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Flipped Friday – Using MyMathLab for Pre-Class Assignments

Flipped Friday – Using MyMathLab for Pre-Class Assignments

Flipped FridayThis semester I will be posting about my experiences with the Flipped Classroom. I am using this approach in my Statistics class, and you can read about my day-by-day progress here. I am also using this approach in my Intermediate Algebra class, as well as some of my materials in an online Elementary Algebra class. If you have questions, comments, or topics you’d like me to cover, please leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter.

Pre-Class Assignments

In a flipped classroom, direct instruction is moved outside the classroom into the individual space. Before flipping my classroom, my direct instruction involved conceptual explanations and introductions to new topics, followed by examples and an opportunity for student practice. I wanted my flipped pre-class assignments to incorporate those elements in guided practice, and MyMathLab (recently renamed MyLab Math) allows me to do this.

I build media assignments containing conceptual videos and example videos in addition to homework exercises. It’s quite easy to edit a traditional homework assignment to fit this strategy. In the assignment builder I click on Media, then I can add any of the media elements that the publisher includes. In my combined algebra textbook there are over 3000 short videos to choose from. You can also add videos from YouTube or other web sites.

Example – Intermediate Algebra

My Intermediate Algebra class meets for 2 hours on Monday and Wednesday. On Wednesday my goal was to review solving linear inequalities, then move on to solving absolute value inequalities. My MyLab assignment had conceptual videos and example videos related to solving linear inequalities, complex linear inequalities, displaying solutions on a number line and using interval notation. There were also about a half-dozen problems for students to work through. I then followed up with a handful of videos relating to the topic of solving absolute value inequalities, as well as 4 example videos.

This allowed me to begin the class with a group problem solving session for linear inequalities (20 minutes). After a debriefing where we discussed common issues and trouble spots, I started to talk about absolute value inequalities using a number line and the definition of absolute value involving distance. We were able to work backwards from a solution to the absolute value inequality that led to it. We also discussed the differences between “less than” absolute value inequalities and “greater than” absolute value inequalities, and then summarized the procedures we developed.

The class worked through a handful of examples before we finally discussed how to proceed when an absolute value is being compared to a negative number. We shared strategies for how to determine when there are no solutions and when every real number is a solution.


The videos and problems put students in a spot where they understood linear inequalities. (Students who had never seen interval notation got their introduction before class began.) The problems build into the assignment gave them a chance to assess how well they understood. Watching the absolute value inequality videos was the perfect introduction – students were familiar with the type of problem we would be working on and were able to follow my conceptual explanations because they knew where we were going.


Two Books To Help Get Ready

Two Books To Help Get Ready

Wildcard Wednesday

I have decided that each Wednesday on the blog this semester will be “Wildcard Wednesday”. In other words, there will be no theme. Instead I will write about whatever happens to be on my mind. I’ll begin by sharing two books that apply to all math instructors.

The Fall 2017 semester starts next week for us at College of the Sequoias. One of my favorite summer pastimes is to read books on instructional strategies and books that inspire my teaching philosophy. Today, on #BookLoversDay, I will be discussing two of the books I read this summer.

Successful Beginnings for College Teaching by Angela Proverita McGlynn

Before any semester, I always start by rereading one of my favorite books: Successful Beginnings for College Teaching by Angela Provitera McGlynn. This book is aimed at new college instructors, particularly at commuter schools and community colleges. A listing of the chapters tells you all about the book.

  1. Classroom and Course Management
  2. A Positive Start: First Day Classroom Activities and Icebreakers
  3. Creating a Welcoming Classroom Environment
  4. Promoting Student Participation and Motivation
  5. Dealing with Incivility in the College Classroom
  6. Keeping the Ball Rolling to a Fruitful Conclusion

One thing that the author states that I completely agree with is that instructors have to help new students to “learn how to learn”. Students often do not arrive in our classrooms with the skills necessary for success, and we must incorporate these skills into our daily lectures. Well, not really “lectures”, because the classroom needs to be much more interactive than that.

This book, although aimed at new instructors, will help any instructor regardless of the amount of experience the instructor has. I suppose the instructor that figures he or she has it all mastered and cannot improve may be the worst type of instructor a student can have.

I give this book my strongest possible recommendation. If you have already read it, please share your opinion of it with a comment.

Flipped Learning: A Guide for Higher Education Faculty by Robert Talbert

You may already be familiar with Robert Talbert through his old Chronicle blog (Casting Out Nines) or his new blog at Besides his pioneering work on flipped learning, he has shared many helpful thoughts on productivity on his blog and on the Teaching in Higher Ed podcasts. (This is a great podcast. Add it to your subscriptions!)

This book does a great job of defining what flipped learning is. One of my pet peeves is that people think that you can flip your classroom by having students watch videos at home and do homework in class – it is not! Flipped learning involves structured direct instruction outside of class, so that class time can be devoted to tasks with a higher cognitive load and benefit from the guidance of the instructor. Robert does a great job of explaining what flipped learning is and is not, and gives many useful examples from various disciplines.

In the middle of the book Robert walks the reader through how to apply the flipped approach to a given topic. Begin by making a list of the learning objectives for the lesson, then put them in order of complexity. At that point you can identify the line that separates which objectives can be addressed in the individual space (before class) and which can be addressed in the group space (in class). He then moves on to designing the group space activities, the individual space activities (guided practice), and post-class activities.

If you are thinking of flipping your class, this is an ideal book to begin with. (By the way, it is also available in a Kindle format as well.) Since I have flipped my statistics class (as well as my elementary algebra class) my classes are definitely more interactive and engaging, my success rates have risen, and my students have a deeper level of understanding. My students are enjoying class much more, and I am as well. I will continue to discuss flipped learning as the semester progresses. By the way, I will be blogging about my flipped statistics class on a day-by-day basis this semester so you can follow along if you are thinking of giving this a try. You can check out the blog at

What Did You Read?

What reading did you do this summer? Are there any major changes you plan to make this semester that resulted from your reading? If so, please leave a comment.


Case Study of Interactive Statistics in an Online Class

Case Study of Interactive Statistics in an Online Class

I’m really proud of this latest study involving our Interactive Statistics (I am a co-author with Michael Sullivan) by Sam Bazzi at Henry Ford College. I saw Sam present his results at ICTCM and was really impressed. I encourage you to check out his case study.

Read the Study Here

This reinforces the fact that there is not a better product to use in an online statistics course: students persisted at higher rates and their test scores improved as the semester progressed. Sam took a lot of time and effort to set this course up, and according to his students it really paid off.

How It Works

The overall idea behind Interactive Statistics is for students to read a little, watch a little, and do a little as they make their way through the section.

  • Concepts are presented through text and video, and reinforced through applets.
  • Each example has 3 associated video solutions: by hand, by StatCrunch, and by calculator.
  • Examples are followed by exercises that students complete. Scores are incorporated into the student’s grade book immediately.

My Online Class

My online students do an IRA (Interactive Reading Assignment) for each section to learn the material, then follow up with a traditional homework assignment. In addition to the guided notebook that is available inside Interactive Statistics, I provide my students with Pointers for each section, and Guides for each IRA and HW assignment – check them out on my website here. The IRA can replace the “lecture” that traditional students get. My students come to campus for an in-person midterm exam and final exam.

Not Just For Online Classes

I use Interactive Statistics for my face-to-face classes as well. I use it to flip my classroom.

  • Students complete the IRA for the section before it is discussed in class.
  • Most classes begin with a Learning Catalytics session to determine the level of understanding and to identify any misconceptions.
  • Many classes incorporate collaborative engaging problem solving during the class session.
  • I no longer “lecture” – we have a student driven discussion instead.

This has allowed me to develop inferential intuition through simulations early in the semester, and incorporate alternative randomization tests and nonparametric tests later in the semester. I feel like my students have a greater understanding of statistics, and I am having more fun in the classroom than ever.

Any Questions?

If you’d like to talk about how to use Interactive Statistics in your class, or how to flip your statistics class, please leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter or through the contact page on my web site.


Flipping a Two Hour Class – Intro Stats

Flipping a Two Hour Class – Intro Stats

This semester I am teaching a short term Intro Stats class, and I have found it more challenging to flip this class. The class meets 4 days a week for 2 hours a day. This can be difficult because I typically have two main concepts to cover, and students have trouble preparing for a second topic until they get a chance to work on the first concept in class. I will share some of the strategies I have used.

The Best Days

I have found that the best days are those which I have a concept that can extend to the entire two hours. For example, today I covered the two mean test using independent samples. We started by having a discussion about comparing the two mean test to the paired difference test that we covered yesterday. Students then worked through a few tests in their groups. Once I felt they had the two mean test under control I pivoted to the nonparametric Mann Whitney test, the test we use when the necessary conditions for the two mean test are not met. I was able to introduce this concept with a brief 10 minute mini-lecture, and followed up with another group activity with four tests to work through – some two mean & some Mann Whitney. Students got a chance to learn when to use each technique, and I felt confident that they understood both tests.

Making it Work

I have had to be flexible with my traditional approach. For example, I often cover binomial probabilities on one day and follow up with Poisson probabilities the next day. I think asking students to work on a Flip assignment on Poisson probabilities before we discuss binomial probabilities is a tall order.
First Day
So, for the first day students worked a Flip assignment on binomial probabilities before class, and in class the first hour was devoted to a Learning Catalytics assignment and a problem solving session. At that point I could have given a short 20 minute lecture on Poisson probabilities followed by more problem solving. Instead, we spent the second hour on a project introducing the concept of a one proportion test using the binomial distribution. (That is 4 chapters before we formally cover hypothesis testing.)
Second Day
For the second day, students worked on a Flip assignment on Poisson probabilities before class. We spent the first hour doing a team-based Learning Catalytics session followed by some problem solving with the Poisson distribution. For the second hour students did more problem solving on a mixture of general discrete probability distributions, the binomial distribution, and the Poisson distribution.

In a typical class that meets an hour per day this might have taken 3 days, but it took 4 hours of in-class time. This has happened a lot, and I have had to be real careful in terms of how I plan the schedule for this class. Switching from unit exams to a midterm/final approach has bought me a few days. I have learned to be more efficient with other topics.

Stacking Concepts

There are some pairs of topics that can be handled with two flip assignments on the same night. For example, sampling and sampling techniques are covered in two sections in our textbook and I typically spend two days on this material. I was able to give a combined flip assignment on sampling. In class we worked on a Learning Catalytics assignment, followed by an activity in which students got to experiment with the various methods.

Other places where this worked included qualitative and quantitative graphs, and measures of central tendency and dispersion.

Mid-Class Flip

One strategy I did not employ, but holds great promise, is using a mid-class flip assignment. The idea is that I could give students a flip assignment on one topic and begin the class with a group activity, then follow up with a 15-20 minute flip activity for that day’s second topic.

If technology is not available, that flip assignment could be as simple as a guided reading assignment. An open-ended problem solving assignment from the next section could be given. In a smart classroom, videos could be played for the entire class. There are many options.

Once that mid-class flip assignment is done the class could move on to a group activity or a Learning Catalytics assessment.


I feel I will be better prepared for the next time I flip a 2-hour class. I think the real key is to stop doing things the way I have always done them and really leverage the advantages of the flipped classroom.

I have also flipped my elementary algebra classes this semester, and will share about those in a later blog.

If you have any questions, please leave a comment or reach out to me on Twitter or through the contact page on my web site.


Using IF-AT as Part of Exam Review

Using IF-AT as Part of Exam Review

blog if-at image

One of the highlights of the recent ICTCM conference was Eric Mazur’s keynote address about “Assessment For Learning.” He mentioned an assessment technique known as IF-AT (Immediate Feedback Assessment Technique) that reminded me a great deal of the review strategy I have been using in my intermediate algebra course. (Here’s a blog on that review strategy.) I thought it was a great idea to try, so immediately postponed my elementary algebra exams on systems of two linear equations in two unknowns by one day to give this a try. I added a second review day so I can introduce this strategy to my students over a two day period.

The idea is that students work on a series of problems individually. After half of the class period has ended, students submit their individual work and form groups of four students. They then discuss their answers as a team and submit a team answer to the first problem. If they get it right the first time they get full credit. If they get it wrong they can select a second answer to submit for 1/2 credit. They can even try it a third time if needed for 1/4 credit. I saw a video where the problems were in a  multiple choice format with 4 possible answers, and the teams were given a scratch off card. A star was displayed on the right answer – if students see the star they know they are right, if they see a blank space that counts as an incorrect attempt.

You can see a step-by-step demonstration of how the IF-AT works
on this web page posted by Epstein Educational Enterprises.

I am going to use a Learning Catalytics Team-Based Assessment to put my spin on this process. On day 1, students will work individually on 8 problems for 30 minutes. Some problems will be conceptual, some will be systems to solve, and there will be two word problems. They will submit their answers as they work. I will then launch the team portion of the assessment. Students will form their own groups of 4, with one person responsible for entering their team answers. I have decided to give teams only two attempts on each problem. A correct answer on the first attempt will receive full credit and a correct answer on the second attempt will receive half credit.

The individual portion will make up half of the score, with the team portion making up the other half of the score. I will be counting the score as an in-class activity in my flipped classroom model. I expect students to take a little time to get used to working with Learning Catalytics, so I have tried to select problems that they will be able to answer in the given time limit. I expect day 2 of the review will be smoother. My students work so well together, and I expect to see their bonding pay off in this review.

Later this week I will let you know how it goes.

Do you have any experience using IF-AT in the classroom? Do you use it for testing? I’m curious how you address students who have testing accommodations through the testing office. Let me know by leaving a comment, reaching me through the contact page on my website, or reaching out to me on Twitter (@georgewoodbury).


Flipping Elementary Algebra

Flipping Elementary Algebra


This semester I am teaching two sections of elementary algebra using a flipped classroom model. The approach is different than the way I have flipped my statistics course, but has been very effective. I am relying heavily on MyMathLab outside the classroom.

For each section that we cover …

  • Students complete a “Flip” assignment before the material is discussed in class.
    The assignment contains conceptual videos that introduce each topic as well as videos of examples where problems are worked out.
    After students finish the videos, there are a handful of problems that they have to work through, and all of the learning aids (except “Show Example” are available. Students can try each problem as many times as they would like.
  • The “lecture” period is intended to involve active learning.
    Some days begin with a class driven recap of what they learned in the Flip assignment. I count on students to drive this discussion, stepping in only when I have something to clarify or add. I mostly ask questions and wait for students to respond.
    Most days involve group work or collaborative learning. Some days students turn in their assignments. Other days we go over answers as we go, or I ask students to share their answers and strategies at the board.
    Every day is different, and I am looking for my students to be as agile in their learning as I am in my teaching.
  • After class, students take a 5 question “Reflect” quiz that focuses on the problems that I feel are most important.
    The results on the student’s first Reflect quiz attempt load a personalized HW assignment, containing 3 exercises associated with each problem on the quiz. If a student gets a problem correct on the first quiz attempt, they get instant credit on the personalized HW for the 3 associated problems.
    Students use the personalized HW for self remediation, then they can go back and take the quiz again as many times as they would like to.

One question many have about flipping the classroom is “What do you do if students arrive unprepared?” In my experience, having the Flip assignments due for a grade motivates students to do them. Also, because they hear their classmates participating in the discussions and contributing during “lecture they feel more compelled to be prepared themselves. I have seen some of my students in the tutorial center in the morning before class starts trying to get some help to make sure they understand the material, and that can only lead to good things.

I am happy with the way things are going, and I am progressing towards less discussion at the beginning of class as my students become stronger. It gives me (& my embedded tutor) more opportunities to walk around during class and talk to students one-on-one, clarifying as we go.

The classes just took the exam on Chapter 3 (Graphing lines, equations of lines), and 61 out of 71 students passed the exam. The mean score in each class was in the high 80s, with median scores of 92 and 93 in the two classes. This test was very similar to the test I gave last semester, but the results are much stronger. On to systems of equations …

Are you flipping your classroom? I’d love to hear what you are doing. Interested in trying this approach? Please leave a comment on this blog, contact me through the contact page on my website, or reach out to me on Twitter (@georgewoodbury).

I am a mathematics instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA, as well as the author of algebra and statistics textbooks with Pearson.

Flipped Classroom Materials for Statistics

Flipped Classroom Materials for Statistics

Last semester I flipped my Statistics classroom, and was really happy with the results. I have put together some pages explaining exactly how I flipped the classroom, with links/descriptions of documents that I used along with a calendar showing how I we covered the material.

You can find it all at

I will be adding more to the site as I make my way through a second semester of flipping that classroom – this time in a short-term (8 week) semester.

– George

Building an Early Inferential Approach into the Calendar

Building an Early Inferential Approach into the Calendar

I have had a few questions about how I am managing to work all of these early inferential projects into my Intro Stats course.

1) Switching from Chapter Exams to a Midterm and a Final

In the first 7 chapters of our textbook I used to give 4 exams. That means that I would use 4 days for exams and approximately 6 days for review. I have 4 days built into my calendar for review (2 days) and the midterm exam (2 days). That is a net gain of 6 days in the first half of the course.

I have 8 project days scheduled in the first half of the course so that only puts me two days behind, but I have been able to avoid spending more than one day on any section so there are unofficial gains there.

I have checked in with two colleagues and I am one day behind one of them and even with the other.

In the second half of the course I will apply the days saved from chapter tests to cover alternatives to the traditional hypothesis tests, including simulations and non-parametric tests.

2) I Will Not Have To Introduce Hypothesis Testing in the Second Half of the Course

I typically spend 4 days to cover the first hypothesis test (the 1-proportion test), but I should be able to jump right in and cover that test in one day.

My Calendar for Weeks 1-5

Here is the schedule I have followed to this point. I have put the project days in bold.

Date Topic
15-Aug Day 1 Syllabus etc.
16-Aug 1.1 Intro to Stats
17-Aug 1.2 Observational Studies, Experiments
18-Aug 1.3/1.4 Sampling Techniques
22-Aug 1.6 Experimental Design
23-Aug 2.1 Qualitative Graphs
24-Aug Project 1: Simulation for 1-Proportion
25-Aug Project 2: Randomization Test for 2-Proportions
29-Aug 2.2 Quantitative Graphs
30-Aug 3.1 Measures of Center
31-Aug Project 3: Bootstrap Method for Estimating a Mean or Median
1-Sep Project 4: Using Simulation for a Population Mean
5-Sep holiday
6-Sep Project 5: Using Bootstrap Method for a Paired Difference Test
7-Sep 3.2 Measures of Dispersion
8-Sep 3.4 Quartiles
12-Sep 3.5 5-Number Summary and Boxplots
13-Sep Project 6: Randomization Test for Two Means
14-Sep 4.1 Correlation
15-Sep Project 7: Hypothesis Test for Correlation


Comparing Two Samples (Quantitative)

Comparing Two Samples (Quantitative)

My students are wrapping up the part of the course where we cover descriptive statistics. I gave them two sets of data (test scores from two different versions of the same exam) and they spent the day in class computing sample statistics and creating graphs for each sample. Their overall goal was to analyze their results and determine whether there was a significant difference between the two versions or not.

Download a pdf of this activity

Students compared measures of central tendency and the 5-number summaries and I asked them to share their observations. They went on to compute measures of dispersion and then we talked about whether the dispersion of each sample was similar. Finally they created histograms, pie charts, and boxplots and we discussed what they felt the graphs were telling them.

We had another great opportunity to discuss the fact that a perceived difference may not be significant unless we can determine whether the observed difference (the means were 4.8 points apart) would be unusual through some sort of repeated sampling.

This leads into our sixth project of the semester where we will use the randomization test for two means to determine whether the observed difference was significant. We will use StatCrunch for this test, although there are many other tools out there that can be used. My students will then move on to apply this test to two sets of data they collected. I will blog about the outcomes of that project in my next post.

Book Review: Teaching with Classroom Response Systems by Derek Bruff

Book Review: Teaching with Classroom Response Systems by Derek Bruff

Just finished reading this book by Derek Bruff (@derekbruff on Twitter), so I thought I’d share what I wrote on Goodreads. (By the way, if you’d like to be reading buddies, here’s my Goodreads profile page.)

Here goes …


Although some of the technology has really changed since this book was published, I would strongly recommend this book to anyone who plans to incorporate classroom response systems into their teaching. Bruff clearly lays out the pros and cons of different strategies of incorporation, grading schemes, question types, revealing correct answers, …

He does a great job introducing Peer Instruction, and I have been using that strategy in my classroom with great success. I feel that more of my students understand more of the material at this point of the semester than in previous semesters. (I am moving on to Mazur’s Peer Instruction book to go into greater depth on the strategy.)

I also love the concept of Agile Teaching. I love the uncertainty of not knowing which way the class will go, while remaining confident that I can adapt to what I am seeing from my students. I am teaching the same class back-to-back, and have had to focus on different topics with each class. It’s a lot of fun, and it fits in with my belief that we teach our students instead of teaching the material. I now walk into class each day thinking “I Am An Agile Teacher” and I feel so empowered. I should probably put that on a t-shirt.

Note: I am using Learning Catalytics as my classroom response system in my Intro Stats classes, and I am about to start using Plickers in my Elementary Algebra classes.