Archive for the ‘General’ Category


Still Head Over Heels (Part 2)

May 2, 2017

In this post, I want to describe some of the mechanics of how I run a flipped classroom. My class consists of four parts: the notes, the classwork, the quiz, and the test.

  • The Notes
  • As I mentioned in my last post, I have students take their notes from a slideshow that I have created and posted on Because we are a national AVID demonstration school, I require them to take their notes in Cornell notes fashion. One of the big tenets of C-notes is the idea of going back over your notes after 24 hours to highlight important text, add questions and a summary. In order to enforce this, I only give them a 50 for taking notes over my slideshow (the right-hand side of the page). The next class, I check to see if they have highlighted text, added questions, and written a summary. Questions and highlighting earns them an additional 25 points, and the summary adds the final 25 points. I have done this the last two years, and I really like the way the idea of the flipped class works with C-notes.

  • The Classwork
  • At the beginning of each chapter (what our district, for some mysterious reason, calls “bundles”), I give them a packet containing every worksheet for that chapter. This has two major benefits: Since I try to post notes for the whole chapter when we start, students can work ahead if they want to; also, if a student is absent, he automatically knows what he missed, and he already has the work. The worksheets vary between Kuta worksheets, worksheets I’ve found or created over the years, and exploration/extention problems. For each worksheet, I post solutions to the odd-numbered problems, and since this is practice, I grade the worksheets on completion. This is the real strength of the flipped classroom, because they have most of the 80-minute class period to work problems. I have them seated in groups, so that they can ask for help from their fellow students or me. I check the work from the previous worksheet when I go around checking notes.

  • The Quiz
  • When my district switched from Moodle to Canvas, I started setting up all of my quizzes there.

    This is the really magic part of my class. Because I also do SBG, I allow students to retake quizzes to improve their grades. Canvas allows me to set up “question banks” for each quiz, so each time a student takes a quiz, it will be different. I calculated once that one quiz had more than 1,000,000 different possible versions. There are two ways that this works. The first is the multiple choices for each topic:

    These can be either multiple-choice or free-response. The next type of question is my favorite: the formula question. I can set up a range of values, along with a formula for the answer, and let Canvas select the numbers:

    As long as I can get a numeric answer, these work out great! There’s other cool stuff about Canvas — if you’re interested, let me know.

  • The Test
  • The test is the summative assessment over the bundle. It’s made up of a common assessment part that all of the Geometry teachers at my school give (we use GradeCam to handle creating the scantrons and managing the data), and a Canvas part that is generally questions pulled from the quizzes.

    This is the format that I have used the last couple of years, and I really like how it has shaken out. If you have any questions or comments, let me know!


Still Head Over Heels (Part 1)

May 2, 2017

I’m approaching the end of my third year of doing a flipped classroom in Geometry, and I’m still in love with the format. I was reading a post the other day (I’ve been trying to catch up on my Reader feed, so I can’t remember who said it) that was concerned that students’ watching 10-minute videos wouldn’t get the same teaching as a regular lecture or other type of in-class teaching. In a lot of ways, I would definitely agree with that, because I tell my students I don’t expect them to learn everything about a particular topic just from taking notes. I spend about 5-10 minutes at the beginning of class going over more examples before I turn them loose on their classwork for that topic.

For me, the flipped classroom model allows me to eliminate the most tedious part of teaching: taking notes. For example, below is a fairly typical PowerPoint that I would give over angle relationships in a circle:

Instead of my standing at the front of the class going through this PowerPoint while some students make very quick notes and others make meticulous drawings and copy everything exactly, I assign them the task of paging through this slideshow and taking as much (or as little) time as they need. Some students will “get” this topic just from the notes, because it’s fairly straightforward; others will need some more explanation in class, and that’s okay.

The students would then work on something like a Kuta worksheet (I got tired of waiting for my school to buy it, so I bought a single-user license myself). When they were ready, they would take a quiz over the topic on Canvas, our district’s LMS (learning management system). The only deviations I make from this routine are when I want the whole class to work on something such as a stations activity, a Geogebra exploration, or a Desmos activity (for example, we did a Polygraph: Polygons that went really well).

My Pre-AP kids generally like this format. Their parents also like that they don’t have to worry about trying to help their kids with their homework, because the homework consists of taking notes over a slideshow.

I ran into a student who was in my first year of flipped classes recently, and he told me that it was the best approach to a math class that he’d ever had, and he didn’t know why all of his teachers didn’t adopt the same format.


You Can Go Home Again (At Least to Visit)

April 26, 2017

I’m one of those alt-cert teachers who was in another career before I decided to become a teacher. Specifically, I spent 20+ years as a computer programmer and network administrator. When I started teaching, people would wonder why I didn’t want to teach computer programming, and I would tell them that I was just burned out on computers.

It’s been long enough now that I feel a little nostalgic about writing programs to do things, and when my principal “suggested” that we keep a log of students going to and coming from the bathroom I decided I’d rather try to write a program to keep track than have to keep track by using a clipboard (along with students’ not knowing how to tell time).

My background is in database programming using a program called Visual FoxPro. Visual FoxPro was discontinued by Microsoft around 2009, so I initially tried to write my program using Access. I gave it a good try, but I could tell that I was trying to make it do things that it wasn’t really designed to do. I honestly feel I made a good-faith effort to find some other RDBMS (relational database management system), but in the end, I knew FoxPro would do what I wanted to do.

The most frustrating part of writing my hall pass program was realizing that it was taking me hours to do tasks that I used to be able to do in minutes, just because I was rusty. As I worked on the program, a lot of things came back to me, and I’ve ended up with something that I’m pretty proud of. What’s more, my students have fallen into the new routine with nary a whimper.


The only really frustrating part of the implementation is that it has to run from a physical hard drive (since that’s all that was around when this version of FoxPro was written), and the only spare laptop I have is a little Dell NetBook that runs WindowsXP and is named “Baby”. I wanted to use DropBox so that I could run the program on Baby but also reference the data on either my school laptop or my personal laptop. Unfortunately, DropBox doesn’t run on WindowsXP. I’m currently running Google Drive, which is doing this pretty well, but it is often random on how it updates.

Anyway, it was a lot of fun to play with programming again, and it really makes me want to look around for other things that I could program as well as trying to find ways to integrate programming into my Geometry classes.


Hello, World

April 26, 2017

In preparation for #TMC17, I’ve been trying to catch up on my blog feed, and reading all those entries made me miss writing on my own blog. The main reason I had stopped was that I was using as my reflection tool, so I didn’t need the blog to reflect on what I had done in class.

Reading what people have been writing in the last year made me realized how short-sighted that is. One of the beauties of the MTBoS world is the feedback that we share and receive from each other. There are also some things that I have considered blogging on that don’t have a direct link to a particular lesson plan.


Random Ideas for Next Year

June 21, 2015

I want to put this stuff in one place so I don’t lose it!

  • Figure out the setup I want for Canvas
  • Instead of math journals – have them make flip charts!

Good Advice For Seniors

July 16, 2014

I am sometimes at a loss when students ask for advice on career/college goals. I read this today from Jerry Pournelle, and I thought it offered some good, practical ideas:

Our neighbors’ house is sold and they’ll be moving, and their boy is entering his senior year at a good high school. He’s interested in technology and will be taking AP calculus and such. Top 15% of this class, so not Cal Tech, and not interested in leaving university with enormous debts. No father in the house, and I’ve known him and his mother quite literally all his life. Took him to lunch at the Oyster House to talk things over.

Interested in technology, not really interested in being a teacher, wants to do something in technology, not sure what. Good at math, but not a theoretical type. I suggested electrical engineering. Not as much theory as physics, but based on good science. Maxwell’s equations are a great example of scientific theory at work doing all kinds of practical things. Chemistry is more empirical, and mechanical is more practical. Electrical, then, but be sure to take chemistry through organic, and biology beyond the non-major survey course. And don’t bother with computer science as an undergraduate. You have to learn how to use the little beasts, but teaching them to do things is getting to be a pretty wide spread ability; better to learn how to build them and design chips and practical stuff on the one side, and be able to think of things you want to teach them to do on the other. Get an EE degree and you can have a job or almost anything you like in grad school, and learning organic chemistry and better than elementary in biology puts you in a good place if you decided to go into nanotechnology.


How MTBoS Has Spoiled Me

July 12, 2014

As I mentioned previously, I should get to teach Astronomy this coming year (I’m a little nervous because I just found out our principal was fired). Based on my math teaching experience, one of my first steps has been trying to find other astronomy teachers so that I can swipe learn from their experiences. So far, the only blogger I have found hasn’t blogged anything since 2010.

This whole search has really made me appreciate my fellow math bloggers. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, experiences, successes, failures, and emotions! I won’t be able to make #TMC14 this year (my travel dollars were spent going to Europe), but I will be with you in spirit.