Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Student Videos

I fell behind again. Blogger initiation came and went… my self-discipline really shows.

My ill-excuse, robot club. Yeah. I have been with kids building robots.

We went to a FTC Qualifier Event on Saturday, Dec. 8th in Ankeny. We scored 17 out of 18. Not the best I know, but my kids were awesome. We met challenge after challenge with things going wrong, ordered parts never showing up, things not being legal on the robot, not being able to find things… We set our school alarm off because we stayed at the school working so late the night before we left. My students rose to every challenge. We will be competing again in February, and I know we will do a whole lot better.

Though I may have been busy, aren’t we all? I read f(t)’s recent blog  and found it amusing as usual. Again, it is comforting to know there are others who understand how active and involved a teachers’ day is. My husband asked why I was so tired one day. I wanted to lop him one. I sometimes envision my brain is like a car engine that if I put too many miles on it now, I will not have anything functioning when I am older. Then I remember my brain is a muscle. I get serious brain DOMS- a term a learned from my brother-in-law about stretching muscles. But, hopefully the constant activity I am giving my brain will only make it stronger for the future, right? Is that how it works?

Anyway, I thought I would try to resume some self-discipline and get my blog on again. Below is a Calculus “quiz” I am giving my flipped calculus students. The typical me teaching through videos is going to be put in their hands, for they are going to be the ones making videos. This quiz is a bit out of the ordinary, because it is somewhat of a group quiz. Ideally, you would have groups with three students to a group. In each group, each of the three students will be assigned the f-, g-, or h- functions. They are to complete the two problems they are assigned and complete a video on the two problems. Then, the next day I post up all of the videos, and they can watch each other’s to help complete the remaining problems on the quiz. I will post up the videos from one group. I have recently been on a kick to bring out students who are able to explain and articulate their understanding and assess this understanding appropriately. I believe this assignment does that.

chapter 5 Quiz.docx
Here are some videos created by one of the groups:

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Math Cartoons for Inverse Functions

The evolution of my lesson planning over the past three years goes something like this (By the way, instead of using evolution at first I used evolvement, which is not a word. Spell check suggested the word enslavement... ):

Year 1: The challenge was the unmerciful pace of time as I searched each night for the perfect way to teach a concept I was to teach the next day. Being frustrated  not finding it, I would organize a lesson or create some sort of activity to teach the concept, finish the lesson just in  time, execute the lesson in class, and would think either "Wow- not bad" or "Wow- that did not go at all like I envisioned".

Year 2: The challenge was looking over the lessons and asking "How can I better explain this?" and trying to improve my explanations to make the objectives of the lessons more achievable for my students.

Year 3: The challenge is realizing the way I have taught needs a major make-over. My goals to be the perfect explainer and presenter of information have been flawed. Understanding by Design has been the focus of our professional development, and this year I struggle to change the way I teach so students have joy in discovering and truly understanding concepts. (I just read a great blog at concerning this.)

With that rant out of the way, I would like to say I have seen success with some of my units throughout the years. 

I am teaching logarithms at the moment. It has become one of my favorite units to teach. I start the unit with compositions and inverse functions. I find my students really have always enjoyed this lesson. The cause of the enjoyment- a cartoon. I know, I know a happy go-lucky cartoon is not the answer of true understanding, but it helps. I thought I would share it:

The one big observation I get EVERY YEAR from this cartoon is some students points out or shouts out "Where is the robots head?" referring to the third image along slide one. Again the thought through my head is "Wow. That did not go at all like I envisioned." 

However, this really helps with the understanding of why the inverse functions have x and y values and roles that swap. Everything our original machine/function does onto an input is undone by the inverse function. The output of the original function is the inverse's input because the inverse swoops in and takes it. The output of the inverse is what the original had started out with and worked to hard on to change.

Whatever it takes to make it stick, right? 

I have attached the PowerPoint I have for this lesson in the "Lesson's on the Loose" page of my blog. I also will be adding my exponential and logarithm lessons because this lesson on inverses launches that unit. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Week 4: Thanks Blogger Community

I am going to be honest, and say I have done a good deal of stealing... OF LESSONS! Don't worry; I am strictly in the line of lesson thieving and nothing else. I do give due credit as well. My blogging experience has developed quite a bit over this last summer.  Before, I always searched blogs just on a prowl to find the perfect math lessons. Then I started to see the bouncing of ideas and sharing of experience. I always saw the real benefit of taking, but I learned the true benefit of reading, relating, learning, and also giving back hopefully as much as others have given me. 

Things have been busy for these first weeks of school, but one of week 4's blogger initiation prompts led me to taking the time to read and enjoy some blog posts. One of the many I came across was mathemagicalmolly's blog about "forgetting how to teach" at Mathemagical is now a part of my vocabulary.

She brought up sleep. Oh, how sleep changes during the school year. I really do not find myself doing a whole lot of dreaming while in school. I think at night my brain has to all out die in order to recoup for the next day. I have found throughout many stages in my life, my work life takes over my dreams. When I worked at Target in high school, I woke up to trying to pull my cat across as "scanner" because in my dream I was trying to ring up a costumer at check out. When I waitressed, I always dreamt these dreams where the restaurant was really busy and I just could not keep anything straight. Now, I have dreams about what I need to do for the classroom.

The purpose of this weeks blog. Nothing really. Just a simple thanks to the blogger initiation, and all the committee has done. And thanks to all those strangers I am reading, learning from, and just enjoying relating to. 

Monday, September 3, 2012

Trying to Get Students to Understand Why Math is Important

                I have an Algebra Extended class where algebra is taught over the course of two years rather than one. It makes for a slower pace math class for the students who may need a slower pace type of math atmosphere. The student that normally takes this particular course, let’s just say tends to ask the question “Why do I need to know this?” Not in the nice-polite way, more in the I am asking because I am certain I don't need to know this way.
                I am trying to show my students that you never know when math will help you prove a point or help you make a decision. I have a theme going on in all of my classes this year: “Is it sustainable?” The use of ethanol, the decision to go with one phone plan vs. another, the consumption of energy the school goes through- is it sustainable socially, economically, ecologically?
 I make it clear that they will be responsible for making real decisions and I will be giving them room to form opinions around all of the information I will be bringing into the course. I want them in turn to see the importance of having factual evidence behind what they say.  When they make arguments, math can often times be the tool that serves as fact. If they make financial decisions, doing some calculations can justify their final choice of action. I am trying to establish this theme of thinking critically and not just saying things when really they do not have the knowledge to back up what they say.
                To try to win them over that math can play an essential role in winning arguments, we start the year off with a debate. It is a bit abnormal. On the first day of school, I have students brainstorm some strong beliefs they have or controversial issues they can think of.  Here are a list of some of the things they came up with:
                The war in Iraq                                   Year-round schooling    
                The healthy kids’ act                           Raising corn-prices (This one turned out great!)
                The health care act                              Which car is better Dodge or GMC
             I assign random partners. These partners decide on a topic. They then become enemies, for one person in this pair will be FOR "Year-round schooling" and the other partner will be AGAINST "Year-round schooling."
             The actual assignment is quite simple. I have done this for the last two years, and what I see is some students really fly with it, and other students really just do not take it seriously. I think it is well worth seeing the students who make a great learning opportunity out of it. They learn not just about a topic they are interested in, but they also see the force of using math to form facts and backbone to an argument. The outcome of the debates do portray to the students, that good research and factual information does clearly win. I can continually refer to this project throughout the year to make the point that math can really come in handy to justify decisions and hopefully help prove an answer to the theme of "Is it sustainable?"
                All students are to do is come up with a strong argument sentence. I tell them this can be opinion. But, they are to find 4 statistical or numerical facts. I have the “Outline” worksheet with an example paper I made for an argument and the rubric down below.
Outline for Argument Papers

                 For some reason, Excel is not opening for me at the moment. I will be posting the rubric I grade them on. The presentations are in the form of a low key debate where they two conflicting arguments stand up together and read their arguments. I have the pro side go, and then the con side. I fill out the rubric as they present. (I will post this rubric as soon as I figure out what is up with Excel...)

Students in the audience fill out the following evaluation forms as the debates occur.
                Tomorrow I hear the last of the presentations. Then, we shall see if I made an impact with them...

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Proud to Share Algebra Boot Camp for Calculus

Each year in Calculus, I seem to make it a little farther with my students. I have been able to improve the course a little each year to the point where I feel my students were able to not only reach farther, but also get themselves deeper in the understanding of the concepts of calculus.

I am feeling even better about this year. I have a few things in store to make sure my students are able to focus on the key calculus concepts and that they are able to draw connections that will solidify their new learning even better. 

Change 1: Algebra Boot Camp
We have had just two days of school so far, and I am proud to share the first week's work of Calculus material. With the inspiration of samjshah's post "Algebra Bootcamp in Calculus"  I too made a bootcamp. I also have found those darn algebra skills causing so much grief.

Algebra could potentially take away from the calculus. Students getting held up on algebra tends to cause frustration. They triumph over defeating the algebra, but in this triumph over struggle, lost track of the new Calculus skill they were actually trying to do.

Then, there are just those algebra common errors.  Students doing things like this= AAHHHHH!!!!

I gave boot camp 1 on the first day of school and boot camp 2 on the second day of school to my calculus class. Here are those handouts:

I feel this was a great start of the year. In my calculus videos/lessons, I can refer to these boot camp skills. They have the worksheets in the binders/notes, so they can refer back to their findings and review. Plus, it was kind of fun to see them resurface these skills. I stepped back, and told them to use their resources and each other. I was pleasently surprised to see they remembered most of these! They worked in groups of 4 and bounced ideas off of each other very well to complete the worksheets. We had great follow-up discussion about answers following the completion.

Change 2: A huge collaborative concept map to link the concepts and skills of calculus. 
Now this one is not one I have done yet, so hopefully I will proudly be able to share this later as I go along. One project I plan on doing is having them make a concept map throughout the course of the year. After each unit, they will collaborate as a group to come up with key skills and concepts they have learned throughout the sections of the unit. They will be putting these skills and concepts into though bubbles (made out of construction paper maybe) and sticking them to the wall. It will be an ever-changing concept map where they can edit connections as we progress. I want to just do it on the wall using construction paper, but I was also thinking about having them do on on a Prezi. 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Yay for Blogger Initiation: A Goal for the First Week of School

Yay for blogger initiation! I think there was a time when I just did not get blogging. I did not think it was a worthy priority to dedicate time to. The thing was, I had not invested time into it to see the greatness that could come out. I said to myself I did not have time for it. Oh but how you can make time when something becomes such a clear benefit for you. The ideas I have already received, the resources, the insight, the communication, and the personal, professional growth make me so excited to become a part of the community.
This will be the start of my third year teaching, and I still exercise the dream I had for my first two years about setting the stage just right for my classes of Pre-Algebra, Algebra, Precalculus, and Calculus. My goal is to have things run smoothly for the first week of school and to get my students pumped and prepared to learn. Big goal of many little goals, I know.  Vague, I know. My first week tends to be a frenzy for me. I am not prepared to give any genius insight on it because I just do not have it down yet.
What I really want to talk about is a shiny, brand new goal for this year that goes beyond the typical first week goals and first week list of things to do. 
I am hoping to raise an interest in at least 5 students and create a team at my school to participate in the FIRST Challenge robotics building program. There is more information about this challenge at   
Newby teams in Iowa are being supported by the company Rockwell Collins. The kits to build the robots are about $1,000, but there is a grant Iowa teams can apply for through Rockwell Collins to cover these costs. (There is options for other states, but I am not keen on them. Sorry other states.) The application is at .
The requirements for this funding include:
1.        Teams will consist of 5-10 members between the ages of 14 and 18.
2.        The team will meet at least weekly throughout the season.
3.        Coaches will participate in a training session for coaches.
4.        The teams will participate in a tournament, which may be a regional or championship event.
5.        The coach will be responsible for managing the team and participating in a post-season evaluation.
I am fully ready to cover and get my group of creators and innovators through requirements 2-5. I just need a team of students who are excited to jump into robot building.
Now, I know a little about computer programming (a very little, little), but I am excited to jump into a project like this though I know I do it kind of blindly. Through this robotics club, I am hoping to create an outlet for students who may not have had that moment/opportunity in school yet to let out some of the creative and exploratory minds. I am excited to see what they can come up with and the beasts we can create. To at least gain a little more knowledge and be a somewhat knowledgeable coach, I want to tell you about my next awesome discovery.
On the radio, I listened to how elite colleges are offering FREE online courses. I went to Stanford’s offerings at And wouldn’t you know, there is a robotics course! It is a 7 week course, and takes the structure like any online course. You do not exactly get credit, but you get the knowledge and a certificate of course completion. I will most happily flaunt that Stanford certificate in a scrapbook, that I will probably never make, and I will gladly take that wealth of knowledge. There are other courses and colleges participating. For now, with the little goals and things that need to be done at the start of school, I have just signed up for the one course. But this year, I hope to be collecting the certificates of completion and gaining that wealth of knowledge.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

What I Got: DIY Wind Turbine

The motor I ended up with is nothing like what I researched about. I got carried away with the research (I am finding this to be a theme in this project). When you are working with limited resources and budget, you cannot be a picky person. I ended up with 17.2 amp, 7099 RPM, 2.5 HP, and 130 VDC (volt) motor.  Nothing like the 3 amp motor I thought I wanted. Also, I did not get the Volts to RPM ratio I wanted. In research, I found that a .035 ratio was ideal. I ended up with a .0183. Again, not quite ideal, but it will do.… When you travel  an hour and a half to pick up a free treadmill posted on Craig’s List, and you take it apart to find a 17.2 amp motor, that is kind of what you are stuck with. That, and a lot of treadmill parts to dispose of.

What does this mean? Well, the scale of my project just got bigger, significantly bigger. I kind of feel like I was just trying to hammer a nail into the wall and I accidently knocked down the entire thing. I actually got myself really worried about the whole project as I stood in Menards trying to figure out what I needed. Things will just need to be bigger. Hey, more power to me though right. Really, I know right.

Here is what I ended up with:

Here is a picture of my husband trying to help me out and taking apart an old broken down hand belt sander. It turned out to have an AC motor… oops.

Soon, I will be posting about the blades. If you are interested in making 1 meter blades, I found an already thought through blade design for using PVC piping at . He gives you tables which basically gives you an arc length to cut given how far along the length of the blade you are. I am going to research a little more on them before I decide what to do. I know research, smeesearch. It has not done a lot of good so far, but I am sure this time it will. 

By the way, we do give thanks for the treadmill and the belt sander that was sacrificed in this process. For anyone who is concerned we will hoard the parts and make good use of them one day, or else we will take in the scrap metal to salvage their worth. Hats off to you treadmill and belt sander. May your parts become great contributors to science and making this world a better place.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

What is this feeling I am feeling inside?? Excitement?

I am just going to be frank here. I have taught two years, and I have never been truly “excited” for school to start. Of course, this is contrary to what I have said when people asked me, “Are you excited for school to start?” I always gave a big, fat “Yes”. Sorry.

The first year, I was just nervous out of control to be truly excited. The second year, I had kind of a big thing going on (I got married), and when school came rolling around again, I felt completely unready. What have I learned? I learned the feeling of being ready is a rare feeling in teaching for me.  The feeling of being 100% ready is a never. I can spend hours upon hours trying to establish the ins and outs of the lesson, the demands I am making of my students, the anticipated problems and questions the students will encounter, the connections to be made … You need to jump in with the best preparation job you can muster.

This year, I can say honestly- I am excited and ready to just jump in. Here are some reasons why:

1.)    I am blogging this year. During the summer I have started to follow several awesome blogs. Today, I just read at about a BLOG INITIATION where I hope to extend my stealing and sharing web even more. I cannot speak more highly of samjshah and how he has impacted my teaching. Good bye to teaching in isolation and regular nights of labor to birth ideas and projects (graphic I know, but it can be ugly). Hello huge network of teachers to exchange ideas. I already have two great new project ideas that I took from other  blogs.

2.)    I just finished my STEM Externship experience, and we had a last get together yesterday in Des Moines. From this conference I have learned about Iowa’s FIRST Tech Challenge where students work with designing programs and building a functional robot. There is more information at If you are in Iowa, Rockwell Collins, an aerospace, communications technology, and defense company, is providing support for newby companies. There is the applications and information at  At the beginning of the year I am going to get kids on board as soon as possible, and if there is interest I will be applying for the Rockwell Collins FIRST robotics grant. My students will learn to be producers of technology. I do not think there can be anything not exciting about robots.

3.)    I get a $150 stipend for my classroom this year, a generous gift from the STEM Externship program I participated in this summer. I am thinking about using that money to purchase items for building mini wind turbines in the classroom. I was directed to Kindwind I will start looking into this. I find the idea of my students doing the work with me to figure out wind turbines a very exciting prospect.

My goals are starting to seem a bit overwhelming. I have the initiative, however, and am mentally preparing for the follow through. Gah! I have so much to do!! I definitely don’t miss this feeling. Again, there is no true feeling of “I feel ready and completely prepared,” so that only leaves excitement now.

Before I start anything, I will finish up my summer goals that ends with me creating 10 new calculus videos for my flipped classroom. This week I will focus on nothing else. Success will be mine.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Summer Project- DIY Windmill Step 1: A motor

               I created three goals in my “One Goal Accomplished…” blog. I have created two lessons out of my externship. They are posted in the “Lessons on the Loose.” What I have left to do this summer is to make a windmill and remake ten calculus videos. The windmill is something that may extend beyond the summer. I am having trouble just starting. If you are not interested in making a windmill, read no further.
                To start, I want to clarify the scale of my project for those that may have come across this blog in an attempt to do research on a DIY wind project. For now, I just want to be able to connect my turbine to the grid to counter some of the electric components we are running in the house. My husband and I would eventually like to live “off the grid”, but for now we are just exploring the possibilities and working to learn the process of moving that direction in an affordable way… “teacher- salary affordable” and “a high potential I buy these parts and mess this up affordable”. So, I am aiming for it to be pretty free. My ignorance is also far above my knowledge, so know that I am not at all a credible source. I have, however, included the very helpful links I used. Believe me, I know this research results in a web of questions.
                I began this project by researching fin design. I thought that was a good place to start because I was sure that there was a perfect mathematical design that would maximize the efficiency of my turbine. My husband actually accused me a trying to math this project to death. My mind was being boggled as I battled with aerodynamics. Then I found - another great account of someone’s experience with a DIY wind turbine. I used this as a big reference.  I think the best thing was finding the following quote at the link I mentioned above:
This process can be very educational and you can get carried away with this if you are not careful. If you are looking for the perfect design, stop right now. After 3000 years of windmill technology, there is still no perfect design. There are advantages and disadvantages to every design (in my opinion).
It was at this site I had to change the game plan because I found in this and several other readings that selecting a motor was in fact the place to start.
Motors will produce a certain amount of voltage given the rotations per minute. I was working backwards. Given that motors are already built with specified Volt-to-RPM Ratios, knowing the motor you have, you can design your blades to ensure they are capable of the desired RPM.
Here are some things I learned in my motor research:

1.)     I preferred to find a brushless motor- some motors, expecially treadmill motors have brushes on them. Brushless  motors are more weatherproof than those with brushes (
2.)    I wanted a direct current (DC) motor. You could use an AC motor, but you would need to have extra hook-ups to convert the energy correctly- I will not even pretend to understand why.  I originally had the idea of using a fan motor, but that is AC you see. (  Good DC motors would be treadmill motors, washing machine motors, moped motors,… car motors, but they would require a lot of torque to get going.
3.)    I was looking for a motor in the ball field of 3 amps given the average windspeed of 13 mph around here, and a ratio of .035 Volts-to RPM as specified at . There are excellent explanations at this website.
4.)     I wanted free or at most a $30 motor.
I did many calculations and had idealizations of the perfect type of treadmill motor I could find.  Looking though ebay, the prices of not free were a bit too high because I am a cheapo, so I resorted to searching for free treadmills on Craig’s List. The travel time and the fact that I could not know the volts, amps, and volt’s-to-rpm ratio without disassembling it first made me go back to ebay.
And so I am waiting- waiting for a treadmill to magically appear on the curb, or waiting for one of my low bids to win on ebay.
So, I have accepted this will be an ongoing project for potentially the year. I will take pictures and po
I will let you know what I end up with. In the mean time, I will be working on creating ten new calculus videos. I will post them here!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Slow Summer Time Advances

I have not posted in a while, so I wanted to update and say the lag in my posts are not due to my typical blogging neglect. I had a reminder this week that not all project plans work out. The fortunate thing is I was able to see I had crashed and burned before I brought it to my students.

I have been working on a project this summer as inspired by my "Externship" only to decide the project I put time and energy into creating was no good. It was a low moment. My heart actually ached a little when I realized I was trying to force something that just was not working. I went from researching ideas for projects involving water pumps, to designing a super-soaker, to designing an irrigation system, to designing a water system for a house. It went from a complicated project idea to another complicated project idea to another one.

I decided that this project was just too complex and took away from my overall objectives of the unit.

I am completing my "Externship" with a very strong will to ensure that I, as a teacher, will nourish and build student's problem solving and creative skills. We as teachers are such problem solvers. We are challenged with coming up with the proper process to introduce ideas and concepts to students that enlighten them, build their curiosity, and make them work.

This means I do not spoon by spoon feed my students directions and direction. They need to have a bigger picture set by me and guidance. One of the most valuable skills in the real world is being familiar and okay with not knowing how to do something and then being confident with going out and trying for the answers using the infinite resources that are out there. I know I am. I just went out and tried something, and I happened to approach the lesson the wrong way.

I will be finishing up some units and lesson ideas this week, and I swear on this blog, I will start posting usable lessons here by Sunday.

I will also be putting up the progress on that wind turbine. Summer is coming to an end too quickly!! I do have some results of goals set.

Below are the worksheets I will leave behind... Take them up and share if you can make anything out of them. I could not.

Monday, June 18, 2012

One Goal Accomplished... What is Next

As I look over this year, I am happy to say I have successfully introduced the flipped classroom environment to my Calculus Course. Again, the link to my videos is

I reviewed one of my old posts from when I returned from ITEC- ITEC if you have not heard of it, is a wonderful technology conference that you should go to if you want to be filled with new ideas and possibly a little depressed at what is out there that you are not doing in your classroom. I am thankful to have made the realization of my life that in order to be a sane and productive person, it is best to take on just one or two goals at a time. In this scenario, you see the accomplishment and success of a focused goal, and you can move on happy. The best case of the other scenario is you have this forever long list of to-do's for goals and in spreading yourself out over the goals, it takes a really, really long time to see any success. The worst case of course is you get burned out and do not see any success. This reminds me of our fix-me-up house... so many projects, such a mess. WHY WOULD ANYONE GLUE CARPET TO BEAUTIFUL HARDWOOD FLOORS!!?

Anyway, the clear goal to implement the flipped classroom has been accomplished. Success is mine. Both my students and I have seen what it can do, and at the end of the year, we all agreed it had been well worth the transition. I have embedded some surveys that they took about the flipped classroom. The main benefit in the discussions we had is that the flipped classroom helped the students feel more college ready in that they practiced and developed the skills of self-motivation, resource use, and independent as well as collaborative thinking and problem-solving.

I still have things to do with the flipped classroom. I am still working on merging the flipped classroom with UbD. I have a goal of remaking 10 of my videos this summer in order to add more applications to the lessons, more in-depth, critical-thinking guided questions, and more visuals and media.

But, with success, I move on happy! What now? What can you expect to see this summer? Here are my three goals for the summer:

1.) I am currently working at Merrill Manufacturing for the "Extern Program." If you have not heard of this, this is another AWESOME experience that enables you to bring back a hands-on experience to your classroom. There is more information of the program at hope to be able to create two unit projects from this experience and publish them on this blog. I also have another blog at that directly follows my progress at Merrill.

2.) I want to build an energy wind turbine for operating small electronics at my house. I will use this experience and design a unit out of it for my students. Maybe having them build their own wind turbines. If anyone has ideas of the math used in making the most efficient turbines, or just any tips or advice, I would love to get in touch.

3.) Remake 10 videos for my Calculus course.

That is it. Oh, and finish the construction projects on the house...

Monday, April 16, 2012

Resource for Getting Math Expressions/Equations on Webpage

I just found a really cool website for writing code on websites. You use motor control to write in the expression or equation you want to put onto a webpage.

Most networking mediums like Blogger for example does not allow you to write math statements. So, even if I wanted to write an equation as simple as the parent/untransformed quadratic function, I would need to use the carrot. Effective but not as satisfying as seeing the hovering 2.

So, go to the link above, and draw on the grid what I want.

Now, you can see in this bottome right corner how it will give you LaTex code.

Take that code HERE:
Type that LaTex code from the first link, that y =x^{2} into the "Latex Equation String" and click on "Submit"

You can just copy the image of your equation where it says "Link to Image" or save the image as a .jpg. Then, paste/insert it on sites like this!

I know... it seems a pretty long about way, so if there are quicker ways... feel free to share you humble number of followers out there. I did not have snipping tool for a long time, so if you do not, this is the only way I was able to do it.

Ta-da!  Make it as complicated as you want!


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Clearing Up Misconceptions

I had to write a letter to my students as we entered the second semester of this flipped classroom set up.  I had 5 students drop my class. 2 students dropped because they did not like the new set up. 3 dropped due to the rigor of the class.  I have 8 left.

Dear Flipped Students,

The process of flipping the classroom is still something we are all making adjustments to. We have done a survey, and I hope that you took the time to give me feedback, so I can contemplate the necessary changes and reflect on things I have not thought of. We have kind of talked things out too in class. I want you to know that I am listening, and I am trying to figure out ways to help adapt to this new learning environment.

Some key issues have come up during the discussions about this flipped classroom we have had is class. Below I tackled some of the misconceptions you and/or I may have had at the beginning of this, and I have reflected over some of the changes we could do to make this work out better:

Misconcetion 1: The flipped classroom would result in more/less work

                I want to address that if any of us thought this would make learning easier, that is not the case. This was not meant to make learning easier or reduce the work required to learn. Just as much work will need to go into practicing and trying to understand the key concepts.

 On the other hand, I do not think this is more work for you either. Again, I am going to bring up the word adjustment. I do believe there is an extra learning process that is a consequence of changing how we are learning the material. You all are going to need to learn how to learn from the videos. This initial adjustment is an extra job and challenge that unfortunately is running along side of the challenge to learn the material. As we transition into knowing this class is video-based, we have to establish techniques on how to learn from the videos. Just like learning how to take effective notes, listening actively in class, doing practice problems, etc. are study skills we have acquired over the years and developed (and still are developing), you all will need to learn another study skill of using videos to learn.

If we would have stuck with our class routine before, of course this extra adjustment and consequence would not exist. At the same time, we would never take a stab at the possible benefits of what a flipped classroom can do for us. And truly, if we are successful with this, the learning and productivity can be great.

Misconception 2: The videos should be more entertaining

                The videos are not meant for entertainment. At the start of this, I had this vision that my videos would be awesome and I could do neat effects that would get you engaged in the concepts and skills I was trying to teach through my videos. At this point, we are learning the basics of Calculus, and in all honesty, I just do not have it in my skill right now to be making explosive dramas that will relate to the things I am trying to teach you. When you learned how to add way long ago, the skill itself is not that fun to learn. The applications that come later are what make the skills more interesting.

                My goal and focus needs to be on teaching you the concepts and skills you need to be successful in building connections and learning the concepts of Calculus. Sorry.

                I will be attempting to change up the style of some of the videos. I am not sure how it will be, but I do wish for the lesson videos to be more interactive. Let me know other suggestions that may be helpful to the objective for these videos to teach and help you discover connections and skills.

Key issues and possible solutions that will improve this experience:

Asking questions during the videos:

                Of the feedback I have received about why some students do not like this set up, I find the most concerning one to be the inability to ask questions while the lesson is going on. Some of you have said you had a question come up at certain parts of the video. Now, this set-up does allow you to come to class with those questions, but most of you cannot keep track of all of the questions that arise.

This is big. Questions should not just go unanswered.

My possible solutions for this include arranging a certain time for everyone to watch the video at night so you can post questions on Youtube.  I will be on, and I could refresh my screen and be answering questions as they are posted. Similar to this, we could also arrange for an hour Skype time, where you can be watching the video, and I will be sitting, ready on Skype.  Another solution for you would be to make a journal of questions for each video. Just record the time and your question. The next day, we can pull up that moment in the video and I can explain it in class.

Do not forget that you have an infinite number of resources out there. There is Khan’s Academy, other Youtube videos, practice problems worked out on websites, and many more. Please do not cheat yourself out on the many resources available. We can discuss in class some of these ideas for solutions.

Maintaining a pace.

Some of you may have this sense of not feeling the pressure to be keeping up with homework. This is a class now that requires self-motivation and responsibility. I understand you have a lot on your plate, which is why you do have leeway in the pace. I say at most you should be spending two days on a lesson. I think that is fair. Some lessons may only really take one day for you to understand. Go at that pace. Do not stretch out the lessons you  could accomplish within a day.  If you break ahead, it would allow you to take three days on a section you may be struggling with.

I do assign large homework practice sets. However, if you look at it like this:                    

 The pace gives two days to a lesson. Night one, you go home and spend 45 minutes to an hour taking notes over the 30 minute video. Day one, you have 45 minutes to work on the assignment with me available which leads you to night 2 of homework for 45 minutes. You return back to school for your day two of in class time to finish it off- asking any more last questions. You go home that night to watch the next video and repeat the process. Overall, the reality is that there is no less than 2 hours and 15 minutes dedicated to practice problems/”homework.”  Yes, there are quite a few problems, but you also have a decent amount of paced time.

Try not to fall behind. Feel the pressure and the necessity of giving this time.  I am asking for at least 1.5 hours of homework over the span of two nights.45 minutes of that 90 minutes is note-taking/videowatching. I promise you, I am spending just as much time on this process at home as you are.

The progress grade I hope is sufficient incentive to make you keep up with pace. Your progress is worth 30% of your Calculus grade. As long as you are keeping up with pace, completing the majority of the homework assignments, and taking good notes for your binder, you have 60% in this class. The tests are 40% of your grade which you need to receive at least 70%.  Do the math. You sit at a 90% with the lowest test scores possible as long as you do your homework and stay to pace.