Sunday, November 4, 2012

Creating Screencasts on an iPad

It's been a while since I have added to my blog, and I thought it was about time for an entry. (I have not taught in over a week due to Hurricane Sandy. Perhaps blogging might help prevent my brain from turning to mush.) I have been exploring some additional tools for creating screencasts & "flipping my classroom". Last year I used a Dell computer with a Quizdom Tablet Presenter to write my lesson in my screencast. My school has since switched to MacBook Airs and Quizdom has not gotten back to me about getting new software that will work on my Mac. So, I went in search of other options.

I have an ipad and writing on an ipad is easy. However, I still wanted to be able to upload my screencasts to my YouTube channel. Well, today I found the answer!

It is an app called "Explain Everything". I can insert images and pdf files. I can highlight and change text color. I even created a test screencast and uploading it to YouTube was seamless. Plus the price was reasonable at $2.99.

So, I have some ideas for some future topics for my blog. If anyone out there wants to hear about one of these, let me know and I will do that one first.

  1. Flipping the Classroom - Yes, No, or Sometimes
  2. What is Math to Me vs What is Math to Parents/Students
  3. Standardized Tests & What Colleges Want
  4. YouTube for Schools - Accessing YouTube even if your school filters it out
  5. Gathering student work using
  6. Assessing Standards for Statistics with Census at School
Last, I have continued to post TI-NSpire Quick Tips to my YouTube channel at mathteacher24. The link to the latest one is here: TI-NSpire Quick Tip #11

Hopefully, I will post to my blog a bit more frequently. However, blogging takes time. My NSpire Quick Tips, however, take me about 5 minutes to do and I will definitely post those each week.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The World's Largest Ball of Twine

I just got done attending an AWESOME online session at #globalmath with Dan Meyer, Andrew Stadel and Chris Robinson. The session was on Three Act Math Tasks - there is a set up (video, picture) and questions posed, list of what is needed and math to be done, followed by a check on the validity of the answer (video, picture).

As I was thinking about how I could incorporate this into my classes, I think I already have incorporated them at times. However, my Three Act Math Tasks are like the movie preview clips that show all the funny parts and make you wonder why you are spending money to see the movie when you already saw all the good stuff. In other words, I show the kids the interesting picture and then I pose the questions for them and give them the needed information to answer the question! Who cares about the answer when the hard (and most interesting part) is done for you?

Here is a picture I show every year in Geometry when we do our unit on volume and surface area.

Rather than saying, "what do you wonder when you see this?" I TELL them we are going to figure out how much special paint would be needed to protect the ball of twine and how many baseballs would be needed to create a ball of twine like this. Those are my questions - not theirs. I have told all the jokes with the punchline. Why should they get excited? It isn't their question!

Well, this year I am going to do it differently. And when we get to this unit in March or April, I'll be sure to post about it here. For now, I will be posting the picture at once I remember my password for that site!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Student: Will That Always Work? OR I Flubbed It Up

I will be the first to admit it. I flubbed up a teachable moment. A student asked me, "Will that always work?" And rather than throwing the question back at the class, I got excited and used algebra to prove that "Yes, it will always work." So, here is what actually happened.

It is the beginning of the year in Algebra 1. Some students have completed Algebra 1, but still have some gaps in their understanding. Others have never had Algebra 1. The homework problems last night were very "traditional" (think Dolciani) and asked students to write equations for various consecutive integer problems. Somehow we came up with the following equation as we reviewed the homework.

(n+1)2 - n2 = n + (n + 1)

In other words, the difference of the squares of two consecutive integers is equal to the sum of the two integers. I had a student suggest a number for n and we saw that the equation was true. We then picked a different number for n and saw the equation was still true. This led to a student asking, "Will that always work?" At which point I got math-geek goosebumps (a proof in an algebra class!) and quickly expanded the left side and did some simplification and answered the question with a "Yes, it will always work." As I looked up, I could hear the crickets chirping in the silence and the deer-in-the-headlight stares of my students.

In my excitement, I had forgotten that my students didn't know what it meant to square a binomial, combine like terms or get a solution to an equation that was an identity. So, now I am going to rewind this lesson and start again.

Student: Will it always work?

Me: I don't know. How could we figure out if it always works?

Another Student: We could try different numbers.

Me: That sounds like a good idea. Turn to the person beside you and pick a pair of consecutive numbers. Then do the calculation of the difference of the squares and compare it to the sum. (Demo with two numbers suggested by a third student.)

Students work together and start to think that it will always work.

Me: Do a few examples show that something is true? We have only looked at a few cases. How can we know it is always true?

Student: You could look at lots of examples.

Me: But how many examples would be enough? Let's look at something simpler. Is 2(x+1) = 2x + 2? Always? How do we know?

And so on...You get the idea. The point of this blog is that I flubbed it up. But I recognized it and have thought about how I would do it differently. I can already tell by the questions students are asking this year that they have more background knowledge and more of a mathematical disposition than I originally gave them credit. This could make for an interesting year!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Technology is Great (When It Works)

My school has moved to a 1-1 laptop/ipad program. The 7th and 8th graders get ipads and the 9th graders get MacBook Airs this year. Being a PC person, I have found that items that used to be certain places aren't always the same place. Things that take 2 seconds to do now take 10 minutes to figure out. Luckily there haven't been too many things like this for me and my colleagues have been great at helping me out.

However, my biggest frustration to date is regarding this one website that I was planning on using at least once a week in Algebra 1 this year. When asked how our department was going to use the laptops, this website was one of the two main items I listed. (The second one was using TI-Nspire Publish View with a free 30 day student trial.) I logged onto the site today and nothing shows up. Yes, the site is there, but none of the interactive features work. I am hoping there is just a setting I need to adjust. (Keeping my fingers crossed.) But if it doesn't work, I will need to spend extra time looking for a replacement website. I really don't need to add more to my weekend "To Do" list. Hopefully my math twitter friends can offer some advice. I'll post a tweet after this.

Although it has been a long (and at times, frustrating) week, I did finish my 3rd TI-Nspire Quick Tip. I hope some of you give them a try. Less than 60 seconds for a quick helpful hint.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Open Ended Questions Yield "Teachable Moments"

I always start class with some sort of question to get students' brains thinking about math again. In Algebra 1, we were talking about equations the previous day. Some are true, like 3 + 2 = 5. Some are false, like 3 + 2 = 6. Some are open, like x + 2 = 6. This means they might be true or they might be false, depending on the value of x.

So, today's opening question was 1) Write an open equation. 2) Find the value(s) that make your open equation true. Most students wrote fairly straightforward equations involving one variable. However, one girl was excited to share hers with the class, because it was so different. It was x = 2y. This led to talking about the fact that there an infinite number of solutions and we quickly went around the room naming solutions. It was even pointed out by the students that it was best to pick out y and use that to find x.

I wasn't expecting to talk about equations with 2 unknowns or an infinite number of solutions, but it happened. The reason it happened was because I used an open ended question.

On an unrelated note, I have published my second TI-NSpire Quick tip. It can be found at mathteacher24 on YouTube. Also, my video lesson is now live at TED-Ed. It can be viewed at Ted-Ed and is labeled Leigh Nataro:What Happens If You Guess?

Friday, August 24, 2012

TI-NSpire Quick Tips

I decided that our school will not be moving to TI-NSpire's this year. (Too many other technology initiatives happening.) However, I am going to work really hard to do math exclusively with the N-Spire. My daughter is going into Algebra 1 and she was excited to get my old 84. So, now that I don't have my 84 readily available, I can't be tempted to grab it when I can't figure out something with the NSpire. (I am slightly embarrassed to say I have owned an N-Spire for over 3 years and have probably spent only 20 hours using it over those 3 years prior to making this commitment to change.)

Reading a new book by Lucas Allen of Tech Powered Math helped me to get started. It was a quick read and gave me what I needed to try things out on my own. (The book is called the TI-NSpire for Beginners oh, and Tech Powered Math also is on Twitter and Facebook.) As a result, I have decided to create NSpire video quick tips. The direct link to the video is HERE.

I plan to upload a new quick tip each Friday to my youtube channel at mathteacher24. They will be short, just 60 seconds or less. I have ideas for 20 quick tips so far and hopefully will have ideas for more quick tips as I become more adept at using the NSpire. If you have an idea for a TI-NSpire Quick Tip, you can leave a comment here or at my youtube channel.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Google+ Hangouts in Teaching

This post won't be about math. At least not directly. So, if you were expected a math related post, you can stop reading or post a comment about your disappointment. This is a technology/teaching related post. This week I held a workshop at my school on google+ hangouts. If you aren't familiar with google+ hangouts, here are two videos about it. Google+ Hangouts and Hangouts on Air

I have used google+ hangouts to virtually visit another math teacher's class. Actually, there were 3 or 4 teachers visiting this particular class at the same time - in a google+ hangout. The teacher had sent us copies of his students' work on some old AP Statistics free response questions. He then would put work that was done by one of the students on the screen for everyone to see, including the teachers in the hangout. The teachers in the hangout would take turns questioning the student about his work and making comments that were beneficial to the entire class. It was pretty cool to visit a teacher's classroom that was over 200 miles from my own without having to drive anywhere.

What about Hangouts on Air? I have thought of one way this could be used in AP Stats. Before the AP exam, it would be nice to have a short "talk" with my students. With a hangout on air, I could do this not only with my students, but any other students who are interested in getting some last minute advice. I could even have my twitter feed active for students to submit questions. What might be even better is to get my AP Stat teacher friends to be in the hangout and we could all answer the questions in a tag-team sort of way.

So, no math here. But a few thoughts on how to use google+ hangouts.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Does Algebra for All Make Sense?

When I first started teaching back in 1993 and students asked me this question, I told them that Algebra gave them more options for careers. I also said that since we were a democratic society we didn't force them into certain careers based on intelligence or test scores. It sounded good at the time and satisfied the students enough that we could get on with the day's lesson. But does Algebra for all make sense and what or how much algebra are we talking about?

Here are three main talking points:

1) Number sense is more crucial than algebra. This includes working with percents, proportions, estimation and reasonableness of answers. For example, today I bought something at my favorite store (Kohl's). I had two coupons - one was $10 off a purchase of $25 or more coupon & the other was 30% off. My purchase was $40. Which coupon would save me more? Another example, my daughter swims and we were watching the 10,000 m (aka Marathon) swim. She wanted to know how many laps this would be. Simple proportion based on knowing that 500 m is 20 laps.

2) Statistics, data and graphical representations drive so much of what we do. My husband took my cell phone away to synch it. I felt lost when I couldn't view the weather radar or find a movie time on Fandango. I keep stats on my jogs using MapMyRun on my phone. Couldn't do that either when he had my phone. Two of my favorite TED talks related to this are Hans Rosling for and Arthur Benjamin .

3) Whose Algebra are we talking about? I used to work in NJ and all students were required to take Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 to graduate. They had a Core Algebra track for students who struggled with math and often took Pre-Alg in 9th grade. At some point, colleges of Division 1 schools said they could not take athletes who had "Core" courses. They needed to take College Prep courses. So, essentially what happened was the Core classes and College Prep classes were merged. What happened? Slower students were still struggling (now more so) and college intending students weren't being challenged.

Well - that's it for my first official blog. My goal is to post once a week or so. Feel free to comment.