Category Archives: Mathematics

18 Basic Tips and Tricks for the Teacher’s iPad

The best thing you can do to familiarize yourself with the iPad is just to play with it.  You’ve got to be willing to explore by tapping, pinching, and swiping away.  One of the core design principles at Apple has been that their systems should be intuitive.  As you learn some of the basic interactions, you simply need to explore these common icons and gestures in different apps. Below are some the most basic tips and tricks that help teachers (and most general users, as well) to navigate their iPad.

1. Launching and closing apps

When you are on the Home Screen, you can simply tap on an app’s icon to launch the app on the device.  Once an app is launched, all you need to do to exit the app is click the home button at the bottom of your device: Apps don’t completely close down when you move to the home screen.  They also don’t “run” in the background unless you have Background App Refresh enabled for the app.  An app will save its state and you can return to the app later. To completely close an app, double tap the home button and then swipe across to find the app you want to close.  To close the app, swipe the app up and away.


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Review Activity Ideas

During the Teacher Quality Grant class today, we began preparing for the Post-Test that will take place in two weeks. Class participants shared a variety of ways that they conduct reviews in their junior high and high school classrooms. This group of teachers shares some very interesting games that they have used to engage students and get them more excited about math. Here are the ideas they shared:

  1. Jeopardy®: This is a classic game where students compete for points by selecting a category and point value. The question (or answer) is revealed and they are given the opportunity to buzz in and answer. Some of the teacher use PowerPoint presentations designed but this can even be done low-tech with a board with numbers and the questions read off of a handout.
  2. Around the Room: Papers with an answer at the top half and an answer on the bottom half are hung around the room. On each page, the answer does not match the question. Students are sent to a starting point (each can have a different starting point). Once they figure out the answer to the question, they find the page that has that answer at the top. Then, they answer the question at the bottom of that page and hunt for its answer. This trek takes them Around the Room.
  3. Clicker Questions: If the technology is present, teachers and create clicker questions and use a personal response system to have students answer the questions as they go.
  4. Bingo: Just like regular bingo, except the cards have the answers to questions instead of just numbers. The questions are read one at a time and the students get to mark their square if they have the answer on their card. One great idea to create the cards was to have a long list of answers on the board and let the students create their own cards at the beginning of the review. This way you don’t have to figure out a way to generate random bingo cards.
  5. Easter Egg Hunt or Scavenger Hunt: Hide the questions in Easter eggs around the room. The hunt is fun enough by itself, but you can have them accumulate points by answering the questions.
  6. Relay: Place the questions at one end of the room, have teams run down and get the question. Once they get the right answer, they can run down and get the next question.
  7. Tic Tac Toe (very low prep): Divide up into two teams, each team takes its turn by getting a question. If they get it right they can take their turn on the tic tac toe board. If they get it wrong, the other team can have an attempt at the question. Keep going until someone wins the game.
  8. Football, Baseball or Basketball: Prepare a list of questions that are worth different values. For example, in football, questions could be worth 5 yards, 10 yards and 15 yards. In basketball, they could be a free throw, 2 pts or 3 pts. In baseball, they would be a single, double, triple or homerun. In each game, you can follow the usual rule so of the sport but the way they make plays is by answering the question.
  9. Trash Can Basketball: Questions are given a value equal to some distance from the trash can. The easier the question, the farther away from the can. If the team gets a question right, they get to shoot a wadded up piece of paper at the trash can. If they make it they score a point.

Peer Instruction (almost) always trumps the “Great Math Performer”

(Submitted as an essay in the MOOC – “History and Future of (Mostly) Higher Education” on Coursera)

For the first several years teaching in the undergraduate mathematics classroom, I was convinced that the better my lecture, the better the learning that took place in my Math classes. I was extremely enthusiastic of my presentation of factoring polynomial or row-reducing large matrices, and almost any other math topic you can conceive. I worked hard to provide visually stimulating examples and always received high marks on my student evaluations. And yet, there was no significant difference between those topics in which I was well-prepared and those topics that had less-than-exceptional presentations. Eventually I had to admit and, yes, unlearn that there was any significant connection between my lecture style and my student’s mastery of the concepts. In its place, I learned that a reasonably well presented topic coupled with a great deal of hands-on group work, facilitated by peer instruction/collaboration DID make a significant impact on their demonstrated mastery. Continue reading

New YouTube Channel – SplineGuyMath

I’ve just completed creating a new YouTube channel (SplineGuyMath) specifically to house the videos I created for my online courses.  As early as 2007, I began creating a series of lecture videos for Intermediate and College Algebra.  As part of an agreement with Wayland Baptist University, those videos were incorporated into their online math curriculum and are still the centerpiece of the online courses that we offer in those areas. Those videos belong to the University so you’ll have to look into taking online courses with Wayland to see those…

Taking the same approach, I began developing videos for other courses, from Trigonometry to Numerical Analysis to Differential Equations, and many other topics as the need arose.  For the ones I own the rights to, I’ve decided to just throw them out there for anyone that might be interested.  A quality online college level course is MUCH more than just the content or lectures that might accompany it, it is the guidance and personal instruction provided by the teacher.  Plus, for a math course, it requires you to actually “do the math,” not just watch it be “performed.”

So, I’m giving away my video content to anyone who wants it.  I just hope it’s useful to someone.  You can find my channel here:

Below is the first lecture series that will be going up.  Trigonometry!  There are some “fill-in-the-blank” style notes that go along with it, if you’re interested.  You can order these from here:
Trigonometry: Lecture Notes (Spiral Bound)
Trigonometry: Lecture Notes (ebook)

I’ll keep you posted here with any new series or videos that go up.  Subscribe if you’re interested!

World’s Hardest Easy Geometry Problem

I spent (wasted?) several hours working this problem out years ago but saw it posted recently on Google Plus.  I soon realized that either my solution predated my blog or I never actually posted my solution.

Here’s the problem and my solution is below: (ref: worlds hardest easy geometry problem

Using only elementary geometry, determine angle x. Provide a step-by-step proof.

You may use only elementary geometry, such as the fact that the angles of a triangle add up to 180 degrees and the basic congruent triangle rules (side-angle-side, etc.). You may not use trigonometry, such as sines and cosines, the law of sines, the law of cosines, etc.

Spoiler Alert: Don’t read any further if you want to give this a shot yourself!


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Teaching in the One iPad Classroom

ipad icon

I have the great privilege of being able to gather with some 60 K-12 educators and lead them in a workshop to learn how to incorporate technology into their classroom.

At the Region 17 Education Service Center in Lubbock on Friday, February 8, 2013, I am leading a technology workshop entitled, “Teaching in the One iPad Classroom”.

Here’s what we hope to be covering: (from the abstract on their website)

In this workshop, attendees will be introduced to strategies for using the iPad to teach in the modern classroom. Software tools and apps will be presented that allow wireless mirroring of an iPad through the projector in the classroom as well as remote control of your desktop computer while teaching. Additionally, a range of apps will be presented that offer a basis for interactivity in the classroom and a powerfully visual presentation of concepts.

Much of the content for this has been taken from the Teacher Quality Grant for which I am the lead instructor.  As part of the Teacher Quality Grant (2012-13), high school and junior high algebra teachers have learned how to integrate the iPad into their curriculum and even use it to develop their own curriculum elements.

Here is the handout that is being made available as part of the workshop: Workshop Handouts

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