Tag Archives: Technology

Connection and Reflection: 5-ish Tools for Teaching Mathematics During the COVID-19 Pandemic

This is hard.

I’m planning out my start of year classes and it’s just beginning to hit me that I can’t do group work in the same way, and I can’t walk around the class in the same way, and I won’t be able to help a student in quite the same way. Students will be wearing masks, and will be sitting 6ft apart. With a strong belief in learning being a social activity, this semester is going to be like no other.

However, my priorities remain fairly consistent, although how it looks will be different this year, especially as I may need to be able to pivot between in-person and virtual learning for the foreseeable future. They are:

  • To give the students a positive and engaging experience of learning mathematics
  • To help students learn collaboratively
  • To help students to become learners, reflecting on their own progress and being able to adapt accordingly

In summary, my priorities for the year, whether in person or through the computer, are Connection and Reflection.

Connection: This will be especially true if we end up going fully online, but the more ways the students can connect with each other the better the learning will be.

Reflection: This has always been important, but in a time where we can not really meet with students one-on-one, we have to get creative in terms of helping students to reflect on their own learning.

Here are some tools that I will be using for student connection and reflection in the coming weeks:


Flipgrid (Free)

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Flipgrid is a k12 social platform where students can share videos with each other and with their teacher in a safe and transparent way. This is a great tool for general introductions, class social interactions, or creating reflection videos for assignments.

Marco Polo (Free) is a good alternative, too.


Desmos Activity Builder (Free)

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With some phenomenal options for sharing thinking between students and giving teachers full access, Desmos Activity Builder is a must-have in the connected math classroom. You can use one of the pre-designed activities from Desmos or other teachers (use this google search for better results from other teachers), or you can design your own from scratch, or using their hugely helpful templates.

They have taken follow-up discussions to the next level with tools to show aggregated and individual responses, as needed. You can anonymize names, or show named responses.

Desmos has put together some great webinars for you to get quickly up to speed on how it all works. And, it’s all completely free!


Diagnostic Questions (Free)

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Designed by Mr. Craig Barton himself, Diagnostic Questions is a free tool that will give you some great data from multiple choice questions that you can set for students. I like that this software has the option to ask students to submit a summary of their thinking and not just to click on the ‘correct’ answer. This tool is easy to use, set up, and is completely free, giving you a lot of information on student mastery.

ASSISTments is a similar program that is more US based questions.


Classkick ($7.99/mnth for Pro Account)

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I reviewed Classkick a while ago, and although I haven’t used this for a while, it could be a great way to seamlessly transition between in-class and virtual learning. You can see all students working live on an assignment, giving them live feedback. There is the option for students to help other students, and with a pro account, you can export grade data, as needed.

When it is difficult to walk around the class room in the same way, Classkick is a great way to see everyone’s thinking without having to rely on multiple choice questions.


Padlet (from $12/mnth for education account)

Padlet is a great way to organize student responses in a variety of formats including pictures, video, and typing. Useful for both in-person and at-home learning, it is a great tool for students to share ideas with each other, to work on a project, or to post questions. You can also see which student has viewed what if you need to ensure that everyone is engaged.

I hope this list helps you to start the semester/term well and for your students to feel connected and enjoyment in their learning. Feel free to write a comment below if you know of any tools that are a must-check-out for students to connect and reflect in the coming weeks.

Latest Posts

Connection and Reflection: 5-ish Tools for Teaching Mathematics During the COVID-19 Pandemic

I’m planning out my start of year classes and it’s just beginning to hit me that I can’t do group work in the same way, and I can’t walk around the class in the same way, and I won’t be able to help a student in quite the same way. Students will be wearing masks, and will be sitting 6ft apart. With a strong belief in learning being a social activity, this semester is going to be like no other.

How to Create Your Very Own Math Ed Search Engine

Inspired by Robert Kaplinsky’s Problem-Based Learning Search Engine, I decided I wanted to create my own based on my favorite websites to check before starting every unit. The process is very simple but at the end of it, you come out with a search engine that will only search websites that you decide are worth […]

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Visual Patterns and Coding – Part 1 – Linear Relationships

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I have been running a ‘visual pattern’ every week with my 6th grade (pre-Algebra) classes. You can read more about this here.

To bridge the gap between pattern and function and following an online course I took with Rice University, I have started to introduce some basic coding. Python in particular. Even after one lesson of using coding and graphing, I have been able to have rich conversations about the differences between functions, input/outputs, the shape of a graph and the y-intercept. Here is the process I have taken them through:

Part 1: Have the students run through a basic (linear) visual pattern (from visualpatterns.org) using this sheet and reviewing using this slide:

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The nth term for this pattern is 4n+1.

Part 2: I now challenge them that we can create a calculator for this pattern using the Python coding language. I use the free python interface CodeSkulptor (from Rice University) to do this. I take them through step-by-step with some great conversations about functions and inputs/outputs.

The nice thing about CodeSkulptor is that when you hit the save button, it creates a brand new URL meaning that each student will have their own URL to post and share.

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They can then change the input and see clearly what happens to the output.

(Note: Lines with # are ignored by the interface)

Part 3: They then go to the Desmos Online Graphing Calculator and input the function y = 4x+1 to confirm or deny their prediction for the graph shape, from the start of the exercise. This is a great opportunity to talk about ‘step zero’ (as well as step -10 etc.) and why they graph is the shape that it is. I feel it is also important to stress the difference between 4n+1 as an nth term and y=4x+1 (which includes everything in between).

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Their homework is simply to follow the steps with a different (linear) visual pattern and to share their CodeSkulptor URL’s and Desmos screenshots on the class’ wiki page.

For student assistance I created this video:

Where Next?

There are two main places that I would like to take this:

  • Exponential functions
  • Inverse functions

I’m really excited about where this journey will take us. My hope is, that as these students start Algebra proper, next year, they will have a strong sense of functions graphs and their connections with patterns and geometry. Here goes…..

Have you done anything similar? I would love to hear your ideas/thoughts in the comments section, below.

 

Gapminder is Awesome

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I wanted something that would open up the world of scatterplots to my statistics students; something where they could really get a sense of correlation and causality. I decided to do a project based around the fantastic GapMinder World and it payed off.

First I showed this video of the master Hans Rosling at work with the graphs his foundation came up with.

I then gave these instructions to my students:

You (and max one other person) are to prepare a 3 minute presentation on a GapMinder graph of your choice.

Instructions:

  • On a computer go to the gapminder website by clicking here
  • Play around with the explanatory and response variables until you find two that you think show some sort of relationship
    • If you are struggling to find variables with a link, click ‘Open Graph Menu’ and play around with graphs that have already been created.
  • Your presentation must include answers to the following questions
    • What are your explanatory and response variables?
    • What is the link between variables at the start (before you click play)?
    • What do you notice happens over time?
    • Are all the countries close together or more spread out? What does this mean?
    • Are there changes to any particular country that are of interest to you?
    • What if you isolate by continent? Are there any changes that are of interest to you?
    • Is there anything else that stands out with your graph?
    • Are there any outliers to the trend?
    • Does this graph bring up any other questions that you would want to investigate further? What information would you need to answer these questions? Is this information available?

Your presentation must include the time series animation (when you press play) as well as PowerPoint slides using screen shots of points of interest.

You will be graded on:

  • Content (out of 6)
  • Presentation (out of 4)
What went well
  • This was a great way to get across a sense of scatter graphs and will be awesome to segway into taking about correlation and causality.
  • This was enjoyed by the students and really got them thinking about statistics and global affairs
  • It was good to give specific questions for the students to answer. In my experience just saying ‘present for 3 minutes on a graph of your choice does not give great results’
Even Better If

Next time I do this, I think it would be good to model what an excellent presentation looks like. I missed a good opportunity to teach this skill.

Desmos is Awesome

I love Desmos. I love how user-friendly and clean the whole thing is. I want my students to love it too, so I used the first lesson back after midterms to let them play.

The Aim

For my students to get a feel for the shape of various functions and relations through using Desmos to create a piece of art. (CC Standard F.BF.3)

The activity

  • Students take a look at http://www.desmos.com/art to see what is possible just by typing in equations (Great hook)
  • I explain to students that they have this lesson and a homework to come up with a piece of art of their own using desmos.com/calculator.
  • I have a sheet ready with some example functions (linear, quadratic, circular relations, radical and rational) for them to use if they are struggling. I also introduce the idea of sliders for them to use.
  • They have around 50 minutes plus a homework to come up with a piece of art of their own.

DesmosActivity

 

Some of the resultant artwork

Football FaceHalf Face

What went well

  • Any lesson where students are crying out for the Math is a good thing. It was amazing to be asked how to draw a smiley face using a parabola and domain and range and how to draw circles and ellipses. I had one student ask how to do a ‘diagonal porabola!’ I had to look that one up.
  • Students were constantly engaged. Sometimes frustrations got the better of them and they needed some encouragement to keep going but generally, the lesson went really fast.
  • It was great for all abilities. Students that normally struggle got the chance to play around with linear and quadratic functions, helping them to understand what changing the numbers did to the graph.

Even better if

  • This was too early in the year to do this lesson. I would like to do this next time at the end of the year when students had more functions and tools at their finger tips. I did like how it cemented the need for domain and range, though.
  • This lesson is leading into our quadratics unit. Going back I would have really liked to focus far more on parabolas so that our next lesson on Vertex Form would make sense from the start. I still think it will help, I just think I may have missed an opportunity to go deep rather than broad.
  • This lesson relies heavily on technology. Being a Bring-Your-Own-Device school, some students had tablets that were very tricky to use (this also happened with Khan Academy). I may have to rethink how I do this and use it possibly for homework.

Student Reaction

Here are results from a mini survey I did at the end of each class

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Students also said:

This activity allowed me to visualize what adding variables does to the shape of an equation.

I loved the creativity involved with it, but also the brain work involved when trying to make different shapes and move them around.

Technical difficulties were frustrating, but I realize this is something that is hard to fix.