Let’s Explore with Geometry and Start the School Year Off Right! (New Features with ClassPad.net)

I admit it. I am a geometry nut.  It is my favorite subject to teach, which I have been doing for the past 30 years (wow….said that out loud!!). Geometry to me is all about logic and connections and relationships of shapes. It should be hands-on, it should be visual, and with technology, is should be dynamic – meaning you can see and discover relationships through movement and manipulation. There are many good resources out there (for those of you looking for a ‘textbook’, Discovering Geometry has always been my go to – it’s all about learning geometry through hands-on discovery and connections. It’s on it’s 5th edition, and the ebook has dynamic investigation using ClassPad.net (formerly used Geogebra), and ClassPad.net has made huge strides in advancing it’s geometry functionality, which is what this post is focused on. My goal over the next few posts is to focus on specific geometry explorations using some of ClassPad.net’s geometry functionality, but today’s post is an overview of what’s new.

ClassPad.net has all the tools you would expect a geometry software to have – i.e. points, straight-edge tools, polygon tools, display tools, expressions, equations, etc. It has some others don’t have – i.e. tools for conics for example. Below is a list of some of the added features as we continue to improve the functionality of the software (which is FREE, btw!!)

Quick List of New Functionality:

  1. Compass Tool
  2. Ability to add in images and use them as part of your geometry explorations
  3. Ability to create sliders for transformations (dilations, rotations, translations, reflections)
  4. Trace feature
  5. Multiple Grids, including isometric
  6. Ability to lock constructs
  7. Ability to create a rigid polygon (meaning it won’t change shape once constructed)
  8. Ability to add tick marks to sides and angles
  9. Ability to change the style of points – i.e. dot, square, x
  10. Ability to measure exterior angles explicitly and create angles 0-360
  11. Ability to construct a specific regular polygon (n-gon) by constructing one side and choosing n (number of sides)
  12. Ability to duplicate constructs without have to ‘reconstruct’ them.

I will be creating videos on each of these features and how to use them for future postings, but today, I wanted to show you where you can find the different new features. Be sure to visit ClassPad.net and sign up for an account (so you can save any work you do). Both the Free and Basic accounts are completely free and have everything you could need for a classroom (don’t forget there is calculations, graphing, statistics, financial tools, and text as well as geometry!). Below is a quick how-to on finding where all the new features for geometry are – stay tuned for future how-to’s on using the specific features. Meanwhile, why not try and explore things on your own? Have fun!!

 

Math In Motion – Creating Simulations with ClassPad.net

The beauty of dynamic software is the ability for objects to move in real-time and measures and other objects connected and/or controlled by those also move. Basically seeing change over time happen. This allows for the ability to create some interesting simulations – such as simulating cars moving at different speeds and directions to explore rate of change, or objects turning to explore rotational symmetry and angles of rotation. Many possibilities.

Obviously thinking of ways to incorporate simulations into the teaching of more abstract concepts can be time consuming. This post, I am sharing a How-to created by Ismael Zamora, where he shows how to create moving images (using cars) and also provides a couple related ClassPad.net papers if you are interested in the activity he created.

The idea of the activity, Math In Motion, is to have students first Notice & Wonder about the movement of the cars and how they are related, what the sliders control, and is it possible to answer the question of when they will meet?

Here are the links to the publicly shared papers:

Below is a How-to video that explains how Ish created the motion of the cars, involving images, and sliders.

 

Teachers Rock! Show Your Appreciation in a More Personal Way – Tell Them

It’s National Teacher Appreciation Week, for those of you not in the know. In schools everywhere, teachers are probably getting nice little ‘treats’ from parents and students, or having special lunches or breakfasts brought in, or being treated to free ice cream or nice messages or pep rally’s – lots of things to show how much everyone appreciates the work they do. Obviously these celebrations and expressions of gratitude vary around the country, but there is usually, based on my own personal experiences in middle and high school, some recognition for teachers at some point during this week.  Which is great. Teachers deserve to be told how wonderful they are and what a difference they make in students lives, because they do. They do every day, whether they or you realize it.

It’s the little things that teachers do every day, which often go unrecognized, that really make a difference in students lives and learning. That extra time put in to make a lesson really engaging, that eating in the classroom during lunch to spend time with students who just want to talk or get some help, the personal money spent on supplies and classroom decoration so all students have what they need and to make the classroom a welcoming place, the smile at the door as students enter, the late hours grading, the phone calls to parents to share good news about students (yes, teachers do that!)….there are too many to list here, but every day teachers are providing not only learning experiences, but emotional and physical experiences that help to mold and build students confidence and understanding. This is what I don’t think people who have never been teachers understand – teaching is unlike any other job. You can’t just come in, do the same thing every day, and go home at the end of the work day and forget about it. Teaching is more than teaching content. There is a lot of emotion and dealing with students on so many levels, and navigating that, along with teaching content, makes teaching one of the most difficult jobs out there.

Unlike many other jobs, teachers often never know the impact they had on their students. Sure, we can see grades and scores on tests, but that is a moment in time in a students life, and we don’t often ever know if what we did as teachers has long-term impact (which we hope) as students grow and move on. We think it did. We hope it did. But often, we never know. Unless a student comes back and visits, (or, we are now friends on FB, years later!) – we never really know if the things we thought would make a difference did in fact make a difference. Which makes teaching different from many other professions, who can usually see immediate results or impact of their job. Teaching is a profession of faith – where we believe our efforts are the best we can provide and are something powerful that contributes to our students potential future selves. And though we often never know, we do believe.

What I think would be a really powerful way to show appreciation during this week is for students, current and past, to let a teacher know what it is they are doing or have done that has an impact on them or helped them. Reach out to that Spanish teacher who made class funny, and embraced your obnoxious sarcasm, and influenced your decision to become a teacher yourself, or write that math teacher who helped you survive Calculus and helped you become an engineer, or that teacher who smiled at you every day and gave you a hug so that you loved coming to school. Get your kids to write a note to a teacher (now or in the past) that made school exciting or turned them on to reading or helped them perfect their dunking. It’s those little recognitions’, those personal recollections that really make a teacher feel appreciated and know that what they do is making a difference to someone. Those of you who have been out of school for a while, it’s pretty easy to locate a former teacher via FB or LinkedIn. Those of you still in school, write a note, even if anonymously – it will brighten that teachers day and reaffirm their commitment to teaching.

The U.S. Department of Education has shared some really great videos of teachers sharing what makes them feel appreciated, so I am providing links to those here:

  1. https://youtu.be/dLZXKu8fxnc
  2. https://youtu.be/eqi_kE31tZU

My favorite is what students say about their teachers though, so I am sharing that video here:

 

The Soggy GrassHopper – A Twist on Zeno’s Paradox

This month we are going to highlight an activity called “The Soggy Grasshopper”, which comes from Fostering Mathematical Thinking in the Middle Grades with Casio Technology Ish Zamora (@seemathrun), one of Casio’s ACE math teachers has created a whole lesson package centered around this activity, which includes a ClassPad.net paper, a YouTube video on using the activity, and I am attaching the PDF of the activity for those of you who want things written out and might be using a hand-held device. Though don’t forget, ClassPad.net is a free web-based software where you can do all the math – i.e. calculations, graphing, statistics, writing out explanations….all of which are needed as part of this lesson.

 

The Problem

A grasshopper is on the ground and notices that it is beginning to rain. It wishes to hop to a spot beneath a tree to get out of the rain. It aims for the tree, but finds it can go only halfway on its first hop. As the grasshopper gets wetter, it finds that it can only hop half the remaining distance each time.

In this investigation, students will explore the grasshopper’s journey.

The Math

This problem involves collecting data, so setting up a table, to collect the numbers of hops and distance traveled and the distance left. Students will look for patterns and write formulas for the fraction of the distance remaining. Students will create scatterplots of their data and use the table and graphs to answer questions about the grasshoppers journey.

The Resources

  1. You can find the PDF of the complete activity here: The Soggy GrassHopper
  2. You can find the ClassPad.net paper here: The Soggy Grasshopper (created by Ish Zamora)
  3. You can find the YouTube video on the activity, narrated by Ish Zamora, here: ClassPad.net How-To Activity: The Soggy Grasshopper

Weather and Integers – The Importance of Real World Connections

A lot of my math teacher friends have been posted images from weather reports on FaceBook and Twitter, like this one to the left from @seemathrun, showing the real-world application of integers due to the extreme weather conditions that are happening across the country right now. It really is a perfect opportunity to show a true application of mathematics that students can definitely relate to, especially if they are in those freezing climates. Add in the wind chill, and you have some interesting data and comparisons and a chance to talk about the relevance of math and understanding numbers.  Here’s an image to the left showing wind chill, temperature, and frost bite times someone else shared that could help explain why so many schools are closed, even though there may not be any snow on the ground, (which is usually the reason behind winter closures). I know one of my colleagues and friends, @ClassPadnut, was sharing with me yesterday that with the wind chill, it was -60 where he lives.  Yikes!!!

There is obviously a lot of different math concepts you could explore with students, dependent on grade level and questions asked. I find the wind chill graph the most interesting. Looking at the wind chill chart, the drop in temperature is almost, but not quite, constant, like you would think – i.e. You will note that there is an equation for the calculation of wind chill at the bottom of the image. I was  curious about whether students could find that connection from the data alone -something to challenge students with. How would they graph this data? Could they? Thinking of statistical tables, what would they enter and what statistical plots would be appropriate? If students are in areas where schools actually closed, you could talk about how the data supports the decisions, and what is the ‘cut-off’ temperature/wind speed that might influence the decision? Lots of things to explore.

I found another image that showed the lowest temperatures reported in each state, so you could do a comparison across states. Even Hawaii is cold!!!  Crazy.  Below is the image, which I then used to enter the data in a table in ClassPad.net, and then make two different plots to represent the data – a histogram and a box-plot. You can see from the box plot five-number summary that the median temperature in the U.S. for this day in January is -40.  Wow!!! (And boy, don’t want to be in Alaska at -80!) Again – think of the interesting class discussions about integers, about how these temperatures will impact things such as the orange crops in Florida or the tourism in Hawaii or California. (Here’s a link to the Classpad.net paper that has the image, table, and graphs shown below: https://classpad.net/classpad/papers/share/b61b70a0-0eed-47da-947a-580e1d835f8d.

As you can see, using what is actually happening right now in our country, i.e. REAL world connections of weather (temperature, wind speed, wind chill), is an amazing opportunity to help students see the relevance of integers and statistics and how this data is being used to make important decisions, such as do we close schools? Who should not venture outside? How long before you get frostbite? The visuals help students ‘see’ mathematics in action, and particularly if we focus on the integer aspect, provide a clear connection to integer addition (and subtraction, depending on the questions asked), something many students struggle with.

Whenever possible, we should be trying to connect the math concepts students are learning and using to a real-world application. Here’s a perfect opportunity, no matter the grade level, to have some great class discussions about the impact of weather on our world, about the relevance of integers, and about how statistical information is important to decision making.

 

The Power of Math Exploration

If I had a dollar for every time I hear “I would do more hands-on, inquiry, problem-solving, collaborative learning, in math class if I ________________________ (insert any one of the following):

  • had more time
  • didn’t have as many students
  • didn’t have to get through the ‘curriculum’
  • had students who would actually talk
  • if I didn’t have to make sure they were ready for the test
  • if I didn’t have to review all the things they didn’t learn from last year…..
  • ….the list goes on…….

I would be a very wealthy woman. What is mind boggling to me is there is so much research out there that shows students do better when they learn for understanding and not for memorization, which means learning through context, through inquiry, through problem-solving, through struggle. Time is one of the biggest ‘road-blocks’ teachers throw out there, and granted, there definitely is a time crunch to get all the content in before those dreaded assessments. What I try so hard to get across to the teachers I work with, is that you can  save time by taking time – you actually can ‘cover’ more ground by teaching from a more contextual, experiential, problem-solving way. As students make connections and problem-solve, they are able to learn more efficiently and more than one concept at a time because they are working from a connected-math view point instead of the single-skill/concept at a time approach we traditionally provide.

An example from Geometry: (this is using Classpad.net, free math software) 

Concept – identifying polygons, and then what’s the difference between congruent-sided polygons versus regular polygons (identifying what a regular polygon is).

Activity: Using the drawing tool, have students draw examples of 3-side, 4-sided, 5-sided (and more….) polygons.  At least 2 of each kind that look ‘different’. Can be convex or concave

  • Have students compare their shapes noting similarities and differences and coming up with definitions – attaching specific words to their definitions like convex, concave, closed, etc.
  • Now have students use the arrow tool, and select one of their triangles, and the Adjustment menu to make all sides congruent. Then, choose a second triangle and Adjustment and make the shape a ‘regular’ polygon. What do they notice? Have them measure sides and angles and compare to others.
  • Do the same for two different 4-sided figures (so Adjust congruent, then adjust regular), the 5-sided, etc.  Each time compare the two on their paper, and then compare to others, and try to come up with what the difference is between congruent-sided polygons and regular-polygons.
  • Come to group consensus, and by the end of class students have manipulated, explored, collaborated and defined several things: polygons, convex polygons vs. concave, triangle, quadrilateral, pentagon,….regular polygon, congruent sides, etc.

An example from Algebra: (this is using CG50 Graphing Calculator (CG10 is similar):

Concept: Parent Function and Vertex From of a Parabola 

Activity: Students graph the parent function of a Parabola (y=x^2) and then graph another in standard form using variables for coefficients.

  • Have students use the modify feature of the graphing calculator to animate the different coefficients (one at a time)
  • Observe what changes in that coefficient does to the parabola by comparing the modified to the parent
  • Make conjectures and compare with other students till consensus is reached.
  • Do this with all the coefficients.
  • Have students then test out their conjectures by providing them several equations of different parabolas and, based on their conjectures, determine the shape, direction and location of the parabola BEFORE they do anything, and then test their guesses by entering in the calculator.
  • Time saver: Doing this activity with linear equations first will then give students a general understanding of transformations of functions which they then extend and solidify with quadratics, which then can be easily extended into other equations, like the absolute value function. Time saver!

Obviously I am using technology here, because technology allows for conjectures to be made and tested very quickly. But technology is just a tool that is appropriate in some instances, but there’s so much that can be done without technology as well. You can make math much more of an exploration just through your own questioning (i.e. why do you think? can you explain that more? Are there other ways to do this?) and by providing students a chance to puzzle things out on their own, ask questions, use tools (so objects, paper, pencil, etc).

One of my favorite things to do is to provide them with a situation that has lots of information, but no question (basically, find a rich math task, but don’t give students the question(s)). Students then write down all the things they notice, such as quantities, relationships, etc. and then come up with their own wondering’s and questions. Then you let them choose a path they want to explore (this works well with small groups or partners). Usually it ends up that there are several different questions and solutions generated and explored using the same information. When students then share their findings, you find that there is a lot of math going on, which leads to some really interesting class discussions – some you yourself might not have thought of. You can then maybe even give them the question that might have been given in the problem – by that time students may have already explored it and if not, by now they have a real sense of what information in the problem will help them and they are more willing to actually solve the problem.

The key here – students only become problem-solvers if they are given the opportunities to explore math, make their own connections, and collaborate with others to verify their thinking. The more you give them opportunities and provide tools and resources and challenging problems, the more efficient they become at using math, connecting math concepts, and viewing math as a connected whole instead of isolated skills and facts. Take the time….it’ll come back in the end.

 

 

 

The Power of Visualization – Modifying Graphs with a Graphing Calculator

I have had some great discussions with teachers in my courses lately about the power of providing opportunities for students to see and manipulate mathematics as a way to test out their ideas, play with patterns, and develop their own rules and understandings. Visualization, manipulation, experimenting – all contribute to students developing deeper understanding and their own ‘algorithms’, and because of these contextual experiences, they are much more likely to recall how to do a math process than if they were just given the rules/algorithm to memorize.

In a recent final reflection, one teacher wrote, “As a high school teacher, I have always stayed away from using manipulates for fear they were “too elementary” for my classroom.”  This attitude – that older students don’t need those physical objects or need to see – that they just need to  memorize rules and practice – is sadly still prevalent today. Which is frightening really. I experienced these same attitudes and beliefs over 2 decades ago when I was teaching in  middle and high school, and bringing out my two-colored chips, algebra tiles, and Sketchpad. Allowing students to play with math, to use physical objects, and virtual objects, to represent the math and then be able to manipulate change and see what happens was always considered ‘babying’ them. Clearly that attitude is still going strong today, since as you read above,  I hear it in the courses I teach with current classroom math teachers. This despite even more tools being available to provide a way for students to experiment, play, discover, create and find the mathematical patterns and rules themselves. The tendency to just give them the rules and the process and the definitions and have them memorize and regurgitate is still very much a part of our mathematical education. What we really want to do is provide multiple ways to look at and explore math concepts, so that when students ‘forget’, they have that experience where they built the understanding to recall where they can rebuild it again. Much easier to recall something they saw or something they physically moved and connected to than an isolated, memorized fact.

In most typical high school classrooms I visit and work with these days, it is rare to find physical manipulatives (more often in Geometry, but much more rare in an Algebra 2 or Pre-calculus class for example). But – there is almost always a technology tool – whether that be the teachers projector attached to the internet, or students on tablets/laptops, or more often the case, graphing calculators of some sort. Which means there is no excuse NOT to be providing students the opportunity to visually see the mathematics, and to manipulate and explore to come up with those algorithms they are often asked to just memorize. Meaning: use the technology for more than checking answers!  Use it to help students find the patterns and connections and create their own algorithms and definitions, use it to delve deeper into the math, to gain insight, to test out conjectures and really get a sense of what all those numbers and variables mean and how they interact with each other to change the shape of a graph and what that might mean in a application of that math in the real world. Use the tools to manipulate and see the math; technology allows for students to test a conjecture quickly, make predictions and check if they are right, and explore very large and very small numbers, etc.

As an example of this, I am going to use the Graphing Calculator App (for mobile devices), since I haven’t previously used this before in any of my videos, to show the power of visualization and technology to make conjectures and immediately test them with modifying features/dynamic math capability. You can do this on our hand-held Prizm series graphing calculators  (handhelds and emulators).

 

Additional Note: Try our FREE new dynamic math software that is web-based – perfect for tablets, PC’s, mobile devices: ClassPad.net