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Teaching an Old Dog New Tricks…

#extendmOOC – Experimenter Module – ACTIVITY 3

The picture I chose for my feature image is one by  Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash.

I chose it because it reminds us how much education has changed.  The box is old and reminiscent of a time when education was all paper and pencil and teachers were the purveyors of all information.  Now students can learn almost anything they want from the Internet.  Teachers and the education system have to change and evolve to make the learning experience better for all.

That’s what I love about the #extendmOOC Experimenter module.  We get to play around and try new things and ponder how we can apply them to our practice.  It’s fun, engaging and we can make mistakes (and learn from them).

Activity 1 – Reflection

The first activity asked us to try at least 3 Daily Extends. I tried more because I find them so fun.  I like them because they are quick (usually), I get to learn something new and sometimes I can utilize what I learn in my courses.

#oext1 challenged us to look around our home/office for an object that allows us to extend the capabilities of a task.

I chose three things that fit the bill for me.  Here’s my post on TwitterIMG_5068

@ontarioextend #experimenter module – #oext1 challenges us to share something that helps us extend…..my pic has 3 – my notebook keeps me on task, my technology keeps me connected to my students and my kitchen table gives me lots of room to expand! #ExtendmOOC

The second #extend I chose was #oext13.  For this one we had to Define Yourself in One or More Noun Project Icons.  We were to explore the Noun Project site for one or more icons that might represent you.

I had never heard of the noun project. It had some great images that I will go back to and incorporate into lessons and presentations.  By asking you to give credit to the source, it reminds faculty that just because it’s for education, doesn’t mean you don’t have to give credit (and it is also serves as an example to students when they see you giving credit). the following was my post:

noun @ontarioextend #oext13 – I care about my students and am always thinking about new ways to reach and engage them. Because of this, I don’t get enough sleep and need my coffee to wake up every morning. All this can stress me out….just a bit…#extendmOOC

The third one I chose was #oext123. This daily activity brought in the curation and collaboration modules. We collaborated by curating a list of videos on how and why to use ed-tech tools. I actually did 2 posts for this one.

  1. I found a great video on one of my favourite tools (Socrative). My post on Twitter:

    @ontarioextend #oext123 This is one of my favourite tools. I have been using it for years for formative assessments. @rmbyrne does a great job doing a quick  verview of setting up a quiz. https://youtu.be/Cs7Cbu5QRhk  #extendmOOC

  2. I also shared a video by Dr. Ruben Puentedura that talks about the different levels of tech integration. My post on Twitter:

    @ontarioextend #oext123 challenges us to find videos on how/why to use various ed-tech tools. Once we have our tools, we need some help from @rubenrp to effectively integrate the tools https://youtu.be/ZQTx2UQQvbU  #extendmOOC

I had so much fun that I did a whole bunch more.  I also enjoyed seeing what other people posted. Sometimes they would find something I had never seen.  I learned through their posts too.

A few more Daily Extend Posts:

Activity 2 – Reflection

The next activity asked us to take a deep dive into one of a list of activities. In my post, I already did some reflection on why I chose this activity and what I thought about it.

I chose the following activity: “Peruse  The Agora Project Challenge Bank  and complete one of the challenges.”.  .

I looked at the various categories that were listed. Since this is an Open MOOC, I decided to choose the “Openness” category.

I found the following Activity: “Collect Activity Across Social Media With Tagboard” (http://udg.theagoraonline.net/bank/assignments/tagboard)

What is Tagboard?

Tagboard is a really useful tool for finding tweets about various topics (based on the hashtag you use).  It allows you to see tweets in a more visual way that looks almost like a Padlet wall.

Our school is taking a deeper look into Micro-credentials, so I decided to make a tagboard that would find any reference to micro-credentials on Twitter using the hashtag #microcredentials. There were some very interesting posts that I will be exploring further. Link:  https://tagboard.com/microcredentials/480738

Also related to Micro-credentials are Digital badges, so decided to create a second tagboard using the hashtag #digitalbadges (https://tagboard.com/digitalbadges/480739)

Last week, I was in an online workshop on digital badges and they were talking about how using digital badges to show skills is important in bridging the gap between what employers are looking for and the skills candidates have.

This was one of my favourites posts and it confirms what they said in the workshop:

This tool allowed me to quickly search posts about specific topics. In this case, it lead me to articles and people who are interested in the topic.

This is an awesome tool that I plan to use from now on!

Overall, I think this may be one of my favourite modules. I’ve never been afraid to try new things when it comes to technology.  I like to bring the students along for the ride and get their input.   Sometimes we (teachers) think we know what a student will like or find intuitive.  It’s important to get them involved in the process. I find that when they are, those are the activities that are embraced by the students the most.

Digital Literacy in Teaching & Learning

I really liked the definition and diagram that I found in JISC Guide to Developing Digital Literacies .

“Digital literacies are those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society.” 

I liked how they broke digital literacy into 7 elements.

If you look both the diagram and the definition, we are still looking for some of the same skills that we always have, only now we focus on the utilization of technology to achieve the task.   For example, one element: “Communications and collaboration. Participate in digital networks for learning and research”.  Just because we have technology available to better communicate/collaborate, doesn’t mean we didn’t expect students to be able to communicate before technology was around. Technology has changed the way we communicate and hence, students need to be able to communicate this way.  Collaboration once meant that students would have to get together physically in order to collaborate on projects. Now they can do it all virtually and don’t even have to be in the same time zone.

As teachers, we can help our students to become more digitally literate by demonstrating effective technology use and/or incorporating it into our assignments.  E.g. Utilizing a simulation to enhance understanding and application of subject material.  The All Aboard: Digital Skills in Higher Education resource listed some specific examples of what can be utilized.  For example, under “Teach and Learn”, things like simulations, digital badges, lecture capture etc. are listed.

Quite often, when we hear the words “digital literacy”, we think of knowing how to use a computer.  Too often we assume that because students are “digital natives” that it also means they know how to utilize digital tools effectively.  I have found that most of the times this is not the case.

Anyone? Bueller?

I chose Patch Four: Check, check 1-2 – Checking with Students by Mary Overholt (https://facultypatchbook.wordpress.com/2017/05/09/patch-four-check-check-1-2/ ). Specifically, I chose the following quote:

How many times have you, as a teacher, stood at the front of the classroom and asked: “any questions?” And how many of those times have you been met with blank stares, and silence? Have you, like me, resorted to a “Ferris Bueller” reference: “Anyone…? Anyone…? Bueller…? Bueller…?” only to be met, yet again, with blank stares from the much-younger-than-you-even-think-they-are, born in the post-Bueller era, students in the room?

This nugget resonated with me because I know if I ask my students, “any questions”, most of the time, I will get the same response that the teacher in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off did; blank stares. Sometimes, just to see who’s actually listening, I’ve said the exact thing from the movie: ”Anyone…? Anyone…? Bueller…?” and I get laughter (and the occasional student who has never seen the movie).  At the very least, it gets students smiling.

I learned a long time ago that I needed other ways to check how students were doing.  For many of them, asking if there are any questions scares them and they stay silent rather than speak.  They think they are the “only one” that doesn’t understand.

A number of years ago, I received a grant as part of the HP Catalyst Initiative for a Math project that I proposed.  We received 50 touchscreen PC computers and some money to utilize them in my Business Math classes.  Each student had a laptop to use in the class and my notes were broadcast out to each device. They saw everything I wrote on their devices as I wrote it.  They could add their own notes and save all of it. Two of the best features were the “stop light” and the ability for students to work on a question and ‘send’ it back to me.

black traffic light

Photo by Davis Sanchez on Pexels.com

The stop light was simple. With a press of a button, I could ask the students if they understood the material (Green), were somewhat confused (yellow) or they didn’t understand (Red).  It was quick and no one else knew what they answered except me.  There was one instance where ½ of them didn’t understand the material. When I mentioned this, all of a sudden, hands went up. Realizing that they were not the only one confused gave students the confidence to ask questions.  We reviewed the material and were able to move on and not leave anyone behind.

The other feature allowed me to push out a question to the students, and the students could answer it and send it back to me. Since this was a math question and they had touch screen devices with pens, they could write their answers just like they would on a piece of paper. This gave me the ability to see in detail what they were thinking when answering questions and I could address any issues through feedback that I could write on their submission and send back to them.  I could also choose a solution that was correct and display it for the whole class (without a name).

When I moved to a classroom that did not have these devices, I had to find new ways to accomplish the same thing.  I turned to Socrative to help me get quick feedback on how students were doing.  Most students download the app which makes it quick and easy to use. At the beginning of each class, I give students a quick poll with some questions that are based on the lesson from the previous class.  I take up the questions they have issues with before moving on. I can see who is having trouble and can use that information to give more individual help as well.

mokup smartphone technology phone

Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

I would like to find another tool that would allow me to see their process when solving problems. Since most, if not all, students have a smart phone, I was considering using something like Flipgrid to get them to video themselves solving a problem. Another one I’d like to try is goformative.

I will have to do some testing to see what works and get feedback from the students on what they liked.  I find involving the students in the decision adds to the buy in.  That’s how I settled on Socrative. We tried a few things and they told me they liked Socrative the best.

Every class I would hear “are we doing a Socrative today miss?” There’s nothing better than having students look forward to doing math!!

Learning Math is Like Driving a Car…

This is post is my submission for the Ontario Extend MOOC Activity: Like Driving a Car

Many concepts I teach build on other concepts learned at the beginning of the course, or on concepts that should have been learned in grade school or high school.  Because so many students come with a variety of backgrounds, we find we have to teach concepts such as Order of Operations, exponents and fractions.

There are many examples I could use. But I am working on one example in my Business Math 2 course that demonstrates this point.

Students have been working with the compound interest formula

To work with the formula, the need to understand

Screenshot 2019-02-04 20.15.22

  • What each operation/symbol means
  • Order of operations
  • Exponents
  • How to use the exponent button in their calculator

We are now moving on to finding i

In order to isolate i in the equation, they need to

  • be able to apply algebraic skills to rearrange the formula.
  • know how to take the nth root (and that this is how they can get rid of the exponent)
  • understand that they need to do the correct operations in the right order

This is just one concept that depends on understanding previously learned material.

I believe that many students struggle in math because they don’t understand the basics.  Applying this to more complicated problems is very difficult if they don’t have the foundation they need.

A New Year, A New Semester

This is the last 9x9x25 post and its nice that it aligns closely with the end of the Fall term.  It provides an opportunity to reflect on the entire term as we prepare for the end of semester and look toward the holidays and some much deserved time off.

There have been lots of ups and downs this semester.  I’ve had a number of challenges trying to motivate students to not only come to class, but stay and participate. I’ve also had some great successes where I saw students actively participating and having fun with math.

I have found this time writing blog posts for the 9x9x25 challenge a great way to reflect on my teaching in a different way than I am used to.  So often, reflecting means looking at how the class went, making notes for next time and moving on.  It’s a personal process and it’s usually not shared with others.

By taking time each week to write a post, that process became a shared process, especially when others responded through comments.  I know it thrilled me when JR reflected on my post.  And this week, I found Prof Mel’s post about HyFlex (which I made sure to Like).  I am interested in exploring it at our school and should we move ahead, I know one person I will reach out to.

The only thing I wish I could have done better is reading more of the 9x9x25 posts. There are so many wonderful posts, it’s hard to read them all!

I do have one suggestion for future Challenges (and I hope there will be more).

I would like to see more interaction between participants. I am not sure how that would be accomplished.  One thought – one or two of the posts we do should have to be as a response to another? 

This has been a very interesting journey and I am glad I took the time to do it.

Now it’s time to start thinking about the next term.

A New Year… A New Term…

I’ve got lots of plans for this winter, both personal and professional.

I will be teaching my first full online course this winter. This is a course I have been working with our Online Learning Center to develop since January and it’s finally going live this Winter. I am very excited and nervous at the same time.  I’ve taught hybrid courses before, but never fully online.

I am looking forward to starting the @OntarioExtend #ExtendmOOC in January!  I’ve enjoyed taking part in the PD offerings through Ontario Extend over the past 7-8 months. I’ve learned so much and “met” (virtually) some great people.

shaping edu

One of the highlights of my term will be heading back to Arizona to meet up with the people I have been working with on the ShapingEDU project. The 10 Actions to Shape the Future of Learning that were identified last year are pictured above.  If you are interested in the future of learning in the digital age, check out https://shapingedu.asu.edu/home



And of course, the winter also brings with it – Ski Season! I get to spend my weekends enjoying the great outdoors with my winter family at Alpine Ski Club in Collingwood.

Lots to look forward in the New Year!



Life is a Balance

9x9x25 Post #8

This week’s post is not really teaching related. It’s about balance. Balancing our work life and home life so that we can bring the best of ourselves to our teaching.

Sometimes we get so busy with our teaching; prepping, marking, answering emails, lesson plans, helping students etc. that we don’t take time for ourselves.  I am guilty of doing this.

Taking the time to do something that we enjoy and makes us happy, keeps us balanced.

I’ve become very unbalanced over the years.

Maybe that’s why I decided to take this challenge. It’s making me do something new and I am really enjoying it.

thehuntpart1When I first started teaching, I always made time for my crafts, especially scrapbooking and card making.  I used to call it my right brain activity that kept my life balanced.  I teach mostly math and computers, two activities I associate with being left brain activities.

I know there’s research indicating that there is no left or right brain, but I can’t help but think there’s something more to it.  There may not be a “left” or “right” brained activity, but I do believe that activities fall into different types of categories (logical, creative, etc.). For me, when I do something that’s more creative and is different than the numerical and logical things I do every day, I feel I’m a more balanced as a person. I think it also helps me be more creative in my profession as it helps me to find creative solutions to problems in my classroom.

Unfortunately, I have gotten away from using my creative side.   Perhaps it’s because I have more responsibilities outside of work than I used to and they are taking up my spare time.  My mom passed away 4.5 years ago and my siblings and I have taken over my dad’s care.  He just turned 90 last April.  I think this (and getting older) has also contributed to an increasing stress level which in turn has created other problems.

In August I decided to start taking care of me. I still help take care of my dad and do all the other things on my plate, but now I also make time for me.  I’ve cut out processed foods, gluten, dairy and sugar and limit my wine. I feel so much better.

Screen Shot 2018-11-19 at 7.23.56 PMI’ve also decided to make a conscious effort to put creativity back into my life.  I signed up for a pottery class for this Friday, a couple of paint classes (chalk paint) and starting in January my friend and I will be taking a 10-week pottery course.


IMG_0907I am also looking forward to dusting off my DSLR camera to get some great winter shots up at the ski hill. I could write a ton about how much joining Alpine Ski Club has meant to me and my family (https://alpineskiclub.com).  But that’s another post for another day.


I find when I take the time to do the things I love, I feel better, I am more positive and I think that helps me be more positive with my students

There’s lots of research about the benefits of crafts.

According to the University of California, Berkeley, a few of the benefits of crafting include:

  1. Reduce stress
  2. Improve mood
  3. Head off cognitive decline
  4. Empower women with eating disorders
  5. Help people cope with chronic pain


Who doesn’t want to feel better and keep their mind sharp?   Being more creative doesn’t have to be limited to knitting, crocheting or sewing…There are lots of ways to de-stress and head off cognitive decline.

“There’s promising evidence coming out to support what a lot of crafters have known anecdotally for quite some time,” says Catherine Carey Levisay, a clinical neuropsychologist and wife of Craftsy.com CEO John Levisay. “And that’s that creating — whether it be through art, music, cooking, quilting, sewing, drawing, photography (or) cake decorating — is beneficial to us in a number of important ways.”  (https://www.cnn.com/2014/03/25/health/brain-crafting-benefits/index.html)

If you are interested, here’s another great read: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/arts-and-health/201512/creativity-wellness-practice

Why not try something new today?

Go to Class or Study? 9x9x25 Post #7

So, what am I going to reflect on this week? Good Question.

Last week, all was fairly quiet in my teaching world.

One class spent the week doing review for their test next week.

The other class was quiet, but only because it had very poor attendance.  The students were quick to tell me that they had two tests that day and because of that, many of the students were not attending so they could study.  I thanked them for choosing to come to class.

Perhaps that should be the focus of this week’s blog post.

I had 25% of the students show up for that class this week. Yes, 25%.

I think the ones that attended class came because they clearly recognize that skipping one class to study for another doesn’t help. They knew that they would get behind in the course material and end up playing catch-up.

Unfortunately, most of the students that skipped the class are the ones that are already struggling and needed to be there.  Because of this, I made sure that I posted a notice outlining what we covered and gave direction on how they could catch up and be ready for next class.

I even posted a video covering the material so they didn’t have to try and learn it themselves.

I emphasized that because they missed class, they would need to catch up on their own and that we would be moving to the next topic on Tuesday.  As an incentive, I told them we’d be having an in-class assignment on last week’s material.

I’m not sure how many of them will actually do the work. That’s the bigger problem. If they can’t manage their time well enough to be prepared for a test (and have to skip class to study) are they going to take the time to do the work to learn the missed material? At the time I wrote this, 10 people had gone to the page with the video link. That’s 25% of the class. Most of them were in class that day and were obviously using it to review.

So how do I get those kids to understand that skipping class is not a good idea AND that THEY are responsible for making up the work?  

Those that attended already get it so saying anything to them is pointless.

I did some quick research (Google) and it was interesting that many of the posts I found about skipping class were written by students.  One article I found on Students.org, (“Is It Worth It To Skip Class To Study?”) was a first-person account of skipping a class to study.  The author made some great points.  She said it herself: “Skipping class meant missing out on a lot of knowledge I’d need for future tests”. She went on to talk about the anxiety that goes along with trying to make sure she got the notes and anything else she missed. Her conclusion: She doesn’t recommending skipping class.

This is what I try and get across to my students, but so few of them believe it.

Skipping class has become an epidemic.  When I first started teaching, students rarely skipped class. It was a small percentage. Now, it seems even in-class assignments aren’t enough to entice students. I know things have changed.

Many students have too many competing priorities. For example, they take on too many hours at their jobs. Instead of a part time job, they’re trying to work 30-40 hours and go to school full-time. The sad part is, some of them end up failing because they can’t put enough time into their schoolwork and end up paying more in the long run.

I think the other problem is that some of the students are just not mature enough to realize that attendance is important. I can’t count how many times I have heard “Did I miss anything important?”.   Really?

I found post that listed the top 5 reasons why students skipped class (as tracked through their social media posts)

  1. Hanging with Friends:37 percent of the Twitter posts referenced skipping class to spend more time with their friends.
  2. Too Tired:32 percent of students tweeted that they were sleeping or too tired to go to class.
  3. Recreation:17 percent of students indicated a specific recreational event or activity that took precedence over attending class. There were a vast number of specific events mentioned, including sports, watching television and playing video games.
  4. Studying:11 percent of students mentioned being too busy with other school work to attend class.
  5. Weather:three percent of students’ posts cited the weather—whether too beautiful or too unpleasant—as the reason they skipped.

Source: https://www.class120.com/press-release-college-students-reveal-why-they-skip-class-in-140-characters-or-less/

The article went on to say: “Studies show that class attendance is the number one predictor of grades in a college course, outranking time spent studying, studying skills, high school grades or standardized tests. Despite this clear connection, even the most optimistic academic studies find that nearly one in five U.S. college students are skipping on any given day—with absentee rates reaching up to 70 percent for some large classes at major state universities.”


Although they didn’t list where those studies came from, results from my own classes have shown a similar thing.  Below is an example from one of my previous classes. Some of the students in this particular class who don’t show up initially, never showed up.  However, the graph does show that as attendance goes down, the average grade on the tests have also gone down. I show the students this chart every term in hopes that it might make them think twice before skipping class.

Attendance and grades are linked.

How do we get students to understand this??



Blending the Blended – 9x9x25 Challenge #6

This past week I had a student come to me within issue.  Let’s call her “Jane”.  Jane was not going to be able to make class today and wanted to find out what she was going to miss.  Jane’s a good student and I know it was bothering her she wasn’t going to be able to be in class.  I told her that if she had any problems, she could email me an we could either meet or do an online help session.

I do online help sessions using a variety of different programs.  I have recently started using Zoom. It’s easy to use and since I have a Surface Pro which has a touch screen, I can share my screen and write out the problems in OneNote for students to see while I am explaining them. Jane has attended my online help sessions before, so that gave me an idea.

I asked Jane if she wanted tryout an experiment with me.  Just before class started, I opened a Zoom session (https://zoom.us/) and invited her to login.  I shared my screen with her and taught the class as I would normally.  Jane could hear everything I was saying and was able to follow along with the lesson as I wrote on my laptop.

Normally during an online help session, I would have students post questions to the chat area. In this case, my screen was being shown on the projector.  Since I didn’t want to have Jane’s comments broadcast to the entire class, I needed a different tool for questions.

I use Remind (https://www.remind.com/) to send quick text messages to students.  This has come in very handy when I can’t get access to the LMS and need to get a message out quick. I can easily send a quick note through the Remind App.  It’s a great tool that I have been using for over 5 years.  One of the new things it has added over the years is a chat function that allows students to text their teacher without giving away either’s phone number.

For this lesson, we used the Remind App for questions.  She could ask questions (or answer questions I put to the class), but I could also ask her if things were working well from her side or if she had any questions.

Everything worked well and she was so happy that she was able to follow along in the class while she was at home.

Source: https://www.onlineuniversities.com/blog/2013/01/the-hyflex-learning-model-online-eds-most-customizable-idea-yet/

I got the idea to try this from an article I had read about HyFlex Course Models.  According to an Educause report, “HyFlex is a course design model that presents the components of hybrid learning (which combines face-to-face with online learning) in a flexible course structure that gives students the option of attending sessions in the classroom, participating online, or doing both.” (https://library.educause.edu/~/media/files/library/2010/11/eli7066-pdf.pdf )

In a very rough way, this experiment what is a HyFlex delivery model.

In the past, HyFlex required expensive technology and a special set up in the classroom.

With advances in wireless accessibility, software such as Zoom and Tablet PCs which allow writing on the screen, HyFlex isn’t as expensive a venture as it used to be.

The beauty of HyFlex is that it gives students the ability to choose which model works for them.

For some students, being in the physical classroom is the best way for them to learn.  For others, online, whether it’s in person or watching a video, works just as well.

Given that the lesson can be recorded, students have the opportunity to review the material if they are still confused or just want a refresher.

I’ve spoken to a professor who used this model and their experience was that  1/3 of students come to class, 1/3 students are online and 1/3 watch the video later.  The professor was quite pleased with the HyFlex model.

I believe those that disagree with HyFlex cite that students will just not come to class and some of those students do not have the study skills to do the work at home.

I don’t disagree. Unfortunately, many of those students don’t come to class anyway. At least having a recording gives them an option should they choose to use it.

The following are different types of HyFlex implementations:

I definitely plan to explore this model further.


Perseverance – 9x9x25 Post #5

It’s hard to believe that this is post #5 for the 9x9x25 challenge.  We are past the halfway point!

Since writing (and hence blogging) isn’t my strength, I sometimes find it hard to figure out what to write about. This week I had to look around the other 9x9x25 posts for some inspiration.

If you have been reading my other posts, you will know I have been having trouble with one particular class.  In particular, they are very unfocussed.  They would rather sit and wait for me to take up a question, then attempt it on their own (even though I encourage them to work together). Most never do any homework outside of class.  They come unprepared for class (some have come to a test with no calculator!!) and then beg for more time or a second chance.  Some arrive late for class or leave early.

I am constantly searching for a new ideas I can try.  I find myself reading the other 9x9x25 posts (and other blogs) as often as I can for help.

When reading the posts from over the last week I found one that resonated with me.  Specifically, the post by Prof Melanie – “Are you teaching with your signature strengths?“.

Prof Mel talked about how she took the VIA Character Strengths Survey and how she is living out her #1 character strength (creativity).

It made me wonder what my #1 character strength was and if I was living mine out.  I decided to take the survey. (Try it yourself: VIA Character Survey)

After answering all the questions, I found out my top character strength: was Perseverance.

action adventure challenge climb

Photo by Martin on Pexels.com

According to the VIA, this is defined as “Finishing what one starts; persevering in a course of action in spite of obstacles; ‘getting it out the door’; taking pleasure in completing tasks.” (https://www.viacharacter.org/www/Character-Strengths/Perseverance)

I would definitely say they hit the nail on the head on that one.  This is true for both my personal and professional life.

I could very easily just write my “problem” group off as being not willing to do what it takes to learn the material.

I choose to keep trying to reach them and help them to learn so they can be successful in my class.

I have 7 more weeks to keep trying to reach them.

achievement adult agreement arms

Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

For some, it will be too late.

For others, I may get to them in time.

I hope that I get to as many of them as possible and am able to help them succeed.

I will keep persevering!

Dr. Evil and Mini-me

Movies and Math

I struggled to find a topic for this week.  Perhaps it was because I was ready for break week and didn’t want to think about school.

I was looking forward to going to our winter home in the Collingwood area and leaving school behind for a few days. It is our escape to the simpler life of small town.

It’s not winter yet, but it’s already snowed here which makes me look forward to ski season!

As I reflected on the past week at school, I found myself both frustrated and energized at the same time.

One class, continues to frustrate me.  Since I’ve already written about them, I will leave that for now.

In my other class, which is a level 1 foundational math class, we had some fun and laughs.  I love it when the class is positive and engaged!!

I was teaching a topic that most students learn in early high school, if not before. Many students have not seen these topics since then. For others, it’s been even longer if they have been away from high school for a while.   The topic was ratios, rates and proportions.

The nice part about this topic is that there are lots of examples all around us that help students to understand the material.

I told them stories about when I go grocery shopping and take pictures for math class.  They thought that it was pretty funny (and I am sure they thought it was geeky too).




If I can, I like bringing in clips from movies or television and use them as part of the teaching. It’s a fun way to learn math.

This week, I used a clip form Austin Powers.  I based my lesson on one created by Robert Kaplinsky. (http://robertkaplinsky.com/work/mini-me/)

Before I even started the clip, there was a lively debate on which movie the clip was from.  I guess you could say they were hooked!

I had the students first calculate Verne Troyer’s (mini-me) size compared to Mike Meyer’s (Dr. Evil) size.  At that point, the students were engaged, but they weren’t “sold’.

Then we watched the clip to see what the movie said the ratio was.


When the students heard that Mini-me was supposed to be 1/8 of Dr. Evil’s size, they were shocked.

The next task was to figure out, based on the movie and the real height of Dr. Evil, how big mini-me should be.  This got their curiosity going and they were all totally on this task!

They calculated that Mini-me should have been 8.5 inches.  Of course, they all realized how ridiculous that was and burst out laughing.

We talked about claims, such as the one that was made in the movie, and how knowing about math topics like ratios, rates and proportions can help us determine how true they are.

It was wonderful and exhilarating to watch the students get so into math!

I am always on the lookout for resources that I can use my class. I like to use movies or pictures from real life because it helps the students relate to the material.

Here’s some of the ones I found so far:



If you have more resources that I or others might be able to use, please share in the comments below!


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