decisions in my classroom on a regular basis.  Willis knows what she’s doing.  How many days of PD can *you* say you still remember and apply, in detail, as you plan lessons… 8 years later?  Needless to say, I was an instant Judy Willis fan because her brain strategies worked, and continue to work, on me!

One strategy I intentionally use often is compare and contrast (see page 9 here).  Showing students what something *IS* and what something *IS NOT* helps deepen understanding.  For example, why introduce scenarios that are only “proportional-linear” when contrasting “non-proportional linear” situations serve to reinforce characteristics of *BOTH* concepts?

Recently, I used Desmos Function Carnival in a compare-contrast way.  In the past, I turned students loose in this activity by handing over a class code.  Being a (generally) compliant student myself, I hadn’t anticipated that many students would aim to “break” the carnival rather than trying their best to create a precise graph.  My first reaction when kids goofed around with silly graphs was frankly… disappointment.

Then I tried again, anticipating that they WOULD “play” and draw plenty of messed-up graphs.  I wrote this post to share how I shifted students’ focus from silly graphs to precise ones.  This is how Function Carnival has behaved in my classroom… until this year.

This time, students had been introduced to the concept of function the day before.  They had homework that required them to look at all sorts of wacky graphs, and determine whether or not they represented functions.  Rather than give students a class code from the get-go, I displayed Cannon Man on my smart board.  We watched him shoot out of the cannon, but this time I didn’t ask students to create a precise graph.  I didn’t even give them a class code.

I told them to ignore the green Desmos animation entirely.

Instead, I told them we should try to break it.

“Who has a favorite graph from last night’s homework that was NOT a function?  Let me draw that for you up here.  Now, talk to your group.  When I press PLAY up here, what is the blue Cannon Man going to do?”

Explode!  Gory and funny explanations all around… students begging me to press PLAY…a hush fell over the room, and then… this!

Our next non-function graph reinforced a deeper understanding of the “Vertical Line Test” that always shows up in textbooks but rarely makes conceptual sense to kids early on…

We chose several more non-function graphs from the homework for ME to draw… and then they started BEGGING for a class code so they could try it.

To summarize, I knew at least some of my students would want to break Cannon Man from the start.  Rather than meaningless graphs, we connected non-function homework problems to Cannon Man in motion.

To me, this was just as meaningful as the intent of the task to start.

Bonus: Check out a “Function or Not?” Desmos Card Sort, and other activities, by clicking the “Desmos Activities” icon to the right, or by using this link.

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Taking a Risk

My students are brand new to linear relationships, and it’s been so much fun watching them make connections.  We’ve been focused on applying slope to scenarios and writing linear functions in slope-intercept form given various info (a table, a graph with “nice” points, a slope and y-intercept, two points) and most of this foundational work has happened on paper. Yesterday, I took the opportunity to introduce students to two tasks to apply what we’ve been working on in novel and dynamic ways.

To start, I modified Michael Fenton’s “Match My Line” Desmos activity to create a “lite” version for slope-intercept form newbies. Match My Line (Lite Version)

While some students will just dive right in and try something, even if they’re not sure where to start, what I witness more commonly is students staring at the screen.  When asked, “Tell me, how is this going so far?” students often respond, “I’m thinking.”  Truth for some.  For others, taking the risk of typing something and seeing a line that doesn’t do what we wanted it to can be a scary step.

This might be surprising, as students take risks all the time with video games, and all sorts of techy and non-techy adolescent behavior in general.  However, I find that students need a bit of encouragement and coaching to get started, even with a seemingly non-threatening tool that’s simply going to graph the line one tells it to.  Prompting with some simple questions like, “put your finger on the place where you WANT the line to cross the y-axis” is enough for some kids to say, “OH!!!!!!!!” and get rolling with confidence!  Sometimes, asking a question like this reveals misconceptions such as putting a finger on the x-axis instead.  While Desmos has AMAZING built-in features on the techy Teacher Dashboard for students who have STARTED working on something, checking in on them in person can be the best intervention when they’re stuck or “thinking”.

And when the line goes through the points as they wanted it to, the reaction never. gets. old.  Cheers!  Arms in the air!  A sparkle in a student’s eye as they look at me and say, somewhat surprised at times, “… I did it…!”

Projecting the “Overlay” as students work is a great way to witness understanding… screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-8-55-19-am

…and even call out bluffs (with names anonymized) so we can help! screen-shot-2016-11-23-at-8-55-43-am

After students celebrated their “Match My Line” successes, we transitioned to a simplified “Marbleslides” task.  No emphasis on domain and range here – simply graphing some lines with slope and y-intercept in mind brought victories.  I love having the privilege of being the first to show students the capabilities of “Marbleslides”! 

They asked, “Did you make this for US?”


I just tell them Desmos is amazing, and we rock and roll. 🙂

Slope-Intercept Stars I’m glad we did the “Match My Line (Lite)” task first.  The more serious nature prepared students for the lighthearted, though equally mathy, marble launches.  I was especially proud of a gal who decided to plot her OWN “clean” points near the stars I provided to help her design a successful equation.

How do you encourage students to take risks when they’re not sure how to start?

What is technology’s role in promoting mathematical risk-taking?

Thankful for my students, and thankful for tools and resources that help them understand and enjoy mathematics.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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In The Moment

screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-8-29-12-pm The SAMR Model is a fundamental framework often used to help educators consider how and why to integrate technology.  Teachers are encouraged to aim “above the line” to provide students with potentially transformative experiences, rather than simply enhancing tasks with technology.  While this framework is helpful, I always find the four levels to be fuzzy.  I also question anyone who tries to force an app or tool into one of four levels… to me, it’s always been about HOW technology tools are used that determine the impact.

Additionally, I’ve sensed a bit of a shift in my own technology use lately.  While I find tremendous satisfaction in designing complete lessons using some of my favorite tech tools, there are plenty of days when I look at what my students are doing, and in the moment, I whip up a way to get the thinking that’s happening on sheets of paper and in small groups to a collection of student work samples that we can all talk about and learn from.  It’s not poor planning… it’s the comfort of knowing the tools I have at my access in a moment’s notice, and the confidence to know I can use them exactly when I need them!

Where do these in-the-moment discussions that technology makes possible “rank” in the SAMR model?  I often wonder.  From the outside, it may look like we’ve simply transferred a paper task to technology, ranking the whole thing “below the line”.  However, the discussions and a-ha moments that happen make me think there’s a bit more transformation happening than meets the eye.

For example, a-la-Open-Middle style, I asked students to create two tables of values and two graphs such that the first was proportional linear and the second was nonproprtional linear.  This quick prompt was part of a “foldable” I created several years ago.  In the past, I just walked around and looked at student work, or had several students share their work using the document camera.  However, this week as I watched students creating these representations in my first period class, I realized… I have Desmos Activity Builder now!

As they worked, it took me less than a minute to make this.  


Suddenly, their papers became rough drafts, and the finished product moved to Desmos, where we could anonymously examine every student’s work, explore every response using the Overlay feature… and even zoom WAAAAY in or WAAAAY out to see what was happening at the origin in each case.  Sure, I “substituted” a sheet of paper with Desmos, but I can’t accept that this was *only* substitution after all that creating, zooming, sharing, and discussing happened.


Showcasing Proportional Linear Relationships Using Desmos Overlay


Testing Desmos!


One evening this past week, I gave a “Desmos homework”, using this activity created and shared by Roxygirl Teacher.  Again, at first glance one might say this served as a worksheet substitution.


I intentionally gave the same class code to all 3 of my Math 8 classes, so we’d have a huge sample of responses to consider the following day.  In class, I projected the teacher dashboard in Desmos, used Sketch to work through a problem with students, confirmed the correct answer, then took full advantage of the “Summary” feature to examine student responses.  Discussions about equivalence, notation, and errors were fantastic!  More than once, students had OMG epiphanies that they had messed up.  They were thankful, as they have a quiz next week, and these discussions and comparisons of student work helped many students who, beforehand, didn’t know what they didn’t know.  Instead of hearing students complaining about mistakes, they were thankful for their mistakes, and the realizations that some had written every slope ratio upside down!  Some made sign errors repeatedly!  One student even represented every slope as two values separated by a comma rather than as a ratio.  And others… well… they just needed a re-count. 😉


Is it just me, or when you think you’ve seen every possible goof out there, a student comes up with a new one?  Sometimes we can’t anticipate every weird thing kids are going to do.  We try our best to be proactive, but there are some creative little buggers out there.  Tools like Desmos and Nearpod help us teachers to help our students better.

For example, I used Nearpod Draw It to spot-check several homework problems this week from an intro lesson with my Algebra students.  After students worked a problem in Nearpod, I clicked through every problem briefly, asking students to make the first lap about “noticing”.  After we quietly observed every problem (anonymously) we started to talk about trends, particularly in errors.  I saw repercussions of incorrectly generalizing “Trick” 6.5  in full force with these simple inequalities.  I was genuinely surprised by how many students fell for the “trick”!  Granted, I’m focusing on student errors here… plenty did well… but *they* needed to see this work and so did I!  Afterwards, I was able to generate a quick ThatQuiz assessment to check that our discussions helped dispel wrong thinking.

If we don’t invite our students to share their thinking, and provide an environment where they feel comfortable sharing, we’re missing out on many learning opportunities!



How do you empower every student to participate and share mathematical thinking?  

How do you handle student mistakes?

What are the best ways to address “tricks” that are being generalized incorrectly?

What is technology’s role in this process?


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Kahoot! Answer Streak Bonus = Good News For Math Class

Today I used several “Kahoots!” to review for a quiz students will be taking tomorrow. Math 8 kiddos have been translating, writing, solving, and graphing inequalities in one variable.  While students adore Kahoot! and many would prefer to play every day, I approach activities that primarily reward speed in math class with caution.

I made a BIG deal this morning about Kahoot’s “Answer Streak Bonus”.  In a nutshell, students earn piles of additional points for being correct for multiple questions in a row.  Breaking this “streak” also means losing precious point opportunities along the way.

Students hoarded scrap paper, and worked harder than I’ve EVER seen during a Kahoot. They cautiously rang in only after being SURE they solved, translated, wrote, or graphed the inequality correctly.  The spooky Halloween music was even spookier as a quiet calm came over the room for each problem.  Today, Kahoot was NOT about being speedy, but being correct, and earning the coveted Answer Streak Bonus!



The Answer Streak Bonus Pays Off! Student Literally Goes Coo Coo With Delight!

My FAVORITE moment today was during the very last question of one of our Kahoots.  One young lady appeared on the leader board with a fiery “Answer Streak Bonus” banner on her name.  If you would have seen her face, heard her gasp, and seen her physically jump out of her seat… well, you would have loved it!  Those moments of affirmation for hard work and understanding material that wasn’t once understood are what make teaching so much fun. Multiple students used their iPads to capture the leaderboard in a photo.  No one’s going to forget about the Answer Streak Bonus after today!

Taking Proud Photos of the Leader Board and Answer Streak Bonus!

After one Kahoot today, I launched a round of Kahoot “Ghost Mode”.  Most of my students today were unfamiliar with this game-play option, so it was fun to introduce them to the idea!  After students realized they’d be playing against their virtual “ghosts”,  some students who’d just recycled their precious math work literally went on a dumpster dive! Hilarious!  Once students retrieved their precious math work from the recycling bin, they went bonkers at the opportunity to play the same Kahoot again, keeping all ghosts from making an appearance on the leader board!

How do YOU use Kahoot! in math class?

What do YOU think of the Answer Streak Bonus?

What ideas for improvement do YOU have that would encourage you to use Kahoot more often for math?


We’re Playing GHOST MODE? I Just Threw Away My Math Work! (Not Too Proud To Dumpster Dive!)

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Desmos by Day, Nearpod by Night

screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-1-07-49-pmI’ve been having a lot of fun using Nearpod “student-paced” lessons as homework assignments.  Generally, I assign a NPP HW to pre-assess.  The Nearpod Report on the teacher side of things reveals all sorts of interesting student thinking.  Reports permit me to see all of this thinking before our next class meeting, know exactly what I’m in for instructionally, and as an added bonus, I have some very interesting, anonymous, authentic content to share and analyze with my students.

We’ve been solving equations, and I (intentionally) failed to mention ahead of assigning a “How Many Solutions?” NPP HW the possibility of equations having “no solution” or “infinitely many solutions”.  While the title of the lesson *should* have been telling… students with no experience with “identity” or “no solution” equations had little reason to be suspicious.  Instead, they doubted their own math, filling “Draw It” slides with work and question marks.



By the way… I ADORE the option in the iOS Nearpod App for students to submit a PHOTO on a “Draw It” slide.  Some students find that writing multi-step work on an iPad screen is not their favorite fine-motor-skill activity, and prefer to do work on paper first.  I get to see their thinking, and they can write their work on paper.  Win-win.


My FAVORITE Nearpod HW submission to date is shown below.

What do you notice?  What do you wonder?


The student revealed that he was working on this problem during a tutoring session. He got frustrated and threw the work away.  When the tutor saw the equation on his iPad screen, the tutor asked him about his solution.  When he revealed that he kept getting weird things like -4n = -4n or 0 = 0, the tutor told him he was right!  Immediately, he retrieved his work from the trash and submitted this photo.  I love the crumpled paper, calculator, eraser and eraser residue in the background.  The realities of persistence, all in one photo. 🙂

To start class the next day, I featured these, and other student work samples.  We had great discussions about solutions to various equations, and students were directed to my first attempt at strategy-smashing a #WODB (Which One Doesn’t Belong?) task with Desmos Activity Builder.


screen-shot-2016-10-08-at-1-16-01-pmThis was also the first time I took full advantage of the new “Conversation Tools” in Desmos.  Initially, I used “Teacher Pacing” to require students to stay put on the first “slide” and solve the equations on paper.


As a result, students naturally discussed their solutions, made corrections, and considered which equation they thought didn’t belong, rather than (without the “Teacher Pacing” option in the past) silently and somewhat mindlessly hurrying through the entire activity, clicking arrows to see what was coming next.  I lifted the “Teacher Pacing” after seeing that many students were ready to take an equation stance, giving them navigation freedom until it was time to “Pause Class” to discuss their choices a bit later.

screen-shot-2016-10-07-at-6-25-01-pmI’m SO GLAD I used the “Card Sort” option to ask students to stack the 3 equations they thought “belonged”, leaving out the 1 they thought did not belong.  Selecting “Summary” in the teacher dashboard was a quick way to see the majority of responses in each class, while selecting individual student thumbnails revealed that all 4 choices had been chosen by various (anonymous) students in the class.  As we explored students’ equation choices and justifications, I used the “Pause Class” feature to get all eyes up front, where I projected their responses.  I am loving these “Conversation Tools” as they are truly appropriately named!

Reactions to our #WODB equations task varied.

My unscientific survey of the most popular verbal responses as students worked:

“I really like this.”

“This is making me think.”

“This is kind of hard.” …to which I always respond, “Do you mean this is appropriately challenging?” … to which they respond, *smirk*. 😉

“I really don’t like this.” (see note above for my response)

How are YOU using Nearpod student-paced activities?

Desmos activities?

Desmos “Conversation Tools”?

P.S. Check out the madness that started with a tweet about the “bottle flipping” craze.  Kids these days.  And… math teachers these days… 😉




Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Becoming an “Expert”

I have one of those wax warmers in my classroom, and a drawer full of scented wax cubes. We have a new scent every week, and my room “smelling so good” is one of the quirky things my students like and remember about my class.  I should be earning some sort of commission on all the wax warmer sales that are a direct result of my classroom atmosphere… but I digress.  The reason I’m bringing this up is because the names of the wax cube scents are always so… fancy.

Sure, the cube smells like a “dryer sheet”, but it’s called “Faded Denim“.

It’s a stretch to say a cube of wax smells like “pumpkin”.  Even so, it’s called “Enchanted Pumpkin Valley“.

Sometimes, it’s all how you name it.  It’s all how you frame it.  And… it’s about whether that naming and framing gets student buy-in… beyond buying wax warmers… I’m talking about buying into the math now.

Today, for example, we explored patterns between squaring stuff and taking square roots, and attempted to describe and define what a “perfect square” is, and what a “square root” is.  After messing around with numbers, drawing squares, writing ideas in our own words, and even using calculators a bit, I gave students a Desmos Card Sort to try.


How I Do Desmos Card Sorts Lately:

screen-shot-2016-09-21-at-10-14-04-pm(1) Students join the activity using the code, and I set a timer for a specific number of minutes (depending on the task).  During this time, the teacher dashboard is projected on my smart board, but there is no feedback.  Students have to silently and individually comprehend and begin the task.



(2) After the minutes have passed, I reveal the feedback screen from the teacher dashboard, so students can see lots of “red” and “green”.  The catch is, all students must remain anonymous at first (thank you Desmos for making this so novel and fun with your famous list of mathy names).


(3) I scroll through this feedback screen and circulate as students are working, talking in teams, and making changes to their card sorts.  All the while, they’re looking back and forth from their screens to the smart board, to figure out which card sort is theirs, and whether or not the changes they’re making in real time result in more “green” or “red”.

(4) At this point they are beyond desperate for feedback.  They are begging me to reveal their actual names.  I promise to do this only after I’ve received my first “expert”.  I’m looking for the first student whose stacks are entirely green.  This increases the energy and the collaboration in the room, because everyone. wants. to. know. which. stack. is. their. own.

expert0(5) When the first “expert” emerges, it’s a celebration!  We find out who that expert is, and everyone else’s names are revealed next to their stacks too.  The “expert” is immediately “up for hire”.  That means students who just found out they have a boatload of red cards can request that the “expert” come to help them.


(6) From here, it becomes a beautiful blur.  Students continue to earn “expert” status and become “up for hire”, popping out of their seats to help a bud.  At one point today, every struggling student had a proud one-on-one expert tutor, and I just stood there, scrolling through the teacher dashboard, with a silly grin on my face.

expert1 expert2

It’s all how you name it.  It’s all how you frame it.

P.S. Images captured thanks to my iPhone’s time-lapse feature.

Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

Righteous Anger and Activity Builder: Before-and-After

These days, it’s only natural for teachers to do a web search for an upcoming teaching topic to see if someone out there has already invented that wheel. Many times, that web search results in a wonderful or almost-there resource or lesson idea that aligns to curriculum standards while engaging and challenging our students.

And sometimes, the results might make you mad.

Earlier this week, I searched for “zero and negative exponents” and found this video. 

In the defense of the video-makers here, there are additional videos, but I didn’t take the time to find them in that moment.  Instead, I only saw the “magic trick” video at 6:16pm and was immediately fueled to create something that would help students explore mathematics, not “magic”.  (Made me wonder… how many students or teachers out there ONLY saw THIS video as well?)

Within hours, I created this.  Because I had to.  I couldn’t let this go.  I wouldn’t have been able to sleep!  I had to create something to counter that video! 

I always start in Keynote, creating slides that hone in on what I want my students to be doing and exploring.  Next, I choose the platform for the activity – where these Keynote creations will live.  That usually lands me in Nearpod or Desmos Activity Builder, since both enable teachers to ask students questions as well as provide students with an opportunity to “Draw” or “Sketch” throughout their journey.  I opted for Activity Builder this time, because I wanted student sketches to “duplicate” from slide to slide, so that they could see their work as they answered the next question.  I learned that Desmos Sketches don’t yet duplicate in this way, but they’re working on it!

I’ll admit it… I used this Activity in class the very next day!  I had patterning questions prepared in Socrative from years past, but the Activity Builder platform gives students so many more opportunities.  (P.S. It’s nice to have taught courses with new TEKS so that this year isn’t a survival year, but an improve-what-we-made-during-survival years instead.  WHEW!  And all the Texas math teachers said… AMEN!)

How’d it go?  Really well!  Check out a few screenshots from our non-magic explorations together! screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-7-30-09-am screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-7-29-24-am screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-7-26-51-am screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-7-26-03-am screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-7-28-30-am screen-shot-2016-09-17-at-7-28-10-am

*** September 2019 UPDATED DESMOS ACTIVITY LINK, thanks to clever edits added by  Ella Hereth! ***

Knowing students might need a reminder later, I created a #mathygram and sent it as a Google Classroom Announcement.  I’ve been using the “Animator” app to create short, silent “flip-books” as a means of reinforcing topics or addressing misconceptions I saw DURING class, AFTER class.  Students receive an alert in Google Classroom that they’ve just received a #mathygram.

Maybe it’s time for #Mathygram180? 🙂

One more thing!

As I logged into to view student work for this post, I noticed a few “gifts” from Team Desmos!!!  WHAAAA??????  🙂 🙂 🙂  YESSSSSSSSS!


Posted in Algebra 1, Pre-Algebra | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Classroom & Twitter Hodge-Podge

What’s happening?

Here are some things I’ve been working on and learning from the #MTBoS and other Twitter Tweeps.  Maybe you can use some of these resources, or perhaps they’ll spark a new idea.

1. Concept of “Playlists” for Differentiation

I saw this idea on Twitter from Jennifer Gonzalez and Tracy Enos, and created my first “playlist”.  Particularly at the start of a new school year, some students benefit from a thorough review, while others may already know what’s being reviewed and would benefit from options to show mastery and pursue enrichment or extension tasks.  I used ThingLink to house resources this time around.  I think this strategy has a lot of potential, even though my example here wasn’t a super-engaging first attempt.

2. Explain Everything Mini-Project

I got this idea from my son’s math teacher, and I think it’s an awesome way to get students talking and thinking about math!  As I plan for my next Algebra unit on solving equations, and note that many of my students last year struggled on this particular unit, I think it’s a great time to try a screen casting project.  Asking each student to thoroughly explain one problem from start to finish will hopefully help each of them better understand applying properties of equality, while also creating quality videos for peers to use as additional tutorials!  Fingers crossed – I’m assigning the project this week.  Here’s the rubric I tweaked:

3.  More Desmos

I keep turning to Desmos Card Sorts to create brief-yet-beefy formative assessment activities.  The content at the start of the school year is especially fitting for giving students the opportunity to sort and classify things… or even simply move them around (think – virtual manipulatives rather than true “sorting” activities).

While I still do sorting activities with paper, many have been remixed as Desmos Card Sorts… and many have been “born” BECAUSE of what Desmos Card Sort now enables teachers to create.  When you can create more, you create more.  Tech can convert paper activities to digital/perhaps better/more efficient resources to use… but even more, having tech capabilities that did not exist before can both inspire and enable teachers to create better resources.  When you can do more, you do more!

Here was a fun moment from my week:


Since Desmos doesn’t yet have a search-by-author capability, at the urging of Andrew Stadel, I placed many of my recent creations and collaborations in one spot via this list.  Feel free to use or revise, and don’t forget to share back… either here, or on the Twitters!

P.S. I was pumped to see one of these activities featured in this week’s Des-Blog Friday Five!

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