Monday, March 14, 2016

Math Professional Learning Community (PLC)

A math Professional Learning Community (PLC) is made-up of course team members that are teaching the same subject of math.  For example, course teams members who are all teaching Algebra I or all teaching Pre-Calculus.  In small schools, the course team may consist of one PLC team/group of teacher teaching the math level of math such as college prep class or gifted classes. Either way the course teams are designed the purpose of the PLC team does not change.

My experience of being team leads of several different math course teams and also being just a member of course teams has taught me the following:

1. Set a pacing calendar that all team members have input on the design. This may take several days or a week to fully design because of the varying input from all team members. I suggest to Not move forward until EVERYONE is on-board and agrees to the structure of the content pacing.

2. Set group norms.  What are the expectations at the meetings and between meetings? 

3.  Assign duties/expectations to each members strengths.  

4.  Allow for everyone to be respectful for others weakness.  Do Not assign a task to a person's weakness as it is not your responsibility to improve a person's weakness.  This will only cause resentment, frustration, and much dysfunction. 

5. Work towards creating common assessments so that data among course team members can be collected and measured. This data is not to point out bad teaching or low performing scores, but to showcase the gains and good efforts of teaching.  This is where conversations of sharing ideas about teaching strategies is born. 

6. The heart of each meeting should be spent discussing teaching strategies to improve each teachers ability to teach each math concept.  For example, having teachers demonstrate their approach to teaching the Pythagorean theorem will showcase varying teaching styles. 

7.  Leave every meeting my creating the next meetings agenda together.  What is each person on the team going to contribute at the next meeting?  What assessment data will we look at?  What math concept will be presented by each team member? 

This list will keep your meetings on topic as well as keep everyone involved and engaged in the meeting. 

Have great next PLC meeting and share your ideas and comments to this blog. 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

NCTM 2015

NCTM 2015 Conference, Nashville 
Come to my presentation at 11:30
Ballroom AB 

Posted on 8:29 AM | Categories:

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Grades represent what...

The concern with communicating grades to parents is the idea of what is represented by a numerical grade.  I have had many great conversations with school leaders about “the truth in grading.”  Robert Marzano mentions the concerns with our current grading process in The Mandate to Change Classroom Grading which was adapted from Transforming Classroom Grading, Robert J. Marzano, ASCD 2000.  

“…grades are so imprecise that they are almost meaningless.  This straightforward but depressing fact is usually painfully obvious when one examines the research and practice regarding grades with a critical eye.”  

“Today’s system of classroom grading is at least 100 years old and has little or no research to support its continuation.  At least three inherent problems make that system highly ineffective: (1) it allows, and even encourages, individual teachers to include, at their own discretion, different non achievement factors in the assignment of grades:(2) it allows individual teachers to differentially weight assessment; and (3)it mixes different types of knowledge and skills into single scores on assessments.”

(p. 1 & p.3, The Mandate to Change Classroom Grading; Robert Marzano online at

I have found these three concerns from Marzano to be very true.  For example, in my PLC meeting just yesterday we were discussing how many points to take off for partial credit on our common test.  The discussion was great because the three of us all took off “about” the same amount of points.  I say “about” the same amount of points because they differ by 1 point here and there.  But, this does show that over time one point here and there will add up to be a much larger difference in grades by the end of the semester.  This could be the difference from a student making a high A compared to a low A, or even a student making an A compared to a B.  And all of this due to only one point here and there.  Imagine if teachers are grading right or wrong compared to partial credit.  What then is the “truth” in the grades between the teachers?

Furthermore, if a student only misses a few points, let’s say 2 points out of six, for missing a “simple” concept on a more complicated math problem.  Does this mean the student is capable of knowing 2 out of 6 or one-third of the concept? 

Therefore, what is the "true" grade really representing? 

Posted on 5:50 PM | Categories:

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Climate of Risk: Allowing for Failure

Imagine a picture of someone that has failed at something.  Did the person you just imagine give up, stops trying, or walks away not to ever return to the activity or job?  Probably not!  The person works to improve his or her weakness and focuses on his strengths to keep pursuing the dream or goal set forth.  Because if we don’t fail, then we cannot succeed.  
Teachers should produce lessons that will challenge students to be successful through the process of problem solving and learning.  Teachers should teach students that failure will happen along the way, but don’t give up.  Students will be able find a possible solution or answer.  Yes, teachers we can teach our student in this way.

To teach students through failure is to remove the obstacle that there is only one way to solve a problem.  Allowing for failure will promote students to derive their own path to solution and answers.  Giving students ownership to their own learning.  It empowers the student to want more ownership, more learning, and more knowledge.  

The impact of allowing students to fail is the greatest gift a teacher can give to their students.  This gift is uplifting and breaks down the barriers or stress students feel when a teacher tells them that their new way of solving a problem is not correct even though the teacher and student have the same answer.  

Become a teacher that allows failure as a means to learn new and creative ways to solve problem.

--Please respond with a picture of the person you imagined and how he or she has inspired you to move past failure to success.  

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sucess in Math

Based on a true story of mine:

When I was in college I asked my math professor who taught previously at Duke University before teaching at the small Georgia College I attended, "What is the difference between a the students at Duke and the students here at this college?" 

If you would, take a moment before reading ahead to think to your self what the difference is a small Georgia college and Duke University would be.  ... Okay, now back to the story.

As I waited for his reply to my question, my mind started racing with possible answers such as the students had higher SAT scores, better study habits, are good at school, had really smart parents, and so on.  But these are not even close to his answers because it was simple.  First he said the student read the math section before coming to class (just read the section, they did not solve the problems).  And second he said that they students would re-write their notes after class.  

How difficult would this really be to do?  To spend 10 minutes to read a math section and then about 10-15 minutes at home to re-write (re-organize neatly) the notes from class?

Wow!!  You can make better grades and be more successful by using these
two approaches. 

Lesson Content & Rigor: Is it Grade Appropriate

Lesson Content & Rigor: 
Is it Grade Appropriate

As I watched my almost two year old daughter singing along to Barney and Friends (video is below), I realized that I could use this song in my high school math class.  What?!  Wait, did I just say that I could use a video that my daughter is watching in a classroom with kids that are about eight times her ages. 

Students are being taught many lessons they already know because as educators we "think" that they don't know the material.  At time this is true, but shouldn't we as educators want to challenge our students to keep up with the correct grade level content and rigor?   Yes, we should.

So, then why are we teaching students to name shapes in a high school geometry class?  Barny and Friends are currently teaching this to my daughter thirteen years before she will be asked in high school to regurgitate this information.

Educators can fix the process of re-teaching already learned material by expecting students to have the prerequisite knowledge of your course.  And if students do not, then this is a great time to give students video links of lessons for them to watch at home.  There are many places on the internet to find teaching lessons on almost every mathematical concept.  Or if technology is limited in your teaching area, spend a few minutes with your students who are struggling to teach them the material they are lacking.

In closing, we as educators must keep our lesson on-grade-level and push for high levels of rigor within each lesson.  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Problem Solving

Problem Solving

So today I went to the grocery store with my almost 2 year old daughter.  We went down an isle that contained kid toys to get to the back of the store.  And I am sure I am like many other parent to travel down the one isle in the store with a kid.  As we passed by the balls, my daughter starts saying, "ball, ball, ball."  So I reached into the ball pen to let her choose a purple or pink ball to take home.  She was very happy, smiled throughout the store and played with it for hours that day. I am glad I bought the ball for my daughter today because it made her happy, so it made he happy for her.   

In this short story, I wanted to suggest the idea of how I could have avoid buying the ball (had I needed to or wanted to not buy it).  I could have read the sign above the isle to see that it was the toy isle. I could have looked down the isle instead of laughing with my daughter.  I could have done many different things in reflection to have avoided the toy isle.  

When we reflect about how we can improve we are problem solving to find new, better, or different solutions to situations in our current life. 

Now lets bring problems and reflections into the mathematical classroom.  Teachers should be creating the mathematical problems that students will reflect on throughout the class period and later that night because during the time of thinking back about the math problem our brains are finding new and better ways to obtain a solution, which is also know as problem solving.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Making Math Matter

Math...the class that everyone lines up outside classroom doors excited for the next lesson.  Wait, I have not seen this to be true for many math teachers.  Instead student arrive stressed and worried about the lessons taught in math classes.  Why??

Math instruction that is skill, drill, and lecture helps to create the stress and anxiety for students.  

Instead of skill and drill defined as showing a student how to solve a mathematical problem then having students replicate this process for "leaning".  Math teacher should move away from this concept (have a paradigm shift in teaching) to teaching through asking students questions that engage them into the math lesson.  The questioning allows students to feel apart of the lesson and that they are all learning together.  Also, teachers should allow students to teach each other as well as to encourage (without forcing) students to demonstrate how to solve problems by co-teaching the class with the teacher.

I also suggest that activities and real work applications are a common practice in math classes.  These will help to encourage students to engage into lessons and will help student relate mathematical concepts to how they apply outside the classroom. 

Do you agree?

How do you engage your math students? 

Friday, February 21, 2014

What is a Flipped Classroom?

The new buzz word in education is flipping a classroom.  A flipped classroom is a teacher’s website where their students go to get class lectures or class teaching notes.  The expectation is that students will watch the lectures videos the night before the material used in class the next day.  Then material taught in class is done through practice problems, “real world” problems, projects, or activities.  Because the students are watching the typical teaching lectures online, this frees up class time to be spent on engaging students into the lessons through “real world” problems or activities.

Does the flipped classroom work?  This all depends on the teacher, the students, and the expectations of the class.  Teachers who have the expectation of students watching the videos and force the students to watch the videos in order to understand of to solve the “real world” problems that are completed in the classroom, then these teachers find much success.  On the other hand, if teachers give-in to the students who did not watching the videos and teach the online lesson during class time (these students are not meeting the expectations), then these teachers find the flipped classroom experience less successful.  Therefore, there must be the expectation to the students that they must watch the videos. 

Do you have classroom computers?  Classroom computers are a must because students who cannot access the videos at home need a way to watch videos and those who have not watched the videos will need a place to watch the videos before engaging into the classroom activities. 

How do you know if the students have watched the videos?  Student will need to complete an assessment before being allowed to participate in the classroom activities. These assessments can be guided notes, warm-ups, or an online notes quiz that will give teachers evidence and feedback about how well the students understand the lesson video.  These assessments should be the prerequisite before starting the in-class lesson or activities such as labs or projects.  

 What is the purpose of your flipped classroom?  The concept of mastery flipped classrooms is a design in which students watch the online video(s) about a lesson and then must reach a master level of knowledge before participating in the in-class lesson.  To obtain the mastery level for each lesson, teachers assign an assessment to the students in which students must meet a minimum score in order to move on to the next lesson video or the in-class lesson activity.  On the other hand, a flipped classroom can be designed for students to just take lesson notes or guided notes before being allowed to participate in the in-class activity.  This design of concept understanding has the students only obtain the notes from the videos, and then the teachers must find out the depth of knowledge from the students while teaching the in-class activities.

How important is the design?  The most important part of designing your flipped classroom is simplicity and consistency.  Both of these ideas are subjective to the designer, however, asking your students for feedback about your design will help to improve the design and functionality of your flipped classroom website.  Furthermore, be prepared to spend much time working on the design of your website.

Teaching classes through a flipped classroom design takes much work and preparation in creating and finding lesson videos, designing the website, and keeping the materials on the website such as worksheets and assignment current.  Furthermore, it takes teachers willing to have a constant expectation that their lessons are online only.  Lastly, teachers must be prepared to grade the daily assessments from the students watching the lesson video(s) quickly.  These should be graded no longer than a 1 day turn around or should be done within the first 10 minutes of class if there is an in-class activity planned in which the lesson video is a prerequisite.    

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Teaching Trigonometry with Technology

Watch the video below highlighting how I am incorporating technology in my trigonometry classroom using both student response devices as and a blended classroom design.  

The video was made by GCPS TV highlighting me Teaching Trigonometry with Technology at

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Flipped Classroom

Many teachers have been asking how to record lessons to create a flipped classroom or blended classroom.  

To record your lessons or tutorials you must first find the way you want to record the lessons/tutorials.  Some ways to do this are by using your cell phone to record videos, a document camera, a webcam, or a screencasting program.  Once you have your video recorded and ready to post, simply upload it to your webpage, YouTube, teachertube, or another hosting site/location.  

(Example at , then go to TrigOnline).

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Motivating Students to Achieve More …. Test Point System

Motivating Students to Achieve More …. Test Point System
Motivating students to achieve at their maximum potential takes keeping them on task and encouraging them to support their fellow classmates.  A strategy I use to keep my students participating and helping others in class by rewarding them for their test grades.  The reward system I created gives points associated to the letter grades on tests, and the points cumulative throughout the semester.

How is this done? 
After all tests a graded I count the number of A, B, C, D, and F test scores.  Each letter grade scores points such as an A = 4 points, B = 3 points, C = 2 points, D = 1 and F =  - 6 points.  Yes, a grade of a F is worth negative 6 points.  This makes a grade of a F equal to an A and a C, and a grade of a F is equal to a B, C, and a D.   Now you will need to create you reward system based upon the number of points needed to get the reward.  I created a system based on 100 points which rewards the class candy, class outside, etc. 

What are the advantages of this motivation system?
I believe that this will help motivate all students to achieve more because they are now support each other’s learning.   I  am find much success with this reward system and I hope you do to. 

Thursday, March 7, 2013

QR Code Word Wall

Many teachers use word walls to help students remember learned vocabulary.  Tipically, each word on the word wall contains the definition and/or examples of how to use the word within the subject that it is being taught. 

Here is a technological way to create a word wall using QR codes.  Each vocabulary word contains a QR Code that is linked to a webpage with an example, a YouTube video, or a lesson video from my website.  An advantage for using a QR Codes is to allow more information to be associated with each word.  Also, the QR Codes are a quick way for students to access and store the voabulary words associated with your course.  

How to create this word wall?

  1. Choose the words for your word wall.
  2. Google each of these words
  3. Choose the website or webpage for your QR Code
  4. Create your QR Code with a QR Code Generator such as    or 
  5. Now place the QR Code with the vocabulary word...  Your Done !! 

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Matching Activity as a Formative Assessment

This activity will allow you to quickly assess how well your students are understanding the your material just by looking at their worksheets… Yes, it is just this easy. 
How to assess this quickly and make it fun for your students?
Imagine a typical matching worksheet with two columns and either drawing lines or writing the letter next to the problem number.  Now let’s create the matching activity where each question needs more than one answer such as a math question asking for the domain, range, graph, etc.  by having students cut out all of the possible answers of a worksheet and then pasting them into the correct places on the answer sheet. 
I used this activity with my twelfth grade students and found it very effective as a formative assessment as well as very engaging for all of my students.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Future Channel Videos

As a math teacher, one of the most common questions I get from my students is, “When are we ever going to use this stuff in real life?” I have found that a great way to answer this question is through the Future Channel videos, which are excellent at bridging the gaps between math concepts learned in the classroom and their real world applications. These videos are short, so I can quickly show one during a class period without it interfering with instructional time. Additionally, the lesson worksheets that accompany the videos provide an extra resource that helps reinforce the concepts and relate them to various real life topics. The best part of the Future Channel videos is that my students pay attention throughout the entire duration, and this engagement naturally leads to a class discussion about how the videos relate to the concepts I am teaching.