Hello, reader! If you intend to post a link to this blog on Twitter, be aware that for utterly mysterious reasons, Twitter thinks this blog is spam, and will prevent you from linking to it. Here's a workaround: change the .com in the address to .ca. I call it the "Maple Leaf Loophole." And thanks for sharing!

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Row Game

(As with everything) I didn't invent this, but I use the heck out of it. It is self-checking, which is my favorite thing, and seriously saving my butt in das uber-class that now has 31 kids in it. I don't even have 31 desks. I just hope at least one person is absent every day. I am totally serious about this.

Make a worksheet of problems organized in two columns. Column A and column B. The tricky part is the pair of problems in each row has to have the same answer. Obviously some topics are more suited to this than others. (Solving linear systems, easy. SOHCAHTOA, easy. Graphing inequalities, hard.)

Pair up the kids. Decide who is A and who is B. Tell the kids to only do the problems in their column. When done, compare answers to each question number with their partner. And if they don't get the same answer, work together to find the error. That last step is where the magic happens. I know how well I taught the topic by how busy I am while they are row gaming it up. (Sipping coffee: go, me. Running around like lettuce with its head cut off: self-recrimination time.)

I'll also do this by projecting 2-3 pairs of problems for 5-10 minutes of practice at the end of a lesson. Row Game Lite.

Here is an Operations on Radicals and a Permutations and Combinations worksheet to get you started.

Friday, October 9, 2009

How to Embed a Geogebra Sketch into a Blog Post

Triangle Centers

Sorry, the GeoGebra Applet could not be started. Please make sure that Java 1.4.2 (or later) is installed and active in your browser (Click here to install Java now)

David Griswold/Kate Nowak, Created with GeoGebra

How to Do This
  1. Make your sketch in Geogebra. Save it as a ggb file, like normal
  2. In Geogebra, File -> Export -> Dynamic Worksheet as Webpage (html)
  3. Go to Geogebra Upload Manager and login or create an account and login
  4. Follow their instructions for uploading materials. Basically they want you to put it in a folder with your name on it.
  5. You'll want to upload the *.ggb and the *.html both for your sketch.
  6. Open the html file in a browser. Select View -> Source.
  7. Copy all the code between (but not including) the TABLE tags to the clipboard.
  8. Paste it into the HTML editor of your new blog post.
  9. In the line that stars with "param name =," change the filename from yourfilename.ggb to the whole URL copied from the geogebra upload site. For example, I had to change centers.ggb to
  10. That should do it.
  11. Has anyone else noticed that "Geogebra" sounds like an undergarment for a woman made out of rocks? 

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Speed Dating

Speed Dating is one of my go-to structures, like War and  Solve Crumple Toss, for incorporating lots of practice with built-in behaviors to encourage learning. It hits all my requirements for a practice activity: it's self-checking, promotes dialog, allows for some differentiation, requires a little movement, and the kids are doing all the work.

To prepare, you will need cards or slips of paper with problems on one side and the answers on the other. Here are some rational expressions cards to try out. It's important to use problems that will take all your kids about the same amount of time to complete. To differentiate, use a mix of difficulties. If you will have the whole class working together, you need as many problems as students. If you are breaking the class into two distinct groups, you need half as many problems as students, but two copies.

Arrange your desks in two rows facing each other, like this:
Each student gets a problem. Here's where you can differentiate, by giving quick workers more difficult problems. You can mark the problems "easy" "medium" "hard" and let the kids pick their challenge level - it works surprisingly well.

They have several minutes to solve and become the expert on that problem for the day. After a few minutes have passed, tell them the answer is on the back so they can check if they did it right.

When ready, the students trade problems with the person across from them and work it. If they have a question, they are looking at the expert on that problem. If someone raises their hand to ask me a question, I first ask the expert student, "What is his question?" If she says "I don't know," I tell them I'll be back around in a few minutes.

When ready, students get their original problem back (you will have to remind them to get their original problem back before shifting seats for a while, until they get used to the structure.) One row stands up and shifts in the same direction. The student on the end that gets bumped off circles around to the other end. Now everyone should have a new partner and trade problems.

Repeat until all possible partners are exhausted or you run out of time.

This was christened "Speed Dating" by my third period trig class last year. Another class I had called it "The Math Train." If we haven't done it in a while, kids start asking for it. The social component makes it fun, whatever you call it.