Exploring, experimenting & and sharing all things edTech to improve teaching and learning

Month: May 2018

Misunderstood Math

This post is in response to the Extend Ontario Activity Misunderstood.  The challenge was to “Identify a concept that is often misunderstood in your discipline. Can you think of an analogy that can help make the concept make sense to students?”

Just today I was reviewing a test with a student. Throughout the test, it was obvious that he had issues with integers, especially when combining positive/negative numbers & the distributive property.


When teaching the distributive property, I often use the “Smarties Activity” (or in the US, it’s called the M&M Activity).  Instead of using x and y, the different coloured smarties allow students to visualize like terms.

It works well, and the students enjoy it, whether they use smarties or coloured markers.  The original M&M Activity I found did not have a reference on it, but I have searched and I believe the original activity came from this website: Modeling the Distributive Property  As fun and engaging as this activity is, it doesn’t address negative numbers.  Even though students understand multiplying positive/negative numbers, they seem to have troubles when applying the distributive property when there are negative numbers involved.

Now that I identified a concept students struggle with, the task was to come up with an analogy to help students understand it. I decided to first look around on the web.  Why re-invent the wheel if some bright person has already done it?

It didn’t take long to find one that would work for my students. This post by Josh Rappaport titled: Using Analogies when teaching math shared a scenario that worked well for explaining the concept.  Basically, the parenthesis ( ) represent a box that you are going to use to move your “items”.

Your items (the terms)are packed inside the box.  The sign in front of the bracket identifies the type of moving company. Specifically:

+ (    )     The + sign means you’ve hired a GOOD moving company

– (    )     This – sign means that you’ve hired a BAD moving company

A good moving company packs your items properly and they come out the way they went in.  A bad moving company does a poor job packing your items and they come out broken.  The items come out the EXACT OPPOSITE of what they should be.  In math, to represent “the opposite of” means we change the sign to the opposite of what it was. i.e. “+” becomes a “-” and similarly, a “-” becomes a “+”.

The site goes on to provide examples as well as practice questions.  For more details, check out Josh’s post Using Analogies when teaching math.

I would extend this concept by adding numbers in front of the brackets to represent the number of boxes there are and have students tell me how many items are unpacked at the end.  I would start with positive numbers (thus, reinforcing the distributive property) and then add in the negative numbers to extend on the analogy use above.

I am teaching this course in the Fall and look forward to trying this out with my students.

This post is in response to the Misunderstood Extend Activity in the Teacher for Learning Module of OntarioExtend.



Re-Post: How I gave up my title as the Queen of Open Tabs!

This was a great post from a fellow @OntarioExtend participant Irene Stewart. I am also guilty of keeping too many tabs open!! I will definitely be using these tips moving forward!!

“Syllabus Concept Map” Activity

One of the extend activities on the Ontario Extend website is called Syllabus Concept Map.  This activity asked us to create a concept map of our course.  Since I will be teaching a new course in the Fall (new to me at least), I thought this course would be a good  one to use for the activity.  It also gives me an opportunity to get the big picture of what I will be teaching the students.

I chose to use MindMeister to create a map of the course.  The free version allows you to make up to 3 maps.  You can download them into a MindMeister file, but the free version does not allow you to save as a PDF or JPG.  So I used a tool I just learned about today on Steven Secord’s response to another Ontario Extend Activity called “A Tiny Tech Tale”.  The tool is called Gyazo and it allowed me to take a screenshot of my MindMap so I could share it here.  It also allows you to make short animated gif screenshots.

Here’s the map that I came up with based on the course outcomes and the topics for each unit.

mindmap of 1020


This was a great exercise that allowed me to review the entire course and get a good understanding of what the students will be learning in this course.  I can see how concept maps would be great tools for helping students organize their learning and review for tests

This activity was completed for the Ontario Extend Activity in the Teaching for Learning Module.

And the Journey Begins – Ontario Extend – West Edition…

Our first task after setting up our blog was to write the following blog post: “Use words and pictures that paint the picture of the future of a world with you in it”

So I had a hard time deciding how to look into the future and see what the world would look like with me in it.  Maybe because I don’t see MY world changing – the things that make me happy, my thoughts on education and learning etc. The tools will change. Technology will change. Students will change.  But what shapes me as a person, my world around me, will still be based on the same principles; spending time with those I love, doing things that make you happy.

I read somewhere that life is like a train. People get on and off your train. Some stay for a long time, others only a short time. Each person that gets on your train plays a part in shaping how you view the world.  Some people I thought would stay on my train for a long time, were taken too early. Others, stayed on longer than expected.  

I started out thinking about adding a collage the people and things that mean a lot to me.  While surfing through my photos on Flickr, I noticed this: 


10 years into the future, that number will be just over 85,000 photos of the people in my life and the things that make me happy.  I had a hard time picking out pictures because 99% of them bring a smile to my face when I think back to when they were taken. If only I could put that in a word cloud! I can’t – so I will just show you just a few things that make me happy.  In my future world, it will be more of these (only everyone will be older!). Pictured below are my husband and son (and our families), our cat Tobey and the place where we spend our winter skiing with friends/family – Alpine Ski Club in Collingwood, Ontario.

From an education perspective, I thought I would share a visual that shows my thoughts about education and learning in general.



Created at WordArt.com


Learning never stops.  I believe that there is always something we can learn as long as we are open to it.  I do what I can to help every student in my classroom learn and that won’t change in the future.

I look forward to this journey over the next six weeks as we share our ideas, have some fun and learn from each other.  


Ontario Extend

Tuesday, May 8th, 2018. I am very excited to be starting with the West Cohort of the Ontario Extend Initiative!

I haven’t really done much in the way of blogging so I am looking forward to seeing if working through the activities & daily tasks will change that.

For more information, check out the following link: Ontario Extend West Cohort

21st Century Educators

The Journey Begins

Thanks for joining me!

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton


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