Desmos Card Sort Is More Than Just Technology for Technology’s Sake

I just had my first formal observation and it was scheduled for last period on day 2/2 of factoring by grouping (polynomials with four terms). I was a little stressed when I found out about the observation.

Luckily the #MTBoS is the best and Meg @mathymeg07 and Sarah @mathequalslove gave me great ideas that helped me de-stress. I ended up settling on a Desmos card sort for practice, mainly because my evaluator has already said how impressed she is with my technology use. I would just make a sort where the students would match a polynomials with its factors (3 cards for each set). That led me to tweet about how it was a perfect example of technology for technology’s sake, which made me feel bad but my plans were due the day before already (even though I had just been assigned the observation).

But then I was thinking about it…and it really isn’t just technology for technology’s sake. Using the Desmos card sort gave me and the students way more information than a regular old worksheet. Ok well for the students they got confirmation that their answers could be correct if they were on the screen (which is not much more than me just giving a scrambled answer key or something). But also they gained engagement. There’s something about being on the Chromebooks that is just 10x more engaging than a worksheet. Like, seriously, in all of my classes there wasn’t one time where I caught a group on something they weren’t supposed to be on. Maybe I’m just bad at catching it, but I’m gonna go with they were engaged. And no, my classes are not perfect little angels who just do whatever I ask them. But the pairs that were just sitting there doing nothing were quickly caught and re-engaged (read on for how).

Also, I gained so much more with the card sort than I would have with just a worksheet. Students were in pairs and I had them make their names both of their first names together so I could manage better. I walked around with my iPad showing the dashboard, and I was able to see their work in real time! No more making rounds around the room and not finding out until 2 minutes before ending that a group did everything wrong. No more letting a group wait there for 10 minutes because they finished early (or just weren’t working) and just didn’t say anything!

I wish I had taken a screenshot in the middle of the class (this is just the first four groups from a class that had already finished) but, for instance, I could see right away that the Stefan Banach pair had a mismatch and could go over to them as soon as I was available before they made more mistakes like that. I could also see, for instance, that Diego and Kurt were ready for some extension questions and challenges since they were done earlier. Or I could use this to see that Mary’s pair needed someone from Diego’s pair to help them out since they were stuck on that screen for a while.


Also, it was pretty easy to make. I made an 8 question Kuta worksheet, made sure none of the factors were the same but that there were some similar ones, and then typed them in. I think it took me half an hour while I watched TV to make.

So yeah, I wanted to use Desmos to impress my assistant principal. But really, in the end, I did what I think helped my students and me have the best practice for this topic.

Here’s the links to the card sorts that I’ve done like this:

Factor by Grouping:

Factor quadratic trinomials:

J’adore Desmos et je vais trouver n’importe quelle raison de l’utiliser.

My Favorite: Absent Cards

I seriously thought I’d be able to do this one on time, but once again I’m a day late on the ExploreMTBoS 2016 Blogging Initiative. I will try my best to do Week 3 on time, but for now I am catching up with Week 2: My Favorite.


It was really hard to think of something. I love Desmos, but I also love Review Games (up until this year actually), and I also loved Barbie Bungee, but I also love Glen Waddell’s High Fives. However, I settled on my Absent Cards.

This is not revolutionary and I believe I stole and adapted from someone but I can’t find who it is. Let me know if it is you!

So if I have a student who is absent, someone else at their table has to get a yellow absent card from the side of the room and fill it out for them. The students groan about this at first, but then they realize that one day they are absent and appreciate this being done for them. I have another student fill it out because then that person (and the rest of their table) is a resource for that student in catching up.

This is what it looks like. I print it 4 to a page on color paper so they are little yellow cards in my room.

Screen Shot 2016-01-24 at 10.18.14 AM

File here: Word Doc   PDF

The “Announcement” section has only had to be filled out a few times, but sometimes the kids put little messages there (Hope you’re feeling better, you missed a tough one, she said another math pun today, etc). I do check over everything that is written (at the beginning of the year I always have someone try to say something mean and have a talk with them) but it’s pretty simple or them to fill out. Also, when I pass out papers, I leave one for the absent student so that the students at the table get a little reminder that they need to fill the card out with that worksheet. I have the students turn it in to me so that I can check it, attach a copy of any filled out notes we did in class, and then put it into the absent bin. The only time I fill out the card is if it was done incorrectly (hasn’t happened since the beginning of the year) or if it’s a test day.

When students return from being absent, they know to look in the bin. I even have students come in during a passing period or before school to grab their stuff that they missed.

I wish I took a better picture not from my doorway…

The absent bin has a sign I took from Sarah Hagan at Math Equals Love. This method is the one of the few things I kept from my first days teaching that has had very little tweaking and the students have commented that it helps them. It also takes some work off of me and puts more responsibility on the students.

I’ve really enjoyed reading all the other My Favorites! I can’t wait to use some of the things I have read.

Mon objectif pour cette semaine est écrire AVANT la date limite!

Challenging Moment #MTBoS12days

Ok this is a tough one. I’ve been challenged plenty in my 2.5 years teaching. I think a moment that sticks out to me is in my first year teaching. I had big big big problems with classroom management and had one class in particular that was pretty bad. It really just consisted of two boys that pretty much ran the class. They’d shout out or at each other, make fun of other kids, end up rolling on the floor, throw things. The school disciplinary procedure (referrals, detentions, suspensions) did nothing and I had had some parent complaints. My first out of three observations happened in that class in December. During that lesson, with the assistant principal in the room, the behavior was still crazy. My AP pretty much told me that I had to get it under control or I’d be in trouble (or at least that’s what I saw it as – she said later that I was always in good shape to be hired the next year). It was after that meeting, right before winter break, that I went to my first blog looking for classroom management techniques. I had also asked for help from my mentor and other teachers and was assured by my team that I could send the two boys to other classrooms every day if I needed to, but I always resisted that and I had tried a few things my mentor suggested but it wasn’t working. So my first real venture into the #MTBoS was because of this moment. I can’t for the life of me find what I read first, but it spiraled into me getting Feedly and subscribing to a bunch of math blogs.

After winter break, I told my class we were “starting over” and told them to do a bunch of crazy things for one minute like stand on the tables, scream, run, etc. After the minute was up they got into their seats quietly and we agreed that we should never see any of these behaviors again, otherwise we would have these specific consequences (that they came up with/agreed on). I also started a “Secret Student” class competition, where I would choose a student to secretly observe for behavior throughout the class. If that student had acceptable behavior the entire time (sometimes I’d announce at the beginning that I was specifically looking at good group work today or something like that), I would say at the end of class “Our secret student Johnny did this and this and this to get you a secret student point today!” However, if the student did not have acceptable behavior, I’d say “Our secret student was not able to behave acceptably today. We will have to try again tomorrow.” I allowed students to see me outside of class, alone, if they wanted to know if they were the one that caused the class to not get their point. When we reached a certain number of points, we’d get a party.

The behavior was pretty good after that. I’m not gonna say that everything instantly turned around, but I was able to usually go a few days without having something thrown or shouted and that was good. It also helped me know how to start off my next year better.

La mauvaise conduite des étudiants ne me conviennent jamais, mais maintenant j’ai quelques stratégies.