For the third year in a row, my Algebra 1 class researched mathematicians and created a Fake Facebook wall for him/ her. (See projects from 2011 and 2012 here and here.) Each year, I reassess the project and make some changes and improvements. This year, given the number of snow days we had, I decided that introducing Diigo would be too much. I still wanted students to have a place to organize their research, and I wanted to be able to monitor it and give feedback. So, I created a googledoc Planning Sheet for their research, instead.
Here is the rubric for this year’s version of the project.
Here is a link to the planning sheet, which included the justification of all of their photos, wall posts, friends, etc. Turns out, this was even better than Diigo. I was able to see their progress very easily using the history of the document, and I was able to have an online dialog with them about their research using “comments”. I know Diigo could have done some of this, but the kids hit the ground running with a tool they were already familiar with.
Since the online fake Facebook sites were so unstable last year, I used this JFK template I found online and taught students how to edit this to reflect their own mathematician. Even though the updated Facebook interface is different, students still were able to make this template work.
We spent a few days working through the research. Students still needed to be reminded that they would not be able to find a list of friends of their mathematicians. (See I Can’t Find Blaise Pascal’s Friends) After some one-on-one discussions as I circulated the class, students were able to figure out friends, photos, wall posts and comments for their page. They seemed to have a blast with it.
Here is a link to the peer assessment. This worked really well for us and students were able to make some connections between the mathematicians that were contemporaries of each other. That was cool!
Tomorrow is Pi Day! (March 14th) It’s been many years since this date did not fall during our March vacation. I am super excited that I
can celebrate it with my students. It gives me a great excuse to have some “math fun” and step outside of the curriculum!
Here’s my plan for tomorrow:
1) We will start with a video on the musical representation of Pi. What Pi Sounds Like
2) Then we will have a pi recitation contest. The student who recites the most decimal places of pi will get 5 bonus points on the test they took today.
3) We will divide into teams and play a few rounds of Pi Day Jeopardy
4) Then I will give the students 15 minutes to complete a Pi Day Scavenger Hunt.
5) We will meet in the caf to have pie for dessert!
That’s the plan. Let’s see how it goes.
Here are some links to resources that helped me pull this all together:Pi Day Activities on Pinterest PiDay 2012 Wikispaces Education World Pi Day Party Scavenger Hunt adapted from Mrs. Burke’s Pi Day Activities
Given the pros and cons discussed in last week’s #isedchat: Midterms/ Finals: Do they have a constructive purpose?, the verdict is still out on whether midterms are a worthwhile undertaking for students.
No matter how I, personally, feel about them, they are a reality for our Upper School students. And I have to be honest, I struggle with review week… How can I make the best use of time, and meet each students’ need? It’s impossible to go over every topic and each of my students always has different questions on different content.
This year, with Hamden Hall’s new set of iPads, I decided that I was going to have the students create their own review “library”, using the app Educreations. I shared the idea with a colleague who teaches the other section of the same course and he was willing to give it a try. YAY!
Here’s the project pitch I gave to the students in both classes:
You are responsible for helping your fellow Algebra 1 students review for the exam. Each of you will choose a section that we covered and create a 4-6 minute screencast on that section. Your screencast should include any important terminology and at least 4 examples. You will submit your screencast “script” to your teacher for approval. Once it has been approved, you can begin recording. When you are done, please email the video to your teacher so we can add it to the shared GoogleDoc spreadsheet for your use as you review for the exam.
Here’s the link to the rubric and timeline I shared with students.
At this point in time, all scripts have been reviewed, corrected and approved and tomorrow is recording day! I am really looking forward to seeing the final product. I even had one student submit his tonight (AHEAD of schedule). I am also looking forward to students having access to this library of short screencasts made by their peers. They can watch the ones they need to, on demand, as they are completing their review assignments this week and preparing next weekend for the exam.
Two trains leave the station headed in opposite directions. One train travels 10 miles per hour faster than the other. In 6 hours they are 425 miles apart. Find the rate of each train.
We’ve all heard it before… it’s the nightmare every adult has about their algebra class in High School…why do word problems have such a bad reputation!? They are actually the avenue by which algebra (and most of math) becomes relevant. They can only become relevant if they ARE relevant. Is the “train problem” relevant to us? What connection can a student possibly make to this?
In my 20 years of teaching High School Math, word problems have always been challenging for my students. Consecutive integer problems, age problems, distance/ rate problems, simple interest, etc…Word problems fitting into neat little categories. Is this really the way students learn how to think critically? Are these the problems we WANT them to solve? I think they actually learn to fear and dread word problems when they are uninterested and find no connection with it. This year, I am using a new text (Pearson’s Algebra 1) and it, thankfully, takes a different approach to problem solving. It does not break down each word problem by “type”, as the “traditional algebra textbook” does. While no textbook is perfect, I am finding that my new text is a breath of fresh air. Each algebraic concept is introduced with a real “problem” to solve, and each section’s skill is used to solve that (and many other) problems. These problems don’t fit into a category, and don’t have a chart to fill in or a formulaic method to solve. This is still hard work for my students. (And, really, how many 14 year olds love to work that hard?). But, the problems are interesting (comparing vacation excursions, calculating tickets to concerts, figuring out how many songs and videos an iPhone can hold). And the problem solving process has not been equated with meaningless, rote work.
Over the course of the past week, however, I have felt that my class needed a little boost to keep the problem solving momentum going. I searched the web, tweeted to my #mathchat friends and visited some of the math educator blogs I love… nothing was really jumping out at me. After thinking about about it some more, I decided that I should focus on something that all 9th graders care very deeply about… their cell phone.
So, I developed the “Cell Phone” project:
You and your partner are charged with figuring out the best cell phone plan out there! You have 5 minutes to make the sales pitch to the class. You must determine 3 “must have” features your plan should include. You will research the available options and choose 2 to compare.You will present the monthly cost for each plan and the reasons you and your partner chose that particular cell phone plan.
Here is a link to the sample “worksheet”.
Task #1) Interview your parents to find out about the cell phone provider/plan your family uses. What were the factors that your parents used to make their decision? Include as much detail as possible.
Task #2) Determine the 3 “must have” features your plan should include. Why have you chosen these features?
Task #3) Determine which cell phone plans you will compare. What are the factors that you considered in choosing these plans?
Task #4) Research the cost of the two plans for a month. Use at least three different web sources.
Task #5) Create a 4 slide googledoc presentation to convince the class that you have chosen the best cell phone plan to recommend.
Here is the rubric.
I introduced the project using this website as a starting point for discussion. We talked about different features and came up with a list of relevant factors that groups might consider– coverage, voice minutes, texting, data, international calls (a few students have family out of the country). We also discussed ways to research the information. I can’t wait to see how the project evolves! My students seemed excited to get started.
So– here it is:
My professional goal for the year- change the perception of the “dreaded” word problem in my class!
Ok- I admit it. I had “bloggers block”. I started a few posts since school ended, but they lacked spark and never really came together. They mostly focused on some frustrations that I had at the end of the school year. It felt good to write about them, but I just didn’t see the point in trying to flush them out to publish them. So, after a few weeks of rest and relaxation, and a few hours with some students, I am inspired to write again.
Yesterday was the start of our 2nd Annual Engineering and Science Academy at Hamden Hall. Over 150 students applied for the 32 spots we had in the camp… WOW! Last year was an amazing teaching experience for me (see post here) and I was looking forward to getting started.
This year, my plan was to work with one of the science teachers on the first day, guiding students in some research on bridges, and then to complete some kind of computer activity (possibly using Google Sketchup) where students could work on a preliminary design of a truss bridge they would eventually create out of linguine and test for its strength. The remainder of the week, I would work with Sarah Ludwig, helping the students to design computer games using Scratch.
In preparation, I began looking around for websites on bridge design that were appropriate for students in grades 6 – 8. I found some good ones, but struggled with how I would share the links. Typing individual URLs is so burdensome. I couldn’t share them via email and I thought of creating a wiki and posting the links there, but I didn’t have one set up already.
Then, as luck would have it, this past week’s #isedchat topic was “What are effective ways to curate resources for students and faculty?” Scoop.it was mentioned as an easy, interesting, very user-friendly way to share. So, I decided to give it a try. Literally, within 5 minutes of signing up, I had this page ready to share.
SO EASY! YAY! and the URL was very easy for students to type. Part one of the plan was done!
After watching a YouTube video on creating a bridge using Google Sketchup, I realized it would be WAY too hard to do in the 25 minutes I had. So, I went to google and typed in “bridge simulator” and up popped “West Point Bridge Builder“. I had heard of this program a while ago, but I didn’t make the connection until now. Within minutes, I downloaded it, and was designing my own truss bridge.
This is exactly the type of bridge that students would be creating for the rest of the week! It even allowed users to test their design, and learn how to strengthen the weak areas using different materials and supports. How perfect was this?!
Students arrived in class and things went EXACTLY as planned. We watched the Tacoma Bridge Collapse, talked about different types of bridges, and the students dove into their research. After 20 minutes, they were ready to start designing. This was amazing to watch! With about 3 minutes of instruction, the students were designing and simulating and correcting and re-trying their designs, learning all along the way. It was a blast!
To quote John “Hannibal” Smith from the 80′s TV classic, The A-Team, ”I love it when a plan comes together!” What a great day!
….and I can’t wait to see the linguine truss bridges to their completion!
As our final assessment of the year in Geometry, I was originally planning to do a screencast, similar to my Algebra 1 class. Since the topic was segments and angles in a circle, I quickly realized that it would be very difficult and labor intensive for my students to accurately draw the diagrams necessary. I was looking for a way to have the diagrams already saved and to have the students spend their time explaining how to solve them. After talking through the issue with Sarah Ludwig, Academic Technology Coordinator, she suggested trying VoiceThread. I had used VoiceThread before, but never as an assessment tool. I decided to give it a try!
We scanned the final assessment for the chapter, and broke each problem into an individual powerpoint slide. I uploaded this to VoiceThread and shared it with my students. Each student needed to complete 12 problems correctly (out of 20) on paper, submit them to me for grading. Once they completed all of them correctly, they could begin recording their solutions in VoiceThread.
Even though we had a small issue with “disappearing ink” in the drawing tool on VoiceThread, the students found it extremely easy to record. I loved seeing these students record and then re-record the problems until they got the solutions just right. Is there any better way to practice solving problems?
I used this rubric for grading and found that the biggest issue was the fact that, while students did record the solutions correctly, they did not always fully explain WHY they were solving them… the geometric concepts. When I do this project next year, I will be sure to stress the explanation as a key component to the project. Live and learn!
Overall, using VoiceThread as an assessment tool was extremely successful. The students were fully engaged and I was able to get a very clear picture of what they understood. In many ways, it was the most authentic assessment of the year!
Here is our final project:
Last Friday, we completed our screencast project in Algebra 1. Things went extremely well! Screencast-o-matic was very reliable and the students enjoyed choosing their own color/style/ background to write out their problems using Paint. It was like music to my ears hearing them explain how to add/ subtract/ multiply and divide radicals expressions. The students were completely engaged for all three days in the lab and the entire process forced them to think about how to simplify radical expressions. YAY!
Each student downloaded the screencasts as .avi files and the students were able to easily import the video files into Windows MovieMaker, and add a title, transitions and credits. I uploaded the final projects to my YouTube channel and really enjoyed grading them. Although I had students submit problems ahead of time for checking, some of the students made some errors in explaining the problems and I noted them on their grading rubric. It was the ultimate assessment of whether students knew WHAT to do and WHY they were doing it. Overall, the project turned out great and I will definitely do this again next year!
Here are a few of the screencasts:
For last tech project of the year, my Algebra class is going to create our very own version of Khan Academy!
a.k.a. “Algebra 1B Academy”
Students will create a screencast explaining 4 different examples from Chapter 11(Rational and Irrational Numbers).
• 1 example must be from 11- 5 (Square Roots of Variable Expressions)
• 1 example must be from 11- 7 (Multiplying/ Dividing/ Simplifying Radicals)
• 1 example must be from 11 – 8 (Adding/ Subtracting Radicals)
• 1 example is free choice of anything from chapter 11.
All 4 problems must be worked out, step-by-step, and submitted for approval. Students will then use the website “Screencast-o-matic“, along with Microsoft Paint, to record their writing. Next, students will save and convert these screencasts and import them to Windows MovieMaker. In MovieMaker, students will add a title slide and an ending slide and appropriate transitions. Students will then record your voice over the video explaining each of the problems. (I tested a few online movie making websites but they didn’t allow for a narration of an existing clip.) Students will save and export as movie file and upload to our conference.
Here is the rubric.
The students seemed excited when I announced this today! I am looking forward to the final results. This assessment replaces the chapter test.
About a month ago, I launched a project with my geometry class to redesign our school library. In trying to keep this project as authentic as possible, Sarah Ludwig, our school’s Academic Coordinator/ Librarian presented the library’s needs gleaned from a student/ faculty survey and from her own observations. I also asked our school’s Facilities Director, Jim Hunter, come to class to present the original architectural drawings of the building. He was very excited to share those with us. We also were extremely fortunate to have Christiaan Dinkeloo, our school’s consulting architect, meet with the class several times over the course of the project.
Here is the info presented to students:
You are trying to win the architectural bid for the Swain Library redesign project. You must use Google Sketchup to meet the requests from the school’s librarian.
- Your design must include an accurate, to scale, 3D model of Swain Library. Be sure to include windows, doors, fire exits.
- Your library design includes room for 5000 books.
- Your library design includes a creative, well planned space for quiet, individual study
- Your library design includes a creative, well planned space for group study/ collaboration.
- Your library design includes a creative space for class visits (with the potential for technology)
- Your library design includes a creative space for reading for pleasure.
- There is a space for a more prominent and central display of the young adult collection.
- Your design includes at least 2 of the following wishes.
- Wish list:
- Remove all high shelving and put shelving along the walls and in low shelves (might be used to divide up space)
- Accommodate technology everywhere – more outlets, etc.
- A librarian station that is central, visible, and accessible to students, which allows for student/faculty conferencing
- A second classroom that can also serve as a meeting room or technology lab
- Your library design is adaptable and can accommodate occasional events without changing the design of the library.
- Your design was submitted by the deadline agreed upon by the team.
We began with a day of measuring the dimensions of the library and talking about how the symmetry of the building could make the measuring even easier. We also calculated the number of books (on average) that would fit on a shelf. (Our designs needed to fit 5000). We compared our actual measurements to the architectural drawing and learned about scale. What a perfect tie in to a lesson on ratio and proportion!
With only one student having prior experience with SketchUp (and with having little experience myself), we all watched videos together, helped each other and worked through all of our issues as they arose. There were many days I couldn’t get students out of the classroom at the end of the period… they were INTO it!
Mr. Dinkeloo came to class weekly to answer questions, to help students with design challenges and to show us what a presentation to potential clients actually looked like. What an amazing resource he was to our class. You added a dimension to the project that could not have otherwise been achieved. Thanks Mr. Dinkeloo!
I have to be honest, I was a little scared when we started this… was this project going to be too much for us to handle? With having little “expertise” in the room with SketchUp, would we be able to figure it all out? How much time was this all going to take? So many questions… I’m a planner, so this was a little uncomfortable for me. I decided to just let it ride and see what happened.
Last Friday, the class presented their amazing library redesign models to me, Ms. Ludwig and Mr. Dinkeloo.
Here are some photos of their presentations:
The student’s designs were creative, thoughtful, accurate and solved many of the problems articulated in our original discussion. Mr. Dinkeloo, Ms. Ludwig and I all gave feedback to the students and the students had a chance to ask and answer questions of each other. It was a truly authentic experience and the icing on the cake was that I got to announce today that the school has received a major gift to fund the actual redesign! Mr. Dinkeloo will begin work very soon on the project. Our class looks forward to hearing about his progress and to seeing if he uses any of our ideas!
Here’s the rubric for the project.
Click here for article in Hamden Hall Happenings
Ms. Ludwig’s notes from presentation about the Middle/ Upper School Library
Beauty and the Book: Libraries in the digital age raise the question about the place of books
School Library Redesign from the National Institute of Building Science
While I do like to try new projects each year, one of the best things about repeating one is that you get to make it even better. Last year, I had students research mathematicians (and use Diigo to manage their research and share resources with each other) and then create a Fake Facebook Wall for that mathematician. Here’s my original blog post.
This year, we started out on the same path. On the first day, we set up our Diigo accounts, joined our class group, and talked about good research techniques. We also talked a bit about tagging and about the types of sites that would be useful to share with our class group. Learning from last year’s experience, (see blog post here), I reiterated that the students would not be able to “google” Blaise Pascal’s friends and come up with a list. I really focused on HOW to figure out their friends and what their mathematician might say on his/ her wall. I definitely was more pro-active with this!
The students were off and running with their research. Diigo was working great. They worked at home and in school (on any computer) seamlessly. Many students remarked that they wished they had this tool earlier in the year! Others brought in their iPads or laptops the next day and showed me how they downloaded the diigo app or installed the diigo toolbar. YAY!
While the rubric for the final project was very similar to last year, I decided to add a planning sheet, with a writing / reasoning component. I wanted students to complete this sheet BEFORE they went to MyFakeWall to start entering information. I did this for a few reasons:
1) Students last year did not organize their information before they jumped into the MyFakeWall site. They were all over the place and they had a hard time figuring out if they met all the requirements.
2) Students created their wall posts “on the fly” and it was difficult for them to explain why they chose to “say” what they did. This planning sheet had them list the posts, and the research that supported it. In meeting with each student and reviewing their planning sheet with them, I was able to question students and force them to go back to their research and improve their work BEFORE it was due.
NOTE: While this “planning sheet” process added about 2 days to the project’s timeline, I felt that it made a huge difference with the quality of the final products.
3) Throughout this research stage, I kept checking MyFakeWall, and I realized it was no more stable than it was last year. I was a little stressed about it. By having students bookmark all websites in Diigo, upload all images and fill out the planning sheet, it forced students to be completely ready, if (and when) myfakewall.com decided to cooperate. In the meantime, I started looking for a different option.
“D-day” came, and everyone was ready to start entering information into MyFakeWall. Lo and behold, the site was completely down, which was extremely frustrating, especially since the rubric was created based upon the features of that specific website. I, thankfully, found two other options for the students. I left it up to the students to explore both tools and see what they wanted to use. I adapted the rubric to match the site they chose. It’s all about flexibility!
Here were the additional choices:
1) Fakebook – This worked pretty well for students who chose it. The glitch with it was that students needed to enter a fair amount of information before it would allow them to save it. Two students didn’t get far enough on the first day when class ended and they lost their work. It was also very difficult to edit information once it was posted using this site. Be sure to select “manual upload” for pictures. The auto-find function did not work as it should have for many students. Having the planning sheets really helped because they had it to work from. I also didn’t love the ads. They were distracting.
2) Facebook GoogleDoc Template- This option worked well and allowed students who had not used googledocs before to explore an additional tool. Students really liked the stability of it. The drawback was that it required that you delete the JFK info as you go. It was also based on an older version of Facebook. The kids seemed to think that it was totally fine.
The last thing I changed in this project was the format of the “sharing day”. Instead of each student getting in the front of the room to, basically, read their facebook wall, I had them peer-share as I walked around the room. Here’s the peer- share form they had to fill out with their partner. It was awesome to hear them explaining their walls to each other. I then had students switch and share their wall with a different student. For the final share, I had each student go around the room and tell one interesting fact they learned about someone else’s mathematician. It was a GREAT class!
Overall, even with the frustration of myfakewall not working again, this year’s students also said they LOVED this project. I am hoping that someone updates a template or creates a website to mimic the new Facebook timeline format. If anyone knows of one, please share it! That will be fun to use next year!