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7 Useful Reminders for Math Teachers


7 Useful Reminders for Math Teachers

It’s official. “Back-to-school” season is here and it's time to shift your focus from rest and relaxation to preparation and professional development.

In the coming weeks (or even days), a fresh crop of students will enter your classroom, eager for guidance, structure, and routine.

Are you ready to hit the ground running?

You love teaching math--more than you love Game of ThronesThe Walking Dead, and Adele's new album combined--and you know the material well. Plus, you've got your go-to teaching strategies and lesson plans at hand.

All you have to do now is make some seating charts and photocopies, right?

Well, maybe there's a bit more to it than that.

Whether you’re a first-year math teacher or a seasoned veteran, there are always aspects of being a happy, healthy, and effective educator that are routinely overlooked this time of year.

After surveying hundreds of elementary, middle, and high school math teachers with varying levels of experience, I’ve identified the 7 most useful reminders for starting off a new school year on the right track.

1.) First is Not the Worst

"The most successful classes are those where the teacher has a clear idea of what is expected from the students and the students know what the teacher expects from them." –Harry Wong

You know what they say about first impressions.

It's easy to underestimate the importance of the first day of school. Although it can be chaotic and disorganized, handling it correctly is vital to managing your students' behavior for the entire school year.

Why? The first day of school is your best opportunity to set the tone and establish clear and realistic expectations as well as consequences for failing to meet them.

The keys to effective classroom management are consistency, communication, and clear expectations.

Do you accept late assignments? Do you want to be able to control the voice level of your students?  Do you want them to follow a certain routine?

If you have daily behavior expectations, then you need to view the first day of school as the most important day of school.

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Go Deeper: This video from Teaching Channel shows how teachers can promote equity by allowing students to establish their own rules and behavior expectations on the first day.


2.) Pump the Brakes

"I work with a lot of mathematicians, and one thing I notice about them is that they are not particularly fast with numbers; in fact, some of them are rather slow. This is not a bad thing; they are slow because they think deeply and carefully about mathematics." –Jo Boaler

Learning math is not a race.

Teachers and students rule the speed of learning, not pacing guides.

Math concepts build upon each other and even the smallest gap in the tracks can derail a train. Rushing students through a topic or concept to stay on schedule is unfairly damaging to those who need extra time to think deeply about mathematical concepts.

Of course, there are curriculums that need to be covered, but moving too fast is an easy way to sap your classroom of equity and create a learning environment that only caters to a select few.

It's better to give students the time they need to truly grasp a concept before you move on. Their thinking skills and overall math proficiency will be stronger in the long run, and you'll make a greater and more lasting impact on their education as a result.

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Go Deeper: This video from Teaching Channel shares an example of how teachers can differentiate classroom instruction and optimize instructional time using technology.


3.) Embrace What's Trending

"Do not confine your children to your own learning for they were born in another time." - Hebrew Proverb

Education is evolving.

With so many movements, initiatives, and acronyms being tossed around these days, it’s easy to understand why many teachers have resisted what they perceive as temporary educational trends.

But progressive ideas and technologies are growing in popularity for a reason: because they work! Whether it be flipping your instruction, adding a maker space to your classroom, or incorporating a genius or coding hour into the daily routine, your students will be more enthusiastic, interested, and engaged.

And while you don't have to embrace every new trend, it is important that you are willing to keep up with the times and experiment with new ideas, philosophies, and technology.

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Go Deeper: Initiatives like Girls Who Code share insights and resources for teaching coding skills and closing the gender gap in technology.


4.) Build Your PLN

"T.E.A.M. = Together Everyon Achieves More!"

Teachers can't do it alone.

They need community, inspiration, and support.

Effective teachers have strong personal learning networks (PLNs). They surround themselves with people who will help them to grow as educators.

Social media has revolutionized the way teachers can network. In the past, you could interact only with colleagues who worked in the same building. Platforms like Twitter and Instagram now allow you to network with fellow teachers, content experts, and educational thought leaders from around the world.

Have a question or an idea? Share it with your PLN and see what comes your way. The access to insights and resources that social media provides is truly incredible, so go go ahead and join the conversation.

If you're not using social media for building a strong PLN, then you’re missing out on an opportunity to grow.

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Go Deeper: Building a PLN on Twitter is easier than you think. This guide from MindShift will get you started.


5.) Take More Risks

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”  –Albert Einstein

You know that activity that you’ve always wanted to try?

Remember, the super ambitious one that's miles outside of your comfort zone?

This is the year that you will finally take action.

No excuses.

You can’t grow as an educator if you never push your limits.

In fact, studies suggest that the best teachers aren’t afraid to take risks. If you expect your students to be fearless in learning and to use their mistakes as opportunities for growth, then you should expect the same of yourself.

Use your down time to research your idea, write up the lesson plan now (even if you don't plan on using it for a few months) and share it with your PLN to gain more insights and to hold yourself accountable.

And let your students know that you are experimenting with something new and are looking for feedback. You'll be surprised how willing they are to participate when they know that their input will affect other students in the future.

So, what are you waiting for?

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Go Deeper: Want to bring PokemonGo into your classroom?  Discovery Education recently shared a variety of ways that teachers can use the massively popular app to engage students.


6.) Go With The Tech Flow

"The proper artistic response to digital technology is to
embrace it as a new window on everything that's eternally
human, and to use it with passion, wisdom, fearlessness and joy."  –Ralph Lombreglia

These kids these days and their darn cell phones.

Some teachers love to whine about the immerging role of technology in modern life.

But, if SmartPhones were around in the 80s, then they would've been just as popular then as they are now because modern tech is awesome and has sparked an authentic transformation in education.

Telling students that they can’t use digital devices is like telling teachers they can’t drink coffee.

It’s not happening.

Effective teachers know how to harness their students' energy and redirect it towards pursuing learning objectives. When used correctly, this strategy, in combination with technology use, allows for far-reaching educational opportunities, which is why many schools are adopting a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) culture.

It's time for all teachers to embrace a BYOD culture and provide more opportunities for students to use technology as a tool for pursuing learning outcomes. 

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Go Deeper: According to Wired Magazine, the future of education revolves around BYOD.


7.) Learn to Say "NO"

“It’s only by saying “no” that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.” –Steve Jobs

Vanessa Williams' 1992 hit Save the Best for Last is the appropriate background music for this final reminder, because it's the best advice (and the most difficult to put into practice) for math teachers.

Here's a fact: Effective math teachers are in short supply and students, parents and administrators are masters of (often unfairly) stretching them as thin as humanly possible.

Here's another fact:  You have the right to say “no” to unreasonable requests without feeling guilty.

It's true that teaching is an inherently selfless profession and many teachers view themselves as servants to their students, schools, and communities.

It's also true that healthy students have healthy teachers. If you want to get through the school year with your stamina and sanity intact, then you need to learn to be selfish sometimes.

Your time and energy are valuable. They are also finite resources, so be mindful of how and what you spend them on.

Great teachers, of course, are team players, but you don't have to say yes to every request.

Know your limits and never feel guilty about putting a cap on how far you're willing to extend yourself.

Go Deeper: In this TED Talk, Kenny Nguyen passionately speaks about the power inherent in saying "no."

by Anthony Persico

Anthony is the content crafter and head educator for YouTube's MashUp Math and an advisor to Amazon Education's 'With Math I Can' Campaign. You can often find me happily developing animated math lessons to share on my YouTube channel . Or spending way too much time at the gym or playing on my phone.



7 Steps to Flipping Your Classroom Today


7 Steps to Flipping Your Classroom Today

       As the flipping revolution in education continues to become more mainstream, you may be wondering how you can incorporate this style of instruction into your classroom.

       The flipped model—which is driven by students watching a video lesson for homework and then spending the bulk of class time working on problems and activities—is transforming the role of a teacher in the 21st Century.

        The benefits of the flipped model include more time for activities and collaboration, students being able to work at their own pace, and teachers getting to,well, teach (rather than delivering the same lecture over and over again).

         But, despite the benefits, many teachers view the practice as unachievable in their own classroom.

         The apprehension is understandable. Revolutionizing the way you teach comes with inherent risks and uncertainties that may prevent you from making the flip.

         If you are intrigued by the potential of flipping, but are struggling with the anxiety of taking on the challenge or simply can’t figure out where to start: It’s easier and more doable than you think!

          While the following tips do not encompass every aspect of effectively flipping your classroom, they will help you to overcome some of the fears and start you on the path to shifting the focus in your classroom from teaching to learning!

1.) You're Not Alone

Flipping your classroom can be intimidating and it’s important to remember that you are not in this alone. When you begin to experiment with flipping, let your fellow teachers, administrators, students and their parents know what you are doing and, more importantly, why you decided to do it. People will be more supportive of your endeavor and more accommodating of any missteps if they know that your intention is to create a learning environment that is better suited to meet the unique needs of every student.

2.) Expect Some Resistance

People are afraid of change. You need to prepare yourself for resistance from students and parents who are devoted to traditional models of instruction. Such resistance can be overcome by informing students and parents why you have chosen to implement a flipped model and how it can enrich the educational experience. The first few weeks of flipping may be shaky, but your commitment will pay off in the long run, as early resistors often become ardent supporters once they see concrete results.


3.) Start  Small

Teachers often avoid flipping due to the substantial amount of time, effort, and energy it takes to completely transform all of their materials and lesson plans. For anyone who shares this feeling, here’s some good news: You can start small and flip only one unit or even just one lesson! Think about a unit or concept that is particularly difficult to teach and consider flipping only those lessons. If the experience is positive, then you can continue to flip future units as you move through the school year.

4.) Take Advantage of YouTube

Another source of anxiety for those who are considering flipping their classroom is the demand for creating video content. Many teachers either lack the time or are simply not comfortable with filming and editing video. Luckily, there are tons of high-quality and standard-based video lessons that can be accessed for free on YouTube. Some awesome examples include MashUp MathASAP Science, and National Geographic.

5.) Use Some Tools

As flipped education becomes more conventional, more tech companies are producing apps and software that is specifically designed to make flipping the classroom easier for educators. One particular application, WeVideo, is a simple, yet powerful, platform that allows teachers and students to create engaging educational videos. Adobe Spark is another effective video-creation app. Similar to Microsoft PowerPoint, you can use simple drag-and-drop skills to create captivating video lessons from your desktop computer or mobile phone.


6.) Use Student Feedback

If you're flipping for the first time, then prepare to make mistakes…lots of them! Plan time to debrief with students and to collect feedback. Implementing an experimental model will require frequent course corrections and student feedback will be valuable. Effective flippers have regular debriefing sessions with students to formatively assess their experiences and to dictate future instruction.

7.) Embrace the Challenge

Flipping your classroom will be a challenge and you can count on a few missteps along the way, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth the effort! Remember that flipping your classroom is not about technology; it’s about transforming education and redefining the role of the teacher. Becoming a flipped educator will not diminish your role as an educator--it will enhance it!

And your students will reap the benefits of a superior learning experience, while you may just rediscover your love of teaching at the same time!


By Anthony Persico

Anthony is the content crafter and head educator for YouTube's MashUp Math and an advisor to Amazon Education's 'With Math I Can' Campaign. You can often find me happily developing animated math lessons to share on my YouTube channel . Or spending way too much time at the gym or playing on my phone.



A Teacher's Guide to SnapChat


A Teacher's Guide to SnapChat

     SnapChat is the next big thing in social media. If you are a teacher, then you are probably aware that your students are regular users. And although the dynamic messaging app is most popular with teenagers, its adult user base continues to grow as more people become aware of the platform's potential for creative self-expression.

What is SnapChat?

      SnapChat is a mobile messaging app where users can share images and videos that will self delete after a few seconds of being viewed. Like a casual conversation, there is no lasting record of your interactions. The transient nature of what you share creates an experience that is more authentic and in the moment, which is a large reason why SnapChat has mass appeal.

How do people use SnapChat?

       Short-lived content is not the only feature that separates SnapChat from other social platforms. SnapChat has a "fun factor” that bolsters the user experience. You can add text captions to your photos and even doodle on images before sharing them with friends. Users can also broadcast their “story,” which is a compilation of photos and video clips, within a 24-hour period, that shares your experiences in a “day in the life” format.

Is SnapChat for me? 

      Remember when you first tried using Twitter? The hashtags and foreign lingo were probably quite intimidating. But after a trial period, you gained a feel for its interface and unique style of communication, which led you to becoming a regular user. 

      SnapChat has its own learning curve and grasping the interface will take time, likely even more than Twitter did. But if a teenager can figure it out, then so can you. You can access a helpful step-by-step guide to using SnapChat here.

How is media shared on SnapChat?

      SnapChat is much more than a messaging app. It has become a hub for news and media outlets like Food Network, National Geographic, ESPN, and The Wall Street Journal to share exclusive content via the “discovery” feature.

     Exclusive media content is attracting a growing amount of adult users who are drawn by the platform's potential for customization. This trend is only expected to continue as SnapChat is poised to surpass Twitter in terms of overall popularity as its user base begins to resemble more mature social platforms.


How can teachers use SnapChat?

      As a millennial educator and regular SnapChat user, I have been unable to establish a safe and appropriate way to interact with students using the platform. At least not yet. While it’s true that education and SnapChat have yet to become friends, I have discovered that SnapChat is an awesome place for teachers to express themselves and to find inspiration.

       Here are three ways that you can use SnapChat to broaden your horizons as an educator:

1.) Share Your Story

       Teachers know that there is no such thing as a dull moment. Most people are completely unaware of what a day in the life of a teacher looks like. SnapChat offers an incredible opportunity for a teacher to share her story and to inspire others.

       So go ahead and share that little dance you always do when you finish grading a stack of papers or the excited face you make when writing with a fresh dry-erase board marker. By sharing your personal story, you can connect with and inspire others to support and pursue careers in education. Pretty cool, right?

 2.) Networking

      SnapChat users find inspiration in personal experiences. Like every social media platform, SnapChat has a networking element where users can discover and interact with like-minded people. It is a great place to connect with fellow educators and thought leaders. Consider using SnapChat if you are looking to increase and diversify your personal learning network.

3.) Creative Exploration

      Although SnapChat launched in 2011, the platform is still relatively new and people are still discovering creative ways to use it. Since there is no standard approach to effective storytelling, the potential of SnapChat is dependent on the creativity of its users.

       Many athletes, musicians, and photographers have found creative ways to share their story using SnapChat. Most teachers are immensely creative individuals. I think it’s time that we start using social media to share our message and give educational advocacy a louder voice.

      When it comes to telling a teacher's story, SnapChat may be your best tool.


by Anthony Persico

Anthony is the content crafter and head educator for MashUp Math. You can often find me happily developing animated math lessons to share on my YouTube channel. Or spending way too much time at the gym or playing on my phone.


5 Tips for Teachers Starting a YouTube Channel


5 Tips for Teachers Starting a YouTube Channel

Imagine if your students could revisit any class lesson online and on demand.

Imagine if your students could revisit any class lesson online and on demand.

Are you a teacher looking to start your own YouTube channel to share your lessons with students inside and outside of the classroom?     

Our students have always had access to the internet and they use it as their go-to-source for finding answers to whatever question may pop into their heads. For a teacher, competing with a vast sea of content and sources of information can seem intimidating. However, never forget the incredible advantage that you hold when it comes to your students—they have a real human relationship with you and they trust you. 

     While many teachers have their own websites, blogs, and twitter accounts, they miss the mark by not providing video content in the form of filmed lessons, webinars, and other eLearning opportunities. The benefits of sharing instructional video lessons that reflect you and your classroom are many. A student can return to class from an absence completely caught up after watching the lessons online while she was at home. Another student who is stuck on a homework problem can revisit the lesson from earlier in the school day. While yet another student can watch a lesson from the week prior to assist him while studying for tomorrow’s exam.

Online video lessons allow an absent student to learn from home.

Online video lessons allow an absent student to learn from home.

I get it: having an online presence sounds great, but what teacher has the time for creating videos and running a YouTube channel? This concern is fair, but following these 5 time-saving steps will allow you to reap the benefits of sharing video content with your students without consuming large amounts of your time, energy, or money:

1.) Use YouTube

YouTube is by far the most popular online video-sharing network. It is easy to use and I guarantee that every one of your students is a routine visitor. In fact, a recent study showed that 74% of teens prefer YouTube over FaceBook and Twitter. Students should be encouraged to subscribe to your channel, but they can still view the lessons even if they are not. YouTube videos are easily shared via email and can be embedded within your personal teacher website. The only thing that you will need to create your own channel is a Gmail account, which is free.

2.) Use Your SmartPhone

    Want some good news? You already own the most important piece of equipment required for creating educational video content. The video camera on your SmartPhone is more than capable of filming in crystal clear HD. If you want to go the extra mile, you can play around with editing apps like Magisto or Cinefy, but that is only if you want to add some production value to your lessons.

3.) Invest in a Decent Microphone

      This tip is more of a strong suggestion than it is a requirement, but there is something to be said for good sound quality. You can get a suitable microphone on Amazon for under $100. If you plan on filming yourself, while you are teaching in front of the class, then a small, wearable lab microphone like the Rode SmartLav+ is what you will want to use to ensure that your lessons have clear audio. I use this microphone when filming the introductions to all of of the MashUp Math YouTube lessons. Before purchasing a microphone, reach out to your school's library or technology department. You may get lucky and be able to borrow sound equipment.


You were going to teach the lesson anyway, so why not record it and put in online?

4.) You Don’t Have to be the Next Spielberg

     The best approach to educational video content is to film yourself while teaching a lesson. You were going to teach the lesson anyway, so why not record it and put it online? By recording a lesson, it lives on forever and students can revisit it on demand! All that you have to do is set up your SmartPhone camera to record while you teach.  Once you have the footage, you can edit out unwanted segments using a basic app, like iMovie, and then upload the finished product directly to YouTube.

5.) Consider Flipping Your Classroom

     Once you have an online library of video lessons, you may want to consider flipping your classroom, which is a reversal of the traditional teaching model. In a nutshell, students watch the lesson online for homework and work on applying the material while they are in school. Under this model, the teacher becomes less of a dispenser of information and more of a facilitator. Having the ability to embrace this progressive model is one of the greatest benefits of starting your own educational YouTube channel and can lead to a complete transformation of your everyday interactions with students. More information about the flipped learning model can be found here.

     With these five steps in mind, you are on your way to creating an awesome YouTube channel for the benefit of your students! 

Tags: flipped learning, blended learning, elearning, edtech, common core, youtube, education


by Anthony Persico

Anthony Persico is the content crafter and head educator for MashUp Math. You can often find me happily developing animated math lessons to share on my YouTube channel . Or spending way too much time at the gym or playing on my phone.


Social Media in Education: Using Instagram with Your Students


Social Media in Education: Using Instagram with Your Students

Social Media in Education: Using Instagram with Your Students

Is there a place for social media in education?

Most teachers hold a firm stance against interacting with students on social media. With the incredible influence that online social networks have on all of our lives, are we making a mistake by erring on the side of caution and not connecting with our students online?

Be sure to get permission from your school's administration before starting an Instagram account for your classroom.

Be sure to get permission from your school's administration before starting an Instagram account for your classroom.

 Any teacher with a desire to keep his job knows the importance of shielding his personal social accounts from students. We all share the fears of having our private lives exposed and choose to simply avoid communicating with students online, but before teachers consider this practice to be off-limits, I want to introduce you to a safe approach to using Instagram as an online platform for connecting students and strengthening your classroom community.

Recent studies show that more than 52% of teens choose Instagram as their go-to social media outlet. If you teach teenage students, then you are teaching avid users of the image-driven social platform, which now boasts over 400 million members. Instagram has become a powerful tool for connecting people via photography and graphic designs and images.

Unfortunately, teachers have been slow to adopt Instagram as a tool for connecting with students. Many teachers are unaware of the potential benefits of establishing a social community for their classroom, while others are unsure of where to start. These 7 tips will help you to get over any potential fears and to establish a safe and transparent online student community using Instagram:

1.)   Get Approval and Be Transparent:

Before you even consider creating an instagram account as an online community for your students, get approval from your school’s administration first. Every district has a specific social media policy, which you will have to abide by. Since this account is for educational purposes, you should share the Instagram website url with administrators and parents as well as on your teacher website.

2.)   Create an Account That is Specific to Your Classroom

Keeping your username professional and your account public allows easy access for students, parents, and administrators.

Keeping your username professional and your account public allows easy access for students, parents, and administrators.

Once you get the green light from administration, it’s time to create a new Instagram account that is used exclusively for education purposes. The username that you choose should be professional and simple. A handle like @MrJohnsonsMathClass communicates the educational nature of the page and is easy for students and parents to find. Remember that this account is an extension of you and your classroom so keep it professional. It is also recommended that you keep your page public so that users and non-users of instagram can access it from a mobile device or PC.

 3.)   Following: 0

The purpose of this account is to share educational posts with students and to moderate discussions. You can encourage your students to follow your page (they can still interact with your posts even if they are not followers), but forbear following any students back. The only place where you will interact with students is in the comments section of your posts.

4.) Keep Your Posts Simple and Use Captions

You don’t have to be a professional photographer or a graphic designer to post on Instagram. Simple images like a photograph of the homework assignment written on a white-board or a screen shot from a website will work fine. 

5.) Use #CustomHashtags

Your Instagram page will be a place where students can find informative posts and reminders as well as ask each other questions. Using a custom hashtag, like #MrsDeSotoAlgebra2 will make your posts searchable by class and allow students to contribute posts as well.

In the role of a moderator, a teacher can gently guide a discussion in a way that lets students draw their own conclusions.

In the role of a moderator, a teacher can gently guide a discussion in a way that lets students draw their own conclusions.

6.) Be A Moderator

My favorite aspect of using Instagram with students is having the hands-off role of the moderator. You will have to choose what your role will be, but it can be pretty awesome to sit back and watch your students answering each other’s questions and explaining their thinking. As the teacher, you can add a guiding question or thought to steer discussions where you want them to go.

7.) Teach Digital Citizenship

Never assume that your students know how to appropriately interact online. Set aside some class time to discuss ways to be a responsible digital citizen. This process will be a little shaky in the beginning, but students will quickly get the hang of communicating with each other and expressing themselves in an appropriate way. Be sure that you  model desired behavior and communicate clear expectations and consequences with students before you start.

With these 7 tips in mind, now may be the perfect time to flip the script on how we think about interacting with our students on social media. 

Tags: social media, education, instagram, elearning, online learning, community, edtech 


By Anthony Persico

Anthony Persico is the content crafter and head educator for MashUp Math. You can often find me happily developing animated math lessons to share on my YouTube channel . Or spending way too much time at the gym or playing on my phone.