Life Updates & ThatQuiz Updates

👋 Howdy! Long time no blog, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been trucking along, loving the teaching and traveling life. Post-Covid, I feel like I’ve learned how to maintain a little more balance in my life, establishing healthier work/life boundaries. Sometimes that means I have the *BEST* of intentions to share here, and then… I never do… which is a shame because I do think about this dusty ol’ blog often (you should see my unpublished drafts…!) These days, I’m the mom of a college student, I have more gray hair than ever, and I’m about to celebrate 25 years married to my love…! During the work weeks, we work hard… and when we’re not working, we play hard. For us that usually means a trip to Orlando to eat, play, and even cruise. The middle-aged life is good!

The reason I’m passing through here today is to prepare a quick PD to reference when I return to work on August 1. AUGUST 1. UM, THAT’S EARLY…! I’ve been asked to share about a few ThatQuiz updates at our first math department meeting, so… why not share that info here too? Plus, it’ll be really easy for me to find in August! 😂

ThatQuiz is a free and fabulous tool for assessing students. I’ve been gushing over this simple green-gray UI for over a decade, but if you need a refresher or introduction to this unassuming, self-grading tool that quietly keeps getting better and better, check out this and this and maybe even this first. Or, go straight to the source here.

Early in the 23-24 school year, ThatQuiz added a new featured called “Observe“. While students are quizzing, the teacher (logged into one’s own ThatQuiz teacher account) can select Observe and see a thumbnail of each student’s screen in real time – amazing!

ThatQuiz has included something valuable under the “Observe” area! I thought this feature was only useful while students were actually quizzing live and in front of me, but there’s SO MUCH MORE here if you set a threshold for students on assessments. For example, there are some ThatQuizzes that I set at 80%, so students who earn less than 80% are prompted to retest. I *thought* the data for previous attempts was lost and inaccessible, but under OBSERVE they can be seen for 30 days! There’s a history hiding under that counter-clockwise clock icon! When the teacher selects the clock, each student’s observation / screen has its own history icon… and the teacher can literally scroll through every screen of every assessment that student has redone within the most recent 30-day range…!!! Do you hear me cheering over here?!? YAHOO!!!

A second improvement I’m THRILLED to share is in the Slides area. I could write about ways to use Slides for hours (check out those aforementioned hyperlinked posts to see more love for Slides) but in this post, I’m focusing on a new feature – ALTERNATE CORRECT ANSWERS!!! In the past, teachers have only been able to create open-response questions with ONE correct answer noted in the self-grading “key” we establish. Now, Slides provides space for teachers to add up to 4 alternate correct answers… which is super-handy for a self-grading tool in a math class where equivalence should be celebrated. Below is my attempt to show y’all how to create a basic slide with some text on it, as well as a field for students to type an answer. Now we can include UP TO 4 ALTERNATE CORRECT ANSWERS TOO!!! ❤️


Finally, the kind ThatQuiz folks have updated the way teachers can schedule assessments. In the past, we could only begin and end an assessment using increments of 5 minutes. Now, we have the ability to align assessments with our unique bell schedules. Watch this quick video to see how to begin and end an assessment at exact minutes.

I am infinitely grateful to the folks at ThatQuiz who are ALWAYS open to UI suggestions and ALWAYS ask for ways to improve and ALWAYS implement any suggested improvements that help teachers and students! They are the best!!!

What’s your favorite free, self-grading math assessment tool, and why is it ThatQuiz? 😉

Posted in Algebra 1 | Leave a comment isn’t fancy, but it might meet your needs. Bonus: It’s FREE.

Greetings! Though blogging as a means to reflect and share seems to have died, I like to pass through these parts every now and again and share something potentially useful and timely! Perhaps you’ve already met your new crew of 22-23 students – if so, I hope your year is off to a fabulous start! Here in Texas, I’ll get to meet my new students this week, and I can’t wait! 😃

No Texas math teacher wants to think about our state test (🌟STAAR🌟) now… in August… but we must! This year, students will experience a plethora of new item types, and there’s no time like the present to plan for this, especially when there’s already a free assessment tool that can help! isn’t new. It’s lacking in bells and whistles, but it sure does a lot of amazing things! I’ve been a ThatQuiz user for 10+ years and I’m still stumbling upon features that I never knew existed! I’ve come a long way, and feel confident that I can create assessment questions that look very much like what our students will see on this year’s STAAR for the first time. Thanks to, my students will experience these item types all year, and by the time STAAR arrives, they’ll be ready! I appreciate that there’s a new level of rigor coming to STAAR!

I’d love to share my ThatQuiz learning curve with you through a few resources I’ve created. Firstly, if you’ve never heard of ThatQuiz, here’s a 10-minute intro video that will get you started.

If you’re most interested in learning how to create a few assessment questions that function like the new 22-23 math STAAR questions, here are some brief ThatQuiz video tutorials.

Drag and Drop Using ThatQuiz

Create a Text Entry Question Using ThatQuiz

Create Graphing Assessment Questions Using ThatQuiz

Finally, if you’re dedicated to a ThatQuiz LONG HAUL, I created a sort of self-paced “course” using Desmos Activity Builder. This is not designed to be a sit-down-for-an-hour-and-learn-all-the-things experience. This Activity/Course is more of a guide to explore at your own comfortable pace, and consider a reference when you need a refresher. Shoot, I even come back to it and reread my own tutorials to remember some of this stuff! It’s a LOT, so don’t get overwhelmed, friends! Take your time, do a little here and there, and try some things out with your students in bite-sized chunks.

Would love to hear about your journey using ThatQuiz with students!

🎉Happy New Year, Teachers! Have a fabulous 22-23!

Posted in Algebra 1 | 1 Comment

STAAR + Desmos = Spring 2022!

It’s been (at least) 7 years in the making!

Next month, when students across Texas take an online state STAAR test, they will also {for the first time ever} see an *embedded* Desmos graphing calculator option in addition to a TI emulator. A “both-and” graphing calculator situation! Woot! Years back, we clunked our way through locking students into the original Desmos Test Mode app on iPads, but that only worked because students took paper tests. As state testing shifts to an online platform, having Desmos embedded was the hope, and here we are! I hope Desmos is also on your state test.

I wanted to stop through the ol’ blog to share several resources that might be helpful before STAAR (or may at least give you ideas to modify if you’re not specifically in Texas).


To help students feel comfortable with “griddable” questions (that will now be more type-able than griddable using an online testing platform) I created this Desmos activity. During my time proctoring STAAR, I have never seen directions mentioned that remind students how to correctly grid their answers to open-response problems. Even leading up to STAAR, one has to Google in order to find these directions, and having students understand the flexible syntax before panic strikes mid-test is necessary. This activity provides directions and practice for students in Math 6, Math 7, Math 8, or Algebra 1. (Note: If I am missing an updated set of directions, please let me know! The directions for griddables I found online are the ones I included here.)

STAAR Chart Scavenger Hunts

Students take comfort in knowing they have access to a reference sheet during testing! Here are two activities designed to help students get reacquainted with EVERYTHING that’s on the “STAAR Chart”. It’s important to know which concepts are *NOT* on the reference sheet as well, and I’ve included a few ideas in the activities below. Math 8 and Algebra 1 are represented here, and if anyone decides to create or modify these for Math 6 or Math 7, please share back! ♥️

Additionally, the test review template Desmos activity shared here can be modified to include released STAAR questions for practice and student presentations. If you’ve never used it, I’d also like to introduce you to Problem-Attic as a question-bank resource. Having a free Problem-Attic account provides access to many released test problems that are sorted by topic. However, there’s a way to gain access to released STAAR questions too! Our curriculum and instruction department at the district level had to communicate with the fine folks at Problem-Attic for access to released STAAR questions aligned to TEKS through the Problem-Attic platform. Have your admin get in touch with Problem-Attic too! One can organize released questions to create resources in all sorts of ways (2-column PDF, a page with 4 problems in blocks, warm-ups), and the plaform allows one to change fonts, spacing, and more! Free access! Check it out!

Posted in Algebra 1 | Leave a comment

Template Ideas for Review and Self-Reflection

*taps the mic*

Is this thing on? Check one… two… three…

*dusts off blog for a biannual post*

I hope that 2021 is ending for y’all much BETTER than it started. Though things are more “normal” here in ATX than they’ve been in nearly two years, that feeling of impending doom is sort of perpetual at this point. It has been SO GOOD to have ALL of this year’s students in-person, seated in cooperative groups, talking and laughing and learning TOGETHER again. My little family of three even took a MUCH NEEDED vacation to Universal Studios Orlando over Thanksgiving break. Got to try out the new-ish VELOCICOASTER and established that, yes, riding Hagrid’s Motorbike Adventure at night is still perhaps the MOST FUN experience on the planet. Haven’t been? YOU SHOULD GO! (P.S. Riding coasters and visiting fabulous theme parks are definitely among my other passions!)

In the world of school, ’tis the season for summative testing, yes? Well, I recently shared some goodies on Twitter that I wanted to hammer down for you here too, in case they’re useful, because they’ve been a big help for my students and for me!

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Desmos Test Review Template

A review template designed to randomly collect one worked problem from each student, and have them present/explain in groups during our in-class review.

Students first solve *all* problems on your test review prior to using this template for an in-class review (so they’re familiar with ALL THE THINGS they should understand and be able to do, taking time to interact with all content). I like to let students know AHEAD OF working the review themselves that there will ultimately be “student presentations” where each of them will be presenting and explaining a problem to the class, like a TEACHER. I find this helps to improve the QUALITY of their work on the review itself, knowing that a special kind of accountability is on the way.

Teachers, add a screenshot of one review problem as the custom background image for each full-screen “sketch” element in this activity, leaving space for student work. Then, during the next class meeting, the Desmos spinner chooses each student’s fate from there!

Spinner, and other random generators, here!

Suggestions for the Teacher: 

• “Pace” all students to Screen 1 only to start. Everybody spins! (I usually allow unlimited spins for 1 minute, then PAUSE the class.) 

• Next, pace students to have access to screens 2 through n.

• Each student navigates to the screen they spun, and solves that one problem only within the Desmos activity at the start. 

• Consider allowing each student to individually solve their problem first, then meet up with the other students who also spun the same problem.

• Use the Teacher Dashboard to select each screen and see which student(s) completed each problem.

• Screen-share student work from the teacher dashboard as student groups present/explain their thinking for their chosen problem to the class. 

• I typically pace all students to each relevant screen as student groups present, and encourage students at their seats to work each problem during student presentations. 

The goal is to leave class with a completed and accurate Desmos review they can return to after class!

WHAT IF A STUDENT IS RANDOMLY GROUPED ALONE? I offer to present with that student, or allow the student to join another group… but surprisingly, many students are happy to fly solo and present the problem to the class alone because “Desmos has chosen!” 👾

WHAT IF THE SPINNER CHOOSES NO STUDENTS TO PRESENT A SPECIFIC PROBLEM? Then I present it as the teacher, or ask if anyone would like to step in (and they do)! As a matter of fact, dare-I-say one of my most anxious students at the start of this school year was quick to volunteer to present a problem ALONE and in front of the entire class on-the-fly recently! I was so insanely proud and moved by her growth in our class… her CONFIDENCE! 🔥 YESSSSS!!!!!!

🎉 Remember to celebrate correct work AND interesting thinking that’s not quite there… yet! 🎉

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Desmos Self-Reflection Card Sorts

These check-in activities will differ vastly by unit, so it’s tricky to try to create an actual “template”. Rather, here are examples you can copy-and-edit and make your own. The “Metacognitive Sort” screen has been beneficial in helping students form questions and advocate more specifically for what they need from me during any sort of review time. The physical task of sorting cards and working through, “Could I solve this problem independently or not?” while NOT having the pressure to ACTUALLY solve it in that moment really seems to help them request exactly the support they need.

Copy-and-edit, and please SHARE BACK TOO! Would love to see what creations come of this idea! And… I think it’s appropriate to say HAPPY HOLIDAYS and HAPPY NEW YEAR… maybe I’ll come back for a new post before June 2022! 😂

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Algebra 1 Examples

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Math 8 Honors Examples
Posted in Algebra 1 | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Sharing My Learning Curve

Psssst… it’s me… you know… the math teacher that writes a post, say… twice a year anymore?

And IT HAS BEEN A YEAR. Grateful to be on THIS SIDE of it with you! *WHEW*

In my last two not-so-recent posts, I shared about the workflow I’d settled into, as well as when/how I used a few tools I adore. I plan to keep building on those ideas in THIS post.

Recently, I attended a PD day here in ATX with fellow math teachers, and we got a glimpse of the (potential) new question types heading our students’ way in Spring 2023 for our (state) STAAR tests. I realize many states have had much more interactive state assessments than we’ve had here in Texas… come 2023, we’ll finally catch up past the traditional multiple-choice and “griddable” response questions we’ve had as long as I’ve been a Texas teacher. While state testing isn’t everything, assessment FOR learning and using tech tools to help us assess FOR learning are kind of a big deal. So, seeing these new (potential) question types excited all of us, actually! If you would have been a fly on the wall, you’d have heard a room full of math teachers ooooooing and aaahhhhing at the interactive and much more open STAAR tasks! You’d also have heard me immediately advocating for tools like Desmos Activity Builder and ThatQuiz that (1) we already have access to, (2) are FREE, and (3) are ideal for building interactive assessment FOR learning experiences for kids.

A colleague asked me, “Can you train us?”

I said, “How long ya got…?” 🙂

This immediately put me in maker-mode… well not IMMEDIATELY. I waited until I got home to start building… this! Here’s my summertime attempt to feed two birds with one scone. I’ll share this with colleagues at back-to-school time, and I’ll toss it here for the time being for anyone who dabbles in schoolwork all summer, like yours truly.


This is a Desmos Activity that guides y’all through all of the things I’ve learned about prior to this year, but especially this year. I thought I knew this tool… but I’ve learned that its capabilities were FAR BEYOND my use cases! No, ThatQuiz isn’t new or shiny, but it’s quite frankly the answer to what I believe many teachers are looking for! I have learned SO MUCH about using ThatQuiz as a creation platform during SY 2020-2021, that when I thought about writing a blog post about it all, I was immediately overwhelmed. A Desmos AB with screens and media seemed a better fit. So… here ya go! This isn’t designed to be a once-and-done experience. May this resource serve as a helpful guide to return to again and again as needed!

Sharing My Learning Curve – Hope It Helps You!

^^^Click the image^^^ to try the activity as a student.

As a reward for your perseverance, you’ll also gain access to the link, in case that’s useful for you.

Could be the solution you didn’t know you needed?

As always… feedback welcome!

Posted in Algebra 1 | Leave a comment

A Fork is not a Spoon

In my last post, I shared briefly about workflow and tools during our continued COVID-teaching time. This. Is. Hard. Teachers across our nation and globe are finding themselves teaching under varieties of circumstances with challenges that test our every limit. When it comes to using technology to help students learn mathematics, tool CHOICE has always mattered… and the WAY those tools are USED has also always mattered. But we find ourselves in unconventional, long-haul circumstances where teacher-SURVIVAL (literally during a pandemic, and with respect to our practice) can matter as much or more than making best-case-scenario pedagogical choices. We’re doing our best, where we are, with what we have, with the deck we’ve each been dealt, given the same 24-hours each day. (I happen to be “in-person” teaching students in-the-Zoom and in-the-room simultaneously, masked behind plexiglass barriers. It’s still surreal, even though I’ve been in this modality for 4 months now.)

I just finished listening to a recent episode of Justin Reich’s TeachLab Podcast featuring Dan Meyer in the Failure to Disrupt Book Club series. A question posed by regular guest Audrey Watters had me leaning in to my laptop with raised eyebrows (at the 36:19 mark):

“… Dan can you talk a little bit about… the kinds of things… features… that you would say no to?What is something… teachers want that you’re like, nah, we ain’t gonna do that…?”

SPOILER: The “very big” feature request from teachers in recent months involves the desire for more auto-grading.

Dan goes on to say,“…By design, we (Desmos) have not exposed to students whether they are RIGHT or WRONG… That’s been intentional.”

Listen in (38:00 minutes) as Dan elaborates on the WHY. His responses resonated with me. For me, hands-down, Desmos has been the absolute best tool to help further mathematics education with our students’ “creativity and connection to other students” in general, but ESPECIALLY during this pandemic. Desmos Activity Builder provides a platform for students to experience mathematics in dynamic and even playful ways that simply cannot happen without technology. Desmos can help encourage student discourse that aids in building a community of learners who see math, not as static, but as something we can explore, test, attempt to break, and more deeply understand together.

That being said, I have never “graded” a Desmos activity.*

Perhaps being dealt the deck of teaching synchronously in-the-Zoom and in-the-room shapes my lens here. I have students who show up, log in to Desmos, and participate every day. Since we share the same time and space, whether in-person or virtually, I use Desmos activities to drive our live lessons. For us, Desmos is an experience, not a summative assessment. If students were to join a Desmos activity, and ask that age-old question, “Is this GRADED?” it would break my heart a little. They never ask me this because it’s not something we’ve ever done. Yes, we teachers are expected to put grades in our grading software programs. This is a deeply-ingrained part of “school”. For me, Desmos is just not the best tool for that. A fork is not a spoon.

I have the UTMOST RESPECT for the droves of teachers who are teaching themselves and others Desmos CL (computation layer coding language) in order to make Desmos Activity Builder “grade” student thinking. And I am a firm believer that many of the tech tools we have at our access can be used in unconventional yet effective ways, so using Desmos for grades isn’t right or wrong, it’s a use-case choice. I have seen some AMAZING Desmos assessments out there that use the platform to ask students deep questions, while taking advantage of providing students with access to so many of Desmos’ strongest features! KUDOS TO YOU! For those looking to assess understanding quickly, not necessarily using the strengths of Desmos along the way, I’m thinking about you right now… those trying to use Desmos activities for “learning checks” that are graded for you. When a tool has to be undone like a knotted pretzel and forced to do a thing that should be easy to do, maybe it’s not the best tool for that thing we are trying to make it do. A fork is not a spoon.

I’m not here to judge anyone’s tool choices or uses, *ESPECIALLY DURING A GLOBAL PANDEMIC* but I would like to propose another option for graded assignments. I’m looking for solutions to our many teaching challenges too, and here’s one that has helped me to assess AFTER our rich, shared Desmos experiences. It’s not pedagogically perfect, is certainly NOT new, but I think it might be an option to consider for folks who simply need a tool that provides students with opportunities to practice, demonstrate understandings, and quite frankly, “grade” stuff efficiently.

Check out my tag cloud to the right, and you’ll see “ThatQuiz” listed. This pandemic has propelled me to learn and understand ThatQuiz’s capabilities more than ever before. ThatQuiz does some automated things (generates skill quizzes based on constraints, for example), but it’s also a creation platform. You can make of it what you’d like. It auto-grades. I like using it to check understanding. With password-protected student logins, class data is collected over time in a user-friendly way. The teacher can even set a threshold (for example, students must earn 80% or will be prompted to redo) which propels students to seek help too. ThatQuiz has always been free, and promises to remain free forever, and to exist forever, so it’s worth a look if you’re new to it. Is ThatQuiz the utensil you might be looking for? Check out this brief video, go explore, and keep being your awesome teacher self. Then, check out this brief but thorough tutorial from ThatQuiz.

*The only Desmos Activities I have “graded” were longer-term projects that use the Activity Builder as a platform. 🙂

Posted in Algebra 1 | 1 Comment

Reflect and Share: Workflow

Why do I blog? Simply stated, I blog to both reflect and to share. However, in recent days, weeks, months… heck, we’re almost to the point where I can say for a whole YEAR it has been tough to just sit down, center myself, and reflect or share. My heart has been in a constant state of heavy for almost a whole YEAR, and I pray 2021 will turn around (SOON PLEASE) for the better in EVERY possible way…!

We began our 20-21 school year 100% remote. I’ve been back “in person” teaching since mid-September, with what began as roughly 60% of my students “in-person” with me and 40% joining synchronously from home on Zoom. As the year has progressed, I’m closer to 75% “in-person” and 25% on Zoom now. The numbers change daily because the circumstances change daily. We’re working one day at a time, masks, plexiglass, and all.

It’s taken some time to figure all of this out. Workflows have become more important than ever, and I’ve come to realize that workflows can vary greatly even when folks use the exact same tools. While my timing is likely waaaaaaay off here, as many of us have probably established things by now, I’ll share and hope that you’ll share back, so we can all be better!

Google Classroom

One thing I’ve realized is that saying one “uses Google Classroom” doesn’t always mean we’re using it the same way. I’m not sure many people use GC the way I do, and I’m sure I’m NOT making the best use of GC’s capabilities! However, my students have expressed appreciation for the way I keep things organized, so this has sort of been working, even if it’s unconventional.

My Classwork area uses each math unit title as the GC Topic. Each day, I use a Material under the current unit Topic to create a brief daily agenda. In this agenda, I include the day’s objective, and any links / codes / PDF resources students need. I schedule the daily Material agenda to post each school day at 8:10am, roughly 30 minutes before the school day actually starts. Students only receive one e-mail & one post from me per day. Each Material I post is initially organized by lesson topic, but includes the date as well since it is scheduled to post on the relevant day… so it’s organized for students both by lesson topic AND by date.

Essentially, we visit Google Classroom to start each class and see our objective(s) and agenda, and then we swiftly leave Google Classroom…! In general, students are leaving GC to participate in a Desmos Activity or Nearpod or Socrative or ThatQuiz… and all of these tools already have a built-in workflow. I’ve never really invested in Google Forms or Google-y assessment tools, so, I need you to help me in this area!

Desmos Classes

Speaking of Desmos Activities, they are A-MAZE-ING for in-person and remote students! I created Desmos Classes when the option became available in recent months… and again… I don’t think I’m using these classes in a conventional way either, ha! I created my Desmos classes by class period, but I do not “assign” Desmos activities to integrate with Google Classroom because I don’t “grade” Desmos activities… we use these activities to learn and explore during live lessons together, not for grades… so, as a part of my daily GC Material “Agenda” I include the already-assigned Desmos student activity link(s) each day. Farewell to sharing codes students must type in, they just click the link and go!

My students don’t even know that there is an actual class code or link that gives them access to all of the assigned activities (at least YET… I imagine I’ll share this at the end of the year, if not sooner…) they just click on the link(s) each day in GC, and I get the blessing of having activities organized by class period… and even better… seeing that precious ROSTER of student names in real-time to ensure everyone is logged on with me, in the room AND in the Zoom…!

Graded Stuff and Not-Graded Stuff

During live lessons, we use Nearpod and Desmos Activities to drive our lessons. Students participate in the lesson activities every moment of the class period, and their thinking/work (often anonymous) is shared to promote dialogue and exploring multiple methods. I’m able to keep tabs on student progress in real time, and intervene just-in-time. Sometimes, student-paced Nearpod and Desmos Activities are assigned for homework as well. These are also not graded. (Note: I’ve created and collected resources for both tools and shared them in the sidebar to the right on my blog here, or you can visit my editable Nearpod lessons here and Desmos Activity Collections here.)

Additionally, sometimes we’ll play a live Kahoot! to review and reinforce concepts, and often, I’ll post Kahoot! challenge codes in Google Classroom for some asynchronous optional practice, review, and competition as well. (Note: I’ve created standards-aligned Kahoots! and shared them in the sidebar to the right on my blog here, or you can visit this link for Math 8 and this link for Algebra 1.)

Our “graded” assessments this year mostly live in two tools – ThatQuiz and Socrative Pro. While ThatQuiz’s platform is a bit dated, lacking bells and whistles of any sort, I really like this platform for assessing along the way. ThatQuiz can generate a skill quiz based on constraints set by the teacher, teachers can visit the Browse option to edit and assign assessments created by other teachers, and teachers can create assessments from scratch under the Design option. At the start of the school year, I create password-protected classes where each student logs in to find ThatQuizzes that have been assigned at whatever date and time the teacher chooses. There’s a running dashboard of student progress that can be viewed by any date range chosen, and the teacher can hammer down into each score to see precisely which questions students missed. One can even decide options like, do we want ThatQuiz to save student work/progress along the way, or not? Do we want students to receive feedback upon submission, or the grade only? Do we want to give students only one attempt, or let them redo the assignment with a set a threshold, such as earning 80% or higher? I love the flexibility ThatQuiz provides! (Check out my tag cloud for lots of ThatQuiz posts and ideas —->)

For summative end-of-unit assessments, we use Socrative Pro. While we are limited to having open-response and multiple-choice questions, we use our class time with Nearpod and Desmos to dig deeply into student work, taking our time as we progress through each unit of study. When it’s time for a summative assessment, we’ve taken the philosophy that students should have the freedom to choose the methods they like best, and complete exams that mimic the ultimate summative assessment *that they will still have to take this year ahem* the STAAR test. Summatively assessing an entire unit with roughly 45-minute class periods is a challenging task… and creating unit assessments using Socrative Pro makes things a bit more feasible. I also like that questions can be scrambled, and answer choices can be scrambled, to encourage the “integrity factor”. 🙂 And just like Classes in Desmos Activity Builder, Socrative Pro permits that oh-so-valuable class roster for each class testing room, so the teacher can see at-a-glance who has and has not logged in to the assessment at hand.

All of this being said, in an effort to streamline things for students and families, we’ve narrowed down our tools to this bunch:

Google Classroom —> Daily agenda and materials

Nearpod & Desmos Activity Builder —> Live lessons and occasional asynchronous homework

ThatQuiz —> Smaller assessments along the way

Socrative Pro —> Summative unit assessments

Kahoot! —> Optional practice & review

What am I missing?

If the activities and assignments students complete are in tools with built-in work flows already, convince me why I might use GC Assignments rather than only Materials in my Classwork? Or, is this an instance of… if you started using Google tools initially, and have invested time creating goodies there, you’re more apt to use them…? As you can see, I don’t use Assignments in Google Classroom at all… and perhaps that’s okay…?! Or, maybe, YOU know something I’m not seeing, and you can help me see it…? 🙂

More Sharing

I’m honored to have had some unique opportunities to share about teaching and learning with technology the past few months. Check out some highlights below.

Eanes ISD Math Teacher Tackles Remote Learning (Spectrum News)

Making Math Moments Podcast: It’s Not About Tech, It’s About Good Teaching

Kahoot! Academy Teacher Takeover: Teacher-of-the-Week Cathy Yenca

mmhmm blog: “Mathy Cathy” Yenca: Why visual learning matters for math

A mention on #DesmosLive around the 30-minute mark!

Math Teacher Lounge (presented by Amplify + Desmos)

Posted in Algebra 1 | 4 Comments

First Quarter SY 20-21

Whelp, would you believe we’ve made it through the first quarter of this (don’t say it… don’t say it…) UNPRECEDENTED school year. For me, the year started with three weeks of 100% virtual learning. All teachers and all students learned from home using Zoom initially. Then, those of us with health waivers continued to teach from our homes while colleagues went into our buildings to serve 25% of our students in-person, and 75% who remained at home. Then, our phased-in plan required all staff (even those with health waivers from doctors) to go into our buildings to serve the 52-ish% of our student body that would join on-campus learning. Now, we have roughly 64% in-person, and still meet with our remote learners on Zoom, simultaneously.


There’s literally been no time to blog. Twitter pals using #MTBoS and #iteachmath and @Desmos have saved my sanity and provided just-in-time resources and ideas during this one-day-at-a-time pandemic teaching lifestyle we find ourselves in. It’s all about survival right now (literally and figuratively) so, here are some highlights from Twitter that summarize Q1 of the 20-21 school year for me. Happy scrolling, and thanks a MILLION to all who continue to create and share, helping us all get through this temporary insanity.

First Day of School (At Home For All)

Go-to tools (in “regular” teaching times too, but ESPECIALLY now)


Desmos Amazingness.

Add “TECH SUPPORT” to the 4,297 hats teachers are already wearing.

The fear of initially entering the school building myself was VERY REAL.

P.S. It’s still real. Every day.

S.E.L. is not just a three-letter acronym.

A kind word goes a long way. SUCH a long way.

Creating resources to fit the times has been a TON of work, and a TON of REWARDING and SO-WORTH-IT work, at that. Some days, I’m really proud of the activities! Other days, the activity is honestly more like a worksheet-turned-Desmos-so-I-can-see-what-everyone’s-up-to… I’m okay with that.

LOVE the idea of creating what I’d call a “Metacognitive Card Sort” in Desmos Activity Builder. I’m using these to help students on our review day before unit assessments. While they already have a “test review”, I feel like this puts perspective to our “learning targets” and encourages students to take a stand on various question types. It also helps them formulate specific questions for us to address during our review time together.

Matt used this idea for post-assessment reflections too – neat-o! Encouraging students to think about their own thinking is always a good thing!

Thanks for scrolling! In closing, if there’s anything you might need for Math 8 or Algebra 1 kiddos, please know that I’m always adding things to my posted Desmos Collections! Like, literally almost daily at this point!

Check out my Desmos Collections by scrolling up and clicking on the “Desmos Activities” image at the tippy top of all the stuff on the right side of this page —–> and help yourself to anything useful there (Kahoots and Nearpod lessons too!)

Be Well, Stay Well, and here’s to the second quarter of SY 20-21.

…And remember to find some humor in each day!
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Back-to-School From Home

The summer of 2020 felt sort of like “the summer that wasn’t”. We didn’t do any of our usual traveling or visiting family. The days sort of ran together much of the time, with the exception of watching the news TOO MUCH, taking lots of walks around our neighborhood, and the occasional delivery of groceries on the front porch. Just as the end of the 19-20 school year was mushy and abstract, this “summer” felt similarly mushy.

However, this summer, more than I can ever remember, professional development online was ABUNDANT. From Twitter to Facebook groups to webinars to online courses and conferences, educators leaned on each other from far and wide, both for moral support and to learn how to make some lemonade from all of these lemons. One of my favorite experiences was the week-long offering from teachers at Stanford Online High School, who shared candidly about all they have learned to effectively teach students remotely (the recordings are still available here). Desmos webinars, the Apple Distinguished Educator month-long Festival of Learning, the Kahoot EDU Summit, and the Pennsylvania Council of Teachers of Mathematics conference were just a few of the many offerings. The perpetual tug-of-war pull between watching the often hopeless news, to learning hopeful strategies for future students, all the while seeing teachers caught in the middle of so much of the mess was, at times, exhausting and paralyzing.

After a week-and-a-half of ZOOMING with colleagues for our district-level PD to prepare for the reopening of online school, it’s been great to reconnect. While we’re juggling a lot right now, we’re as ready as we’ll ever be, and tomorrow we get to meet a new crew of students! I’ve never felt so ready, and simultaneously *not* ready, for the start of a new school year. I’d imagine students feel similarly.

With so much literally out of our control, sometimes it can be therapeutic to control the things you can. For me, that translates to being productive and creating and organizing things… then sharing them with others! Here are some resources I had the pleasure to play a part in creating / curating over the summer, to help with this moment and the days ahead. I’m grateful that so many folks spent the summer creating and sharing amazing resources day and night! We make each other better.

Math 8 and Algebra 1 Desmos Activity Collections

Kahoots for Math 8

Kahoots for Algebra 1

As we seek to build relationships with our students while juggling online teaching, in-person teaching, or some combination of the two; our own families, our own physical health and our own mental health; politics, the news in general, pandemic statistics. public perception of our profession and EVERYTHING ELSE that 2020 continues to throw at us, I urge us all to take a breath. We must be intentional regarding our self care. We don’t have to be perfect.

Be well, stay well, and let’s do this!

Have a happy and healthy new school year, one day at a time…

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Bringing SY 2019-2020 to a Close: Reflections… and Desmos

Several weeks back, I packed up my classroom. Frozen in time, everything was set up and ready to go for teaching on Monday, March 23, post-spring-break… that day had LOOOONG come and gone, though my classroom was ready to propel to the “normal” routine. I couldn’t wrap my heart around why I was packing everything up, even though my brain knew full well that I had been quaranteaching for WEEKS already. My gloved hands went into autopilot while my exposed eyes fought back tears in my eerie, empty, silent classroom.

Here we are, staring down the last week of school. The official school calendar says next week is the last week of school. It always did. Normally, if we’re being honest, most of us would have had a countdown of how many teaching days were left until the coveted ***LAST DAY OF SCHOOL***. While we usually count the days down out of jest and sheer exhaustion of end-of-year testing, field trips, and all the wonderful interruptions that make the end-of-the-year enjoyable and terrible all at the same time… this year, it feels flat. Abstract. Really, really sad.

Wishing we could meet for class for one final farewell is not uniquely my wish… MANY teachers’ hearts out there have yearned for this for over two months now. Though technologies are amazing and have maintained the learning and community-building to a degree, there’s nothing quite like the heartbeat of the classroom… IN PERSON. I’m grateful! We’ve accomplished A LOT! It’s okay to celebrate that and be thankful for our Zoom-time and technologies while also feeling sad, tentative for what’s to come, and even angry… about ALL of it.

When I need to do something with a pile of feelings, I create. I have to make something. Something that will potentially make things better. Content creation is my outlet. It makes me feel like I am countering the blahs with joy and practicality.

After cleaning out my “real” classroom, I made this. I kept seeing this virtual classroom Bitmoji idea on social media, and scanned past it… but after packing up my classroom in real life, creating a virtual one helped organize some things NOW while also providing an editable platform for next year, when we meet in person and/or virtually. I used Apple’s Keynote to create the bones of it… the things I really don’t plan on editing. I used the actual paint color of my classroom walls, used a photo to fill a shape with the actual floor tiles, and included some cherished pieces, like my MISTAKES art canvas and my carved wooden MRS. YENCA name sign given to me by my husband’s Nana… who is the ORIGINAL Mrs. Yenca for whom it was carved! 🙂 It’s a busy and silly Google Slide full of hyperlinks and animated GIFS, and making it was therapeutic. Google “Virtual Bitmoji Classroom” for tutorial ideas galore.

I’m hoping that students have also found creating to be therapeutic. That’s why my PLC-mates and I have assigned Desmos Projects to every class the past few weeks. You can access and read about project ideas for Math 7, Math 8, and Algebra 1 here. In other tabs on my MacBook, I’m watching them work now, as I type, and these open and creative tasks never disappoint!

Next week, I’ll have one final Zoom meeting with each class. We’ll begin with a showcase of students’ graphing projects to celebrate their work and progress! Here are screenshots from the work they’re finishing up in Math 8, Algebra 1, and Math 7 respectively.

When I cleaned out my classroom, I grabbed the stack of “WHO I AM” papers that students had completed on the first day of school. I didn’t know what I was going to do with them yet. Generally, I return them to students on the last day of school. They barely remember ever filling them out, and are always surprised to read about how their interests have changed since August. And we all have a good chuckle at their hand-drawn self-portraits!

I was compelled to create something for my students, given that I wouldn’t be able to hand these back in person this year. So… using Keynote to sort out the portrait images, I created custom Desmos Card Sorts for each class! Students will attempt to match their peers’ (and their own!) names to their self-portraits, sketched on the 1st day of school this year. I wonder how many of them will even recognize their OWN creations! It’s going to be fun and light-hearted… creating it has left me a little heavy-hearted too.

AND… thanks to the Desmos Educators group on Facebook, I found @rachael_degnan’s end-of-year reflections activity, modified it for my middle schoolers, and tacked the self-portrait Card Sort screens at the beginning of the activity (the ability to COPY and PASTE screens between Desmos Activities is a DREAM FEATURE).

Here’s Rachael’s original End of Year Reflection activity, in case you’d like to use or edit it too.

Maybe **I** need a teacher-version of a Desmos End-of-Year Reflection Activity… there’s so much to process about how we “got through” these virtual teaching days, and even more uncertainty regarding how school will operate in the fall. Let’s all promise to give ourselves permission to rest, and not try to anticipate every “what if” the next school year might bring. Reflect, celebrate, and rest in knowing we’re all doing the best that we can.

Hope to be back here safely.
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