Monday, August 12, 2013

I'm Still Deciding about Flipping the Classroom

The Flipped Classroom Craze is out.  I'm still not completely sold on it.  I need more convincing that it will work for me.   (Flipping the class is having students do traditional classwork at home online through videos or websites and then doing activities and homework in class)  Here are my thoughts.  Please give me yours.  

  • There is value in having students doing preparatory work before class instead of work that is all after the fact (homework)
  • I like the idea of having more 1 on 1 time with my students.
  • Homework will get a better start because you will have a network of people including the teacher to help you.
  • Differentiated learning is much easier to accomplish in this setting.
  • Watching a video is not always the best way of learning something
  • Class discussions and engaging activities are vital in the learning process and they might be limited in the completely flipped classroom.
  • The classroom environment will be less about the whole team and more about the individual
  • Structured learning will decrease
  • Not all students have easy access to the internet. 

Moot Point
  • Not all students will prepare for the class.  This means that in the flipped classroom they might not do the prep work before class.  In the traditional class they might not do the homework.

I think a combination of flipping and regular might be a possibility for me.  I'm not ready to jump ship completely to flipped, but I like many of the Pros of flipping the classroom.  One thing I do know is that I don't want my students to watch a long "lecture" every night.  I would have to incorporate great online investigations (Geogebra or Desmos Calculator activities)  and some things they could discover on their own and then gather them back the next day to discuss what they did.


Friday, July 12, 2013

Helping our MATH students through EXERCISE!

Please join me in a Move and Learn Journey.  Paul Zientarski talks about how we can use PE Class and Math Class to work together to help our students.   Paul Zientarski was the PE Department Chair at Naperville Central High School for many years.  He was the pioneer along with Phil Lawler for the Learning Readiness PE Program (LRPE).  More information is at his website  There a a few videos that you will find very interesting.  I have listed them here:

Why do kids do better in school after exercise? 
What happens to your brain after you exercise? 
A Program that has PE directly before MATH and ENGLISH Classes: LRPE 
What Steps Should a PE Teacher take to start a LRPE (Learning Readiness Physical Education) Prog
What is the Ideal PE class to help students physically and academically? 
There is tremendous value in heart rate monitors in school part 1 
There is tremendous value in heart rate monitors in school part 2 
There are challenges when implementing the LRPE prgram 
What a student should do BEFORE their Standardized Test. 
What roles do the Administrator and Classroom Teacher play in the LRPE program 

Paul Zientarski is a retired PE Teacher and Instructional Coordinator at Naperville Central High School in Naperville IL.  He along with Phil Lawler are the pioneers of the "Learning Readiness P.E. program.  This is where students take an activity based PE class before their core academic classes like Math and English.  He is a speaker and consultant.  You can follow Paul at @PaulZientarski on twitter.  His website is at


Friday, June 28, 2013


Do MATH!  This summer I keep on thinking how I want my students to do math.  Actually DO MATH.  Meaning I want them to use their hands to explore and accomplish MATH.  I want them to measure with a ruler or tape measure.  I want them to use a protractor.  I want them to investigate with some actual data that they have collected.  I want them to construct.  I want them to cut and paste.  I want them to use pipe cleaners.  I want them to use Wikistix to create a graph.  They should be actually constructing something and numbers should be going through their heads.

Let me give you two phrases and you choose the one you like the best.
1.  Regurgitate math
2.  Experience math
Exactly.  I would choose 2 also.  But what do we make our students choose time and time again? Yep, #1.  

Here is the origin of this idea Do MATH.  Last spring I had my Precalculus students use a 30-60-90 triangle in a video.  Basically they had to construct a 30-60-90 triangle to help them explain some other concept that we were covering. Interestingly, the students didn't have any trouble with the concept we were covering but they did have major questions of "How do I make a 30-60-90 triangle?"  This was just mind-boggling to me.  These are the students who could tell you the exact distances of each side of a 30-60-90 triangle for just about any length of any side.  Now they wanted to know how to construct it?  Well, I had to rethink my own teaching.  Have I ever taught them how to make a 30-60-90 triangle?  Have they ever had the practical end of the trigonometry?  So I realized that my students are not at fault.  I AM AT FAULT!!!!!  I need to have my students DO MATH.  I will make time because I don't want my students to walk out of my class without some practical knowledge of their math instead of just theory.

Here are the ideas that I have been thinking about.  I have included the level for when this might be covered. You will notice there are a lot of Introduction to Algebra and Precalculus Ideas.  That is what I'm teaching now.
1.  Precalculus:  Construct a 30-60-90 triangle with cardboard or some other material.  One side must be at least 10 inches.   Justify in two ways that you know this is exactly a 30-60-90 triangle.    Others:  Construct a 45-45-90 triangle.
2.  Introduction to Algebra:  Build a Balance Scale.  Use any materials needed for the project.  You will be using pennies as your "weights".  You will be required to show the penny weight of a few different objects.  Notes:  I see this as an important link in how to solve equations.  This scale could be used when solving different equations.
3.  Introduction to Algebra:  Create a number line on the floor with blue masking tape.  You should mark out the numbers from -5 to 5.  Each number should have 10.5 inches between them.  You will be using these to add and subtract integers by standing up and moving to a problem.
4.  Precalculus:  Make a WikiStix parabola.  You must make it to be at least 15 inches in one direction.  You must be ready to justify why you know this is a parabola.   You must give the equation for the parabola.
Other ideas:  Create a sine graph. Create a  tangent graph.
5.  Introduction to Algebra:  Create a circle and  rectangle that have exactly 50 square inches of area inside.
6.  Precalculus:  Create a WikiStix triangle that shows how the ambiguous case is solved.

I have so many questions about this.
1.  Should I have a DO MATH day?  This might take up the whole class period.
2.  Should I have a DO MATH segment?  This would take up only a 15 minute class segment.
3.  How often should this happen?  Once a week?  Once a month?
4.  Ideas?  I definitely would need some ideas for this to occur.  See below for my short list.  Please comment and add to them.

All the Best,

Monday, May 13, 2013

Top 10 Important Things from this Semester (SMARTBoard Notebook File)

The Sunday School Teacher in Church yesterday made a Top 10 activity with bible stories.  He put 10 poster sized papers on the wall that had information on it.  The posters were folded to hide the info.  He then asked us to guess his top 10 miracles of Jesus.  People guessed and then he revealed any that were accurately given.  He had made a key so that when people guessed, he could just look at his key and find the right poster to reveal.  I decided that was a pretty cool idea and modified it for my class.  I'm using it for my final exam review sessions.  You can see a few of the slides below.  I had the students work with their partner to come up with a few guesses so in case they got called, they would be ready.  Feel free to download and edit as much or as little as you like.

Opening Slide

Slide Number 1

Monday, April 29, 2013

Graphing Polar Coordinates with your FEET. Move and Learn!

This video demonstrates students plotting polar coordinates by actually moving their feet. It's just another way to move and learn. When you physically plot the point with your feet it cements the process in your mind. Use blue masking tape on the ground and plot some points with your students. It's as easy as that. 

The students are plotting the point (3, 150 degrees) on the ground.  They found out another way to plot it was (3, -210 degrees)

I would you encourage you to buy some blue tape and plot ANY type of point or graph with FEET!  You will be amazed at the retention that your students will have.

Want more move and learn? 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Reverse Your Questions: Energizing Teaching Tools


Pick a question that you asked today in class.  Try to reverse the question.  Make the answer the question and the question the answer.  You might notice the question might be a lot more open ended?  Is it a higher level question than your original?    So next time you are making a worksheet, reverse a few of your questions and mix them in along side some of your original type questions.  Then see if your worksheet has a better mix of conceptual and procedural questions.  

Geometry:  Original Question:  What is the area of this parallelogram given the height is 4 cm and the base is 10 cm?  Reversed Question:  Find the base and height of a parallelogram given the area is 40 square cm.

Algebra:  Original Question:  Solve this equation   5x + 10 = 30  Reversed Question:  Find a two step equation that has a solution of  x = 4.

Precalculus:  Original Question:  What is sin (30 degrees)?  Reversed Question:  Sin of what degree value(s)  give an answer of .5?


The page above is out of the book called "Energizing Teaching Tools"  More information is located at the website or at the blog post How to Measure Student Engagement?

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Desmos Online Calculator with SLIDERS

I love the Desmos Online Calculator. 
 It is easy to use.
Easy to Share.
You can Embed it. 
You can make sliders with it.
Give it a try.

Desmo Website
Library of Sliders

Here is a cool site full of examples from a class using Desmos
Here is one of those examples.  Click on it to make it interactive.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Partner/Group Work: The Student Engagement Wheel and Energizing Teaching Tools

This is one of the "spokes" of the Student Engagement Wheel.  The Student Engagement Wheel is show below.  Use the Student Engagement Wheel to help you measure the student engagement in your class.  

These are pages out of the book called "Energizing Teaching Tools"  More information is located at the website or at the blog post How to Measure Student Engagement?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Have Students Teach the Class: The Student Engagement Wheel

This is one of the "spokes" of the Student Engagement Wheel.  The Student Engagement Wheel is show below.  Use the Student Engagement Wheel to help you measure the student engagement in your class.  

These are pages out of the book called "Energizing Teaching Tools"  More information is located at the website or at the blog post How to Measure Student Engagement?

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Triangle Challenge: The Ambiguous Case Explored using Pipe Cleaners

I have always had trouble with teaching the Ambiguous Case.  It seemed that whatever I did, the explanation was not good enough.  The kids came out of my class with their heads exploding with all the things they had to remember.  A couple colleagues and I created a hands-on activity that really explores the heart of the ambiguous case and the Law of Sines SSA example.  After going through this lesson, I really feel like the students had a grasp on the ambiguous case conceptually.  My work is not finished, because I have to now finish the procedural process and we should be good..  The first video is the explanation of the original challenge.  The second and third videos where students explain their partial and full answers.

Triangle Challenge Rules and Guidelines   SMARTBoard Notebook Lesson      PDF Lesson
1.  Use one pipe cleaner that is 8 inches long (light colored) and put it as side two

2.  Angle A is exactly 30 degrees.
3.  Side one is a second pipe cleaner (darker color) and starts at 12 inches long.  It can be shortened by 1 inch increments.
4.  Create as many triangles as you can using the above restrictions.
5.  Hint:  There are more than 10 solutions.

The Challenge

A Student's Partial Solution

A Student's Full Solution

An interesting Solution

PIPE CLEANERS ARE A MUST FOR PRECALCULUS CLASS! See another blog post using pipe cleaners click here.

CLICK HERE FOR THE SMARTBOARD LESSON  (use must have notebook software to view this)


Happy Ambiguous Case Days ahead!!

Friday, March 22, 2013

Which is the best deal? Gatorade Introduction to Algebra Problem

Here is a Grocery Store problem.  I went to the store and video taped all the different Gatorade options.  (And yes, I did get some looks at the store)  My student's will have to decide which is the best deal.  I want my students to try to use problem solving skills to get at the best deal.  I want them to struggle a little bit with the complexity of the problem.  They will somehow need to get all of the 5 different options on the same unit measure playing field.   I have given a couple of answers below.  I was looking for students to justify their work with equations, diagrams or graphs.  They are not bound by any particular method.  However, they must show their work and give their answer in complete sentences.  In the video their is an example of what kind of work I expect.  I debated on whether to include this.  My end thinking was that I wanted them to see that their needed to be some work shown and a complete sentence answer. So I showed them a couple of solutions in the video.  But the exemplar solutions are NOT in the worksheet.

Of course I loved the traditional approach of figuring out the price per oz.  However, if you notice she also write that the Large Can was equal to 3 of the Smaller cans.  (24qts = 3(8qrts))  I love it.

This was a different student's paper.  This was another favorite answer because she wrote a diagram of two of the smaller bottles equaling the larger bottle.

All this really makes me realize how different we think.  I have to get myself out of teaching a certain method and saying that is the only way to do it.  It just is not right.  Think of your choice of cars.  Why are there so many cars choices out there?  It is because we all are different and like different things.  In math, it is the same way.  The plain and simple truth is that understanding our method of choice thoroughly first, then branching out to understanding other answer methods will benefit us.  I know I will forever be learning how to teach better.  This is exciting and daunting at the same time.  I will keep on trying to get better.

Let me know your thoughts?

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Will Froggy get to the other side of the Lake? Solving Trig Equations.


Froggy is a mechanical toy Frog.  He follows a sine wave path surfacing every 12 feet.  He dives down 7 feet from the surface along his path.  He is trying to get across Lake Tad which is 120 feet wide..  There is one problem, actually two.  There are two shallow places in the lake that if Froggy hits will break.  That's right.  Froggy will not make it if he hits those shallow spots.   The first low spot is 24 feet from the starting spot.  The second low spot is 51.5 feet from the ending spot.  The video actually will tell you a possible way of solving and the answer.  This is definitely not the only way to solve this question.
Click Here to get the Frogger Worksheet

This activity helps students put a few skills and concepts together.  They need to know how to build a trig equation.  They need to know how to graph a trig equation.  They need to recognize the periodic nature of the trig equation to spot the answer farther out on the graph.  

I had my students make a video of their answer.  I checked out the iPad cart for the day and had students make their videos on the app called DOCERI.  We then uploaded them to our content management system called CANVAS.  At the bottom of this blog, I am giving you an example of one of the solutions.


All the best,

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


I came across this yesterday and I really liked it.  I forget this all the time.  I tend to dwell on things I can't change rather than the things I can.  I am going to give this to my students and get their response.  What are your thoughts?

Choose Your Attitude
This may shock you, but I believe the single most significant decision I can make on a day-to-day basis is my choice of attitude. 

It is more important than my past, my education, my bankroll, my successes or failures, fame or pain, what other people think of me or say about me, my circumstances, or my position. 

Attitude . . . keeps me going or cripples my progress. It alone fuels my fire or assaults my hope. 

When my attitudes are right, there's no barrier too high, no valley too deep, no dream too extreme, no challenge too great for me.

Yet, we must admit that we spend more of our time concentrating and fretting over the things that can't be changed in life than we do giving attention to the one thing that can, our choice of attitude.

by Charles R. Swindoll

Friday, February 8, 2013

How can you Measure Student Engagement?

Have you ever wondered if your students are engaged in their learning?  I have often wondered this and wondered how I could measure it.  So, some colleagues and I have come up with what is called the "ENGAGEMENT WHEEL."   It is a way to reflect on an hour of your day that you have taught and try to give it an ENGAGEMENT score.  The higher the score the more engaged your class was.  The engagement wheel measures what your students are doing.

 The engagement wheel score is most accurate when looking at the same class repeatedly over a number of days.  This will insure the score's validity.

I have an example for you.  Tuesday during 4th period I received a score of 5.  I filled in the categories that were true for that hour.  I would take samples from a few days in a row to determine where I stand.  Also, from this activity it will become obvious which pie slices you are not doing regularly.

PDF Color and B/W are available with the purchase of  Engaging Teaching Tools Book


GET THE BOOK Engaging Teaching Tools The book covers the Engagement Wheel in detail and many more Teaching Tools.    To purchase the book please go to to a website   Amazon  Corwin Publishing  Barnes and Noble

Let me know what you think and how you have used this.  I would really appreciate the feedback.
My Very Best,

Monday, January 21, 2013

Energizing Teaching Tools

I just finished this book. I'm excited about this book because it will help students participate with you in their learning.  It is a call to student action in the classroom.  The first section of the book deals with measuring student engagement.  The second part of the book deals with specific tools to build student engagement.  You can view the table of contents below for the topics that will be covered.  ENERGIZING TEACHING TOOLS is an easy reading book that any teacher can open to find some valuable tools.  It is a spiral bound flip book that is full of quick, practical ideas to increase your class participation.  It has a laminated front and back cover with 75 card stock pages.  Pictured on the front cover is the Engagement Wheel which is a self-evaluation tool to help measure the engagement level of your students.  There are also 50 teaching tools to help build a positive classroom environment and to involve your students.  Energizing Teaching Tools includes sections on the Engagement Wheel, Questioning, Classroom Climate, Classroom Activities, Physical Changes in your Room, Attitude Adjustments and Dealing with Parents.  50% of the author’s profit will go to a Chicago Public School.  To purchase the book please go to to the website  To purchase the book please go to to a website   Amazon  Corwin Publishing  Barnes and Noble 

Other Resources by David Sladkey

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Having Your Students Set Goals

Today was a good day.  I really enjoyed talking with my students about the goals that they have set for my class.  I was proud of the things that they wrote down.  I was encouraged with their vision of what they want to do.  It just affirms to me that the more we INVOLVE our students in their education, the more they will OWN it.

Here is what I did.
1.  I gave my students a page of questions to answer regarding goals. (see below)  One of the questions was what was their word for the semester.  It was their homework assignment.  There was no other assignment besides this.  That was yesterday the first day of the semester.
2.  Next, I met with my students individually and talked about their goals. I first asked them what their word for the semester was and why.  Then that started them talking and I just scanned the rest of the goals and asked them to elaborate on a few.  That was today, the second day of the semester.  For your information, I had the rest of my students working on a technology assignment with a school set of iPads.

POSITIVES:  I had One on One contact with each of my students.   I could affirm some of my students directly instead of through assignments or assessments.  Grades were not a focus of our meeting.  I gained a deeper appreciation for my students.  I addressed some issues with students like a lack of homework completion or low test scores.

DRAWBACK:  It used a full day of class.

SOME WORDS FOR THE SEMESTER THAT MY STUDENTS CHOSE:  Focus, Tests, Determined, Study,  Finish, Consistent...

I'd love to hear how you have used goals to help your students stretch towards excellence.

Here is what I handed out.

Goals for Precalculus Semester 2    Name_____________

Homework Completion
I hope to complete what percent of all the assignments in the course.    _______%
I am planning on doing my homework in this location.   _________________________________
I plan on spending this much time per night working on homework:  ________
Other Homework Goals?

Homework Questions
I plan on taking these steps when I’m frustrated and can’t complete my homework:

Procedural and Conceptual
Math Teachers try to get a balance of 50% procedural understanding and 50% conceptual understanding. 
Where are you now?  Where do you hope to be?

The first 2 chapters of this course are extremely difficult.  (High Dive and Chapter 6 Trig functions)  However, once through these two chapters, the remainder of the course uses these concepts over and over.  How do you plan on mastering the first two chapters? 

Studying for math tests is difficult.  Besides studying the review homework, I plan on doing: 

Only for Seniors
Inevitably, seniors lose a little focus and passion for the course as May gets closer.  How do you plan on battling this?

Word for the Semester
Some possible words:  check, effort, preparation, tests, grade, excellence, understanding, believe, thorough…
My Word for the Semester is:  ______________   The reason I chose this word is…

No Easy Roads to Excellence
If you hope to do well in something there are no short cuts.   What are your thoughts on this? 

OPTIONAL:  Comment on your hopes for a overall % in this class

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Aim of Education is ACTION!

Here are some words that I associate with ACTION:

My goal this year is to have a classroom full of ACTION.

Do you have any words to add to the list?  Please comment.