Thursday, November 29, 2012

Trashsketball for graphing linear inequalities

This game was a big hit the first time I played it, so here's another set of problems to use with graphing inequalities

Trashsketball for Graphing Linear Inequalities

There are three rounds here.  To see the rules of play, look in my "Classroom Activities" label for Trashsketball.

Another Tic Tac Toe game

This game has really been working well this year.  The rules are in an earlier post, look under the label "Classroom Activities"  Here is a list of equations to use if you want to play the game with finding an equation given a point and a slope

Tic Tac Toe for writing equations of lines

Websites for Common Core curriculum materials

Our department is starting to plan for our transition to a common core curriculum, so I am keeping my eyes open for materials.  I've found two recently, one is Mastery Connect (  This site creates a common place for people to upload assessments that are categorized by common core standards.  They also provide a gradebook for keeping track of student's mastery of the standards.  The service is free, but there is a charge for some of the more advanced features.  The other site I have found is LearnZillion (  The site has lesson plans listed by common core standards.  The lesson plans are typically videos and power points.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Class web page

I have created a web page for my algebra 1 class, here's the link

Algebra 1 Class

It's not that fancy yet, but I'm starting to gather things here.  I've been using a Moodle page, but I find it rather clunky.  I'm not using most of the classroom management features of Moodle, I mostly just want a place to post things.  I was initially thinking of a Google site, but it's inconvenient to post anything but a Google product on their sites.  Our school uses Wordpress to host our sites and I could post any type of document there.  I have also created a space on our school's shared server where I am collecting all of the materials I have found over the years.  We are transitioning to common core and I think it's important to start gathering and sharing.  Hopefully this web site evolves into something nice as the year goes along.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Personal data stream

I'm thinking more about how to personalize the information I get from the web.  Subscribing to blogs has been my favorite way to get teaching ideas, but I'd like to be more plugged into the human voice in general.  I've been looking around at apps for my phone and my two current favorites are Flipboard and Pulse.  They both allow you to customize your sources from a wide variety of topics.  Pulse seems more oriented towards news and Flipboard is more about fun things and social networking, but they are both well rounded services.

Class webpage

I started the year with a Moodle page for algebra 1.  I think I'm going to move it over to a Google site and I've started putting that together.  I'm not using the forum or "turn it in" features of Moodle, math doesn't really lend itself to composing online that way.  I'm mostly using it to post things and I think a website is better for that.  I'm also thinking about transitioning to Common Core and I think that a website is a good place to collect materials as we start to put together resources from various places.  Also, a website is easier to share with other math teachers which should allow for more collaboration

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Internship class

I have not been posting quite as much as I was at the beginning of the year.  That is because most of my creative efforts are going towards designing a new internship class at my high school.  We are starting a STEM Academy for students interested in science, technology, engineering or math careers.  The first class in the new academy will start this spring and I am the teacher.  There will be 12 seniors who participate in an internship during March and April.  They will create an e-portfolio of their activities and we will use many of the social networking tools that I have experimenting with in the field of algebra teaching.  If anyone knows of a similar program, please contact me.  I will also be blogging on this class, the blog will be at

Mind Maps

I posted this back in the beginning of September, but the idea is evolving, so I thought I'd post it again.  I keep track of all of my thoughts on class development using MindMaple.  It's a free mind mapping program that is a regular part of my online life.  There are plenty of others that would work, Richard Byrne just posted a list of ten good ones on his blog "Free Technology for Teachers.

Here's my current mind map. I expanded one of the sub topics, anything with a "+" next to it has more contained within.  You can attached links, notes, whatever.  I'm a big fan.

ALEKS for Differentiated Instruction

I have been using ALEKS in a half block algebra 1 lab since August.  I have recently started using Homework Quizzes to facilitate small group instruction.  I can look through their pie chart reports and see what objectives each student is struggling with.  I put them in groups of three and spend about five minutes with each group.  After the discussion, they go back to ALEKS and they have two chances to complete a 5 question quiz on the topic we just discussed.  ALEKS is very personalized, it is easy to assign custom quizzes to each student for the topic their group discussed.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Tic Tac Toe Game

This is a practice game that works well.  Some colleagues showed me the game about 15 years ago and I've modified it according to my teaching style.  You will need a list of practice problems of varying difficulty.  I divide the class into two groups and have them all sit so they can talk to each other.  They will each need a pencil and paper.  Put a tic tac toe grid on the board.  Each square will be marked with a number in the lower right hand corner, this is how many students on a team can miss the problem and still get the square.

Pick a team to go first and have them pick a square.  Give them a reasonable amount of time to solve it, they can discuss with each other.  Check off who has it right and wrong.  If they meet the standard for the square they picked, mark it with an "X" or "O" (or smiley face or rainbow or whatever else they want).  If they don't make it, the other team can steal.  Then the second team picks a square and the same thing happens again until someone wins.  I need to see work on each person's paper that supports their answer, they can't just copy the answer from each other.  They will usually work hard at making sure everyone on the team understands.  It can get pretty heated by the end, it's usually fun.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

ALEKS Focus Group

I am currently sitting in LAX waiting to board my flight back to VT.  ALEKS flew me and 20-ish other educators out to Irvine, CA to to get our input on a new instructor module they are working on.  It was an awesome session, I was really impressed with the company.  They are energetic and customer focused in a big way.  Their product is unique and they are really trying to figure out how to make it take off.  This focus group was special, they took a TON of input from us (including my concerns I mentioned in my last post) and educated us all on how to use the product more effectively.  Nice work, ALEKS!

Friday, October 12, 2012

ALEKS concerns

We are using ALEKS in a 40 min lab that meets off days of a block scheduled 80 min algebra 1 class.  All was good at the beginning, but I think the lab is starting to get a little behind the class.  It's good for them to practice the basics, but some of the objectives are things like multiplying decimals that I'd like to be able to let go.  I am going to work with ALEKS and see if I can change this.  Does anybody know of a self directed practice site that allows me to align the objectives with the class?  I know about Khan Academy, are there any others to consider?


This game has been going around quite a bit recently, it is awesome.  Here is one link to the rules,  I tried it yesterday.  I used Infinite Algebra to generate a sheet with five similar problems.  I put them on the document camera and each group worked on their number problem.  Each student had a whiteboard and I called one individual student numbers to have one person from each group display their work.  Each group got 5 points for a correct answer and then they got a chance for bonus points by throwing a wadded paper into the recycle bin from a 1, 2 or 3 point line (their choice).  I had four sets of problems ready, it took about 20 minutes.  They were all engaged and it was fun.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Combining like terms game

Here's a nice online game for combining like terms:  Robot Like Terms Game


I haven't been having that much luck with Socrative as a class response system, I think I'm going back to the clickers.  The computers in my room are all in a ring at the edge of the room, while the students are there, they are pretty chatty and they don't work so well on the quiz questions or whatever I've given them.  The clickers go to their desks and I think the students will be more serious there.

Scavenger Hunt

I've seen other bloggers post games like this with different names.  The idea is to post problems around the room with answers on the top of each sheet.  When the student completes the problem, they look for the answer at the top of some other sheet and then do that problem.  This leads them all the way around the room through the complete set of problems.  Here is a set for solving equations with variables on both sides, I have also included a sheet they can fill in as they go around the room.  I usually put them in groups of two.

Scavenger Hunt

Scavenger Hunt Answers

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jeopardy Labs and SMART Board

Ok, so I know I've talked about Jeopardy Labs before, but I tried it today for the first time with my new SMART Board and it really is SLICK!  Everything is just right there, it's simple to manage and fun to play.  If you have a SMART Board, check out Jeopardy Labs

Saturday, September 15, 2012


I am continuing to enjoy ALEKS very much.  The students are very engaged with it and they are clearly learning.  I learned two important things in the pilot last year that I have successfully changed for this year.  One is that they really need a place to do scratch work.  I bought them all inexpensive composition notebooks and handed them out on the first day of lab.  I collected them a few days ago and made comments on their work, I will continue to collect them occasionally to make sure they are using them productively.  Last year, when I didn't do this, they tried to do the work in their heads or use some scratch pad thing on the screen with the mouse.  Neither one of these methods contributed to good math habits, so I'm glad I've made scratch paper a requirement.

The second thing I learned is that it would be better if the ALEKS we were doing in lab was correlated to the material we were doing in class.  Fortunately, the nice people at ALEKS were willing to add my textbook to the list of books that can be used to control the order in which they see the objectives.  This helps make the lab experience more meaningful and I like how it is going so far.

Another small thing that makes ALEKS work well is the class playlist that I am building on Spotify.  I have a subscription music service, so it's easy to take their suggestions and add them to the list.  The music in the background adds a nice touch of atmosphere and it helps keep them happy.

Keeping track of all these great ideas

I've been getting so many good things from blogland, but keeping track of it can be intense.  I've been doing two things that I'd like to share.  As I get new inspirations and plans, I put them in the mind map I've made of Algebra using MindMaple.  This program is free and it really helps me develop ideas and remember things.  As you can see, each topic has subtopics, I have also inserted links and attached notes in this image.

As ideas become actual plans, I put them in my online planner from  You can insert links and attach files, so everything is right there and I'm hoping it makes things easier for next year.  I've been highlighting the activities and tech based material in purple so they are easier to pick out.  Often, a good activity from one chapter can be modified for a later chapter, the problem is remembering them, so this highlighting is helpful for me.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Jeopardy Labs

I love Jeopardy as a review game, but I've found that the Powerpoint templates that are out there can be a bit clunky in actual classroom use.  Jeopardy labs is a free site that works great.  One of the main advantages is how good of a job it does of keeping score.  I have a shared review game for my Algebra 1 Chapter 1 test next week, it can be found here

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Multiplication games

We discussed multiplying and dividing integers in algebra 1 today. I've found that a little review of the times tables doesn't hurt here. I have two web activities that keep them engaged. One is a little timed quiz site called Quick Flash. After they've successfully completed three screens, they get to choose a new theme. They enjoy that, plus you can see from a distance how they are doing. The other one is Balloon Invaders. The game part is pretty tough, the balloons are very likely to take you out on your first couple of tries, that keeps them going.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

ck-12 FlexMath

I am using a ck-12 textbook for the first time this year, I've written about it in earlier posts. The ck-12 people also provide a free, interactive practice site called FlexMath. It's designed to let students learn algebra at their own pace with the help of a teacher. It is broken down by algebra concept, each concept has resources for teaching and practice. I think the practice resources look very useful. I will be trying it for teaching equation solving, I think it looks especially useful for graphing linear equations

Library Girl, please read this

I started blogging after I heard a presentation at a conference last spring by a blogger called Library Girl (  It was a conference about using tech stuff in math education, but the most inspiring part for me was her keynote speech.  She explained how blogs and twitter worked together to create a network of people you could learn from and share with.  While she was talking, a huge light bulb went off for me.  This was it!! She showed me how to make the internet come alive for me.  I'd been feeling like there was this world going on that I could only see the shadow of, but I could see in her words how to find ideas specific to my interests and how to create for others as well.  In just a few short weeks of doing this, I found so many great math teaching ideas and I hope the things I'm posting are useful for others as well.  I hope she finds this post from the comment I left on her blog.

Socrative Space Race

I've mentioned Socrative in an earlier post.  It's a free, web based student response system.  I really like this type of quick, formative assessment.  I used clickers last year, but I teach in the math computer lab so I have enough computers for everyone and it's easier to use the web based systems.  Plus, there's some extra features like this Space Race.  I've only used it once, but I liked it and I plan on doing it again.

I put the students in groups of two for a quick quiz on subtracting integers after they had done a worksheet on it.  Each pair logs into a computer and they go to my room on Socrative.  I start the quiz as a Space Race and they see this on the projector attached to my computer

As they answer questions correctly, their space ship moves across the screen.  It's fun to do, I played the game myself as a student in a tech ed course this summer and it was a good time.

Integer Card Game

I borrowed this one from a colleague and I've used it successfully for years.  I use it right after I review adding integers in Algebra 1.  The game is modeled after the classic game "War".  The students get in groups of two and each group gets a deck of playing cards.  The cards are divided in half between the two players and they each put their stack face down.  Each student turns over two cards and adds them together.  The student with the greater sum gets to keep all four cards.  Assign red to be negative and black to be positive.  Aces are worth one, number cards are worth their value, jacks are 11, queens are 12 and kings are 13.  There is usually a happy feeling in the room when they are playing this.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Online planbook

In keeping with the web based theme this year, I am also doing my lesson planning online. My school has an online gradebook as well, so I am not keeping any paper records this year. The plan book I choose is I liked the layout and they support an A day, B day schedule which we have at my school. Also, I'm posting this to practice embedding a screencast taken with Jing.

Class notes on SMART Board

I am using the SMART Board almost exclusively instead of the chalkboard this year.  I write on it just like the board and I export the notes to pdf and save them on my class Moodle page.  I'm hoping this will be useful for some students who would rather sit and listen instead of worrying about copying down every morsel of wisdom that I present to them :-)

Here's a sample

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


ALEKS is working well so far.  I piloted it last spring in a lab that accompanies a high school algebra 1 course.  The people at ALEKS are always working to improve, the reporting menus are better than last year and I think it will be easier to keep track of where all the students are at.  They are just finishing up their pre assessments now and the data I'm getting is a good starting point.  This year, I will be directing their learning by keeping the lab aligned with the classroom objectives.  I'm hoping this will be a good thing.

Monday, September 3, 2012


We used in class on Friday to take a survey of true/false answers about potential solutions to algebra 1 equations.  You know... 2x-3=7, does x=2 make this a true statement?  After they all made a choice, I put a bar graph of their results on the big screen.  We did this multiple times.  It worked well, Socrative is very fast and they all were engaged.  The next thing I'm going to try is a "Space Race"  They will be in groups with a series of questions to answer.  As they get an answer correct, their space ship makes a step towards the end.  They will be able to watch everybody's space ship move and I think it will be fun.

"Why do we have to learn this?"

When a student (high school) asks me that question, I have a few different responses.  I think my favorite one is to tell them that they might never use this particular math equation in their future, but what they will use are the habits of mind they are developing as they learn how to solve math problems.  Math teaches you how to think logically and creatively at the same time.  The "aha" moment in solving a math problem brings together the synthesis of logical thought and an intuitive leap of genius.  It's an important skill and it can be useful in a large number of endeavors.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Moodle working so far...

I met my algebra 1 students and my new tech toys worked as planned.  Right now, they can go to my Moodle page and look at their textbook, a pdf of today's notes from the SMART Board and the list of homework problems that are due.  They looked at their ck-12 textbook today and found the embedded video on evaluating expressions.  I'm sure there will be lots of questions about finding the book and so on, but I think we are on our way!  Tomorrow they will all log into ALEKS and we will do a pretest so I can see where they are all at.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Why put algebra online?

I would like as many materials as possible online so the students can access them at their own pace.  Often, a concept is not clear the first time and there is no chance to go back and try to learn again.  I always offer extra help, but sometimes that isn't enough.  I would like to make math accessible to more students by giving them more learning opportunities.

I would also like them to be able to collaborate with each other.  I will move slowly into Moodle forums and see if the students work well this way.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

So Much New Information!

I'm using the knowledge I gain in Blogworld to help me make my algebra classroom a better place to learn.  Technology is a major focus for me this year.  I've started managing my ideas using LiveBinders, I have tabs for the different ideas and I can make notes and develop things. One tab is for web resources to try, that is where I'm putting many of the useful activities from blogger posts.

I'm also using Diigo for keeping track of interesting articles and such.

Someday I imagine I'll make a web portfolio that showcases teaching in a way that is useful for others.

Any other ideas out there about how to keep track of this fountain of brilliance we are all unleashing?

Useful teaching technique

If I have a concept that I really want my students (high school algebra 1) to remember, I will occasionally deliver the key point while standing on my desk.  It's a simple thing, but they will ALL be looking at you while you are up there.  I have a schtick that I do every year when I'm teaching them the idea "Whatever you do to one side of the equation, you do to the other".  I was inspired by my high school composition teacher who taught me the immortal phrase "You can't write what you don't know" using a similar technique.  I explain the tribute to my high school teacher, then I repeat the phrase to be learned while I am in places they don't expect to see me.  I usually go out in the hall, peek around the door frame and say the magic phrase.  Then I hide behind the desk, peek over the top and say it again.  Other things may make more sense in your classroom, be creative :-)  I finish by climbing on the desk and doing a little call and response routine with them "okay, first this half of the room, repeat after me..."  You get the idea.  They don't forget this and it's fun.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

New Blogger Initiative Post 1

- One thing I plan on doing differently is putting more of my Algebra 1 content online.  I'd like to have more of a blended classroom.  I'm lucky enough to teach in the math computer lab, so each student can have their own desktop computer.  I've been using the computers for various activities over the years, but this year I'm expanding things considerably.  I'm writing an online textbook using, I have chapter 1 ready for prime time and the other 8 chapters are pretty well sketched out.  I'm using Moodle to keep track of online resources.  I'm using ALEKS for the 40 min lab that goes along with the regular 80 min class (I piloted that last year, so it's pretty under control).  I have a new SMART Board and I'm planning to make my notes available on the Moodle page.  I will be using other tools to connect the students online, Socrative, Google Forms, Moodle Forums, etc.  I'm looking forward to all this and I'm also looking forward to finding some colleagues in bloggerworld who use a blended classroom and would be willing to share ideas.

Thanks to the new blogger initiative team for helping us to get started :-)

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


- I have a new SMART Board in my room, it's installed and ready to go, so I went in to school yesterday to play with it.  My plan is to do all of my board writing on it so that I can have a file to put online and make my classnotes available.  I would really appreciate insight from anyone else who has done this.  I also have some interactive presentations I downloaded from the SMART Board Exchange, I will be giving those a go as well.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Useful book

- I'm reading Will Richardson @willrich45 and Rob Mancabelli's @RobMancabelli book on creating a personal learning network (Personal Learning Networks: Using the Power of Connections to Transform Education).  It's basically a manual for what I'm trying to do online and at my school.  Thanks guys!

Friday, August 10, 2012


This is a nice site for keeping a multi-dimensional online notebook.  I found it through a good one that was created by @web20classroom,  I have been using Microsoft One Note to keep track of my ideas, but I may switch to this.  I might have my students use it as an online notebook for a seminar class I am teaching in the spring.  I will have about 15 students who will be doing internships in a STEM field of their choice.  They will each have a laptop and I will be piloting all sorts of PLN, IBL, (insert 21st century acronym here) things with them.

ck-12 textbook

- The first draft of my algebra 1 online textbook is done.  It's pretty rough, but I'm on my way.  Feel free to post comments.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Curiosity Rover

NASA is doing a nice job publicizing the Curiosity Rover on Mars.  It's fun to follow on Twitter @MarsCuriosity.  I will probably show the video of it's descent instead of a warm up problem while I'm checking homework someday early on in the year. 

NASA has a lot of material using real world data for math problems, for example

I've never used this stuff, but I hope to this year.  The Mars trip makes it fresh again for me, hopefully the students think so, too.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Great Class!

I just finished the CCSU summer class on Digital Tools for Active Learning.  It was very helpful, the instructors really helped me take all the ideas I've been formulating and turn them into concrete classroom activities.  Thanks!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Blended Learning

I think this is the buzzword that describes what I'm doing.  I think traditional learning methods can work well and I think online methods also work well.  I like to blend these things in a way that allows me to reach as many students as possible.

Wikibook on Blended Learning

Saturday, August 4, 2012


This is an online student response system that looks good.  I am fortunate enough to teach in a room where each student has a computer, so we will be using this next year instead of clickers.

ck-12 textbook

I have finished the first chapter of my algebra book from the site  ck-12 is a non profit organization based in Palo Alto that is dedicated to providing open source textbooks for a variety of subjects.  They provide prewritten concept modules that are easy to edit and combine in any way you want.  The books are available to students online, they can make a pdf or they can export to Kindle or iPad.  It seems like a dream come true to me, they have a lot of momentum right now.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Algebra 1 Technology Plan

I have been using various tech tools in algebra 1 class over the last few years, my plan for the 2012-2013 school year is to increase the amount of content that is available to the students online.  I teach in a room with enough desktop computers for everyone.  We use a block schedule and I have the students for a half block lab in addition to the regular one block class.

We will be using ALEKS in the lab, I tried it last year for the second half of the year and I liked it.  I will be directing the student learning in ALEKS so they will not have access to the whole curriculum at once, they will be held to the topics in the current chapter being taught.

I plan to use the open source ck-12 textbooks, although I will arrange the chapters to closely follow the Pearson book (Lial, Introductory Algebra 9e) that the rest of the algebra 1 classes in my school are using.  Maybe someday the students will have a Kindle to keep that book on, but for now, they will have online access and they can print out materials if they have problems accessing a computer outside of class.

I am also using a SMART Board for class notes, I plan to make those notes available online.  I am also going to be compiling worksheets, videos (Khan) and activities that they can access.  I will be using Moodle to organize all of these materials.  At first, it will just be a collection of resources, but possibly I will make it more interactive in future years.  I have been gathering algebra 1 games online for years, they can be found here 

I have been using clickers as a student response system over the past few years.  I understand that there are several computer based systems now, I will be finding one of those and giving it a try.

I know this is a lot, but I feel it is important and the time has come for it all to work together well.  I have been doing pieces of these things for years and I am hopeful I will be able to put it all together in a way that provides more opportunities for more students.