Sunday, November 8, 2015

Using Google Calendar for Lesson Planning = The BEST

I realize that - as part of teaching - teachers must complete lesson plans. We have a professional responsibility to document what we are teaching, how we are teaching it, what activities we're using, and how we're accommodating the special needs of many of our students.

Having said this, for 3.5 years I have HATED lesson planning. Don't get me wrong, I always had a fairly developed lesson plan in my head, but I hated taking excessive amounts of time to write it down in someone else's format.  I also hated that it wasn't really helping anyone. Who looks at those things? No one. Taking that amount of time away from what I should be thinking about - improving and teaching concepts - was not right for kids or for me personally or professionally.

I realized there was no getting around completing lesson plans, so I began seeking out ways to make lesson planning useful. Enter Google Calendar. My lesson plans are finally useful and beneficial for my kids and their guardians.

I just make an event for each lesson. If I have multiple preps of that course, I just do one plan (the first time slot I teach it). I have a separate calendar for each prep.

No. My lesson plans aren't intense. I don't have that kind of time, but the plan is solid enough that I could repeat it or quickly recall everything we did that day, and that's really the purpose of a lesson plan, in my opinion. Here's what I love - you can attach all of your lesson documents to the daily plan, and they are stored in your Drive (mine are already in Drive).

I can then share this calendar (and thus all my files, if I want) with collaborating teachers, other teachers in the school/district that teach the same prep, and administrators.

Another plus is that Google Calendar syncs with my school website. Parents and students (especially if they are absent) can navigate to my teacher page and see what they missed on the given day.

If you dread lesson planning (not the actual planning - the documentation of the planning), please try Google Calendar. I can't recommend it enough. My lesson plans are always completed in advance, well-developed, and easy to access. If a student comes in and needs "the stuff from last Thursday"... I can actually find it quickly or at least immediately direct them to its location. It's a beautiful thing.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Multiple Representations: Midpoint and Endpoint Socrative Practice

One value I push and is a common thread throughout my lessons is the idea of multiple representations. I think, far too much in education, we teach kids "the easiest way", which may be the easiest way for you, or for most kids, but it could very well be the most difficult method for others. I make every attempt to analyze math topics from multiple perspectives.

If I am a strong algebra student/equation solver, how would I best understand this concept?

If I am a strong visual student/grapher, how would I best understand this concept?

If I am a strong tactile student/manipulative-user, how would I best understand this concept?

I know lots of philosophies put emphasis on catering to the different types of learners (visual, kinesthetic, auditory), but that's not exactly what I'm trying to do here. You see, I am an auditory learner - very auditory. In fact, a specialist "tested" me and said I was the highest auditory result he'd ever seen. Evidently I'm weird - nobody that knows me well is shocked.  But you see, it's a beautiful thing. In a way, we are all weird. We all learn differently. Some of us are about the minutiae - detail people. Some of us are big picture visionaries. How do these types best learn? I don't think we necessarily can have a perfectly ironed-out answer here. However, we should give students choices in how they can approach a problem

When I taught midpoint and endpoint this year, I stressed using reasoning and these multiple approaches to arrive at an answer. Students were taught how to find midpoint and endpoint (1) algebraically, (2) graphically, and (3) on a number line with marker manipulatives. Some kids heavily preferred the algebraic approach. Some initially avoided the algebra like the plague. The great thing is - by the end of the lesson set - students saw how all the methods were interwoven. Because of students' strength in one approach and the interconnectivity, these initial strengths eventually translated into a gradual strengthening of their approaches in other, more weak, methods.

To facilitate this type of practice, I used Socrative (I'm a huge Socrative fan) and a strategically assembled worksheet.

Socrative Code (if you'd like to use this activity): SOC-18350734

Here is the handout. For each problem kids had to (1) specify if the problem was an endpoint or midpoint problem (I know this is obvious, but this question seems to help the kids focus), (2) prove the calculation algebraically, (3) prove the solution on number lines, and (4) prove the solution on the coordinate plane.

Handout Download: HERE

Enjoy! Please let me know if you have any feedback on how to improve this activity!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Google Maps & Midpoint/Distance Formulas Project

As has been the theme of many of my posts this year - my geometry students are all pretty much 1:1. So, I keep trying to reimagine and reinvent what technology makes possible for my kids this year.

Last year I did a project based learning unit for midpoint and distance. Kids had to design and make water parks. That was a lot of fun, but project based learning is hard work, and frankly, the way that project is designed - it took a lot of cash to fund the purchase of a bajillion glue gun sticks, foam, felt, cardstock, popsicle sticks, etc. My school just doesn't have the cash this year, but - having a positive mindset - what do we have? Technology.

I'm sure most of everyone has read/heard about the optimized Road Trip Map produced by some data scientists. If not, you can (and should) read about it HERE.

Maybe it's just me, but I think there is something inherently interesting about a great American Road Trip. I started wondering how I could capture this for my midpoint/distance formula project.

First, there are way too many locations, so I narrowed my project down to the Northeast. It starts at my high school and returns there. I used Google Maps to record the address, latitude, and longitude (in decimal degrees) of each destination.

Here is my file. Feel free to use it, but you'll want to change the start/finish from my high school. To make it easier, tell your kids you are flying into the Lexington,KY (LEX) airport and reroute accordingly.


I debated having kids plot these locations themselves. However, we don't have Google Classroom or GAFE. The lack of these resources makes having students collaboratively working in Google much, much harder. If you have these resources, let them plot the destinations themselves. It takes a little work. You need to enter all points of interest in a spreadsheet (I did address, latitude, and longitude) and then upload as a layer in My Maps. Then, you can create driving directions as additional layers. If kids had these files and could interactively work with them, I'd also have them upload a photo of each destination within the map. This year, I'm trying to not only teach math but also teach students how to use digital tools well. Very few of mine know much about technology except for how to use their phones.

Okay. So, the premise is that we are road tripping and obviously driving to each destination. Students will click on the location marker and record the important info about each place (street, city, state, zip, latitude, and longitude). Then, for almost all locations, they have to Google and determine where they are. I only gave names for strange places to search for by address - like historic districts. They'll record all this information on their handout.

Handout: HERE

Then, they have to do a little research and find out what's special about this place. For each destination, I've created some fill-in sentence-type web quests for students to complete. Each destination also has a virtual tour (except I'm still looking for something about the historic district in Annapolis Maryland) for students to take.

Here is my list of virtual tours:

#1 - Start @ High School
#2 - Mammoth Cave -
#3 - Spring Grove Cemetery -
#4 - Fox Theatre (Detroit) -
#5 - The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame -
#8 - Acadia National Park -
#10 - The Breakers -
#11 - Mark Twain House & Museum -
#13 - Liberty Bell -
#14 - Cape May Historic District -
#15 - New Castle Historic District -
#16 - Colonial Annapolis
#19 - Lost World Caverns -

The last page of the packet has some summary information the kids have to compile.  For example, for each leg of the trip, the kids have to calculate the straight line distance using the distance formula (then use a conversion to get the value to miles) and the time it would take to travel such distance at a constant rate of 60 MPH. They have to compare this to the actual distance and figure out why these straight line distances don't make sense.... i.e. the world is round and thus we should really calculate these distances using great circle calculations.

This reasoning is the best way I could figure out to get kids practicing the distance formula with latitude/longitude and still have them reason/make sense of why the numbers are so off. If anybody else has a better way to integrate the distance formula into this, please let me know!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Pre-Lesson Reflection: Reviewing Slope

I have a really good relationship with my students this year. They feel like they can be honest with me, and I LOVE that. On a couple of occasions this year, they have told me (in droves) that the one thing they really don't understand from previous years is the concept of slope. We're about to hit slope in two or so weeks, so I've been thinking hard about how to help clear up their issues with slope.

Here are my thoughts:

Use a life-sized coordinate plane in gym. I made two a few years ago out of drop cloth and duct tape. Call origin point A.

Make up a scenario. Let's say we're going to make Banana Bread. In fact, let's say we're making this recipe.

Ask the kids to find how many bananas we need. 3 bananas. 3 bananas to make 1 loaf.  Let's label the x-axis bananas and the y-axis # of loaves. So, we get the ordered pair (3,1). Give a student a picture of 3 bananas and a picture of 1 loaf. They go stand on (3,1). Call this point B.

Same scenario. You happen to have 6 bananas sitting on the counter. How many loaves of bread can we make? 2. Give student a picture of 6 bananas and 2 loaves. They go stand on (6, 2). Call this point C.

Same scenario. You happen to have 9 bananas sitting on the counter. How many loaves of bread can we make? 3. Give a student a picture of 9 bananas and 3 loaves. They go stand on (9, 3). Call this point D.

Extending the line into quadrant III is more of a stretch. Let's says you needed to buy three bananas at the store, but you forgot them. You are three bananas in the hole from what you need. Since we are three bananas in the hole, how many recipes are we in the hole? Give a picture of -3 bananas and -1 loaves (maybe make them red, so students know they are negative). Student goes and stands on (-3, -1). Call this point E.

Same scenario. You meant to buy 6 bananas but forgot to purchase them. How many loaves are we in hole? 2. Give student a picture of -6 bananas and -2 loaves. They go stand on (-6, -2). Call this point F.

Same scenario. You meant to buy 9 bananas but forgot to purchase them. How many loaves are we in hole? 3. Give student a picture of -9 bananas and -3 loaves. they go stand on (-9, -3). Call this point G.

Okay. Now, have rest of class "tour the line". I would start with a quadrant 1 tour. Student stands on the origin. Then, he/she walks to point B. How many bananas did s/he increase by? How many loaves? Record on a sheet. Walk to point C. How many bananas did s/he increase by from Point B? How many loaves from Point B? Record on sheet. Have student continue this tour for all points, eventually going back and picking up Quadrant III.

After they have recorded all data, ask them to make a comparison. What is happening from each point to the one to its right? We are increasing by 3 bananas and 1 loaf.

Since slope is change in y/ change in x. Let's test this theory. Have student start at (-9, -3). Our y is loaves, so let's rise/increase by 1 loaf. Our x is bananas, so let's run/increase by 3 bananas. Have them continue to step off 1/3 until they get through the line.

You could repeat this scenario with quiz grades and # problems missed for negative correlation.

So... what do you think? Will this work or be a disaster? Anybody have better scenarios that make sense in Quadrant III for positive correlation and Quadrant IV for negative correlation?

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Comparing Distributions - Paper Planes

I have a GREAT group of AP Stats kids this year. They are super intelligent, they want to learn (well... they want to talk A LOT, too), and they seem to really love statistics. As I have gotten better at teaching the course, my kids really seem to like stats. Other AP Stats teacher have said "Do your kids dislike the class?" Theirs do. My first year... mine did too. I was trying to figure the content out. I didn't have time to make it fun. Things have sure changed. Anyone that knows me personally knows that AP Stats is my baby. I LOVE the course. I LOVE the content. I LOVE the application.

I also love coming up with new activities. The paper airplane activity is an oldy but goody. I basically revamped it and created teams. When kids entered the class, they had 10 minutes to google/research/YouTube/whatever and build the best airplane they could build. I have never seen kids as absolutely engrossed in anything as they were this. After 10 minutes, I put the kids in groups of 2-4 and gave them a clipboard and data collection sheet. Here is the handout:

Then, we went out to the football and each conducted 10 flights and recorded distance traveled. We used the football field since I have so many kids in stats and I only had access to four long tape measures. Is the data perfect? No, but it works.

One student came up to me and said "Ms. Boles, this is REALLY fun." Which, I counted as a big win in teenager speak. The bigger win, though, is when we returned to the classroom to draw modified boxplots and compare distributions. 

Because this group is so competitive, I asked some, in their comparative paragraphs, to argue why their airplane was the best of the group. For one member - this was usually easy - their plane had the largest max. Others, however, had to argue that theirs was the best because it had a smaller spread and was therefore more reliable. Another argument was that one student's minimum flight distance was quite higher than others. Other students had to argue why their plane wasn't the least desirable of the group. Regardless of the argument, the kids really understood the concept, had GREAT comparative paragraphs, and had a great time in math class **faint**.

Target's $1 Aisle is a Stats Playground

I live in a very rural area. We have a Wal-Mart, a really sketch K-Mart, a Food City, other smaller "cheap" grocery stores", and LOTS of fast food. Developers are just finishing up a shopping center with a Marshall's and Hobby Lobby, though. No Target in sight. Probably ever.

The closest Target is about 2 hours away. For some background - I also grew up in a similar area - no Target. When I lived in DC, I was first introduced to Target's wonderfulness (to be clear - DC Target is a little less wonderful than average Target wonderfulness).

Reminiscing aside, I traveled to said nearest Target yesterday. And - let's be clear - the most awesome part of the whole store is obviously the $1 section as you come in the door. I found about 5,280 pieces of wonderful $1 items that I thought - at the time - were absolutely essential to purchase. After some deep breathing and reasoning with myself a little, I finally purchased these...

"What is that?" you ask. I'm so glad you did. It's a dozen bags of small, plastic multicolored woodland animals.

I opened one bag. Here is the assortment of colors/creatures I received:

There are 6 creatures (all very cute) in three different colors.

There are little foxes and deer.

Also joining the party - squirrels and rabbits.

I hear you. This is a math blog. Tell me about the math. Okay - if you insist, but isn't the fox cuteeee? 

Here are my thoughts: this little bag is a probability play ground.

Kids usually have so much trouble processing the general probability rules, and these little guys can work like manipulatives for said topics.

Some examples:

Put all woodland creatures in bag. If you mix the bag up well and select one animal, what is the probability that you pick a red animal or a fox? (Addition Rule for Nondisjoint Events)

Put all woodland creatures in bag. Manipulate assortments so bags only have species of one color. For instance - green foxes, red deer, purple squirrels, and red rabbits (I forget other two animals right now). Question: If you mix the bag up well and select one animal, what is the probability that you select a purple animal or a fox? (Addition Rule for Disjoint Events)

Put all woodland creatures in a bag. If you mix the bag up well, what is the probability you select a fox, return the fox to the bag, and select a rabbit? (Multiplication Rule for Independent Events)

Put all the woodland creates in a bag. If you mix the bag up well, what is the probability you select a fox, keep it, and then draw a rabbit? (Multiplication Rule for Dependent Events)

Are color and species independent? (Independence Rule)

Given that a green fox has been drawn and not replaced, what is the probability you draw a red squirrel? (Conditional Probability)

SO MANY possibilities! SO MUCH fun. 

The main part, though - is that, with these manipulatives, kids can actually predict/see/count the answers, which really, really helps the formulas and calculations make sense.

Now, quit reading this, and go to Target.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Starting the Year Off Right: Growth Mindset

I always heard teachers talk about doing days of team building, mindset, goal setting, and other "soft" skills at the beginning of the year. And, yes, I would half-heartedly do something like this because I felt like I had to. But it was half-hearted, and I was concerned I was losing valuable math hours.

Things change. I had a pretty yucky year last year. To be fair, it was a tough crew, and every teacher that taught them had the same feelings. It was like we were playing Tug of War... the whole class was at one end and I was at the other dragging them through the content. They didn't like group work. They didn't like projects. They didn't like lectures. They didn't like pretty much anything. Why? This group (for the most part) struggled. If something was hard; they disengaged. They quit. Enter behavior issues. This wasn't a new development. It had been happening for years. As a class, they had lots of skill gaps, so when a new topic was presented that hit on one of those weaknesses, a lot of students had very negative emotional responses. It was a class that basically believed they couldn't, and so they wouldn't.

At the beginning of this school year, I vowed I would do something to help my kids have a better mindset about mathematics and learning in general. Enter two days of growth mindset work. I know. You're talking about the down-to-business math teacher here giving two whole days for "soft" work. And, to be frank, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Here's how it went down:


Marshmallow Challenge. Just assign it like any other group project. Be explicit. Give kids the rules and materials. Set a timer on the board and let them go. Most groups will fail (their towers will fall). LET THEM. By the way, this ties in nicely with geometry curriculum since it gives you a chance to eventually discuss the strength of a triangular structure.

After the Marshmallow Challenge (don't clean up yet), show the following two videos:

Khan Academy: You Can Learn Anything


The Power of Belief

Afterward, we made observations about each group's tower. Usually there is at least one tower that stands per class. Why did it stand? How was their planning and building process different from the other groups' processes? Let the kids make the observations. I did have to prompt mine sometimes to get them to notice the important things. Here were the takeaways I wanted:
  • Groups that stood largely had triangular structures.
  • Groups that stood went for structural integrity rather than height.
  • Groups that stood started with the marshmallow (the weight) and built the structure underneath to support it. Not vice-versa.
Students recorded these observations in notebook. We cleaned up the mess. End of Day 1.


As soon as students were seated, we review the takeaways from Day 1. This is done in the vein of "What did we learn from yesterday and how can we apply it today?". The same groups repeat the same marshmallow challenge. Here's what will happen - almost every group's tower will stand. I had 1 or 2 towers not stand over the course of the entire day, but that was 4 periods - pretty good. Even in the 2 or so that didn't stand, they were dramatically improved.

After the marshmallow challenge, I didn't declare a winner. You can if you want. We were all winners, though (and not in the give every kid a trophy way - I hate that). You see, we'd failed, we'd made observations about how to improve, and we'd used those observations to be more successful. The culture that this activity builds is awesome.

As a final activity, I talked a little bit about growth mindset (read: gave a motivational speech) and then we filled out a growth mindset handout.

Here it is:

Handout was lovingly borrowed from Dallas at

Months later, kids (even kids I don't teach!!!) are still talking about growth mindset and ending sentences like "I don't know what I'm doing"... yet. (By the way, the power of "yet" was part of my motivation speech). It's a classroom culture changer and maybe the best two days I've spent this year.


Friday, October 16, 2015

Using Google Slides as Group Whiteboards - Angle Puzzles

If you've read my other posts, you've probably gathered that my geometry classes are all 1:1 now. I had a few kids with laptops last year, but now - virtually all of my geometry students have them.

This new opportunity pushes me to rethink the way I structure and deliver all content. In previous years, lots of practice time was somewhat traditional - student would do a problem, instructor would provide feedback. The problem here is the delay inherent between the pencil/paper feedback cycle. Don't get me wrong - I'm usually all over the classroom helping, prompting, asking questions, etc., but there are still delays with this traditional method (I mean there are 30 kids and 1 of me).

Enter our 1:1 devices. I automatically ask myself how I can restructure the lesson so it's more effective, students get better/more immediate feedback, and it's truly more personalized. To do this, I analyze the takeaways I want students to have, the structure and necessary supports needed for a particular lesson, and the way in which I need students to practice.

One such lesson is my annual day of "angle puzzles". Basically, these are complex drawings composed of sets of parallel lines and transversals that ask students to reason and apply their knowledge of angle pairs. HERE are the puzzles I use. Yes. This is a link to Teachers Pay Teachers. No. I'm not a fan, but I couldn't find them anywhere else when I was looking a couple years ago.

Having used these angles puzzles for a while, I knew the following:

1. Low to low middle kids struggle with angle puzzles and need lots of peer/instructor support. Groups are a good thing.
2. On these puzzles in particular, students get "stuck" and either disengage or wait on instructor help.
3. These kind of puzzles need lots and lots of instructor feedback.
4. When kids work in groups on these puzzles, one student tends to dominate the group.

To address these problems, I decided I needed the following features from a technology solution:

1. Collaborative work from multiple devices on same file
2. Instructor ability to see student work on own screen at all times
3. Instructor ability to provide continuous feedback to groups/teams
4. Groups/teams need opportunity to respond to feedback
5. Ability to include multiple puzzles to groups in one file

Having analyzed these needs, I determined that Google Slides could offer all these features. So, I took the snipping tool and created an image file for each angle puzzle. Then, I inserted these files as the backgrounds of individual slides. This is important. Since the image is the background, students can't move the puzzle around or delete it. Since we don't have Google Classroom, I took the slides link and shorted it with before providing it to the groups.  Here are some samples of my students' work:

Takeways: My students (for the most part) loved this activity. Google Slides worked just how I'd hoped. The one issue I found though, was when the students inserted the text boxes. In image #2, the text boxes are large (standard size when you click to create the text box instead of drag to create them). If students do not resize the text boxes, they have trouble clicking on the correct text, since the text boxes begin to overlap. The group in image #1 have resized their text boxes appropriately and had few issues. Image #3 shows the back and forth comments/feedback between students and me.

It was a great day!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Teaching Histograms - Histogram Buckets!

I feel like most statistics teacher have the problem of getting kids to understand histograms. Yes. They kids can tell you that histograms are for quantitative data and the bars touch, yadda yadda yadda. That's not the problem. The problem is getting kids to really conceptually understand histograms, rather than thinking they are some sort of glorified bar graph.

I set out to fix this little histogram problem this year, so I came up with the idea of histogram buckets. First, I came up with a data set and printed the numbers on magnetic printer sheets. Each number is a block.  I cut them out individually.

When the students came in the door, I gave them each a square. When prompted, the students brought their magnetic blocks and placed them in the appropriate pre-labeled bins.

From the bins, I then took the magnetic squares and placed them on the whiteboard behind them. I used electrical tape to make the axes.

Then, we discussed what would happen if we changed the bin widths. So, we did... from 5 to 10. I handed the magnetic blocks back and changed the widths on the bins.

Students, again, placed their blocks into the appropriate bin. The histogram looked like this:

This helped to easily discuss that the histogram was representing the exact same data, but that, when we changed the bin widths, the displays looked different. This activity helped us to really have great discussions on what appropriate bin sizing is and is not.

I also had an INB handout for kids to fill out while we completed this activity. Here's what it looks like:

 I'm linking my histogram blocks and the handout files below.


AP Statistics - Free Response Journals

I promised @DruinOK that I would write this post at the beginning of August. I obviously lied. I hope it's better late than never.

In previous years, I have done a fairly poor job at regularly and meaningfully integrating Free Response Question practice into my AP Statistics units. I mean, yes, the kids would engage with one or two on their exams and quizzes. Then at the end of the year, I did basically an FRQ blitz. It killed me AND the kids. I knew this wasn't as meaningful as it should be. It was kind of like saying - Oh hey - I taught you all this content, but I didn't teach you how to relay it, so let's cram it all here at the end.

Last year (about halfway through the year), I knew I was "doing it again". So, I tried to invent something that would change it. The AP Calculus teacher at our school did Free Response journals. Basically, the kids just had a separate spiral-bound notebook in which they'd write all their free response answers. I really liked this idea, but I wanted it to be a little more for stats. After all, we all know that Stats is, for a better word, English picky, so I wanted the kids to be able to refer to the original FRQ, their answer, and the grading rubric.

Enter my FRQ INB journals. (See those strange black/white/green ones in middle? That's them! It's actually extra cute "Bah Bah Sheep Duct Tape" from Amazon. Be jealous.)

Anyway.... here's how they work. First they have a grading rubric in the front (not shown). Then, a TOC. After that, each page is basically one FRQ from a previous year. I use the FRAPPY format from @StatsMonkey, but then I also include the grading rubric.

To include both the Frappy and the grading rubic, I create a merged PDF. I usually use to do this. I also always have a one-page blank PDF on hand to use. To create a blank PDF file, save a blank word file as a PDF.

Here are some basic rules (assuming Frappy is 1 page long):
  • If rubric is 2 pages, then your merged PDF will be page 1 - blank, page 2 - Frappy, page 3 - rubric pg. 1, page 4- rubric pg. 2
  • If rubric is 3 pages, then your merged PDF will be page 1 - rubric pg. 3, page 2- Frappy, page 3- rubric pg. 1, page 4 - rubric pg. 2
  • If your rubric is four pages, then your merged PDF will be page 1 - rubric pg. 3, page 2- Frappy, page 3- rubric pg. 1, page 4 - rubric pg. 2. In addition, you'll make a separate merged file of the last rubric page. You'll want this additional file to have rubric pg. 4 on both pages 1 and 2.
Okay. Now you're going to open the merged file up in Adobe Reader and print it. You'll want to select the multiple pages per page option, landscape, and have it print double sided, flipping on the short side.

For instance, here is an example of a 2 page rubric:

When you have either 2 pages of Frappy and 3 rubric pages OR 1 Frappy page and 4 rubric pages, it gets a little harder. Basically, you print the last page off separately (see directions above for 4 pg. rubrics). This single page gets glued down before the actual folded page gets taped in above it. This sounds complicated, but once my kids did it once, they got the hang of it. They now assemble this book when I have a sub - by themselves.

Example of 5 page FRQ (if you can tell from the picture):

I make a point to do these FRQ days at the end of every chapter and/or unit (whenever it fits best). These days not only make me intentionally and purposefully teach FRQ strategies, it also gives kids a great cumulative FRQ review book to look through near test time. I pick 2-3 per day to work on. The kids basically just read and answer the FRQ. Then, we read the rubric as a class and discuss how it would be graded. The first day we did this, I had samples from AP Central printed out and students graded those according to the rubric before grading their own. Sometimes students will also switch notebooks and grade each others' responses. I just depends.

I KNOW my directions are probably confusing and merging/printing these PDFs at first might be complicated (in the end, it's not, though). I'd love to help you! Tweet me @KLBoles !

Organizing Interactive Notebooks (INBs)

My first year doing interactive notebooks in both my geometry and AP Statistics classes was last year. I really like the INB concept for multiple reasons, and after I found a happy medium between trying to the the INB Van Gogh and just giving taped-in worksheets, I began to love what INBs were doing for my classes. What I didn't love, however, was how I was storing them.

Last year, my storage idea just didn't work. I had a bookshelf at the front of room and a bookshelf at the back of my room. Because there were no divisions in the shelves, the books were thrown in them every which way. Being the organizational freak I am, I absolutely could not stand the way they looked or the amount of time some students had to look for their notebooks at the beginning of class.

This summer, I was browsing my favorite deal site - (you should check it out), and I saw that ClosetMate stackable shoe organizers were on sale at WalMart for $21. $21 bought you a 3'x3' organizer. I wanted to have 6 rows, so I bought two and stacked them. I also went to Lowe's and had a sheet of plywood cut into 2 3'x3' pieces. I then painted the plywood to color code it by class before attaching it to the back of the organizers. My class INBs already have a piece of duct tape on the spine to color code the books themselves.

In the end- I LOVE it! It fixes ALL of my storage issues with INBs, and it looks really great - at least I think so.

P.S. If anyone is at the Dollar Tree and sees those little pails in yellow - I need a set desperately. The random green one in the yellow row is KILLING me.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pictionary with Socrative

I meant to write this post earlier in the year (say - oh - August?), but that obviously didn't happen, so here we go...

This is my fifth year teaching geometry, and even though I love teaching the course, the basic naming and definitions portion at the front of it can often be boring. I mean, sometimes, it's really hard to spice up how to name a plane.

After we've discussed basic nomenclature, I always ask students to flip the process, meaning I give them a description, and they give me a drawing. This part is usually a little more fun. In the past, I've made index cards with the situation on the front and a possible solution on the back. One partner reads the text to the other partner, who does his/her best to draw the accompanying image on a whiteboard. I then run around like a chicken with her head cut off trying to look out for misconceptions and errors. Hey - it worked, but you never really knew when you had missed out on that one special moment... you know, the one where something was slightly incorrect, and you, the instructor, could have posed a question or a clarifying statement that could have really helped the kids build a solid understanding of the content.

This year, my students are 1:1 with Dell laptops. No. They are not touch screen. And yes - I'm bitter (but don't tell anyone). Think of what else my kids could do if they were touch capacitive. Anyway - that's not important right now. I'm off track. Here's what we did...

I used @sandramiller_tx 's graphics, since hers were digital and mine were hand-written. Go visit Sandra at Anyway, I took these images and put them in Socrative. I used a standard multiple choice quiz format - with only choices of A or B.  Choice A was to be selected when student answers matched the exemplar or when they didn't but partners were able to discuss and remedy the mistake. Choice B was to be chosen when the partners disagreed or did not understand the proposed solution. The way the activity worked - one student had the laptop and read the written explanation. This student was also looking at the proposed image solution. The second student in the pair had a whiteboard and was drawing as the first partner was giving the directions. When partner 2 was finished, they both compared the whiteboard to the computer solution and discussed then appropriately chose either option A or option B. On my teacher dashboard, A answers showed up as green (I marked them the correct answers), and B answers showed up red. Even from a distance, I could immediately see when a student was struggling and who to assist. It's almost the same idea as the Red/Yellow/Green cups, but less troublesome.

Here are some screenshots from the activity:

If you'd like to try this activity, the share code for this Socrative quiz is  SOC-17217490.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Using Google Slides For Interactive Card Sorts

Edit: Desmos to the rescue! Access the Desmos version of this card sort HERE.

Name something. There's an app for it, right? Evidently, I've discovered the one classroom need that no programmer has addressed. Card sorts. Lots of teachers have started using card sorts in classrooms, since they are a higher-level activity and require more intellectual might than a standard question/answer kind of practice.

I looked and looked and looked. I couldn't find an app that would allow me to design a card sort for my own content. I will, however, say that Quia has a
card match program but doesn't offer a true card sort. So, I decided to try and redesign the use of a pre-existing tech tool. I wanted this card sort to be collaborative between two partners, but I didn't want them to share a device. I wanted partners to have equal control of the sort - not the primary device user to dominate the activity. I also wanted to be able to label the left side of the "sort board" vertical angles and the right linear pairs.

Really, if Padlet would allow other users to move posts, it would probably be the best choice here. But, alas, it won't. I did tweet the Padlet folks to recommend this feature (get behind me here MTBoS)!

Anyway, I decided to use Google Slides. Technically, it ticks off all my specifications. Multiple students can access the sort; I can label the left and right sides of the sort board using a slide master; and students can drag images to the left and right to sort them. I designed the original file and made 12 or so copies of the file for each group I anticipated on having. Then, I took those links and converted them to links for ease of access. I made group tents with their group numbers and individual links.

Here is a picture of the first sort students completed. It was quick and I used it as a formative check that students had mastered/learned the highlights of the previous day's notes.

After students completed this sort, I had them raise their hand, and then I either physically went over and checked their sort or I did the same thing virtually (have I mentioned how much I LOVE Google?)

When students had this correct, they clicked on slide 3, which was really the heart of the activity. They needed to sort various examples of vertical angles and linear pairs into the two distinct piles. I actually uploaded my graphics into Padlet first (I forgot non-owners in Padlet can't move the posts). Then, I took screenshots of my cards from Padlet and pasted them into Google Slides. This was nice because I had automatic card numbers. These card numbers are how I always check card sorts. For instance, I knew that cards 2, 4, 10, 12, 13, and 15 (I think - going from memory) belonged under linear pairs - making my formative check really fast.

All in all, this activity accomplished exactly what I wanted - it just wasn't perfect.

Things I liked about making card sorts in Google Slides:

  • Students can easily collaborate using separate devices
  • Enabled me to make multiple card sorts within each document, and students could easily progress between them
  • Allowed students to freely move the cards from place to place
  • I could check the sorts pretty easily given I'd pre-recorded the appropriate cards for the vertical angle pile and the linear pair pile.

Things I disliked about making card sorts in Google Slides:

  • When kids move images in Google Slides, they often accidentally delete them, make them really tiny, and crop them 
  • Kids had to use the "undo" button a million times so I could reset the sort for the next class/group
  • If kids used two devices, it turns out that the undo feature only partially works. I think what happens is that kids can only undo the actions they have personally taken on their device, but I didn't have time to further investigate. I just had to go in and copy/paste the original pile back in. This was safer than just having kids move them back to the middle because they often "lost cards". See bullet point #1 above.
  • The usual beloved layering of images in presentation software became a problem. The cards would layer and students couldn't figure out how to display the card number so I could easily grade them. Sometimes I'd have to go in and manipulate the cards so I could do a quick formative check.

So... would I do it again? Yes... I think so. It is definitely not ideal, but it is better than cutting out 5,280 squares of paper. If you're reading this, and you know a programmer, get them on this. I would LOVE to chat with someone about the necessary specifications an app of this kind should have.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Teaching Statistics? Need Help? Try the NC State MOOC.

I am the only AP Statistics teacher in my county. In fact,  (I think) I am the only stand-alone statistics teacher of any variety in the county. When I began our school's first AP Statistics program four years ago, I felt a whole lot like an island. My background in stats was a mere six (miserably-taught) hours in college a few years ago. Through a grant, I did identify a nearby mentor teacher and then, by my own devices, located a wonderful mentor online through Twitter. I am now in love. Statistics is a beautiful thing, people.  And even better, it's so awesome to teach.

I know there are folks out there - new statistics teachers at the high school level, new middle school teachers, or maybe more experienced middle school teachers acclimating to the stats-heavy Common Core State Standards - who lack resources, training, or -maybe- confidence concerning the teaching of statistics in a 6-12 math classroom. You are not alone. The best part - NC State is going to help you - FOR FREE.

NC State is offering a FREE online MOOC (Massive Open Online Course), "Teaching Statistics Through Data Investigations," beginning September 28th. Enrollees in the MOOC will have multiple opportunities to cater their own learning to the content level of interest. The course is designed to require 1-2 hrs/week of time and offers the opportunity to earn 20 CEUs.


Here is a video summarizing the opportunity:

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Volumes of Prisms Play-Doh

Friday was a fun day (mostly). For one, it signaled the end of the last full week of school. Yay! Let's face it - we all need a break. It was also a fun day because use used Play-Doh in geometry. The lesson was an introduction to volume of prisms (we focused on rectangular and triangular) as well as volume of cylinders. This lesson was modeled after Julie's (@jreulbach)  lesson at ispeakmath - HERE.

The kids had a regular-size cup of Play-Doh for every 2-3 people. They split the play-doh and had plenty. First, we crafted rectangular prisms. Then we sliced them into 1 cm cross-sections. Students analyzed the shape of one "slice" and found its area. We decided, then, that we could simply multiply this area by the number of slices we had (it's height) to find the volume. We repeated this process for triangular prisms and cylinders. Students derived the formulas for the volumes of all three. One student informed me that "[Volume] was the easiest thing we've done all year". Good. It's easy because they really understand the formula. Great day.

Some kids discovered some other geometric properties... Hello octagon!

...And we still managed to have a little fun!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Finishing Up Surface Area - Spheres

Today was our last day of surface area. If I had time, I'd actually do one more day, since we really need a day of practice. I just can't take one more day, though, because I have to get in volume before finals. I only have two days for volume as it is (and then two days of review).

Today, we did a hands-on lesson on the surface area of a sphere. The idea was guided by Jennifer Wilson 's (@jwilson828) blog post on the Surface Area of a Sphere.

To do this activity, I knew I needed to get my hands on lots of oranges, since I have 110 kids in geometry. I called our local Food City, and -bless them- they donated 55 oranges. 1 orange per group of two. Thanks Food City!

The kids really enjoyed this activity. It was messy, but i think - sometimes - learning should be messy. The janitor didn't agree. Oh well. You can't win 'em all. The biggest problem I kept running into was that kids were skimping on filling their drawn circles. There would be lots of white space, and the kids would think they filled 6 circles. I would go around and have the groups start disassembling one circle, using those pieces to fill in the gaps.

At the end of the day, the kids had fun, and they really KNEW the formula for surface area of a sphere. Oh - AND my room smelled strongly of oranges instead of smelly high school kids. It was lovely.