Flipped Algebra Class Results

I have been “flipping” my math class for several weeks now.  What is a flipped class, you ask?  A flipped class simply reverses the traditional concept of lecture during class/assign problems as homework.  In a flipped classroom, content is delivered as homework, usually via online videos.  Then problems and projects are worked on during class, when students benefit from the teacher’s help and explanations.  Check out this video, from a science teacher who flips his classroom.  Or just Google “flipped classroom” and be surprised by the many, many teachers who are not only flipping their classrooms, but are also sharing their experiences via blogs, videos, and conferences.

Before flipping my Algebra 1 class, I often heard students complain that though they understood what I had said in class, they didn’t know how to start the homework problems by the time they got home.  The examples in the textbook didn’t help either.  About a year ago, I found out about the Khan Academy, a website with over 2,000 free videos explaining concepts from algebra to US history (and consequently, a big proponent of the flipped classroom concept).

While reviewing for our first semester final, I decided to pick out a few videos students could watch to help them study.  One student reported that she had watched the videos and that “that guy explains things WAY better than you do!”  It only bothered me a little, since, as I tell my students, hearing someone else explain a concept in another way is always helpful.  We all learn differently.  I think this is a valuable concept for them to learn.

The students who watched the videos in preparation for the final exam seemed to find them helpful.  So, I decided I would try flipping some of my lessons during the second semester.  On flipped days, I assign at least one Khan Academy algebra video for students to watch as homework.  Then we do problems together in class.  When students are able to listen to explanations at home, they can stop, start, and repeat areas they didn’t understand.  They can watch it in their own time, which is hopefully when they are most motivated to listen – not just when we force them to sit in a classroom.

I don’t flip my class every day.  I have simply incorporated it as one teaching method among many.  I assign video lectures from the Khan Academy about twice a week.  Other days, I suggest a video only for those who need extra help on homework.  For students who don’t have access to the videos at home for some reason, I load them onto a few iPod Touches, which kids can borrow from me during their free period.  This also helps with the problem of not having enough bandwidth to stream a video in our school building.  I use Zamzar to convert the videos.  Let me know if you’d like instructions on doing this yourself!

I thought it would be useful to keep track of my students’ quiz and test scores before and after I started flipping.  Here’s a summary of their scores:

Flipped Graph

As you can see, the average quiz/test score went up more than 10 percentage points!  It’s a very small sample size (I only have 14 students), but still – I find this very encouraging.  I don’t believe I changed anything other than the flipping.  I know any student can benefit from one-on-one attention, especially in math.  Flipping some of my lessons allows me to dole out that attention more often, and I think these results show why that’s a good thing.

Recently, students have caught on to my flipped approach and said things like, “We don’t think we should have to watch videos of things YOU should be teaching us. Isn’t that your job?”  Kids will complain about anything, I know, but this bothers me.  I’m pretty sure the kids who are saying this are the ones who don’t do much homework anyway, and who don’t watch the videos I assign.  The ones who do watch aren’t complaining.  They’re passing.

But I’d still like to answer this question.  I need to work on changing the students’ idea of what “teaching” actually IS.  Is it lecturing at them until they get it?  Is it assigning drill and kill problems?  Or is it working with them in whatever way is best for them, to facilitate their learning?  I have a long way to go with helping kids think this way (and, ahem, sometimes also administrators and parents…).

I think flipping my classroom is a start in the right direction.

Parabolas! Movie

Caution: This post is very nerdy.

I downloaded the newest version of iMovie because I heard that you could easily make movie-trailer style videos.  It’s true!  You just fill in the text, drag in a few clips, and you’re done!  So here’s my first one.  I’m going to use it to get my Algebra 1 students excited about our next chapter – my favorite math topic: parabolas!

Parabolas! Trailer