Monday, December 2, 2013

Algebra 1 Curriculum Map

Our department put together a curriculum map for Algebra 1 during our Thanksgiving inservice.  This was our first try, it will become more refined at future inservice meetings.  We are doing a Common Core curriculum for the first time this year in Algebra 1, we also started mapping out our Geometry Common Core curriculum during this inservice.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

MTBoS Mission #6, what do I do with all this online stuff?

I mostly read blogs. I'm starting to use Twitter more, but it takes a little too much time for me. I use Feedly, it saves all of the potentially interesting blog posts until I get an evening to look through them, that usually happens once a week or so. If I see something I like, I give it a tag in Diigo. The things I REALLY like I put in a mind map. I like MindMeister, it allows me to save ideas in the ways that I see them connecting to each other. You can put notes and links in each node of the map. I use MindMeister to help me develop ideas using the information I find on the internet, here's a screenshot of my Algebra 1 map.

Monday, October 21, 2013

MTBoS Challenge 3, One Good Thing

I've been working hard putting all my class materials on my web page this year and I don't really know if people are using them yet. Today I handed a packet of papers to a student who missed last class and he said he didn't need it, he'd already printed it out from the website and he understood what we'd done. Yay for systems that work!

Common Core Standards list

I am using Standards Based Grading this year, I've taken the list of standards we are using and compared it with the CCSS. I also cross referenced it with the traditional pathway in Appendix A of the standards. Seems to me we've got most things covered, although I think our emphasis will be evolving over time to include more modeling and less skill work.

Algebra 1 Standards List

Monday, October 14, 2013

Looking for other blogs

I would like to follow more blogs about Standards Based Grading and Common Core in Algebra 1.  If anybody reading this is blogging about that, please leave me a comment (or get in touch with me in some way that work for you) so I can follow you.  Thanks :-)

Sunday, October 13, 2013

MTBoS prompt 1

This fall, the Math Twitter Blogosphere is having another challenge to help bring bloggers together.  I'm writing on the prompt about a good open ended problem.  I use this one as a warm up.  The challenge is to connect 9 dots with 4 straight lines without lifting up your pencil and with out retracing

I don't give them the answer, someone has to get it.  Sometimes this takes until later in the lesson and I just wait.  There is always someone who wants to get it bad enough to keep at it.  Here's the answer

This problem requires you to think outside the box, literally and figuratively.  I like to try to get them to realize that the fun of math is in the ah-ha moment, not just repeating what I say, and I think this problem is good for that.

Friday, October 11, 2013

CK-12 Guest Blog

CK-12 asked me to write a guest post on their blog, please click here if you'd like to read it.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

SBG and Online Resources

We are two weeks into the year and SBG seems to be going well so far.  It's a little early to really tell, though.  Something I am doing that I hope will be helpful is having a large number of resources available online for students who will be retaking standards as the year goes on.  If you've been reading this blog, you know I have an online textbook with embedded video and that I post my class notes from the SMART Board online.  I'm also using FlexMath for practice and I hope to be incorporating BrainGenie shortly as well.  I'm hoping that students will be able to use these resources for self study to improve their skills prior to taking a quiz on a concept that was covered in class previously.  Don't get me wrong, I am all over providing extra help if they need it, but it would be nice if they could also do some independent study.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Information in Education

I am just a huge fan of the way the internet makes information available from so many sources in such an easy way.  I use this in all areas of my life and I think education needs to change so as to allow students to become better at exploring their own interests in this way.  I am learning how to be a fully engaged internet citizen, I hope to be able to interact with my students in such a way as to make this a valuable component of their education.  The ck-12 book that I've shared here is one aspect of this, the information I'm teaching in class is available online at any time with additional resources for self teaching embedded.  I'm exploring other things with a new STEM teaching assignment I have, hopefully that turns into a blog as that unfolds.

Last summer, I was a little overwhelmed by this model, but it's coming together now.  I like cloud computing, Google, Dropbox, Spotify, etc.  I have the same model for most things, I find online sources of things I like and then I store them in the cloud in whatever format is best for that particular content.  Feedly brings me other educators ideas, those are stored in Diigo or Mindmeister.  YouTube brings me all sorts of things from all over the world, that is stored in YouTube playlists.  I also have a YouTube channel if the need to broadcast ever came over me.  Spotify music streaming is awesome, I follow people with similar musical tastes and make playlists of a wide variety of music.  Pictures are stored in Dropbox for easy access anywhere and sharing.

It's fun to find people that are broadcasting what I want to know and then learning from them.  It seems to me that this is a whole new model for people to learn from each other.  Isolated nodes of higher education seem like a thing of the past, I chose my own experts and learn wherever I want.  I imagine there will always be well documented education paths for things like open heart surgery, but it seems like the whole Ivory Tower, I've got the knowledge and you don't thing may become less powerful someday.

Bottom line, it's about finding sources of things you like and storing them in the cloud in a way that is easy to retrieve.  I have a Chromebook and a Galaxy S3 phone which allow me to access all of this fun and I enjoy it.


The cool thing/annoying thing about the internet is the non-stop stream of information that is available.  When I find an idea that I like, one of two things happen.  If it seems like it might be useful someday, I give it a Diigo tag so I could find it later.  If it fits immediately into the framework of an idea I'm working on, I put it in a MindMeister mindmap.  It really works for me to string ideas into a framework like this, you can attach links, notes or files to any node in the map.  This way, the new ideas build into a coherent whole, not just a sea of thoughts.  Here's a screen shot of my current algebra mind map.  Each node with a "+" next to it has subnodes, I minimized some so that the picture wouldn't be too busy.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

CK-12 Book and SBG List for the Full Year

Ok, the temperature was in the mid 90's in Northern VT today and I decided to just hide in the cool basement and crank out Algebra 1 curriculum materials all day.  Here's a full year version of the book, I'm sure there will be changes later, but this is close to the finished product (Dec 2, 2013, updated to latest versions)

Here's the standards list for Standards Based Grading

CK-12 Book, Second Draft and SBG List

When I was making my list of standards for SBG, I noticed that I had left some topics out of Unit 2, Linear Equations.  They are added into this revision of the book ( I deleted this old version from Scribd, see the post just above this for the most recent standards list)

I have also come up with a list of standards that goes along with this book, there are 22 of them.  I sketched out the semester on my electronic planbook at, I think this lines up well if I leave each standard on for three weeks of quizzes.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

SBG list for Common Core Algebra 1

I am thinking carefully about which standards to use for SBG in our new CCSS Algebra 1 curriculum.  The semester 1 book I wrote incorporated all of the concepts that our department wants to use in the order we will be using them.  The question though, I think it's a very important one, is exactly which concepts do I deem "Standards Worthy"?  I searched around on Dan Meyer's blog and found that he had featured a post by Mathy McMatherson that does a great job of explaining how important they think this question is.  If anyone reading this has any input on which standards they grade in a  SBG 9th grade CC Algebra 1 course, I would love to hear from you.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

There is a very nice listing of math blogs at I found several nice algebra blogs by using their index.  claimtoken-51e2aeda304bf

Saturday, July 13, 2013


Some of you came to this page from Twitter, I tweet my blog posts to @SmithTeach.  @lasvt has received some tweets recently, but that's not my education account, please use @SmithTeach instead.

Friday, July 12, 2013

CK-12 Book, First Draft

I've finished the first draft of this year's Common Core based book.  I've posted the first semester on Scribd.

Each section of this book has a section called "What You Will Learn", I've made a list of those items and I will use it as the basis for Standards Based Grading.  Each section of the book has an embedded video, I hope that will help students master concepts that they don't get the first time.  I also planning on using CK-12's Braingenie and Flexmath for additional online practice materials.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

CK-12 Book

The first thing I'm doing to get the curriculum straightened out is to create this year's ck-12 book.  I had a book from last year, so I'm starting by taking the concepts from last year and moving them around to line up with Common Core.  I'm also adding more statistics, exponential functions and modeling.  As I put the book together, the main standards that I will be using for SBG are starting to line themselves up in my head.  If you haven't heard of ck-12, here's a webinar that will get you started.

CK-12 Webinar

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The start of 2013/2014

Okay, so here's how I am going to continue to expand Algebra 1

  1. This will be our first year of the Common Core Curriculum. Last year, the dept created an outline of what topics would be covered and in what order. Now, it's time to put that into practice.
  2. Last year, I wrote an online ck-12 book for Algebra 1. I am going to realign this book to new CC Curriculum
  3. I plan on Implement Standards Based Grading as a first step towards personalized learning plans
  4. Continue making information available anywhere, anytime.  Last year, I created a website that I put all classroom materials on, including SMART Board notes from class. I will expand this to include videos of major topics to enhance SBG. The plan is to make it easier for students to retest a topic by allowing them to access the lecture over again on their time. I plan to make videos, I learned how to use Camtasia and a Bamboo tablet at the Anja Greer Conference on Math, Science and Technology at Phillips Exeter and I want to put those skills to use. If I run out of time, I will post someone else's videos.
  5. Increased use of problem solving activities. This type of thinking is at the heart of Common Core and I will make greater use of the wealth of activities that have been made increasingly available over the last few years.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Welcome, Dad!

Here's a shout out to my dad, one of the newest members of the blogging world.  He wants to share a lifetime of experience in high frequency analysis and design through the blog "Physics in Support of Engineering".  He's a PhD physicist with a creative and thorough approach to things, he gave me some of my earliest lessons in being an imaginative problem solver.  Have fun blogging, Dad, the ideas here are endless!!


Friday, June 14, 2013

End of the year

I haven't posted in so long, the end of the year just got nuts.  I advise two clubs and I've got my fingers in a lot of pies.  It's all done, so now I'm back to communicating.

ALEKS went well, I liked it as a lab activity.  My class has a 40 min lab in addition to the regular 80 min block schedule.  ALEKS was good for reinforcing basic skills and it let students practice the new concepts at their own pace.  They were cooperative about working on it (for the most part) and the lab time was well run.  There was no increase in their final exam grade compared with last year, though.  I think it helped them, but it didn't translate into higher grades.

This was also the first year that I put all of my course materials online.  The part that worked the best was having my class notes available.  I used a SMART Board in class and exported the day's notes as a pdf.  Student used those regularly.  The ck-12 online book was only marginally successful.  Part of the problem was that I didn't have the entire book ready at the beginning of the year.  I had it about 90% done and I finalized each chapter as they year went along.  They didn't particularly enjoy having to download a new version each chapter and they got a little negative about it.  I still think it's a good idea, though.  We are going to be changing our curriculum around next year for our first try at the Common Core and the flexibility of the online book really lends itself to that.  I will have it done at the beginning of the year this time.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


So the year is clicking along and I'm trying lots of things and reading about lots of things.  Where am I on using technology in math class?  It's very clear that there is a use in the teaching of teachers.  I learn  so much from the blogs I read.  Tomorrow's lesson plan on factoring has two activities that I read about in blogs and one that I found at NCTM last year.  I save ideas using a mind mapping program I found in a blog, there have just been so many good suggestions out there. I also think it's useful to post my class material online.  I take class notes on the SMART Board and I post those along with the worksheets on my class web site.  There is a nice record there for anyone who is ill and it's helpful for students who just want to look at things again at their own pace.

Just how useful is it, though, to use technology to help individual students learn?  So many things cost money and I'm starting to wonder if I'm not just bought into some Silicon Valley get rich scheme.  I think ALEKS is a great tool in lab to help students learn at their own pace, but it costs $30 per student per year.  I'm writing a free online book for algebra 1 at, but not all of my students have access to it at home.  I print out the homework for people, but I feel funny making a lot of online book work required if every student doesn't have a computer at home and it's expensive to level the playing field there.  I'm intrigued by formative and summative assessment programs that track individual student progress and keep students testing only where they need it.  This would also be easier if everyone had their own tablet or Chromebook or whatever.  Not cheap...  I think there is a lot of potential in this new connectedness, but I'm trying to think critically about products that deliver value for the money.

I'm also starting a new class where students learn about STEM careers and this pilot program is one to one.  I'm using technology in a whole different way there.  I'm showing them how to make a personal learning network around their career area of interest, I am encouraging a lot of time online.  They will also be shadowing STEM professionals in my community, I'm hoping this combination of  hands on experience and online learning will be a valuable experience.  I blog about this class at

Thursday, February 28, 2013


ALEKS is working really well.  We have been using it in algebra 1 lab every other day for 40 minutes and the students are great with it.  They have accepted it as part of the routine and they are happy while they do it.  It seems to me that they are better mathematicians as a result of all of this structured practice, but I don't have any data to support this.  Their midterm grades were no different from typical, I will also check again at final exam time.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Latest version of CK-12 Algebra book

The latest version of our class' textbook has been uploaded to Scribd.  It is classroom ready up to and including Chapter 6

EHS Algebra 1

Standards Based Grading

I'd like to pilot some technology based implementation of standards based grading next year.  I'm intrigued by MasteryConnect.  I wonder if the Cognitive Tutor program by Carnegie Learning allows for that sort of thing.  I think this would work best with one to one technology.

Carnegie Learning

Our math department is looking at the Carnegie Learning program for Common Core algebra 1.  We like the overall flow of the books, we also like how modeling and problem solving are built right into the philosophy of the presentation.  I also like a quote from the first chapter "Mathematics is the science of patterns and relationships".  They start off with patterns so there is a connection between the course and making predictions with math.  We have a few sample books, we will also be checking out the Cognitive Tutor program.  If anyone has any comments on their implementation of these materials, I'd like to hear them.

Tutorial on CK-12

I have been using CK-12 all year to create a textbook for my algebra 1 class.  Here is a tutorial that explains how to make one of your own:  CK-12 tutorial.  I found this on Richard Byrnes' site, he posts an amazing amount of useful material.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Common Core Implementation

Our math department has been meeting regularly to plan our first implementation of Common Core in Algebra 1 next year (2013/2014).  We looked at several different scope and sequence documents, but we've decided to use our current curriculum as a starting point.  We will be removing the units that don't appear in the Algebra 1 CCSS (review of pre algebra, rational expressions, etc) and replacing it with a Stats Unit and a Modeling with Functions Unit.  We will be using the Oconee County Statistics Unit that we found on, here's the link

Oconee County Statistics Unit

Math Equations to LaTex

I'm working on an online book with my class, one of the tricky bits is converting math equations to LaTex in the book's editor. Jeanette Stein's is an INCREDIBLY useful site, I found a good LaTex converter in there after she mentioned it in a web chat room last night. Here it is.


White boards for adding and subtracting polynomials

This wasn't an earth shaking lesson plan, but I thought it went well.  I gave an introduction to polynomials, the vocab and the difference between solving and evaluating.  Then they all took a whiteboard and I had them tell me the degree and name of a polynomial that I wrote on the board.  The fun of the whiteboards is that they all hold up their answer and, POOF, there's some quality formative assessment.  Once they had that, we evaluated polynomials for specific values of x.  Same drill, hold up the whiteboards with your answer.  It's good to see where they're at and we all feel part of the conversation that way.  More students get pulled in and it's fun.  Next, I introduced addition of polynomials and they practiced with the whiteboards.  Same deal with subtraction.  The day ended with each student picking up a strip with a polynomial on it.  I paired them up and they added the polynomials on the whiteboards.  Students were picked at random to show their whiteboards on the ELMO document camera.  That game went on with different pairing and different operations for the duration of class.  Here's my sheet with the polynomial strips on it.

Polynomial strips for adding and subtracting by

Monday, January 21, 2013

Mid Year Status

I've changed the name of this blog to reflect what my goals are.  All of my posts have been related to updating my Algebra 1 class to reflect modern trends.  I think education is in the process of a major transformation that has primarily been brought about by the internet.  Information is now much easier to access and it also easier for people to communicate around that information.  This brings so many changes and I think public education has to find meaningful ways to adapt.

The first thing I'm doing is creating central locations online where all of my classroom materials are located.  I am consolidating all of my materials onto a shared drive at my school where all of  my colleagues can have access to them.  I have also created a website for my algebra class using our school's Wordpress platform.  Here's a link:

EHS Algebra 1 Site

I'm a big fan of all things Google, but I don't like how their sites are so tailored to their applications.  I have years of material from my pre-Google doc days and Wordpress gives me greater flexibility in how I present material created using a large number of platforms.  Each day's classroom activities are posted online along with the class notes that I give using a SMART Board.

Our math dept is in the process of transitioning to the Common Core and I feel one the big changes that can happen at this time is that the textbook manufacturers will no longer have so much control over our curriculum.  To that end, I'm writing a textbook using the modules created at  Here is a link to the latest version of the book, I pieced it together over the summer and I'm finalizing it a chapter at a time as the year goes on.  I'm pretty happy with chapters 1-5 in this version

EHS Algebra 1 Book

Next year, we will be implementing Common Core based units on statistics and modeling with functions.  I plan on modifying my existing book to match the new curriculum.

It is also very easy for educators to communicate with each other now, that's one the main purposes of this blog.  I post things that work for me and I use great ideas from educators the world over.  This seems very transformative to me and I'm happy to be on board.

I also think technology has the power to help individualize student's education and I'm trying out ALEKS in this capacity.  It's a program that uses the concept of knowledge spaces to find out where a student is at and assesses them on the material they are ready to learn.  I have been using it successfully since August 2012 and I feel it's a step in the right direction.  My students use ALEKS in a very positive way and I think it's helping them master concepts.  It has yet to result in increased grades in my class, but I still think it is helping them.

Something I'd like to pursue next year is Standards Based Grading.  I'm not quite sure how I'm going to do it yet, any suggestions would be welcomed, but I think it's an important step in creating individualized instructions.