#TheMathContest – Supporting Student Problem-Solving

My last several years in high school, I was a ‘roving’ teacher, meaning I didn’t have a classroom of my own, but switched classes just like the students. This made for a very challenging prep experience, and required me to be super-organized and self-contained on my little rolling cart. The rooms I ‘borrowed’ for my classes did allow me to keep an area for my students (to turn in homework and pick up missing work, etc.). In each class, my students had a portfolio (i.e. file folder), where they kept their work, one of which was the daily ‘warm-up’ problems.  These were basically a set of 5-6 problem-solving activities – some applications, some skills practice, some real-world scenarios, some puzzles, etc.  Students were expected to pick this up daily and work on these in the first few minutes of class, which gave me time to: a) get there; b) check homework; and c) set up for the class/lesson, etc.  It gave everyone a chance to ‘settle’. Students had a choice – they could do some or all of the problems by the end of the week, and I just checked portfolios and work at end of week. We would always discuss possible solutions the following week (and also they earned points for their efforts).

Needless to say, since I was providing these problem-solving experiences daily, I had to find lots of different resources for these problems, especially those that were more application and thought-provoking. Can’t tell you how many problem-solving books I purchased! There were other sources, such as The Math Forum P.O.W. (now no longer in existence, though their P.O.W. “s do still live on at NCTM), and even my textbooks had some great problems if you looked for them. The point is, it took a lot of effort to provide these challenges for my students. Obviously, I could have done it once a week instead, but for me, it served that duel purpose of focusing my students every day while I was en-route. My goal, and something I think all teachers should be striving for, is to provide students some challenges and problem-solving experiences on a regular basis – ones that may utilize prior knowledge or challenges them in different ways of thinking with new skills.

For those of you looking for such challenges, there is a new resource available from Ole Miss’ School of Education called #TheMathContest. It is actually a reboot of something Ole Miss did in the past, but it’s been revamped and improved, and now is sponsored by Casio Education and encourages the use of the new, FREE, online math software, Classpad.net that I talked about in my last post. Basically, new problems are posted each Monday, and each user can submit one answer per hour. Correct solutions earn points and you can view rankings on the website. Go to the link above to get more details on the contest. There are monthly rankings and annual rankings, which you can view online. How points are awarded is explained here.

This would be a great way to engage students and get them doing some challenging math, not to mention trying out the new software as well! If I were still in the classroom, I think I might add this as extra credit for students (for trying) and then maybe have a collaborative problem-solving time where we discuss possible approaches to the solutions after the previous weeks problem has ‘expired’.  Or maybe group students in ‘teams’ where they submit as a team? In any case, it would be nice to have a problem challenge already done for me each week, that’s for sure!

One thing Classpad.net is doing is posting video solutions to past P.O.W.’s which you can find on our Youtube Channel  Here is an example from May 7, 2018’s Problem of The week:

 The Problem:  Find the 1-millionth term ins the sequence {1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 4, 4, 5, 5, ……}

 

There is still time to try this weeks #TheMathContest Problem of the Week for May 14, 2018!  And check out the rankings – you will see students from countries all over the world who are participating.

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ClassPad.net – My Math Love-Affair Continues….

I am a lucky woman.

For my almost 30 years in education, I have loved what I do. Teaching math, helping others teach math, finding amazing tools and resources that make learning math engaging and exciting – my ‘work’ is a labor of love. My love-affair with mathematics and teaching has been influenced by many experiences and people and has led me to yet a another new adventure in my quest to help others love and appreciate the beauty of mathematics – Classpad.net,  a free, web-based software that I have been directly involved in, from conception, to development, and now, to public release and hopefully, viral usage!

Some of my Key family

It’s been a weird path of growth, with connections leading to new opportunities, and more connections, and more opportunities. As a new teacher, and also working on my masters at VCU in VA, I worked under John Van De Walle, who started me on the path of making mathematics hands-on and visual and based on problem-solving. This quest led me to look for resources and share my love of math at conferences – sparking my professional development/training itch.

DG5 Groupies!

My search for visualization and hands-on resources led me to a closet in our math department, where I found Discovering Geometry and Sketchpad. And as I used these resources to present at conferences, I got to know and LOVE Key Curriculum and become, I admit, a groupie. This led to getting to know the Key sales folks and being asked to become a Key consultant. All this PD experience led to an administrator job, where, miracle of miracle, all the Discovery books from Key were just being adopted, so I was part of this implementation, which led to meeting Key’s PD trainer, Tim Pope. As a result – lo and behold, this groupie is working for Key!

It was a dream come true! The Key family, one full of former math educators all trying to share the love of mathematics and create inquiry-based, engaging math through great problem-solving and dynamic math technology tools, was amazing. Then – the dream burst, the family split up, and the books went to Kendall Hunt (with Tim), and the technology to MHE (with me).

Heartbreak.

Casio Family

Time to open a new door: I decided to finish my doctorate and branch into the unknown world of education consulting. And that Key family? They are still there – sending connections and opportunities, which is why I now teach at Drexel, work with Casio, travel the world for The Dana Center and Department of Defense Education Activities, among many other experiences.

At this moment in time, my worlds have collided. My Casio family, which is a group of math educators trying to share the love of math and teaching and learning math through dynamic visualization, is inspirational. We’ve worked as a collaborative team, with Casio‘s incredible R&D team in Japan, to create a tool that is going to revolutionize mathematics. It’s everything math teachers want on one page, and it’s just in it’s baby-phase right now with potential for growth that is exciting.

The guys behind booth magic!

Classpad.net has a partnership with Kendall Hunt just recently announced. Those very Discovering Mathematics books I so love will be adding to their power of inquiry by providing our tool as the discovery math tool embedded in the ebooks. My new family is joining with my old family….(and Tim and I are reunited) (and we have a podcast too – 180days Podcast)(shameless plug)!

Right now? It feels like I’ve connected many parts of my life – where many of my previous ‘experiences’ and worlds have joined together. Not sure if this is the circle of life, or a Mobius strip, or maybe an example of a network with many nodes. But whatever it is, it feels right, it feels exciting and it feels limitless.

So, what is Classpad.net?

It is something that makes me proud to be a part of because it is a web-based software, freely available to teachers and students, that encompasses all the things I wished for as a teacher, and it’s all in one place instead of several different tools that don’t communicate with each other. My doctorate dissertation was on edtech, and how teachers have so many technology tools forced upon them (hardware, software, apps, tablets, PC’s, interactive whiteboards, student response systems, etc) and none of them talk to each other, and each require separate training and support. Instead of using any of these tools effectively, teachers use the ones they are comfortable with, and often not the tool that makes the most sense for helping students learn. Or worse, no tools at all.

Classpad.net solves that problem by being a tool where you never have to leave the page – you can do geometry on the same page you are doing statistics. You can add a calculation, you can make a graph – all from one place. You can dynamically show mathematics and students can explore math and make their own discoveries on a table or a laptop or a phone – with the touch of a finger. There is a complete CAS (computer algebra system) engine behind this software, so it’s capabilities and functionality are incredibly robust. We are just in the ‘beta’ stage of release, which is even more exciting because we are really seeking input and feedback from users – what’s not working for you? what do you want? And, just like a start-up tech company, our team is responding quickly and changing based on what teachers and students want and need. The possibilities are endless because we have Casio’s 60 years of worldwide technology expertise and the experiences and input of math teachers building something that can be what teachers and students really need, want, and use – all in one place.

We have a Classpad.net Youtube Channel that we are just starting to build out, but here’s a quick overview of Classpad.net

It’s only the beginning – so check it out. But, as someone who has had a long-standing love affair with math and math technology, this is going to be a fun ride with so much more to come!! Join the fun and start creating with math and sharing your love of math as well on Twitter and Facebook!

Geometry and the Holidays

The holidays are upon us, so of course it makes complete sense to look for geometrical connections. Or maybe that’s just me?

As a geometry teacher (just finishing up a Geometry & Spatial Reasoning course), I am seeing geometry connections everywhere. From the wrapped presents, to the origami ornaments, to the snowflake patterns, I am constantly looking for those real-world connections and easy (and cheap), ways to get students working hands-on with math.

We are all familiar with ‘holiday math’ problems that connect to wrapping presents – i.e. how much wrapping paper do you need, how much ribbon, etc. Area, surface area, linear length connections all very obvious. But, as a geometry teacher, I am also curious about the gift boxes themselves. I know it is often difficult to find 3D models for learning, so boxes provide a cheap way to provide students hands-on explorations of nets, area, surface area, volume. So – teachers – get your students to bring in boxes after the holidays – so much you can do with these!!

Another thought – origami. This time of year, teachers often create holiday decorations with their students with paper-folding, which is fun, obviously, but can also be a great way to apply many math concepts. Shapes, fractions, and transformations for example. Take the following two origami designs – a star and a tree. As you are folding, you could be having students think about the individual shapes, but also the dimensions, the fractional parts after making a fold, what types of transformation have occurred – even congruence and corresponding parts.

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For example, in the star above, after folds #1, what fraction of the square does each smaller square represent? When we fold that triangle in #2, what type of triangle is it? What fraction of the original square is represented in that yellow triangle?  What type of transformation does each fold represent? Are the triangles in #3 and #4 congruent? How do you know?

images (1)step-step-instructions-how-to-make-origami-christmas-tree-illustration-67138886

Again, looking at the tree folding above, what shapes do you see in #1? What fraction of the whole paper is each shape (so squares and triangles)? How about in #2? And which shapes are congruent? How do you know? Lots of great math, that you could really explore with students while they are also doing a fun hands-on activity.

Hopefully you can use some of these ideas with your students. Have a wonderful holiday season!!

Equation App (Pt 2 in series) – Solving Equations – Why Use a Calculator?

Solving equations is a large part of the mathematics curriculum as students move into those upper-level concepts. If we look at the Common Core Standards, students start solving one-step equations for one variable in grade 6, adding on to the complexity as they move into higher mathematics where they have multiple variables and simultaneous equations and complex functions. It is important to help students understand what solving equations really represents – i.e. determining the values of unknown quantities and to help them solve them in a variety of ways (i.e. graphically, using a table, using symbolic manipulation, and yes….using technology such as a graphing calculator). And connecting those unknown quantities to real-world contexts is a big part of this as well. Students should solve in multiple ways and express their solutions in multiple ways so that they really understand the inter-connectedness of the multiple representations (graphs, tables, symbolic) and what all these quantities mean in context.

That said, many teachers are reluctant to use the equation solver that is often part of a graphing calculator because, as I have heard multiple times, it does the work for the students and just gives them the answer. True. But – there are ways to utilize the equation solver so that it supports the learning, not just ‘gives the solution’. The obvious way, and probably the most frequent way, is to have students solve the equation (s) by hand, showing all their inverse operations/work, maybe even sketching a graph of the solutions, and then using the graphing calculator to check their solution. Very valid way for students to both do the work, show their steps, and verify their solutions. But – the reverse is also a great way to try to help students learn HOW to solve equations. Working backwards, so to speak.

By this, I mean, use the equation solver to give students the answer first, and then see if they can figure out how to use symbolic manipulation and inverse operations to reach that outcome. As an example, start with a simple linear equation, such as 2x – 5 = 31. Have students plug this into the equation solver and get the solution of 18. Then, in pairs or small groups, have students look at the original problem and try to figure out how they can manipulate the coefficients and constants using inverse operations to get to that solution of 18. So maybe, plug the 18 in for the x.  What would they have to do to the other numbers in order to isolate that 18?  This forces students to use inverse operations to try to ‘undo’ the problem and end up with 18. In doing so, they are discovering the idea that to isolate a variable, you have to undo all the things that happened to it.  Give them a harder problem. Same process….and let them get to a point where they try to solve using their ‘understanding’ of inverse, and then they use the calculator to ‘check’.  The idea here is students are figuring it out by starting with the solution and working backwards to understand the process for solving equations. And they develop the process themselves versus memorizing it.

Rather than thinking of the calculator as a solution tool, think of it as another way to help students discover where those solutions come from.

Here’s a quick video on using the Equation App (solver) on the CG50. The process is the same on Casio’s other graphing calculators. This is another installment in the app exploration series, started last week with the Physium App.

Learning from Webinars

Online learning takes many forms, of which webinars are one. For teachers, webinars are nice because they are usually content or instructional strategy focused and they are relatively short in length, so you can fit them into your busy schedule. Webinars are often live – meaning happening in real time, and you register and sign on at the designated date & time and can interact with the presenter (usually via a chat forum).  This is nice because if you have questions, you can ask them right away. But – the disadvantage here is you have to have the time to sit in on the webinar, which is often not the case, considering our crowded school and personal schedules. If you can participate ‘live’, I highly recommend it. When I worked at Key Curriculum and hosted our weekly webinars, I know the live interaction was a very positive aspect of the learning.

Let’s face it – the reality is it is not always easy to get to a scheduled ‘webinar’, even if it is the most interesting topic in the world. Which is where the beauty of technology helps out – because most webinars are recorded and archived for on-demand viewing (much like our on-demand television binge watching craze!). Most education companies or organizations that host webinars will have them archived somewhere because they WANT you to log on and watch – it’s good for business. There are a couple of good sites listed below that have some educational archived webinars that might spark your interest:

There are more out there, but this should be a great start. And – not to let Casio be outdone, we have many archived webinars as well that focus on integrating Casio technology and math content. These are free and accessible on our Casio YouTube site  We have short how-to videos on this site as well, so the way to determine a longer, content focused (and/or technology focused) video is to look at the time stamps – those that are 20 minutes or longer tend to be the webinars. I’ve included one below on Proportional Reasoning, since this is such a huge issue with students of all ages, and the presenter, Jennifer N. Morris is one of my favorite people and math teachers. Enjoy!!

Using Pictures on the Casio Prizm CG-50 Graphing Calculator

I previously wrote a post a while back about the power of using pictures to connect mathematics to the real world. In that prior post I talk about the built-in pictures that already come with the Casio Prizm Calculator (CG-50 and CG-10), and wrote down the steps. With our new model out, the CG-50, I thought I should probably revisit this but make a quick how-to video instead just to demonstrate how easy it is and show off how many pictures are there.

Currently in my online course I am teaching, we are exploring transformations, and creating some real-world dynamic math examples, so Ferris Wheels have come up. Which got me remembering the Ferris Wheel picture that is one of the many available. Keep snowballing my thoughts, and you end up with me thinking of all the possible applications you could do with the calculator just using that one picture – i.e. what is the angle of rotation for one of the cars to ‘move’ onto another? Why are there concentric ‘circles’ as part of the structure of the ferris wheel – is this a strength issue? What is the length of one radius of the Ferris wheel (in real life – how could you calculate this from the picture? Is similarity involved?) Whats the distance between each car (measuring from the point they are attached on the Ferris wheel – so, arc length?)  And this is just one picture!

There are also ‘movies’ within the Picture Plot menu that allow you to see moving objects and plot their path as well, so again, some real-life connections to mathematical concepts right at your fingertips. As the school year is drawing to an end, this is definitely a time when you want to assess if students can make those connections of mathematics to the world around them, so exploring these types of pictures is a great way to engage students and provide them a reason for why they were learning all those math concepts. (Hopefully you were doing that all along as part of the learning process, but never too late….)

Here’s a quick video on how to access the pictures and ‘videos’ on the CG-50 Prizm, though the process is the same for the CG10 Prizm as well. Have fun exploring!

Annual ASSM, NCSM, and NCTM – A Week of Math Ed Leadership & Collaboration

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Just returning from a week of fun in San Antonio where the annual math leadership and teacher conferences were held. Casio was a proud sponsor of a few events and at NCTM we had such a blast showing off our new graphing calculators (both approved by College Board for use on the PSAT, SAT, & AP exams), the CG-50 Prizm and the CG-500 Prizm CAS (3D graphing anyone?!) Not to mention the added bonus of blowing TI out of the water! (Side note: I will be doing specific posts for each of these in the next couple of weeks showing off some of the new and exciting features).

Thought it would be fun to highlight some of the moments we had sharing math education and technology with the dedicated math leaders and teachers we met throughout the week.

ASSM & NCSM


For the second year, we were honored to sponsor the opening session of ASSM (Association of State Supervisors of Mathematics). Mike Reiners, one of our amazing math teacher leaders and Casio user from Minnesota, provided some technology talking points after the main speaker and then everyone enjoyed some good food and conversation.

DSCF3005At NCSM (National Council of Supervisors of Mathematics) we were able to connect with many math leaders at our exhibit booth. We had a great time sharing our new calculators at our Showcase workshop and everyone walked away with a brand new CG-50 prizm to explore

 

Benjamin Banneker Association Reception at NCTM

It was a privilege to sponsor the BBA Reception at NCTM for the 2nd year in a row. What a great group of math educators who work so hard to ensure equity for all students. We were excited to continue our scholarship for a deserving student to support their future education endeavors.

NCTM & The Calculator Face-Off Challenge

NCTM was a big endeavor, with game-show stage and podiums, screens, lights, calculator displays. Thanks to the amazing team of Chris and Lionel from Events Special Effects and our own Casio Exhibit gurus John and Jason, the vision was made into a reality and it was a pretty beautiful booth if I do say so myself. Kudos to the team – it’s hard work designing, building and creating everything, but they did an amazing job. Some behind-the-scenes photos:

We had some crazy fun at the booth with hourly game-shows, and T-shirt spotter program where we gave away Kindle-Fire to those spotted in our t-shirts. We had G-shock watch giveaways, calculator prizes for our volunteer contestants and a magician, Mark Paskell, doing some magical give-aways and tricks. (My mind is still blown away by the reproducing bunnies….) 

We loved all the connections and interactions we had with math teachers, showing offthe amazing capabilities of all our calculators, but definitely our newest CG-50 and CG-500 graphing calculators. The look on our game-show participants faces when our CG-50 just blew the TI competitor out of the water was priceless. I know I am excited by the number of converts!

Here is a slide show highlighting some great moments from the games, demonstrations, sharing and talking with math educators, winners of our T-shirt spotter program, and some magic as well. Thanks to all the great math educators who came by and participated! Big shout out to our Casio teacher contestants, Jennifer North Morris, Tom Beatini and Mike Reiners.

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