Archive for September, 2011

Modeling using Photos


I had a great 3M class a couple of days ago.  We were looking at the idea of modeling data using a quadratic function.  It was a follow up to a Domain and Range activity, so that fit well with this exercise.

I took a photo of one of the students on my iPhone, emailed it to myself and dropped the image into a TNS file which I sent out over Navigator to all of the student handhelds.

The students task was to model the student’s head using a quadratic function.  After that was complete, I had them identify the domain and range of the function that made sense for the model.

While the photo chosen wasn’t a bridge or other engineering project which is typical for this type of activity, the students were surely engaged.  I used the Class Capture feature to track the progress of the students as they manipulated the Vertex Form of the Parabola to match the image.  I was able to provide suggestions to anonymous students about the transformations necessary to adjust their model to fit the data.

The follow up activity involved students spending 10-15 minutes looking around the school for parabolic shapes, taking a photo on their cell phone, iPod, or a school laptop.  They then emailed the photo to me when they got back to class.  I quickly assembled another TNS file to send out for extra practice (homework).  For students without a calculator, their homework was to find a magazine or newspaper article to model the data with by hand.

Formatting the TI Nspire


I was trying to update a TI Nspire clickpad calculator that one of the students brought in yesterday.  It was giving me a “corrupt file” error every time I tried loading the updated OS.  After a call to the always helpful TI Cares, they walked me through the process of formatting your TI Handheld to get a clean start before loading the new OS file.

It was a helpful enough trick that I thought it was worthy of sharing…

On the clickpad, hold down the Home-Enter-P key combination to enter maintenance mode.  The last option is a full format.

On the touchpad or CX models, it’s the Doc-Enter-E combination to get to maintenance mode.

The whole process was a bit nostalgic for me.  It was a lot like the steps I took to jailbreak my iPhone.  I feel geekishly proud to be able to use maintenance mode now. :)

Bringing in the Parents


With all this new technology in the math classroom, Tom and I thought it prudent to invite the parents in to see what a math lesson looks like with the calculators, the SMART document Camera and various web resources that we use such as Google Docs.

We’ve put out the invitation.  It’s being sent out via constant contact email from the principal to the parent population, via our MTHS iPhone/iPod app in a push notification, and via flyer that was handed out to the math classes today in school.  Hopefully we’ll have a good response.

Test-taking skills reflection …


Yesterday, my MPM1D class wrote a quiz where we discussed pacing on assessments (an important skill for EQAO multiple choice). They then wrote the quiz and responded to the quick poll shown below:

What was wonderful was the discussion that ensued about how the students who ran out of time or finished too soon might approach assessments differently.

I also “Paused” the class on TI-Navigator for the first 20 minutes of the 25 minute quiz, and then started class again for the last five minutes. This meant that the students couldn’t use their handhelds for the quiz – only to verify their answers for the last five minutes.

Very interesting class …

The Power of Quick Poll


In my grade 12 class with 15 minutes to go, I had just completed two worked examples. I advanced to the next Smart Board slide to reveal “Example #3″. It was very similar to the first two and with limited class time remaining I asked the ‘class’ verbally  if they wanted me to work through example #3 or move on to the remainder of the lesson. The ‘class’ responded in unison – move on. Body language in the room indicated that all students understood the first two examples and all were comfortable with the concepts.

I then posed an anonymous Quick Poll ” Do you want to do example #3 as a class”.  The results shocked me but more surprising the results shocked the students

Needless to say we completed example #3 as a class.


We have progress!:)


So today I re-polled my grade 10 class:

We celebrated that no-one disagreed with the Quick Poll statement. It validated for me that their self-confidence had grown in solving word problems.

Preparing for our First Test


Tomorrow the grade 12′s have their first unit test and I wanted to practise the “Press to Test” on the NSpires.

The Press to Test feature blocks access to the My Documents folder and can block access to selected features of the handheld. But more importantly upon completion of the test you can send a file to reset all the handhelds in the room and erase all keystrokes used in the test.

After a number of failed attempts it worked – BUT only to the logged in NSpires :( After class Chris told me that I must use the Transfer Tool AND the class must NOT be in session. Oops missed that last point – Tom covered it in our training but alas I forgot.

I’m definitely learning along with my students. :)

Have I learned anything?


Today I used an interesting Quick Poll. See below:

We had been spending a few days on word problems in my MPM2D class in the Linear Systems unit. I started them in groups of four two days ago, pairs yesterday, and alone today. Before I sent them off solving word problems alone, I wanted to know if they felt they had improved in their confidence and ability to engage in solving these word problems. It was validating for me that my scaffolded grouping approach had been worthwhile. I will re-poll them tomorrow, and should see the “disagree” numbers diminished.

Proportional Reasoning


On Day 2 of my grade 9 academic math class, I posed a bit of a word problem to see what kind of reasoning skills the class had. It was a pretty standard problem, and I used some of the new technology to talk about what the class had come up with.  In the past, I would have to ask how the students solved the problem and write it, or have them write it, on the board.  This time I just slid the student work under the document camera for sharing…rough notes and all.  We were able to annotate one group who answered it on the calculator.  I hadn’t set up the class on Navigator yet, so I just slid the calculator under the document camera and annotated on top of that.

What amazed me was 1)  How quickly I was able to transition from solution to solution when I didn’t have to write out or wait for a student to re-write their answer and 2)  How nice it was to be able to annotate over top of the student work and follow their thinking process.

One of the students came up with a solution that involved setting up a proportional relationship in order to solve the problem.  It was a fantastic solution that I totally didn’t expect from a grade 9 student on day 2.  It was also a fantastic opportunity to see solutions from many more students than I would normally have time in a class to share without doing something like a Bansho.

Quick Polling keeps me accountable


Argh…these quick polls are slowing me down, but for good reason. I used to have all kinds of great ideas about what I wanted to get done in a class. I would usually get about half of it done. Now that I have started using the quick poll to do an anonymous survey of “who’s understanding and who needs to dig deeper into this concept”, I’m finding that the student that used to put their hand up with the majority of the class can now comfortably say “I need more help on this” while maintaining their anonymity.

I am now able to post the next problem for the class to work on, freeze the screen and check in on the list of names of those students who answered “No” to my quick poll and follow up with them individually right away. This has meant a great deal to my struggling students and has given me insights into students I didn’t even realize were struggling. After a couple of weeks, I’m starting to see trends in who needs more help on topics.

What has really surprised me is that nobody has really noticed or cared that I am targeting support to individuals shortly after a poll. Either they haven’t picked up on the fact that I can tell what they responded individually and not just as an aggregate, or the self-conscious student has no need to be so because nobody else seems to pay attention to it anyways. Overall, it has allowed those students to get the help they need right away without turning on a neon light above their desk that says “I’m one of the only ones here that doesn’t get it”.

Now to go move the last 3/4 of today’s lesson to tomorrow’s .notebook file. :) At least they’re learning this stuff and I’m not just teaching it.