Category Archives: #julychallenge

Flashbacks, non math #julychallenge


Random tidbit…one last post to end July.

While sitting outside of Game Day Popcorn  last week, my TMC roommates and I were chatting about our afternoon sessions.  @hfoster17 mentions Flashbacks.

I said- I use flashbacks.  @fibanachos says she used them years ago.  Something was said about  stumper.  OMG. I had Stumpers in my flashbacks too!

At that moment I realized I had gotten Flashbacks Structure from @fibanachos (whom I just met last year at TMC13) many, many years ago at a conference session.   Isn’t that cool.

Card Tossing & Spiraling Curriculum #tmc14


Awesome session Mary and Alex!  Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

The session focused on their experiences with Grade 10 Applied students ( Canada).  The entire course is activity based which allows students to not miss out on big ideas as they would in a traditional unit by unit aligned course.
Students have repeated opportunities to experience big ideas. The tasks are rich  with multiple entry points and different approaches to solving.  It’s a collaborative environment with accountable talk.  There are fewer disciplinary issues with increased engagement.

Each 6 weeks a mini – exam over entire course up to that point takes place.  Questions are in context and tied to activities they have completed.

We began with beads and pennies on our desks and this task… Cole has 2 smarties and 3 juju bed for $.18 while Noah has 4 smarties and 2 juju be for $.20.  They shared that systems are presented this way – no algebraic forms- for the first several weeks of class.  I, personally, can see how effective this strategy could be.

The next activity shared was Sum of Squares (he doesn’t refer to it as Pythagoras Theorem, yet – or did he say ever?)

Students are asked to cut all squares from side length 1 to side length 26.  Each square is labeled with side length, perimeter, area.  Then they build with them.

Basically students explore and eventually they focus on triangles formed with question, are there 3 you cannot make a triangle with?   Which combinations form different types of triangles. Begin looking at 3-4-5 triangle families, similar triangles (Kate suggested dilations here), discuss opposite side and adjacent sides, then give them a TRIG table and allow them to figure it out.

Compare side lengths with perimeter, or side length with areas.  The possibilities of math concepts are endless.
We ended the day with Card Tossing by collecting data, then using rates to make some predictions.

Video of Alex & Nathan picture below is only a screenshot.


@AlexOverwijk downed by @nathankraft 75 to 72

Each person in the room completed several trials of tossing our cards for 20 seconds.  We found our average rate of success, then determined who we thought might beat King Card Tosser.

Alex asked us to predict how long they needed to toss if he gave Nathan a 35 (?) card advantage so it would be super close and exciting.  Our prediction 38 seconds about 75 cards. Many ways of making the predictions were possible. Not to shabby, huh?

This task was fun, exciting, engaging.  Definitely on the to-do list.

This approach is definitely something I would like to consider, if administration will allow it!

Google Form to Track RTI


Last Spring I had one block designated for RTI.  Initially our focus was on students below benchmark on their PLAN as an indicator of their ACT.  All 11th graders in Kentucky take ACT during March.  After ACT, we began to look at their Discovery Education Benchmarks for their current course to highlight students below proficiency or those not progressing at an expected rate.

When assigned to RTI the previous year, I was a mess.  I never felt I had a good grasp on my purpose and end goal.  This year, I went in with a plan of action.

For the ACT, first half of the semester,  I deconstructed 4 practice exams, looking for big ideas that correlated with suggested topics from ACTs website for students within this score range.  I used varied strategies (Notice/Wonder, visual patterns, white boarding, small groups, individual, online review options, etc) to interact with students while utilizing these big ideas as our initial goal.  Each student took a 15-minute evaluation using Method Test Prep to give me a  baseline (unless their current teacher could provide me with other evidence).  Some students had taken the actual ACT and we were able to use those results as a beginning step as well.

From Discovery Education Benchmarks, I considered the areas students were not progressing in and provided similar strategies as with the ACT above, just more focused on specific content as it pertained to their course of study (ie algebra 2 vs geometry) to help them move forward.

I needed a way to track the variety of students, so I created a Google form and placed a link directly on my desktop.  At the end of RTI, during planning or afterschool, I could quickly enter information.  This intent was just to track who I was working with, how often.  However, the goal of RTI is to provide supports for students that will enhance their learning and transfer to achievement.  As I met with individual students, we discussed where they were and I allowed them to set their own goal.  This was in their their file, they wrote it out, but I need to modify my form and enter their goal, along with final results in order to help me see the learning all in one place.  If you’re not familiar, responses to g-forms are shared with you in a spreadsheet, so you can sort by student if you like.



My form was simple and included the following:

Student Name.

Date. (there was a time stamp, but sometimes it may be after school or the following day before I entered their information).

Time of day – drop down menu. (RTI was 3rd block, but if a student’s schedule didn’t work well with that time, I met with them during my planning or afterschool ESS).

Topics Addressed – checkboxes with an option for Other.

Method Test Prep results (from evaluation, Practice Test 1, Practice Test 2 and/or Lessons they completed on their own time/during RTI.)

Misc. Box to enter notes of how much we completed, successful or need to continue, etc.


My intentions are to include DE Benchmark with subcategories and reporting levels this year as well as a place to record their goal, comments and reflection each time I meet with them.  I need to add ACT score, EOC score as well as DE Benchmark final results.

Even though I currently do not have a section of RTI assigned, this is a form I plan to modify and use within my own classroom.  I will utilize our Method Test Prep in the fall to set baselines and see needed areas for attention, then focus


Math and Kentucky Program Reviews (Art, Writing, PLCS)


In Kentucky, we have Program Reviews for Arts/Humanities,  Writing a nd Practical Living / Career Studies (PLCS).  My interpretation… the idea is to ensure all teachers across disciplines are integrating concepts, strategies into their classrooms on a regular basis in efforts to make connections with student interests and enhance their learning experiences. 

I have used many routines from Making Thinking Visible over the past two years to improve writing-to-learn and writing-to-demonstrate learning opportunities for students.  I feel they will tell you our reflection and analysis of work through writing and discussion makes their learning stick more.

As I plan to revisit these routines with @druinok and some other stats peeps, I was exploring this and ran across Artful Thinking.


Definitely check out the Thinking Routines and Curriculum Connections links for some insightful resources that can help other content areas find purposeful, quality connections to art for their courses. 

Finally, a tweet from @approx_normal the other morning provided these awesome classroom tasks focusing on Career Technical Education.

Hope this provides some helpful information for teachers looking to make connections in the areas of Arts, PLCS and useful thinking routines to help with Writing implementation. 

@Plickers #tmc14 #myfav


An APP I downloaded early in the summer, then forgot about it until dinner Friday night.  Something was said which triggered a thought, so I pulled out my phone to share with my #tmc14 roomies. Click here for more info.


I was already scheduled for a #myfav Saturday a.m. so why not introduce this fun app to others?!?

I used the hotel’s business desk to print my paper clickers, set up my account and ran back upstairs to practice. 

A QR code of sorts.  Each plicker has a number you can assign to students.  The answer you wish to submit should be at top of your page when scanning.

We scanned reponses.  Changed answers by rotating our plicker. We saved, opened and cleared responses.  It tagged the reponses w time and date.


You could see response distribution immediately.  It even listed each student’s response individually.

We were using the 5.5 inch plickers (you can print a larfer size, too) and my  device read them at 20ish feet away.

As folks arrived the next morning, I passed out plickers and asked them if they minded helping me later. 

I shared my story, asked them to hold their plickers for response A just to ensure I didn’t need to calibrate.  I scanned the room.

Based on reading tweets later, it was described as mind-blowing, #amazeballs and some other gasping descriptions too embarrassing to share.

I asked a couple of them to change their answers.  Scanned again. Yep.  They worked again. 


Smiles. Ooooo’s and Ahhhs.  It was a good thing.

Since #myfav, several have shared ideas for their claases.

Printed on cardstock. 
Students keep in INB pocket.
Color coded for each class. Student’s name on outer edge.
Single set laminated, velcro dots to attach to desks for quick access.
Laminated to back of INB.
Others I know I missed.

iOS or android.
40 different codes for larger classes.
One device.
Lose a plicker, print a new one.
Immediate feedback can sync with online account to display results.

What’s not to love?

Now to find out where I can get one of those cool t-shirts someone tweeted about!

Question in comments concerning how to get results graph on computer screen…

Need to create an online account if you have not already and link by signing in on the app.

When you are logged in online with your class device, mine is desktop for my projector, go to my account.

Choose Classes.
Add a new class, name it.
To populate class list, just type name and hit enter. It will save names automatically.
Click classes.
Choose class.
Click Teach!

You need to hit refresh on your handheld device to see class.

Once you add question & title it, it should show up on class screen immediately.

You have a choice to see Grid – student names (option to show or hide responses) or Graph to show response distribution.

On device create question, check to save.

Choose question, pencil to edit and you have option to delete, clear responses or choose correct response (can choose multiple answers too) by tapping answer. Should turn from blue to green/red.

Let me know if this is too confusing. Still learning myself.

The Moving Walkway #julychallenge Post 19


As I am walking through the airport this morning, it was not crowded and had I been brave, I would have collected some data to enable me to create a nice little work-rate problem.

How much time does that moving walkway actually save me?

Scenario 1: walk the distance.
Scenario 2: ride the distance
Scenario 3: walk while riding
Hmmm…Scenario 4: while riding, walk against the moving walkway.

The next time I have an early flight, when it’s not crowded.  You bet I will be recording some times.

Setting Personal Social-emotional Goals pt. 2 #julychallenge Post #17


This morning as I responded to a commented from @bpagirls on my post about an Essential Questions Board, a thought hit me, so I typed it in my reply so I wouldn’t forget…

… I have just realized as I type, why not add a spot for personal-social goal-setting on my organizer for each student to set, write and reflect.

It stems back to this post and one of the 14 ways to think about good teaching post, 3. Include social-emotional learning goals as well as academic goals.

I got that I needed to do this, but I was not quite sure how to set and record these goals.  My plans are to include a place on the back of our unit organizer students receive at the beginning of each unit.  These are formatted in a booklet style to fit our INBs.  Students can set a personal/social goal to focus on for the duration of the unit. Ideally, following the SMART goal format.  Commit to it by writing it on their organizer.  I will ask to see it, but they may choose whether to share with a peer.  Wouldn’t it be great to have accountability partners for the unit? 

Throughout the unit or even at beginning of class, ask them to read it to themselves.  Maybe even allow someone to share their progress.  Revisit them as we end the unit and write a brief reflection:  How did I do?  Did I meet my goal?  If not, did I at least move toward it? What do I need to modify?  Follow the format: 2 stars and a wish for their quick-write reflection.  Celebrate their progress, maybe through our Shout-Out Board (more on that later).

I realize this type of goal setting may be tough for students… I am hoping after completing this task, it will allow for students to generate ideas.

Initially, I think goals can range from:
Improved / good attendance
Be to class on time
Being prepared for class
Completion of assignments
Asking for help
Asking questions or participating in class discussions.
Attend tutoring if needed
Work in a group with people I don’t know.
Share my ideas in class
Share my assessments and progress with parents/guardian
Choose better practice/study options
Listen to others ideas
Evaluate how my choices are impacting my learning.

Here is a sample of the back of my unit organizer.  I plan to insert personal goals below the unit reflection.  Here is an updated version of a complete unit organizer and student assessment tracker. Feel free to modify for use in your personal classroom. Thanks to Crazy Math Teacher Lady and Math = Love for inspiring through their posts?


My next task is to locate a fill-in the blank for a SMART to include on the first unit.  Kind of a madlibs style to get us started.

If you have a system in place or use LIM or AVID in your school, I welcome input and suggestions.

My Experience with Counting Circles #julychallenge Post 14


Still addressing 14 ways of thinking about good teaching from this post

2.  Plan goals for both the long term and the short term.

My number 1 goal is to help students grow – personally and academically.  My wish is that they leave my classroom believing in themselves, more self-confident than when they entered. 

Ideally, I do want every student to reach proficiency, but I am also a realist.  When students come to me with *ACT-PLAN scores in the 10-14 range, proficiency is not an immediate goal…growth is, pure and simple.  My class becomes the stepping stone to reach proficiency.  Students in this range generally have major gaps in number reasoning.  They are just now beginning to develop understanding and knowledge of assessed skills.

Last year, I wanted to use accessible tasks to begin each day…Counting Circles, Number Talks (pg 4 of link) and my post, Estimation180, and Visual Patterns were staples in my Algebra 2 classes.  Students in these classes ranging from ACTPLAN scores from 10 to 23-wide range of abilities and varied confidence levels.  These tasks were approachable for all students and I feel helped in developing number sense which allowed several students to make significant gains on thier ACT.

Counting Circles (Thanks to Sadie!) was very popular in both classes.  We literally got out of our desks to create a “circle” around the room. Yes, it seemed trivial at first, but I was able to see student confidence grow as they strengthened numeracy skills.


My Routine
We have a starting number and a number to count by.  In the beginning, I choose nice numbers, then some that required a little more thought.  Eventually, I allow students choose our counting number and starting point.  I would have expected them to take the easy route.  Not at all.  They like to challenge themselves.  We also countdown.  I like to write their responses on the board for them to visually see the patterns.  When a student makes a mistake, I try to not point it out, but rather, allow students to have opportunity to voice their concerns with a response, respectfully, of course.

After going so far around the circle, I stop and ask, What will _______ (a little further around the circle) say next? 

We usually get a couple of responses, so I allow them to explain their process then, as a class, they determine which one makes more sense.

Also, I like to ask…who will say ______ ?

Side note: Later in a functions unit, while looking at finite differences, a student explained, this is similar to what we were doing with Counting Circle the other day!

Our First Counting Circle – Count by 10
I began with couting by 10 on decade numbers, by -10 on decade numbers, then on numbers like 11 or 14, counting by 10 in both directions.  It was a great way to model the routine.  Students are comfortable with it.

Next week, we counted by 2s, up and down, starting on positive and then a negative.

Several students are all in – they’ve got this!

Then by 5s.  On 15, 70, -85 then numbers not ending in 0 or 5…. 37, 128, -89. Both up and down.

I began using single digit integers then a few double digits.

Next week we worked with decimals +3.7,  starting with an integer, then moving to devimals 11.2.  One student this particular day was quickly running through their numbers.  When I asked their strategy, they responded….its easy, add 4 then count .1 back 3 times.

We also use fraction expressions as well.

I already know my stronger numeracy students-those with “high status” in class (Ilana Horn).  So do their classmates.  What I love about counting circles is choosing different students to explain.  Struggling students pick up on numeracy techniques as explained by their peers.  They are able to see those high-status students’ thinking and realize, “I can do that too.”  Its a win-win.

Yes, at high school age, I have students who don’t want to participate, but with a bit of coaxing, they come around. It becomes a game.  Classmates encourage those who struggle.  We don’t laugh or make fun.  They celebrate when ‘that’ student experiences success.  Most of all, they smile.

Generally, it takes anywhere from 5-15 minutes depending on number choices, discussions, size of class, experience with the routine.

Suggestions:  pre-cal count around unit circle, elementary use money as a context, what others can you share?

Long term goals and planning changes with each group of students.  Having access to learning routines like these allow me to tailor toward each groups’ needs.

*In Kentucky, every student takes the PLAN during sophomore year and ACT during their junior year as part of our state accountability model.  To measure student growth from state data, students are grouped by their PLAN scores, then compared to others in this scoring band.  Once the ACT scores are available, they are given a percentile rank from within that initial grouping.  I, the teacher, can view this and whether they had high growth, expected growth or below expected growth.  The state assigns me an overall rating and this will eventually become 20% of our Certified Evaluation plan.  The other 80% is determined locally and by student growth and proficiency goals I personally set for my students early in the school year.

Time Capsule Teaching #tbtblog #julychallenge Post 13


This tweet made me wonder….


If I created a timecapsule of my teaching strategies…what would I think when I opened it? 

I read the post, Time-Capsule Teaching and within a few moments I thought…what was I blogging about 3 years ago?  I searched back and thought I hadn’t actually started yet, but there it was…

July 17, 2011

I was new to the blogosphere. 
This was my 2nd post.
TMC did not exist yet.
I was learning about standards based grading.

After much reading and discussion with close colleagues and many hours of processing what I had read, I knew SBG would be more effective in communicating student learning.  My grades prior to this had been filled with fluff, things unrelated to actual student learning…the reason some students had good grades but were not achieving at the same level.  Initially, that’s why I started blogging was to record my journey through sbg.

2 Years ago
July 16, 2012 #made4math Monday

It was the 3rd week of #made4math.
These lovely pencils for my classroom.


I did this again last school year. 15 pencils almost lasted until Christmas break.  All in all, I put out fewer than 36 pencils for the entire year.  My daughter helps decorate-cheap flowers, pipe cleaners, feathers-whatever she finds in the craftbox to make them obnoxious.  Students no longer ask me, they just borrow.  It is easier than me taking time out of whatever task I am on to hunt them a pencil. I have a mini clipboard, students signed their name and crossed it off when they returned.  Obviously, some were not returned but that’s about 1 pencil per week.  Its worth it to me, fewer interuptions, I don’t get frustrated if the same ones are borrowing a pencil everyday. 🙂

The same post I shared this handy paperclip box that I just filled with paper clips before APSI last month!


1 year ago
July 23, 2013
A Reflection Tool for PLCs from @TJterryjo “I have a dream…”


Basically her PLC was asked what characteristics a dream math student would have (in green).  Then, as teachers, what they could do to create that dream (in blue).  At each PLC, they “dotified” what they had seen in students and themselves to see if they were moving toward that dream.

This is something I wanted to do but let it go.  This is on my to-to list for our first departmental PLC this school year!

Join in!
Pick a year. Any year.  Read a post and reflect…
Not been blogging that long? Pick a favorite blogger and read one of their posts from 3 years ago…
Throw-back Thursday Blog #tbtblog