Marking Madness!

I’ve been teaching a lot of math courses and one of the things I struggle with is marking. When you mark a math problem it’s not only about the final answer. The process is very important. Students could do everything right but make one small mistake and the final answer will be wrong. It’s important to recognize that a student understands the process as well as the final answer. I tell my students if they want full marks on a test, they need to show their work.  And for the most part, they are pretty good at it.

It can take a long time to mark math tests because I have to mark both the process and final answer.  I write lots of comments on my tests to help students understand where they went wrong. I know that most of them won’t read them, but for the ones that do, I want them to have the chance to learn from their mistakes. The problem is, students tend to make similar mistakes and as a result, I end up writing the same comments over and over again. When you are marking 40+ papers, that can take a long time.

A colleague of mine, Nancy Nelson told me about a program called Gradescope. She said she found it helped her be more efficient with her marking. I did some exploring and decided to give it a try. I have to say I’m sold. Rather than writing the same comments over and over again, I was able to set up a rubric with the comments I wanted to have (and associated points deductions) and apply them as I marked each question. Not only was it more efficient but it insured that I was marking consistently.

Screenshot 2018-10-07 09.33.10

Gradescope is very simple and intuitive to use.  First, scan or upload your test (or assignment) and identify the name and student number sections on the paper.  Then identify the areas on the test/assignment were each question will be answered and assign marks for each question. You can set up your rubric here, or do it when you are marking. Once you have set up the test/assignment, you can import your class list with student numbers.

When students write the test or submit their assignment,  you scan the tests into a PDF and import them into Gradescope. Gradescope matches each paper to the student number and you are ready to mark.

The one thing that Gradescope gives me that I can’t get by manual marking (without a lot of time spend doing the calculations) is data about the test; how students did on each question, the breakdown of the grades etc..

Screenshot 2018-10-07 09.34.22Screenshot 2018-10-07 09.34.02

Being able to take my laptop and mark anywhere, without having all the papers to flip through was an additional benefit. It easy to start and stop. Whenever I had some spare time and I had my laptop or tablet close by, I could open up Gradescope and mark a question.

Screenshot 2018-10-07 10.39.19

One other feature I really liked was the summary report that Gradescope produces.  It shows the details of each question and what errors were made (if any).  Students can see very quickly where they went wrong and what kinds of mistakes they made.  As their teacher, I can see if there is a pattern to their mistakes and use that to focus how I help them.

Between the ease of marking, the reports and the data, I am hooked. This was such a great experience, I plan on using Gradescope for all my marking!

Happy Marking Everyone!

For more information on Gradescope go to their website: https://www.gradescope.com/

I just found out that Gradescope was bought by Turnitin (Turnitin acquires Gradescope). Maybe like Turnitin, Gradescope will become a standard on every campus. 

The Ontario Extend 9X9X25 Writing Challenge

Over the next 9 weeks, I will “take the challenge“.  No, it’s not the ice bucket challenge.  It’s the Ontario Extend 9x9x25 Writing Challenge.  The goal is to write 9 blog posts over the next 9 weeks reflecting on my practice as an educator in post-secondary education.

I thought I would start this challenge with my motivation for doing this in the first place.

As a “mathie” at heart, I am comfortable with numbers and formulas. Writing has never been easy for me and although I have become better at it, it’s still not in my “comfort zone”.  I’ve tried journalling, but not successfully.  I always find myself sitting there, trying to think of something to write down. If only I could connect my brain to a computer to capture all those great thoughts I have when I am in the shower or driving.

This is one of the reasons why I chose to take the challenge. It’s going to take me outside my comfort zone and push me to write at least 25 sentences every week as I reflect upon my teaching practice.

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A friend of mine posted the following quote on Instagram:

“Always go with the choice that scares you the most, because that’s the one that is going to help you grow.” Caroline Myss

THIS is something I truly believe in.

Some of the most rewarding experiences I have had in my life have been the ones that were the scariest.  They forced me out of my comfort zone and allowed me to try something new. I can think of many examples throughout my life – but I will only share one as it relates to my career in education.

The first time I was asked to present my peers, I thought, who me? What have I got to share? There are so many other faculty with much better things to share. Of course, it didn’t help that I was terrified to be at the front of the room in front of all my peers.  Imagine that, a teacher who stands in front of students every day worried about teaching other teachers.  The thing I learned very quickly is that your peers understand what it’s like to be at the front of the room.  They are supportive and responsive. Having the courage to step in front of that first group and offer a workshop, has lead to more workshops and other opportunities.

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In 2016, I applied to be a facilitator with the Southwestern College Educator Development Program (CEDP). Being a facilitator is very different from teaching. It’s VERY different from being a MATH teacher.  In a math class, the content & activities are very structured.  At CEDP, we facilitate the group and much of the content is generated by the participants.  This is very different than what I am used to.  It was very scary when I facilitated my first group on my own, especially since I was taking over for another facilitator in the second phase.  My group was amazing and we learned so much from each other.  I really love being a facilitator, meeting faculty from the other colleges and learning from everyone.  I learn something new every phase.

I am excited about the next 9 weeks to see what happens. I am already having thoughts about next weeks topic.

I am looking forward to learning from each other over the coming weeks!

Happy writing everyone!

Lisa

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.

Smarties by Nestlé, on Flickr
Smarties” (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0) by Nestlé

 

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”.

Medium Box, open by Meathead Movers, on Flickr
Medium Box, open” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Meathead Movers

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!!

Large Coffee With Four Cremes

I start out each browsing session with good intentions, and about a half hour later, I have at least 20 tabs open. I get confused trying to figure out where I was, what I am done with, and where I wanted to go next. It is a small thing but until I learned a way to gain control of my tabs, I didn’t know how much time I was actually wasting messing with my open tabs.

Peering over my shoulder one day last month, one of my students suggested I close all tabs to the right! It was an eye-opening moment. While I had seen the menu that pops up when you right-click on an open tab in a browser, I had not actually looked at the options.

New tab, Reload tab and Close tab where options I was familiar with but generally, I used other mouse clicks or key…

View original post 301 more words

“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
Math1020

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: 

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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.

 

ME
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.