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.