Category Archives: Technology

AWESOME Online Graphing Calculator

Desmos graph pizza function

This can be a game changer for students with special needs who struggle with math. The Desmos graphic calculator allows students to interact with math equations through multiple representations. It is far superior to graphing calculators in terms of quality and ease of use and is free. The app for Smartphones is outstanding.

Here are features that make this calculator user-friendly and an outstanding instructional strategy.

  • Students can click on dots and the ordered pair will appear (see top photo below).
  • Students can change features of the equation and immediately see how the graph changes.
  • Students can collect data and create a graph and convert the data into “mathy” representations like equations (see top photo below).

Desmos regression price vs mileage of used cars


Desmos parabola



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Snow Math

2017-03-14 10.03.23

Here’s a common word problem used for linear functions and equations (y=mx+b):

There are 6 inches of snow on the ground. Snow is falling at a rate of 2 inches per hour. Write a linear equation showing total snow as a function of time (in hours). The equation would be y=2x + 6.

Often the word problems like this are presented on a sheet of paper in isolation as an attempt to make the math relevant and to develop conceptual understanding. For students who have trouble with conceptual understanding, words on paper are likely too abstract or symbolic to allow applications like the one above to be meaningful.

The real life application is useful if presented more effectively. Here’s an approach to use the same scenario but in a more relevant and meaningful presentation. The photo above shows the current amount of snow – call it 6 inches. Students can be shown the photo to allow for a discussion about accumulation and for their estimates of the amount of snow shown. The photo below shows an excerpt from a storm warning. Showing this warning and a snow fall video can allow for a discussion about rate of snow fall and the purpose for storm warnings. Combined, this approach can lead into the above word problem.

2017-03-13 21.57.29 - Edited

Once the application is presented students can be asked to compute snow levels after 1 hour, 2 hours etc. Then they can be asked to determine how long it would take for the accumulation to reach 18 inches (the prediction for the day this post was composed). After computing the answers WITHOUT the equation the students can be shown how to use the equation – the “mathy way.”

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Effective Use of Technology as a Support


Technology is often used as a support simply for the sake of using technology. Its use should be strategic. In the photo above is a do now/warm up/bell ringer for a 7th grade class that involves creating a bar graph. One student with autism struggled with the fine motor skills needed to draw graphs by hand (see a student artifact in the upper right corner of the photo). I taught him how to graph on Excel and he had a standing directive to use the classroom computer as necessary.

When he entered class and saw the warm up in the photo above he immediately went to the computer and created the graph seen in the photo below. The technology allowed him to access content he other wise  would not access. (He also developed an important skill.) The technology served a strategic purpose.


Dragon Box for Equations and Proportions

My 5 year old son using Dragon Box to solve a proportion

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A Game Changer for Teaching Solving Equations

Dragon Box screen shotDragon Box (link to website here) presents solving equations, proportions (and fractions and expressions) using an alternative representation and in a highly engaging game format (different platforms!).

In the photo above, the goal is to get the treasure chest by itself. To do this, the fly looking thing and the snake have to be eliminated. First eliminate the snake with the black background (a night card) by placing the other snake card on top of it (a day card). The day card snake must be placed on the right side as well. The day and night card (representing positive and negative numbers) become a circulating hurricane looking card (which represents a zero).

I used it with my 5 year old son (video here) and he could solve 2 step equations (on the game) independently within a couple hours. This is a game changer in teaching kids algebra.

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Cat Chasing Mouse as System of Equations






This is a screen shot from explorelearning’s Gizmos. This site has various simulations related to science and math. This one shows multiple reprsentations for a system of equations. The site has 5 minute test trials which can be used to present a topic in class. I used the one for photosynthesis for a 7th grader with asperger’s who was collecting data for his science fair project.gizmo simulation of cat and mouse


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In lieu of a school having to make technology available for vast numbers of kids it is possible to use personal technology. The apps identified here can be useful in a math course.

Polls would allow personally relevant data collection and could lead to modeling opportunities (not on the runway, models like linear functions).

Plinky would allow a high tech version of an exit slip.

Group Tweet would allow collaboration on a project and provide details for a student who is absent. You could match kids with kids at another school…maybe another country!

I would love to field some input from readers.


twitter-logo-birdIt seems like people have mixed feelings about Twitter: to use or not to use? I personally believe in the use of Twitter to grow personal learning networks, and I understand the capabilities for literacy learning it provides to students who are already familiar with the micro-blogging tool. While Twitter by itself provides some great opportunities for collaborative learning with students, there are a number of apps that enhance that process.

Here are five of the most useful ones I have found:

  1. PollDaddy – allows users to create polls and post them easily on Twitter for other users to take (polls can be either multiple choice or open-ended)
  2. Outwit Me – source of hundreds of fun and intelligent games like hangman, trivia quizzes, word scrambles and puzzles, and more that users can play via Twitter responses
  3. Plinky – posts a new writing prompt or challenge question each day that…

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Excel Software as Accommodation

I had a 7th grade student with PDD-NOS who was tested at a kindergarten math level. He struggled  with graphing. I taught him to use Excel on the computer to generate graphs and gave him a standing direction to use it whenever we had a graph to complete. The top photo below shows a warm-up problem (“do now”) his class was given. A classmate’s artifact is shown at the right. do_now_bar_graph_with_student_artifact_feb_18_2010 (2)

My student walked in, saw the assignment was a graph problem and jumped on the computer. Below is the graph he created on his own.armani bar graph (2)

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