Category Archives: math education

Be More Than Just Digitally Literate

This week’s prompt could not be more perfect for the current situations going on in our world – what does it mean to be literate?!  I don’t know about my fellow teachers, but I am exhausted after this week!!  It was jam packed with bad and surreal news – giphy (15)provincially and globally.  And with all this uncertainty circling the STF sanctions as well as the pandemic of COVID-19, it has left A LOT of opportunity to have a lot of real conversations with my students.  I have to say, the overall maturity my students have shown this week has been impressive, even if it has come with it’s fair share of debate as well.  We have had a chance to dive into these topics, what it means for them, look at different sides of the arguments, and generally appreciate where our province and our world currently is.  We have discussed the dangers of misinformation and the importance of being informed by the right sources.  If there is one take-away from this week I have learned, it’s that there is a time and place for social media, and there are other times to just step back and let go.  I think this week has been really informative for students to test how digitally literate they really are!

So, what does it mean to be digitally literate in today’s world?  Common Sense Media defines digital literacy as the “ability to effectively find, identify, evaluate, and use information. Digital literacy specifically applies to media from the internet, smartphones, video games, and other nontraditional sources.”  I think in today’s world, it is greatly important to be literate online, especially with all the misinformation and the dangers that it presents.  However, it does extend beyond just being digital literate.  In my major project, I plan to begin with digital literacy in my ELA course and then extend this to include other forms of literacy, especially those in literature.  It’s important to improve on skills like lateral reading and being as unbiased as possible when navigating the world’s information as discussed in my reading from this week.  This does not just apply to recent news.  It also applied to many different facets of life, including things like health, wellness, and general information.

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If you were looking for a “new diet” for example, it’s important to do your research and not buy into the first fad diet you come upon.  The same goes for the latest workout plan or the latest information when raising young children.  You cannot believe the first thing you read, and it’s important we give students to tools to be successful in life beyond the classroom.  Being literate obviously includes making smart and informed decisions, and it includes steps in Fren Blumburg’s interview with Renee Hobbs including access skills like reading and listening and using a computer appropriately, analysis of a given piece of information, collaboration with others, reflection on who is affected or what the multiple-intelligences-learning-stylespurpose is, and action related to changing the society we live in.  Leigh’s post discussed the idea of multiple intelligences, and she is completely correct.  We all have a range of multiple intelligences, and it is important to improve them all throughout our lives as some pieces are stronger than others.  These multiple intelligences help improve our overall literacy which I believe makes us more rational, intelligent, well-rounded people.

There are many types of literacy, just check out this infograph here.  It is incredibly important to be vastly literate in a variety of facets, and to have the skills to improve on these different literacies.  They range from media, digital, visual, data, game, health and finance, civic and ethical, news, computational and coding and foundational literacy.  One not mentioned on this list that I spend much of my days as a teacher on is mathematical literacy.  And this is also where people bring up their pitchforks and claim “I hate math.”  But it goes much farther beyond computational mathematics and more about a way of problem-solving and rational thinking.  Even the Saskatchewan curriculum states that mathematical goals include logical reasoning, number sense, spatial sense, and math as a human endeavor.  The curriculum states, “All students benefit from mathematics learning which values and respects different ways of knowing mathematics and its relationship to the world”  and “the more exposure that all students have to differing ways of understanding and knowing mathematics, the stronger students will become in their number sense, spatial sense, and logical thinking.” sask

Teaching AP Calculus over the last few years has really changed my perspective on mathematics and what I want my students to gain from a course.  It’s changed from teaching content for the next level to understanding the process and applying it to new scenarios.  The thing I’ve learned as a math teacher is most of my students won’t use math in their daily lives the way we study it in school so it is important that they come away with skills that they can use in their daily lives, like being challenged, problem-solving, and thinking rationally when faced with a difficult situation, in a way improving their mathematical literacy without really knowing it!I-fear-the-day-that-technology-will-surpass-our-human-interaction.-The-world-will-have-a-generation-of-idiots.

Overall, improving our literacy is very important and helping our students be well-rounded is just as critical in this world.  We tend to focus a lot of digital literacy in this course and it’s being pushed much more recently in schools as well.  It is a very important skill, but so are many of the other pieces of being literate.  Let’s not forget to have growth, we need to encourage it in all aspects of life, struggle, and find balance in all things.

Until next time,

Shelby

The Final Prototype

This semester we were tasked with creating an online course prototype and I am pretty proud of what I accomplished.  When I began this course I didn’t necessarily think I taught in a “blended” classroom, but with my use of Google Classroom increasing every semester, I realized quickly that I actually do use forms of blended learning in my classrooms all the time, mostly for simple things like posting extra videos, notes, or assignments so students have the opportunity to access information when they are absent from class.  I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to take a course I am already teaching and make it even more blended.  This is why I decided to create a prototype for my AP Calculus course.  I also knew I wanted to use Google Classroom since my students are so familiar with it and our division encourages its use.  You can check out my course profile here for more details on how I laid it out for the semester.  I thought this course would be perfect because I see my students every day for a total of 60 classes before they write the big exam in May.  This gives me an opportunity to use the LMS of Google Classroom to enhance our time together and create more opportunities for learning online.  This will also help my students become more independent learners, which is incredibly important for their next years in university because they will all be headed in that direction.

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Screenshot of my course!

I began my course with the idea in mind of using a flipped model of instruction.  My students actually quite enjoy this model, but others do struggle to commit to the video lessons in their downtime.  It’s been a balancing act so far but I have used them as my guinea pigs for a couple of different assignments.  I wanted to use a flipped model because I knew it would open up more time for questions and for working through problems together in class which is really what my students need.  One of the suggestions on my peer review was to create a place for students to communicate with each other, so I introduced a question and answer Padlet in hopes that students would freely contribute to questions and supply answers to each other instead of relying only on me as their source of information.  If you want to see more about how my classmates’ reviews influenced my prototype, check out this blog post.

For the modules I created for this class, I wanted to focus more on simpler concepts (things my students would be able to learn from a video as well as hopefully not be too overwhelming for my peers in this course)!  I think I selected the right material and I have to say I learned a lot about myself as a teacher through this process as well.  Last year, I was made to focus solely on content.  Teach myself, teach the students, move on to giphy.gifthe next idea.  This year, I am much more relaxed and have been able to play around a lot more with my lessons and build new connections with the material as well as preparing my students even more for the exam.  I can look more into Khan Academy, create more formative assessments, and know better what my students need.  I knew I wanted to create short videos and have students follow along with notes where they could record the information.  This also allows them to go back, pause the instruction, and re-watch if they need to.  I think I gave ample practice and I even tried to implement some different formative assessments in Socrative and GoFormative.  If you feel like testing your math skills, try them out on my course!  The Google Classroom code is wnn06j and you need to log in using a Gmail account.  Feel free to check out the rest of my prototype as well including videos, assignments, and practice problems.  Also, feel free to check out my course walkthrough if you would rather a quick feel for my course prototype.

Overall, I’m really happy with how my prototype turned out.  For my second module, I focused on an entirely different unit and created an opportunity using Flipgrid for my students to actually show how they work through a problem.  I want them to explain their reasoning and their answer since that is such an important concept on the AP exam.  Another idea I had was to create a Padletstart where they could discuss ideas on how to solve a couple of problems we would look at in class anyways to act as a starting block on how to solve it.  Some of these problems can be really complicated so I want to create the easiest environment that I can to teach them in that it’s okay to be wrong and this is the best way we can learn.  One of the hardest things for my students to learn is that to get a “4 or 5” on the AP exam is to really achieve a pass.  Many of the practice problem average score is between 3 or 4 out of 9.  Teaching them the process and wording of these problems is crucial to their success on exam day and understanding that they only need to try every part of a question to succeed.  I included a section for practice exams as well as problems for them to work through on the prototype.  We also spend time in class working on these but the ability to access them outside of class time will be incredibly beneficial to my students.  The most important thing I am taking away from this assignment is that I am actually capable of creating a blended learning environment and it isn’t as intimidating as I thought it would be.  I would like to eventually blend all my courses in this manner because I think that is where education is heading.  Dean mentioned this quote on Twitter this week and I think it sums up exactly what we and this course are working towards:

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AP Calculus Course Debrief

Well, here goes nothing!  Last year was my very first year teaching AP Calculus.  There were a lot of ups and downs, and I mean a lot!  Trying to learn the content myself, teaching myself how to teach the content, helping students understand things that I was still trying to master myself, prepping them for an exam I had never seen, and nervously awaiting the test results in July.  It was a roller coaster!

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I know a lot more now, but do I have more to learn? ABSOLUTELY!  It was near the end of the course last year that I discovered the beauty of Khan Academy and I knew my life this year would be easier, which leads into my course outline for this project!  The timing couldn’t be more perfect and I am excited to really try out my ideas with different types of blended learning, using flipped lessons which my calculus students already showed an interest in last semester!  I’m looking forward to documenting everything that works and doesn’t work and really giving this course another shot, being a little more confident, and a lot more knowledgeable than last year!  I know lots of you are not going to understand one lick of this, but I’m hoping you can bear with me and my journey through my project.

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To see my course outline, check it out here and wish me luck! 🙂

AIM – OER for Higher Education

This week, we were charged with the task of evaluating an OER (open education resource) and I chose the American Institute of Mathematics since I have been teaching Calculus for the first time this year!  I wanted to check it out and see if there are any resources or lessons that could help me on my way to building my curriculum.  I was slightly disappointed by what I found.  To begin, the homepage is wordy and heavy texted.  There are limited pictures and seems more like a mathematician’s website than a teacher resource (which is what I was hoping for)!

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Homepage of AIM

I did watch a pretty cool video about how mathematicians are working with strawberry farmers to create an optimal profit which could be used to supplement a lesson of sorts, but there weren’t really any teacher resources on the homepage.

I began checking out some of the other pages and links and although easy to navigate, there aren’t a lot of resources for middle years or high school students.  There is a whole page dedicated to Workshops and a Problems List, however the problems are far above my students’ head as well as my own.  It’s definitely a well-organized site but more for a higher level of education than what I currently teach, and as I moved on, I found what I was looking for: the Online Textbook Initiative!

Our Calculus textbook was brand new when I was in high school (8 years ago) and it is STILL being used.  A new resource would be awesome for my students so I checked them out and was pleasantly surprised.  There is an evaluation criteria and it even gives information about the textbook: exercises, solutions, etc.  There is a plethora of textbooks to choose from for a variety of different courses and material and although I didn’t look at every one, they do seem to be of high-quality and focused on university course material.  This is again, above my level of teaching but might be a good place to check out for my AP course next semester!

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So although it is a high-quality website with a TON of resources, workshops, and problems, it is mainly a university website which is too bad because I was really excited to find some new resources for my students.  I’m sure if I weed through some of it enough, I’ll be able to some examples, and problems for my students to use.  But, I was disappointed in the text heavy layout of the website and pages as it makes it much more difficult to read and decipher.  The language is definitely for those who understand mathematics and teach it at a much higher level than me.  For high school or lower, it would not be very user friendly if you do not “get” the math language!  I’m sure it would be a useful website for mathematicians, and university students, especially in terms of finding some free textbooks to use instead of paying the big bucks for them!