In a traditional geometry classroom, the teacher sends home a set of math problems for the children to practice at home. But Farmington math teacher Jane Harris tried out a new concept last year, and it seems to have caught on.
Harris began what is called a flipped classroom for one geomeotry class as an experiment last school year. In the traditional classroom, she spends a majority of her class time lecturing, after which students might have about 10 to 15 minutes left for homework.
One day, a colleague emailed Harris about a flipped classroom, which is completely opposite. She posts her lectures for students using video notes on the school website, and sends home a worksheet reference for the students to follow. Then during class time she uses Mobi, a wireless white board to do math problems. The rest of class time is then spent working on the math problems together.
Harris uploads the videos prior to class time so students have them whenever they need them throughout the duration of the class. For students who don’t have internet Harris makes a DVD for them. Some days students don’t have video notes.
“I put students in groups of four, and they are in a circle for the class. Everyone works in a group,” she said. “Last year was the best year because students saw each other as a resource. I am there to help out and for them to ask me questions.”
The overall average grade for the flipped classes was three percentage points higher than the regular formal geometry class. “The biggest difference was the 98 percent completion rate of homework in the flipped class,” Harris said.
Enrollment in the flipped class is voluntarily.
“I send a letter home to parents explaining what the process is. Last year I started out with 28 students and had two drop,” she said. “It’s not for everyone but a lot liked it for the extra curricular activities. It cuts down on the frustration and the grades were better.”
This year’s enrollment has doubled.
“Last year I had a student who played football and was injured. He was able to watch the videos and I sent home his notes and he was able to stay up to date with class,” Harris said.
The flipped classroom helps students become independent learners, see each other as resources and work in a team setting which helps prepare them to be career and college ready.
“Formal geometry is a great class to take,” a student named Payal said. “Especially the flipped version because watching the videos at home and having the homework with the video to work on in class is just awesome. You have your group to help you with the homework, and you also have Mrs. Harris, who you can ask questions. If you are an athlete and you're busy after school, and you don't have time to sit down and do an hour of homework, then watching videos is the way to go.”
“I would take this class if you are someone with a lot of extracurricular stuff going on. Doing the homework in class has really helped, and I have had really good grades in math for the first time in three years,” another student named Kalen said.
“The flipped geometry class really worked well with my busy after-school schedule. I almost always get my homework done before I left school,” a student named Alyssa said. “My homework consists of watching one, sometimes two 10-minute videos. It's really easy to watch the videos in seminar or in a class where you get done early. It's also really convenient having your teacher there to help you when you're doing your homework. I found this class easier to keep up with than some of my other math classes in the past.”
Harris said Farmington School District Data Coordinator Roblyn Hatch and Superintendent Matthew Ruble are supportive of keeping the flipped classes going.
"Flipped instruction allows students to be able to learn at their own pace by viewing videos of direct instruction at home or on their own time,” Ruble said. “This allows students more time to collaborate with fellow students during classroom instruction with the teacher there as a resource. Often this allows students to increase their understanding of difficult concepts by working together.”
This year Farmington High School added another flipped geometry classes and an informal geometry class.