Asynchronous Math eLearning Days

Last weekend I planned for two days of non-live instruction for students exploring 4th-6th grade concepts. This planning sequence has been on my calendar for a few weeks and I’ve spent a good amount of time wrapping my brain around how to keep the lessons engaging without being there. I also had to figure that I wouldn’t be able to answer questions live. I discussed this dilema with another teacher and we came up with a couple options for students involving a choice menu. I decided to give students a small choice board for the two days the school deemed as asynchronous. My choices are below.


Grades 5-6

Fraction Escape Room by Patty Stephens – This activity is a robust review of fractions. It took my students around 30-45 minutes to finish the task and it was quite challenging for some. This fits in really well with a fraction computation unit that the class recently finished.

Equation Modeling – Mega Man by Kurt Salisbury– One of my classes has been introduced to equations and this activity is a fun way to review and play with variables before introducing a formal process. This is a class favorite and it also introduces students to Mega Man!

Pan-Balances – Solve me mobiles – Similar to the equation modeling, this was used specifically for students to help visualize equations. The questions are also found here.

Grade 5

Integer practice by Jay Chow – My fifth grade classes are starting to explore integer computation and this was one way to have the students practice adding/subtracting integers. The Pokemon evolution was a bonus and I guess it’s still fairly popular as students gravitated towards this option.

Coordinate Graphing Ice Climber Plotting Points by Lorri Sapp – My fourth grade crew has been studying coordinate grids and this was a perfect activity to reinforce those standards. The activity begins by reviewing the basics of a graph end simply moves through the process to graphing coordinates in all four quadrants. The students enjoyed the game with the last couple slides the most.

Grades 4-6

Math Art Challenge – Isometric Grids by Adrianne Burns This was a fun activity that helps students explore geometric patterns on an isometric grid. Students built patterns and submitted them via Canvas. This was a student fan favorite activity as it applied to multiple grade levels and students were able to combine art and math.

Decimal and Fraction Review – Students in my fourth grade class have been exploring conversions this unit. This Desmos deck was used to review multiples of 10 and to also practice recent skills.

Map-Accelerator – This options gave students an option to review and be exposed to skills related to the Map test that was taken in the fall. This is a new feature and students and teachers are still getting used to how this works. Not many students chose this option.


Students worked diligently on one task each day. Some tried their hands at two. They then submitted a screen shot of their work for attendance and completion purposes. I’ll need to remind a few to turn in the assignments after break but that’s par for the course this year. With a few tweaks, I’m planning on using a similar style for the next planned asynchronous day.

Digital Check-ins

During a normal school year (all in-person) I interpret non-verbals and try to check-in with students frequently. I stand by my classroom door and give eye contact to students as they walked in and ask how they were doing. Sometimes students stop and tell me about their adventures or something that happened over the weekend. One of my goals was to have students talk more than me. The same check-ins would happen as students leave the room to head out to their next class. I believe these small moments overtime helped students connect to the classroom. Soon, students would share with one another about their lives and the classroom community builds from the ground up. A feeling of familiarity develops and students are more willing to take mathematical risks in the classroom. This organic process is more challenging when some students in your class are remote and others are in-person.

This year my school has been switching back and forth between remote and elearning. Tomorrow marks the third time this year that everyone will be remote. As or right now it looks like everyone will be remote until January, but that could change. My check-ins have had to take a different form this year. I call them “meet and greets” but they have the same premise. Every class starts with a meet and greet question or activity. It takes around 5-10 minutes and most days if feels like it is worth every minute. Here are a couple options for digital check-ins.

1.) 100 Prompts. I tend to get the questions from this shared spreadsheet.

Some of the questions are real gems, while others do not quite fit yet. This year I have used questions from this sheet around 50% of the time.

2.) Images. My students tend to get a kick out of these images as they are dramatic and some are related to pop culture. Students tells me what number they are and why.

I have found students open up and I see them laughing a bit as we progress through this meet and greet. So far my class has completed a cat, squirrel and baby Yoda. Twitter seems like the place to find these images by typing “on a scale how are you feeling” in the search bar.

3.) Desmos. Desmos has an amazing array of starter screens. My kids enjoy the robot and create a pumpkin activity. I think they could have spent more than 10 minutes creating their own pumpkin.

I tell the students ahead of time that this will be shared with the class and I turn on the anonymize filter if one or more students want the info to be kept private. I have not had a chance to use the data collection decks but they look promising. I am planing on using the Silly Warm Ups at some point next week. I am anticipating some amazing responses for the giraffe slide.

4.) Zoom. This is probably used the least, but using the Zoom private chat function has its benefits. There are times where I ask students to tell me how they are doing and to send me a private message in the chat. This has worked well for issues that happen in the moment. For example, a student told me that a family pet passed away. That awareness changed how I interacted with that particular student and was helpful when I followed up with them later. Just make sure students (and the teacher!) uses the private chat and not public.

Digital Fractions

My third graders started to explore fraction concepts last week. It has been a challenge as usually fractions are introduced with physical area model manipulatives. I usually take out the fraction circles and general pattern blocks for the introduction. That’s out of the question this year so I’ve had to rely on digital means.

I started the unit by reviewing fraction area models with a Desmos task. Students identified parts of a square.

The deck gets more challenging as it progresses. I was able to get through slides 1-11 with students. Slides past that could certainly be used but I’ll probably revisit those later in the unit.

From there I introduced students to linear models of fractions on a number line. Students identified benchmarks of quarters and halves on number lines. Students discovered equivalent fractions in area models and then transitioned that to number lines. Enter Desmos task # 2.

Students first start the task with a WODB slide where students analyze fractional parts. There’s also a beneficial card sort where students sort groups of equivalent fractions. The challenge questions in this deck are no joke. My class spent a good 15 minutes on the last two slides. Those slides helped contribute to a great fraction conversation afterwards.

During the next morning my students completed a GimKit to review the learning so far. The class also reviewed the notation for fractions greater than one whole. Students observed how the numerator can increase when the denominator stays the same. We also investigated how fractions are division and the quotient can be used to determine where to place a number on a line.

During the next class students completed a PHET simulation on fractions and area models. Students started on level 1 and then moved upward. The simulation can easily be added to a Nearpod presentation.

Most students ended up around level 4 + before time ran out. Later in the day students completed a Khan Academy quiz on fraction models. This quick check-in was valuable as I was able to quickly gauge where students were in their understanding of equivalent fractions.

During the next day students work on placing fractions on a number lines – enter Desmos task 3.

Students placed the fractions on the line and checked to see how close their estimates were to the actual answers. This gem of an activity gives students an opportunity to self-check and this deck was used over two different days. Students reflected on their progress in class during a debrief process.

On Friday students finished up their week by completing a fraction polygraph with different partners.

Students asked questions, used math vocabulary and a bit of detective work to find the correct cards. This was challenging for some kids as it highlighted who had an adequate grasp of fraction benchmarks.

I’m looking forward to diving into fraction concepts even more next week.

Digital Student Math Reflections

My classes finished their first assessments last week. During a normal year students would use their math journals and write-up a reflection about what they explored during the unit. Obviously things are different this year. Two of my classes are currently composed of about half in-person and the rest are online. The class is split between an AM/PM model, where half the students come in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. Keeping this in mind I’ve continued to emphasize instruction towards a remote model so everyone can participate. It has taken a massive shift in allocating time to digitize resources that weren’t really meant to be digital in the first place. Tasks, assignments and student reflections are now taking a digital form.

This year I’m using Google Forms for digital unit assessment reflections. Students split their screen to view their Canvas assessment and form.

The first question asks students what they’re proud of. I want students to review some of the positive elements and connect effort to achievement.

Students then review their results and specific teacher comments. I review what the words novice, apprentice, practitioner and expert mean in the context of showing an understanding of math concepts. I also expand the questions on the test through a screen share and show students problems that are related to a certain skills subset. Students spend most of their time on this part of reflection.

Students end the reflection by completing an effort question related to being prepared.

It took students about 10-15 minutes to complete this brief reflection. I shared the general results with the class and we had a great conversation about math growth overtime. What’s interesting is how the AM and PM classes differ even with the same content and instruction. Below is a fourth grade example.

I’m looking forward to adding a goal section to the next reflection. Feel free to click here to make a copy of the form.

Elearning to In-Person Learning

Four weeks down. That number indicates how many weeks that school has been in session. School didn’t have in-person learning until last week when kindergarten and first grade students came back. Next week second and third will be coming back. Although they are coming back there are still many elearning students that will be zooming into the classrooms. Next week more teachers will transition from teaching solely online to managing an in-person and online classroom simultaneously.

As I reflect on the last four weeks, I’m impressed with how quickly students have transitioned to using Zoom and learning with a completely different model. They had practice with our emergency elearning in the spring, but this is different. There’s more structure and teachers have had more time to plan instruction. There have been hiccups along the way for sure (wifi problems, Zoom settings, talking while on mute, getting materials to students, learning a new LMS, …), but most students are engaging in math and exploring new concepts like they would in a regular classroom. Breakout rooms have allowed math to be more social, digital math routines are becoming consistent, and my document camera has been getting a workout everyday as the class completes problems together.

Next week one of my classes will be coming back for in-person instruction. The entire class won’t be coming back to school as some students will be elearning from home. Those students will log in to Zoom as usual. The group of students that’ll be in-person will need to learn new procedures related to social distancing and mask wearing. This may impact those elearners at home as class might not start at time or be shortened because of dismissal and hallway congestion.

I think there’s a perceived notion that once students are back in school that instruction will shift. The copy machine will be back up running again, the teachers’ lounge will be buzzing and the sounds of kids will once again echo off the walls. We’ll be moving back to business as usual. I’m in the camp that doesn’t necessarily agree with that stance – at least for this year. A question comes to my mind when thinking about this.

How is it equitable to switch your instruction and gear it to in-person students when part of your class is still learning from home?

Now, I’m excited that some of my class will be back in school. There’s a comforting feeling that we’ll at some point get back to normal. There’s a physical social element that’s important in being able to see non-verbals and speak to one another in person. Being able to raise a hand (not digitally) and ask for help or show a model in person has many benefits. I’m looking forward to the time where students can play math cards games with each other, build mathematical models and use manipulatives without worrying about being to close to one another.

With all that being said, I believe students in the classroom will continue to log into Zoom, attend breakout rooms with the entire class and participate along with elearners at home – similar to what we’ve been doing during the past four weeks. As the year progresses, individual students/classes will most likely need to quarantine and they will transition to an elearning only model. Parents might decide to move students from a hybrid to eLearning and vice versa. I believe there won’t be a significant shift in the model that we’ve been using except that some of the students will now be in the classroom. Class time will most likely be shortened and adjustments will need to be made for students to navigate social distancing at school. I understand that aspect and know that it’s necessary to be flexible, but am also aware that it’s not a seamless transition from elearning to in-person learning.

Breakout Rooms and Google Slides

I’ve been teaching remotely for the past two weeks and continue to notice that students aren’t able to work together in groups as much anymore. I’d like to change that. I’m finding that breakout groups are one way in which to do this during Zoom sessions. In order to make them more effective I’ve started to find ways to structure the sessions so students are engaged in mathematics and they need to work with their partners to find solutions. I try to get students in breakout rooms once a day and usually that happens. This past week I used a Google Slides technique that I found on Twitter. I discussed this a bit in my last post, but will go into more detail here.

My first step is to find a math tasks that involves some type of collaboration. One of my classes is exploring data landmarks. The question is placed on a Google slide. There are three examples below.

Depending on the class size, I make 6-8 duplicates of the slide. I add “breakout room # ___” on the top to indicate who’s working on a particular slide. I’ll review the task as a class first and then answer clarifying questions. Students are then off to the groups to work for around 5-10 minutes. They return and each group discusses what they created and the strategy behind their solution. This technique has worked well although my learning curve during the past two weeks has been steep. I’m hoping to put together a few tips or considerationsbefore using breakout rooms and Google Slides.


First of all, make sure to create your Google Slide in Edit Master. The reasoning is that you don’t want students to drag, drop or edit unnecessary items. I learned this as students were changing the size of the text and moving around the question off of the slide. I want students to focus more on the problem than the formatting.

Use fields to show where students should place their work. Again, this is so students don’t feel like they need to put their effort into formatting. Having a place for their names and work lets them concentrate more on the task.

Ensure that permissions are set correctly. I made the mistake of not allowing editing rights and it was a disaster as students were able to view the activity, but not write anything on the slide.

Make sure to duplicate the slide and put the breakout group # somewhere noticeable on the slide. Students should be able to easily navigate to their groups slide to begin work.

Create a plan on how you want students to share out their solutions. This will help eliminate some of the awkward silence that sometimes happens when the teacher asks “so … who wants to discuss how you solved this?” questions. It will also help students create a plan before they exit the breakout room.

Limit the time students spend in the breakout rooms and pop in frequently. I’ve found that spending more than 10 minutes in the rooms isn’t necessarily. It depends on the task though, but for my students 8-10 minutes is the sweet spot. I give a minute warning for students to wrap up what they’re discussing and we had back to the class Zoom session


These are a just a few guidelines that I’ve been following this past week. Similar to the regular classroom, not every breakout room has been a success. I’ve made tweaks over the last few sessions to improve the experience. Overall, I’m seeing progress and students are engaging with each other and the math in positive ways. This may even be something I use as my students start making their way back to an actual face-to-face classroom.

First Week is in the Books

The first week of school is in the books. Just writing that last sentence is comforting. There’s still a lot of anxiety related to this new school year and so many questions are still unanswered. My school started elearning on Monday and it has been a rollercoaster of a week. This is the most different first week in my teaching career and it’s challenging to find the words to describe the situation. While I taught from my kitchen table, students were at home logging into zoom for 40 minute math lessons. Teachers and students dealt with zoom problems, wifi fails, iPad tech issues, doc camera concerns and a variety of other obstacles involved with distance learning. I’m going to detail what seemed to go well and what I need to work on moving forward.

Most teachers like to start the year with some type of routine. In the past, students would come into the classroom, take their individual folder, sit down and work on a bell ringer. Instead of this, I decided to take a few ideas off of Twitter and consulted this amazing document to screen share a countdown timer. This was used to start my Zoom meetings. Once the countdown reaches zero the class starts. I even jazzed it up by adding some music in the background. Students experienced rock, classical and jazz this week.

Once the countdown is up I take quick attendance and then we have a meet and greet. This usually takes place with some type of question that I ask everyone. Thursday’s question was “what’s your favorite number and why?” We then give a virtual fist pump, high five, elbow, or another way to connect in a funny way through the screen.

Then the class moves to a Nearpod activity. I was going to use Edpuzzle, but the idea of not having enough space with the free version scared me. Earlier in the week I recorded myself doing quick mental math practices. I uploaded the videos (all less than a minutes) into Nearpod and pause them at certain points for students to answer questions. I’m able to see the class and individual results as we move to the next question. The questions are mostly review, but I want to ensure that all students were engaged and I can see if they have answered the question or not with this routine. I add a couple more slides to the deck for a matching or fill in the blank game. This takes around 10 minutes to complete.

Then the class moves to guided practice. Thankfully I was able to retrieve my document camera from school and it has been a lifesaver at times. Students have consumable journals at home and we complete a few problems together as a class. This week I spent a good amount of time trying to get the document camera to work and angled right so students could see it on their iPad when I screen share. This was a battle all week – especially with lag times. Students answered the questions as the class completes problems in the journal. This is also time for direct instruction involving new concepts.

Students then move to breakout groups where they have a task to complete. The task might be to work together to complete more of the journal page or work on a Slides presentation/Paldet together (each group gets one slide to work on). I borrowed this idea from Natalie.

I pop in and out of the breakout rooms to see what’s going on and to ask questions. Enjoyed this part of my job this week. Some rooms didn’t need my help while others frequently asked questions. Most of the questions in the breakout rooms were technical issues, like trying to figure out how to share individual screens or iPad issues. Editing a Slides project on an iPad didn’t turn out well as the tools look different on an iPad compared to a computer. I’m including myself in this slow learning process. After around 10 minutes we come back as a class and present the solutions together.

By then there’s just a few minutes left and I review some of the key concepts. I give students a to do list ask if they have questions to stay on, if not wave goodbye and I’ll see you tomorrow. A few kids stick around and the questions are mostly technical at this point.

This process didn’t happen everyday, but it’s becoming more consistent. I’m still figuring out how to use Canvas correctly. Giving assignments and quizzes has been tricky. Navigating a new eschool system has also been a challenge and has taken up quite a bit of time. I’m still not sure how tests will look with this elearning format. I’m going to postpone that decision for now. Curriculum night is next week and I’ve been asked to be at the school to give the presentation so creating that deck is on my to do list.

I’m so thankful that the weekend is here and it’s now time to recharge. The weather is supposed to be decent so I’m going to enjoy time away from my computer screen.

We Got This – Part 3

I finished up the book We Got This by Conelius Minor this afternoon. It was a great read and has me thinking about equity as a new school year is around the bend. Here are quotes and my thoughts for chapters 5-6.

Chapter 5

Mrs. Davenport spoke. “This book was given to us, but it wasn’t written for us.p. 104

This quote was taken from the beginning of chapter 5. After reading it I started to think about curriculum guides and publishers. Pacing guides aren’t perfect and teachers should keep that in mind when planning out the year. Teachers should give themselves grace to slow down and modify instruction based on students’ needs. This doesn’t happen enough as state and local testing often regulate pacing. Also, this quote reminds me that the books and materials that teachers use should be inclusive. Do students see themselves in the books that they read? Do the illustrations accurately display our society?

“A positive interaction based on a power imbalance – the powerful interacting with the powerless – is not a positive interaction. It is a colonizing one.” p. 106

I had to read this a couple times before it sunk in. Whether it’s spoken or not, there’s a power imbalance between teachers and students. Developing a classroom community takes time and teachers often engage students in activities that promote a positive and safe environment. Students can pick up on when a teacher is being genuine and when they’re not. I believe this quote also deals with the shift in how school is sometimes designed to colonize and not necessarily embrace differences. Students don’t come to school everyday with a blank slate. They bring their culture, language, norms and so many other characteristics that are part of their individual identity. How often is this discussed and is it celebrated? This quote has me asking more questions.

Chapter 6

“We talk about entrepreneurial spirit while worshiping at the alter of the status quo.” p. 126

Teachers want students to be empowered and take ownership of their learning. It’s a powerful statement, but is it backed up by action? How can a district encourage students to innovate if the organization is quite pleased with how things are currently run? Do school districts fundamentally change when initiatives are activated?

We can certainly cannot change an entire school or even a classroom yet, but we can change how we respond to the things that happen in those places” p. 129

I believe this quote touches on the mindset of teachers. There are some things that I can change and others that I can’t. Many teachers are struggling with this right now as districts come out with elearning and hybrid plans. What’s controllable? Well, I can control how I respond and that’s a start. Realizing this gives me a small sense of calm and it’s a good reminder – especially this time of the year.

“The longer I stay in it, the more I realize that our work is more evolutionary than it is revolutionary” p. 131

I nodded while highlighting this statement. Most teachers have seen new products, resources, testing programs, and manipulatives that have been touted as being “game changers” for students. These fads tend to fade over time or are replaced with something new. Change is always happening in the education field. Teachers that stay in the classroom for years realize what’s important. Strategies or resources that work for last year’s class might not work next year. Teachers mess up, identify how to improve and become better over time. They pivot as needed and develop better practices over time. This is a good reminder that I need to recognize the small wins when they occur.

We Got This – Part 2

This post details my journey with We Got This by Conelius Minor. My school met to discuss the first two chapters earlier this week and it was a productive discussion that could’ve been longer. It was helpful to discuss strategies related to listening and getting to know our students better. This will be especially important as my district will be starting in a face-to-face or hybrid model soon and that’s far removed from the norm.

My highlighter was busy during chapters 3-4.

Chapter 3

We loved talking about giving kids voice while mocking the voices that they brought to school with themp. 48

I highlighted this statement as it resonates. It’s important to give kids a voice, but too often I also hear people in education speak about how that voice needs to change because it’s not “acceptable” compared what’s expected. By taking that stance, teachers take on the role of attempting to change a student’s voice to what’s deemed as more important and in the process they devalue what’s being brought from home. In my mind a student’s voice is part of their identity.

“Creating a change in your classroom impacts your students. Creating a larger change can impact your whole school” p. 65

Teachers want what’s best for their students. Innovation is often evident in schools and it originates (my take here) in individual classrooms. Teachers see the results, get excited (if it’s a positive outcome) and want to spread the news. Finding a way to communicate this to administration is sometimes a barrier as there are other directives and only so much time. I thought Minor was able to carefully articulate a number of ways to showcase why the change is necessary and how it may impact a larger population.

Chapter 4

“Some kids don’t feel like learning is a safe pursuit” p. 81

I cringed as I read this but also know it to be true. This outcome has to do with how/what a student has experienced during their learning journey. There’s a decent amount of pressure in schools. That pressure is different depending on the student and situation. Good grades and peer pressure all play a role. The perceived “mistake free zone” in a school isn’t attainable and therefore students don’t engage as a form of “failure” is guaranteed. Since it’s not safe they might decide it’s not worth the effort. Teachers have to proactively create a classroom community where students feel safe to make mistakes.

One of the greatest gifts that we can give children is the ability to advocate for themselves and for their own education” p. 92

I work with students in grades k-5 and it is a joy to see how students use their voice over time. As students progress through their elementary journey they develop and use their voice to communicate thoughts, ideas and personal reflections. Understanding how to approach and ask teachers about a particular question/topic takes initiative. Students won’t take that leap unless they feel safe. In order to advocate for themselves they need to develop their voice and be able to reflect on their own understanding compared to what’s expected. Student self-reflection plays a role here as well as how receptive a teacher is to the student. Being able to navigate and help a student develop self-advocacy skills is worth the time. I find this especially evident when an upper elementary student transfers those skills to middle school.

We Got This – Part 1

This summer I’m reading through We Got This by Conelius Minor. I’ve heard of the book and another teacher at my school raved about out last year. Based on the preview it looks like it falls in similar lines with two of the books that I read last year: This is Not a Test and White Fragility. I feel like understanding your own bias and privilege are the beginning steps in making actionable change. I’m continuing to read more to find out where I can make lasting impact.

The book is part of an optional study for the summer that was made available by my administrator. With all that has transpired over the last few months (George Floyd’s death, protests, awareness of inequalities … ) the district has taken a stance that equity should be a focus. How that turns out is anyone’s guess right now, but I believe we’re making strides in the right direction. The study group will be reading a couple chapters and then meeting over Zoom throughout the summer. Last week the group initially met to discuss the logistics and decided to read two chapters and meet every two weeks.

I kept my highlighter handy as I went through the first two chapters. I highlighted certain statements that resonated and kept them at limit to focus on particular pieces. I’m writing here to preserve my current thoughts.

Chapter 1

“The true masterminds – the real enemies – in this dystopia are the business-as-usual attitudes ..” p. 10

Over time I’ve realized the business-as-usual tendencies are often rooted in resistance to change. As an organization become larger balancing efficiency with what’s best for students tends to drive decisions at a school level. Being open to modifying or scrapping an idea for something else can be a challenge, especially when the originators of the system are not willing to budge or have been given a directive to stay the course.

“When we are inflexible in our naming, we become inflexible in our thinking” p. 10

Despite our best efforts, fixed labeling is evident in schools. Gifted, resource, special ed, striving, low, high, average, EL, kiddos (okay I threw this in there), are all labels. Once a label is fixed it’s trying to remove it from our fixed perspective. Being more flexible with categorizing can help evolve our viewpoint. Students are changing, growing and developing their own academic identities through experiences at home and school. Why should teachers affix a label that’s attached to a student as the individual learning process evolves.

Chapter 2

“Teaching without this kind of engagement is not teaching at all. It is colonization.” p. 28

The text before this statement mentions the importance of relationships that are grounded in a shared vision and collaboration. The word that bounced off of the page was colonization. When I hear the word I think of establishing control. Is that what school is for? I would assume if you ask teachers, many of them would say that having a classroom community is essential in creating an environment for optional learning. This quote reinforces how important it is to allow (I kind of cringe when writing that word as it assumes that it’s my decision) students to be empowered to be part of a community of learners.

“... Racism, sexism, ableism, and classism are systems”

“The hard part of knowing that oppression lives in systems too is understanding that systems don’t change just because we identify them; they change because we disrupt them.” p. 31

Understanding that racism is a system and not necessarily an act can take time to digest. Being aware that oppression exists within systems takes a critical eye in looking beyond business-as-usual tendencies. Identifying what/how a school culture silences, excludes and/or oppresses students is the first step. Then we move towards the disruption process.