Friday, January 30, 2015

Refreshing Our App Survey Rubric

This week in Math 371, we spent our time revamping the app rubric survey made by the class a few years ago. We felt the old survey was a little vague and not all the questions applied to the specific type of app we might be reviewing. Our new survey includes a lot more branching than the original, since we wanted to make sure we were asking relevant question based on the kind of app. We now have separate sets of questions for apps that are games, resources or tools. While we easily agreed on the types of questions we wanted to ask, we had a tougher time wording our questions. We wanted to make sure our questions were worded as precisely as possible to avoid any confusion. This led to some lengthy discussion, but we finally created an outline of all the questions we want in our survey. Dr. Vestal is working on putting all of our questions into QuestionPro, and the only thing left for us to do is to decide how we want to score and weight each question. I can’t wait to see our final survey!

In other exciting news, we got to check out TI-Nspire CX CAS calculators this week! I've only had an hour or so to explore the calculator, but I’m thoroughly impressed by what I've seen so far. I’m amazed at the simple fact that I can graph in color with this calculator. This calculator even does things like evaluate indefinite integrals for me. I feel like I could spend the next year of my life playing around with this calculator and not know everything it’s capable of doing. From a teaching perspective however, I’m not sure it’s alright to give students a tool that does all kinds of work for them. Calculators can easily become a crutch for students. When they get to an exam or quiz where calculators aren't allowed, it becomes really clear who’s been relying on their calculators too much. Maybe we need to regulate the use of calculators and only let students use them after they show proficiency in doing the work by hand. On the other hand, if students do have access to calculators like these ones, maybe teaching students focuses less on computation and finding answers and more on applying knowledge to solve more complex, real-world problems. Next week, everyone in class is going to share interesting tools and applications they've found on the calculator, so I look forward to seeing more of what this calculator can do.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Math Technology Students Review iPad Apps

The assignment in Math 371 last week was for each student to review three iPad apps.  Below is a summary of each review, including the grade level, the function of the app, and whether or not the student would use it in his/her classroom.  One of their best comments was that they feel like the online iPad app rubric that the Math 371 class created 2 years ago needs to be modified.  So that is their homework for next week.  Stay tuned...

Chad Blackwelder
IQ Gym
middle school to high school
      This app was made to improve your mental math skills for the user. There are three main categories add/subtract, multiply and division, with three subcategories below each: Challenge, Survival, and time attack. It gets increasingly harder as you work through the levels, to a maximum of level 99 for each subcategory. No real goal other than to improve mental math.
     I do not think I would use this app in the classroom. This app focuses on how to memorize multiplication tables and addition, as opposed to actually learning why 3*8 is 24. It seems like this app is for someone who just wants to work his or her brain for a while instead of a learning app.

Math Ninja
Later Elementary to middle school
     Math Ninja is a game that forces you to fight enemies that are attacking your tree with a variety of weapons. You use math as a way to earn money, to get better weapons, and to defeat the boss.
     I would consider trying this in my classroom if I was in a middle school setting. It could possibly have some benefit of getting the kids to do math in their heads instead of a calculator, but it could possibly get repetitive.
Khan Academy
For all grade levels
     Khan academy was created to give students, who struggle in a subject, a complete video walkthrough of different concepts. To something as simple as basic subtraction to solving first order differential equations.
     I would definitely consider using this app as a second source of information for the students. Maybe have them watch them on their own time outside of class to see the material for a second time. I watch these videos now, so this app is very powerful to the user. 

Jessica DeNeui
Graphing Calculator by Desmos
     This is a two-dimensional graphing calculator. The program plots functions and creates tables. You can add sliders and set limits to manipulate variables for an equation. Sliders also allow you the opportunity to animate your graph. The program comes preloaded with example interactive graphs of a variety of basic functions.
     I would use this app. It’s really easy to use and understand. It graphs really well, although you can only graph one variable at a time. I really like the idea of the sliders and being able to manipulate constant terms in the equation, and I think it really helps students understand how manipulating constant terms affects the function and graph. 
TanZen Lite
     This is an app for tangrams. This lite version comes with 45 free tangram puzzles. The player can choose to have a pattern for the puzzle or create the picture based on a thumbnail. Once all the pieces are in place, the app saves your work.
     I would use this app if I didn’t have access to real tangrams. I think using the app makes it more difficult to measure the perimeter of the shapes, which is something that’s easier to do with the physical tangrams. I do like that you can choose to have the template of the puzzle rather than just the thumbnail. Some students really struggle with creating the puzzle with just the picture, and the templates would help them complete the puzzle.
Educreations Interactive Whiteboard
     This app is partly whiteboard app where students can use their fingers or styluses to write on the screen. This app also allows you to create a video recording that captures writing and talking. Teachers can create classes and give their students a code to the class, where students are able to watch the recordings. You can also share your videos with the public and access other people’s work.
     I think I would use this app. While there are parts of the app that are locked and cost money to upgrade to, the basic app is still pretty functional. I like using white boards because it’s a quick way to check what students know. Using the app instead of actual whiteboards definitely helps save time since you don’t need to pass out boards, markers, and erasers. I also think the video component could be really helpful. If students are working on homework and projects at home and have questions, supplemental and review videos can help them find answers if I’m unreachable. Overall, I think this app is pretty nifty. 

Jamie Formanek

     This app connects students to more than 1,700 videos of all different sorts, from education and technology to music and business. It gives the students a chance to see all the new ideas coming out into the world.
Shady Puzzles

     Shady puzzles is a puzzle game which requires you to shade the rows and columns using the criteria given. It is a critical thinking game which challenges your problem solving skills.
Number Line

     This app is a tool to help students’ visual number sequences and model strategies.

Carissa Hilmer
Triangle Solver
     Given 2 angles and one side, the app quickly calculates the remaining values for the remaining sides and angles.
     I don’t think I would use this app in my classroom. It is not appealing nor does it give the students a chance to actually learn what they are solving. It is basically giving a student a calculator to solve 1+1=2; it is something that they should know how to find the solution without typing it into a solving calculator. 
Equation solver
     By entering an equation with one variable, the app will not only solve the equation, but also provide a step-by-step solution
     I still believe that face-to-face interaction with other students and teachers in order to solve equations like this would benefit a student more. If I were to pick an app to recommend to students that need help at home, I would consider this one because it uses reasoning for each step. It is not just giving the students an answer. 
     This app is for both educators and students. It is an easy way to communicate and also looks like Facebook, so it will grab the attention of students at any age. There are places to post homework, grades, and even communicate with other educators for ideas. 
     This is an app that my teacher used in my high school Pre-Calculus class. It was an app that was easy to navigate because it relates to Facebook, which also makes it more appealing to upper level students. I think I would use it because it also has ways for educators to communicate and to get different ideas on lessons or how to solve problems in class.

Jenna Stephens
12th grade (Calculus)
     This app gives short tutorial lessons for calculus topics. It is organized based on different topics in the general order that most classes would follow the content. It allows students the opportunity to mark whether they understand or still need more review of the content, to go through again later.

     I would use this app in a calculus or even pre-calculus class as supplemental material. I think this would be a good way for students to review the lesson, or possibly even to preview the lesson. I could make some of the videos mandatory for all students to watch after a hard lesson, or just leave the choice to the students as an opportunity for free “tutoring” after class. 
Math Splash Bingo
     This app lets the user choose between the four basic operations and gives a bingo card for that operation. The user has the option of choosing easy, medium, or hard. Once the student clicks start, the game shows a multiplication problem and the user finds the answer on their bingo card. If they guess the wrong answer, it goes to the next problem with no feedback. If you guess the right answer, you get an animal bingo marker over that spot. Once you get 5 problems right in a bingo, you win.
     I most likely would not use this app in my classroom, because it is an elementary level app. Also, this app may rely heavily on memorization of multiplication facts which is not what common core is all about! Also, students can click a number and just happen to guess their way to a bingo without solving any problems.
Although I would not likely use it, it may be useful as a review before a quiz, or could be a good homework game for students to play with their parents at home. (As a teacher, I may consider sending home a list of fun games and apps – including this one – that students could use at home to practice math with their students.)

Rose Fairfax

SAT [∞]
Middle School to early High School
     You play through levels answering questions about specific math topics, eg “Properties of Integers” or “Coordinate Geometry”. You get points for correct answers as well as quick answers. The goal is to beat the levels and get points.
     I would not use this app. Not only does it claim to be free while locking the majority of its content behind a pay wall, but it ultimately is about getting points and being right. Since mistakes are an extremely important part of the learning process, I cannot see this app having much value in a classroom aside from a fun way to review things a student might already be expected to know.
yHomework – Math Solver

Middle School to High School
     Solves simple arithmetic as well as decently complex algebra problems. User inputs the problem (eg 9x +5 = 14) and hits solve. The app then solves the problem and gives a detailed walkthrough of how to arrive at that answer. At the bottom of the solution page there is often the option to change the method of solving (addition versus substitution for systems of equations, for example). 
     I would use the app. Although it can be used to do all the work for the student, it can also walk them through answers instead of just computing a number with no explanation. It is also easy to use and has a tutorial at the beginning to ease in all users.

MyScript Calculator
Elementary through Middle School
     The user writes with their finger or a stylus. They can enter simple calculations like addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, etc, or they can enter simple algebraic expressions using “?” to denote unknowns. The app automatically balances the equation and solves for the unknown.
      I would maybe consider using it. It’s a bit more intuitive than a calculator, especially for younger students, and encourages understanding order of operations because of the way the app interprets what is written. (It also encourages neater handwriting.) However, it is very limited in its solving abilities and would be little help for things with complicated expressions or things requiring simplification. Sometimes its AI solves problems in a bizarre way or gives an answer that doesn’t follow throw and seems wrong. For example, it solves 9x + 1 = 10 by subtracting 1 from 10, not substituting in a 1 for x.  This would be the first step in SOLVING the equation (subtract one from both sides), but it just stops there, which would certainly be confusing for students who have newly learned this material. That said, I remember stuff that translated my handwriting for me being a really cool sell when I was in school so it may make learning to use calculators more enjoyable and reduce “I pressed the wrong button” errors.