Mastery Day – MEL3E Day 7

Today was our first Mastery day. It’s a day where the students get a chance to improve on their skills. In their previous math classes it’s most likely that when they had a test or assignment their teacher marked it and then that mark went in their gradebook and it stayed there all year. So that’s great if I aced that assignment. Not so great if I did poorly on that assignment. Especially in this course, ideas and skills carry forward (and backward) from strand to strand. So…our mastery days are designed so that a student can choose an area of the course that they feel they need to improve upon….and then if they show me improvement I go to my gradebook and update their grade.

This means that our gradebooks change from recording test marks……to recording their progress/knowledge level on the specific expectations of the course (Check out Standards Based Grading in math here, here, and here).

For out first mastery day we had some setup to do. I am trying a new tool (for me) called FreshGrade. It’s an online student portfolio tool that also has a gradebook!!!!  What drew me to this is the ability to choose a variety of different marking setups. I had my eye on setting up a marking scheme that doesn’t show the students a grade. It shows them bench marks like Approaching the expectation, Meets the expectations, Exceeds the Expectation! 

I find that most students in MEL3E are aiming for a pass……traditionally these students stop as soon as they get a grade back from the teacher! That means the learning stops! The improvement stops. And I don’t want that. So….I hold back the number grade and ask them to “make it better”. And when they may have normally packed it in on that skill….they find themselves earning marks better than they expected. I want my students to improve upon all their learning all year. I don’t want the learning to stop just because we had an assessment on it.

For the first half of the mastery day the students logged into their FreshGrade accounts. I gave a demo on what they will see in their “activity feed” on their devices.

Each “box” shows an activity that I created (my activities are the learning goals/expectations/standards for the course). They can see their current progress on that expectation under the heading “Assessment”. When they click on the “More” link they see the curriculum expectation and resources that can help them work at improvement on that expectation.

On the What’s The Best Deal expectation I included links to a few practice problems for students to try. They open them up, complete the problems, or seek help on them and if I see improvement then I go and change their progress. Today my students accessed those new questions and did their work on their desks. They took a picture of it and hit the upload button and BAAAM! we’ve got a record of their work. The students get to build their very own math portfolio!

And the beauty of the mastery day is that their learning/improvement is differentiated. Each student decides where they want to improve. If they are meeting expectations on one standard and not another….they can go and choose to upgrade that other standard. As we move through the course more and more curriculum expectations will show up in their feed which means they will get more to choose from. Students can upload work on these expectations anytime. When they do upload I get a notification to my iPad/phone showing the new work. I can assess that work right away give them either written or audio feedback and change their mark immediately!

Here is a look at the teacher side from the website:


I see a colour coding of the classes progress. From this page I can click on a student and update their grade and then immediately update another student’s grade.

During the last 25 minutes of class I got them to complete their first quiz. It was 4 questions. I’ve sectioned off parts of the paper so I can give them feedback on what they need to fix. Everything is always fixable. Once they correct their work I’ll record their grade/progress in FreshGrade.

Since today was the first mastery day….a good chunk of time was spent setting all this up most students didn’t finish the quiz… tomorrow we’ll repeat this all over again.

This is the first semester I’ll be trying FreshGrade….so we’ll see how it goes. Anyone have tips on FreshGrade? The previous 3 semesters I was using “The Spreadsheet” that myself, Kyle Pearce, and a few others modified for mastery days. Freshgrade allows me to do similar things easier. What I’m a little worried about is when that list of curriculum expectations grow…..the first few will get buried in the feed. Think of your Facebook feed. Scrolling back to a post you saw yesterday is even impossible. I’m hoping those first few won’t get forgot about because they are so far down in the feed.

More tomorrow!



Distance-Time Graphs – Gallery Walk

The last few semesters I ran this two-day lesson on distance-time graphs. Today I added a new twist on Day 2.

Recap: Day 1 – A few prediction videos on water height in a cup vs. time. Then WATERLINE by Desmos!

Day 2:  Today

Warm Up – We reviewed the previous day’s work by choosing one of the cups from the picture and drawing a water-height vs. time graph.

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Not surprisingly, no students chose to draw the graph for the Stanley Cup. After they make their sketches we dove into using the CBR Rangers from Vernier just like on Day 2 from the previous post. They walked in front of the Ranger taking various different walks and we all saw their distance-time graphs in real-time. For each walk the students made prediction graphs on their whiteboards before seeing the live graph.

I wanted more predictions from them so I showed them a video I made. They were to watch the video and make a prediction graph of my distance away from the camera vs. time.

After take up of this graph they were to create their own video on the iPads. Each pair of students we’re given a scenario to film that described motion.

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Here are two motion videos they filmed: Very basic to start!

They had to create their distance-time graph and hide it under the flap on the vertical whiteboards.

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Pairs then went on a gallery walk. They watched each student made video, graphed the matching distance-time graph and then checked the answer under the flap.

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Kids enjoyed it and they practiced lots of different distance-time graphs.

Thanks for reading!!!


Help us Make the Awesome Assessment Tool We All Need!

Our semester is now half over and the use of our spreadsheet and mastery learning has been amazing. I didn’t think that the spreadsheet system Kyle and I created back in January,  based on Alice Keeler’s Google Sheet’s and Gamifying the classroom, would have had this much of an impact on student learning. But it did!

We want to take our Assessment spreadsheet for growth learning to the next level!

Students are empowered! They are taking learning into their own hands. They can see on their student view each learning goal (expectation) and their achievement on that goal. They have specific feedback on what to do next! They can access the customized questions based on their skill level and improve! More than before they can see exactly what to do next to get better. Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 4.20.29 PMHowever, we know that the Master View of the spreadsheet looks intimidating to set up and edit. Screen Shot 2015-04-16 at 4.34.56 PM We have shared this spreadsheet with many educators from all different subjects, and we get the same response “This looks awesome! but…’s scary ….what if I delete a cell here or there by accident? Would it mess it all up?”

Answer: It could!

We love this tool….we want to make it better and so much easier to use. That’s where we need help!

We are just regular’ ol’ math teachers.

We imagine this on the web.

We need the help of web programmers.

In the web version:

Students, parents, can log in access and view their achievement. Share it even! A place to capture their learning!

Teachers can log in, track marks, provide feedback, award mastery badges, give next steps, reveal new questions for mastery, point to extra help resources all in one place. They could capture and store student work. Teachers could share learning goals (even whole courses) and the activities/resources they have with other teacher users.

So many tools are out there for assessment. None of them are a complete system. This one is!

We have so many ideas on where this could go….but we are stuck. We need it to be more user friendly.

Please share this out! If you know of anyone who wants to partner up, share our passion and help make this happen as much as we do….show this post to them!

Kyle over on Tap Into Teen Minds has also written a post. Go on over there are read his too!

If you yourself are interested in partnering up with us fill out the form below Let’s make that assessment tool we ALL Need!

Interested in learning how we assess these days?

Learn how to assess for growth through our self-paced online assessment course for math educators.

Using iPads and Explain Everything to “sort” through the Quadratic Formula

Grade 10’s today will use our iPads to sort through some solutions to quadratic equations. For each equation, the solution has been cut up and scattered. The grade 10’s will have to re organize the solutions in the correct order. The progression of the different problems will lead towards re-organizing the steps involved in developing the quadratic formula. Below are a couple screen shots of the sorting slides. All sorting and re-organizing is done in the iPad app Explain Everything. Download the Sorting File.