Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Math Lessons from the Swimming Pool



My daughter loves math and no matter what we are doing, she always wants me to teach her a math lesson.  Since we have been spending a lot of time in the pool, I came up with some things we could talk about while in the pool.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

New Game to use in Math Class - GimKit



If you are like me, you are always looking for something that will engage your math students.  What will keep them thinking, but also learning?  Is it possible to have them beg to continue playing??

This happened to me the other day in my high school math class.  It was driving me nuts that my students STILL didn't know their convenient trig values (sin 30˚, cos π, etc, etc).  We were headed into the AP test and reviewing some integral problems.  It came down to the end of the problem and the kids needed to know what the cos π was to finish the problem.  Sadly, I still had kids asking if the cos π was √2/2.  Ugh!!

That night I was listening to a podcast and I heard about a new game called Gimkit.  Matt Miller from Ditch That Textbook called it similar to Kahoot, but with PowerUps.  COOL!

Gimkit is similar to Kahoot, but there are some differences as well.

One difference {that the kids love} is that you can buy powerups to help you up your score and to try to get higher on the Leader Board.  There's nothing better than being in first place!  Here is a screenshot of the "shop" on Gimkit.  Students can buy a PowerUp to increase the amount of money that will be gained or lost per question, increase the amount of money that you get in a streak, multiply the amount of money that you get, or buy insurance in case you get an answer wrong.




Another difference is that the questions appear on the students' screens and not on a big screen.  On the big screen, you can see how much money everyone has in the game at any given time.



Students can also be given the game as an assignment instead of a game that must be played in the classroom with all of the other students.


And, by the way, GimKit was made by a high school student!  Do you want to know more about it?  Check out their website.  Gimkit


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Saturday, May 5, 2018

Reading Critically in Math Class


One of the biggest problems I have encountered lately in my math classroom is that students simply aren't reading the problem.  Students will even tell me - there are too many words - I'm skipping that one.  These aren't students that have trouble reading.  These students are taught annotation skills in their English classes, but for some reason that skill doesn't transfer over to math class.

The most frustrating part is students that I end up with in my calculus class.  For the most part they are great math students.  We work all year to learn the calculus.  We practice different types of questions.  We review.  We play games to review.  Then we get to practicing multiple choice questions and free response questions from previously given tests.  Students get things wrong because they answer the question about the derivative instead of the actual function, or they find the velocity instead of the acceleration, and on and on.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

AP Calculus Review - Engaging Ways for Students to Practice




It's that time of year again...Calculus Review!

This year, we are fortunate that the AP Calculus test is later in May - May 15 to be exact.  I finished the material about 2 weeks ago, so I have been working with plenty of review time.

But, with lots of review time, it becomes a challenge to keep students engaged.  I know that we have to keep practicing multiple choice questions and free response questions, but we need different methods to do it.  The students get tired of hearing me talk :)

So, here are a few ways to keep students engaged in practicing:

1) Speed Dating - I wrote about Speed Dating in Calculus several years ago when I made each student a question EXPERT and had that student explain their question to every other student who sat in front of them.  (You can read that post here.)

Another way to try speed dating is to start the students in groups of two.  Make as many questions as you will have groups.  Set a timer for 2 minutes.  When the time starts, students can only speak to the student they are partnered with.  They work on one of the questions.  When the timer goes off, one student moves around the circle one way, and the other students moves around the circle the other way.  Students work with many other partners, and with only 2 minutes to work there is no time for goofing off!



2) Try Puzzles - My favorite type of puzzle to give my calculus class is the Super Secret Number puzzle.  In this puzzle, students are given approximately 10 questions of the same type.  Students work the questions and then add up their answers.  This is the Super Secret Number.  When students think they have the Super Secret Number, they go up to the board and scan a QR Code with the Super Secret Number embedded in it.  If their super secret number matches my Super Secret Number, they are probably correct.  Exciting!

I have Super Secret Number Puzzles in my store for many different calculus topics.

1) Chain Rule

2) Equation of Tangent Line

3) Implicit Differentiation

4) Position, Velocity and Acceleration

5) Curve Sketching

6) Natural Logs and Exponential Function Derivatives

7) Riemann Sums and Trapezoidal Rule


You can try one for FREE here:  Super Secret Number Puzzle - Derivative at a Point

3) Make Students Responsible for Explanations - One of the biggest things I struggle with is that not all of the students need me to review and explain the same things with them.  Some need help with u-substitution, some need help with the chain rule, some need their algebra corrected...you understand.  So, sometimes I feel that going over multiple choice problems in class as a whole group is a waste of time.

So this year I am trying a new way of going over a practice test we did.  (From Barron's, not from a secure test :)  The students took the entire test over two class days.  They entered their answers into a google form so I could analyze which questions were the most often missed.

Starting tomorrow, students will be assigned a slide in Google Slides.  They have a specific question they must explain in Google Slides.  They can insert text boxes, a picture of their work, a link to a video they might find helpful, a graph, etc.

Then other students can look up any problems they need help with.


Finally,

4) Be Sure They have the Basics - There are some questions on the AP test that are downright difficult, but there are some that are basic questions that students need to be able to answer easily.  So, I have a mastery test on Derivatives and Integrals that I give my students.  This Mastery test tests to see if students can use the product rule, quotient rule, chain rule, u-substitution, etc correctly.  I have 4 different forms of it.

You can see it here: Mastery Test Derivatives and Integrals

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Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Speed Dating in Geometry




We tried Speed Dating in Geometry today!

I have tried the idea of Speed Dating before, but never in a geometry class.  I have used it in upper level courses before, but I wasn't sure how it would work with a younger group.

I am happy to report that things went great!

It took a bit of work to get things organized, but after that, this activity ran itself.

Here is a picture of my class while they were working.


I had a geometry worksheet ready to go with 13 questions on it.  I had the students sit with partners that I had selected using flippity.com.  [I had 13 stations set up around the room with a problem number on each set of 2 desks.]  After I gave the worksheets, I had each set of partners start with the problem number on their desk.  I set a timer for 2 minutes which I projected up onto the screen.  After two minutes the timer went off and students got up and switched stations.  One partner moved one way and one partner moved the other way.  This gave students the chance to work with many other partners throughout the class period.  No one could get too comfortable because after 2 minutes, they had to move.  This really kept the students working!

At the end of 26 minutes or so [2 minutes per question], the students were back in their original seats.  I had them enter their answers into a google form so I could easily check their answers.

I think it's great to vary the activities in your classroom and get students up and moving - at least every once in awhile :)

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Making Groups Work in High School Math Class




I love having my class work in groups.  But, sometimes the group work turns in to group chat time.  So I have come up with two things to help to make sure that learning is happening!

1) Making the groups...

I have tried various things over the years...letting the students choose their partners, I choose their partners, making their groups based on their seating arrangements...etc, etc.  These each work sometimes depending on what I am trying to do, but my favorite new way to make groups is by using the website Flippity


There are lots of things you can do with flippity such as making flashcards, making a jeopardy game board, and making a word search.  But, my favorite thing to do with Flippity is to make groups.  All you have to do is type the names of your students into a Google Spreadsheet and Flippity does the rest.  You can specify how many students you want in a group and then through the magic of google, groups are made!  It's FREE!

I use Flippity and then project the groups on the front board as students are coming into class.  It eliminates arguments and gets everybody into a group.  Even the loners who would rather be by themselves.  There's no embarrassment to being left out.  If you notice that the two kids in the class who just can't get along were randomly selected to be in the same group, you can change that easily even after the groups have been chosen.

2) Make Students Accountable for the Group Work...

My students used to work better in groups.  I gave them an assignment and they did it.  It didn't matter if I was collecting it.  They did it because I said to.  These days, I feel that I have to make them more accountable.  There are many ways to do this.


  • You can give each student in the group a job - recorder, explainer, note taker, etc, etc.
  • You can choose one student's paper from the group to turn in at the end of the assignment.
  • You can have students enter their answers into a google form.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Using Two Truths and a Lie in Calculus Class




Curve Sketching is a topic that Calculus students need to practice over and over again.  So, I decided to give them some practice by using this fun idea that I originally found on the Math = Love blog {Math = Love Two Truths and a Lie}

First, the students and I played a quick round of two truths and a lie as a small icebreaker.

For example, I made these three statements about myself.

1) I graduated from the University of Illinois.
2) I played the oboe in high school.
3) I lived in Hawaii for a year.

My students know me pretty well, so they quickly figured out that I never lived in Hawaii :)

Then I gave each set of partners a copy of the Two Truths and a Lie form.  Students could do this activity by themselves, but I thought for a first effort maybe partners would work better.  This form is specifically geared toward this particular Curve Sketching activity, but it could easily be changed to target whatever topic you want.


I decided to give my students an equation to work with.  This way, I could target a couple of groups with some more difficult equations.  But, you could easily just tell students they have to come up with their own equation.

I told students they need to use words like maximum, minimum, increasing, decreasing, concave up, concave down, and point of inflection in their 3 statements.  I did allow students to use their calculators to check their work.

Here is an example of my work:


Finally, after each group was finished, I had them fold up the bottom of their paper so other students couldn't see it.  We had a gallery walk around the room and students had to identify the lie on all of the other group's papers.

This was a really fun activity and I hope to incorporate this activity into other topics in some of my other classes!

{Do you like this idea?  If you would like to purchase the forms and equations used in this activity, please visit my TPT store at: Two Truths and a Lie Curve Sketching}

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