53-54 Partner Feedback Quizzes

A fun thing about SBG is that the first assessment is feedback only (no grade). It’s a completely formative assessment and I get a ton of information about what they know and don’t know. More importantly, THEY get information about what they know and don’t know. I like switching it up sometimes, so today we did partner quizzes. 95% of the time they work on these individually, but I’ve found it to be an interesting change to have them work together here and there on paper.

Structure for today:

  • Come up with a random grouping of 2 using Team Maker
  • In pairs,¬†work for 10-15 minutes on an assessment
  • Have them rate their confidence level at the end of the assessment
  • Show key
  • Have them rate their confidence level after seeing the key
  • Repeat.



51-52 2D and 3D creations in Programming Class

I haven’t posted what the Computer Programming and Graphical Arts class is up to lately. A couple of weeks ago, they had free reign to make a sketch with lines and curves so that we could laser the results. They put their final output to a pdf, and we brought the pdf to the laser engraver. Mostly did test prints on manilla folders, but some of them have put their designs on other things, one of these is on a kid’s phone case.
Next the class made designs in Madeup.xyz to send to the 3D printer. This is the first batch of designs to come out of the printer.
More to come!


49-50 Dead Mouse and Newton’s Law of Cooling

I’m an awful liar, but I somehow totally fooled most of a class for 50 minutes! I told them that there was a dead mouse in a coffee cup on the shelf that I heated up in the microwave so that we could measure the drop in temperature using Newton’s Law of Cooling. What was it really? A cup of hot water with a thermometer. I made lots of silly comments:

It doesn’t smell too bad does it?
Do you think that the ball python in Biology will still eat it after it’s been warmed up a couple of times?
I put it in water so that the fur didn’t singe.
The microwave in the Math/Science Office has seen some messes, so a mouse in a mug is no biggie.
YES the mouse was dead before I put it in the microwave, I’m not a monster.
It was hard to get the thermometer down the mouth so that it could measure the temperature of the mouse’s center mass.

I offered anyone who wanted to look the opportunity, and the one kid who looked didn’t give anything away, in fact he added to the tale by screwing up his face in disgust. Anyway, it’s a really good activity for working with this equation. Our predictions in the two classes were just ok, I’m not sure why they were off by nearly 10%. Anyway, here are some pictures and screenshots of the good stuff.


47-48 Finish up Feedback

Part 3 of the feedback conclusions (Part 1 and Part 2).
Here’s some sample responses to the prompt:

Anything else you want to say about class to me? Suggestions?

I’ll address these one by one because they’re so scattered.

I enjoy how this class doesn’t feel like hard work. When we do things on the whiteboard, it just feels more natural and not forced work. That way the pressure of knowing how to do something isnt as heavy on my shoulders.

Awesome. Chalk another point to whiteboards. Whiteboarding is really running up the score… very unsportsmanlike.

I really enjoy this class. The fact that we aren’t taking this class because we have to, rather because we want to makes it really enjoyable, and although it is challenging, makes it fun and interesting.

This is exciting to me! I wish I had more freedom with the curriculum, but after we switched over to IB and it’s two year exam (PreCalc and Calc), we’ve had less control over the PreCalculus class. I’m happy to get this kind of comment.

I really like working in groups because you’re not as embarrassed when you don’t understand something because then your classmates can help you.

Awesome, chalk another point to groupwork too.

I suggest that you go over the a quizzes after we check the answer key, because me may notice that we got something wrong, but we may not know why we got that wrong or what to do to fix the issue.

This is a good idea. I’m not sure how to build it in yet, but I’ll try some stuff out. I purposely don’t help them right after the quiz because I want them to help each other, but I bet there is a way for me to interact but not take over as the King of all Knowledge.

Maybe offer some kind of challenge problems to the class, that requires thinking beyond just what we’re learning. I think this could be enjoyable at least, and possibly beneficial.

Agreed! My use of puzzles and extensions ebbs and flows, and I’m definitely in an ebb cycle right now. Might be good to keep them on their mental toes and work on some puzzles before the holiday break.

More individual explaining would be helpful to some students because working with peers doesn’t have the same efficiency sometimes.

This is an interesting comment. I wonder if efficiency == speed in terms of learning… My guess is no, at least with challenging topics.

I really like the colored notes that are accessible on the classroom and google drive. Very helpful for review.

I need to blog about my workflow for notes and sharing the class notes. Basically I’m writing worked examples and notes on an iPad pro (with an apple pencil), and exporting a pdf of the notes to a shared google drive folder. Love it.

Maybe review games? Class challenges? Whatever team answers the question correctly first gets a point?

This is an interesting comment. Five years ago I did lots of review games and games in general. But I think whiteboarding has replaced this kind of activity for me. Part of it is my guess at the implied penalty of speed on many student’s learning. Some students just do not work well with speed as a component. Competition can also be a deterrent to learning for some students. It wouldn’t have been for me as a student, but as I teach more, I’m getting to know the students a bit better (as learners at least).

make it simpler sometimes

Yea. About that. I suppose I can work on this a teacher, but the material we are learning isn’t simple, so I’m not sure how I could effectively make it much simpler to learn.

Subset of Nice Comments That I’ll Make No Comments On Because I’m Embarrassed

I enjoy how this class doesn’t feel like hard work. When we do things on the whiteboard, it just feels more natural and not forced work. That way the pressure of knowing how to do something isnt as heavy on my shoulders.

I really enjoy this class. The fact that we aren’t taking this class because we have to, rather because we want to makes it really enjoyable, and although it is challenging, makes it fun and interesting.

My view of math has changed and I no longer hate it.

You are a wonderful teacher and make math seem fun.


45-46 1st Quarter Feedback Continued

Continuation of the 1st Quarter Feedback.

What can we do to help you learn better in this class?

Do more practice problems and study what we are going to be tested on the class before

More worksheets? Working primarily on whiteboards doesn’t help all that much because it get’s wiped away so you can’t go back and look at it

I feel like sometimes we don go over the homework even though I know it isn’t mandatory.

I would like to have a little more time so I can copy more example problems from whiteboards into my notebook so I can look back at them to study.

I would like to spend more time going over homework questions as a class that were difficult. I would also like to put more practice problems into our notebooks.

I’m in between if I like how you do activities on different topics more loosely or not. I enjoy some structure. Like if you just said, “we are working on standard #__” before we started an activity. That helps it solidify in my brain.

DO more practice problems and explain the notes more clearly.

Maybe going through the practice problems a bit slower, or at least leaving up the answers so that those that do not understand well enough to move on can focus on one thing at a time.

I think I am learning well in this class. It helps me to have more problems after completing tasks in class, and these are sometimes provided. Even without these, I believe this class is working very well for me.

Ok, so the feedback on the not covering the homework rings loud in my ears, because I’ve had that feeling for a couple of weeks now. I’m going to be more intentional about what homework is assigned and how we cover it in the beginning of class. I’ve let this particular rope slip out of my hands a bit, and I (and the students) want it tightened up a bit. Check.
Also the feedback for giving more structure to what topic we’re covering and why is important and I’ll do a better job of being consistent with that task. These students wow me with their self knowledge on what they think works best for them. We don’t always agree, but I love that we both have opinions and I can address at least some of their needs by modifying how I do things in class.

Here’s a word cloud for feedback on the following question:

Grading System Feedback. Got any?



43-44 1st Quarter Feedback

At the end of most quarters, I ask students to fill out an anonymous feedback form about what is working and what is not in our class. I use these feedback forms for many reasons, but most directly so that I can modify and tweak my instruction based on their ideas. Here is a word cloud and some selected quotes from the following question:

What activities/methods/strategies have we done in class that have worked well for you?


Working on the white board, usually standing up helps me a lot. Another thing that helps me do better in class is having A quizzes because i can reflect on them before we take the B quiz and i am more confident in the material

I like doing math in notebooks for example but then using the white boards for further practice. Also the online questionnaires are very helpful and interactive.

(I think the student’s “online questionnaires” comment is referring to the Desmos Activities.)

I really like when we use the standing white boards because I like the fact that we have a ton of space so I can see all of my work and erase little mistakes without the annoying marks that an eraser leaves on paper. Also I like it because it gives us the opportunity to move around and work with other people outside of our seated groups and I think standing helps me think better.

Whiteboard work is really beneficial to me. It allows us to work together on problems and work without it being permanent, allowing us to make mistakes. I also enjoy the Desmos activities.

I liked using Desmos and working off of white boards. I also like changing groups every two weeks.

Reassessing works well with me. Desmos is a great website. Standing up in class works very well

… So the loudest pings were: whiteboards (loud and clear!), group work, the use of feedback quizzes before a “B” (graded) quiz, and Desmos Activites.

Now some feedback on the following question:

What activities/methods/strategies have we done in class that have NOT worked well for you?


I find that taking notes in my own notebook rarely helps me, and so I don’t usually record things here. Since personal notes are not required, this isn’t much of an issue, but I learn much more efficiently by actively doing problems.

seated whiteboards and I don’t like that there’s no mandatory homework to help me

The small amount of homework doesn’t push me to review what we’ve learned in class and leaves me more lost during standards and take homes. I don’t necessarily mean give large amount of home but 3-5 questions when take homes aren’t assigned would be helpful.

It is sometimes hard to study for our tests because most of our practice problems are done on the boards.

“The Desmos activities are a little too quickly sped over, it would be better to either go over more or just not do them.
Puzzles need an appearance.”

Sometimes it’s hard to do the seated whiteboards when the work takes up a lot of space because depending on who you are sitting with that week some people like myself prefer to write everything out individually and you can run out of room so maybe to fix that we could always have the option to stand if our group decides that that would work better for the problem that we are trying to solve.

Sometimes the online desmos do not work well for me. If its at the beginning of the new topic and I am still not grasping the concepts I am sometimes lost (doing more work with peers may be more helpful for me).

I feel rushed when doing group activities if somebody in my group understnads it better. This is just dependent on the person. Like when asking for help, they just quickly explain instead of helping me really understand how to do it.

I tend to remember things through watching HOW something is done then learning it and then examples. Following instructions to arrive at an answer is more my thing. Although, I am adjusting to the figuring things out on my own. It is just taking time.

I like using whiteboards but I really like having example problems in my notebook so that I can look back to them to help me on homework and to study.

Desmos can be really hard at some points, and really easy at others, I haven’t really found an in-between.

The take home tests haven’t really helped me all that much

So it was a bit more scattered. Some nice notes from the students about the lack of permanency of the whiteboards. I’ll partly address this concern by encouraging them to print out the class notes for the day (they have all the worked examples that I did on the tablet in a pdf in a shared google drive folder). Another small set of concerns on the Desmos Activities, and I think I can address those concerns by administrating the activities better, and making better activities in the first place. Some group dynamic issues of a group moving too fast (or too slow). This is harder to address as a whole class, but I’ll keep my eye out for it more as I go around the room and make sure everyone is on the same page.

I strongly encourage you to give a similar feedback to your students. Some really important stuff gets shared by the students. I love it.


41-42 Average Value Theorem Desmos Activity

Really great lead in to the Average Value Theorem by using this¬†Desmos Activity. So much more effective than me just talking through it. Here’s what they had without a single word of math by me (the single outlier is the default position and a student had to leave early):

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39-40 Geometric Sequences – Ball Drop

Predicted the height of the 6th bounce using data from the 1st bounce and geometric sequences. Pretty good result in 2nd block, but 3rd blocks data was even better, off by < 3%.

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37-38 Problem Solving with Complex Numbers

Interesting error by this student. Love it! You have homework, what went wrong? Hint: it has to do with this proof that 1=0.



35-36 Mean Value Theorem

As an introduction to Rolle’s Theorem and Mean Value Theorem we worked with this desmos starter.


To reinforce some good math, I had the goal of having them write the equations of the tangent line at the sliding point and the secant line between the two endpoints. Man, was that pulling teeth. Indicates that we need more practice with some basics, writing equation of a line, slope, derivative, etc. Sigh.

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Anyway, after seeing a great desmos calculus activity from John Rowe, I got inspired to improve it for next year. Here’s the improved desmos worksheet. How would you use these materials to introduce the MVT?