Learning How to Use Sketch Up 8

Had some extra time at the end of the day, so I decided to knock off a task that I’d been putting off a while: learn how to use Sketch Up.

Sketch Up is 3D modeling software that I first came across a few years ago. It was originally developed as an add-on for Google Earth, but eventually developed into a stand-alone product. I have no time for it in the general classroom, as I already struggle to cram the whole curriculum into the year, but as I have one student who is ahead on the course, I thought that 3D modeling would be a great extension for the Area and Volume unit.

I found a great 15-minute YouTube tutorial on Sketch Up 8, which is the paid version that is installed on all the computers at school. I followed it and tried to replicate all the functions shown in the video:

This was the end product. Not much to look at but I admit that it was fun. I’m not much of a designer, but I can see great potential for students to get creative. I’ll still need to come up with a written assignment, but my student will have great fun with it.



Using Blended Learning for Assessment

Last week, I finally finished my online course. I was completing the Additional Qualification, Integration of Information and Computer Technology in the Classroom, Part 1 with Queen’s University Continuing Education. It has been a long three months, but it’s also been very rewarding. I played with a lot of new #edtech tools, as well as saw the bigger picture of what we need to think about when we use #edtech (i.e. safety, communication, accountability, digital citizenship).

Like most teachers, I feel that assessment is an area of weakness. I decided to try some new assessment strategies today in a collaborative setting.* I arranged the students in mixed-ability groups, making sure to disperse stronger students between them all and then asked them to work on their usual paper assignments … digitally.

First, they were asked to go on Geogebra and show their solutions to three graph theory questions. Each group had approximately 4 students, so they had to divide the questions up and also check each other’s answers to make sure they were posting the correct one.

After that, they look at Today’s Meet, which is a simple web-based chatroom. This is what it looks like; the left hand side is the messages as you type into the right-hand. The students are able to see my instructions and also click on the URLs to take them to their respective digital “parking lot”:


The “parking lot”, where they post their digital sticky-notes, looks like this. Padlet.com is a free website and it’s definitely a great tool for teachers who are new to #edtech. You simply double-click to add your notes.

Also, if you actually want to see the page live, feel free to click here.


As students wrapped up their work, I asked them to write a comment and give feedback to other students. I laughed at the one above that says, “Remarkable – New York Times Magazine!”

Overall, this was a really successful class that used blended learning and a variety of assessment of strategies. The kids also had fun trying something new and I was proud to see them collaborating and supporting each other. We need to do this more often!

*I’ve been meaning to use more Kagan structures through the year, but got lazy after term 1. 


Gamifying Stats

February and closing in on the end of term 2!

This is the time of year where I often realize I’m not as far as I feel I should be in the curriculum and then we go full throttle again. In Secondary 4, which is Grade 10, we are covering Statistics and Correlation. As this is my second year teaching the course, I’m getting much better and explaining percentile rank in a more interesting and meaningful way.

Of course, it’s good fun to throw in a few math games! Gamifying high school math is a great way just to mix things up. Today, we played Guess the Correlation after I taught the linear correlation coefficient. Basically, you look at a scatter plot and you have to guess the correlation factor between 0 and 1. If you’re too far off, you lose a life:



The kids got pretty competitive and it was funny watching how aggressive the boys were trying to ace the high score. It’s not often you have students shouting over being good at math!


OAME Conference: Proposal Submitted

Been pretty busy and haven’t been blogging much.

Last week, I was on a whirlwind tour with the Grade 11s. We zipped through Ontario and Quebec, checking out post-secondary options and wandering around on college campuses. It’s been quite exhausting but I’m hopeful that the visit “down south” will inspire students to work hard towards graduation.

Tonight, I finally put in a submission for the annual OAME conference. I initially got a go-head by the co-chair of the conference back in September, but had been procrastinating until now. The deadline is November 30th, so I finally strapped myself done and got ‘er done tonight. The conference will be happening in May 2017 in Kingston, Ontario. I’m glad the proposal process is pretty short, because it really only took me about 10 minutes to finish it.

I won’t say too much about it, other than that the title is “Finding the Way Through the James Bay”. I don’t have it fully worked out yet, but would like to share some Desmos Classroom Activity in there somewhere! I requested a 75-minute session.


Also, I wanted to mention that one of my favourite financial bloggers, Gail Vaz-Oxlade will be there!! I really hope to meet her and say hello! Maybe even take a picture with her?!?! There is an amazing interview with Gail that Jessica Moorhouse featured on Mo’ Money Podcast.


WiM #1 – (Re)Teaching Growth Mindset

Recently, I discovered that Jo Boaler was running a great series of free lessons called Week of Inspiration Math (WiM), through Stanford. I’m kicking myself, as I had no idea of this program and it’s already in it’s second year!

The purpose of WiM is to provide lessons and videos to teachers on how to encourage students to approach mathematics through a growth mindset. In North America, there is a strange mentality that “being bad at math” is a badge of honour. I don’t believe this phenomenon exists as extensively in other parts of the world, but it’s definitely an issue that teachers have to deal with in the classroom (and even amongst their colleagues).

Having already taught the idea of growth mindset and fixed mindset to my students – even running a teaching workshop in October 2015 – I thought that this would be a great way to expand on my existing lessons*. Plus, the kids who are repeating my course won’t want to do the same thing from last year!

Anyway, yesterday, we played “Four 4s”. The idea of the game is to use four number 4s to make equations that make up all the numbers from 1 to 20. Initially, I was doubtful that they’d get into it; most of my students can be shy and afraid to try new things. However, given that they have a very strong and trusting relationship with me already, they are usually game for anything!**

I decided not to use the term growth mindset that day. Instead, I framed it around the idea of “sandbox style thinking”. The purpose is to get them not to look for a quick fix or a formula when approaching a problem.

I asked them, how do you play in a sandbox? Are there any instructions? Are you given explicit descriptions of what to do and what not to do? Not at all! Often, we just play and fool around until we figure out something that works for us. I mean, wouldn’t it sound silly if I had to tell you how to build play with sand?

The buy-in was great. Both the Grade 10s and 11s ate it up. I encouraged risk-taking by using Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces***, specifically whiteboards. Students were able to try an equation out, test it in their calculator and share their responses. I encouraged them to discuss and check each other’s answers and engagement in the room was extremely high.

In the end, the Grade 10s actually beat out the 11s; they were able to find 16 solutions out of 20!

*My workshop and class lessons are based of off Sarah Hagan’s lessons from her Math Equals Love blog.
**It’s actually quite funny when visitors come and they completely shut down and go tacit. I didn’t realize how much of their confidence is built around me until I saw this happen multiple times. It’s not necessarily healthy but I’m trying to encourage them to engage with the outside world without doing too much handholding.
***More info on VNPS through Slam Dunk Math.

Introducing Geogebra

Back in the fall, I was thankful to have a one-on-one training session on Geogebra. A math professor whom I’m in touch with at the University of Nipissing generously offered his time to teach me how to use this free, open-sourced math software. It’s quite versatile and it can be used to create functions and draw geometric shapes.

Unfortunately, I’d forgotten about the software … it had always been on the back of my mind, but as other tasks piled up, it fell down on my priority list. Luckily, in February, all the high school math teachers were asked to attend a Geogebra training session. We were given three hours of “sandbox time” to play around with it and the principal made it a priority to get IT to install it in the computer labs … finally!

The week after my PD, I got my students onto the program right away . As each of our class periods is 50 minutes long, I gave them two short tasks to work on. The first task was quite simple: make a line drawing. Kids picked up pretty quickly on the difference between a line and a segment. They learned how to turn on/off the grid lines and/or the axes. They coloured the lines in, changed the thickness and figured out how to correct their mistakes and save their files.

Here’s one of the products by my student, J.:

Screen Shot 2016-04-16 at 1.00.03 PM

The second task required making an equilateral triangle. At first, I would just tell students to try making one on their own. Most of them would start with three line segments, and quickly realize that the side lengths vary far too much. Using the cursor, the sides could easily stretch, the side lengths would change and it would no longer be equal lengths on all three sides.

Subsequently, I showed them an easier way – we created two overlapping circles of the same radius, then drew the radii to form an equilateral triangle.

Altogether, our first session was a success. Next year, I will have to build some assignments for them to follow and have tasks that are presented within each of the units.

Extra tip: Some kids are awesome at picking new software up. It’s always a good idea to figure out who these kids are and space them around the classroom whenever you’re doing a new task. They can be great peer mentors and work as an extra helper when you find yourself running all over the place!