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Monday, November 17, 2014

There's Still Hope For Me

This year, I am teaching all of my classes using Flipped Mastery.  Basically, I have (or will have) all of my lessons and lectures on video for the students to view online.    The students work at their own pace during class, assign their own homework, ask questions when they are unsure or confused, and take tests when they feel they are ready for them.  I provide the students with a pacing guide to make sure they will finish the curriculum by the end of the school year.  You can purchase this book to read more about it.

I decided to give it a trial run last Spring to help me work out any kinks.  That was helpful.  It helped me to realize that students really don't understand how to learn.  They are so dependent on teachers to tell them exactly what to do that some are almost paralyzed with all of the freedom.  I needed to be more proactive with encouraging the students to come up with a plan.  

This school year, I started with tables around the room, where 4-5 students could work together.  I created a video and a worksheet for each lesson, and a review for each outcome.  Each outcome has at least two versions of the test and high performance questions/projects for those that prove proficiency.  I keep track of the students who play games on the computer every time I turn my back, the students who do work for other classes in my class, and the students who just sit there and talk.  

The students are required to understand or at the very least perform the procedures that I teach during the videos.  So, I have the procedure part of my job well underway.  The problem is that this is so time consuming that by the time I am finished grading all the tests for that day and planning the next lesson to record, my prep period is over.  I need to bring work home with me every day just to stay ahead of the game.  I'm not feeling great about this.  My students this year are learning procedures mostly, and once in a while I'm able to find the time to do some class activities or lessons to support their understanding of concepts and application.  I feel like I work at Khan Academy.  

But I'm not feeling totally down on myself.  Next year I will have more time.  More time because I will only have to tweak my videos and worksheets and not recreate them.  My plan for next year is have an activity or project each week.  Maybe a Mathalicious or shell lesson one week and a 3-act the following week.  As far as this year goes, there is hope.  I will soon catch up to where I started last year and be able to be more creative.  

I'm still trying to find my balance.  The old rules for cell phones doesn't make sense to me anymore.  Some students are more productive when listening to music while others are not.  Do I allow some students to use their phones while others are not allowed?  Some students want to do work for other classes during my class.  Do I stop them or do I let them go?  What if they prefer to watch the math videos at home while they complete their Spanish worksheet in my class?  Is that really a problem?  I'm walking a tight light between allowing students to find what works for them and saving them.  They are mostly Freshman and still need that guidance, but do I let them fail, so they see that it doesn't work, or do I save them so they pass?  

A few of my colleagues have said some not so nice things to me and I wasn't really prepared for that.  They have told me that my class is a joke and a free-for-all.  I was expecting resistance from the students and some parents, but it never occurred to me that my equals would take my changes so personally.  They are not comfortable with what I'm doing and it defies the rules they have in their classrooms.  Like the bathroom rule.  According the school, students are not allowed to use the restroom during the first and last 10 minutes of class because they will miss the intro and closure to the lecture.  That doesn't apply to my classes most days.  Does this really make my class a free-for-all?  Allowing the students to get up whenever they want to get a tissue, get a pair of headphones, help another students, grab a large whiteboard, or ask me a question must make my classroom a joke.  

But it's not all bad...

This whole flipped mastery thing is changing my career.  Now that I'm not lecturing every period all period long, I have time to get to know my students.  There are some students with baggage that they just want someone to hear about.  I have had more conversations in the hallway with my students this year than all of the other years of my career combined.  One student declared the other day that I was her favorite teacher because I actually care about her. 

I usually lose my voice twice a year.  Once in the fall and once in the spring.  I didn't lose my voice this fall.  I guess not having the project my voice for 5-6 hours a day will prevent that.  

As the students are getting accustomed to this model, they are finding that their classmates are very knowledgeable and willing the help.  I have a student who beautifully explains the vertical line test.  Each time a student has a question about determining if a graph is a function, I refer them to her.  Many students will use a large white board and teach each other, or work on problems together.  I also like this because they are writing larger and I can see their work as I walk by. 

I would love to have a testing center, a place where students can go to take tests when they are ready. I just need to get a few more teachers on board with flipped mastery.

Will I ever go back?  Not likely.



Saturday, November 8, 2014

Systems of Inequalities and the Crazy Hot Matrix

One day when I saw one of my less-than-motivated-yet-bright students "teaching" his table mates with a large white board, I was intrigued.  Basically, he was repeating what he learned on youtube about the Crazy/Hot Matrix.  Unfortunately, this video is not appropriate for the classroom, but look at all the possible ideas you could get from it.





Here's how I see using something like this in the classroom:

The students are grouped in 3s and 4s and decide if they are going to create the male chart or the female chart.  Or even the parent chart, best friend chart, business partner chart, etc.  The students pick two characteristics for the axes.  They could use crazy (I like sanity) vs hot (I like looks).  Or they could come up with their own, such as work ethic, age, education, personality, whatever.
Next they would need to come up with zones.  I'd say at least 3 to 4 zones.  And create the inequalities that bound those zones.  Maybe even a few ordered pairs representing celebs or fictional characters??????

 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Shoe Challenge

In my district, you are rewarded for using technology.  The more you use, the more you get.  When I asked my IT guy for a subscription to mathalicious.com, there was almost no hesitation.  I don't know about the teenage boys in your district, but the first thing they do in my district when they get their hands on a laptop is look at sneakers.  More specifically the flight club website.   I noticed that mathalicious has a few lessons that involve shoes...those teenage boys were hooked.  We did the Big Foot Conspiracy lesson and the debate was awesome.

Here's what the students think:  52% of my students thought that the price of shoes should be the same no matter what the size.  The other 48% thought that shoe prices should be based on weight.

The lesson that mathalicious created asks students to use the price and the weight of the shoe to determine the unit price.  Then use the unit price to change the price of other weighted shoes.  It was eye opening for some students.  The most interesting part was when students asked why the unit price increased for the heavier shoes.  Great conversations!!

I used one of the extended activities from mathalicious and slightly tweaked it.  I challenged the students to go to zappos and find any two pairs of shoes and discuss the price, the weight, and the unit price of both in an educreations video.  The reward?  Fifteen Oswald Dollars.

Here is a link to my class website with the results.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Dice Challenge

In the previous post I mentioned that I challenge students to do certain things that will not effect their grades, but could earn them some Oswald Dollars.  After we completed The Best Die activity, I challenged my students to create two dice that would tie in theory.  They could write any positive integers on the six faces of the dice, but it still had to have a sum of 21.  Students who were able to do this received 5 Oswald Dollars.  Below are the results.







Friday, September 19, 2014

Lego Hotel Project

I am going to share my Lego Hotel Project with you.  This project is a cross between Fawn Nguyen and Andrew Stadel's Hotel Snap Activity and gamification.  I loved that the Hotel Snap activity was so open ended, and motivated students to collaborate, problem-sovle, brainstorm, etc.  I can go on and on here, it's just a fabulous activity and I wanted more.  Instead of the activity being a one day thing, I decided to make it a quarter-long thing (some students are asking for year long).

I started by thinking of a way that students could earn Legos rather than be given them and I came up with a classroom currency called "Oswald Dollars".  I started the year with the One Dollar Bill printed on green paper.



But then I was wasting time counting out so much money, I started printing the Five Dollar Bills too, printed on pink paper:



Now that I had a currency, I needed a way for students to earn it.  


The first way to earn Oswald Dollars is through passing tests.  You should know that I am using flipped mastery in all my classes this year, so students are working through the curriculum at their own pace.  I provide the students with a pacing guide to keep them moving.  If a student passes a Proficiency test before the pacing guide suggestion, he receives $6; after the pacing guide $4.  If a student passes a High Performance test before the pacing guide, he receives $10; after the pacing guide $8.  I wanted to reward them for HP especially since many kids were blowing it off the past few years.  

Another way students can earn money is through challenges that I post on my website.  I will be sharing some of these in another post.  

Last night was open house.  As students and parents entered my classroom I handed each person an Oswald Dollar.  The parents loved it.

I've been threatening to make students pay Oswald Dollars to me for misbehavior.  You know? stuff that you really don't want to write-up but it's annoying.  

Now that the students are earning money, here is how they can spend it.  


There are four types of Legos that the students can purchase with their Oswald Dollars:

1. Base Plates.  The price of these are based on the number of 'dots' it has.  My formula dots/8+3.  The students can't build until they purchase a base plate.



2. Regular 2x2 Lego Bricks ($5)



3. Special Lego Bricks ($6).  These are cylindrical, transparent bricks.



4. Decorative pieces ($7).  Trees, shrubs, flowers, etc.




Each group pools their money together and makes decisions together about what bricks to buy and how to build their hotels for the most profit.


Profit and Taxes on Hotels

Much of the following information was either stolen or inspired by the Hotel Snap activity I linked above...make sure you go there and see what they have written.

Hotel profit regular bricks:
I like to think of the regular bricks as your run-of-the-mill hotel room.  Nothing special here.
Each regular room on the first floor brings in a profit of $100; 2nd floor $120, 3rd floor $140, etc.

Hotel profit special bricks:
The special bricks represent themed rooms like the jungle room, or the disco room, etc.  
Each themed room on the first floor brings in a profit of $110; 2nd floor $130, 3rd floor $150, etc.


With taxes, the higher the hotel the higher the tax rate.  

Hotels that are 1 story high pay 15% in taxes, 2 stories --> 20%, 3 stories --> 25%, etc.


Property Value


I knew what would happen with the project, each group would compete with their classmates to make the most profitable hotel.  I didn't want this.  I wanted to class to work together somehow.  This is where property value comes in.  For each decorative piece the class has on their hotels, the profit increase 1%.  For instance, if a class collectively has a total of 11 decorative pieces, the profit for each hotel in the class will increase by 11%.


Income Sheets:


Each groups is required to fill out an income sheet report each week and turn it in by the end of the day Friday.  The income sheet is similar to a tax form.  It basically takes the students by the hand to fill in to information.  It's interesting to see how many students struggle to follow the basic directions.  It's great practice though for when they have to pay real taxes.

The Results (so far)


We're really only about two weeks into the project so far and the students a getting into it.  I posted the results on the class website so students can monitor how their hotel stack up (get it?  Stack up.) against other hotels.



Here are a few examples:




I have the window sill set up by class.  You can see my attempt at roads.  The students love checking out other classes hotels and how many decorative pieces each one has.  I found that these students will do almost anything for Oswald dollars.  



Here are the resources:



Saturday, August 16, 2014

Probability Activity - Adapted from Stone Librande

In my last post I wrote about a Probability Activity created by Stone Librande.  In this post I will adapt what he has created, but the credit goes to him.

Activity #1:  Create the Best Die


Give each student a blank die (or stickers on a regular die that they could write on).  Each student can write any number they want on each of the sides, but they still need to have a sum of 21.  Also, the students cannot use the number combination 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.    Game play is that two students each roll their die, the player with the bigger number gets a point.  This is repeated until one of the students has 10 points.  The students keep switching partners to see how many times they can win.

After the students have used experimentation to determine the best die, take a look at why.
Suppose Player one used the numbers 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4 on his die, and player 2 used the numbers 0, 2, 2, 4, 5, and 8 on his.  Below is a chart of the different outcomes.  Gray is a tie, blue is a win for player 1, and red is a win for player 2.  You can see out of 36 outcomes player 1 would win 18 times, player 2 would win 15 times, and they would tie 3 times.  The corresponding probabilities:  50%, 42%, and 8%.


At this point you could challenge the students to create a die that would always win.  I'm not sure that this is possible, but see where the students take you.  

Activity #2:  Create the Best Space Ship


You can find some information for this on Stone Librande's website.  Use this link, scroll down to 7) and click on Squoddron Odds Chart (Excel file).  This will lead you to all the possible outcomes but there are no directions.  That's where I will try to fill in.  

I decided to play against my son to make sure everything made sense.  So here goes nothing...

First you are going to need a 4-sided, 6-sided, 8-sided, and 10-sided die for each student.




Each student should draw a spaceship that has one engine, two weapons, and one shield.  Here is my spaceship:



And here is my son's spaceship:



Once you have your ships, place one die on the engine, one on the shield, and the other two on each weapon.  Which die on which part you ask.  That's the magic of this activity.  Each person gets to decide for themselves.  A person who thinks that the engine (or speed) is the most important will put the 10-sided die on that.  A player who things that offense is the most important will put the 10-sided die on a weapon.  You get the idea. 




Now you are ready to play.  You start this by decided who is going to attack first (you will take turns attacking each other).  Then both players roll their engine die at the same time.


We started with my son attacking me.  He used his 10-sided die for his engine and I used my 4-sided die for my engine.  He rolled a 7 and I rolled a 2.  Since he rolled a higher number than I did, his engine is faster than mine and he was able to attack me.  
Next he rolled both of his weapon dice (6-sides and 8-sided) while I rolled my shield die (10-sided).  He rolled a 4 and a 3; I rolled a 6.   Since my shield was a greater number than both of weapon numbers, I deflected both of his shots and he did not win the battle. 

Next we switched rolls.  We continued this back and forth until one of us won 5 battles.  At this point, the students would find another person to battle with, preferably winners vs. winners to have a class winner.  


Notes:

If the person attacking rolls a number lower than the defender, there is no battle because the attacker wasn't able to go fast enough to get to the other spaceship.    

If the engines roll the same number an attack will take place.

If a weapon and a shield roll the same number, the shot is deflected.

After playing a few rounds, I wanted to switch the position of my dice as I imagine my students might want to do.  This would be a good time to have discussions with them as to why they would want to change things around.  

BTW my son won.  












Saturday, August 2, 2014

Edugaming Workshop 2014 - A Reflection

Every summer two professors at the local community college hold an Edugaming workshop.  Mary Rasley and Steven Weitz received a grant from NSF to do this.  You can tell they are both very passionate about what they do and you can't help but be swept away with their enthusiasm.  They have it set up so that you work hands-on and listen to presentations for four days during the summer as you begin to create a game that you could use in your classroom.  A few months later we all come together again to present the games we created and used with our students.  But wait...there's more!!  Just this past year, the grant was extended (is that the right word?) so that their computer programming students would take our physical games and make them digital.  If you've been following my blog you are aware that I took advantage of this opportunity to have Bounty Hunter: Rise Up and Run become a digital game.

Monday, July 28, 2014


Today we had an excellent speaker, Stone Librande.  You can visit his website here, but I have to warn you, once you go there, you may never want to leave.  Stone seems to believe in doing to learn, and of course he was right.  We started the Workshop by playing games with people we barely knew.  However, after playing some games with them we formed a bond.  We knew each other's names, we were cheering each other on, and we were learning about game design.  If you are interested in the game Stone took us through, you can learn more about it here on his website.

He spoke to us more about game design and shared a few examples.  I left the workshop feeling inspired and motivated.

One image I want to share (thank you desmos) is what gamers call "Flow".  I created this image to share where you want your students to be, in the dark blue area.  If you have a student represented by the purple point, they're probably bored, the material is too easy.  A student represented by the orange point is frustrated, because the material is too hard.  But a students represented by the black point, is in flow.  This student is working on material that matches his skill level. Mr. Librande recommended creating games that grow with the student.  As the students' skills increase, then the challenge of the game increases and vice versa.



Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Stone was there to present in the morning session.  For this, he went over 19 Games in 19 Years.  You want to be inspired to create a game?  Listen to him talk about the games he has created.  Here is a link to 15 Games in 15 Years.  The writer of that article has listed some of the tips that Mr. Librande shared.  I looked at the faces of my cohorts as he was speaking and you could tell we were all in awe of what he has done and created.  If you didn't leave his presentation wanting to take on the gaming world, you weren't paying attention.

Here are some notes that I took:


  • Create games with your students
  • Make rules around the pieces
  • Give pieces personality
  • Create characters with special powers (ex. a witch who can put a time limit on another player)
  • Give players something to fiddle with when it's not their turn
  • Consider having two victory conditions (this or that)
  • Asymmetric rules and game (players have different rules)
  • All players think at the same time, then everyone executes at the same time
  • Technology is good enough to create your own game pieces
  • Design from a title
  • Let players "play" as themselves
  • Follow the fun (watch the players and notice when they're having fun)
  • Play-by-mail game
  • Make your own personal games, "I'm going to make a game to play with YOU."
    • Think small
    • Think long term
    • Challenge yourself


Since there were quite a few math teachers in attendance (almost half) he walked us through a probability lesson.  It was powerful to participate in this activity because we were asking each other questions that you would never see on a worksheet, we were having fun, and we were a little competitive.  Well, I was a little competitive.  I wasn't able to find any links to this activity on his website, so I will try to share what I remember from this activity in a later post.

In the afternoon we were led by John Nardone, an English professor at LCCC.  He walked us through a writing exercise and spoke to us about story elements in a game.  This was the first session where we were specifically asked to think about our game project.  We were encouraged to have a game that included a setting and a goal condition.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


The morning session was led by Mary Rasley and Steven Weitz.  They have created a framework, or step-by-step model, to help us created educational games.


  1. Identify a specific concept to reinforce (very narrow)
  2. Analysis:  Break the concept into its component parts
  3. Consider the essence of the knowledge those components represent.  In other words, what is the meaning of each part?
  4. The essence becomes the core gameplay using the components
  5. Determine what the user experience (UE) will be.
  6. Build the rest of the game around the core.
  7. Refine the game through iterative play-testing.  
This session was great because they gave us some thinking time after the presentation of each step.  This allowed us to work on our individual games and refine it.

The afternoon session was lead by Jason Malozzi, a Mathematics professor at LCCC.  He spoke with us about the different probabilities in games and how this is important for balance.  Play-testing will get you past this but that is the looooooong way.  The one exercise he led us through was eye-opening as a game designer, even though I know all this as a math teacher.  Are you familiar with the game Yahtzee?  He asked us why they didn't include a pair in the game.  They have three of a kind, full house, small straight, and large straight, but no pair.  We started with some experimental probability, but the theoretical probably determine that with 5 dice a player would roll a pair 90% of the time.  Not too exciting.  This example is most likely obvious to many of us, but there are more complicated examples that are not.

I just want to point out that Mr. Malozzi was an amazing teacher.  He was funny, caring, and knowledgable.  If you live in the area of LCCC and want to actually learn some math, take one of his courses.  Just saying.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014


The first half of the morning session was led by Mark Barlet.  Mr. Barlet is the founder of Able Gamers.  Please take a minute to check out their website.  You will be truly amazed.  #includification

He can say anything better than I ever could.  Take a look at one of their youtube videos: