Add Some Mystery to your Quadrilateral Coordinate Geometry

A couple of years ago I created a great writing assignment for Geometry classes dealing with identifying quadrilaterals by their coordinates and quadrilateral properties. Most geometry teachers will agree that students need to be able to identify a quadrilateral using the various properties they discover in class. Most would also agree that reading the same writing assignment 60 to 100 times could be really boring. So I created a writing assignment in which the students were allowed to be very creative.
In this assignment students are given two to three sets of coordinates to different quadrilaterals. Students have to do out the math work to decide which of the quadrilaterals they have been given. Once they have figured out their quadrilateral classifications they must then write about the process. The catch is in the writing. The activity is presented as mystery in which the police find scraps of paper with the quadrilateral coordinates on them. Students then write about identifying the quadrilaterals and finish the story of what happened in the crime.
I have found that students really love the ability to be creative in math class. Students still come back to me talking about how this activity was their favorite of the year. I have copies of this activity, complete with rubrics, directions, and fifteen quadrilateral coordinates in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. If you interested, take a look.

Google Docs and Math Class

It has been a little while since my last blog post, but I am back after being reenergized by another CMTC. Over the summer something great happened in the Hudson School District. The district finally decided to apply for a Google Apps for Education account. This has really opened up some new opportunities for the students and teachers in our district. The biggest problem I am faced with once again is how to incorporate this new set of tools into math class and still meet my curriculum standards as well as challenge the students to think at a higher level.

1.)  Google Presentation – The first way I decided to use this new suite of tools was in my accelerated 8th grade math class. One of the biggest problems I always have is how to get the students to really know and understand how the vocabulary in geometry relates to the world. In order to address this problem I decided to have the students create A to Z vocabulary books in which they had to incorporate a geometry term for each letter of the alphabet, define the word, and find a picture or graphic that demonstrates an actual application of the term. Some letters were a little tricky, but the kids really rose to the occasion. Seeing what a great job they did made me want to do one extra thing. When all the students were done with the project I had them take the Google presentations and turn them into individual pictures. They then uploaded them to Animoto on my free educator accounts to add some great motion and music. Take a look at their final products at


2.)   Google Docs – Since my class is made up of accelerated students, I want them to be constantly thinking math, so I have recently started requiring a weekly math journal. I want the students to start writing and thinking about the math they are learning. In this journal they must answer two items each week. They must first tell me one thing they found interesting or that they were excited about learning during the week. The second thing they must tell me is about one thing they still are having trouble with after the week is over. I have found this a great forum to help differentiate my help. I am able to use the comment function to have a personal conversation with each of my students. I have found that students are more willing to ask me questions in this forum and that it gives me direction on where to go with my class instruction.

Another teacher in my department also uses Google Docs to have the students turn in Math Journals.  The difference in the math journal concept in her classroom is that she poses a mathematical problem and the students use the journal concept to write out how they solved the problem.  In several instances the teacher found herself reading the students’ journals online at the same time the student or students were working on their responses.  In each case she was able to use the discussion tool to redirect their though processes or to congratulate them on their work.  In this case Google Docs gave the students instant feedback in order for them to correct and rethink their responses.

3.)  Google Forms – I have also found a couple ways to use Google Forms. I first used it to gather information about my students on the first day of school. It has been a great way to know how to focus my word problem topics. I am also now using forms to collect my students Khan Academy practice time. The students simply enter their time and score every time they use Khan Academy to help me collect information.


4.)  Google Spreadsheets – Along with the fact that mathematical statistics can be turned into great graphical representations, Google Spreadsheets offers the ability to insert Google Gadgets.  There are two gadgets that I believe will have a great impact in my math classes.


  1. The first gadget is the Google flash card gadget.  By inserting this gadget students can create flashcards of mathematical vocabulary or mathematical formulas.  They can then use the flashcard gadget as a great way to study.  The flash cards gadget takes the spreadsheet created words, formulas, and definitions and mixes them up so that the student can match the appropriate word to the definition.
  2. The second gadget that is think will make an impact in my class is the Google Fusion Charts.  These charts add animation to the typical 2D graphs that can be created with the spreadsheet function.  These Fusion Charts would lend themselves to use in my future infographic project.


5.)  Google Drawing – This Google application lends itself well to the creation of student generated infographics.  Students can use data and charts created in Google Spreadsheets along with summary statements written in Google Docs to create an eye-appealing visual representation of various data to demonstrate their understanding of Statistical mathematics concepts as they relate to various topics.


6.)  G-mail Accounts – Along with the great apps mentioned previously, Google Apps provides every student an e-mail address.  The biggest benefit to this address is the ability to use and record analytics on student performance using the Khan Academy Practice site.  Students can log-in using their G-mail accounts and work at their own pace through the math practice exercises.  Teachers, as the students’ coaches, can then use the analytics to monitor the students’ progress through the pathways and identify areas of instructional need on an individual basis.


I am currently looking at more ways to use Google in my classes and would love to hear from anyone who may have had success with another implementation of Google Apps in math class.

Glogster; A Great Tool for the Math Classroom

Recently, I began using Glogster in my math classes for poster projects.  Glogster is an interactive poster program located at  .   After years of being asked the question of when a student was ever going to use the math that they were being taught, I took a proactive approach at the beginning of the school year.  Prior to introducing the many concepts being taught in Algebra class through the real-life world problems, I created a project that asked the students to use the internet to research the topics they were learning and where they would be used.  In years past, students would answer this question in our class blog.  They would go out onto the internet to research why they were learning different skills.  This year, I decided to take a completely different path by turning this project into a poster.  I learned of Glogster at the 2009 Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in Nashua, NH.  I had spent time toying around with Glogster’s different functions and finally decided to jump into using it with my students.

In order to get my students oriented to the program, I brought them to the computer lab to lead them through the log-in process.  I then went through how to add graphics, text, and video to the poster.  After the quick introduction to the program, the students were allowed to play around with the different things that Glogster could do.  It didn’t take them long to find the various text boxes, Glogster images, and school tube videos they could add.  By the end of the forty-five minutes, the students had pretty much mastered the basics of the new program.  I then gave them the time during class the next day to go out on the internet to research the assignment and begin compiling their glogs.

The first thing I noticed in this activity is that there were absolutely no complaints about doing the project.  The second thing I noticed is that the kids were very excited about using this new technology.  I heard comments about how cool it was that they were using Glogster to create posters.  Several students commented how the posters were much better than normal paper posters because they were interactive.  Glogster has many images that include motion.  Glogster’s ability to allow the use of music and video also set it apart from the normal poster.  Another great thing about Glogster is its ability to allow students to hyperlink a topic directly to its source on the internet.  This ability to hyperlink made in project citations unnecessary.

After the two days in the computer lab, I gave the students an additional week to complete the assignment.  They came up with some great projects.  There were still a few things that could have been better; but, being that it was their first time that they had ever used the program, they rose to the challenge.

For those that are looking for a new way to spark student interest, I highly recommend using Glogster.  Glogster could be used for several math topics including: researching a mathematician, connecting various contents, projects investigating various statistical graphs, a way to present information from a statistical survey in various forms, a study of photographs that include geometric elements such as the golden ratio, student presentations on mathematical concepts, and explanations of how the world would be different without numbers or fractions.  I plan on using it to help my students demonstrate their quantitative literacy by giving each student a challenging word problem that they can use the interactive posters to explain.   Any project that you could have a student do in poster form could be done using Glogster.   All of these great projects can be given new life in this web 2.0 environment that give students new interest in mathematics.   

If that isn’t enough for you to look at Glogster as an idea to bring posters into the 21st century then I give you one more reason.  We as educators, math teachers included, have now been given a much larger responsibility.  We are charged with exposing our students to the new Web 2.0 tools that they will be asked to use when they reach the work world.  Web 2.0 is not going away anytime soon and in fact employers are now looking for individuals that can easily learn and adapt to the quickly changing technologies all around them.  If we do not expose our students to these new technologies and role model their good use then we are not creating students that have the skills required to be successful in the world of tomorrow.  Using Glogster may not make all students successful in their futures, but it will at least give them a taste of the new technologies tools that they may use or even create someday.

Here are a few examples of my students work.  Take a look at what the students did on their first time using this Web 2.0 tool and you should be able to see the great potential for this tool.