This is a sandbox wiki page to help brainstorm the best way to design a Blended Algebra class. See this post for more detail (and my notes in a Google Doc).

Feel free to edit this page (please leave this portion at the top), and/or use the discussion tab to discuss various topics. Please see the post and the Google Doc for things that are non-negotiable and for things that are very much negotiable.

Thanks for your help.

Karl -- I took a completely online class in which the professor set up homework discussion areas for each section of homework and a significant (20%?) part of our grade was participation in the discussions. It took a while to get started, but it was an amazing experience. Might be an excellent way to get students to tackle more difficult concepts and problems even if you don't want to use it for every assignment. Thanks for your faithful blogging!

Dear Mr. Fisch:

In the spirit of brainstorming . . .

1) Develop a pre-test to make sure that students have all of the necessary skills going into the class. Use the results to figure out what gaps students need to fill in, and let the students know what they need to fix if they are going to be successful in Algebra.

2) Teach the students how to use WolframAlpha intelligently to design, solve and check their own problems.

3) Use ThatQuiz.com to help students track their basic skills and their proficiency in many areas of algebra.

4) Encourage students to use purplemath.com and intmath.com as primary resources for algebra. Both have great algebra sections.

5) Use Singapore 4th and 5th grade books to get some excellent sample algebra problems. I particularly recommend the SAP "Brainy Kids" series by Joylynn Cheng. They have titles like "100 Challenging Maths Word Problems Complete with Solutions." See www.sapgrp.com for ordering info.

8) Show students how to use Google Docs to share information.

9) Use OpenOffice spreadsheets to create interactive demonstrations for free.

10) Check out the Ask Dr. Math pages at the Drexel Web site.

11) Consider Vedic and Trachtenberg methods for students who still struggle with arithmetic, especially in the area of fractions.

12) Use the "face value" game to help students learn to solve for unknowns logically. Basically, one student lays out all 16 face cards in a deck (including the Aces) in various rows of any size, and writes the total of each row next to the row. The other student has to figure out the value of each type of card. For example:

J Q K K = 4
J A A = 21
K A = 7
J J Q Q = 16
Q K A = 12

The student who solves either has to find a valid value for each card type, or prove that no such solution exists. In this case, J=3, Q=5, K=-2, A=9.

13) Use OpenOffice to randomly generate problems similar to test problems so that students can practice test-like questions without seeing the actual test.

14) Use the Vedic method for adding fractions with variables. Much simpler than the old "find the common denominator" approach!

15) Develop logical thinking with games like Sprouts, Nim (all three dimensions), and misere tic-tac-toe.

16) See if you can get a roll end of paper from a newspaper print shop. They usually sell these things very inexpensively, and this kind of paper is very useful for rough work and for games.

Those are my initial brainstorming thoughts. I'll check back on this site to see what else gets contributed and to clarify any questions you may have.

I teach a high school science class in a hybrid format. I have used Blackboard to post and collect assignments but found it to be too click-heavy. Now I post assignments on my website. Students are given the assignment in advance. This could be to watch a lecture and take notes, complete an online tutorial, a choice assignment or to make a series of posts in an online discussion board. All assignments are electronic so I have a time stamp on their work. If it is submitted before the bell rings to start class, students are marked present but do not need to attend. Those that do not complete the work in advance just come to our normally scheduled class to do the assignment. I call these "flex days" and have found them to increase student motivation and grades. Based on feedback from previous semesters, I have started to hold a class discussion and to give a quiz during the class following the flex day to bring everyone back on the same page.

Your project sounds interesting and I've also thought about working this into my own math classes. One tool I've used to deliver content is the Livescribe Smartpen. I have students use them to see and hear worked out solutions. The benefit is that you can write and record your audio at the same time using a traditional pen and paper approach. It's quick and easy. Here's an example on my site for polynomial long division.

I've also used screencasting software to teach calculator skills and incorporate graphing. On the Mac I've used Screenflow which I really like, and a TI-83 emulator. Here are some samples to look at if you're interested, Darren's Calculator Skills.

Good luck on your project,
Darren Duarte
darren.duarte AT sonomacademy DOT org

Feel free to edit this page (please leave this portion at the top), and/or use the discussion tab to discuss various topics. Please see the post and the Google Doc for things that are non-negotiable and for things that are very much negotiable.

Thanks for your help.

Karl -- I took a completely online class in which the professor set up homework discussion areas for each section of homework and a significant (20%?) part of our grade was participation in the discussions. It took a while to get started, but it was an amazing experience. Might be an excellent way to get students to tackle more difficult concepts and problems even if you don't want to use it for every assignment. Thanks for your faithful blogging!

Dear Mr. Fisch:

In the spirit of brainstorming . . .

1) Develop a pre-test to make sure that students have all of the necessary skills going into the class. Use the results to figure out what gaps students need to fill in, and let the students know what they need to fix if they are going to be successful in Algebra.

2) Teach the students how to use WolframAlpha intelligently to design, solve and check their own problems.

3) Use ThatQuiz.com to help students track their basic skills and their proficiency in many areas of algebra.

4) Encourage students to use purplemath.com and intmath.com as primary resources for algebra. Both have great algebra sections.

5) Use Singapore 4th and 5th grade books to get some excellent sample algebra problems. I particularly recommend the SAP "Brainy Kids" series by Joylynn Cheng. They have titles like "100 Challenging Maths Word Problems Complete with Solutions." See www.sapgrp.com for ordering info.

6) Some kids will benefit from the Thinking Blocks section at http://www.mathplayground.com/thinkingblocks.html. It's similar in many ways to Singapore algebra.

7) Check out the resources at Coolmath Algebra: http://www.coolmath.com/algebra/.

8) Show students how to use Google Docs to share information.

9) Use OpenOffice spreadsheets to create interactive demonstrations for free.

10) Check out the Ask Dr. Math pages at the Drexel Web site.

11) Consider Vedic and Trachtenberg methods for students who still struggle with arithmetic, especially in the area of fractions.

12) Use the "face value" game to help students learn to solve for unknowns logically. Basically, one student lays out all 16 face cards in a deck (including the Aces) in various rows of any size, and writes the total of each row next to the row. The other student has to figure out the value of each type of card. For example:

J Q K K = 4

J A A = 21

K A = 7

J J Q Q = 16

Q K A = 12

The student who solves either has to find a valid value for each card type, or prove that no such solution exists. In this case, J=3, Q=5, K=-2, A=9.

13) Use OpenOffice to randomly generate problems similar to test problems so that students can practice test-like questions without seeing the actual test.

14) Use the Vedic method for adding fractions with variables. Much simpler than the old "find the common denominator" approach!

15) Develop logical thinking with games like Sprouts, Nim (all three dimensions), and misere tic-tac-toe.

16) See if you can get a roll end of paper from a newspaper print shop. They usually sell these things very inexpensively, and this kind of paper is very useful for rough work and for games.

Those are my initial brainstorming thoughts. I'll check back on this site to see what else gets contributed and to clarify any questions you may have.

I teach a high school science class in a hybrid format. I have used Blackboard to post and collect assignments but found it to be too click-heavy. Now I post assignments on my website. Students are given the assignment in advance. This could be to watch a lecture and take notes, complete an online tutorial, a choice assignment or to make a series of posts in an online discussion board. All assignments are electronic so I have a time stamp on their work. If it is submitted before the bell rings to start class, students are marked present but do not need to attend. Those that do not complete the work in advance just come to our normally scheduled class to do the assignment. I call these "flex days" and have found them to increase student motivation and grades. Based on feedback from previous semesters, I have started to hold a class discussion and to give a quiz during the class following the flex day to bring everyone back on the same page.

LynĂ©e Zajac Beck

Hello Karl,

Your project sounds interesting and I've also thought about working this into my own math classes. One tool I've used to deliver content is the Livescribe Smartpen. I have students use them to see and hear worked out solutions. The benefit is that you can write and record your audio at the same time using a traditional pen and paper approach. It's quick and easy. Here's an example on my site for polynomial long division.

I've also used screencasting software to teach calculator skills and incorporate graphing. On the Mac I've used Screenflow which I really like, and a TI-83 emulator. Here are some samples to look at if you're interested, Darren's Calculator Skills.

Good luck on your project,

Darren Duarte

darren.duarte AT sonomacademy DOT org