6 apps to build algebra skills

These algebra tools could become students’ go-to resources

algebra-skillsMany students begin school with a love of math, but stumble when they reach algebra. With the increasing prevalence of mobile learning, though, on-demand apps and resources can help students stay on top of their algebra lessons.

Here, we’ve gathered a handful of algebra apps summarized on APPitic.com, an app resource site with more than 6,000 apps in more than 300 subcategories.

[Editor’s note: eSchool News has not reviewed these apps, which were originally curated by Apple Distinguished Educators, but has selected some that may help you meet your instructional needs.]

1. Factor Race, $0.99
Begin at the starting gate with a race car. Move around the track to the finish line as you factor equations correctly. When you complete each level you earn a better race car. Ready, Get it correct, Zoooooommmm!

Factor Race is a game where the player must identify the binomial factors of trinomial equations For example, factoring x2+x-2 into (x-1)(x+2). The game uses logic to develop cognitive math skills. The touch mechanic of the game engages children in a hand-on learning process, implementing kinesthetic learning. The game incorporates mathematical problems attuned to binomial and trinomial factoring, based upon problems from textbook materials.

(Next page: Five more algebra apps)

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5 tips to create strong learning environments with iPads

These tips could help educators reach optimal iPad integration

iPads-classroomEdTechTeacher’s first iPad Summit was held in Boston in November 2012, and one of the first magazine articles that came out about our the event was: “The iPads in Education Conference That’s Not About iPads.” We loved the title. We will admit it; the title of the iPad Summit was a trick to get people who think they are interested in iPads to get really interested in great teaching and learning, which takes advantage of iPads.

Three years ago, we started seeing schools and districts making major investments in iPads, and we started hearing those same schools ask for help to support teachers as they incorporated these new devices into their classrooms. Those early adopters have been joined by other schools at an incredibly rapid pace, and for these last three years we have studied the practices of the best early adopters and have examined their successes and challenges.

One conclusion we’ve drawn is that there are no must-have apps for every classroom. Every conversation about technology needs to start with the question: “What do you want your kids to be able to do when they leave your classroom, your grade, your building, or your district? What do you care most about? How might technology help you do what you care most about even better?”

(Next page: Five guiding iPad principles)

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11 coding resources for the Hour of Code

As December’s Hour of Code approaches, coding skills are in the spotlight

coding-resourcesComputer science skills are becoming more and more important to success in today’s economy, and this importance is highlighted during the annual Hour of Code. A number of resources on Code.org and other sites can help students of all ages and skill levels develop coding skills.

The Hour of Code, which can occur at any time during Computer Science Education Week (Dec. 8-14), is a one-hour coding activity during which students choose from self-guided tutorials that work on browsers, smartphones, tablets, or even work without computers at all.

Last year, more than 15 million students in 170 countries participated in the Hour of Code, and Code.org hopes to get 100 million students coding during this year’s Computer Science Education Week. In fact, more girls tried computer science in those seven days than in the entire 70 years prior to the event, said Kiki Prottsman, executive director of Thinkersmith, during an edWeb webinar highlighting Hour of Code coding resources and activities.

(Next page: Coding resources for students of all ages)

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PBS launches math series for kids in ‘Odd Squad’

Math problems get animated, more engaging in new series

PBS-mathConsider this math problem: PBS leaves the train station headed west under a full head of steam to find a new series to teach math to youngsters. Tim McKeon and Adam Peltzman leave a train station at top speed headed east with an idea for a show that features an agency run by kids who use math to deal with oddities in their home town.

What is the sum when they meet?

The answer can be seen Wed., Nov. 26, when “Odd Squad” joins the PBS morning lineup. The quirky live-action series follows two young government agents who use math skills and collaboration to investigate weird and unusual phenomena.

McKeon, who sidesteps a question about his own math abilities when he was younger, explains the primary factor that went into making the show was to teach that math doesn’t have to be boring.

(Next page: Boosting kids’ math confidence)

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Teach your students the right way to Google

In the age of the split-second Google search, it’s more critical than ever to train students to distinguish between primary and secondary sources

google-proAs in decades past, proper research methods are an essential skill for today’s students. At a time when most students (and adults, for that matter) are accustomed to heading straight to Google to answer all of their questions, being able to sagely sift through the good, the bad, and the ugly of search results is key to creating independent 21st century thinkers.

However, even when used properly, Google is not always the right resource. On its website, the Kentucky Virtual Library provides a detailed, student-friendly interactive map of the research process, called “How To Do Research,” which spells out the steps for making the most of the research process, from planning to searching to taking notes and ultimately using gathered information effectively. Many educators like the map because it doesn’t focus exclusively on web research, but instead provides a broader list of tools—think library catalogs and reputable magazines—that can be just as helpful for students.

Learn how to search

Print resources undoubtedly still have a place at the table, but it would be futile to deny that the ability to locate and evaluate online sources is an equally valuable skill. Do your students know how to find and refine effective search terms? Do they know how to filter results using advanced search options? To that end, Google’s Search Education site offers a plethora of beginner, intermediate, and advanced search lesson plans related to picking the right terms, understanding results, narrowing a search, searching for evidence for research tasks, and evaluating the credibility of sources.

(Next page: How students can improve their Google skills)

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Obama praises educators’ efforts to end digital divide

Educators work to eliminate challenges to digital access and opportunity

digital-dividePresident Barack Obama recognized school superintendents from across the country on Nov. 20 whose efforts to expand classroom technology means it no longer takes 20 minutes for a student in rural Alaska to log onto the internet and that one in a poor district in California can get Wi-Fi near home.

About 110 school leaders attended the National Connected Superintendents Summit on digital learning. The event was part of the administration’s five-year plan, ConnectED, to have 99 percent of the nation’s students connected to high-speed broadband internet in their schools and libraries.

Less than 40 percent of public schools have high-speed internet.

“There is no greater gap right now than the digital gap, and if we close that gap then we have the potential to level the playing field for students like nothing we’ve seen before,” Alberto Carvalho, superintendent of Miami-Dade County Public Schools, said in remarks to introduce the president. “This is a game changer.”

(Next page: How educators approach the digital divide)

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Study reveals steps to kindergarten prep

Self-regulation intervention boosts school readiness of at-risk children

early-kindergarten

Researcher Sara Schmitt working with a child. Courtesy of Oregon State University.

An intervention that uses music and games to help preschoolers learn self-regulation skills is helping prepare at-risk children for kindergarten, a new study from Oregon State University shows.

Self-regulation skills–the skills that help children pay attention, follow directions, stay on task and persist through difficulty–are critical to a child’s success in kindergarten and beyond, said OSU’s Megan McClelland, a nationally recognized expert in child development and a co-author of the new study.

“Most children do just fine in the transition to kindergarten, but 20 to 25 percent of them experience difficulties–those difficulties have a lot to do with self-regulation,” McClelland said. “Any intervention you can develop to make that transition easier can be beneficial.”

(Next page: More details from the study)

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App of the Week: Preschool math with monkeys

math-appApp name: My First 10monkeys Math App

What is it? Adventurous ten monkeys have boarded a space vessel and are exploring a galaxy far, far away. Join the monkeys in their journey and help them solve math problems to keep their space ship fueled up for their new explorations!

Best for: Children ages 5 and younger

Price: $2.99

Requirements: iOS 6.0 or later; Android 4.1 and up

Features: My First 10monkeys Math App is a perfect way to start exploring the exciting world of math. In this game, the child will learn and further develop their math skills, including counting, geometry, comparisons, number recognition and measuring, to name a few.

The game world is divided into seven mini-games, which are quick and easy to play. All the games are free to explore and fun to play over and over again. The game is targeted for early learners and beyond, and it is designed according to best practices of the PISA-awarded Finnish math education.

Link: http://www.10monkeys.com/us/myfirstapp.html

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edX joins ConnectED efforts with PD courses for teachers

Partnership offers courses to help teachers use tech in more empowered ways

edX-ConnectEDAnswering President Obama’s call to help schools embrace technology and digital learning in U.S. classrooms, edX will offer professional development courses for teachers.

As part of ConnectEd, edX partner universities and colleges will offer teacher professional development courses, along with courses to prepare students for AP exams.

“EdX and our university partners are pleased to stand with President Obama to offer U.S. teachers and school districts free, innovative resources to improve teaching and learning outcomes,” said Anant Agarwal, edX CEO. “These courses will empower teachers to use technology in the classroom in creative and personalized ways.”

(Next page: What the partnership will entail)

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10 steps to promoting diversity in gaming

Game and instructional designers give advice for how educators should incorporate gaming

diversity-gaming-educationUsing games and designing games for education is not all, well, fun and games, say experts. In fact, the key to successfully using games for education is in promoting a diverse “ecosystem” of gameplay complete with codes of conduct.

In part one of this story, “#Gamergate—and what it means for gaming in education,” which discussed the cultural context of Gamergate and how it applies to education, MIT’s Education Arcade emphasized that “the key to fashioning the gaming world as a safe place for women and others is not necessarily censorship or making all games appeal to all potential players, but rather to create an ecosystem of games designed to appeal to players of different play styles, values, and backgrounds,” and nowhere is this ecosystem more important than education.

“Games are one of the best learning mediums in education because it forces the learner to interact with information,” explained Sherry Jones—a Philosophy, Rhetoric, and Game Studies instructor at the University of Colorado, Denver, as well as game studies facilitator for the Metagame Book Club at ISTE’s Games & Simulations Network.

Nicole Lazzaro, a psychology and computer programming graduate of Stanford University, president and founder of XEODesign, Inc., and one of Gamasutra’s ‘Top 20 Women Working in Video Games,’ echoed Jones’ belief, saying that all games are, at their foundation, educational.

“All games teach, so education should be built into the game mechanic: you master the game, you master the content,” she emphasized. “Play is where we invent our future selves, so learning is a natural result of most game design.”

However, though games are in themselves educational, Jones said that educators do have a responsibility to implement and design games that provide MIT’s suggested ecosystem of game play diversity.

According to these experts, here are 10 steps educators should take in promoting diversity and equal rights when using and designing games for learning:

When using games:

1. Play the game yourself: “Educators need to play the game first to know what portions are appropriate for students and whether or not the game aligns to the course’s goals,” said Kae Novak, an instructional designer for online learning at Front Range Community College and chair of ISTE’s Special Interest Group for Virtual Environments. [Read “Should every educator also be a gamer?”]

(Next page: Tips for using and creating games 2-10)

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