[I really need to return to blogging. My lack of focus on reflection has hampered me this semester, and I need to fix that. To that end, I am making a commitment to blog and to jog. Those are the foci this year of the ellipse that is my world.]

Yea, how often does that happen that a class gets excited about logs? It has not happened to me in several years, but this year I found a way. We started the second semester with graphing again. We have a standard list of things we look for, identify, and document on every single graph. The list is:

Domain:

Range:

Asymptototes (vertical and / or slant):

Minimums:

Maximums:

Vertex:

Y-intercept:

X-intercept:

End state behavior:

Every graph we do, we have to document all of these items. If we graph a line, most of the list is “none” but it creates the connection between all the graphs. Every graph has the same questions, it is just that some of the graphs / functions do not have those features.

So, I am doing this file on Desmos, and we are documenting. They have done all these as homework, so really we are checking answers and ensuring learning. Then weird things happen. They notice the symmetry of the inverses.

Nice.

Then they ask to see the graph of the line of symmetry. Even nicer. THEN! OMG. We put the translation into the h-k form of the line, and we see the translation of the line of symmetry.  [Okay, seriously. If you are not using the h-k forms to make connections, why not. See This post, or This post or any other of the several posts I have on this topic.]

And then I graph the exponential. …. …. They know there must be an inverse, but nothing we have done in class looks like that. …. And then, because I have the list of all the h-k forms on the board, someone asks, “Is that what the log thingy is for?”

And now they have a reason to learn logs. They are intrigued by logs. They are asking questions about logs. Because EVERYTHING in math has a forwards and a backwards, addition has subtraction, squares have square roots, and exponentials have logarithms.

They are interested and inquisitive about a topic that normally is not approached this way. I have done something good I think. Only time will tell if I can continue that on this topic.

It is spring break, so what am I doing? I am attending AP workshops and volunteering at my local university. All in all, a great spring break.

So, Let me start with the question first. Why do we make it so hard to learn functions? I mean really. We treat each topic; linears, quadratics, cubics, transendentals, etc, as if they are a new and unique idea. And they definitely are not. I have discussed this before when I was thinking about the Exeter materials, and I have to keep coming back to it for good reason.

What brought it to me today is the fact I am presenting at UNR for the professor of Math Methods to pre-service teachers. I was asked to present on calculator technology, and I will also branch out into GeoGebra, Desmos, and the MathTwitterBlogosphere.

As I was running through what I was going to say and planning my lesson I made a short video on what I wanted to show with GeoGebra. This only scratches (heck I probably doesn’t even leave a mark) on the surface of what GeoGebra can do but it is worth discussing to present it to teachers who will be immersed in Geometer’s Sketchpad in college.

GeoGebra & Functions

And then I turn it into an HTML5 page so anyone can use it.

And now I have a video as well as a usable piece of content for learners to look and and use on their own at home. I am trying to model good teaching practice that I use at school.

And yet, the question of why do we make linear functions separate from other so it is harder to learn than it should be still comes to my mind. Why? I don’t have a clear answer, and I am not sure anyone else does either. That is sad.

This is an amazing thing, and I am going to copy almost the entire post from Digital Inspirations here. This is one of those wonderful things that you need occasionally, and when you need it, you really need it. But all those other times, the knowledge just sits there and annoys you that it is taking up space in your brain, but you know the second you forget, BAM, you need it.

Which is why I am putting it here in my own blog. Let’s say you are collaborating with some teachers on a new curriculum idea, and you know that in 6 months when the deadline hits, no one will ever need the working docs because the finished docs will be released and that is all that matters.

It would be great to have the shared folder disappear from everyone’s Google Drive automatically. Well, thanks to Digital Inspirations, here is how you do it.

#### Set Expiration Dates & Temporarily Share Google Drive Folders

You create a folder in Google Drive and share it with Public or a small group. You then specify a date/time when you want that shared link to expire. The script, at the specified time, will create a copy of your shared folder and delete the original one. Thus the shared links would no longer work though the folder and files will stay in your Google Drive.

Let’s get this to work now.

1. Open the Google Script and then choose File -> Make a Copy to copy this script into your Google Drive.
2. Add the URL of your shared Google Drive folder and the expiration date in the script (use the YYYY-MM-DD HH:MM format).
3. Go to Run -> Initialize and grant the necessary permissions.
4. Go to Run -> Start and it will create a trigger that will auto-expire the shared links at the specified time.

That’s it. You can exit the Google Script page and it will send you an email notification when the shared links are disabled.

The Google script can be used for setting expiry dates against shared folders only but not for individual files due to certain limitations in Google Apps Script. Thus, in case you wish to auto-expire an individual file, just put in a new folder and share that entire folder.  — via

The Google Script in step 1 is a public script written by Digital Inspirations. You make a copy of the script, then copy paste one web URL from the shared folder into the document and insert the date.

Done. That is all it takes.

It doesn’t really revoke any sharing privileges, it circumvents them by copying the folder into a new, non-shared folder, and then deletes the original. Same effect though.

I can see this being useful for those certain projects we do. Maybe not all the time, but there are uses for sure.

It has been a while since I did a #MyFavFriday post, but I have to share this because it has been making my life so much easier this school year.

Dropbox.  Yes, that service. I know, so many other people have written about it in the past, and so have I, but this year I made the move to put 100% of my teaching files* into dropbox and I haven’t looked back.

All dropbox is, is a small program on your machine that monitors a particular folder, named “Dropbox”. Anything in that folder is synced with the web portal and any other computer that is signed in. It is a folder, nothing more. If you can save a file in “My Documents” you can use dropbox. Just save it to “Dropbox/Algebra 1” instead of “My Documents/Algebra 1”.

These are some of the things I no longer have to carry around with me when I leave and return to school because of dropbox.

1. Laptop
2. power cords
3. flashdrives

That just removed 7 lbs from my backpack, and turned my motorcycle commute into a much more pleasant experience. In fact, I only take my backpack home when I have to take dead tree materials home or to school.

But that is not all I use it for. I have dropbox installed on 6 different computers. 2 at school, 4 at home. Dropbox allows me to streamline my workflow and be more efficient. Let me explain.

At school, one computer is in the front of the room attached to an LCD projector and a smartpanel, the second computer is at the back of the room at my desk.  I will work on a document for class at my desk, and immediately upon saving it will be updated on the front computer. This means I can pull something out of my email at the back of the room, walk to the front, and show it to the class. I can have software installed on the back computer, do a screen shot and save, then show. No flash drives, no futzing with anything.

At home, I have it on all my computers. When I am working on a project at school, I can save the document and go home. When I arrive home, boot my computer, and my full project is sitting there ready for me. It is on all my computers, even the old clunker that I boot once a week. That old clunker downloads and syncs all the files, so I have a weekly backup of everything.

My wife also has dropbox, and we have a shared folder between us. That allows us to connect our dropboxes and have files shared between our computers. We now have 1 shared, encrypted password file instead of 2.

If you want dropbox and don’t have it yet, you get 2 Gigs of storage for free. If you sign up with this link you get and extra 500 megs and I get an extra 500 megs for free. Because of that I have 13.4 Gigs of free storage right now.

When you include picture uploading automatically (through the smartphone app) which saves you from needing to connect your phone to your computer or emailing the pics, the accessibility of dropbox on the internet through the web portal, and the seamless syncing of the docs, it is a win win win for teachers.

If you are on the fence, do it. It takes the process of managing your files and turns it into a non-entity.

Well, this is new to me, at least. I have used powerpoints in class, but this add-on allows you to do some different things with the software. I hate to compare this to Prezi, but clearly that is the only comparison to be made.

It is called pptPlex, and is a free add-on from Microsoft. Below is a video of my first use of pptPlex.

If you want some better introductions / helper videos on how to use pptPlex, I have some links below for you.

An introduction to pptPlex

Using pptPlex for infographics

Another pptPlex demo

A teacher who is really ‘excited’ about pptPlex!

Creating cool powerpoints using pptPlex

Official Microsoft videos for pptPlex below

Making Backgrounds with pptPlex

This on is just called “pptPlex”

My #myfavfri post this week is on 2 ways to graph equations online easy and simply. I struggled with showing graphs large and in charge in a way that learners could duplicate at home, and then I came across these 2 methods.

1. Desmos’ “A Better Calculator” which is found at http://abettercalculator.com. Some nice features. You can login and save your graphs, graph many equations and then “hide” them to reveal them when you need, graph conic sections, etc.

Really nice for the classroom is the fact that it has a projector mode, as well as a “points of interest” button. Here is a screen shot.

I honestly use this in class more than anything else.

2. Google. That’s right, our friend Google. Just type into the search box the following:

“graph y=3x^2 +5x – 6” It is the graph of the equation above. Try it. It will look like this:

and before you even have the equation typed in, the graph is there.

Move your mouse around the graph, and you get the (x,y) coordinates up in the right corner, and you can click the graph and move the axes around.

You don’t need a fancy graphing calculator at home, all you need is internet access and a brower that supports HTML5 (which means not Internet Explorer 7 or below.)

And those are my favorites for today!

I am hurriedly packing to leave for the MathCamp next week in St. Louis, but I also want to share what I will be doing along the way. I take a motorcycle trip every summer, and I do math on the trip (as if anyone needed to be told that about me).

After the trip, I put together a little video about me and the trip to introduce myself to my learners. I have made 2 so far. Last year the trip was so close to school, and I was hired into a new position (dept chair) that I never had a chance to make it. That means this year I will have 2 years worth of materials to put in there!

This is 2009’s video, the first one.

And 2010’s video, the second one.

The point of these is to show my learners how I see the world around, and how I actually use the math as I go. I find these problems as I travel and from what I see. I usually have 8 or 9 mapped out in my head and edit them down to 4 or 5 for the video. It makes much more sense that way, and it creates some great pictures I can use later in the year in my classes.

So, my Made4Math this week is not something I have made for this school year, but examples of what I will be doing over the next week and a half while I am on the motorcycle. Fun, a math geek’s way.

I would do more for this week’s #made4math, but it won’t happen. I need to get the laptop packed into onto the motorcycle. Tomorrow morning at 7am I board the blue beast and head for St. Louis! Next week’s probably won’t happen at all, unless I get time to post in advance something I make at mathcamp.

(Just in case you wonder what the blue beast looks like.)

First off, I am a math teacher, so I think it goes without saying I am incredibly … detail oriented … anal … and, possibly, a pain in the butt (depending on when you ask my wife.)

I absolutely have to save every single receipt from vacation, reconcile with Quicken within 10 hours of arriving home on vacation, and that reconciliation must be to the penny. Driving to Montana? Great, that means 7 gas receipts, organized by location, along with the mileage at every gas stop.

Hotels? They give a full page receipt, not a little strip like gas stations. Dining out? Who was there? Where was the restaurant? What city?

Okay, you get my drift. I like to keep good records of our vacations. This used to be a major chore. My wife said this was not necessary, but to me, those little details hid some nice surprises. For instance, in our 11 year old car, that now has over 100000 miles we are still getting over 33 miles per gallon on the freeway. If I didn’t take good records, how would I know that! See, it is important!

Enter Evernote. When I first heard of Evernote, I was not that interested. A note taking software for my phone. Whatever. On the computer too! Yawn. I use OneNote.

But, I had a recently thought to myself, “What if I took a picture of the receipts as I traveled?” That would mean I don’t have to keep them. [After all, these are vacation receipts, not store receipts. I won’t need them to return merchandise, so this won’t apply.]

So I did that on our most recent trip to MT. Here is what it looks like.

[Click the pic to embiggen]

Notice that if I don’t put in a title when I click “New Note” it GeoTags my picture! Now I have a running record of my location by date! Love it. At each stop, I also put in the milage in the car. Now I can easily calculate the mpg.

This also solves some additional problems. In Missoula the machine was out of paper. I did not need to go in and ask for a receipt. All I needed to do is take a pic of the gas pump. It automatically captured the location, and all I really needed was purchase price and gallons anyway.

[Click the pic to embiggen]

By clicking the “Show Details” or “Hide Details” in the upper right you can see additional info, and by clicking the Map Icon or city name above the pic, you can view a Google map of exactly where you were.

[Click the pic to embiggen]

Now I am thinking of much better uses for this information. I used it only for receipts this time, but what if I also included neat locations along the way? Now I am kicking myself for not having my phone out and Evernote open when we had the herd of 6 bighorn sheep in the road with us. (And no, I don’t have ANY photos of that. Dang.)

The only drawback I saw was it was slow. Evernote was communicating with the camera and the GPS all at once. I don’t think I would record a whole vacation in there yet. My phone needs to be faster, and the cell connection needs to be much faster (still only on 3G) before it would get fast enough and error proof enough to make me trust it completely.

But, I came home from vacation with no receipts bulging in my wallet and stuffed in my suitcase. I didn’t need to spread them all out on the desk and examine them for dates to put them in order. All I did was fire up the computer, log into Evernote, and go down the list.

It saved me about an hour in my data entry, and actually made my life much easier. Now, how can I leverage this in my classroom? Hmmmm.

Something to think about on my next trip. Which is tomorrow. Must go pack.

I have to admit that I am late. I was busy all day yesterday for the #Made4Math day, and the next two weeks I will be traveling to and from MathCamp. So, either I add in late, or I wait for for 3 weeks to contribute anything.

With that in mind here is my rather pedestrian contribution. I must say, I am blown away with how creative and imaginative you math teachers are. I feel very inadequate next to some of your submissions.

What I Made 4 Math is a complete revamping of my website, http://mrwaddell.net

I originally created the website using Dreamweaver and learned HTML and CSS and hard coded the entire thing from scratch. It was a major undertaking, and quite honestly took me around 3 months to do finish all the different sections. BUT, it had some major drawbacks.

1. The only way to edit any page on my site was to make a note to myself, and when I got home remember to boot up my laptop with Dreamweaver on it, and do the edits.
2. Things change. HTML5 comes out along with CSS3, and now I have to learn a whole new set of standards for recoding my site.
3. Hard coding the site is not friendly to different screen sizes. On a cell phone, my site looks very small, while on a computer screen of 1000 pixels wide, it looks great. Not future proof at all.
4. And finally, see #1. Most of the edits I wanted to do to my site are immediate, important uploads that need to be done right now, not in 6 hours.

With that in mind, I have systematically partitioned my site into folders, deleted all the files within certain folders, and installed WordPress in those folders I want to “upgrade”.

Now that I am running WordPress, the next choice is one of theme. A good theme can make a world of difference to how much work you have to do in the creation of your site and addition of content. I have chosen to standardize on the theme called Yoko by ElmaStudio.

Some reasons I chose Yoko: it is free, it is very nice and clean without a lot of clutter, it allows for good customization and is well documented, and it is built in CSS3, so it resizes based on the screen size of the device looking at it.

Some other plugin I use in order to make my life easier, in no particular order.

• Add From Server – I love this plugin because it allows me to upload files such as worksheets, notes, etc. using FTP, and then add those files automatically to the WordPress database. It has saved me many hours of uploading files one by one.
• W3 Total Cache – Speeds up my site by creating cache files. I noticed a difference immediately upon installation.
• TNG Embed Everything – I have only started scratching the surface of this plugin.
• Akismet – Because I hate spam as much as you do.
• Google Analytics – helps keep track of how many hits and other details about my site. I don’t do anything with the info, I am not going to commercialize my site, but I do like the information. For instance, on my Stats site, I have had visitors from India and Europe! How cool is that?

I have found this combination of software / theme / and plugins has greatly sped up and made my site more friendly for learners and myself.

Now, I can upload files and content to specific areas of my site from any device, including my phone using the WordPress App. This solved a couple of problems right there.

On to the next step of redoing the site. Technically, each directory is a site of its own. This is very important. You can get to the site by going to http://mrwaddell.net and selecting the AP Stats link, or you can get there by going to http://mrwaddell.net/apstats. Either way works.

In the redoing of my AP Stats site, I first sat down with pencil and paper a made a drawing of what I wanted. I went through the hard coded site and looked at the content I had, and then asked myself what did I want to add. I ended up with this (after about 4 drafts):

Each one of the menus is a separate page that I had to create. The pages are all built on a standard template, so I had to make sure I had the template that I wanted (which is part of the Theme).

I think this was the most important part of the process. Getting down the physical structure of the site first, so I knew what order the pages should go, as well as what content I wanted to add on each page.

All in all, it is 18 pages, but it is easier to manipulate and adjust things now that WordPress is handling the heavy lifting of page layout, database maintenance and search capabilities.

After this point, it was all uploading and editing. Yes, it is helpful to know HTML and CSS when doing this. All the experience I gained previously building my site was used, but now the site itself manages the layout. Yay.

The 2 sections of my site I have converted already are the AP Statistics and the Algebra 2 sections. Give them a look, tell me what you think.

You can’t hurt my feelings, so please be brutally honest!

I have said to many teachers that the best professional development I have engaged in is on Twitter. (I am @gwaddellnvhs by the way.)  One of the difficulties I have had using twitter, however is the storing of great ideas, great tweets, great links, and threads of conversations that I have had.

For instance, the bookclub I engage in regularly (current hashtag is #lit4math, focused on the book “Literacy strategies for improving mathematics instruction”) we have great discussions and sharing of ideas. And they are gone in the twitter stream almost instantly! ARG. That is the problem I have had other teachers tell me they run into, and therefore they don’t use twitter.

Or, I am at school, and see a great post that has a link from a person I generally want to follow up on, but although twitter is unblocked at school, the link shortener t.co is blocked. Or I am on my phone, and want to quickly save a tweet, so I favorite it, and then have to go through and find the favorite tweets under my account, which is a hassle.

The Solution

Well, all these problems go away with a very easy to use service called If This, Then That or ifttt.com. This service does exactly what the name sounds like (well, if you have taken a computer programming class you understand what it does.) It monitors your account, and when it sees a pre-programmed trigger, the “IF”, “THEN” it does “THAT”.

How I use it, IF it sees that I favorite a tweet in twitter, it then appends the tweet into my Evernote account.  It takes a minute or two to show up, but it has not failed yet.

I also have it searching twitter for the hashtag #lit4math, and it appends all tweets with that hashtag into a note in Evernote.  Sweet! I don’t have to try to copy manually the conversations any more. The only drawback to this method is twitter will not allow locked users tweets to show up in a search stream. Therefore, users who are part of the conversation who are locked won’t show up. That is unfortunate, but true of all methods of archiving tweets I have used.

I also have a recipe (what ifttt.com calls their programs) running that appends any tweet made to me into an Evernote note. It makes sure I don’t miss something that was sent directly to me.

I am very pleased with this set up. It has truly streamlined and made my use of Twitter easier and more efficient. Check out ifttt.com. It is free, and very worth your time.