Friday, August 21, 2015

Starting Strong and "Thinking Rationally"

We've finished two weeks of school!

It's been a great start. We got into a routine very quickly, and I feel like I've known my classes much longer than two weeks.

As usual for this time of year, I am very, very tired. My legs feel like I've started training for 5Ks again. My brain shuts down mid-to-late afternoon but occasionally gets rebooted by a quick nap when my schedule allows. It then shuts down for good some time after 8 PM.

It's a good tired, though. :) I'm having fun. Probably way too much fun.

Our students did not start getting iPads until the 3rd day of school (last year they got them at schedule pick-up), so I didn't get started with videos until the beginning of this week. These students had heard about my flipped classroom, so I don't think there was as much apprehension about the process as I had at the beginning of last year.

Like last year, we watched the first video together in class. I showed them how to access the videos, how to watch the videos, and how to take notes. We also experimented submitting the notes in Google Classroom.

I am piloting Classroom this year, so on top of learning how to watch instructional videos, my students are learning a new system of accessing and submitting assignments. They've been exposed to a whole new world of Google this week: we've used Docs, Sheets, and Forms for different assignments. We've had the normal start-of-year network hiccups.

All that to say...things I've had planned have taken much longer than I anticipated.

I planned to cover square roots and real numbers in two days; we're wrapping them up tomorrow, five days after we started.

But it's been an educational process. I've been able to model persistence and patience. I've tried to make it as stress- and worry-free as possible. The students have played around with things on their own time and figured out how to do some of the stuff we've been trying to do in class.

So, with everything going on, did the introduction of flipped lessons this week make an impact?

I believe so.

After we watched the square roots video on Monday, the students watched the video on the real number system Monday night.

The magic started on Tuesday.

These students made an almost instant connection between the video, the notes they took, and the work we did in class (it took last year's group a few lessons to see that it all worked together). As they talked amongst themselves (mathematical discourse, YEA!) and asked each other questions, I would hear things like, "Do you remember when she said in the video..." and "What do your notes say?" and the occasional "Did you watch the video?!?"

"Thinking Rationally" and learning lots!

My favorite activity of the week was this simple little gem from "Rise Over Run" on Teachers Pay Teachers. Students were given a list of numbers and two number lines. They had to decide which numbers were rational and which were irrational, placing each on separate number lines.

The beauty came with the numbers involving pi. Many students assumed if pi was in an expression it was automatically irrational. But one of the expressions was pi + 6 over 6 + pi. Students first started noticing something was a little off when they tried to put the expressions involving pi in their calculator. Sometimes they would get an answer that didn't fit on the given number line (cue discussions about calculators and the order of operations). Other students would notice they got a "nice" (rational) answer on the calculator (if they put the expression into the calculator correctly) but still plot it on the number line designated for irrational numbers.

As I circulated among groups and began having discussions with them, it was such a joy to see understanding of how numbers and operations work together. To see them expand what they already know about simplifying fractions. To lay foundations for mathematical content they will encounter well after Algebra 1. I tweeted that afternoon that there had been some "crazy learning" going on in my classroom.

And why was such crazy learning able to occur? Because the basic content had been presented in a video outside of class. Because I was able to have conversations with my students as they were grappling with material. Because I was able to correct misconceptions while they were happening, not after they had already been ingrained.

Score 1 (of many) for Year 2 of flipped learning.


  1. Sounds like you're off to a great start. I can't believe you've already put in two weeks. My students don't come until Sept 1st.

    1. We start early but get out at the end of May. I hope you have a great start. Thanks for stopping by!