Beth Holland

Food for thought…


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KISS Take #2 – iSolveIt Apps

A few weeks ago, I wrote about having a “no duh” moment. On Thursday, at the MassCUE conference, I had another one…..

Though I had previously glanced at the FREE iSolveIt apps for iPad – MathSquared and MathCubed – I did not fully appreciate the beauty of them until I attended the session presented by  Mindy JohnsonBoo Murray, and Garron Hillaire.

Keeping It Shockingly Simple – why these apps are amazing

Mindy, Boo, and Garron explained the thinking behind these two apps. Since algebraic reasoning is one of the best indicators of future success in college, and since Algebra is often a defining moment in a student’s math career, they decided to create two apps to address the processes of the reasoning with built in Universal Design for Learning (UDL) supports. Given that “5% of the goal of math instruction is content, and 95% is reasoning,” CAST created two apps to encourage problem solving and persistence.

MathSquared is a game that combines KenKen and Sudoko. Students solve increasingly complex, numeric puzzles. “MathSquared puzzles are grid-based puzzles that use the basic math operations of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division and require logic and problem-solving skills.” Initially, I questioned what I would have students DO beyond play a game. However, what if….

  • Students took a screen capture of a blank board at the culmination of a level, imported it into a screencasting app such as ExplainEverything or Educreations, and then recorded their problem solving process to demonstrate their thinking.
  • One student took a picture of another working on a problem, and then used Fotobabble to record a “play by play” of their classmate’s problem solving to then offer recommendations later.
  • Students collaborated on an ExplainEverything project where they compared and contrasted problem solving strategies and then determined who used the most effective approach.

MathScaled offers a different set of challenges. Students solve balanced equation challenges without numbers. The CAST researchers recognized that some students’ aversion to math is rooted in their “fear of numbers.” With MathScaled, shapes have relative weights and students work through puzzles in order to create balance. Chris Harrow (@Chris_Harrow) and Paul Salomon (@lostinrecursion) recently blogged about shifting students thinking about balance. Not only does this app support that challenge, but it could also…

  • Provide a visual representation for complex equation balancing in both Algebra and Chemistry (imagine teaching the concept of atomic weight with shapes)
  • Provide a visual representation for history/social studies teachers to illustrate the complexity of “the balance of power.” What if students created a series of math equations to tell a story about historical or political events!

Again, the beauty of these apps is also in how they can be incorporated into other apps through screen captures. In fact, a student could develop a series of math stories that include screen captures brought into Book Creator. Students could include typed narrations as well as audio recording of their problem solving.

I don’t often get this excited about content-specific apps. However, these two are definitely worth mentioning – particularly because of the simplicity! I definitely had a “no duh” moment as it is now feels so obvious about how these simple tools could lead to amazingly complex thinking.


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An App for That….

Apparently, I started this post months ago and then never published it. Gives me some time to reflect a bit on it – especially since I am posting this from my iPad while on the train to Boston to go to an Apple iPad deployment institute….

I admitted, quite publicly, that I was initially highly skeptical of the iPad craze. However, after 2 years of experimentation, it really may be the next great device for education. What’s difficult, though, is figuring out the not just the millions of apps, but what to actually do with them in order to revolutionize the classroom experience.

Kathy Schrock, author of iPads in the Classroom, recently posted a great App Evaluation Form. It has a great checklist to help determine if an app has true educational value, or is just flash.

We have a list of other app evaluation resources available at EdTechTeacher – http://edtechteacher.org/index.php/teaching-technology/mobile-technology-apps. Because, as explained in the Sesame Street video below, for almost every challenge, there’s an app for that.

However, what has really been lacking is examples of best practices in the classroom. For that reason, Greg Kulowiec – also at EdTechTeacher– and I are trying to collect blog posts and case studies to add to the EdTechTeacher blog. If you are a classroom teacher with a story to tell, please contact me.