These are “accessible” math tasks for all students

Low-entry, high-exit math tasks that keep every student engaged are great at keeping students interested in STEM and involving all learners in the classroom.

Math can be made accessible to all students using lessons that start at a low level and finish at a much higher level.

Teachers can provide different kinds of math tasks on a monthly, weekly and daily basis for varied levels of challenges for their students, including those who struggle. In “Low-Entry, High-Exit Math Tasks that Keep Every Student Engaged,” Arjan Khalsa, CEO of Conceptua Math, discussed the kinds of lessons that can be used to challenge and engage all students.

Math Task: The Three-Act Task

A three-act task is a group exercise consisting of three videos or pictures. Throughout the three acts of the exercise, students use skills such as:

  • thinking
  • wondering
  • noticing
  • estimating
  • arriving at compelling objectives
  • using mathematical strategies
  • reflecting on solutions and estimates

“(Estimating) in and of itself is a low-entry, high-exit strategy because it doesn’t ask your students to be precise to begin with, it asks them to be thoughtful,” said Khalsa. He also suggested the three-act task be a curated activity done once in a while, such as once a month, and for about an hour to forty minutes with the class.

Teachers can use a three-part, real-world investigation system once a week as a low-entry, high-exit math task to get their class comfortable with exploring data. In part one of this task, the teacher provides all data while the students must solve problems like finding the total and mode. In part two, the exercise is repeated except half of the data is provided by the teacher and the other half by the students. In part three, the students provide all of the data; they must work together to collect all the numbers and explore the data.

Teachers can do this exercise in their class using many themes, like cafeteria seating, spending on school supplies, or school attendance calculations.

Math Task: Questioning and Journaling

Questioning strategies can be done every day, and can be opened with a question that has varied, interesting, and accessible answers. For an example, using a picture of two fraction models, “What do the models show?”

Khalsa noted that the high exit can be within your questioning strategy, but he also likes to use journaling as an exit. During a three to five minute journaling session, students can make connections and reveal their thinking on their problem-solving strategies.

“Low entry, high exit is where students get engaged. They realize, ‘math is just something I do, and I love it because my teacher makes it work for me every day,’” said Khalsa.

About the Presenter

Over the past 35 years, Arjan Khalsa has been a pioneer in educational technology, curriculum development, and research. Khalsa is a passionate public speaker whose primary goal is to uplift teachers by sharing the latest research-proven strategies that lead to joyful results in the classroom. His work has focused in mathematics, science, and special education. As the CEO of Conceptua Math, Khalsa works closely with administrators in large school districts, understanding and helping to address their needs and challenges. He also works as a coach in classrooms around the country and as a volunteer teacher trainer for schools in Latin America.

Join the Community

Building Understanding in Mathematics is a free professional learning community that provides a platform, advice and support in helping educators learn methods that help students build understanding in mathematics.

This broadcast was hosted by and sponsored by Conceptua Math.

The recording of the edWebinar can be viewed by anyone here.

[Editor’s note: This piece is original content produced by View more events here.]


5 ways to apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to edtech for better outcomes

As schools look to modernize teaching and personalize learning, a student-centered approach to implementations through Maslow's theory could lead to better outcomes.

According to American psychologist Abraham Maslow, all humans have the same fundamental needs (food, clothing and shelter), and these needs must be met before an individual is motivated to look beyond these basic needs. This motivational theory is commonly referred to as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

This concept derives out of the belief that constant betterment can only be achieved when certain needs are mastered. The layers of Maslow’s theory include:

  • Physiological (basic) needs: food, water, warmth, rest
  • Safety needs: security, safety
  • Love needs: intimate relationships, friends
  • Esteem needs: feeling of accomplishment
  • Self-actualization: achieving one’s full potential

To not overcomplicate Maslow’s philosophy, it’s as simple as saying one must satisfy lower level needs before progressing to higher levels. Seems straightforward. It’s impossible to achieve your full potential when you don’t know where your next meal is coming from. Hunger will inevitably win out and become the sole focus and desire.

Applying Maslow’s Theory beyond Human Behavior and Survival

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs can serve as an analogy for what is possible with instructionally designed technology, and why I think the Apple iOS ecosystem helps with moving past the basic needs to enabling the ability to thrive and transform learning. It should come as no surprise that education technology has revolutionized and changed the way teachers teach and students learn.

But, it may be surprising to some that not all technology is created equal, and in many ways, the technology and software you choose, directly applies to the level obtained and the speed in which students, teachers, IT and schools ascend Maslow’s pyramid.

With new innovations, devices continue to go beyond “basic level” education tools. Student-centered application of technology is the gateway to educational transformation.

As schools look to modernize teaching and personalize learning, a student-centered approach to implementations are a mechanism to turn classrooms into interactive environments and provide individualized learning paths.

But first things first. Before transformation, you must master the basics.

1. Device Deployment = Basic Needs

Device deployment is the first basic need of any school looking to leverage education technology. If schools are unable to procure devices and if IT is unable to get these devices into the hands of students and educators, there is no moving forward.

If device deployment is accomplished, IT must next master device configurations to ensure each device has the right settings needed for each individual. And device deployments and configurations would serve little purpose to IT if they were unable to accurately inventory each device. Taking a deeper dive into your environment to see the number of devices deployed, software on each and any other pertinent information is essential.

Deployment, and all that encompasses, is the lowest layer of the pyramid and the building blocks for any school looking at offering significant quantities of devices to students and teachers.

(Next page: 3 more ways to apply Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to edtech)


3 winning characteristics of a school STEAM program

Full STEAM ahead: How one Philadelphia-area school is engaging students in new ways.

I started my career at The Shipley School, an independent K-12 school located in the suburbs of Philadelphia, at an innovative and exciting juncture. In 2014, Shipley was starting an engineering course from scratch, and having spent several years in the industry as an engineer and several more as a math and science teacher in Philadelphia-area schools, I jumped at the opportunity to pioneer a new program as an Upper School (grades 9-12) teacher.

At the same time, Shipley was making great strides to build out its STEAM program, which is similar to a STEM program. It includes science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses, but also has an added focus on the arts. A STEAM program offers a more holistic approach to education than STEM, marrying subjects that traditionally have been separate–like arts and engineering.

From formalizing plans to create a “MakerSpace” outfitted with 3-D printers to incorporating STEAM projects in classrooms across disciplines, these initiatives underscored Shipley’s mission of developing a love of learning in each student and preparing them for whatever may come beyond the confines of the classroom after high school and college.

Several years later, the STEAM program now includes courses in engineering, robotics, digital fabrication, design fabrication and computer programming, complete with our MakerSpace. The popularity of the program is evident in our enrollment numbers alone–in the first year we had 30 students on our roster. Now we have close to 100–about a quarter of all Upper School students!

So what makes Shipley’s STEAM program so great? Access to cutting-edge technology and the integration of the STEAM curriculum across the School have been integral to success, but above all else, the quality of the program is a result of the administration allowing our students to take the lead on making it their own.

3 Winning Characteristics of Our School’s STEAM Program

1. Create Room to Build

One of the greatest strengths of the STEAM program at Shipley is the MakerSpace, a joint workshop-classroom area reminiscent of the woodshop class you probably took 20 years ago but with a modern spin. Shipley Upper School students aren’t constructing wooden birdhouses though – they’re using a laser engraver, 3-D printers and a plethora of hand tools to bring their ideas to life. Whether it is a mini-golf course for digital fabrication, a guitar for Art class or water filters for Engineering, the students are utilizing the space and equipment.

When I started with Shipley, the MakerSpace was getting started in a small classroom with a 3-D printer, laser engraver and robotics supplies. Our current setup is a MakerSpace with “clean” and “dirty” working spaces. The “clean” space has a traditional classroom setup for up to 18 students, and all of our furniture is modular to suit whatever needs a class has for that day. In addition, we have expanded into an auxiliary classroom where our programming courses are taught and larger projects can be constructed.

This unique asset has opened up many doors for our Upper School students. Several clubs, such as Science Olympiad, have been able to form thanks to the accessibility of the MakerSpace. Students preparing for the Science Olympiad competition use the MakerSpace to create air trajectory machines and build balsa wood towers and an optics testing apparatus. They are able to use this space to prepare, practice and even create the materials for their competitions.

The MakerSpace, above all else, encourages creativity and problem-solving and has given the students the opportunity to learn something new outside their core curriculum and explore interests that could inform their future studies and careers.

(Next page: 2 more STEAM must-haves)


8 steps to effective K-12 assessments

By taking these steps for effective assessments, teachers can effectively give students ownership over their learning.

Developing quality assessments can be challenging for a number of reasons. And, because assessments are essential in so many student-focused decisions, it’s important to get them right. Here are eight steps that teachers and curriculum directors can use to create high quality, effective assessments:

1. Use assessments to uncover good decision-making evidence. Assessment should be considered integral to the instructional process, and the development of assessments with lesson-planning improves learning outcomes. When done right, planning assessment while planning lessons not only gives instructors the evidence they need to make sound decisions, but it also ensures that curriculum, instruction, and assessment form a cohesive program around which informed decisions can be made.

2. Align learning targets with assessment methods. Mismatches between the target and the assessment method will lead us to making incorrect decisions about a student’s position on the learning continuum. For example, knowledge learning targets are efficiently assessed using traditional selected-response type questions. However, learning targets requiring demonstration of a skill or the creation of products will require more innovative item types in order ensure the learning target is being assessed accurately.

3. Don’t mistake rigor with difficulty. Rigor relates to the extent to which students must transform knowledge (i.e., cognitive demand) in order to display proficiency. Think of it in terms of the thought processes occurring for students: demand connected to interacting with the question affects difficulty, while demand connected to forming a response affects rigor.

4. Leverage blueprinting to build out consistent instructional programs. By ensuring coverage of standards and accurately gauging mastery of specific knowledge and skills, blueprinting helps teachers pinpoint which learning targets need to be assessed and build out a consistent instructional program. For example, by focusing only on those learning targets that have an enduring nature, blueprinting pulls out the most important elements of learning. This, in turn, helps teachers make the best decisions related to student progress.

(Next page: 4 more steps to effective assessments)


Revolutionary MOOC-Ed puts teachers in students’ shoes for learning success

New MOOC helps teachers to step into the shoes of students and realize how their practices might affect their learners whose needs may vary from their own.

There’s an old adage that says “if a child can’t learn the way we teach, maybe we should teach the way they learn.”

In this video, Constance Seibert shares how the Learning Differences MOOC-Ed hosted by the Friday Institute helped her better understand the different ways her students learn. The course focuses on three constructs of learning that educators can use to better understand and support students’ learning needs: working memory, executive function, and motivation.

Constance reflects on the fact that all students can learn, and she shares some strategies and activities that helped her better understand this. She shares activities big and small that she used to help all of her students.

From simple adjustments such as writing and verbalizing directions to bigger revelations about the nature of motivation, Constance found the course helped her be better in her role.

The Learning Differences MOOC-Ed strives to model some of the approaches teachers can use with their students. We know that, just as all students learn differently, teachers learn differently too.

The self-directed nature of the MOOC-Ed can help teachers glean meaning from the course in whatever way works best for their own practice. The self-paced aspect of the course means that when life happens or when they need more time to dig into content, teachers can. The ability to step into the shoes of students helps teachers realize how their practices might affect their learners whose needs may vary from their own. Finally, the ability to connect with educators from around the globe makes the course a community where educators can continue their journey to meeting the needs of all learners.

To sign up for the Learning Differences MOOC-Ed, visit The course starts on October 2!


District Technology Specialist: These are the critical success factors for 1:1

How data makes the journey to 1:1 through mobile devices successful.

At Banks County Schools, a rural school district in the mountains of northeast Georgia, it feels like we’re at the end and also the beginning of a very exciting journey. With around 2,850 students in pre-k to grade 12, technology plays an increasingly important role in learning outcomes across all age groups.

While we launched a district-wide 1:1 initiative this year, our journey actually began four years ago when we kicked off discussions about supplementing our aging hardware which, at the time, consisted solely of desktop and laptop PCs. With the full backing of our board, we introduced five iPad carts that teachers had to apply to use.

As classroom technology increased, these five carts quickly grew into 16 and discussions evolved into the viability of rolling out a full 1:1 program.

We set up a working group with members from the technology and curriculum departments, as well as school administrators, to answer a simple question–was a full 1:1 rollout feasible?

We reviewed cost and stakeholder support and, with backing from our superintendent, took one step closer to realizing our vision. We learned several things along the way, including the importance of doing your research, selecting the right tools to manage your devices, communicating your plan effectively, and creating contingency plans.

Critical Success Factors

Next we spoke to other districts with 1:1 programs and consulted with experts to come up with the below list of requirements:

  • The right infrastructure
  • The right devices for all users
  • A good mobile device management (MDM) solution
  • A strong communications plan
  • A consideration for online safety
  • Detailed project planning
  • Lots of flexibility

Devices and Infrastructure

Going 1:1 means ensuring each device is fit for the purpose of the student using it. After a full review of requirements we decided to provide students in pre-k through 4th grade with iPads, while students in 5th through 12th grade would receive Chromebooks. We recognized that some additional devices with specific applications or features would be needed in certain environments – the music room for example – and additional carts were made available for such scenarios.

In order to have a successful rollout, we provided the teachers with the same type of devices as the students they teach (in advance of when the students received devices) so they could familiarize themselves with the technology and how best to integrate it into their lessons. This also meant teachers could be the students’ first line of support for troubleshooting or questions.

Making sure our network infrastructure could support additional devices was vital so we upgraded our wireless network to support a 1:1 initiative.

(Next page: The important of mobile device management and data for 1:1)


These are the 10 best and 10 worst states for teachers

New ranking analyzes states according to salary, turnover, per-student spending.

New York and New Jersey are among the 10 best states for teachers, according to a new analysis that ranks states in terms of teacher friendliness.

The new ranking from WalletHub reveals that teachers in some states face tougher battles when it comes to salary, class size and per-pupil spending.

Teaching isn’t an easy job–the nation’s classroom teachers are often overworked, left without important resources and funding, and dip into their own pockets to purchase necessary items for their classrooms.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, about a fifth of all newly minted public-school teachers leave their positions before the end of their first year, and nearly half never last more than five.

(Next page: The best and worst states for educators)


Trending: This style of learning has teachers and students re-imagining Future-Ready

How the power of questioning through inquiry-based learning helps teachers and administrators prepare students for the workforce.

The 21st-century classroom has undergone many changes, from the growing implementation of new tools and technologies, to new ways of thinking about teaching and learning. One of these new mindsets has to do with the how much control students have over their own learning. While most classrooms have realized the benefit of hands-on activities and real-life applications, this idea can be taken even further by giving students genuine control over what they learn, and how. Inquiry-based learning gives students the ability to direct their own learning based on their individual interests.

In this interview, three education leaders—Monica Burns, Richard Byrne, and Vicki Davis—will share their takes on this innovative style of learning.

Dennis Pierce: Why do you think inquiry-based learning has gained such momentum in recent years?

Vicki Davis, full-time teacher and IT Director in Camilla, GA, and founder of the Cool Cat Teacher blog and podcast: In many ways, inquiry-based learning has been around since before Sir Isaac Newton wondered why an apple fell from the tree and hit him on the head. Indeed, many great innovations happened from questions being asked. Great teachers have used inquiry-based learning throughout the years; however, as many schools have gone to a more industrialized model, the personalized, inquiry-based nature of learning fell by the wayside. As technology gives us ways to personalize learning and grasp new research, techniques, and formative assessment tools, teachers can now use inquiry-based learning in larger classrooms.

Monica Burns, an author and curriculum and ed tech consultant, as well as the founder of I think inquiry-based learning has gained momentum in recent years because of a move to make classroom learning relevant and authentic for students. With tablets, smartphones, and access to computers, students can search for answers to their questions in a way that wouldn’t have seen possible a decade ago.

Richard Byrne, blogger, speaker, and former high school social studies teacher. Find him online at Inquiry-based learning has gained momentum because it puts students into a more active role in the learning process. There is also an element of wonder or surprise that comes with inquiry-based learning, as the outcome isn’t prescribed.

Pierce: What do you think is the biggest obstacle a school or district can face when implementing inquiry-based learning?

Byrne: Time. In an era of high-stakes testing, inquiry-based learning doesn’t fit the model of “preparing them for the test.” Inquiry-based learning can’t be scheduled into convenient 30-minute blocks the way standardized test-prep is often scheduled.

Davis: There are those who want to treat inquiry-based learning as the buzzword of the month. They want a quick half-day training and for teachers to implement and move on to the next buzzword. Inquiry-based learning must be adopted, fine-tuned, and improved. It takes time.

Burns: The biggest obstacle a school or district may face when implementing inquiry-based learning is communication of expectations. Establishing a plan for how families will support this work, how students will share their learning, and how teachers will support their students along the way, is essential.

(Next page: Supporting teachers, doubting effectiveness and classroom implementation)


Behind the scenes of unclaimed FAFSAs: Why it’s happening and how ed staff can help

Recent survey reveals the top roadblocks to on-time FAFSA completion. Here are some best practices that you can put in place to get a heightened student response.

According to, as much as $2.7 billion in free federal grant money went unclaimed in 2015 due to incomplete or unsubmitted Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) forms. What’s getting in students’ way when it comes to filling out these forms?

A recent survey of 4,000 students conducted by the Journal of Student Financial Aid identified the following as top roadblocks to on-time FAFSA completion: a confusing application process, too much information demanded from students, and difficulty obtaining parental financial information. FAFSA forms–which are meant to help students gain access to the monetary resources needed to fund a college education–are instead hindering the students that need them most.

Is there anything that can be done to knock down these roadblocks? As it turns out, small, bite-sized text reminders are key. Not only do text reminders reach students where they already are, texts are a great way to break down the complicated FAFSA information that keeps so many students away.

In one such case, 16,000 students across the state of Louisiana received text messages about scholarship and FAFSA opportunities through The Louisiana Office of Student Financial Assistant (LOSFA). The result? 76 percent of seniors in the program texted back at least once, contributing to a 7 percent increase in FAFSA submissions in the state of Louisiana this year.

There’s no arguing that texting students with reminders about filling out FAFSA forms on time can be an effective solution to reducing the high amount of unclaimed federal grant money. If you’ve decided to give it a try, there are some best practices that you can put in place to get a heightened response from your student texting campaign. We’ve pulled together our top tips:

Start with a Solid Strategy

Because you’ll be reaching students directly on their phones, you want to build a text campaign that is purposeful and efficient. Start by identifying the specific goal you’re setting out to achieve by texting students.

In the case of FAFSA submissions, outline the specific roadblocks you’re working to overcome and how you plan to negate each one with text reminders. Following closely behind setting specific goals is setting deadlines related to those goals. When do students need to know the important tidbits of information you plan to send their way?

Finally, be prepared to respond in a timely manner once your text reminders are out the door. Set aside time in your calendar for prompt responses to questions from students–be prepared to answer their questions about FAFSA deadlines, financial information requested, how to submit the forms once they are ready, etc.

(Next page: The Do’s and Don’ts of texting students about FAFSA)


Social media’s classroom Catch-22

Teachers report disliking social media's influence on students, but say they use it as a resource to understand students.

In a somewhat paradoxical situation, a large majority of teachers (73 percent) said they believe social media and texting are bad for students’ grammar and spelling, but 50 percent still use both to better understand their students, according to a new survey.

The findings from reveal that 32 percent of teachers said they see students struggling with grammar, but those teachers admit they care less about grammar (15 percent) compared to other student skills such as meaning and comprehension (64 percent).

“Social media’s impact on language and communication, especially among younger generations, adds a new layer of complexity for teachers trying to relate to and understand their students,” said Liz McMillan, CEO of

(Next page: Teachers reveal their students’ top struggles)