Top 10 Apps for Making Innovators

In "The Innovator's Mindset: Empower Learning, Unleash Talent, and Lead a Culture of Creativity" by George Couros he talks about getting teachers to foster an environment of wonder, exploration, and forward-thinkers.  Couros goes on to state that to have innovative students we need innovative educators.  Here I give you 15 apps to get students to develop the skills and create learning learning experiences to release your student's talent.  These are in no particular order, if I forgot any that you think should be mentioned put them in the comments down below.

1. MSQRD (Masquerade) (free)

This app allows students to record themselves in 30 seconds.  The most amazing part of this app is that you can apply filters and animations over your face like SnapChat.  This app allows students to publish to Twitter if you have a classroom hashtag or students can send you an email with the video inclosed.  They have different filters in the picture I took a picture with the American flag, student's could record their voices over a different flag from a country of their choice.

2. Pixel Press Floors (free)

This app allows you to create your own video game.  It allows you to draw on screen (in paper mode) and draw out the different levels of the game. There are a ton of lesson plans and tried and true ideas here:

Once you get going you can create different levels of complexity that include different problem solving steps.  In my class students create their own and test it as an assessment and students rank its difficulty level and math included.

3. Morphi (free)

Morphi is an app that allows students to create and print a 3D model to a 3D printer directly from their iPad.  Students in my math class made weird 3D dice and we found the experimental and theoretical probability after they printed them.  At the time we did not have a working 3D printer so we printed them at the DoSpace in Omaha.  You can check that out here.  Morphi is a great tool I haven't found another that works as well for high school students without moving to Google SketchUp or another computer program.  They have an educational app, but currently costs $8.99, which might be worth the purchase if you had one iPad in your classroom.

4. Tickle (free)

Is a one stop shop for coding devices.  I use this app with my students to code a BB-8 with artimetic sequences and later in the year we code for graphing points using our Parrot Drones. This app is extremely hands on when it comes to coding software on the iPad.  Its ease and layout makes it easy for students to pick up and 'fly' with.

5. Locks ($1.99)

Locks is our only paid app, because you only need one for your classroom.  BreakoutEDU will be a top 10 educational company by the end of the decade, because BreakoutEDU thrives on bringing growth mindset of problem solving and critical thinking to the forefront of education.  If you haven't seen BreakoutEDU before I would suggest touring their website before purchasing here.  The goal of BreakoutEDU game is to get out a series of locks before the time expires, but with the app you don't need locks just app. So the $90 box is the same thing as the $1.99 app.

6. Seesaw (free)

Seesaw has been my go to blogging platform this past year with my students.  This collaborative app allows teachers and students to have a class blog for free.  I use to use, but now they charge $20 for the same thing that Seesaw does. (And it does it better.)

The ease to use Seesaw is signing up and giving students something to put in their folder.  With ease of use and a free place for students to publish to the web, makes it an ideal tool of any innovator.

7. Block Craft 3D (free)

My students love Minecraft, but in the app store Minecraft is quite expensive especially for an educator.  The equivalent is a free app Block Craft 3D which allows students the same experience as Minecraft, but without the price.  The only thing I wish Block Craft 3D had was the ability to communicate with others in the game.  

Otherwise we use this app in my Standards class especially since it easier to talk about volume, surface area, perimeter, and other geometrical terms with a visual that they made.

8. Padlet (free) 

Padlet is an old-y, but goody.  This app never disappoints when you have students collaborating in groups.  I use this in all my group projects to have students brainstorm and sort their brainstorming into groups.  It is a digital, yet concrete way of digital communication with an iPad.  This communications tool is a great tool that all innovators should have in their repertoire if they are heading to college, workplace, or even high school. 

Bloxels is another app made by the same company that makes Pixel Press Floors where you can create your own video game.  This app is great for more elementary or middle school classrooms.  You can buy the bloxels or use the app in the same way where you fill them out to make different levels.

Great app to start making students problem solvers of making difficult puzzles and levels for other students.

10. Typorama (free)

The last app is Typorama, this app takes pictures from the internet, library, and camera roll and allows you to insert text and filters over the top.  This is perfect for having students make their own memes and infographics.  This app is high quality I use it when I take pictures or post to Twitter, because the detail level is incredible.

This app is perfect for the innovator who takes notes in a unique way and produces great visuals.

Gas Station Problem and Unit Rates

I was at Hy-Vee the other day filling up using our fuel save points when an interesting question popped into my head.  I was thinking if you were a gas station attendant how could you know if a person was using a fuel saver and which pump had the highest fuel saver discount based on the number of gallons and fuel price.

I made this activity to engage student thinking about Unit Rates and instead of fuel saver points they have to find which pumps are losing them money.

So I creepily took down the notes of every pump at the local Hy-Vee gas station, luckily enough I did the math on them all and had some surprising results.

The assignment is here:

It focuses on higher thinking about unit rates than we might typically cover.

After students complete this part of the task they have follow up questions:
  1. Which pumps need to be fixed?
  2. How much money was lost if we make $.10 on each gallon sold? Show your work.
  3. How much money did we make?
  4. How did you find your answers? (Write one paragraph)

Debates in Math

I have been looking over my Algebra 2 curriculum to find places where I could include debates in the math classroom.  I was trying to find ways of including more formal debates where students take in all of the information.  My goal is to give students a day to find all of the information, that night have them make a poster, meme, or infographic to demonstrate that learning.  The next day students will present their arguments to the class in a fishbowl activity.

  1. The first would be about Functions, Equations, and Graphs.  Students would be split into groups of 2 and one would be graphs the other would be equations.  Students would have debate on which is a better demonstration of functions equations or graphs.
    • Students would then have to produce a poster or meme.
    • Then the next day students would argue about which is better.  A list of questions that I will pose to students to get them talking will be added later.
  2. The second debate would be about Quadratic Functions and Equations. Same concept on groups of two but it would it include the best way to solve quadratics.
    • This time students will be placed into groups:
      • Completing the Square
      • Quadratic Formula
      • Graphing
  3. The last one I will incorporate is probability.  I'm going to go a little off script and give them an article to read and then talk about analyzing data.  Is the article true or not students will have to determine if the samples and survey are sound. 
I will add more as I become more proficient in dealing with debates and keep you posted as we have them in class.

5 Math Projects for Project Based Learning

At Schuyler Central High School next year we will have a new course in every subject area under what we call "Project Succeed." This will be a credit recovery class where students will undertake 5 projects throughout the year to earn those 5 credits.  If students do 3 of the 5 projects they earn 3 of the 5 credits.  Since this is the first year of the course, I am going to do 5 projects that someone else has done before.  Next year I will try to incorporate different projects that are more authentic.

1. Conceptual Art Project
This project is putting students in the drivers seat of incorporating art and math together.  Students will have the opportunity to put one concept of mathematics into a work of art.  They can create a watercolor, painting, or sculpture.  Students will then write a one page paper on what math concept was described and how it came out in the artwork.

I was thinking of using the timeline of this other Calculus Artwork Project.

2. Making a Math Treasure Map
This project has students using Google Maps to create a mathematical treasure map where students are given clues that lead them to the buried treasure.  Students will use coordinate geometry, and equations and lines to make the map.

3. Paper Folding 
This project has an "art-y" feel exactly like the first one.  Students will use origami to make a 3 Dimensional shape.  You will explore the relationship between surface area and volume. Is one always bigger than the other? Can you make cubes with the same surface area but different volumes?  Students will work in pairs to create either a cube or tetrahedron and then derive the surface area and volume formulas. 

4. Nutritional Math
In the launch activity students use unit rates and proportional reasoning to calculate how long they'd have to exercise to burn off different McDonald's menu items.  They then discuss which they think is a better representation of nutritional information.  Students would then create their own infographic for number of minutes in each activity to burn off a particular McDonalds item. 

Students would then create a personalized menu tailored to their own bodies, diets, and exercise routines.  

5. Three Shots
This last one I want to be more of a data based project where they are collecting and analyzing datat, we will see what I eventually get to.  In Three Shots, students will compute the probabilities of a Memphis basketball team win, loss, or tie when fouled at the buzzer and explore this even further in two project tasks, To Foul or Not to Foul and That Is The Question.

Financial Literacy in Math

Financial literacy is the ability to understand how money works in the world: how someone manages to earn or make it, how that person manages it, how he/she invests it, and how that person donates it to help others.

I believe that my past Algebra 2 students understand the material.  I don't think that they could go out and apply those concepts (for example in a job environment.)

Looking at exponential functions, for example, students can look at the depreciation of a new or their old car in terms of re-sale value.  Students can enter the data and draw a scatter plot on a sheet of graph paper.

If students didn't have a car they could search for one.  For example I searched my wife's car a 2015 Chevy Cruze.

The MSRP is $16,170

After the first year it depreciates: $7,904
After the second year: $1,200
After the third year: $1,000
After the fourth year: $875
After the fifth year: $675

Students could then plot this and look for the exponential line of best fit through that data on Desmos. You could then prompt follow up questions, what will the value be 8 years from now? Is $8,456 a good price now for a 2015 Chevy Cruze?

For slope and finding slope of a line, give them real-world data to extrapolate.  This data below came from the Nebraska Department of Roads.

What is the slope of each year from January to May?  What is the slope of each year from May to December?  What causes this?

What do you expect June to look like? Can we determine what the price will be December?

Having students know the concepts is one thing.  Having them use the concepts beyond the classroom is what we are looking for as math teacher.

Improvement of Instruction Lessons

This last week I had a graduate class, Improvement of Instruction through Doane "University." This class focuses on the 4MAT method which is the learning types and using whole brain instruction to teach to students.

Here is an example of the 4MAT process with regards to assessment:

In our class we had to make two lesson plans here are the two:

Subject: Math: Algebra 2
Grade Level: 10th and 11th
Concept: Character
Topic: Properties of Real Numbers
Length of Unit: 6 Days
Essential Question: How do you characterize properties of real numbers?

1R (Connect)
Objective: Students will connect to characteristics by completing the ‘Guess Who’ game.
Activity: Play ‘Guess Who’ with partners.  Then as a group play ‘Guess Who’ with the teacher.  Student’s will try to find the teacher’s character.  Each player starts the game with a worksheet that includes cartoon images of 24 people and their first names. Each player selects a character of their choice from the group containing the same 24 images. The object of the game is to be the first to determine which card one's opponent has selected.

1L (Attend)
Objective: Students will make meaning of characteristics by reflecting in their journal.
Activity: Students will journal how they found characteristics of the teacher’s character and/or their partner's character.  Students will also journal other characteristics of different characters in the “Guess Who” game. What made selecting different characteristics better than other characteristics?
Assessment: Teacher will check for understanding by analyzing the student’s journals.

2R (Image)
Objective: Students will see a relationship between numbers and having characteristics.
Activity: Students will be put into groups and given different numbers in an envelope.  Student’s will look at each number and put the number into a group.  They can put them in any type of group, but will have to defend their answer when talking about where they placed their number.
Assessment: Teacher will check will for student engagement through observation of student participation.

2L (Inform)
Objective: Students will acquire knowledge of properties of real numbers through lecture.
Activity: Lecture to students the difference between rational and irrational numbers.  Students will be able to classify numbers (such as: integers, whole numbers, natural numbers, irrational numbers, and rational numbers.) There will be a discussion on the differences and similarities of rational and irrational numbers.
Assessment: Teacher will check for understanding through analysis of student’s notes.

3L (Practice)
Objective: Students will show their understanding of real numbers by completing card sort.
Activity: Students will have to determine whether a number is rational or not and why, this aims to identify and assist students who have difficulties in classifying numbers and moving between different representations.
Assessment: Teacher will measure proficiency by recording the card sort performance. See attached card sort and assignment.

3R (Extend)
Objective: Students will make decisions on property of real numbers.  Students will create an infographic showing their understanding.
Activity: Students will create an infographic of the properties of real numbers.  This infographic will include a flow chart of finding the right property based on the yes/no questions of the flow chart.
Assessment: See attached rubric.

4L (Refine)
Objective: Students will edit and rehearse their infographic for accuracy.
Activity: The students should examine their projects and make sure it is complete. Once they are done they should rehearse their presentation for their infographic.
Assessment: Teacher will meet with students to answer any questions and to check for understanding on the infographic.

4R (Perform)
Objective: Students will present their project.
Activity: Students will present their infographics to their class, as a class we will test the flow chart with 2-3 example numbers to make sure they have the correct properties.

Using Learning Goals Effectively

At my current school we are big on the Marzano.  One of the big Marzano standards we are evaluated on this year is:

Effective learning goals provide both student and teacher with a clear understanding of the target knowledge.

Target knowledge can be defined as the information and/or skill, strategy, or process that demonstrates attainment of the learning goal. To translate general statements like those often found in state and district documents and essential learner outcomes, a teacher must articulate the more specific declarative or procedural knowledge implied in the general statement.
One of the things that is difficult especially teaching Algebra 2 is that there are no clear straight forward standards that the course entails. But, there is an amazing website that shows some big ideas for Algebra, Geometry, and Algebra 2.
You can find each big idea on one of the top tabs. 
For next year, each one of those big ideas will be my learning goal.  It is student friendly, is specific, and the by the end of the lessons students should be able to articulate why that is the learning goal.

Employment Tests in Math

In Algebra 2 I give ACT and geometry review questions for bell-ringers.

In Algebra for bell-ringer I normally review the previous material from the day before.

In Standards that I teach, I normally review the previous material, but on every Friday I gave the students a challenge.  I gave them an interesting problem or viral question that I saw the day before on Facebook or Twitter.

I was thinking about keeping that Friday tradition, but instead of reviewing the previous days material, I thought I could look for gaps in their learning by giving them employment tests that are given to cashiers, engineers, bank tellers, accountants, sales managers, and clerical bookkeeping.

Here is an example I found:

Clash Royale and Unit Rates

First of all, what is Clash Royale?

"Clash Royale is a fast paced, card based PvP brawler.  Collect Clash troops, and use them to wreak havoc on your opponents tower." (  At our school Clash of Clans has gave way to the new Clash Royale game of choice.

During the game you have battle decks or characters that you play to defeat your opponent friend or stranger.  The goal of the game is to get your characters to take defeat your enemies and take your enemies towers.   So to do that easier is to create a really well put together battle deck.

As a class we would discuss what some students do to build a really well put together battle deck.

Student examples may include: damage, elixir, and different types of cards.

We would further discuss that a combination would be the best way to go, but we are going to put together a battle deck based on damage.  But, further more we are going to put together the best battle deck based on damage per second.  The more damage you are dealing per second the higher chance you are to claim the enemy tower faster.

Here students can download the app and see what to play or they can look online at all the different characters and use their knowledge of unit rates to put together the best deck.  Here are some example characters.

Here is a list of characters and damage and hit speed.

Character          Damage             Hit Speed (in seconds)

Knight                  75                         1.1
Archer                  40                          1.2
Bomber               100                        1.9
Giant                   126                         1.5
Musketeer           100                         1.1
Baby Dragon       100                         1.8
Mini PEKKA      325                       1.8
Witch                   38                         0.7
Skeleton Army    30                           1
Prince                  220                      1.5
Goblins               50                          1.1
Goblin Spears      24                        1.3
Valkyrie               120                       1.5
Minion                40                           1
Skeletons             30                          1
Balloon              600                         3
Giant Skeleton   100                        1.5
Barbarians           75                        1.5
PEKKA              450                        1.8
Minion Horde     40                          1
Hog Rider           160                        1.5

There are other characters they can research, but the work that students will do will be to:
  1. Calculate the damage per second of each character.
  2. Develop their top 8 characters to go in their battle deck.
  3. Develop a written reasoning of why you selected those characters to be in your battle deck
  4.  EC. Try it out, did you win? Did you lose? Write a paragraph on why you won or lost?
I want to engage the students next year.  I know that quite a few of my students play this game and I think this is a great one day project to get students thinking and evaluating data to influence decisions they make.

My Summer Goals

With the summer now in full swing, now would be a good time to jot down some summer plans to try to make sure some of these plans get done.  Since last summer I got married and bought a house it was difficult to get anything done during the summer.  Now I have no excuses!
  • Find ways of incorporating Scratch (or regular programming) into my curriculum.
  • In my end of the year survey students asked for more activities where they could talk, incorporating debates would be a great way to get students talking about math.
  • Find more ways of including my Algebra 2 curriculum and financial literacy together.
  • Read more books.  I am way behind my goal this year and the summer should be a good time to pick it up.  Actually, I just finished Uncommon Learning: Creating Schools that Work for Kids by Eric C. Sheninger which was good way to kick off the summer.
  • Find 5 projects that students can do for a new PBL course and set up a timeline for each.
  • Incorporate these items.
    • Clash Royale
    • Google Maps
    • Holograms
    • SnapChat
  • Find a pre-employment test that includes mathematics.
  • Create 2 more BreakOutEDU box games, see if I can create a digital one too!
  • Implement new Bell-Ringer questions with ACT Prep Questions.
  • Get A's in my 3 2 graduate classes.
Now that I am writing all of these out this seems like a more daunting task than I originally thought. I will keep blogging this summer about tools and resources I find.