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February 13, 2013

Expert Corner: Linking Reflex and Gizmos

Dan PicDan Moriarty is a curriculum writer and editor for ExploreLearning, and our chief "demo movie" maker for Gizmos and Reflex. He holds a Master's degree from the University of Virginia in secondary math education, and he taught high school math before joining ExploreLearning.

A question we are getting asked more and more frequently is, “My students love Reflex. What do you recommend for them now that they are showing good progress towards fact fluency?”

Current research shows that fact fluency is critical as students move into higher levels of mathematics. The literature is equally clear on the importance of developing a strong conceptual understanding of mathematics. ExploreLearning’s flagship product, Gizmos, is designed to support exactly that. Gizmos help students truly understand key math (and science) concepts while honing their higher-order thinking skills. Students can use both Reflex and Gizmos during their elementary years, and they can continue with Gizmos throughout their secondary education.

No Alien Set Behind
GizmoGizmos are flexible for use in different teaching and learning scenarios including whole class instruction, small groups, individually, or for home assignments. You could choose to use Gizmos with a projector and screen with your entire class, and let students use Gizmos on some computers and Reflex on others.

There are over 450 Gizmos that can easily be found with our Browse facility. You can find Gizmos aligned to your state standards and the new Common Core standards, as well as over 300 leading textbooks.

For any Gizmo, be sure you and your students use the associated Lesson Materials or Exploration Guide. The Student Exploration Sheet walks students through an inquiry-based lesson using the Gizmo (and the Word document version can be edited by the teacher, if you like). The Teacher Guide contains suggestions for how to incorporate the Gizmo into a larger lesson, and provides more in-depth information on the topic.

Here are some Gizmos you may want to consider for your students working with Reflex:

Pattern Flip Gizmo – pattern recognition as a carnival-like card game.
Pattern Finder Gizmo – identifying patterns in how frogs hop.

Adding and subtracting
Adding and Subtracting Integers Gizmo – adding and subtracting on a number line.
Number Line Frog Hop Gizmo – adding and subtracting by tens and ones, with a frog on a number line.

Multiplication and division
Critter Count Gizmo – multiplication as repeated addition.
Chocomatic Gizmo – multiplication as a rectangular array, in the context of building chocolate bars.
No Alien Left Behind Gizmo – division and remainders in the context of putting classes of aliens on school buses.

Modeling Fractions Gizmo – fractions strips used to explore the meaning of numerator and denominator
Equivalent Fractions Gizmo – compare fractions using a fraction-tile-making machine
Fraction Artist 1 Gizmo – create modern “paintings” in the style of Piet Mondrian, and describe them with fractions. (There are actually 2 Fraction Artist Gizmos. The lesson in the second one is slightly more advanced than in the first.)

Fractions, decimals, and percents
Modeling Decimals Gizmo – model and compare decimals with area (grid) models.
Fraction, Decimal, Percent Gizmo – compare fractions, decimals, and percents with area (grid) models.

Simple functions
Function Machines 1 Gizmo – cartoony “input-output” machines are a nice entry point into functional thinking. (There are actually 3 Function Machines Gizmos with gradually more advanced lessons.)

We’re glad to see how popular Reflex is becoming, and we hope this helps connect Reflex a bit better with Gizmos! Take a free Gizmos trial and see how Gizmos can help continue your students’ passion for mathematics.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 10:27 AM in Using Gizmos | Permalink

Clayton Ellis: ExploreLearning Educator of the Month

GrahamClayton Ellis OCT, is head of science at David Suzuki Secondary School, Peel District School Board in Brampton, Ontario. He has taught for 16 years, and has collaborated with colleagues to support science teaching in the province. He has been the primary author on several science and biology textbooks.

Years ago Mr. Ellis was looking for innovative technologies that would engage his students. After one of his classes tried out Gizmos for the first time in 2004, he became convinced that he had found an extremely effective supplemental tool for teaching science.

When Mr. Ellis teaches genetics to his high school students, he uses the Human Karyotyping Gizmo. In the past, his students had started the learning process on this topic by cutting out 46 photocopied chromosomes. Inevitably the students would lose some of the pieces of paper, and the activity that should have taken only 45 minutes stretched out to two days. The Human Karyotyping Gizmo allowed students to see the colour coded chromosomes and determine the disorders after a thorough analysis.

Without having to cut out the karyotypes on paper, the students had the additional time they needed to do the analysis. Mr. Ellis was then able to incorporate a genetic disorder roundtable into his class, and students included a karyotype of a problem in their presentation.

Growing Plants
GizmoMr. Ellis plans to run a Science Olympics competition later this year where students will compete against each other in a variety of science activities. One of the planned activities will involve the Mineral Identification Gizmo. The students will be using the Gizmo to compete against each other to see how quickly and accurately they can identify minerals.

Using Gizmos also has allowed Mr. Ellis to accommodate the needs of various learners in his classroom. He finds that some students need a great deal of time to initially grasp fundamental concepts, while others are quickly ready for more complex tasks that allow them to gain a deeper understanding. Gizmos are perfect for this type of differentiation and have become a fundamental part of Mr. Ellis’ layered lessons for all students.

Posted by ExploreLearning at 10:24 AM in Case Studies | Permalink

February 06, 2013

New Lesson Materials - triangles and parallelograms, oh my!

We're still cranking away in the ExploreLearning Lesson Material factory! Today, we have released 3 new sets of Lesson Materials on the site. This batch explores more geometry topics:

Classifying Triangles

Special Parallelograms

Parallelogram Conditions

What defines an isosceles triangle? What conditions guarantee that a quadrilateral is a parallelogram, or that a parallelogram is a rhombus... or rectangle... or square? These Gizmos - along with the new Lesson Materials - are designed to help kids explore questions like that, in an interactive way.

As always, our updated Lesson Materials have 4 documents (Student Exploration Sheet, Answer Key, Teacher Guide, and Vocabulary Sheet), each available as a .doc or .pdf. (You'll need to be logged in to see all four documents.)

One quick note about the Student Exploration Sheet (SE) - the SE may be longer than most student "worksheets" that you're accustomed to. We do NOT expect teachers to assign the whole SE! (At least, not all at once.) The lesson that we generally recommend is this: page 1 of the SE (Prior Knowledge Questions + Gizmo Warm-up) plus ONE of the activities in the SE. That would total 2-3 pages. (Of course, feel free to revise our SE in any way you'd like - that's why we publish them in .doc form.)

In general, we write multiple activities within one SE to make it easier for teachers to differentiate instruction. In other words, more activities = more options.

Overall, this bring us up to 51 high-school- and middle-school-level math Gizmos with updated Lesson Materials, with plenty more to come.

If you'd like to try these Gizmos, or any of the others in our library, you can sign up for a free trial today!

Posted by Dan at 06:20 PM in Site Announcements, Using Gizmos | Permalink

Middle School celebrates National Digital Learning Day with Gizmos

A Middle School in Round Rock ISD took advantage of National Digital Learning Day on February 1 to try out Gizmos in their science classrooms.

"This is not just something we can do for only one day," their instructional technology specialist said. "Digital Learning Day has taught us technology can be used as an educational tool and not just as a toy. We want to get it into the classroom and into the students' hands."

Check out the full story or take a free Gizmos trial to give them a try in your classroom. 

Posted by Meredith Cole at 01:48 PM in Press Clippings | Permalink

February 05, 2013

New Gizmo: Unit Conversions 2 - Scientific Notation and Significant Digits

1052DETWe have just created a new lesson for a Gizmo that was released last year, and the new Gizmo is called Unit Conversions 2 – Scientific Notation and Significant Digits. This Gizmo provides a great platform for learning about two fundamental topics: scientific notation and significant digits. To do this, first we had to update the Gizmo so that it follows all of the significant digit rules. Next we created a new set of lesson materials to teach about measuring and calculating with significant digits. 

We suggest starting with the original Unit Conversions Gizmo to familiarize students with conversion factors and dimensional analysis, and then move on to this new Gizmo

Take a free Gizmos trial to try out this new Gizmo--and all the others in the world's largest library of interactive online simulations for math and science.

Posted by Meredith Cole at 02:27 PM in Site Announcements, Using Gizmos | Permalink