Friday, December 12, 2014

Give Meaning to Numbers with Technology

A colleague and I were talking about math problems a few days ago.  He told me that he really likes to give meaning to numbers because it helps the students put the numbers in context.  I completely agree. We were working on percents at the time in my Introduction to Algebra class so I decided to give a little more meaning to my percentages.  Here is what I did.

Since my students have laptops,  I had them go to and pick out an item that they liked. They got to choose a 15% off, 20% off, or 30% off coupon.  (I thought they all would pick the 30% coupon too, but they didn't)  Take the price of that item and reduce it by the coupon amount.  Then they were asked to add on 8% tax.  Lastly they had to post their work to a site where all could see their work.  You can see their work too:  Padlet is a great tool for student collaboration.   

Here is the progression of the assignment
1.  Find an item at  Find the price.  (even if it is already discounted)
2.  Choose a 15% or 20% or 30% off coupon.
3.  Reduce the price by the amount on the coupon.
4.  Take the new price and add 8% tax to it.  
5.  Show your picture and all your work on a common padlet site for all to see.

What were the big takeaways?
1.  They learned the material without a bunch of problems without meaning.
2.  Choice.  It gave students a choice for what they wanted to work on.
3.  Pride.  When we shared these out, there was a lot of pride happening.
4.  Recall.  A student asked a question on the test and I just said "Do you remember what you did with the Kohl's activity" and they said, "Oh yeah"
5.  Engagement.  This activity took about one 50 minute period. They were diligently working the whole time.
6.  Accountability.  All students could see all the posts.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Shadowing a Student for a Day

I was a student in high school again today.  Wow, what an experience.  Shadowing a student  has helped me to know better how to teach my current students.  I can know a little bit better what is going on in their world.  Here was the schedule for the day:  Algebra 2, Chemistry, Digital Art, US History, PE ( swing dancing), Lunch, Study Hall, and English.  

Here are some things that I got out of the day.

1.  I'm exhausted.
This was mentally and physically taxing today.  I was wiped out by 7th period.  I had one more period to go.  Our students really put in a lot of energy into the school day.  And most have some type of extra curricular activity after school.
How I might modify my teaching:  Empathize and adjust the outside of class workload.

2.  I sat in a chair a lot today.  I being a math teacher calculated how much time in minutes I was in my chair.  303 minutes in my chair.  Almost all of the chairs were swivel chairs which helped.  However, that is a lot of time just sitting.
How I might modify my teaching:  Create more activities that encourage movement.  Give more choices for students to be able to move around during class.

3.  Our students are learning a lot in one day.  I took notes in every class.  My notes turned out to be 7 pages long.  It was a ton of information.  It was engaging material.  I really loved learning these new things. I also wanted to create something instead of just learning about something.  
How I might modify my teaching:  Be efficient.  Be concise.  Don't  give busy work.  Have a purpose with everything I give my students. Have students CREATE more.

4. We have excellent students and staff at our school.  I really wish I could be back in school.  The teachers were engaging and passionate about what they do.  The students were respectful and were very cooperative.
How I might modify my teaching:  Tell my students how much I appreciate them.  Enjoy the moment and the journey.  I have a wonderful job.  Show how much I enjoy teaching.

5.  I got to know the teacher very well in one class period.  What it made me ponder was "do my students know if I know them?"
How I might modify my teaching:  I need to know my students.  I need to show them individual time.  Students deserve individual attention.

Kyle, You were the perfect host.  I can't thank you enough for letting me into your world.  It was eye opening.  I appreciate what you go through a lot better now that I was in your shoes for a day.  Thank you!

Random Thoughts

  • We did a Brain Break in the middle of one of the lessons.  That was FUN!
  • I'm pretty sure I was the only one in the cafeteria who had a hard boiled egg in their lunch.
  • Jessica helped me out in PE swing dancing.  Thank you for being very patient with my 2 left feet.  I really was nervous
    about this part of the day. 
  • MY EYES ARE BAD.  I realized right away that I couldn't see the board as clearly as I thought I could.  (must have something to do with being 50! haha)
  • THANK YOU for inventing Swivel Chairs.  
  • The lunch table talk was blunt but enlightening.  
  • I almost made Kyle late because I had to use the bathroom between classes.  It made me a lot more sensitive to allowing students to go to the bathroom during class. 
  • My mind wondered a lot.  There is a lot of dead time in the day to be able to do this.  I tried to stay focused but was a little tired.  
  • I really liked math class.  I guess it is a good thing I'm a math teacher.  
  • I never had an interest in the Great Gatsby until the class today.  Now I'm very intrigued. 
  • Hacky sack is a tough game.  To get someone else out you need to juggle at least 4 times.  I only did 2.  I was out pretty quick.  
  • I'm really humbled to be a teacher.  It is quite a responsibility.  I don't want to ever take for granted the charge I have.  
  • I took 7 pages of notes today.  An organization system is a must for students.  

Here is my journey on Twitter Storyify Journey 

Now, I challenge you to Shadow a Student for a Day!  Ask your principal today and DO IT.  You will be pushed out of your comfort zone, but you will never regret it.  Let me know how your journey goes.
My Very Best,

Friday, October 24, 2014

Hashtag Closure

This was really fun.  My students loved it.  And it was different.  It brought out relevance and personality to the class.  It also gave a voice to some of my students.  Give it a try.  Thanks to my colleague Mary Martin (Via Steve Stack)  who gave me this idea.  

Ask your students to make a hashtag summary for the topic of the day (or week, or unit, or ?)  I used it as I closed the day out. Then ask them to share them out with the rest of the class.  You can share out results on the board.  Then have students vote on them.  Students loved it.  For those of you who do not know what a hashtag is…A hashtag is a word or an unspaced phrase prefixed with the hash character, # , to form a label.  Hashtags are used in social media as a type of tag to group information.  #postseason #edchat

I did this with my precalculus student's and they put a few things that were terrific and some things that were just plain funny.  We were studying rational functions and vertical asymptotes.
#ZeroDenom  #FindTheZerosInTheDenominator Some funny ones were #AskMrSladkey #Desmos.  I was talking about something the next day in class and said "remember the hashtag closure" from yesterday.  It was a great brain trigger.

Mary taught me to use to share out results.  It is so easy.  I had never used it before last week.
  •          Log into  and then teacher sign in. Go to Sign up.  Then go to profiles and change your room name to your last name.
  •         Go to quick question.  Then click Short Answer question.  Type in your question.  Require students names.  Click Start
  •         Have your students go to and go to the student sign in.  ( I had my students use their phones)  Have them use your room name.  They don’t need to sign up.
  •         When they answer the question it will show up on your screen for all to see.  After all have entered their answer, then vote on the result.

I hope you can give it a try today.


Sunday, October 5, 2014

Shifting to the use of Desmos and Geogebra Online Graphing Calculators


Wow.  This is fun.  I can't believe how easy it is to put math into our student's hands.  It is fast too. With a simple url link I have given my students many activities in seconds that takes them DIRECTLY to the concept.  This year I have really shifted my thinking away from the hand-held graphing calculator to the online calculators Desmos and Geogebra.  I use both for different purposes.  This post is a little about my journey this year.

For my day to day work, I have my students take out their smart-phones, or their iPads, or their school administered tablets and use Desmos free online graphing calculator.  For class activities, I often use Geogebratube.  This is easy way to challenge students with a math "scenario" online.

This week we were reviewing quadratics and I gave this "challenge" to my classes.  They had to navigate a MAZE with lines and parabolas.  Here is the actual activity that I gave them.    Notice it is an easy to use to type in link.  (This is called a url alias and I use the free website called to set this up)   I  also made a short video for help clues too.  Not everyone needed it. 
Here are a couple of comments my students have made about Desmos.  One was how he liked Desmos because the he could see both the graph and the equation at the same time.  He didn't have to go back and forth from the equation to the image.  Another student said they like the fact that they could find the graph so easily.  You can just use your fingers to pinch the screen and you can locate the graph.  Whereas while using a handheld graphing calculator you have to go back and forth from window to graph, to finally get the right graph screen.
This is how one student solved it.  There is so much math here.  The students really talk the talk too.

One video that really inspired my use of Desmos was by @bobloch on twitter he shared this demonstration on inequalities.  Check this out.  

I have always had a hard time explaining increasing and decreasing.  This turtle Geogebra activity really helped my students visualize what increasing and decreasing is and how it is represented.

You can see that there is a ton of material that can be used with Desmos and Geogebra.  Go and explore.  Let me know how it goes.  My twitter name is @dsladkey.  I'd love to hear from you.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

5 Random Technology PD (Professional Development) Thoughts

Technology is tricky. Everyone is at a different place. So PD (Professional Development) time is very important. Here are a few random thoughts that have been rolling around my head since our latest Technology PD day.

1.  Whole group "how to" technology training rarely works. Most of the time 1/3 of the people are bored, 1/3 are with you and 1/3 are completely lost and frustrated. Group "how to" technology training certainly has it's place at times but should be avoided if possible.  

2.  Let the computer teach the "how to" technology through tutorials and a self guiding pace.  Offer 1 to 1 help for the very few who can't do self guided. 

3.  Design PD activities that model good teaching practice (above the SAMR bar or higher in Blooms taxonomy) and forces the use of the technology within the activity. This way you can show a good teaching idea and you can help them learn a new technology. 

4.  More than a half day of whole group technology PD is too much.   If you want a whole day of PD then maybe half the day is spent in a whole group atmosphere and half is spent in very small groups  or with a partner or alone.   

5.  I think some self reflection time must be built in to our PD.  i.e.  15 minutes of journal time reflecting on the things you have learned and the questions you still have out there.   We put a lot of emphasis on closure in the classroom, and rightly so. Self reflection is a type of individual closure that will help us process what we've just learned and help us remember it. 

I welcome your random thoughts or comments. 

Thursday, June 5, 2014

10 Reasons Why I think the TI-84 is on the way OUT!

Yesterday a colleague told me she overheard some students talking about how they never used their TI-84 at home.  She pursued the discussion and they said that they use DESMOS the online calculator all the time at home.   I think the use of it will go away slowly.  But it will happen.

The TI-84 (or TI-83) has been a fixture in my classes for many many years.  It has been a requirement on my syllabus.  It is something that I would daily ask my students to take out and work with.  I can't count the number of tutorials I've made to help use the TI-84.  It has been a go-to device for CONCEPTUAL learning.  But things are changing.

My Prediction.  Our school will not be requiring the TI-84 in the school year 2015-2016.  I have no authority to make that call.  I'm just making a prediction.  Our school goes 1 to 1 that year.  In my opinion, the days of every student having a TI-84 are going away.  Why?  Because other things are passing it up. And the thing that is passing it up is NOT another Graphing Calculator.  It is the Internet with web based interactions and  apps.


10 Reasons why I think the  TI-84 will NOT be required at our school in 15-16 
1.  Touch Screen
Students are getting frustrated with the TI-84 because it doesn't offer a touch screen.  The touch screen on a SMART-Phone or a tablet helps with finding the right window, editing data, sliders, and a bunch of other cool things. Also, the mouse is even better than the awkward navigation system of the TI-84.   I have tried to physically touch the TI-84 screen many times.  That's embarrassing.

2.   Ease of Use
As technology gets easier and easier to use.  The TI-84 seems to be more and more confusing to use.

3.  Size of Screen
A computer screen is a lot bigger than a TI-84 screen.  And a SMART-Phone screen is equivalent to a TI-84 screen.

Why should we ask our students to pay $100 if our students will have constant access to a district owned device?  (i.e. tablet, Surface or Chrome book)  EVERYTHING that a TI-84 can do, a district owned device can do.

5.  1 to 1
Our district will likely go 1 to 1 in the 2015-16 school year. Every student will have a district owned device like a tablet at that time.  It doesn't make sense to have both devices.

6.  Data Exchange
The TI-84 system of exchanging data is old and outdated.  Basically it is useless.  For me to get something onto my student's calculator is nightmarish.  (It used to be really cool)  But, because the transfer of data is so easy with phones, and computers, and  tablets, that the technology of the TI-84 is really getting in the way of collaboration.  Remember, it used to be so cool to give your students a program or some data via the cord that goes between the calculators.  There is way too much teaching time wasted on account of this.  The students know a lot of ways to get information to each other that does not require a cord.

7.  Finding the Right Window
I have forever said that finding the right window is a great math skill on the TI-84.  However, I think I have been bypassed with the love of this skill.  The ease of a computer or tablet to get the right screen is far superior to the TI-84.

8.  Animations/Sliders
Sliders offer a hands on approach to math.  It encourages participation with the activity, with low risk high reward outcomes.

9.  Apps and Programs
The Internet math based apps are gaining momentum.  It's getting easier and easier to use math notation on the Internet.

10. Internet Based Math 
Desmos, Geogebra, LaTeX, online calculators etc.  This is just the beginning.  

Standardized Tests are the problem. I don't know what will happen with these.  The TI-84 has been a fixture for an acceptable device on the standardized tests for a long time.  With the PARCC online testing, this might be changing too.

TI-84 may you Rest In Peace.  It is time to move on.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Graphing Polar Equations with Desmos (online graphing calculator) and Padlet (online bulletin board)

This was easy.
We had just covered polar equations in precalculus. I then told each student they should make a cool design using 10 or less equations. Wow. They really loved it. They explored well beyond what we covered in class.

1. Log into and either sign in or sign up.
2. Make a desmos polar graph using 10 or less equations.  Use r= equations and use theta as your variable. Also you can use a polar background if you like.
3.  They should save their graph in desmos. (you can only do this if you are logged in)  Then click on share which gives you a link. Save that link.
3.  Then they had to log into the site URL that I gave them. Here it is:  They double click anywhere on the screen to make a post. I had them put their name and then put the desmos link right in the post.   I have put a picture of the padlet site.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes.