Yard Space #MPM1D/#MFM1P #PrBL

I took the typical “find the largest area given a specific perimeter” problem and created a hands-on, problem-based learning task for my combined grade 9 Math class (academic & applied combined):summary-2017-02-13-m9

Ms. Wheeler wants to build a fenced in yard for Sally to run around in.
She buys 16 1-metre long sections of fence.

What do you wonder?

Physical & Visual Representations:

The yard must be fully enclosed. Use toothpicks to create show different ways of placing the 16 pieces of fencing (I forgot to take photos of this part but they made stuff like this):IMG_20170220_112029-01.jpeg

Draw your shape & label its dimensions:


How should the pieces be set up to create the largest enclosed area possible?

What shape offers the largest area?


We discussed that while a square was the largest rectangle possible, there were other shapes possible with greater areas.

How should the pieces be set up to create the largest enclosed area possible if Ms. Wheeler uses a wall of the house as one side of the enclosure?

We have some more exploration to do here. I left this pretty open and they explored various shapes. But I’m not sure they’ve drawn any solid conclusions just yet for the case where we have 1 side of the shape already accounted for.

Get the Pear Deck slideshow here.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Kahoot: game-based learning


Kahoot is a game-based learning system for the classroom. My students love playing Kahoot; it’s a great way to practice & review material.

There are 4 types of Kahoot games:

  1. Quiz – multiple choice questions
  2. Jumble – choose the correct order of the 4 answers
  3. Survey – a quiz with no right or wrong answers, no scoring, no leaderboard
  4. Discussion – a single-question survey

How it works: The teacher presents the questions on the projector. Students (using their own device or grouped to 1 device) choose their answer. Points are assigned for correct answers, with more points for quicker responses. After each question, a graph is displayed with the results of the class, showing how many responses were chosen for each answer choice. Before the next question, a leaderboard of the top 5 scorers is displayed to the group.

Why Kahoot is awesome:

  • Increases student voice, engagement, & accountability.
  • Students get immediate feedback as to whether or not they got the answer correct.
  • Spurs class discussions; teacher facilitates discussions when results show many students are struggling with a certain question or topic.
  • Try playing in Ghost Mode where students play against their previous attempts, trying to beat their previous score.
  • There’s a bank of quizzes created by teachers to choose from, you can create your own from scratch or even duplicate then edit someone else’s.

My favourite way to play is to put the game on “randomize order of questions” and play the first 10 random questions from a large bank of questions I’ve created for my entire course as a warm-up to start class.

Here are my Kahoot question banks for MPM2D and MFM2P.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Height VS Foot length #MFM1P/#MPM1D #3ActMath

As an introduction to Linear Relations with my combined 1D/1P grade 9 Math class we investigated height VS foot length and the guinness record holder for the tallest woman:Summary 2017.02.08 (1).jpg

I asked students to measure their height and foot length and record it on a Google Spreadsheet we had up on the projector:


What do you notice?Capture.JPG

What do you wonder?Capture.JPG

I posed this question:

Zeng Jinlian was born in 1964 in Yujiang village in the Bright Moon Commune, Hunan Province, China. She holds the record as the tallest woman. She measured 2.48 m (8 ft 1.75 in) when she died on 13 February 1982. How long were her feet?

Estimate: _____ cmCapture.JPG

Students were sent in their VRG groups to their VNPS boards to solve. Here are their boards:

Since it is still early in the semester I scaffolded the activity a bit by instructing them to create a scatter plot of the data on their board to help them solve the problem. I did not however instruct them to use a line of best fit, although many groups used that strategy to help them come up with an answer. Some groups had graphs with a Height axis that went high enough to lookup Zeng’s height and find the corresponding foot length from the line of best fit. Other groups made an educated guess based on the trend the points were showing.

Each student was asked to determine her foot length based on their graph:Capture.JPG

Her real foot length was 35.5cm!

The following day students were assigned some individual practice with scatterplots on Khan Academy.

Activity materials (include a slide deck for Pear Deck) available here.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Chicken & Goat Legs #MFM2P #PBL

Summary (scroll down for more details):2017.01.11 summary.png


I asked some questions on Pear Deck to get students thinking about the parameters of the problem:

captureWe discussed some of the above responses that did not meet the criteria of a total of 70 legs and why.

Students went to their boards in their small groups to solve this problem:

She has 26 animals all together.
There are 70 chicken & goat legs all together.
How many chickens? Goats?

Most groups were very unsure as to how to proceed in their solving. Most were simply guessing & checking various pairs of numbers. After a few minutes of allowing that productive struggle, when I noticed frustration setting in for some, I asked if anyone had considered drawing animal bodies & assigning legs to them? Here are the student boards:

We returned to our seats and our Pear Deck session & I put it into student-paced mode. I asked them to create the equations for the various parameters of the problem: Capture.JPG
They struggled with this so I did some direct teaching about how to build the equation for this and the next slide:

Students were asked to use Desmos to graph their 2 equations & then sketch the graph and point of intersection:capture

Students were asked to develop an algebraic solution using the elimination method:Capture.JPG
Not all of my students are comfortable with the algebra still (even though we’re at semester’s end now).

I like that we used 3 different methods of solving this problem; diagramming, graphing & algebraic. I want my 2P students to know they can always fall back on “less sophisticated” methods to solve these problems at evaluation time (as opposed to the algebraic solution).

The resources can be found here (including the Pear Deck interactive slideshow).

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Flight Costs #MFM2P

I’ve done this activity once previously. I changed how I did it for this second go. I will change it again for next semester.

Here’s how it went this time …

Students were presented with this data:copy-of-lr-flight-distance-vs-cost

Students were asked:

2016.12.21 notice.JPG


The task for day 1: Determine the initial value & rate, on average, for flights with Air Canada.

Some groups went to Desmos straight away. Others needed some reminding that Desmos can be very helpful with data like this.

On day 2, groups were asked to determine the distance they could fly for $500 using their equations from the previous day. I only took a photo of one group’s board that day:2016.12.22 summary.png

I think next semester I will change this up. I think I will present the name of a city & ask students to estimate the cost of flying there. Then I’ll give them the set of data for cost & distance for multiple cities, but with the first city blanked out; perhaps allowing them to adjust their estimate if they like. We’ll do notice & wonder, and then proceed to solve for the price. I won’t specify modelling algebraically but will perhaps create a Desmos activity builder they can do to practice that in the case where they don’t use an algebraic model to solve.

Update: Find the Desmos activity builder follow-up here

Activity available here.

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

My Tweets in 2016 #MTBoS


I started out sharing on Twitter, and it wasn’t until I felt the real need to move beyond 140 characters that I tried blogging. My blog has been a place to go into more detail on activities I’ve done with my classes or strategies I’ve been implementing. But I wanted to look back and archive some of what I shared on Twitter here on my blog. So I’ve compiled a rough list of top-ish tweets (as best as I can tell using analytics.twitter.com):

The Ottawa Slow EdChat was the brainchild of Derek Rhodenizer & Sandra Walker. It fizzled out at the end of 2015, so with their permission I tried to get it back up and running for 2016. It now has its own Twitter profile so everyone can easily find the weekly question. If you live in the Ottawa/Gatineau area I hope you’ll consider giving it a follow!

Jo Boaler is pretty incredible. She released a great article on her YouCubed site all about Visual Maths. I sketchnoted a summary and shared it.

It’s no secret that I really love Pear Deck!

People seemed to really like my sketchnotes of the OAME conference Ignite sessions. They’re a bit wordy -should be more visual, but it made for a good review of the talks. And got a lot of people asking more about sketchnoting too!

This tweet proved popular and I wanted to make sure to include it as it’s one a few top tweets not including a sketchnote. The #BFC530 chat is a great 15 minute chat in the morning for early risers!

I have still yet to read the full book (I made this sketchnote from a shorter article on the topic) but it’s on my list!

I put this together in order to share some posters that I have on my classroom walls all in one image.

Two sketchnotes from the #EdInnovation summit in Ottawa.

A sketchnote from the EdTech Team Google summit in Rosemere, QC.

This last one is sort of cheating as this exact tweet was posted in January 2017. But as I finished the sketchnote for each section of the book through the fall of 2016 I posted them to Twitter & they each got big views. So I finally used some holiday time to finish the book and posted all 4 sketchnotes in this tweet above. So it’s summarizing the earlier tweets here.

Mostly I notice that all except one of my tweets that did the best contain sketchnotes. People really love the visual summaries of talks, videos, articles & books! Get in touch if you’d like to learn more about sketchnoting. I will hopefully blog about the topic in 2017 as well!

A big thank-you to my Twitter PLN for sharing, listening, advising, and pushing. I can’t being a teacher without all of you to work with!

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

My Blog in 2016

My blog has steadily increased its views over the years which is great:blog-views

It’s pretty neat to see where in the world readers are from:blog map.JPG

It turns out that none of my top 5 blog posts for this year were written in 2016. Not sure what to make of this fact. Perhaps I’m not blogging about things that interest others as much; I have been blogging more about specific activities than big ideas lately. Thoughts?

Here are the top 5 most viewed posts from my blog in 2016:

  1. Teacher Interviews: April, 2014. All about the topics that teachers in the OCDSB should be ready to speak to in an interview. Viewed 2.5 times more often than the next place finisher. When I meet new teachers in my school or board, this is the post they mention to me most often.
  2. Number Talks in High School: November, 2013. Written at a time when I still opened each class with a bellwork / warm-up. I no longer do, but I still use the basic concept of a number talk to structure discussions in class about a given calculation. Also, with my ELD (pre-ESL) math class, I had my student teacher doing one number talk a day to start each class in December.
  3. Visibly random groups & vertical non-permanent surfaces: November, 2014. Incorporating VRGs & VNPSs into my classroom was a game changer for me and my students. Teachers often find this post when they Google the acronyms VRG & VNPS to find out what they are. I also share this post online often with teachers if I think it’s something they might be interested in.
  4. A day in the life of a Math teacher: November, 2014. This was a blogging challenge put forth by the Explore MTBoS team a year previous. It also happened to be a very strange teaching day due to a scary incident that ground much of our city to a halt for lockdowns.
  5. Assessment & Evaluation in the OCDSB: March, 2014. My school board implemented a big shift in our assessment & evaluation policies & strategies. Many teachers were reluctant, but I found a lot of great things about the new system. I created a 4-part series about the new system to try to share what I knew about & how I was using the new ideas in my classes.

Did I peak in 2014 in terms of blogging?

Thanks to everyone that has read something I’ve written this past year! I appreciate all the great feedback I get on Twitter, in the blog comments and face to face. It’s this online community that helps pushing my thinking and encourages me to keep trying new things, so thanks to all of you!

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros

The first time I’ve heard a group of my colleagues excited for an education-related book was for Innovator’s Mindset by George Couros. We all bought a copy of the book and met after each of the 4 parts to discuss the ideas he puts forth. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter made hosting a book club so easy and really made us think as we read through the book. I sketchnoted summaries to help myself remember the information better & want to share them here:





– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)

Video clip of students at work

Today while Ms. Fahmi, my student teacher, was teaching I went to take a photo of the students at their boards solving in their groups. Then realised that I should try taking some video since there are several of us in the room & I can take the time to do so (I had parents choose at the beginning of the year whether or not they were comfortable with me including photos & videos of their child in class on my professional learning network platforms)

Here is a quick (1 minute) video clip of my students working on a visual patterns 3 act math task on vertical non-permanent surfaces in their visibly random groups:

– Laura Wheeler (Teacher @ Ridgemont High School, OCDSB; Ottawa, ON)