The Flipped Pre-Algebra Classroom

The Flipped Pre-Algebra Classroom
Posted on 03/19/2018
flipped instruction

Have you ever tried to help your frustrated child with their math homework, only to realize the adage, “if you don’t use it you lose it,” has become your reality?  Spencer Middle School (SMS) Math Instructor, Matt Ruden, is working toward a solution to that problem, as well as to overcome the gap in student knowledge.  After a tremendous amount of research and personal learning, Mr. Ruden recently launched the flipped classroom method with his Pre-Algebra classes, and after only a short time of implementation, the benefits are already evident.

While the flipped classroom has been around for quite a few years, it is new to SMS.  “Between reading articles, talking to colleagues about their experiences, and tapping into my online professional learning community, I've learned a lot,” shared Mr. Ruden about preparing for the launch. “I had to figure out a lot of logistical things as well, such as learning how to create the instructional videos and get them posted and into the hands of my students through Google Classroom.”  He added that this would not be happening without the support and encouragement from Principal Pat Hamilton, who is willing to explore options that might be a little out-of-the-box, when it benefits student learning. 

Students have adapted well to the concept.  Through the flipped classroom, they receive their instruction for each lesson, typically outside of the classroom and on their own time, by watching a video on YouTube that was created by Mr. Ruden.  While watching the video, students have access to organized notes from Mr. Ruden, and they can add their own notes and questions in preparation to complete their assignment the following day.  When the students come to class, they have 78 minutes to complete their assignment, and more importantly, they have access to Mr. Ruden.  “I give them the answer key to this assignment right away, and some of the students have it up on their screen because they like to check it as they go, and some students will do the whole assignment and then check it.  It gives them that immediate feedback if what they are doing is right or wrong, so that if they run into something, they can raise their hand, and I go talk to them and answer questions,” explained Mr. Ruden.  “This allows class time for practice, asking one on one questions, and mastering the concepts.”

When the students finish their assignment, they show it to Mr. Ruden and after he looks through it, students complete the check for understanding, a five question Google form.  “When that is submitted, I can see immediately how they did on today’s lesson, so if they scored below a four, I can see what their answers were.  We can then discuss what they did wrong, what they should do differently and answer any other questions,” Mr. Ruden said.  Students then retake the check for understanding until they have mastered the content.  Mr. Ruden added, “That is what we are doing, we are learning, practicing and mastering.”

Kaden, Cael, Kennedy and Reid, four Pre-Algebra students working on their assignment together, took a break to share their thoughts on the new method.  “I love it because it is very simple to just do it at home and not really have too much homework where I have to figure out math problems on my own.  I just have to watch a video and take notes, and it is really easy to do,” said Kennedy.  Kaden likes being able to do the notes at home and the work in class, and all four students agreed that they want to keep the format this way.  They said that if they work hard and finish their assignment and check for understanding prior to the end of class, they can then watch the video for the next lesson rather than doing it at home.  Students also said they are getting more out of the videos, because they can rewind and go over the lesson instruction more than once to offer an increased level of understanding.  Having access to the video instruction at all times also provides a great resource for absent or struggling students.  In either case, the videos allow students to get back on track on their own time and pace and can be played as many times as necessary. 

Mr. Ruden said that many students are right on his coattails because they want more, but for now, he is barely ahead of them in terms of creating the content and getting it posted.  Starting the process with unit nine, Mr. Ruden will spend much of his summer preparing units one through eight to be ready for the start of next school year.  He ended by saying, “I have taken an informal poll and asked the kids if they want to go back to the way we used to do it, and no hands have gone up.  They all want to do it this way.  If anything, they want more freedom to move ahead at their own pace, which is our ultimate goal.”