End of the year reflection.

My school year ended on Friday and as I sit here Sunday night (when my teaching week usually begins) I am reflecting on my year.

I has been an interesting year. My “year” began last July at TMC15. I say that it started at TMC15 because that has shaped many of the things that I did this year. I was completely rejuvenated with TMC and the ideas generated there.

  • Twitter – What a wonder community and generator of ideas. So much food for thought and so many ideas, many of which I used in my classroom.
  • Desmos – I have always been a big fan of Desmos and attending TMC sessions last summer and having Eli Luberoff come to Montana to speak at our MCTM annual conference in October was amazing. I presented workshops on using Desmos in the classroom at the last three MCTM annual conferences and it is constantly changing for the better. This year Desmos Activity Builder was a great addition to my classroom
  • New textbook – This maybe wasn’t such a positive thing. I wanted to give the textbook a good shot, so I tried to use it the way the author intended. Then I spent a lot of time creating things to keep the students interested and energized. Now I know that I have some work to do to readjust for next year.
  • I tried Standards Based Grading (actually Objective Based Grading) and was pleased with it, but I need to refine my system.
  • I used Google Classroom several times this year and discovered its potential.
  • I did not give enough positive feedback to my students. This is a goal mine every year and I think I slipped a bit this year.

OK…to make improvements for next year.

  • I am attending TMC16 and MCubed (Montana version of TMC) this summer. I am co-presenting “5 Practices” at TMC and Desmos at MCubed. I am looking forward to getting more great ideas from both of them.
  • My colleagues and I will work this summer to put a better plan together to create thinkers and to make math more interesting and pertinent.
  • My daughter (also a math teacher) and I are going to build two “backward bicycles” to use in our respective schools. Thanks to Destin at  @smartereveryday and Sara @saravdwerf . We really need to teach our students about learning and perseverance.

More ideas to follow…



Desmos Activity Builder


Desmos has been amazing me since I first discovered it three years ago. It has progressed from my primary graphing tool, to using the Desmos Activity Builder as a classroom tool that I use more than once per week with my students. I feel like I have gotten pretty good with using the Activity Builder as a formative assessment tool. I do have a mobile Chromebook lab in my room so it is really easy for me to distribute them to my students. If the Chromebooks are already under the students’ desks, students are on the Desmos activity in less than a minute.

I am able to create a Desmos AB activity in 10-20 minutes that can assess previous skill level on yesterday’s topic or on a new concept that we are going to cover. Watching the Desmos activity on my computer, I can quickly adjust my lesson to cater to the needs of my class. And, I can look back at any previous activity to see what each student did on each screen to assess their level at that time.

One of the tricks to using Desmos AB is to create a way of student self-checking. If you build it correctly, students can enter answers and get instant feedback on their accuracy. There is a built in feature that you can allow students to see three other students’ responses, after they have typed their response. The trick is to know when to allow that option and when the students will abuse this information, by knowing they can get answers (may not be correct) after they “guess”.

Even though I feel I can create a very effect formative assessment tool, I am still not satisfied with my attempts to use Desmos AB to introduce new concepts. I believe they call those “rich tasks”. : ) I will continue to work on that, because this is such an amazing tool!

I am building an electronic file cabinet for my Desmos Activity projects. Feel free to use anything you find there. Here is the link:  https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1ZlAPdLDSTeTF54gHiGrSQx0d4J399Tnl1fPweMpChc8/edit?usp=sharing