The power of Desmos

Last year I posted about how we could replace the ti-83 calculators with Geogebra because of the ability to have multiple screens open and be able to do more regression models.  I am not discrediting Geogebra, but I feel that Desmos has been great because of it’s ability to be used on multiple platforms.  This year Desmos has come out with the ability to also complete these regressions and combine it with the original power of Desmos, manipulating in real time.

Having students able to use Desmos on their phone, a school iPad, or a school computer/laptop has been vital for our investigations as we do not have a one to one ratio of tech to student.  It was also great to hear some of the students say “Oh, so I can do this at home?” Also seeing them use their phone for a productive app has been a good transition from all simple games they like to play instead.

I have not used it for all the regression models, but found that it worked really well with teaching about a line of best fit to the grade 9 academic class.  They were told vaguely to graph a line that best fits the data and then we compared it to the one Desmos created.  The students then created the (correct) rules for applying a line of best fit to any model.  It was a great visual to see that it did not have to pass through the origin, and that it does try to place an equal amount of points above and below the line.

Below I have some samples of what it looks like to have the regression models.  I was able to copy data straight from google sheets which was very efficient and easy instead of typing data.

I have also started using it for investigations with linear relations and so far it has helped students with manipulation of the information and visual representations. It is a learning curve as most are used to having information presented to them and then complete the tasks with their new information.

Linear Regression

Quadratic Regression

Exponential Regression

Teaching Perseverance

One thing I never thought about in my own schooling and on my teaching placements was teaching students the value of perseverance. It is something I became more aware of when I worked at the college level as a teaching assistant and then again this semester when I started teaching the grade 12 college math course.

I think this post links well with my earlier post on growth mindset because I have been trying to implement the idea of “I can” in my students minds. Today was one of those days where I later realized that the teaching I did was more than just teaching math content. I felt like I was able to teach a bit of perseverance to my students today which positively affected those who put in the effort. I had a couple have those “ahh” moments that we hope to see a lot of our students have.

At the end of the class I made sure to let my students know that we did struggle at the start but when they kept pushing through we made it to solving the problem effectively. Before the start of class today I had a student come to get additional work because they were going home sick. This made me realize that I needed to congratulate my students on their efforts because they needed to know that I appreciated their hard work in a difficult task.

I feel like the two lessons yesterday and today gave them the confidence they required in a task that they usually had difficulty with. I have always strived to create a connection with my class so that they felt comfortable with taking chances, but I am still learning how to motivate them to consistently persevere in math.

Replacing TI 83 with Chrome Apps

In the past unit I taught on graphical models, the course focused on regression modelling using the TI-83 Graphing Calculators.  Having used them myself during my high school education I was initially excited for the chance to use them in my own classroom.  Unfortunately it was short lived when I went to the GAFE Summit and I decided to use the Chromebooks and the app Geogebra.

The first day I brought the Chromebooks into the classroom my students were slightly confused on how a math class could use the same technology they used in English and the Humanities.  I introduced the program, created a help guide with Google Docs that they could access, and walked them through the new piece of technology (while assuring them that I was still a beginning user so we were learning together).  After the class ended a lot of discussions arose about the unfamiliarity of the program and how some wanted to use the graphing calculators even though they did not fully enjoy those either.

After the third time we used the tech students who “mastered” the steps were able to help their classmates who did not fully understand how to produce the various regression models.  To my delight students were more appreciative of the new tool they were provided and even found that their resilience was paying off.  Great discussions in the class began about which model to use based on the situation and the R Squared value.  I will admit I was delighted that this was working well and I began to share my new knowledge to my coworkers.

Students wrote their test and instead of the smiling faces or confident submissions I was expecting I found that students were confused and were very upset about their potential mark.  I spoke to some students after the class to understand why they were not very happy with the way the assessment went and their responses initially shocked me.  “We felt like we could produce the graphs and describe them, but we could not describe a graph that was provided for us”.  I thought through the unit and looked at my plans only to realize that I focused a lot of the lesson on being able to use the tech and not as much time as needed on understanding the outcome.

As a first year teacher I realized that I fell into the bad trap of getting lost in the new tech and unfortunately created students who could follow steps instead of thinkers.  One thing that I think will help me in my next attempt at using this is writing out a pros and cons list and a next steps list.  I also started tracking what points students had difficulty with so I can prepare for these in future classes.

My question to those of you reading it is how do you prepare your students to be clearer thinkers rather than students who follow steps? (and this example above was a college level class that I am looking at helping develop deeper understanding)

Growth Mindset

Yesterday I attended Edcamp London and went into a session about growth mindset.  Not knowing what this would entail, I was wondering if the topic was going to focus on the growth mindset of educators or students.  When I went in I was hoping to get the perspective on how we as educators can help students in their mindset.  I currently feel that my Grade 12 class would benefit from me educating them on persevering in their education as most are off to college in September.  It was my goal to get a better idea of how I could educate my students to have a better mindset in their future education.

Great conversations started from Andrew Kwiecien, Ryan Chisholm, and Jeremie Roselle about the book on mindset from Carol Dweck.  The book covers how we can use our growth mindset when we want.  It looked at the mindset of professionals in education, corporate businesses, and parents and discussed how their own mindsets affect their life.  It is a book I plan to read shortly because it sounds like it will be very effective for helping me inspire my students to take on the challenge of having a growth mindset.

In our conversations we talked about the stigmas and the preconceptions students have about their ability to succeed in a particular subject.  For example, if a student has not been successful in math throughout elementary school, they will come into secondary school with the mindset “I’m not good at math, so I can’t do it”.  I know that I have seen this in England where I taught and this was one of the challenges we regularly talked about but never thought of the solutions on how to overcome this.  In our conversation we also looked at how students take the praise they have been given by parents and teachers and use it to create a “mask” that puts them into a comfort zone in the classroom.  We also talked about how students use this mask to shy away from taking chances and asking questions to help their learning.

One of the solutions we started to develop in the session was the idea of  modelling the growing mindset to our group of students.  This directly linked to a new approach to problem solving I am currently taking.  When we are solving a problem in class I talk about the thought process I am going through so that I model to my students how I want them to approach the problem.  I also want the students to understand that even the teacher has to think about the problem before coming up with the solution, nothing “just happens” for us to answer a question.

The issue we foresaw with that is that these new “masks” may be created from this new praise, which would defeat the purpose we have for praise in the first place.  Although from this point it seemed like a daunting task and one that was a catch-22, we as a group had an interesting thought.  If all of us (or a vast majority of us) in a school came to the agreement to start working on this growth mindset, we may start seeing more success and “I can” attitude in our learners in subjects they didn’t feel they could do before.  The question that sparks from this: How could we get more fixed mindset people in our schools to adopt to the growth mindset mentality?

We, as teachers, will face these challenges when it comes to having students think about their ability before they enter the class.  It is our job to help students “break” the mask they have created and provide them with the opportunities and experiences to gain new comfort levels in situations they usually feel uncomfortable in.  My question to you is: how do you work with students to change their mindset and make them feel confident in all areas of their education?