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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Flipped Math Lessons: Pro or Con?

One of the buzz-word phrases in the education community today is "flipped lessons" or "flipped classroom." Many teachers are flipping their lessons to change the concept of homework from "figuring it out on your own" to include "student-led learning." However, the "flipped classroom" has become a controversial subject. Today we'll take a look at some conversation around "flipped lessons."

Excel Math works well even if you don't flip your math classroom. It is a proven method (established over 35 years) for teaching math to students in ways they learn best. So whether you flip your class or not, Excel Math will work to increase long-term retention of math concepts, build confident students, introduce them to regular testing (and help them develop test-taking skills), provide them with a natural feedback loop so they can check their own answers, help them combine math with literacy, increase their understanding of math as well as their test scores, and much more.

Here's an example of how one math teacher flipped his classroom:
"With a flipped lesson, instead of introducing a topic in class, the students are first exposed to it at home. That is their homework. They are to watch videos or take notes on designated pages in order to prepare them for the practice that they will do in class. It's basically a way to 'front-load' the instruction so when students come to class, they're prepared and the concept will not seem so new. What this means is that there is less time for demonstrations at the beginning of class, as the students have already been introduced to the material." Read more on Teaching Ahead of the Curve Blog. Here's a breakdown of what a typical flipped lesson format might look like:
  • 5-10 Minutes: Warm up, problem checking, notes for today's lesson.
  • 5 Minutes: Clarification of the lesson and questions from note taking.
  • 30-40 Minutes: Individual practice with teacher checking for understanding and posting answers in class.
  • Closure: Students self-assess the number or percentage of questions they got correct.
  • Extension: Notes on the lesson plus video assignment outside of class. Read more on Elevated Math Blog.
And here's what a traditional math lesson might include:
  • 5-10 Minutes: Warm up, problem checking, debrief of previous night's homework.
  • 20-25 Minutes: Explanation of the lesson, learning objectives.
  • 15-20 Minutes: Guided practice with teacher checking for understanding.
  • Extension: Homework outside of class.
This same teacher feels a flipped lesson gives students more time in class to practice because the teacher is spending less time teaching. According to another group of teachers, "for a classroom to truly be 'flipped,' prepared instruction must continue at home, not just in the classroom." To accommodate students without internet access at home, some teachers are creating DVDs for students to view on their computers. Others create YouTube presentations of the lessons and post them on secure sites where students can access them from home.

However, Excel Math provides a much more efficient way to prepare students for homework. Here's how Excel Math with its unique spiraling process works: a concept is introduced and then reviewed and reinforced through spaced repetition over a period of one week before it is included in homework. That concept is then assessed with a test two to three weeks later. As a result, students are not sent home to figure things out for themselves. And they are not asked to remember concepts they have just been taught that day.

In addition, Excel Math gives students a natural feedback loop with its CheckAnswer system. Students are able to see at a glance which problems they missed. If the CheckAnswer doesn't add up, the students go back and check their work to find out where they made the mistakes. Guided Practice in class and Homework after class all include this special CheckAnswer system so students don't keep making the same mistakes over and over. This is an example of  how the CheckAnswer system works. Add together the answers for problems A, B, and C. The sum, CheckAnswer (D), should equal the number in the box (5,927). If not, students go back and check each of the four problems:

When students take an assignment home, there obviously is no teacher to help them. It is assumed that if a teacher gives help in class, the student is therefore 'ready' for independent practice. The problem however, is that in many mathematics curriculums, students are asked to complete homework on concepts to which they have just that morning been introduced. It should be no surprise that kids come back to school the next day and say, "I didn't understand this, so I couldn't do it." Here's where Excel Math's true spiraling process with spaced repetition and a built-in feedback loop help close the achievement gap and make homework more of an independent study and review process.

When a concept has been practiced by the student and guided by the teacher for at least a week, by the time it goes home for independent instruction (homework), the student is able to complete the homework successfully most of the time. The CheckAnswer system provides immediate feedback, letting the student know if the answers are correct or if they need to be reworked.

After the lesson of the day is taught, students can begin working on the Guided Practice section of the worksheet. This is where mastery is achieved. Students are able to see at a glance which problems they miss. If the CheckAnswer doesn't add up, the student goes back and checks his work to find out where he made the mistake. As the teacher assists students who need more help, others can work independently. When a student has a question, he simply raises his hand so the teacher knows to give him individual attention. If several students have similar questions, the teacher can address the entire class with a review of the concept.

So a typical Excel Math lesson format would include:

  • 3-5 Minutes: Warm up with Basic Fact Practice (provided on Excel Math Student Worksheets).
  • 10-15 Minutes: Lesson of the Day direct instruction.
  • 20-35 Minutes: Guided Practice (during this time the teacher can help students individually)
  • Extension: Homework outside of class.

Excel Math lessons ensure that a higher percentage of students attain mastery of all concepts. With Excel Math, students are taught in ways they learn best, according to the latest studies in brain research.  Read more on our May 9 blog post. Attitudes changed completely when this teacher made the switch to Excel Math:
“I LOVE IT! What’s most important - THE STUDENTS LOVE IT! Some of the students’ comments include: ‘I like how I don’t need to wait to see if I got the right answer’, ‘I really love Math now’, ‘Can we do this every day?’, ‘This is fun!’ Thanks for helping me out.” — Mrs. Tanya Streicher, Teacher, Good Shepherd Catholic School

You can still have a flipped classroom and use Excel Math (more about that next week). Read more about flipping your classroom at But it's not necessary to flip your math class in order to use Excel Math curriculum with your students. In fact, once you see your students begin to get math concepts into their long-term memory and watch their test scores rise, you may just do a few flips in celebration!

Read more teacher success stories with Excel Math. Take a look at samples of Excel Math curriculum on our website. Leave a comment to let us know if you're flipping your math class and what you've done to make it work or why you've not yet made the flip.

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