New Idea for Checking Homework: Math Journals

As the year is coming to an end, I’ve started thinking about how I want to organize next year. I am really trying to include more writing into my geometry curriculum. Screen Shot 2016-05-19 at 10.47.57 AM

I have decided that I am going to create a math journal for my students for each chapter. This journal will include:

  • Pre-assessment Essential Questions
  • Notesheets
  • Homework
  • Blank note sheets
  • End of chapter Essential Questions


During the chapter, I plan to check homework a few times a week. If students didn’t do their homework, I plan to mark the homework in red pen. If students didn’t do certain problems, I plan to circle the problem in red pen. This is the only recording I will do for homework the entire chapter.

At the end of the chapter, I plan to collect every math journal. Students must turn in a complete math journal. The homework that they did not do/finish must also be completed.

My idea is that  when I scroll through their math journals, I can easily see if they missed  a homework by looking for red-pen. If there is no red pen, they receive full credit for homework. If I see red-pen, but the problems were completed at a later date, they will receive a small deduction from their homework. If they did not complete the problems they missed, they will have a larger deduction taken from their chapter homework grade.

My idea is that this will encourage students to do their homework and make them accountable for doing homework they missed.  It also helps that all of their work will in one place.

Collecting the journals will also give me a chance to how my students have grown from the beginning to the end of the chapter. Looking at the pre-and post essential questions will help me easily see this growth.

The journal will also help keep my students organized. I’ve already started putting my first two unit journals together. A lot of my notes are done their PearDeck, but this journal gives me a chance to put in some guided notes and space for my students who like to take notes by hand.

I decided to break up the journals by chapter, so I’m not stuck with certain material all year. I just have to make the lessons for the unit a week before.

I’m looking for feedback, suggestions for this journaling and homework idea.  Has anyone tried math journals before? Do you think grading homework will be effective? All feedback is welcome 🙂




Volume of 3D Shapes with Play-Doh and Water

I love when my students are engaged and visually learning.  After Julie Reulbach told me about how she used Play-doh to create 3D shapes with her students, I decided to try it out. I had students work in groups of two to create 3D shapes.

Supplies per group:

  • One fun-sized Play-doh
  • Ruler
  • Plastic knife

Students were given the following instructions

  1. Create a square prism
  2.  Using your ruler, cut your shape into 1 cm pieces. Cut it away that all of your pieces are the same shape. Specify that you can only cut once to make the shape.
  3. Next, we discussed finding the area of one piece and then multiplying it by the number of pieces to find the volume. They realized that the number of pieces their prism was cut into was the “height”.

We repeated this with a triangular prism and cylinder. Students came up with the formula that volume= area base*height.

Next, I had students create a cone and asked them to cut it into identical shapes. They realized they couldn’t. I wish that I had 3D solids at this point in class (I got some later), but I did the next best think by showing them a video.

I first started out by asking if they thought a cone could relate to any of the other shapes we’ve talked about. A cylinder quickly became the winner because they both of circular bases. I then asked how much bigger did they think the cylinder was compared to the cone. After taking classroom bets we watched a video using corn kernels from a cylinder to fill up 3 cones. This helped us derive the equation for the volume of a cone.  We did this same thing for finding the formula for a pyramid.

This play-doh activity really helped my students visualize the formulas and understand that the height of the pyramid didn’t always go from top to bottom. We described the heigIMG_7787ht as the direction we’d slice the shape to create congruent shapes.

The next day, I did have 3D solids and set of stations around the room.

Station 1: Cone and Cylinders

Station 2: Triangular and Square Pyramids and their prisms.

Stations 3: Octagonal Pyramid and Octagonal Prism.

Station 4: Half Sphere and Cylinder

For stations 1-3, I had students first find the volume of the shapes algebraically. They then fill up the shapes with water and measured the volume of the water using graduated cylinders. They loved seeing their math match up (close enough). This also gave us a chance to talk about percent error (spilling water).

IMG_7791For station 3, I first had them fill up the half sphere with water and measured the water with the graduated cylinder. Next, they had to figure out how many half spheres it took to fill up their cylinder. The cylinder was the same height of the half sphere.

It was then up to the students to derive the formula for a half sphere, then a full sphere. The hardest part for them was making the connection that the height was also the radius.

I loved these water stations. Students got to visualize the formulas for the second time, they got to practice finding volume, and they got to derive the formula for a sphere.

After class, I asked my students if they would have liked doing the water activity on the first day. They told me they liked doing the water later in the lesson because they had a day to let the play-doh formulas sink in and they could reaffirm what they knew and discovered something new.

Circumference: Popping Bubbles!!

Coming back to school after spring break is always a struggle, so obviously I thought playing with bubbles was a great way to start off the week. . I started off class by separating my students into greats of 3 and 4 and handing each group a container of bubbles. The only directions they were given were to start blowing bubbles.  The students were so excited that they could blow bubbles in school! After a few minutes, I asked them to come up with questions they could ask about bubbles. Students were asking all types of questions!

“How far will the bubble move?” “How big is the bubble?” “How fast does it move?”

“What’s the circumference?”  “What technique helps you create the biggest bubble?”

By students asking the questions, they become more invested in the activities in class.

Next, I poured a little bit of the bubble solution on aluminum foil a dipped a straw into the solution. At an angle, I blew into the straw  a half sphere bubble appear on the foil. I showed the students that when the bubble popped you could briefly see a circle in the foil.

I gave each group 1 straw, a large piece of tin foil, bubbles, string and ruler. Using ONLY those items, students had blow 7 bubbles and record the diameter and circumference of the bubble once it popped. They then needed to record their finding and then record the ratio of the  circumference over the diameter. The ratio should be close to Pi everytime!

My students already knew the formula for circumference but this activity really helped them visualize it and was a great, fun introduction to our circle unit! It was awesome watching groups cominig up with different ways to measure their bubbles.

This activity took around 25 minutes and then we spent the rest of the time practicing more complex circumference problems.




Dynamic Transformations using PearDeck and Desmos

I decided to teach geometric transformations (excluding rotations)  using a dynamic approach.  I also added in absolute value transformations so they could see transformations in point-slope/vertex/transformation form.

Day 1 – Translations

I started class by having my students sign into my PearDeck presentation for the day. When they signed in they were taken directly to a Translations Desmos Activity created by Andrew Stadel to introduce Translations. I had students sign into their accounts, so they could go back and look at their work on the activity later. Students worked through the activity at their own pace and once they all finished we moved to the next PearDeck slide.

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Instead of standing up at the front  board and “lecturing” about translations and how to do them, we were able to have a discussion! Students already knew how to translate figures! I used the drawing tool on PearDeck to practice translations. Students were asked to describe translations and then actually then translate them on their screens. While they were practicing, I was able to see the work of EVERY student on my Ipad. This allowed me to see instantly when a student was going in the wrong direction or plotted a point incorrectly. If I wanted to sit in my chair in the front of the room, I could still see every students’ progress and work as it was happening.


Day 2- Reflections

Reflections started the same way. Once they logged onto PearDeck they were taken to Cathy Yenca’s Reflections Desmos Activity. After students
explored on Desmos, we
came together as a class and practiced reflections on PearDeck.

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Day 3- Dilations

Screen Shot 2016-02-17 at 4.02.35 PMFor Dilations, I decided to create my own Desmos Activity to start the lesson.  After they worked through the activity we had a great conversation of dilations and scale factors. This conversation helped WONDERS when I introduced similarity the following week. Students then practiced dilating images through PearDeck.

I also created a Desmos Polygraph to practice the transformations we learned so far. Students LOVE playing polygraph. It truly does help them speak mathematically and it’s a lot of fun 🙂

Day 4- Absolute Value Transformation

I created my Absolute Value Desmos Activity by editing an activitScreen Shot 2016-02-17 at 3.59.52 PMy created by Faith. As we did the previous days, students started with the activity and then we moved to practicing and discussing in PearDeck. In class, we called point-slope/vertex form transformation form. I have been introducing this form all year, so my students had seen it before. I think that it’s important to make the connection from geometric to algebraic transformations. We didn’t spend a plethora of time on it, but I think it really helps when they move on to Algebra 2.


Anyhow, using Desmos Activities to discover and learn transformations and PearDeck to practice worked out beautifully. Check out my Desmos and PearDeck pages to learn more about each of them!




The Real Barbie Girl: Proportions Come to Life!

Geometry students have all seen proportions before. I really wanted students to understand proportions and not just know how to solve them. After reading Julie Reulbach’s post on Barbie Proportions, I knew I had to try it out!

After a quick introduction and practice with solving proportions using a  PearDeck presentation, students were ready to start the activity.

In my A-block class (11 students), students work in groups of 2 and one group of 3. In D-b lock and E-block  (20 and 16 students) they worked in groups of 4. I liked the smaller groups better. Every student was ACTIVITY participating. As the groups became larger students started slacking off. However, I did collect every students worksheet with their Barbie Proportion work.

I LOVED this activity. Students could practice solving proportions, and see how DISproportional Barbies really are! A lot of my students were actually shocked about Barbie’s proportions! Especially the size of her legs and feet! Super long legs and realllly tiny feet!  I think that it gave them a great understanding of what it really means for things to be proportional. Students also loved measuring and tracing their peers on giant paper! What better way to learn about proportions than by making them come to life!!!

Teach My Lesson: A Day of Dilations

This is the final week of the MTBoS blogging initiative! mylesson

This week I have been teaching geometric transformations.  Every day has had the same start. I had students check their homework by going on Haiku the moment they walk in. Students can check their work at their own pace and have the answers directly on their screen.

When they are finished checking their homework, my students then enter our class code in on PeardDeck . PearDeck creates interactive lectures. I embedded a Desmos Activity into the first part of my lesson for every transformation. As soon as my students log into PearDeck they are taken directly to this activity and are able to start at their own pace.

Today, students were learning dilations. They started working on the Desmos Activity I created that explored dilations using tables. Most of my students finished in about 2o/25 minutes. When they finished, I changed the slide to discuss as a class what they found out about dilations.

Next, students were able to practice dilations on PearDeck together. I gave my students a shapes and the dilation and they drew the dilation on their slide (I let them draw pictures if they finish early). I was then able to overlay all of the drawings to see if any of the students were off, and I could show individual students work as well.

When I PearDeck I usually bring in my Ipad so I can control the presentation from anywhere around the room. I could also see every students’ work on my iPad while they were working. This allowed me to see and fix student mistakes instantly.

We practiced 4 dilations together, then they were taken to another Desmos Activity. This activity is a polygraph game that I created for students to practice describing all of the transformations they learned so far (reflections, translations, dilations). Students played this game for about 10-15 minutes at the end of class. Students LOVE polygraph. I literally had to kick students out of my class because they didn’t want to leave.

Some student comments I heard today were….

“Class is over already? I don’t want to go to my next class!”

“I love this! Can we do this more often?”

“This is so much fun”

I love polygraph because students were talking mathematically, getting excited about math, and I could see all of the questions they were asking eachother. Although I don’t always play polygraph in class, my typical class consist of a PearDeck presentation and depending the lesson, a Desmos Activity. Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 7.38.58 PM

Feel free to checkout my past Peardeck presentations and Desmos Activities and reach out if you have any questions.

Instagrams for Quadrilaterals #LetmeTellYouAboutMyShape

I was trying to come up with a fun project to practice properties of quadrilaterals when I stumbled upon Drawing on Math ‘s blog post about quadrilateral Instagrams. I use Instagram in the classroom all the time, and my students love using it! After learning all of the properties of quadrilaterals, I decided to give it a try.  I gave my students 45 minutes in class to work on it and the rest was homework. I used the guidelines from the original but then altered them slightly. IMG_7084

Instagram Poster Guidelines. 

  • Sign up for a shape
    • I put all of the shapes on the whiteboard and assigned three numbers to each shape. I told my students that they could sign up for their shape, but it was first come first serve. It was a MAD RUSH, but kind of exciting seeing how certain students were persistent on having a certain shape!
  • Make up a username and description (definition)
    • Students made this part extremely realistic. They created hometowns, added Snapchat usernames, and shout outs to their best friends and significant others! (all shapes of course! )
  • Take at least 5 self-portraits
    • 5 self-portraits was the original guideline when we started. However, we added #womencrushwednesday #mancrushmondays #shapecrushsaturday #tbt to the mix of pictures.
  • Write captions, hashtags, and descriptions from other shapes (describe all properties)
    • In this part of the project, students really got clever with their comments and captions.
    • When doing their #crushday post, students talked about the other shapes in the captions of their pictures.
    • A student with a parallelogram posted a picture of a square, rectangle and rhombus and talked about how proud he was of his “children”.
    • Comments from other shapes referenced the shapes similarities and differences

My students seemed to have a lot of fun with this project. They were able to be witty and creative while practicing the properties of quadrilaterals. I told my students that they could get as creative as they wanted. This gave a lot of creative freedom to my students who strive in creativity but did not limit the students who were not creative. Super fun way to end this section!! I started class the next day with a gallery walk so students could see their peers work! They loved it!

Check out some of their projects below!!!

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Holy Polygraph, Batman!

Although I am an active user and creator of Desmos Activity builder, this week was my first time ever using  Desmos Polygraphs. Oh my Gosh, let me tell you… this activity was so much fun!!  Remarks that I received from my students were….

“Can we play this all class?”     “Let’s keep playing through break!”

“This is helping so much!” 

Polygraph takes after the board game  Guess Who?! When students sign into the polygraph they are partnered with another student in the class. One student is the picker and the other is the guesser. The picture chooses an object and the guesser has to ask yes/no questions to try and figure out the object. When one pair finishes a game then they become paired with another student. SO MUCH FUN.

This week I played Polygraph in both my geometry and algebra 1 class.


I first decided to try Polygraph after reading the Geometry Teacher Blog created by Andrew Shauver. His site has a TON of great resources for geometry. I was starting Polygons this week and I saw that he posted two links. One for  Desmos Polygraph Basic Quadrilaterals and the other for Desmos Polygraph Advanced Quadrilaterals .

I love Desmos, but I never used Polygraph. I wanted to try it out and understand it, so I actually signed in as two different people and played myself!! 😝 It was so much fun!

I introduced these polygraphs to my class after we discovered the different types of special quadrilaterals. I wanted them to practice their vocab by asking yes/no questions to figure out which quadrilateral their partner chose. My students loved it! They said it really helped them define the different types of quadrilaterals. It was a great way to learn special quadrilaterals instead of memorizing their differences.


Algebra 1

I used Polygraph to introduce scatter plots to my algebra 1 class. Before I explained scatter plots and correlations I had my students sign in and play each other. They were describing the scatter plots using vocab that I didn’t teach them yet!! It was funny because I had one student ask “What does this have to do with math?!!” I kept telling him to trust me and it would all fit together.  I let them play for about 15 minutes before pulling my class back together. I showed a positive correlation scatter plot and asked my students to describe what they saw. I then had a student come up to the board and draw a line through the data that they thought would best describe it. This is when my students made the connection with a postive correlation and positive slope. YAY slope. We then did the same thing with negative and no correlations. We also looked at strong, moderate and weak correlations.

Next I had students go back to Polygraph to play again. This time, they had to use the vocabulary we discussed to describe and eliminate each scatter plot. It was great to see how their use of vocabulary improved the move games they played.

If you haven’t played Polygraph yet I definitely recommend it. There are a ton in Desmos, but you can also create your own! Don’t be like me and wait so long to try it!!!

Scavenger Hunt Stations

I love using stations to review for a quiz or test. I have done many stations using folders and QR codes, but I found that my students like to work with the same people and tend to get the question from the station and go back to their usual seat. This time, I decided to change it up.

I created 7 stations and printed out two copies of each station. I laminated and then taped these stations all around the room. I also created a worksheet for my students that provided room for them to show their work for each. However, the worksheet did not provide any of the questions, so students had to stay at the stations to see and answer all of the questions.

Although there were only 7 sets of problems, I doubled them to create 14 stations. The maximum number of students I have in my classes is 20, so this ensured that there would be no more than 2 students at a particular station. I really liked this because it allowed my students to work with partners, but not in large groups. Students were also moving around the entire time! Some students did take pictures of the questions and went back to their seats… ugh… but most students stayed at their station. Because I had the stations taped to the walls (and one in the middle) I could see every student working. I could also see which students were struggling. It was also entertaining watching my students search for the stations they needed!

I used these stations to review for a quiz on special quadrilaterals and interior and exterior sums of polygons. Each station dealt with a different type of question that they would be assessed on. Overall, this was a pretty fun and successful review activity.

Here is the stations worksheet and stations that I used for this activity! Here is also my answer key.

Also, for station 1, I created a polygon and attached strings to one vertex and had students create the diagonals with the strings (you cant see what it is from my stations sheet) !



Grading made easy with Desmos Activity builder

In my geometry class, I have been using Desmos Activity builder to teach finding points of concurrency algebraically. In order to assess my students on this unit, I decided to create a Desmos Activity. I also created a packet that had the same questions that were on my Desmos Activity for students to use to show their work. I like using Desmos because it allowed my students to check their answers easily by entering thier equations or coordinates. I can ask questions that don’t involve graphing, and it easily organizes students answers. It also made grading SUPER EASY.

When grading with Desmos you can either grade one student at a time by clicking on their name OR you can grade one  question at a time. I decided to grade one question at a time. Because each students answers showed up at once for each problem I could quickly see which students answered incorrectly. You can also overlay all of the graphs to check students anwers quickly. If no students answered incorrectly I can see that immedietly.

In order to grade most efficiently, I created a grading grid (I usually use this to record homwork) with every student in the class’ name. Instead of putting the date at the top like I usually do, I put the Desmos slide number, the packet question number, and the amount of points each question was worth. I used this grading grid to grade this assessment. If student got the question correct I put a check in the box, if the student made a small mistake (and I could tell what they did from the answer) I would put minus the amount of points they’d lose for that question in the box. If I couldn’t figure out their mistake from their answer then I would write “check” in the box. When I finished grading all of the questions I would go through each students test. I ONLY looked at the problems where I wrote “check”.  I use erasable pens when grading, so after I checked their work I could go back and change the grade in the box easily.

This was an extremely long assessment and took NO time to grade. Using Desmos  for a quick quiz would be even easier! This was my first time using desmos for an assessment, but I’m definetly going to use it again!

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