Tuesday, June 14, 2011

2 yak or not 2 yak...

I found a fabulous blog today by exzuberant who focuses on math in the classroom.  Many posts caught my eye and I'll be spending a lot of time going back and reading the ones I didn't have time for but I wanted to talk about the original one that jumped out at me.

A short excerpt: 
Would you like 2 yaks or 3 yaks with that test?
I took a (small) risk last week and tried something different for our Year 8 Algebra test. I'm calling it the "2-Yak/3-Yak test". The idea in a nutshell: students choose the level of difficulty of the test.

Each section of the test provides questions grouped into level of difficulty indicated by the number of yaks. Students were required to do the 2-Yak column, and then for each section choose between the 1-Yak or the 3-Yak column. If students selected the 2-Yak/3-Yak combo, they would automatically get the marks for the 1-Yak questions. I suggested to students that if they wanted to do the 3-Yak questions but thought they might be too hard, to just do the 1-Yak/2-Yak, move on to the next section - and then at the end, if they had more time, go back and try some 3-Yak questions.

I thought this was such an interesting concept!  Every student is required to attempt column 2 and then based on their skill level, attempt 1 or 3.

My only concern would be that some of my stronger students would attempt column 1 because they know that they'll get it right whereas column 3 might cause them to lose marks.

Exzuberant answers this question as follows:

  • It turned out to be quite easy to allocate automatic 1-Yak marks to students who didn't do that column. In most cases I gave them full marks - although if I saw the student didn't really understand the concept I docked a mark. But it was very clear there was no need for these students to do the 1-Yak questions

  • I ended up giving all students two scores: a Baseline score (1-Yak+2-Yak or 2x 2-Yak) and an Extension Score based on the number of correct 3-Yak questions. In my markbook, I recorded these in two columns - treating them as two different tests. For my final grading, I will weight them so students doing the 3-Yak question get the equivalent of 0.5 marks extra per 3-Yak question.

  • When you're focusing on Standards based grading, this system is a lot easier to work with.  I'm not exactly sure how I can transfer these marks to my own grading system.

    Question to You  If you were to try a test like this, how would you determine a final mark?

    Thursday, June 9, 2011

    Virtual Calculators and programs to go with it...

    When working with calculators, it's very difficult to show students exact steps unless they can see your screen.  I used to bring in a document camera and use that to project my calculator on the screen.  The only problem with this is the fact that I don't have the document camera stored in my room.  If I just need it for a minute, is it really worth all the effort to go get it?

    So, what to do?  I explored the internet looking for a free downloadable virtual calculator.  It took some time but I finally found the Ti-83 Flash Debugger SDK program.  Once you download and install it, just follow these easy steps.
    1. Open program.
    2. File==>New
    3. Select either of the first two choices.
    4. Press F5 OR Debug==>Go.
    5. Don't close this screen.  Just minimize it.
    6. When done, just close the entire program.  Don't save.

    This calculator works just like a real Ti-83.  Keep in mind that every time you start the program, it reverts to the original mode which means you have to change from Radians to Degrees if needed.

    If it sits unused on the screen too long, it turns off.
    Requires a couple steps to open every time.

    Too Small
    Now, some people have commented that it is quite hard to see the buttons.  However, if you have Smart Notebook installed, you can use the magnifier found listed under "other SMART tools".  Selecting the red box/grey box button (second from the right) seems to work the best.

    Disappears When You Click On Something Else
    I use this program in conjunction with Smart Notebook.  Of course, when you click back on the notebook, the calculator disappears in behind.  Sometimes this can be a real pain.  I know that I could resize the screen so both would show at the same time but sometimes I want the notebook large as well.  Again, I spent some time and looked for a program that would keep both on the screen at the same time.  This time, I found a program called DeskPins, a free download.  When you run the program, you can pin the calculator to the screen so that it always stays on top.  Perfect!

    Now, I am completely happy with the way this program runs.