The Desmos Ladder! – Tracking Team Progression

This year we have started using the CPM curriculum for geometry and algebra 2. Students are constantly working in their teams to problem solve and typically are on different problems at different times. Keeping track of where each team is can be difficult especially when you have a large number of teams.  Creating a problem ladder is a great to tool to help regulate their progression.

Typically, I would write their problems on the board and they would move their group’s magnet to the problem they are working on. When they finish a problem they “red light” me and then they get approval to prove on the ladder. It gives me an idea of where every group is and if a group is slacking or moving too fast through the problems. It also gives the students a good sense of where they are.

I decided to make the switch from writing the ladder on the board every day to creating a ladder on Desmos. Teams are now able to create their own team names and come up to the board to move their team along. The ladder really helps to regulate a collaborative classroom. Here is a template for creating your own Desmos Ladder for your classroom! 

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It’s Impossible to Do Everything

This summer, I have been preparing for a year of a lot of change.

  • Changing Geometry Curriculum to CPM
  • Changing Algebra 2 curriculum to CPM
  • Changing Algebra 2 to SBG
  • Starting graduate school at UPenn

I have been thinking about these changes non-stop for the past three months. I have gone through multiple days of training for CPM, worked through multiple chapters for each curriculum,  created standards and assessments for Algebra 2, started grad school work, and attended multiple workshops and conferences.  I am now two weeks from the school year officially starting and I’m nervous and uncomfortable. This is extremely unlike me. I love to be busy and jumping right in. It has been great having summer to prepare and get ahead for this year, I feel prepared but oddly not. This year is full of unkowns. The unknown has typically never bothered me. I strive in it. I had no idea what was causing these feelings.

I realized at TMC why I was feeling this way. I was talking to a few friends when I realized that I want to do everything but doing everything is impossible. The idea of not being able to do everything is what makes me nervous and uncomfortable. This year is going to be a lot of change and I am truly excited for that. However, I can’t possibly do everything I want to do.

want to blog about everything. This probably won’t happen. I have about 4 ideas for blog posts just about TMC17 alone but making blogging a priority seems impossible right now.

want to participate in #geomchat #alg2chat #MTBoSNC #MTBoS #ElonEd and every other chat as much as possible. This year I may just lurk.

want to learn and use Desmos computational layer. I still really want to do this.

want to speak at as many conferences as possible (speaking at 2 already) and share as much as I can.

want to bring everything I learned from TMC back to my classroom and use it every day. (I just have SO MANY TMC1THINGS)

I know that during this year, a lot of things I want to do may take a backseat. I know I can’t do everything even if I really want to. It’s impossible.

So instead of thinking about all the things I won’t be able to do this year, I am going to reframe my mindset.

I‘m going to be the best teacher, advisor, coworker, student I can be. 

If the things I want to do fall into this category then awesome. It’s impossible to everything, but I can do the best I can.

-Sorry for rambling-

Weekend Getaway: Desmos Fellows Weekend

Earlier this year, I was lucky enough to be selected as a Desmos Fellow.  This entailed going to the Desmos head quarters in San Fransisco and meeting up with some of the most amazing minds math education for a weekend. I was so ecstatic to be going to Desmos, not visiting San Fransisco (a city I’ve never been to and did very little sight seeing while there) but Desmos.

My adventure to Desmos started Friday morning with my flight out of Charlotte.  Julie and I tried to contain our excitement on this 5 hour flight by watching Beauty and the Beast. Amazing. 

After dropping everything off at our hotel we walked our way to Desmos for some bonding by “math and mingle”. It was great seeing so many #MTBoS friends and meeting people I’ve seen on Twitter and Slack. Pretty great first day 🙂

Over the next two days we were led through various activities and sessions.

Micheal Fenton (@mjfenton) led us through a Points Collector activity. We worked with one computer per pair (promotes conversation). Micheal did not hesitate using the pause button causing a room of competitive math teachers to yell. After working through the activity, he directed us to another activity that focused on the Desmos Guide to Building Great Digital Math Activities . We went through the same activity but focused on the different Desmos pedagogy that was being used throughout. It was amazing to see how intentional Desmos is what creating their activities. It made me reflect on the activities I have created and different areas I could be intentional about.

We participated in a workshop about Desmos design process with Jenny and Shelley. We were able to collaborate with other teachers in our same subject to try and come up with ideas for a new activity to create. I loved that their design process started with writing the goal of the lesson a post it note and then brainstorming slide ideas on a paper folded in eight. When looking at our slide ideas, we had to make sure every slide was intentional with our goal in mind. The design process was definitely intense and at moments felt overwhelming, but you could tell that the Desmos staff knew exactly who they were catering too.

The CEO of Desmos Eli Luberoff (@eluberoff) gave a lunch keynote and shared with us the history of Desmos. It’s amazing to me that Desmos has only been around since 2011 and only started becoming popular in 2014. It has been such a large part of my pre-service education and my classroom since I’ve started teaching. ❤ Desmos.

Another large pro of this weekend was receiving access to the computation layer of Desmos where we can construct/edit our own mind-blowing features and activity using code. I tried to work through the computation layer scavenger hunt to learn how to code within Desmos AB. Julie and I created a new feature (with the help of Dan and Eli)  that we like to call the Sketch and Check. Students can sketch a function, press a button, and the function will show up on the same graph. It’s a great way to help students check their work without having to skip through slides.

Goal for the year: Learn how to code. 

We were also lead in a great session by Dan Meyer (@ddmeyer) who led us through the Charge activity to show how to create a need for Desmos in a PD session for teachers who typically love the TI. He also discussed how we could send in videos of ourselves presenting Desmos to Desmos and received feedback. If we are lucky enough and it all passes the Desmos standards then we could present (& get paid for it). I love that they are offering PD to help with presenting skills!

To end a fantastic weekend we had a Game of Thrones screening Sunday night at Desmos HQ after official fellows business was over.  #nerdy.

Overall, Desmos Fellows weekend was an amazing experience. I’m so grateful to be surrounded by and collaborating with such amazing innovative educators. Thanks for a great weekend Desmos! Can’t wait to reunite in a week at #TMC17!

Quadratics and Polynomials on Desmos AB

My Algebra 2 class is largely student-paced through Desmos Activity Builder. Before starting polynomials, we did a small unit on solving quadratics. Below is a collection of Desmos activities  I created for my quadratics unit and the start of my polynomial unit. A lot of these  Desmos activities are created using CPM curriculum.


Quadratic Formula: Students review and practice using the quadratic formula (song included)

Using Roots to Create Quadratic Equations: Students learn how to use roots to create a quadratic equation.

Interactive: Using Roots to Create Quadratic Equations: Practice using roots to write quadratic equations by flying angry birds, catching Pokemon, and going scuba diving!

Projectile Motion – Quadratic Application: Students learn to apply their knowledge of quadratics for projectile motion problems.

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Polygraph Polynomials (Jim Baumgart) – Started off playing polygraph to see what vocabulary they could apply before starting the unit.

What is your end behavior? : Students explore the beginning and end behavior of polynomials.

Graphing Polynomials: Students learn how to graph polynomials by using their roots and dilation/compression.

Match my Polynomial: Coaster Edition (Interactive): Match my polynomial – Roller-coaster edition. Students practice writing equations of polynomials with an added bonus 🙂

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Cannon School Math Department is Hiring!

Come work at Cannon School! Deadline for applications is Feb. 17th!

I Speak Math

Come work with me (and Julia Finneyfrock, Chris Taylor, and Danny Scurlock ) at Cannon School in Concord, NC.  It is about 15 minutes from downtown Charlotte.  Many of our teachers live in the amazing city of Charlotte!  It is an awesome place to work!

Upper School – Math Teacher
Cannon School is currently seeking candidates for the 2017-2018 school year in the Upper School Math Department. The Math teacher will be responsible for providing a safe, nurturing environment for students utilizing the schools instructional program. The ideal candidate will have experience teaching Algebra I, Geometry and Algebra II with Trigonometry in addition to a willingness to teach a range of other High School Math courses.

Education/Experience Requirements: A Bachelor’s degree is required, Masters preferred. At least 2 years of teaching experience is preferred.

You can apply online.  The deadline is February 17th.


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My Favorite: Seesaw!

Finally! Starting week one of the #MTBoS Blogging Initiative, “My Favorite”!  You should definitely check it out if you would like some blogging inspiration!  It is only four posts and it’s not too late to join in!screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-7-44-01-pm

For my favorite, I wanted to share SeeSaw SeeSaw is an app that allows students to upload videos/pictures/drawings/links to a class page.  Students can share these with other students or onto their individual file.

I have used Seesaw as a teacher and as a coach.

screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-7-39-19-pmIt is really easy for students to join. They have to download the app and sign in as a student. There is no log-in required (they can for multiple classes) and they just have to scan a QR code to join.

I have used SeeSaw for reviews in class. Every student received a problem that was on the review.  They were to become an “expert” on that one problem. Once they were experts, they made a video of themselves explaining the problem. This was great. Students were explaining problems in their own words which required them to really think about the problem. Once they finished, they uploaded their video to Seesaw for the entire class to see.  After all the videos were posted, students received the entire review. screen-shot-2017-01-06-at-7-38-54-pm

Students could use the videos if they had questions when studying. There were multiple videos for each problem, so this also offered students the chance to hear problems explained differently.

I coach cheerleading, and Seesaw has been a great tool. I take videos of chants and routines during practices/games and upload them toscreen-shot-2017-01-06-at-7-39-40-pm Seesaw. We also add formations and notes onto the page for everyone to see and use. Students can also post videos of cheers that they want to learn on the page.

One of the best features is that you can share it with parents. Parents receive a code that allows them to see their child’s work and anything shared to their folder! It’s a great way to engage parents and let them know what’s going on!

Hope you enjoyed my favorite SeeSaw!! If you have any questions feel free to ask!

New Year, New Blog!

I love the MTBoS! Start the year off right by participating in the MTBoS Blogging Initiative for 2017!

Exploring the MathTwitterBlogosphere

Welcome to the Explore the MTBoS 2017 Blogging Initiative!

With the start of a new year, there is no better time to start a new blog!  For those of you who have blogs, it is also the perfect time to get inspired to write again!

Please join us to participate in this years blogging initiative!  To join, all you need to do is write just one post a week for the next four weeks.  To make it easier for you, we will post a new prompt every Sunday!  Once you have blogged, please fill out the form below.  Each week, your blogs will be posted on this site for all to enjoy!

This Week’s Theme:  My Favorites

This week, the blogging theme will be “My Favorites”, where you can post about one (or many) of your favorite things!  Called a “My Favorite,” it can be something that makes teaching a specific math…

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Triangle Centers Algebraically: Completely Student-Paced Using #Desmos AB

Desmos Activities have completely transformed my classroom. Luckily, my school is “bring your own device” so my students have their computers every day in class..

I introduced triangle centers and how they are created geometrically (day 1) and explored vocabulary with my students as much as possible. After students learned what the centroid, orthocenter, and circumcenter were, I wanted to teach them how to find them algebraically (we talked about incenter, but not in an algebraic way) screen-shot-2016-12-13-at-2-49-46-pm

Below are the activities. We did one activity per day. While students were working, I walked around and answered questions all class. Desmos Activity builder really helped differentiate this unit. It also really helped students who were missing school. It was really easy to keep them up to date with what we were doing in class!



The activities below included all three. They became a little less scaffolded each time.

If a student did not finish an activity during class, the activity became homework. For the first three, every student finished in a 55-minute class. The activities with all three took students a little longer to complete.

I gave my assessment for this unit on Desmos AB and had students find the “best location for a water station” between three different fields on our campus. At the end of the assessment, I asked students how they felt they did and if they thought Desmos was helpful to them. Below are a few responses I received.



Socratic Seminars for Math Review

We are preparing for midterms, and for my Algebra 2 class, I decided to do a Socratic Seminar to review the all of the material. Instead of giving my students a list of topics that would be on the midterm, they created their own list by looking through their notes and tests and discussing the past semester. screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-11-31-42-am

My students were set up into two circles. Students on the inside circle had to discuss the questions prompted on the board. All students on the inside circle had to talk once before anyone else in the circle could speak again. This had all students looking through their notes and past test and participating in the review. They were coming up with what was important anscreen-shot-2016-12-10-at-11-32-00-amd narrowed down the topics that they struggled with the most. I added in a few questions in verbally when I felt they got stuck or could push the topic further.

Being able to verbalize the concepts they needed to know and the concepts they needed to work was extremely helpful for my students.

While the inside circle was discussing the prompted questions, the screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-11-32-58-amoutside circle was discussing the questions on a back channel chat. They were writing down the topics that they needed to know/work-on and went into more detail about the concepts than the inner circle.

For backchanneling, I have used

They both work really well and are extremely teacher/student friendly.

For this seminar, I used Today’s Meet. If you would like to embed your backchannel into your class page, it is extremely easy. By clicking class tooscreen-shot-2016-12-10-at-11-33-37-amls at the bottom of your chat, it allows you embed the live stream or transcript to your page.

This back channel chat was embedded “live stream” into their Haiku page, so it was easy to get to and they can refer back to it to study.

screen-shot-2016-12-10-at-11-31-33-amFor this seminar, I had students switch circles for every chapter. I asked the same questions for each chapter. I had questions appear one at a time.

I love doing Socratic seminars in my classes.  Talking about concepts and explaining them to their peers really helps students truly understand the concept. This activity also had them reflect on everything they learned this year. I think reflecting on their past test, instead of just looking at them, was also really beneficial.

A video of my seminar can be found here. 

I would love to hear if you have any suggestions or ways to improve and use Socratic Seminars. I also love trying new back channeling sites, if you have tried one that works well I would love to hear about it!