How I Sold #Plickers To My Admin

I realized recently that I didn’t have a post dedicated to how I use Plickers in my class. I had how I make sure each student has a card. I also have how they are used in my warm ups. Then, I mentioned that I plan out my Plickers questions when I’m unit planning. But I recently had a conversation with my admin about it and they were completely sold. This was basically what I talked about in the conversation:

So I have about a little over 100 students this semester, last semester I had 120. I know that to some of you that’s not a lot, but to me that was a lot a lot. I had been used to no more than 70 students because I had been teaching in a small school and/or on block scheduling. So I had been trying exit slips at the beginning of the year, like I had done in my previous schools, but it just wasn’t working. They became a chore, and plus with only 50 minutes I kept not being able to fit them in. So now I use Plickers as an exit slip. I also use it before practicing, and in the middle of practicing. So there are many days where I’ll use Plickers 3 or 4 times in a period.

The great thing about Plickers (besides that it’s 100% free), is that it’s immediate feedback, for me and the students. So when I put up a problem, sometimes I’m feeling pretty confident about how it was learned and I expect something like this:

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And instead I get this:

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What happened?

So now I can know that everything I thought was wrong, and I can go over it with the class! Or, I can now group up students and talk to them about what they did and how we could get the right answer. I actually do the second option a lot. I make sure I meet up with every single student, so sometimes I’m talking to a few of them at a time about how they worked out a problem and what they could do differently. I’ll also meet with the ones who got it correct and see if I can extend their knowledge in some way. It’s really cool that I get little meetings with every single student because of their Plickers response and it’s a regular part of the routine now.

Another thing I’ve started to do this quarter is add the “I don’t know” option to all my questions. I never use Plickers for a grade, so the “I don’t know” keeps some the students from lucky guessing. I really stress that I’d rather them be honest about not knowing than guessing for the problems I put up. I still have a couple that insist on guessing, anyway.

Also sometimes it’s important (to me) to have questions like this to gauge how the class is feeling.

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Sometimes my district’s pacing calendar doesn’t let me, but I try to do what my students need/want in terms of practice vs moving on.

And there you have it! #Plickersforever

Je peux parler de Plickers pour toujours.

My Unit Planning Process

This semester I’ve refined a unit planning process that has worked pretty well for me. I’m not particularly proud of it or anything. It’s not some monumental thing, but it’s helped me stay ahead enough that I don’t feel like I have to be working on planning 24/7. It also helps me see the whole unit and how the different sections relate (or don’t) so that I can teach the sections better.

A few things first: I am new to my school this year and I am not really in a place where I can make waves, like suggest making a change to the assessments or curriculum or even suggest analyzing assessment results. I was pretty down in the dumps about it at the beginning of the year but I’ve learned to deal with it. I’m kind of on my own little island (like I was last year when I was one of two math teachers in the school), but I get weekly rations of food that I don’t like but have to eat to survive. Anyway, I’m given the one quiz and test for each unit from the department chair and the assessments are all taken on Mastery Manager. The computer grades these assessments and there is no partial credit given. I am also given the tentative dates of these assessments and the sections in the textbook that go along with them. I didn’t even hand out the textbooks this semester, though.

So with this in mind, here’s what my unit planning looks like for my Math II class (my other class is pretty cookie cutter because it’s from the community college but the process is similar):

  1. Create my unit notes packet. This semester, 99% of what I am teaching are topics I’ve taught before! This meant I already had notes pages made and just had to refine them and put them together. These are really minimalist and have only a few examples for each topic. And say what you want about notes packets but it works for me. Maybe I’ll write more about them one day.
  2. Make an extra practice worksheet for each section that has answers included and scrambled (à la Meg’s NTMs). This is usually adapted from the textbook’s extra practice materials. They don’t always get used, but are nice to have. 
  3. Make Plickers questions for the unit. I take the questions usually from the ExamView Test Generator that comes with the textbook because they’re easier to find multiple choice questions. I make 2-4 questions per topic. I use these usually as exit slips and also as checks at the beginning of class and I try to spiral the content through the unit, too. A little more about how I use Plickers here. (Just now realizing I don’t have more about Plickers on my blog and that boggles my mind…will have to get on that…)
  4. Create a review Quizizz. My students have gotten used to the review Quizizz and I know that some go back to it for extra practice. A couple others in my department have also tried it and love it, too! More about how I use Quizizz here and here and here.
  5. Write worked out solutions and type an answer document for the review packet that comes with the test so that I can post them on my website.
  6. Search my saved Evernote links and the MTBoS Search Engine for great activities that I can do during the unit. Also find/make one or two review games I can do before the assessments. Revise packet if necessary (and if I haven’t made copies yet). More on the MTBoS Search Engine here.

I like the consistency of this semester. However, I have noticed that this semester has been so jam packed with topics to teach that I sometimes don’t get time to do enough of step 6, or use what I find in step 6. As I’m planning my last unit of the year (Probability), I’ll be making sure I incorporate more than just what I have from steps 1-5.

Je suis heureuse que j’ai un système maintenant qui fonctionne pour moi.

Factoring/Solving Quadratics – My Best Unit So Far This Year

Ok so it’s only the third unit of the year for Integrated Math 2, but my first was just meh (lots of beginning of the year trying to figure out how to teach again kind of stuff) and my second was definitely bad (very low test scores at the end even though I thought they’d do better). This unit not only felt like it was going great during it, but also ended with great test scores (highest of all the Math 2 teachers, but I don’t want to brag 🙂 )!

The unit was 19 days long, with one quiz and one test. Here’s what I did:

Day 1: Had to go over the previous test and then played this game to introduce the factoring process that I got from Simplify With Me.


Day 2: Asked students to get a dry erase marker and eraser to write on their desk. I used Meg’s Guess and Check sheet to structure my teaching of factoring, but I added a little bit at the end for when there’s no b or c.


docx: Factoring Notes      pdf: Factoring Notes

Yes, I know no c means there’s a GCF and no b means difference of squares, but I decided to make them just like all the other practice problems. In time, most students found the pattern themselves. Note: I taught a>1 before a=1. It was amazing. My students are used to knowing about the “invisible 1”, so when they encountered a=1 they just knew there were factors of 1 and 1. It saved so much time.

And I also accidentally left Meg’s bit about the slide and divide in there but in each class there was someone who said “But my sister did…” or “My teacher last year did…” so it was kind of nice to have it in there.

Day 3-6: Just a whole bunch of factoring practice. Each day I started by doing a problem together as a class, either from their homework or one that was challenging from the day before. Then I’d have some practice for them – A Kuta worksheet or one of the Algebra with Pizzazz worksheets. I usually let students just practice at their own pace. I also used some open middle problems as challenges for students that needed it. At the end of each class, I had students do a problem as an exit slip but then took their answers with Plickers. The next day, I would address the students that didn’t answer correctly. It was great to just have those days to practice without having the pressure to move on. On one of the days, I had students do a Desmos Card Sort with trying to find the factors.

Side note: I was in the hallway one day during the passing period and a student came out to speak to the Math 2 teacher next door to me, showing him a problem he was trying with the X method and he had to get the factors of some crazy number like 468 and was super stressed about it. I was reminded of how great the Guess and Check method is at that moment.

Day 7: Quick review and then a quiz. The quiz was awesome. I mean the students did great – only two out of 98 students had their grade go down from the quiz. Happy happy happy.

Day 8: Factor by grouping notes and practice. I started with another sheet from Meg, but really just ended up going through how to do it because of time and my students didn’t need the review of everything else. Then we just did more practice problems.


Day 9: I described the Desmos Card Sort that I did here for practice. It was also when I had my formal observation.

Day 10: Introduction to Zero Product Property. I took Amy’s advice and did this game. It even got some students in my first hour to smile! Also, I got a laugh when I showed the first quadratic equation to solve that needed factoring and I was asking what could we do to get it to look like the problems we had already done (ones that were already factored) and someone shouted “factor” and I said “Yes, my favorite F word!” Haha still makes me laugh.

Day 11: Solving by factoring practice. Some with a GCF to factor out.

Day 12: Factor by Grouping and Solving by Factoring review and Mini-Quiz. Results were also good for this quiz.

Day 13: Showed a problem that wasn’t factorable and asked them to solve. Then introduced the quadratic formula. I showed them a video with the song to Pop Goes the Weasel. I also had the students do Sarah’s memorization assignment, which I thought I’d get some complaints from but overall the kids actually enjoyed showing off that they knew it.

Day 14-16: Solving by quadratic formula practice. I showed a different video of a quadratic formula song each day. The groans got louder and louder but I know that secretly they loved them all. I also had Plickers exit slips each day so I could see where they were at.

Crank That Quadratic Formula

One Direction Quadratic Formula

Solve Me Maybe

In these days I also threw in the discriminant to find out how many real solutions there are by having them try a bunch of quadratic formula problems with each type of discriminant to kinda push them to “discover” the rules.

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After that I also had a quick lesson about complex numbers. I had this from last year but I’m pretty sure I stole it from Meg since last year I took everything from Meg.

docx: Complex Number Notes    pdf: Complex Number Notes

BTW up until this I was able to tell students that they could do every calculation they needed with Desmos if they didn’t own a calculator, but here’s a place where the TI-84 can do a calculation that Desmos can’t. Or maybe it can. Can it?

Day 17-18: Review – my department has a rule where we give students a study guide that looks exactly like the test. Something I wish could be different after seeing Tyrone and Kelly present about Revamping your Review Day. So I did a review Quizizz and then spent a day on the study guide.

Day 19: Test that was a big morale boost for me and my students 🙂

Overall, I think the #1 reason this went so well was that there was time. It was the first time all year that I felt like I was not rushed. I know the students appreciated this, too.

J’aimerais avoir le temps de ralentir tout le temps.


Planning a Graph Transformation Unit

After Thanksgiving, we will be MAP testing for two days and then will have 11 days to complete the last unit of the semester in Math 2. This would give 4 days of final exam review. It is what all the other Math 2 teachers have. I would like to plan this before Thanksgiving so I can have everything ready just in case something happens that means I can’t do MAP testing (because we all know that technology can be difficult at the worst times). This is what they will have to do on their test:

  • Graph a transformation on an exponential function
  • Use the graph of a function to evaluate f(#)
  • Graph a transformation on a radical function
  • Use a radical function model to find when the population reaches a number
  • Graph a piecewise linear function (no evaluating)
  • State the piecewise definition for an absolute value function
  • Graph a transformation of another graph
  • Perform operations on functions (with a word problem thrown in there)

The other teachers are going straight lecturing from the textbook, two days on each section, two days of review, test on day 11. I will say right out that I don’t like lecturing for 8 days in a row. I’m determined to make my students actually think about functions over these two weeks. Take into account I have 50 minute periods, a class set of Chromebooks that take roughly 8 minutes to take out, login, and put away, a class set of TI-84s, and students that have never graphed anything more than lines and parabolas in standard form. I also just had the tech department put Desmos Test Mode on my Chromebook cart so I’m hoping that I can just have students use that on the test but we’ll see if my department approves.

What I want to do is:

Day 1: Discover exponential function properties (something with Desmos would seem fitting – Marbleslides?), make sure to write down what we’ve found, which should be:

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Day 2: Practice graphing exponential functions

Day 3: Compare transformations on exponential functions to radical functions. Possibly make a DAB. They should know this at the end:

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Day 4: Oh wait, these rules can be used for any function. Practice graphing transformations on functions in general.

Day 5: Graphing piecewise functions – I had done Lisa’s in the past but I think because I have way less time I’ll try Amy’s method because it seems pretty straight forward and fun.

Day 6: Practice graphing piecewise, try to throw some other functions in there so they keep practicing those. If time, do some Graphing Stories because those are fun and actually make you think about math from something besides a worksheet, but don’t really have a link to the test so not sure I’ll feel like I can do them.

Day 7: Operations on Functions – I’m intrigued by this from Sarah:

Day 8: Practice more operations on functions, and graphing

Day 9: Review -probably Quizizz because their test is all multiple choice and they like it and I like it

Day 10: Review – go over most missed Quizizz problems, go over questions from study guide, if time do another game, like maybe or Deal or No Deal or something small and low-key.

Day 11: Test

To be honest, I’m pretty down in the dumps about this unit in general. I feel like it has the potential to be really great but with the time and the way the test was made and the pushback I get from doing anything besides the textbook I feel like it won’t be so awesome. Maybe I’m just being pessimistic. I am really starting to miss the freedom I had to build my own curriculum in my old school. But then I think back at how stressed I was planning for 4 classes and I don’t know what I’d rather have.

Je suis désolée pour le pessimisme de ce post. Je suis un peu frustrée avec ma situation en ce moment.

MTBoS Search Engine and Other Resources #MTBoS30

This post is a tribute to John Stevens @jstevens009 and his work to create the MTBoS Search Engine.

How many times have you Googled something like “factoring lesson” and gotten nothing good? And then you look in your Evernote tagged pages and that’s so unorganized you don’t even want to deal with it…Then head over to the MTBoS Search Engine and you’ll instantly be shown so many amazing blog posts about factoring that you’ll wish you had the whole year to just do that topic.

I would not have made it through this year without this search engine. Ok, maybe I would have, but I would not have done nearly as good of a job. I’ve shared this resource with many teachers and everyone is just like “Wow”.

I also know there are other search engines and virtual filing cabinets and I appreciate all the people that put those together, too. Ones that I can think of that I’ve used recently (I know I’m forgetting some):

Thank you MTBoS for being the most helpful part of my math department this year – you guys are the best!

MTBoS, j’aime tout chez toi.