Flipping your math classroom: A beginner’s guide

Mathematics Jul 03, 2018

Tips & resources to help you flip your classroom

First, some background on who we are and how we came to be writing this blog…

We’re Elisha and Jonathan. We’re math teachers, education enthusiasts, business colleagues, and life partners (we’re married!)

Originally  from Canada, we recently wrapped up four years of teaching in  Australia. After observing our similar teaching styles and discovering  that we’re married, our students affectionately nicknamed us ‘Team  Templin’.

Now  for some background to this blog post: Beyond the math classroom, we  both took on major roles within a school production. While the  production was an amazing experience for so many students, it meant we  were going to miss some classes. However, getting in a replacement math  qualified teacher for our grade 12s was nearly impossible. We both  strive to incorporate new and appropriate teaching strategies and wanted  to maintain continuity, so this led us to the decision to try a flipped  classroom.

We  opted to make our own videos as we had experience with video creation  and incorporated our Learning Management System for organization of the  videos, tasks and activities. It ended up being quite successful and  many students said they really preferred being in the driver’s seat for  their learning. Below we go through the “what”, “why” and “how” of a  flipped classroom.

Part 1: What is a Flipped Classroom?

Image Credit: https://www.knewton.com/infographics/flipped-classroom/

In  a nutshell, the students will pre-learn the new content mostly  independently, often as homework, and then in class the majority of the  time is spent practising, asking questions and doing activities with the  teacher there to support.

Let’s  start with a baseline. Most of us would be familiar with the “Chalk and  Talk” template. The teacher starts by refreshing what they did  yesterday, then goes through some new theory and examples on the board,  usually seeking student interaction to work through the examples. Then  once the students have a nice looking set of notes from the board, they  would open up their textbook to a particular page and begin to work  through the problems assigned by the teacher and hopefully finish those  questions at home for homework. Rinse and repeat.

As  a math teacher, we know that practice is very important. However, often  the students face challenges when practising and their teacher isn’t  there to help. There are great resources such Homework Help in Ontario and WooTube from Australia or many students will have a paid private tutor to help them.

The  flipped, or inverted, classroom aims to flip what happens at home and  school compared to the “Chalk and Talk” strategy. In a nutshell, the  students will first see the new content mostly independently, often as  homework, and then in class the majority of the time is spent  practising, asking questions and doing activities with the teacher there  to support.

Probably  the most common approach is to create or find video lessons which the  students watch at home and take notes. What is great about having video  lessons is that students can pause, rewind, and fast forward as desired  so they get a lesson pace that is right for them. As they are going,  they can take notes and write down questions to ask their teacher. Then  in class, students are able to ask questions from the video and work  through practice questions with their teacher there for support. A key  component is spending time in class sitting down with students  one-on-one, ensuring connections have been made and checking  understanding through activities or quizzes. In the third part of this  blog post, How to do a Flipped Classroom, you can find resources for  making your own videos or finding pre-existing videos to avoid  reinventing the wheel when possible. We will also give some resources  for activities.

Part 2: Why do a Flipped Classroom?

Flipped classrooms allow for so much more one-on-one time with students, so we can move towards more effective instruction.

Change is hard, so why do a flipped classroom? In short, change can be hard, but effective.

Bloom’s Two Sigma Problem showed us that the best technique for teaching and learning is  one-on-one tuition. However, it is indeed a problem as it is just not  physically possible to provide every student with one-on-one all the  time, so we have stuck with the industrial revolution model of  education. Flipped classrooms allow for so much more one-on-one or small  group time with students, so we can move towards more effective  instruction.

Conclusion of Bloom’s Two Sigma Problem

In  addition to being able to providing more one-on-one support to students  the Flipped Classroom model has another benefit. As a teacher, you will  often hear discussions about pace, the tempo at which the lesson moves.  Since the students are working through the content independently they  can pause, rewind or fast forward to move at their own pace when  watching a video. In addition to being able to work at their own pace  through each individual lesson, they can move at their own pace through  the unit if desired.

I  think my favorite part about doing a Flipped Classroom was being able  to intervene immediately when students faced challenges. There is a  saying that goes something like, “practice doesn’t make perfect, perfect  practice makes perfect.” With a teacher there during practice time, it  means that we can intervene at the point of misconception and help  correct errors.

Finally, the time to have more engaging activities and personal check-ins made it worth the change.

Part 3: How do I Flip my Classroom?

As a teacher, who doesn’t love resources? Below are a few tools and resources we used when flipping our classrooms.

As  we mentioned in the introduction, our motivation for trying a Flipped  Classroom was not ideal. We were both teaching a grade 12 subject and  were going to be missing about 6 lessons over two weeks for the school  production, but there were basically no math qualified  replacement/supply teachers, so we wanted to come up with a good  solution. It ended up being better than we could have hoped for.

Step 1: Pick a topic

For  us, there was a natural topic to start with based on the timing, but  you may choose a topic which you think suits the new strategy well. If  you aren’t comfortable making your own videos, then maybe look for a  topic which has lots of videos already available (more on that later).

Step 2: Create a calendar

Disclaimer:  Elisha functions on order, logic and flowcharts. Jonathan couldn’t  bring himself to use a day planner, but was always on top of things.

No  matter your level or strategy for organization, we highly recommend  making a calendar to plan out your unit before you start. We found this  incredibly helpful for both us and the students. We planned out what  topics we would cover each day, where we would have certain activities,  and where we would have check-ins.This was for us as much as for the  students.

HERE is an example

Step 3: Select questions and activities

From  step 2, you should have a basic outline of what topics you will cover  each day. Consider what your success criteria would be for each lesson  and base your practice questions and activities around them. In addition  to assigning questions from the textbook which our students had, we  would supplement with activities like puzzles, Mathspace or BINGO .

HERE is an example (the key part was the Lesson pages on our LMS)

Below are a few of our favorite places to seek resources:

Mr. Barton’s Maths: I originally came across this website for Tarsia puzzles, but he has loads of great activities.

Kuta Software:  We were so happy when our school bought a site licence, as we had both  been using the free worksheets for years. It is great for rote drill  type questions.

TI-nspire: There is a good database of activities related to the CAS calculators.

Teachers Pay Teacher: A great collection of resources made by teachers for teachers.

My Colleagues: I found this to be by far the best place to ask questions and seek support!

Step 4: Find or create video lessons

My  first caution if you plan to make your own video lessons, you need to  realise what your voice sounds like — you’ll be listening to it a lot.  That said, you do not need to make your own as there are so many great  resources on YouTube.

Finding Videos

  • YouTube: YouTube is probably the best place to start. You can often find what you are looking for by just putting it in the search bar.

Here are a few of our favorites:

  • WooTube:  Eddie Woo has put a camera at the back of his class and records his  lesson in Sydney Australia. He’s an awesome teacher and was recently  voted one of the Top 10 Teachers in the world! When you watch his videos  it feels just like being in his class. His videos are so loved across  Australia, that Mathspace recently announced a partnership where his videos are organized by course and topic.
  • 3Blue1Brown:  A soothing voice guides you through neat mathematical topics with  excellent animations. Much of this content is very advanced, so is  recommended more for extension.
  • Khan Academy: Blackboards with lots of colours are using to provide short instructional videos
  • Numberphile: Maybe not the best for instructional material, but really cool!

Making Your Own

We used a variety of different tools and software over the years as we made videos. You can see the progression on our YouTube Channel — Tempeste Mathematics

Phase 1:

  • Production Tools — Electa
  • Presentation Software — Microsoft OneNote
  • Hardware — Microsoft Surface Pro
  • Example — Polynomial Long Division

Phase 2:

  • Production Tools — Electa
  • Presentation Software — Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Hardware — Microsoft Surface Pro or Laptop
  • Example — Equations of Tangents

Phase 3:

Non-Video Content

By  no means does the content students are using outside of class need to  be videos. It could be a physical textbook, an eBook or a website. An  eBook is especially good if it has interactives or built-in videos. We  really enjoyed that when we assigned tasks on Mathspace it had practice  questions and linked to an eBook which had more video examples, some  video lessons and step-throughs for more problems.

Lessons learned

  1. More videos which were shorted in length were better than one long video!! (more on this in step 5)
  2. Students  had a bandwidth restriction, but since we just had a white background  we could drastically compress the size of the videos using a free video  compressor
  3. Also related to the bandwidth restriction, in Australia we began using “ClickView” instead of YouTube to house our videos as it would not contribute to their usage and we could track who had watched what
  4. Screen-cast-o-matic is another good video recording option

Step 5: Organize!

We  were fortunate enough to have a Learning Management System (LMS) to  help us to organize our resources, but it certainly wouldn’t be  required. A physical calendar or a digital document could suffice. For  each lesson, it should be clear to students what is required as full  self-direction is challenging for many students. Every lesson started  with our learning intention and success criteria, and then from that we  made a little template for each lesson with hyperlinks to the videos and  content. Below is screenshot example. We didn’t put our Mathspace  content on here as there is a built-in calendar on Mathspace which  clearly shows the order and timing.

Example of LMS organization

Step 6: Explain to students

If students are used to a particular instruction style, change can be hard for them too.

HERE is a little presentation we used to start the unit and get the students on board.

Step 7: Go! Don’t forget to check-in

Ready,  set, go! Once students are all set and know what to do, it is time to  get started. We found that the preparation was massive, but then the  in-class time was really all about the one-on-one check-ins. We were  able to dedicate so much more time to each individual student. We spent  the majority of the time in classes buzzing about answering questions  and would try to fill in the checklist from the presentation in step 6  for each student. We would also spend time working through common errors  as a class, doing activities such as BINGO or group tasks to create  questions, and doing formative assessments along the way.

This is how we chose to go about it, but there is no one size fits all. Happy teaching!

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