To Flip or Not to Flip

Flipped classrooms have always been something I’d like to try…eventually. That’s what I have always said: “next unit, next semester, next year”. I have never actually gotten around to it until now, and I am not even sure that I am “flipping” my classroom, so to speak.

This post is not about my knowledge of flipping classrooms, it is about my desire to learn more and eventually have a course in which students do part of the learning at home, online, and part in the classroom, at school.

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What does a flipped classroom even look like? Obviously every school, teacher, classroom will look different. I like the example below of a high school in Detriot, that is experimenting with a completely flipped classroom. Watch below:

It’s interesting to watch this video and see how students, teachers and admin react to this concept. The idea of making students accountable for the learning of the material is great and I think it would work well in certain schools. The idea of using class time to practicing skills students learned themselves, collaborating, problem solving and persevering through work seems like a wonderful idea.

Schoology is one company that is taking the idea of a flipped classroom and creating a platform to enhance the flipping experience.

Schoology /skoo.luh.jee/—a learning management system (LMS) that has all the tools your institution needs to create engaging content, design lessons, and assess student understanding.

Like other platform websites, like Google and Blackboard, Schoology aims to make teaching easier for the teacher and more engaging for the student. An appeal of this website is that it design is intuitive and it connects you to other teachers everywhere. The downside is that both the teacher and the student will have to learn this new technology and its intricacies.

Using Google here at ISM also lends itself nicely to flipping a classroom. I just made my first flipped lesson for my Grade 9 students on exponents. I made videos, a powerpoint and example problems to complete. They are responsible for learning the content and being able to complete problems. When I see them in class after the long weekend, ideally they should be able to complete different types of exponent problems based on the videos watched.

How do I think it will go? I have my reservations. I think that a flipped lesson is something both teachers and students need to do multiple times in order to feel comfortable with the concept. However, I am hopeful a handful of the students will respond favorably so I can experiment more with flipped lessons in the future.

Other Questions:

  • What happens if students don’t have internet, or a computer?
  • What happens if students have to watch 3 or 4 lectures/lessons in one night?
  • What happens if students do care at all, and refuse to complete the lessons on their own time?
  • How does a teacher fully understand if their lesson was clear and students gained mastery?
  • How does a teacher have time to create all the new online lessons?

I would love to hear about other teachers who have successfully flipped a lesson or even their classroom and learn more about the process. Any tips, tricks of the trade?


Math Apps, For The Win

Move over, calculator, we have many, many, many new tools in town. All available at our fingertips, almost all free to use, all to make your math life easier. With our smartphones and tablets, we have portable devices that can enhance and help your abilities in math. Many apps have the ability to compute mundane calculation, while others are designed to hide the math and showcase the fun.

Below are a list of my favorites, but by no means is this list inclusive of all the great math apps available.

1. Photomath (iOS & Android)

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 5.11.22 PMAlthough I sometimes hate to admit it, I give students worksheets of skills to practice for homework. Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 5.17.53 PMSolve for x, solve for x, solve for x, in the hopes that by the tenth time they solve for x, they will have the skills down and be able to apply it to a transfer of learning question. I will also admit that I sometimes forget to put the answers up for the students to check. Therefore, I told them about Photomath.  It’s an app that lets the student take a Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 5.20.49 PM picture of the problem and it will compute the answer. Not only that, it shows step by step how it reached the answer, so students can pinpoint where their mistake is and correct it. Photomath just added a new feature that allows students to type in the answer in the event the camera is not recognizing the problem.

The downside: copying and cheating.


2. MyScript Calculator (iOS & Android)

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 5.37.38 PMSimilar to Photomath, MyScript Calculator allows to students to handwrite in a problem, and in turn it converts it to text and subsequently solves the problem. I like this app because it is a lot easier and faster to handwrite in a complex equation, especially when you add in exponents, logs, multi-steps, etc.

If the app incorrectly changes a number that you write, it is easy to edit it to recalculate. You can also drag and save answers to use in multi-step problems. It worked great for my Trigonometry unit.

The downside: used more for simple calculations you could do with a calculator, takes more time than just plugging into a calculator.

3. Wabbitemu (Android only)

I give major props to the creator of this app. I can’t tell you how manyScreen Shot 2016-02-01 at 5.49.28 PM students did not have graphing calculators well into the second semester of the year and this app helped them to actively participate along with the lessons. There are many graphing calculator apps, but Wabbitemu is an emulator, therefor it not only looks, but also functions exactly like the calculators all the other students have. Therefore, when I am conducting a lesson and modeling how to make a boxplot using the GDC (Graphing Display Calculator), all students are able to follow along and learn the skill.

The downside: the buttons are small on a phone screen, Android only.

4. Kahoot app (iOS & Android)

Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 6.01.26 PM If you haven’t played Kahoot with your students, you should. It doesn’t matter what age they are, what level they are performing at – kids love Kahoot. I have my grade 11 IB students asking to play almost on a daily basis. It’s fun, interactive and adds a little competitive edge to mastering math skills. Although phones and the app is not needed to play, I find that students using their phones prevents cheating during the game and keeps them from the temptation of using their phone for non-classroom regulated activities. Screen Shot 2016-02-01 at 6.01.18 PMThe downside: slow internet connection may prevent students from answering as quickly as if using the internet.


Do you have any apps, math or otherwise, that you use in your classroom?

Reflecting on Reflections

In the States, my high school was implementing Standards Based Grading (SBG).

Although that is a topic all on its own, the idea of SBG is that students are graded based on the mastery they show towards a certain standard. Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 4.24.48 PMRevisions and reassessing is essentially limitless, allowing students to retake until they show mastery on the standard.



I struggled last year with the “repeat as needed” philosophy of SBG. Students would revise and revise and revise with little improvement in their mastery level – essentially the cycle never ended.  There needed to be a way to get students to get students to comprehend and understand what about the standard they could not master, what steps they did not take but should have and a plan for how they will achieve mastery. There needed to be a reflection, as self-assessment on the student’s learning progress.


Reflecting with Google Forms:

Not until I came to ISM did I fully understand the impact of a Google form and how easily it made a student reflection, or self-assessment of their knowledge and effort put into a unit. Not only are Google forms intuitive and simple to create, but it saves time, paper and resources on both the teacher and student side.

Reflect often, because with Google forms you can:
I have my students reflect twice within a unit: First, in the middle of a unit, and second, after they have completed a unit test. The first time is to identify skills they need to work on to achieve mastery. This is a good indicator for students to identify how they will perform on certain skills in a unit. The second time they reflect, each students is taken through a barrage of questions asking them why they performed a certain way. Maybe the students scored almost perfect – what did they do to prepare for that test? Maybe a student scored well below what they predicted – was it the lack of study time or homework that were factors?
I have a separate set of questions I ask students for each reflection. Google forms makes it easy to copy forms and Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 5.14.13 PMedit questions. That way, I am spending less time creating questions and most importantly, not wasting paper. There is also a variety of questions, so students will not always have to write in responses – there are multiple choice, rating questions, pick from a list, short answer, scale, etc…
Use the Reflection and the Google form:
All students must reflect, and in turn, use the reflection to help them or help others. If a student performed well, he should give tips on study habits or become a peer tutor for that unit. If a student needs to reassess, I will use his Google form to identify areas of weakness.
Screen Shot 2016-01-29 at 5.00.29 PMWhen a Google form is filled out by a student, their responses are generated into a Google sheet.
A tech savvy member of the math team was able to code a Google form in such a way that an email will be sent with a Google doc of all of the student’s answers to the reflection to both myself and the student. That way, they can see, in a visually simple way, what exactly they said they needed to improve upon or, why did were able to achieve mastery.
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Having students look back at their progress and self-assessing allows them the ability to keep control of their learning. At the end of the year, they will have many of these reflections forms to reflect back on and hopefully they will be able to gain some valuable insight on their learning. Or, if not, then at least I will not have wasted paper in vain.
Do you use Google forms in your classroom? If so, how and is it effective?

Making Math Meaningful with Desmos

I didn’t know I wanted to be a teacher, much less a math teacher, right away. I thought I wanted a career in finance, a job at a big bank, life in the big city.

When I finally changed my mind and switched over to teaching, I knew that being a math teacher was the right fit for me. I love teaching math. My first job, though, made me realize that math is more than pencils, calculators and formulas. I needed to engage the students. I needed to make them want to learn the math. I needed to make it relevant. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have done it. At all. Dan Meyer, a former high school math teacher, sums it up perfectly:

Math class needs a makeover. -Dan Meyer

I could not agree more. When I made the move to ISM this past year, I knew that a BYOD school would be just the place to start making math over.

How’d I do it?


Desmos is an online, interactive graphing calculator. But it’s really much more. At a Tech Crunch convention in 2012, Desmos, with the mission of making kids love math again, caught the attention of a Google Ventures’ investment over a much anticipated interactive whiteboard. Founder Eli Luberoff explains:

Desmos is easy to use, right away. Its interface is colorful and simplistic, and you don’t have to search for how to begin graphing — it’s the big button right in the middle.

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Once inside the graphing calculator, there is again, a simple interface that is intuitive for both teachers and students to use. I used it with my Grade 9 Integrated 1 class when graphing lines. With the unique “sliders” function, the students can explore the properties of a line. Students can answer questions on their own: how does the y-intercept affect a line? How does the slope change the shape of a line? What happens when the line is negative? Parallel slopes? Perpendicular?

Students, thus, become active learners, and eventually graphing calculator artists:

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Students become so absorbed in this, they forget they are doing math.

I have used Desmos in a variety of capacities, most recently with my grade 9 students who are doing a linear programming performance task for our systems of inequalities unit. Using my faux cookie business as a task for the students, they had to set forth and figure out how many plain and chocolate chip cookies I could make in my tiny bakery kitchen of my side-business, Geoffroy’s Gooey Goods. I can’t tell you how many “AH-HA!” moments were had when we graphed all the constraints (limitations of my “bakery”) and students could finally see the solution, or feasible region.  See below:

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My IB Math Studies students were intrigued when learning about quadratics. Instead of just graphing quadratics, they were graphing basketball trajectories and answering the question: “Will it hit the hoop“? See below:

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Finally, Desmos is essentially one big game. The company hired many former math teachers, Dan Meyer included, to create this interactive, engaging games. Don’t let the category fool you — these games require higher level thinking and logic, not just pure skills, to solve. Plus, it gets students interacting with each other just math jargon. My favorite is Polygraph, but there many different ones targeting different skills and concepts.

Marbleslides (sinusoidal functions)

Function Carnival (graphing functions, function relationships)

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Desmos adds color and engagement to my classroom. It allows students to visually “see” what is happening with the math.

How could you use Desmos in your own classroom?



Socrative: The New Way to Talk About Data

As a math teacher, I think about data quite often. The internet provides us with so much data about so many things, that I feel it’s important for students, and teachers, to be able to collect, organize and analyze data. Every time I teach a Statistics unit in my math classes, I explain to students that knowing how to analyze different types of data is way more useful than learning calculus.

I keep endless amounts of data on the students — exams, performance tasks, historical comments. It is my belief that data can connect me to my students and how they learn. Most importantly, it helps me to reflect on my teaching practices.

I realized quickly that looking at exam scores at the end of a unit wasn’t helpful for myself or my students. I have always incorporated formative assessments into my lesson, however, I wanted a way to gather formative data and analyze individual students and class trends. That way, I canScreen Shot 2016-01-25 at 7.24.40 AM conjure up conversations with students and provide them evidence with the standard they have not quite mastered. This is where Socrative, an online quiz platform and mastery tracker comes into play. It allows students to engage in fun and interactive quizzes while tracking their data for me to analyze.



Why I like Socrative:

  • Socrative is easy to use. It’s intuitive.
  • It allows for multiple choice, short answer, and true or false questions, all gradable
  • There is an option to upload images to questions (great for multiple content areas)
  • Quizzes can be saved and shared with other teachers
  • All reports and data is housed and is available by email, drive or by download. You can access full class and individual student data this way.
  • Teachers can see in real time what/how students are answering specific questions

How to Use Socrative:

After creating a teacher account, you will be assigned a room number, and you can being creating quizzes and formative assessments.

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I like to make a quiz assessing students on what they have learned the previous class (I call them entrance tickets). Students sit down, take out their computers and log in. I will have already set up the quiz on my computer.Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 7.26.52 AM

There are different options for types of quizzes depending on the needs of the formative, you can choose the style of quiz. I like the student paced – immediate feedback when I have students complete an entrance ticket. When I am having student practice a new skill during class, the space race is a great way to get high engagement and useful data on students and their levels of mastery. The exit ticket is a great, quick tool to get a picture of how your class mastered a standard/topic taught. And, they get to use their phones or computers, so it’s fun for them!

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Making Use of the Reports:

For me, the best part of using Socrative is the reporting section. For each class and quiz taken, I save the reports to my Drive. I can use excel and make graphs with the data, see trends in specific questions, assess my teaching and their learning. Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 7.41.11 AM

Ever further, I can share the individual student reports with the respective students. The data is now in their hands. They are able to look through their pdf and see which questions they got wrong and identify their strengths and weaknesses within a standard or topic. That way, they can work towards mastery on specific questions. The students also have an idea of how they stand in regards to the unit assessment. Essentially, it puts the ownership of learning back into their hands.

I would highly recommend Socrative as  formative tool for many grade levels and certainly many different content areas. A goal for myself in the future is to start having students keep track of their scores and formatives in a data folder, so there is a visual element that will help them reach their goals throughout a lesson.

How do you use data in your classroom? Any tips, suggestions, strategies that have worked?

Me and Technology: Love and Hate

I have a love hate relationship with technology. I use it, my students use it. It is a critical aspect of not only my daily life, but also my daily lessons. However, I know that I don’t use it as effectively as I should, nor do I incorporate technology to its fullest potential in my classroom.

Technology is impressive and vast. There is so much out there, so many apps, websites, games that are available for educational use that it becomes overwhelming. My problem is that I want to use technology all the time in my class, so I am constantly using new websites and apps that I find, with little follow through or consistency. If it doesn’t work the first time, I tend get frustrated and move on to the next thing, or stop using it. Students also become distracted with technology — whether surfing the web or missing the learning objective and focusing too much on just the technology (read: Kahoot).

My aim is to learn about tools that technology can offer so that I can improve my instruction as a math teacher and that technology will be used efficiently in my classroom. I want to learn and enhance my skills to make math interactive and useful for students. Technology is a sustainable tool for enhancing the learning of any subject that I hope to bring to the forefront of my lessons in the future.