Friday, November 27, 2015

CAMT 2016

I was selected to present at the Conference for the Advancement of Mathematics Teaching next summer. I am so excited and now I am nervous.

My session is on Thursday June 30 at 10 am. My room will hold 180.

One Hundred Eighty.

I will have a microphone. I am nervous and anxious. I have 8 months to plan and change plans and plan some more.

My topic is on Writing in Mathematics. Something I've tried to be better at in my classroom this year. The students find it difficult at first, but they get better with practice and scaffolding.

So, if you are at CAMT next summer, come see me!

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Happy Thanksgiving.

I hope you will have a relaxing day today.

I am sure that I am not alone is saying this: I love this time of year. I love the smell, the weather, the time off school. It is the time of year when all my brothers and sisters come on town...its amazing. It is 6 weeks of awesomeness.

I have so much to be grateful for. This has been a great year. I graduated with my Master's and moved into our new house. I got to spend time with my little girl and husband.

When I was a teenager, I had teenager problems (who didn't.) To make myself feel better, I would list everything I was grateful for. I haven't done it in a while because while I have adult problems, I have a better perspective of what life is about. But I still have much to be grateful for.

My small family of my husband and daughter
My big family.
The gospel of Jesus Christ
My house
My career
A community of teachers
Sleeping In

I could keep going, but it is time to get started for the day. To end, here is my little girl.

What are you grateful for today?

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Instant Feedback Part 1

As part of my master's program I had to do a large research project. I researched whether using technology in the math classroom would improve student attitudes about math and increase their confidence in math. I used student surveys before and after a unit using our online mathematics textbook to track changes in student attitudes and confidence.

The survey asked students to strongly agree to strongly disagree with statements like "Math is difficult for me" "I know I can do well in math" "Learning math is enjoyable", etc. After comparing the results from the pre and post survey, there were no significant changes expect for one statement. "Math is difficult for me." Students went from agreeing with that statement to disagreeing. I gave them an open ended question on the post survey to tell me what they liked about the online textbook. They responded that they liked the feedback and help it gave.

They said:
"It provides a video to help me understand"
"It tells you when you do something wrong"
"It gives more chances"
"It gives you similar problems until you get it right."

I came to the conclusion that students benefited from the instant feedback they received on the website. Because they were instantly able to tell if they got a problem right or wrong, they were able to find mistakes and correct them. A majority of my students were able to see proof that they did understand the concept and felt better about their ability to do math.

Other research also finds that using technology with feedback improves student attitudes towards math. Feedback gives students a chance to improve and then reflect about what they are doing. They correct misconceptions before it becomes solidified. It tells students mistakes are okay and can be learned from and fixed. Students feel like they are improving when they fix mistakes and learn from them in time to not repeat it on the next problem.

We give students feedback when we grade, but it is not instant enough. If students take a test, they go home and most forget about what they were thinking while taking it. If feedback is instant, they remember their thought process, their strategies, etc, and are able to see what worked and what needs improving.

Technology isn't the only way to give instant feedback to students. Later, I'll share some other ways to give feedback to students.

  • Cavanaugh, C., Gillian, K.J., Bosnick, J., Hess, M., & Scott, H. (2008). Effectiveness of interactive online algebra learning tools. Journal of Educational Computing Research. 38(1), 67-95. 
  •  Kim, J., & Jung H. (2010). South Korean digital textbook project. Computers in the Schools, 27(3), 247-265).
  • Zerr, R. (2007). A quantitative and qualitative analysis of the effectiveness of online homework in first-semester calculus. Journal of Computers in Mathematics and Science Teaching 26(1), 55-73. 

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Thinking Blocks

Here are FOUR! free apps that require students to use strip diagrams (bar models) to solve problems. Each app has a different focus, addition, fractions, ratios, or multiplication. These are also available on the Math Playground Website. 

Your students might need some coaching on how to use a bar diagram. strip diagrams are a helpful way to see the relationship between quantities. I wish that I had bee shown how to use strip diagrams in school. Especially for ratios. 

Each app has different levels that get progressively more difficult and use different types of situations. 
The students are given feedback as they place each part of the strip diagram. If they get it wrong at first, they are prompted with question to think about to help them. 

Not every student loves this app, but it is helpful for them to practice making bar diagrams to model situations. 

Monday, November 23, 2015

My Favorite No

I love when student analyze their mathematical errors. (Which is why I liked this activity)

This is another way to have students analyzing errors when the teacher pictures her favorite wrong answer.

Sometimes a students has the perfect wrong answer because it leads to so much rich discussion with the class. Then every one has the opportunity to learn from a mistake.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Scientific Laws and Scientific Theories

While I have students after school waiting for buses to dismiss, we watch education related videos. Sometimes we watch CNN Student News and sometimes we watch Ted Education videos. This is their new one this week. If you believe a theory graduate into a law, you need to watch this.

In my Science Teaching for Middle Grades class I took in grad school, we discussed this topic a lot. Most people have misconceptions of what a scientific theory is and think that it will one day "graduate" into a law. (Which is what I thought at one point in my life.) A theory in science is not like a theory in other content areas.

So when people here things like the Theory of Evolution or the Big Bang Theory--they hear theory and think there is not enough evidence to support the theory to become a law so it should not be given too much weight. Not the case. 

Having a scientifically educated population is important for our future and our children's future. Teachers need to make sure they understand what they are teaching. Many elementary teachers are not given proper training in science teaching--or the time to teach it. I love teaching math and I think it is extremely important to my students futures that they understand the basics of it--especially financial literacy and reading graphs. An understanding of science affects who we vote for, what policy are leaders create, what gets published in textbooks, etc. 

Unfortunately, most schools are not going to provide the training to make sure that teachers know what they are teaching. It is up to teachers to research, read peer-reviewed articles, have subscriptions to journals, and ask when they don't understand. This way they are doing everything they can to provide the best lessons for their students with the most accurate information. 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Blog Posts I Love-Part 4

We are getting closer to solving inequalities when we get back from Thanksgiving break. My students still confuse the > and < signs, and then we add the "or equal to" and they get even more confused! Dana Boucher from Math Coach's Corner write about these signs and then relates them to a number line.

I feel like my students are a little more snappy with each other. We are all ready for Thanksgiving break but I want them to be comfortable working with each other. This Edutopia post talks about creating a classroom culture with laughter. I would like to try a few of the activities once a week.

From Math Coach's Corner again--Using Data to Plan Remediation. My data drives my instruction, especially my small groups. This post was a good reminder of what data should be helping you with. It reminds me of standards based grading, instead of traditional grading.

I need more comfortable shoes for work. I look forward to Thursday and Friday--not just for jeans but for tennis shoes. So here are 30 brands of shoes that are teacher friendly.
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