Friday, January 12, 2018

10 Good Resources for Math Teachers and Students

One of the things that I wish that I had done when started this blog was to build pages like Larry Ferlazzo's "Best Resources for X" lists. Instead, I have relied on people using the search box on this blog to find the resources that they need. That's why from time to time I will publish a list like this one to organize some of my current favorite resources for a particular subject area. Here are ten good resources for math teachers and their students.

Math Challenges
Expii Solve is a series of more than fifty sets of mathematics word problems. Within each set there are five problems aligned to a theme. For example, there was recently a set of Thanksgiving themed problems. The problems within each set on Expii Solve vary in difficulty so that you can pick the one(s) that best suit your students. Or you can let your students register on the site and self-select the problems that they want to tackle. In fact, that is how the site is intended to be used. Students can get instant feedback on their answers to the problems that they try to solve. Students who need a bit of help solving a problem can avail themselves of tutorials linked at the bottom of each problem page.

Would You Rather? is a website maintained by John Stevens for the purpose of sharing quick and fun math challenges for students.  Would You Rather? presents a picture with a mathematics problem that asks "would you rather?" Most of the questions have a financial aspect to them. One of my favorite examples is this challenge that asks "would you rather go on a 5 minute shopping spree in the store of your choice or get a $2,000 gift card to the store of your choice?" Would You Rather? offers a simple worksheet that your students can use to analyze the choices presented to them in the challenges.

Math Pickle is a free site that offers dozens of fun and challenging math puzzles for students of all ages. The puzzles are designed to foster collaborative problem solving over the course of 45 to 60 minutes. Almost all of the puzzles are presented as a series of small, connected problems that students need to solve to complete the puzzle presented to them. The puzzles can be viewed as slides and or downloaded as PDFs.

eTexts, Models, and Interactive Tools
XtraMath is a free service designed to help teachers and parents help their students learn basic mathematics. The service provides an online environment in which students complete practice activities that are recorded and shared with teachers and parents. Teachers can create classroom accounts in which each child has his or her own log-in credentials. Parents can also be given log-in credentials to see how their children are progressing. XtraMath offers materials seven languages. Those are languages are English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, and American Sign Language.

ADA Project is a great resource being developed by a mathematics teacher named Sam Powell. The ADA Project is an open multimedia mathematics textbook that covers everything from basic arithmetic through calculus. When you visit the ADA Project's home screen you can choose a category then choose a topic. Within each topic you will find a set of sample problems. Each sample problem is accompanied by a link to reveal the answer, the solution, a video about the solution, and a link to a discussion forum. Take a look at this set of long division problems to get a sense of how the ADA Project works. Teachers are invited to contribute to the ADA Project's development by submitting problems, solutions, videos, and discussions. The submission form is found here.

I cannot publish a list like this one without including GeoGebra. GeoGebra is a free program that math teachers and students can use to build interactive models of problems and concepts. Over the years I have had friends and colleagues who teach mathematics rave about the capabilities of GeoGebra for modeling functions and graphing equations. GeoGebra has a huge community of users who share ideas and tutorials for using GeoGebra in a wide variety of settings. You can join that community here. The GeoGebra YouTube channel is probably the best place to find tutorials to help you get started using GeoGebra on your laptop, tablet, or Chromebook.

Geoboard is a free app on which students stretch virtual rubber bands over pegboards to create lines and shapes to learn about perimeter, area, and angles. The app is available as a Chrome app, as an iPad app, and it can be used directly in any modern web browser.

Calculators, Graphs, and Homework Checkers
Desmos is a free graphing calculator that you can use in your web browser on a Chromebook or any other computer using the Chrome browser. It is also available for mobile phones. Desmos has a robust website full of activities and lessons to use in your classroom.

EquatIO is a popular tool that math and science teachers like to use for using handwriting, equation and formula prediction, and graphing in Google Forms, Sheets, Slides, and Drawings. The service is provided by TextHelp who also makes the popular Read & Write add-on for Google Docs. A couple of months ago TextHelp announced that EquatIO is free for teachers to use. To get a free teacher account just create an account on TextHelp then complete this form. Upon approval, you will be granted access to all of the premium features that EquatIO offers.

Photomath was the first app that I remember having the capability to let students snap a picture to get the answer to a math problem. It will not only show students the answer it also shows the the steps required to solve a math problem. Photomath is available for Android and iOS.

What a Lobster Can Teach You About Fake News

Some of you may recall that just before Christmas an ESPN radio show fell for a fake news story about a high school basketball game in Maine being cancelled when the ball got stuck behind the wood stove in the gym. That story came from a website called New Maine News. It's not just big media outlets that fall for the fake news stories on New Maine News. It seems that almost every story posted on the site or corresponding Facebook page has at least one comment from someone who thinks that the satirical site is a real news website. That is probably what motivated this ridiculous story about a talking lobster complaining about the blurring of lines between real and fake news.

In the story Line Between Real and Fake Maine News Increasingly Blurred Says Magic 8-foot Tall Talking Lobster a talking lobster named Ol' Nick points out a couple of the reasons why fake news stories spread so quickly on social media. Ol' Nick tells us,
"People see a headline, or a link, and it confirms something they want to believe is true, so they share it as fact." 
Ol' Nick also shares this bit of advice,
“Is it too good to be true? Does it instantly appeal to something you believe in an extreme way? Click on the link. Check out the source. It might be a joke site and the first story you find is something absolutely absurd.”
Applications for Education
Read the entire story on New Maine News and you'll find a couple of other pieces that serve as reminders to fact-check the headlines and stories that we see shared online.

Before sharing the lobster story, have your students read the story that fooled ESPN and see if they can identify whether or not the story is true. Then follow-up with the story featuring the 8 Foot Tall Talking Lobster.

300+ Comments Prove What We Already Knew About 1:1 Program Choices

Last Friday I posted a little survey on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page. The survey question was, "if you were given an unlimited budget, which of these would you choose for your 1:1 program?"

1. Windows
2. Mac
3. Chromebook
4. iPad
5. Android tablet

So far more than 300 of you have responded to the survey question. The responses are all over the place. For every comment in favor of one option there is a comment that argues against it. The comments are full of anecdotes about why Chromebooks were a bad choice for a school or why Windows is the best choice or why tablets are a bad solution.

As I said last month, there are too many variables to account for to give a blanket recommendation on what is the best 1:1 for any particular school without spending time getting to know all of the needs of the students and staff. Therefore, I'll just share the post and let you decide what's best for your situation.

This Add-on Makes It Easy to Create Photo Slideshows

Photo Slideshow is a free Add-on that makes it quick and easy to import an entire Google Photos or Google Drive folder into Google Slides. Once you have installed the Add-on just select either Google Photos or Google Drive and then choose the folder of images that you want to have displayed in a slideshow. Each image in the folder will automatically be placed on a slide. That's how I made the little slideshow that is embedded below.

There are a few things to be aware of before using the Photo Slideshow Add-on. First, it will randomly crop some images to fit into slides. Second, some images that were captured in landscape mode will be shown in portrait mode. Third, to make your slideshow automatically play in a webpage you will need to make sure that you have enabled "auto play" as illustrated in my screenshot below.

Applications for Education
The Photo Slideshow Add-on for Google Slides could be useful in creating a slideshow to showcase the highlights from a school event like a field trip, play, or athletic event. You can make the slideshow a collaborative effort by having people add images to a shared Google Drive or a shared Google Photos album. In doing it that way you avoid having to give everyone access to edit the slideshow.

Learn more about Google Slides in G Suite for Teachers

5 Ed Tech Tools Social Studies Teachers Should Try This Year

On a regular basis I receive emails from teachers that go something like this, "we recently got new (insert hardware here) for our students and I was hoping you could tell me which tools I should try in my (academic area X) class." To answer that request for social studies teachers I put together the following short list of resources that can be used in most middle school and high school social studies classes.

Google Earth & My Maps
If you haven't taken a look at the new browser-based version of Google Earth, you should. While it isn't as robust as the desktop version, it does provide a good way for students to virtually explore landmarks and make collections of landmarks. Google's My Maps tool lets students create collections of multimedia placemarks that they can then import into Google Earth. Here's a short overview of the browser-based version of Google Earth.

As a social studies teacher, I feel comfortable in saying social studies teachers love videos. If that statement is true for you, you need to have EDPuzzle in your toolbox. EDPuzzle is a neat tool that allows you to add your voice and text questions to educational videos. On EDpuzzle you can search for educational videos and or upload your own videos to use as the basis of your lesson. EDpuzzle has an online classroom component that you can use to assign videos to students and track their progress through your video lessons. EDPuzzle has a Google Classroom integration option. This option lets you send lessons from your EDPuzzle account to your Google Classroom classes.

Metaverse Studio
Metaverse lets you create experiences that exist in augmented reality. What does that mean? It means that can create games, quests, and other activities that are completed by locating digital artifacts in a physical world. Or as I describe it in Teaching History With Technology, you can create your own version of Pokemon Go with historical landmarks and artifacts. For example, I used Metaverse to create an augmented reality game in which players have to locate and identify the hidden historical landmarks in our community.

Timeline JS
Timeline JS is an open source timeline creation tool. Timeline JS supports inclusion of images, maps, audio recordings, and videos in the events that you add to your timeline. To create a timeline through Timeline JS you first create a Google Spreadsheet with the template provided by Timeline JS. After creating the spreadsheet you publish it to the web and insert its URL into the Timeline JS generator. The last step is grabbing the link to your new timeline to share or copying the provided embed code to display the timeline on a website.

Google Cardboard Camera
Google's Cardboard Camera app is a simple Android and iPhone app for capturing your own virtual reality panoramas. The app will let you capture an immersive panorama that you can share others through email and social media. Cardboard Camera will capture sound so that you can explain what people are seeing in the VR imagery that you share with them. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use the Cardboard Camera to capture and share virtual reality panoramas.

You can learn more about these tools and others in Teaching History With Technology. You can start today and finish it at your own pace.