Mathematics and Canvas


A school that has just moved to Canvas asked how we were using Canvas within our mathematics department. In replying to the question it has been nice to reflect on what is being enabled through using a Learning management system like Canvas for maths.

So here is the content that was sent in reply.

Hmmm, maths and Canvas! This is going to be a good reflective exercise. let’s get into it! Doug Vass and Tom Lever have particularly been leading things really well with use of Canvas in Maths. We have been experimenting with a number of things and it is progressing well so far. I am personally impressed with the maths department in what is being achieved, we are certainly on a journey and I feel that richer learning is at the front of what is being implemented. We are  getting there and at the stage where things can really happen.

Some things that are progressing well:

Teachers keeping a record of daily work as assignments.
This goes though to students online diaries and is also great for students that missed work and for going back and seeing what was done.

Sharing of files at a class and course level:
for past papers and the like at course level and all sorts of other files can be shared at either level. An interesting one is notability files where students can “open in notability” and then continue to edit the file on their iPad as their own notes.

Content built collaboratively by staff as modules in the staff work are and imported into courses. Modules are the go here where teachers can collaboratively build content including files, assignments, quizzes, discussions etc etc to be pulled together and when imported into a course it replicates all the parts in the new course! Pretty neat! It was used today for all year 8 and 9 boys as we rolled out the PBL project that is the next assessment!

Canvas quizzes as part of assessments, the last two assessments for a few year groups have had a 20-30 min canvas multiple choice quiz as part of the mark. It was pretty daunting the first time but it has worked well and formed what will probably be a regular part of formal assessments! The Analytics and simplicity of marking are game breakers! The built in feedback is probably the next step.

Summary so far:

It is challenging being authentic and appropriate for maths but it has been great seeing the choices and the progress that has been made. All along we are also building resources with the goal of reuse for next year and beyond to make it substantially easier!

Still to come! In motion! On the horizon!

Collaborative and shared document areas:
at the moment there is a “collaborations” tab in Canvas but it only allows Google docs (or ether pad) this is pretty cool as it looks after all the permissions for users but we really need a collaborative area where we can share files and folders of all types including maths specific types like geogebra files and the like. This is apparently in the pipeline for Canvas but in the interim we have been working with staff and students in how to build this themselves with sharing and collaboration using Google Drive folders at class level as well as for smaller groups.

Media and content creation:
Learning by creating content is a great focus and in our STEM festival week in October we are going to run with a maths specific look at creating short videos to explain concepts and then use these videos to create the student built content for one topic. We will end up with a set of personalised reusable resources as a bonus to the session! This is going to be an iPad specific session as it is a no brainer when done right.

Canvas Discussions in maths!:
From visiting a couple of schools last week and seeing some of the uses of tools for good practice I saw a great example from a maths teacher at Jenny Luca’s school (Toorak College) one maths teacher showed how she had used discussions to engage the students and really get what they were understanding and not understanding. I loved that they did not get caught up in the equation editor side of things and instead used the techniques used in typing spreadsheet formulae or similar. The discussion became about the learning and what they were understanding (and what they were not!) Students started the discussions and then continued them? I loved the fact that the discussion was rich and also that the quiet students have a chance to have a big input! I look forward to giving this a nudge at different levels!

A couple of Maths teachers have shown an interest in their students blogging. This is exciting and we are continuing with our blogging trials to add a “maths” category so that students can have a bit of a portfolio of content as pages and posts. This is also great in that students can submit the link to a post or page as their submission of work in Canvas where it is given as an option. It also ticks a whole lot of boxes as part of our Digital Citizenship training in covering a number of negatives by modeling positive behaviours! STAY TUNED!

In closing:

WOW it has been pretty cool to spend some time and look at where things have got to and where we would like them to be. It has been a full on journey with each department of the school but it is nice to see things coming together like this.

Stay tuned for more soon!

iPads in Maths

NOTE: This post builds on the Base ICT in Maths post. 
iPads are often thought of as a device that is somewhat restricted but the tool sets that they bring make them a very worthwhile tool.

There are still some limitations in relation to iPads but the positives are certainly starting to outweigh the negatives.

This post is meant as an initial overview of some of the genuine uses of the iPad for learning. Further posts go into greater use for deeper learning.

Firstly – Limitations of iPads:

It is good to be aware of the limitations of iPads. We will look at alternatives and we can talk of how it SHOULD be but . . …

Flash: Hmmm! there are still many sites that are flash dependant and this causes much grief. Luckily there are alternatives in many cases and we will hopefully compile a number of “all device” friendly tools and sites.
Spreadsheets: Trying to work on a spreadsheet on an iPad is still a massively lesser experience as you can not fill down or across yet. We can work on spreadsheets on an iPad in numbers, google docs and other apps but the experience is still poor and hopefully we will see this change.
Document access and storage: This is often thought of as a limitation with iPads but in actual fact the updates to iCloud along with amazing cloud services like Google Drive, Box, Dropbox etc have meant that it no longer needs to be a problem and in fact you are better off to have access to all of your documents on all of your devices as well as the web.
No USB drive: there is no doubt that it would be nice to have a USB but without one we just have to use services that share folders and files.

What iPads Enable!:

There are so many features of iPads that make them very powerful devices, even to the extent that you may find it to be your tool of choice.
Genuine mobility: The obvious one!? Mobility trumps portability!
Camera/video camera: the most useful tool?
Books and Documents: books and documents with you.
Access to Information and Tools: via the web or apps, tools like (review to come) which works across all devices or which is renewed and SUPER. (Our review is here) and amazing apps like Wolfram Alpha and Geogebra.
Note taking: creating written notes and accessing them across multiple devices is a game breaker for maths. see our post on written notes on the ICT blog.
Movie Making: iMovie app is now a VERY powerful tool.
Convergence: many devices and tools in the one device!

And the Biggie – CONTENT CREATION!

iPads came out with everyone saying they were “content consumption” devices and the early use was just that. Now though, things are excitingly VERY different. The ability to create content on an iPad today is ridiculous! This is already a big feature of the NEW ICT blog within the “iPads” category

Content Creation on iPads:

Content creation takes many forms but we will focus on a couple for the maths blog.

Good Maths Notes: you want to write notes as well as type and have graphics and websites? Notability App is the one we have chosen to be the most powerful of the note taking apps and also it can do the work of many pdf annotation apps as well.?
Check out our ICT blog post on: Notability for note taking where hand written content is required.

Creating Videos: iMovie is now a truly amazing app (updated tutorial very soon, Stay tuned!) But for maths the use of explain everything along with screen shots from websites or notability (or PowerPoints or documents or pdfs or …… . . . ) opened in explain everything app and narrated and annotated if need be can create amazing results.
Check out:
Explain Everything: review and tutorial on our ICT Blog
Using Notability with Explain Everything to create videos.

and then from sites like

Final Say:

Hopefully this has helped in highlighting some of the power of iPads, especially as a content creation device. If content creation is not your thing then you can always rest on the iPad features of mobility, simplicity and convergence!


Create “Flipped Learning” videos

It is important to realise that as an educator, you already use “flipped learning”, and have done so for years. Anytime we ask our students to do some work outside of the classroom prior to our lesson, you have just “flipped it”.

It is certainly a concept to explore for further learning. Essentially being able to spend more time working through problems in class as opposed to being stuck at home without help. This concept often relies on a good set of resources that can be set as home activities to work towards an understanding of a concept before coming to class. Being able to easily create your own content certainly is an added advantage as a teacher as the content can be tailored as you like and made more relevant to your students.

Easily Creating Screencasts:

Being able to easily create screen recordings is highly useful as a teacher or student. We will look at a few tips and then tools for creating content.
FIRSTLY here are a few tips for any created content:
– keep it concise (short if you can!)
– have a well thought out script
– have your resources ready to roll

On an iPad: (or Android tablet)

There have been apps that record everything on your iPad screen but they are short lived on the iTunes store! So you can replicate this in a way that is in fact actually better as you can edit it easier. There are a number of apps like educreations that record your interactions and upload your recording to their servers so you can view or embed it.

This is very useful, but  often it is usually more useful when you can have the video yourself and edit it or upload it as you like! The Explain Everything app (iTunes and Google Play) does exactly this and a whole lot more! It is truly amazing and can often be the most powerful and versatile of any option. If you make a mistake on little part then just fix that bit.

Here is a post on our ICT blog that really gets into the nitty gritty of Explain Everything.

A Combo of Apps: Now to really get it going! If you use a combination like that of Notability and Explain Everything  you can get a pretty special experience!  Here are some resources we created that may help get it all going!
Our Notability Review and Tutorial
Our Explain Everything review and Tutorial
Using the apps together to make SUPER tutorials easily and quickly Shorter version coming soon!

Screencasts on a Computer:

There are a heap of tools for recording all, or part of your screen. There are great paid options like Screencast-o-matic and Camtasia, as well as a myriad of free options (or free versions) like Jing or Snagit.
NOTE: Further posts will highlight how to do this along with tips, techniques and pitfalls!

Some tips for now though!:
If you are recording part of your screen: then make sure you select a 16:9 ratio so that you can upload it correctly if need be. having a graphic that is already in this ratio and aligning your content in the same window is a good method for doing this.
If you record your whole screen: make sure you are comfortable with everything that will be seen!  Also be aware of your end user and what they can see. changing your resolution to the lowest resolution before recording is a good method to ensure end users can see all the content.

Sharing your videos:

So you have created your video but now you need to share it! The obvious is to upload to a provider like Youtube or Vimeo but you can also save it to a Google Drive folder or Dropbox and set it so that it can be seen publicly (if you want). Uploading to Google Drive also allows embedding (nice!)

Credits, Comments, corrections, additions!?

Written collaboratively by Gary Maxwell and Rolfe Kolbe Newington College (with updates to come!)

Hopefully we have helped somewhat! If you have better options then please comment below and share and we will amend the post with acknowledgement to you. Revisit again to hopefully see some updates!


Being able to work with Spreadsheets is an important skill for today.

Today you would be crazy to do any sort of accounting and financial management or data analysis without spreadsheets!

Knowing how to get the spreadsheet to complete multiple calculations powerfully, being able to change input and have the roll on effect etc etc!

“Spreadsheets!” not just “excel”: spreadsheets take many different forms today. The activity in this post is actually a Google Spreadsheet which works the same as Excel but in the browser. They can also be collaborative and also saved as excel when you want!

A spreadsheet activity for all:

This activity for making a start on spreadsheets but also building a good skill set to really getting going with spreadsheets. The same spreadsheet can be used for the very first steps right through to those that are strong at spreadsheeting. The activity has built and refined over many years and has built in extension tasks for those that move faster.

What is covered?

In the activity you will be investigating and hopefully demonstrating an understanding of:

  • how to get spreadsheets to do the medial collecting, counting and calculating work
  • the components of a spreadsheet
  • patterns in spreadsheets
  • creating functions in Spreadsheets
  • filling patterns and functions into other cells
  • “absolute” and “relative” referencing of cells (Yep! Google it!)
  • Statistical functions for Quantitative data (remember which one quantitative was!)
  • frequency distribution tables in a more powerful way
  • further functions like standard deviation (extension)
  • categorical data and the limited statistics available

Future tasks will This task will be required knowledge for the next stage which is creating effective surveys/questionnaires, collecting data via online forms then graphing and reflecting on your results.

The Activity:

As a Google Spreadsheet:
Click on the link make sure you are logged into your Google account. Go to the “File” Menu and “make a copy”

For those without Google Accounts:
Click on the link Go to “File” Menu and  select “download as” and choose “Microsoft excel”

NOTE: spreadsheets and iPads are still not a good combination. Hopefully this will change soon! Stay Tuned!


A good Tool?!!:

There has been a lot of debate about resources like Khan Academy and similar sites and whether or not they are good for learning. An explore of the updated site would no doubt make anyone think though with a range of options for learning or practising maths (and other subjects!!!!)

The refreshed site has interaction and tailoring for learners with feedback, hints and help as exercise are done. As a teacher/mentor the “coach” area also allows tasks to be set for those who have signed up for your classes AND you can see the interactions of those in your classes including exactly what was done, how long was taken on each area, what other resources were used, when the question was completed etc etc. More on the coach section soon!

Khanacademy has moved past being a series of lecture style videos to now be an interactive, engaging tool that is enjoyable to use with powerful feedback.

The real-life questions is impressive (always challenging as a Mathematics teacher!) BUT it is the opportunity for a tailored experience help that make it powerful, especially for the student that will not ask for help! There is no judgement as students can watch video help as many times as they like.

A good measure is always how learners engage and so far the uptake has been superb and the tailored feedback and recommendations seem to be valuable.

Alright, the question has probably been answered! YES this tool is worthwhile (and certainly worth the money as it is free!)

OK so let’s get into it:

It is free and can be used without an account BUT having an account allows you to track your progress and earn rewards. You can easily create an account with an email OR you can sign in with Facebook or Google. The latter allows us to create accounts without having to remember another username and password. If your school has a google apps for education account then this is very cool as it means you can use the same username and password as for other school log ins, #whoohoo

Setting up an account:

You can set up an account with an email address or Facebook or Google. Setting up with Google is ideal for schools with Google Apps for Education accounts, the instructions are as follows:
– Make sure you are logged in to your correct account. (Ie. your school account!)
– Go to and hit the “sign in with google account” button.
– It is best if students go into their setting as and make their viewable name to be their actual name for feedback and follow up!

The pretest!

An initial pretest gives the user a starting point and recommend tasks to be done next. It is worth doing the pretest well without any help and also tick the box to say if the work has not been done before.

Coach and/or be coached!:

Now the cool bit! CLASSES! you can set up a class and track all the activity and progress of your students!
Become a coach:
* Go to “coach” in the top menu
* then “manage students” > “create class”
* it gives a code that students can use to sign up to a class!
Join a class!
Students can be added in manually by their coach OR they go to main menu>coaches>add a coach and drop a code in! VOILA!!!!

Other Notes:

– it works splendidly on iPads too including the “scratchpad” where you can write on the screen!
– students can keep their account through to uni as it covers content from year 6 to University!!!

We will also follow up with a post on the “coach area” and tools and also a post on the coding options that run in parallel in the computer science area. Hopefully you have great experiences with KhanAcademy as we have. Please comment below to share your experiences. 

Group Work in Maths

Why group Work?

By introducing Group activities to your classroom or even rearranging your desks into groups, you are giving your students an entirely different insight into learning.

Group work allows students to gain an understanding and experience into how tasks are completed in the work place. It also gives students a chance to learn and develop important skills; communication, ability to listen, question other thinking, persuade, respect the opinions of others and share ideas.

Types of Group Work.

Group Work is often thought of as a method of having students work together to create a project or collective piece of work, where each student has contributed equally.

In practice this very rarely works, with some students often taking the lead, and others happy to sit there and enjoy the ride. Group Work does not have to involve projects or huge collaborative pieces of work. It could be that you just have your students working in groups for a starter activity or a single task during a lesson.

Breaking into Groups:

Students can be sat in Groups but still work independently. By doing this students can take advantage of some of the skills that can be developed using group work such as sharing ideas, communication and questioning and thinking.

This can often be one of the difficult parts of organising a group activity. Firstly you need to determine how you want your groups organised and ask yourself what you are hoping each student will gain from working in a group. This will depend upon the class and the activity that is taking place.

Pairs – Do you want a high achiever with a less able student to act as a mentor. Or pair together students of similar ability and differentiate the tasks for each pair.

Using pairs of cards is a great way of dividing a class into pairs, whilst still giving you control over who is paired with who (or to keep apart students you don’t want to be paired together). Below are a few ideas:

1. Create a class set of cards each containing a question. This needs to be done so that each answer is repeated. Students are given a card and work out the answer to the question, they must then find their partner who has the same answer as them. This is then their partner for the lesson. Alternative idea – Cut subject/topic related pictures in half to be used in place of cards. Students have to match their half up with a class mates to form the picture. There can then be a task related to this such as: ENGLISH – each partner needs to write a descriptive piece on their complete picture. GEOGRAPHY – cut countries in half and students have to find their country on a world map and research certain information about it.

Groups of 3 or more (My favourite is 3 for a collaborative group task, usually find with 4 that a student can often be left with very little to do). Again how do you want the groups to be split, each member of the group being of similar ability or each group being mixed. Maybe you just want to change the seating plan and can use a group activity to do so.

1. Jigsaw – Similar to above, assign each group a problem/puzzle (maths), a piece of art (Visual Art) or an animal (science), making sure each can be represented visually usually on a piece of A4 paper. Print each one out and cut into the desired number of pieces (3 if you want groups of 3, 4 for groups of 4 etc). Hand these out to the students as they enter the room, where they then have to organise themselves into their groups and complete a task based on their image/problem/puzzle. By making each groups jigsaw different it allows you to pick and choose which students go together (differentiation) or which students you keep apart by giving them each pieces of a different image/problem/puzzle.

2. Burgers – Yes Burgers! This is a fun way for students to split themselves into groups. To split your class into groups of 4 the link is here. Or groups of 3 click here. This powerpoint slide may also be helpful to have on the board as the students come in! The cards in the links need to be cut out and handed to each student as they enter the room, each group needs to have a bun, a burger and a condiment (or 2 condiments if in groups of 4). Students are allowed a bit more freedom here when choosing their groups though you can still have a say in how the groups are made. For example if you want a high ability student in each group just hand them each a bun or burger card. Likewise if you want to split up certain students hand them each a bun or burger card since each group requires only one of each.

3. Sweets – Easy one, have a bag of mixed lollies equal to the number of required members of each group. As the students come in, they each choose a lolly a at random and have to sit with others who have the same lolly as them. Simple.