Check Out My Wordle

A few months ago, I explored a website called  As the website describes, Wordle is a toy for generating “word clouds” from text that you provide.  The clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.  You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes.  The images you create with Wordle are yours to use however you like.  You can print them out, or save them to the Wordle gallery to share with your friends.

I love using for math vocabulary activities!

I encourage you to check it out for a creative activity, project, presentation, pre or post vocabulary lesson, or assessment.  You can type in words into the wordle website or copy text from an article.  A sample of a wordle that I created from my favorite education topics is below:

Graphing Linear Equations–Common Core Style

Mrs. Marsh and Mrs. Vernon’s Pre-Algebra classes participated in many Common Core Math activities that focused on the following standard:

A-CED.2: Create equations in two or more variables to represent relationships between quantities; graph equations on coordinate axes with labels and scales.

Their students worked on investigations (see below to download), discussed their findings verbally and on the SMART board, and applied their knowledge on the Buzz Math computer website.  Well done students!

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Using “The Simpsons” to Teach Solids

In my Geometry classes, I use the television show “The Simpsons” to teach volume and surface area. In the 10 minute episode titled 3D Homer, Homer goes into a world filled with Geometric solids.  In the episode, Patty and Selma visit the Simpson family and Homer, desperate to avoid them, looks behind a bookcase and enters an eerie new world in which everything is in 3D.

The format of this lesson is as follows:

  1. Have the students watch the 10 minute episode.  It is part of their annual Treehouse of Horror Halloween shows (e-mail me if you want the clip).  You may want to have student write down math related things they see in the show.
  2. Discuss the episode and the math topics.
  3. Have students work in groups (or individually) on the SIMPSONS ACTIVITY WORKSHEET.  The tasks of the activity include naming 3D solids in the episode, calculating the height of a pond in the 3D world, and finding the volume, lateral area, and surface area of various solids.
  4. Discuss and/or collect the activity.

I hope you enjoy the lesson.  Please comment below.

10 Ways to Ensure a Successful Credit Recovery Program

What happens when a student is not learning?  Athena High School has created a Tier 3 response to intervention (RtI) program called the “Algebra Opportunity Academy” (Click here for a blog about the specifics of this program).  As a result of this credit recovery program, 12 out of 12 students earned credit back for at least one quarter of Integrated Algebra.  These 12 students are now on track to pass Integrated Algebra.

In discussing this data with my colleagues, it was clear that there were many reasons why this program worked.  The following are a list of 10 ways to ensure a successful credit recovery program (in any content area):

  1. Colleague support:  This was the most essential piece of this program.  This credit recovery program was highly dependent upon the math teachers of these credit deficient students.  If the math teachers did not trust the rigor or the objectives of the program, we would not have been able to adjust student grades.  Colleague support was also important in the selection of students and in the selection of the power standards that were taught in the program.
  2. Administrator support:  As with most programs, administrators can either be a help or a hindrance.  The administrative team at our school supported the math departments efforts and assisted in contacting the students and parents.
  3. Parent/Guardian support:  All students in this program had parents that set the expectation that attendance was mandatory and supported the teachers in their efforts.  They also drove or arranged rides for their children when necessary.  The transportation component helps to ensure parent commitment.
  4. College student help:  There were 12 students enrolled in the program.  Some might argue that a 12:1 student to teacher ratio is acceptable.  Perhaps, but a 2:1 student to teacher ratio is better and offers much higher instructional intensity.  We arranged six math education college students to come in to assist us in the program.  Many of these students needed a much smaller group to fully master a topic.
  5. Quick and specific feedback:  As this program took place over a short amount of time, it was important to give the students as much feedback as possible to ensure that they were able to “correct” their mistakes.  The Castle Learning website assisted us in providing quick and specific feedback.
  6. Multiple modalities:  This program offered students an opportunity to experience many instructional models: direct instruction, small group activities, computer programs, SMART Response Clickers, Dry Erase Boards, and other lessons that required them to move around the classroom.
  7. Goal Setting:  All students knew their current grade in the course and set a specific numerical goal that they wanted to achieve.
  8. High expectations for behavior and academics:  Clear behavioral and academic expectations were given to students and parents verbally (each parent was called individually) and in written form.
  9. Targeted assessments:  Assessments focused on the essential understandings of the first 2 quarters of Integrated Algebra.  The assessments were a combination of written and electronic (Castle Learning).
  10. Food:  All students were given snacks and a lunch.  Some could argue that this is not needed, but the food resulted in higher student morale, greater student energy, and a positive motivator to work hard.

For more information, please E-mail or Tweet @AndyMaillet.

Algebra Students are Back on Track

The Athena math department continues to ask the question “What happens when a student is not learning?”  In response to this question, we have created a response to intervention (RtI) system (see diagram below).  This system consists of 3 tiers, with the 3rd tier being the most intensive.  A Tier 3 intervention that we recently implemented was a combination of after school and February break sessions.  This program was titled the “Algebra Opportunity Academy” (AOA).

As a result of this program, 12 out of 12 students earned credit back for at least one quarter.  The average student increased each of their course quarter grades by 7 and a half points!  Also, most students liked it, were engaged, and gave positive feedback about the program (see data below from a survey given on the last day).  These 12 students are now on track to pass Integrated Algebra.

The following sections are a brief outline of the program:

Screening Process

Students that have an average of below 65% should be placed in this Tier 3 intervention support class. 1st and 2nd quarter grades will be examined, along with teacher recommendations.

Assessments/Progress Monitoring

As a goal of this program is to recover credit that was not earned in quarters 1 and 2, students will be assessed on AMSCO chapters 1-8.  They will be assessed through Castle Learning and written tests.  Using Castle Learning, students will have the opportunity to complete extra work at home/off-campus.

Instructional Arrangements

Two math teachers with algebra experience will co-teach this program (Maillet & Shoemaker).  Teachers will be in close contact with the students’ current Integrated Algebra teachers.  Maillet and Shoemaker will select, monitor, and schedule these students in this support class (with assistance from assistant principal).


Teachers will use GCSD approved Integrated Algebra curriculum.  In addition, teachers will prepare additional activities that will engage our targeted students; Students will participate in problem solving groups and the Castle Learning program.

Desired Results

Targeted students will increase their average in Integrated Algebra to at least a 70%.  These students will build confidence and ideally pass the course and Regents exam (not take this course/exam in summer school).


6th Grade Students Experience Singapore Math

Many of the 6th graders at Athena Middle School are experiencing a new twist on mathematics: Math in Focus – A Singapore Math Approach.  The math curriculum in Singapore has been recognized worldwide for its excellence in producing students high skilled in mathematics.  Students in Singapore have ranked at the top of the world in mathematics on the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) over multiple years.  Because of this, Singapore Math has gained interest and popularity in the United States.

“Mathematics is an excellent vehicle for the development and improvement of a persons intellectual competence.” -Singapore Math

Students have been working with unifix cubes and the “bar model” to solve complex ratio and proportion problems.  This strategy was particularly successful with 12:1:1 math classes and students with special needs.  The idea is to go from concrete tasks to pictorial to abstract.  Many math teachers tend to start with abstract, while Singapore suggests to start with concrete tasks.  This is also a key concept of the Common Core Standards.

Well done 6th grade teachers, Mrs. Mayer, Mrs. Schreiber, Mr. Titus, and Mr. Smith for undertaking this challenge and engaging your students in different ways.  These teachers have devoted many hours in planning and professional development to help their students to be successful and truly understand mathematics.  Well done!

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8th Grader is Double Accelerated in Math

Athena Middle School 8th grade student Xiaoning Guo has been double accelerated in math.  Based on his proficiency score on the Scholastic Math Inventory and overall math average, Xiaoning was recommended for this challenge.  He will take both Regents Integrated Algebra and Regents Geometry at the same time.  Participation in this double accelerated math will allow him to take additional math classes in high school or begin dual credit courses at an earlier date.  Mrs. Dionisio, Mrs. Gross, and Mrs. Obrien have been working with Xiaoning to provide him with a successful and enriching math experience.

We are proud of Xiaoning accomplishments in mathematics and willingness to undertake this challenge.

Algebra Teachers Differentiate

For the past two weeks, algebra teachers have been teaching their students the concepts of greatest common factor (GCF), difference between two perfect squares, and factoring trinomials using the grouping method.  Recognizing that these topics tend to be difficult for students to master, they tailored the design of their unit to accommodate for these multiple levels of understanding.  They accomplished this by using the computer program Castle Learning.

Most days of this seven day unit, students went down to the library and worked on several Castle Learning Problems.  This worked well for students because they were given instant feedback and explanations for any incorrect answers by Castle Learning.  Teachers examined the data from Castle Learning after every lesson.  A sample of a data analysis is shown below.  A check means that the student was correct on his or her first attempt, a check with an X means that the student was correct on his or her second attempt, and an X means that the student was incorrect for two attempts.  Based on those results, some students were pulled into a small group for a reteach lesson.  Student learning was increased as a result of teachers ensuring that what a student learns, how he/she learns it, and how the student demonstrates what he/she has learned matched that student’s readiness level (Tomlinson).  If a student was not ready to move on to the next lesson, immediate intervention took place until he or she was ready, and then he or she was able to continue with the rest of the class.

Authentic Assessment for Logic

Mrs. Gross used to create an authentic assessment for her students.  Xtranormal is a free website that allows its users to create their own animated videos.  A user simply types the dialogue between two characters and the website does the rest.  Mrs. Gross used this concept to assess her Geometry students on the topic of logic.  The task given to the students was to complete a logic movie that displays knowledge of the various topics of logic.  Her students were very creative in their projects and demonstrated their understanding of logical reasoning in a fun and different way.

According to the Xtranormal website, teachers can:

  • Enhance their lessons with a movie
  • Have students create their own movie
  • Get access to an entire library of characters and sets

The rubric that was used to grade the assignment is below:






The movie is not complete.

The movie has 1 example of logic statements.

The movie has at least 2 examples of logic statements.


The movie is not descriptive.

The movie gives fair examples and explanations of the logic topics.

The movie gives clear examples and explanations of the logic topics.


The work in this movie has many errors.

Most of the work in this movie is correct.

All work in this movie is correct.


Click on the links below to see some sample Logic projects from Mrs. Gross’ class:

Using the ENGAGING Framework, this lesson demonstrates the use of Active Learning and Authentic Assessment.  Students in Mrs. Gross’ class were engaged in an activity that allowed them to demonstrate their knowledge of logic by a performance of understanding.  They participated in creating an authentic video to help them explain the concepts of converse, inverse, and contrapositive.

Making Word Problems Come to Life

Ms. Ruggeri and her Integrated Algebra class transformed a word problem that many students may describe as “boring” or “difficult” into an exciting 30 second movie clip.  The problem on this video is a systems of equations problem that asks students to figure out the cost of one slice of pizza and one cookie.  After a couple students created the video, Ms. Ruggeri showed it to the entire class.  She plans to share the video in her other classes and with her colleagues.  After watching the movie, Ruggeri’s students were better understood what the problem was asking and they were more engaged in the problem solving process than they would have been if they just read it on paper.  Ms. Ruggeri plans to create more math videos with her classes using real world scenarios as a strategy to better engage in mathematics.

Using the ENGAGING Framework, this lesson demonstrates the use of Intelligence Interventions.  Students in Ms. Ruggeri’s class were engaged in an activity that was kinesthetic and visual/spacial.  They participated in creating an authentic video to help them solve complex math problems.


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