Tag Archives: Quick Poll

Is This a Rectangle?

Is This a Rectangle?

One of our learning intentions in our Coordinate Geometry unit is for students to be able to say I can use slope, distance, and midpoint along with properties of geometric objects to verify claims about the objects.

G-GPE. Expressing Geometric Properties with Equations

B. Use coordinates to prove simple geometric theorems algebraically

  1. Use coordinates to prove simple geometric theorems algebraically. For example, prove or disprove that a figure defined by four given points in the coordinate plane is a rectangle; prove or disprove that the point (1, √3) lies on the circle centered at the origin and containing the point (0, 2).

We recently used the Illustrative Mathematics Task Is This a Rectangle to provide students the opportunity to practice.

We also used Jill Gough’s and Kato Nims’ visual #ShowYourWork learning progression to frame how to write a solution to the task.

How often do we tell our students Show Your Work only to get papers on which work isn’t shown? How often do we write Show Your Work next to a student answer for which the student thought she had shown her work? How often do our students wonder what we mean when we say Show Your Work?

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The Show Your Work learning progression begins to help students understand what we mean when we say Show Your Work. I have seen it empower students to ask each other for feedback on their work: Can you read this and understand it without asking me any questions? It has been transformative for my AP Calculus students as they write Free Response questions that will be scored by readers who can’t ask them questions and don’t know what math they can do in their heads.

We set the timer for 5 minutes of quiet think time. Most students began by sketching the graph on paper or creating it using their dynamic graphs software. [Some students painfully and slowly drew every tick mark on a grid, making me realize I should have graph paper more readily available for them.]

They began to look for and make use of structure. Some sketched in right triangles to see the slope or length of the sides. Some used slope and distance formulas to calculate the slope or length of the sides.

I saw several who were showing necessary but not sufficient information to verify that the figure is a rectangle. I wondered how I could steer them towards a solution without telling them they weren’t there yet.

I decided to summarize a few of the solutions I was seeing and send them in a Quick Poll, asking students to decide which reasoning was sufficient for verifying that the figure is a rectangle.

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Students discussed and used what they learned to improve their work.

It occurred to me that it might be helpful for them to determine the Show Your Work level for some sample student work. And so I showed a sample and asked the level.

But I didn’t plan ahead for that, and so I hurriedly selected two pieces of student work from last year to display. I was pleased with the response to the first piece of work. Most students recognized that the solution is correct and that the work could be improved so that the reader knows what the student means.

I wish that I hadn’t chosen the second piece of work. Did students say that this work was at level 3 because there are lots of words in the explanation and plenty of numbers on the diagram? Unfortunately, the logic is lacking: adjacent sides perpendicular is not a result of parallel opposite sides. Learning to pay close enough attention to whether an argument is valid is good, hard work.

Tasks like this often take longer than I expect. I’m not sure whether that is because I am now well practiced at easing the hurry syndrome or whether that is because learning to Show Your Work just takes longer than copying the teacher’s work. And so the journey continues …

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Posted by on April 11, 2017 in Coordinate Geometry, Geometry, Polygons


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A Heuristic Approach to Angles in Circles

I am taking a qualitative research class right now, and my mind is full of lots of new-to-me words (many of which my spell checker doesn’t know, either): hermeneutics, phenomenology, ethnography, ethnomethodology, interpretivism, postpositivism, etc. One that has struck me is heuristic, the definition of which I can actually remember because I try to teach heuristically. (The word does not yet roll off of my tongue, but the definition, I get.)

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On Monday, our content was G-C.A Understand and apply theorems about circles

  1. Identify and describe relationships among inscribed angles, radii, and chords. Include the relationship between central, inscribed, and circumscribed angles; inscribed angles on a diameter are right angles; the radius of a circle is perpendicular to the tangent where the radius intersects the circle.

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We started with a Quick Poll. I asked students for their best guess for the angle measure. I showed the results without displaying the correct answer, noting the lowest and highest guesses.

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Students moved to the technology. What happens to the angle measures as you move the points on the circle?

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They moved to the next page, which revealed more information. What happens to the angle measures as you move the points on the circle?

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I sent the poll again. There was one team who hadn’t answered yet, so I made a brief stop by their table. Last semester, I remember reading something about how a certain example might give students the eyes to see what you’re trying to get them to see. So we moved the points around to look something like this.

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If you have 49 and 43, how can you get 46?

Changing the numbers purposefully helped them see.

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I sent one more poll before we talked about why.

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So we gave our best guess, and then we used technology to explore. Students practiced MP8 I can look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning as they noticed what stayed the same and what changed with an angle whose vertex is in the center of the circle. They generalized the result. But we hadn’t yet discussed why that happens.

Students practice MP7 I can look for and make use of structure. By now they know our mantra for MP7: What can you make visible that isn’t yet pictured?

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I saw a line constructed parallel to the given line, which made alternate interior angles visible.

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I saw a chord drawn that made a triangle visible.

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I asked students to write down everything they knew about the angles in this diagram.

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They made suggestions about what we know. They didn’t say the relationships exactly like I would. I wrote them down anyway. They didn’t recognize the exterior angle of the triangle and so ending up proving the Exterior Angle Theorem again off to the side. I wrote it down anyway.

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And so the journey continues, always trying to enable my students to discover or learn something for themselves (and sometimes succeeding) …

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Posted by on February 9, 2017 in Circles, Geometry


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Hinge Questions: Dilations

Students noticed and noted.

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I wanted to be sure that they could answer a dilations question based on their observations. I had two questions premade in my set of Quick Polls. Which question would you ask?

In the past, I would have asked both questions without thinking.

I am learning, though, to think more about which questions I ask. If we only have time to ask a few questions, which questions are worth asking?

From slide 34 in Dylan Wiliam’s presentation at the SSAT 18th National Conference (2010) “Innovation that works: research-based strategies that raise achievement”.

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I decided to send the second poll. I decided that if they get that one right, they can both dilate a point about the origin and pay attention to whether they are given the image or pre-image. If I had sent the second poll, I wouldn’t know whether they could both do and undo a dilation.

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Next we looked at this question.

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Students worked on paper first.

Then some explored with technology.

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What do you want your students to know about the relationships in the diagram?

What question would you ask to see whether they did?

I asked this question to see what my students were thinking.

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And so the journey to write and ask and share and revise hinge questions continues …


Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Coordinate Geometry, Dilations, Geometry


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Notice & Note: Dilations

How do you give your students the opportunity to practice MP8: I can look for and express regularity in repeated reasoning?

SMP8 #LL2LU Gough-Wilson

We started our dilations unit practicing MP8, noticing and noting.


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What would you want students to notice and note?

How do students learn what is important to notice and note?

An important consideration when learning with self-explanation is to look at the quality of the explanation itself. What are the students saying or writing? Are they just regurgitating bits of text or making connections to underlying principles? Do the explanations contain predictions about what is going to happen, try to go beyond the given instruction or do they just superficially gloss over what is already there? Students who make principle-based, anticipative, or inference-containing explanations benefit the most from self-explaining. If students seem to be failing to make good explanations, one can try to give prompts with more assistance. In practice, this will likely take iteration by the instructor to figure out what combination of content, activity and prompt provides the most benefit to students. (Chiu & Chi, 2014, p. 99)

We had a brief discussion about what might be important to notice and note. We’ve also been working on predictions, thinking about what you expect to happen before trying it with technology:

What happens when the center of dilation is on the figure, outside the figure, and inside the figure?

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What happens when the scale factor is greater than 1? Equal to 1? Between 0 and 1? Less than 0?

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I observed, walking around the room and using Class Capture, selecting conversations for our whole class discussion.

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Here’s what NA noticed and noted.


We looked at Hannah’s Rectangle, from NCSM’s Congruence and Similarity PD Module. Students had a straightedge and piece of tracing paper.

Which rectangles are similar to rectangle a? Explain the method you used to decide.Hannahs Rectangle.png

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What would you do next? Would you show the correct responses? Or not?

Would you start with an incorrect answer? or a correct answer?

Would you regroup students based on their responses?

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I started with a student who didn’t select G and then one who did. Then I asked a student who selected C to share why he chose C and didn’t choose F. We ended by watching Randy’s explanation on the module video.

And so the journey continues, always wondering what comes next (and sometimes wondering what should have come first) …

Chiu, J.L, & Chi, M.T.H. (2014). Supporting self-explanation in the classroom. In V. A. Benassi, C. E. Overson, & C. M. Hakala (Eds.). Applying science of learning in education: Infusing psychological science into the curriculum. Retrieved from the Society for the Teaching of Psychology web site:


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Posted by on December 19, 2016 in Dilations, Geometry


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The Magic Octagon – Dan’s, Andrew’s, and mine

I had saved Andrew’s post in my folder for a recent lesson, which was about Dan’s video.

We paused halfway in, and students decided where it would be. They answered a Quick Poll to let me know, and by the time they had all answered, some had changed their minds.


We quickly looked at the responses, and they decided using time would be easier to decipher than some of the other descriptions.

I sent a second poll. I waited for everyone to answer, even the ones who wanted to take their time thinking about it.


And then we continued to watch.

We paused for the last question, they discussed with their team, and then we finished watching.

Good conversation. But we didn’t get to the sequel proposed by one of Andrew’s students: If the front side arrow is pointed at 5:00, would the other arrow point at 5:00, too? Why or why not?

So I emailed that question to my students.

  • Yes, the two points move like opposite hands on a clock moving closer to each other and overlapping at 5:00. At about 11:00 they would overlap again. Otherwise, there is no overlap.
  • They would be at 5:00. This is because when he flips the magic octagon, the back arrow also flips, causing the new time to be 3:00 instead of 9:00. This means that if you were to find a line of reflection, you could flip the octagon on that line and the arrow would always land right where the previous one did. If this was on transparent paper, you can see that if one arrow points to 5:00, then the other one would be pointing at 7:00. But if you were to flip the octagon on the reflection line which intersects 12:00 and 6:00, then you would continuously get 5:00 because of the reflection.

As I got the responses from students, I realized that I wished I had asked a different question. While I did include why or why not, and it was obvious from the responses that students didn’t just answer yes or no, I wish I had asked “At what time(s), if any, are the front side and back side arrows at the same time?”

I am reminded of something I can no longer find that I read in a book. A group of teachers observed a “master” teacher for a lesson and then went back to their own classrooms to teach the lesson. The teachers asked the same questions that the master teacher asked; however, the lessons didn’t go as hoped. The teachers were not asking questions based on what was happening in their own classrooms; they were asking questions based on what had happened in the other classroom.

I love reading blog posts and learning from so many mathematics educators. They give me ideas that I wouldn’t have on my own. In fact, as my classroom moved toward more asking and less telling, I used to say that my most important work happened before the lesson, collaborating with other teachers and deciding what questions to ask. I’ve decided otherwise, though. My most important work happens in the moment, not just asking, but also listening. And then, if needed, adjusting what I planned to ask next based on the responses of the students in my care. And so the journey will always continue …


Posted by on November 15, 2016 in Geometry, Rigid Motions


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Introduction to Curve Sketching, Part 1

Learning Intentions:

Level 4:

I can use the graph of the derivative to sketch a graph of the original function.

Level 3:

I can use the graph of the original function to deduce information about the first and second derivatives.

I can use the graph of the derivative to deduce information about the second derivative and the original function.

I can use the graph of the second derivative to deduce information about the first derivative and the original function.

Level 2:

I can determine when a function is concave up or concave down and where it has points of inflection.

Level 1:

I can determine when a function is increasing or decreasing and where it has maxima and minima.

We were on the first day of a new unit. I included two questions on the opener to ensure students know what we mean by increasing/decreasing and concave up/concave down intervals. As expected students were familiar with increasing/decreasing and not so familiar with concave up/concave down.

Based on the results, we discussed what it means to be concave up and concave down. Someone asked how we would be able to tell for sure where the graph changes concavity, which we get to learn during the unit.

We started the lesson with a few Quick Polls for students to determine which graph was the derivative, given the graphs of a function and its derivative. The polls were based on Graphical Derivatives from Calculus Nspired. I sent the poll, asked students to answer individually, stopped the poll, asked students to explain their thinking to a partner. If needed, I sent the poll again to see whether they wanted to change their response after talking with their partner. I had 6 polls prepared. I sent 3.

I listened while students shared their thinking. I selected three conversations for the whole class.

  1. A student who knew which was which based on the power rule, which she learned during the last unit.
  2. A student who knew that the slope of the tangent line at the minimum of the parabola should be zero, which is the value of the line at z=0.
  3. A student who noticed that the line (derivative) was negative (below the x-axis) when the parabola was decreasing and positive (above the x-axis) when the parabola was increasing.

Again, as I listened to the pairs talking, I selected a few students to share their thinking with the whole class.

  1. The first student who shared used the maximum and minima to determine which had to be the derivative, since the derivative is zero at those x-values.
  2. The second student thought about what the slope of the tangent line would be at certain x-values and whether the y-values of the other function complied.
  3. A third student volunteered a fourth student to discuss her thinking: she noted that the graph of the function (b) changed concavity at the max/min of the derivative (b).

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After students talked, I sent the poll again to see if anyone was convinced otherwise.

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Two students briefly discussed how they used increasing/decreasing and concavity to determine the derivative.

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Next we began to solidify what increasing/decreasing and concave up/concave down intervals look like using Derivative Analysis from Calculus Nspired.

I asked students to notice and note.

Where is the function increasing? Where is it decreasing?
What is the relationship between the slope of the tangent line and where the function is increasing and decreasing?

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Where is the function concave up? Where is it concave down?

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What does the tangent line have to do with where the function is concave up and concave down?

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Can you look at a graph and estimate intervals of concavity?

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I was able to see what students were noting on paper and hear what they were noting in our conversation, but I didn’t send any polls during this part of the lesson.

Next we looked at Derivative Grapher from Calculus Nspired.

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We changed the graph to f(x)=cos(x). We already know the derivative is f’(x)=sin(x). What if we were only given the graph of the derivative? How could we use that graph to determine information about the original function?

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I had more for us to discuss as a whole class, but I wanted to know what they had learned before the class ended. I used a Desmos Activity called Sketchy Derivatives to see what students had learned – given a function, sketch its derivative; and given a derivative, sketch an antiderivative. The original activity was from Michael Fenton. I modified it to go back and forth between sketching the derivative and antiderivative instead of doing all derivatives first and all antiderivatives second, and I added a few questions so that students could begin to clarify their thinking using words.

We spent the last minutes of class looking at an overlay of some of their sketches.

Could you figure out exactly where to sketch the horizontal line?

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Most students have the vertex of the parabola near the right x-coordinate. Should the antiderivative be concave up or concave down?

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Most students have the derivative crossing the x-axis near the correct location.

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The bell rang. Another #lessonclose failure. But thankfully, there are do-overs as the journey continues …


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Posted by on October 17, 2016 in Applications of Differentiation, Calculus


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MP6 – Mapping a Figure Onto Itself

How do you provide your students the opportunity to practice I can attend to precision?

Jill and I have worked on a leveled learning progression for MP6:

Level 4:

I can distinguish between necessary and sufficient language for definitions, conjectures, and conclusions.

Level 3:
I can attend to precision.

Level 2:
I can communicate my reasoning using proper mathematical vocabulary and symbols, and I can express my solution with units.

Level 1:
I can write in complete mathematical sentences using equality and inequality signs appropriately and consistently.


Given a rectangle, parallelogram, trapezoid, or regular polygon, describe the rotations and reflections that carry it onto itself.

Our learning intention for the day was I can map a figure onto itself using transformations.

Performing a [sequence of] transformation[s] that will map rectangle ABCD onto itself is not the same thing as describing a [sequence of] transformation[s].

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We practiced both, but we focused on describing.


I asked the student who listed several steps to share his work.

  1. rotate rectangle 180˚ about point A
  2. translate rectangle A’B’C’D’ right so that points A’ and B line up as points B’ and A. [What vector are you using?]
  3. Reflect rectangle A”B”C”D” onto rectangle ABCD to get it to reflect onto itself. [About what line are you reflecting?]

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What if we want to carry rectangle ABCD onto rectangle CDAB? How is this task different from just carrying rectangle ABCD onto itself?


What about mapping a regular pentagon onto itself?

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Many students suggested using a single rotation, but they didn’t note the center of rotation. How could you find the center of rotation for a single rotation to map the pentagon onto itself?

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This student used the intersection of the perpendicular bisectors to find the center of rotation, but didn’t know what angle to use for the rotation. How would you find an angle of rotation that would work?

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What can you do other than a single rotation?

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This student reflected the pentagon about the perpendicular bisectors of one of the side of the pentagon.

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The descriptions students gave made it obvious that we needed more work on describing. The next day, we took some of the descriptions and critiqued them. Which students have attended to precision?



It’s good work to distinguish precision from knowing what someone means as we learn to attend to precision. And so the journey continues …

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Posted by on September 21, 2016 in Geometry, Rigid Motions


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