Nitty Gritty GeoGebra News

This is a quick post primarily for anyone who attended my GAFE presentation today in Palo Alto.

Quick reflection.  Fixing techy things on the fly in front of an audience isn’t something I’m entirely comfortable doing.  Even after 2 years as a TSA for Technology, I’m still a whole lot more comfortable working with teachers one on one than I am presenting to a large group.  I used Pear Deck for a few opening slides and while in my head I was 100% sure  how to mirror my screen so that the audience saw the ‘student view’ on the screen while I saw the ‘teacher view’ on my screen, I still got flustered when it didn’t quite work as I had anticipated.  And, when I did mirror my screen, I needed to change the resolution so that the edges of my screen didn’t fall off the big screen and somehow it never occurred to me to pause my presentation for 10 seconds to do that.  Why not?  Who knows.  It was quite silly of me to not just fix it and me typing it here will remind the inner-workings of my brain to not ignore that in the future.

On another note, I promised to write about how to ensure that Desmos and GeoGebra show up in your Google Drive if they don’t appear when you search for them.
google drive desmos First, be sure you’re following these three steps and type in either Desmos or GeoGebra after clicking on “Connect more apps.”

If you are logged into your school GAFE account and either or both of these programs aren’t found, you need to contact your GAFE administrator who will need to open up these apps for your district domain.  In my district, it would be the Director of Technology to contact, but it may be different in yours.

Also, a note on saving work in GeoGebra. Again, if this method doesn’t work, it has something to do with how the app is or isn’t restricted in your district GAFE domain and you should contact your GAFE administrator.Saving in GeoGebra

1) Go to the hotdog (3 lines) in the upper right-hand corner.  2) Click Save.  3) Click the GeoGebra icon in the lower left corner of the save dialogue box which opens 2 saving icons.  4) Click on the Google Drive icon that appears.  5) Title and save your GeoGebra file.

Alternatively, you can export the file as a .ggb file, find it in your downloads folder and upload it into Drive.  That way is very clunky, but it works.

And that is the nitty gritty.

In other news I enjoyed Chris Betcher’s keynote this morning about how to think more critically about ways we integrate technology in schools.  Remember the Jetsons?  How they had a flying car?  To where did they fly their amazingly innovative technology?  To work!  He cautioned us about limiting students’ uses of new technology to simply ‘fly to work.’  Good stuff.

GAFE Palo Alto Presentation

Assuming you’re not in Palo Alto this Sunday at 3pm, HERE IS A LINK to my presentation at the GAFE conference.  All things math using Desmos and GeoGebra.  As part of this, I put together a list of standards at each grade level 4th-12th that can be taught using these programs.  Now that I have made this list of standards, it pains me even more to think about how little math teachers in my district use this software.  Baby steps.

If you use either Desmos or GeoGebra, there are a few links here to things I have done in my own classroom, but there are even more links to brilliant ideas I have found in the blogsphere.  The bloglist of resources at the end is by no means exhaustive, but is a decent start of a library of Desmos and Geogebra lesson ideas.

Have Kids? Missing Math?

In just a few short weeks my kids and I will be partaking in this water obstacle course on Lake Siskiyou in Northern California. After several tentative years in the water, my 6-year-old recently learned to swim and now I can’t seem to get him to keep is head or body above water.

6030665773_0bbe5b76f5_z So while I’m not encouraging anyone to stay indoors with their kids doing math or technology this summer, I wanted to share a list I made for elementary school parents in my school district for summer activities.  Teachers often send home summer reading lists or ask that kids read 20 minutes per day over the summer.  And libraries often have summer reading games.  But what about doing the same for math? I put this list together for families in my district in the hopes that math could get equal air time to reading this summer.  Maybe I’ll find time later to comment on some of my favorites, but in the meantime, I hope it’s useful to other parents.

Tinkering with Virtual Patty Paper

I recently found out that I was accepted to be a presenter at the July 11-12 GAFE conference in Palo Alto.  For those not living in the instructional technology acronym world, GAFE stands for Google Apps For Education.  I attended a GAFE Conference in Templeton, CA in March and was shocked to learn that there weren’t any sessions on math topics.  I immediately contacted the organizers of California GAFE and offered to lead a session on something mathy.   I’ve got about a month to decide what ideas will make the cut for the session.  Today I learned that I was assigned the final hour of the final day of the conference.  I think that’s a bit like giving the new hire the most challenging kids and 4 preps to teach, hoping they won’t notice.  Hopefully it won’t also be 100 degrees out at 4pm in Palo Alto in July.

Speaking of weather, today in Berkeley it rained all day.  It never rains in June. So on this rainy day, I stopped by my old classroom as the teacher who currently teaches in it took a new job and I wanted to see if there were any of my things still there that I should retrieve. Tucked away on a dusty shelf I found Michael Serra’s Patty Paper Geometry book.  I am a big fan of folding patty paper and would never suggest eliminating it from courses which already use it.  However, I am also a big fan of instructional technology.  When I was a classroom teacher (just a mere 730 days ago) I was a big fan of creating my own activities which strayed from the adopoted curriculum, yet met the same academic goals.  But now as I finish my second year as a Teacher on Special Assignment for Instructional Technology, I am an even bigger fan of fan of finding ways to use instructional technology which don’t require writing your own curriculum.  My successes in supporting teachers to use more technology have been when they can use the same curriculum they are already using, but find ways to use technology to deepen engagement and understanding. This feels sustainable.

Which is why I was excited to rediscover Serra’s book on paper folding.  Nearly every activity can be done using GeoGebra in addition to or instead of using patty paper.  So on a given day, you could divide your class and have 1/2 do the paper folding and 1/2 use Geogebra and compare what they came up with.  Or if you have only a few computers, you can have kids in groups of 4 where two are paper folding and two are paired up on a computer, discovering the same big ideas and coming together to discuss.

For example, here is an investigation from Serra’s book:

STEP 1: Construct a simple shape on your patty paper.  Place a dot in its interior.Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.19.50 PM

STEP 2: Draw a ray from the dot to an edge of your patty paper.  This will be the direction of the translation.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.23.27 PM

STEP 3: Place a second dot on the ray.  The distance from the first dot to the second dot will be the translation distance.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.35.26 PM

STEPS 4-5: Take a second patty paper over the first, and trace the figure, the interior dot, and the ray.  Slide the second patty paper along the path of the ray until the dot on the tracing is over the second dot on the original.  In GeoGebra these steps are eliminated as you can use the  translate button and complete this in 1 click.  You do, though, discover that you have to make a vector, not a ray in order for the computer to know what you are talking about.

STEP 6: Measure the distance between a point in the original shape and its corresponding point in the translated image.  Try this with another pair of corresponding points.  Write a conjecture about the distance between a point and its image under a translation transformation.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.37.59 PM

Transformations used to not be introduced until Geometry, but they are now found in CCSS 8.  I used a lot of patty paper when I taught geometry, but I also used a lot of GeoGebra.  Patty paper allows for more physical discovery and manipulation with your hands lends itself to imprinting ideas in your brain.  In GeoGebra, the ease of tinkering with dynamic objects, the precision of your constructions,  along with color coding to highlight key concepts is equally as important.

Screen Shot 2015-06-10 at 10.47.57 PMBoth Desmos and GeoGebra are now found in the Chrome Store meaning you can get them to appear in your Google Drive.  Your technology department can also put them in all students’ drives in a domain.  In my district, for example, all students have Desmos and GeoGebra in their drive, even if they have never used them before.  However each of these programs save and share work as URLs, which isn’t as work-flow friendly as the standard Google Drive apps.  To get around this, having students take screenshots of their work and dump it into Drive allows you to use Google Classroom with these math applications.


My last post was August, 2013.  Much has happened since then which you may or may not be interested in. I had another kid, rediscovered Cross-Fit and knitting (not together), left my job teaching 8th grade math and rebranded myself as a technology coach.  I stopped blogging when I stopped teaching.  Or stopped classroom teaching.  For the past two years I have been a Teacher on Special Assignment for Instructional Technology.  Somehow, without the daily creativity of lesson planning, I haven’t found anything to say here. But I have learned a lot and hopefully writing about it can both help me think about things more deeply and get me connected again to the blogging community.

For the past few years I have been shocked at how difficult it has been to convince teachers to use technology in their math classes.  Khan Academy, maybe, but suggesting that teachers use software that promotes deeper thinking and reasoning has been met with resistance.  Often it’s because English teachers grab the Chromebooks for unreasonable amounts of time, but often, even after professional development, I find that math teachers aren’t comfortable teaching with tools that they haven’t mastered.  Teachers love tinkering with Desmos or GeoGebra, but fear they don’t have the time to use these tools on a regular basis.  But, I’m not in the classroom anymore and I have to respect the pace (albeit slow) that coaching and PD move at to produce change.

This rebranding gives me a lot of time to tinker myself and I am hoping to rebrand this blog into my discoveries of elegant and engaging ways to use technology in a math classroom.  I’m also eager to reconnect with you…whomever you are…and have you help connect me to other instructional technology bloggers as at the moment I know none.

This year I began what I am sure is a long journey to simultaneously learn how to program while teaching programming to kids.  I have played around with Code Monkey, Tynker and Scratch and at some point will share the advantages and disadvantages of each.  But I’m really excited to share a recent Scratch discovery.

scratch cat I was introduced to Scratch by Tina at the Park City Math Institute in the summer of 2011. I mark the passing of time by how old my kids were and the only reason I remember it was 2011 is that my son who is now finishing kindergarten was 2 that summer.  Tina and I were working on a project around using various software to teach geometry concepts and she had heard of Scratch but hadn’t yet tried it out with kids.  She went deep with it while I just played around with it for a brief time.  But like many things in teaching, Scratch found me again just recently.

If you don’t know Scratch, you should check it out.  It’s free and is block programming at its best.  It also can be used to program real things, like Makey Makey, but again, that’s for another post.  What I’m really excited about right now is this online course to learn Scratch taught through MuddX which is Harvey Mudd’s MOOCS platform.

When things are totally new to me (like programming), I prefer to learn them in a systematic way.  My husband, an engineer, will tinker and tinker until he has figured out something new.  Me?  I need some structure to my learning.  Consequently, I am in love with this course.  I can’t wait to share it with teachers in my district and THEN, have kids learning from it.  Some kids are happy to tinker to learn programming, but many stand back and are silent and hands off while the tinkerers tinker.  This course is great for kids.  I think kids as young as 4th grade can use it.  I’m curious to hear feedback or thoughts on using it in a classroom.

The Power of a Teacher

As a middle school teacher, it’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the drama of our students’ lives and forget the potential we have to make a lasting impact.  This article,  “Why I hated Meredith’s First Grade Teacher: An Open Letter to America’s Teacher,”  is a beautiful reminder, written from the perspective of a parent.


I hope we all have a reflective and  inspirational year.