This combines two thoughts. First, that any digital task should be very low friction, and that topics are best introduced with some open ended questions. We're going through Conic Sections in all my classes and we are moving on to circles and ellipses. I gave the students a task: find five examples of a circle and five examples of an ellipse. I didn't define what ellipse meant or offer any suggestions other than their examples had to be real objects. Not some math problem they find on a homework help site. In Pre Cal they had an additional task to see if they could locate generic versions of circle and ellipse equations.

Rather than have a scheme of uploading stuff to Dropbox or whatever, they simply saved their photos to the local Camera Roll of the iPad. All my iPads being tied to the same iCloud account, anything saved on one quickly propogates to the others.

I had my iPad open to the Photo Stream on the board and watched the samples drift in:

It was great for them because they could watch for their example to appear, and great for me because any goofy photos were made public immediately (see if you can spot the dog butt).

Rather than attach 15 iPads in sequence, I could run through the collection on mine as we discussed who found "better" examples of ellipses than others and spot items that some considered an ellipse but technically weren't (like the track at a high school). The technology got out of the way.

Cleaning up was easy too. The students were instructed to delete the local camera roll and I deleted everything from the Photo Stream when we were done, clearing the rest of the iPads in the process.

In a future post, I'll discuss what happened next, were we built models in desmos and got into the deeper mathematical aspects.

AuthorJonathan Claydon
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A followup to my iPad implementation. Here's how I get a new iPad integrated into my fold.

Sign In to the App Store


I disable auto-downloads because you may want to test an app before putting it on all your iPads. Other iPads tied to this account will grab the app at an unspecified time without telling you. Later we will set a restriction that will prevent a student from signing you out.

Get Your Purchases


Anything you've purchased with this Apple ID will appear on the "Purchased" tab in the App Store. A cloud icon means the app is not currently installed. Tapping it will begin a download. The App Store requires your password before this can happen, and that authorization will expire after a period of time. A student cannot grab any of this stuff if the authorization window has expired.

Set Up iCloud


Your iCloud ID is the same as your Apple ID. This enables document sharing (Documents & Data) between copies of apps and sharing photos quickly (Photo Stream). The mail/contacts/calendars/reminders stuff can be disabled. By default the iPad will backup user data when plugged into power. This only saves user created data. Apple automatically keeps track of what apps are credited to your account (or music/movies you've purchased) and you do not need to back them up.


Now to enable Restrictions. It's under General and you have to scroll a bit to find it.


By default, everything will be grayed out when you enter.


Tapping enable will prompt you to create a passcode. This is different then setting a passcode for the lock screen. If you ever want to change a restriction, you will need to enter this passcode. I would not recommend setting a passcode for the lock screen because inevitably students will figure it out unless you are really crazy about unlocking the devices for them. Unfortunately, there is no restriction to prevent setting a passcode for the lockscreen. Some clever student may do this to you. The iPad will have to be restored to remove the lock screen code.


The first group of settings will enable/disable a limited range of device capabilities. If you disable FaceTime and iTunes, their icons will disappear from the home screen. Enable them to make the icons return. Siri settings only appear on the iPad 3/4/mini. If you're really worried about students getting other apps onto the device, you can disable installing apps and re-enable when you want to add something. Though it's a bit tedious.


These are the restrictions I have set on my devices. I don't mess with content ratings because I've disabled the iTunes store entirely. Now scroll down to the account section.


Each of these will prevent a student from changing account information. The corresponding icon in the sidebar will gray out when you disable changes. It cannot be accessed without disabling the restriction by having the restriction passcode. You cannot remove the Mail icon from the homescreen, but with account editing disabled, the app will prevent the student from adding an e-mail account to the device.


Once you get a feel for what needs to be done, a device can be set up in about 10 minutes. App downloads take time and you'll need arrange them on the home screen, but the settings portion is easy. You'll need to do a few things like sign in to Dropbox (and give it access to photos) if you've installed it, enable iCloud in apps if they aren't by default, but that can be done quickly. Once I have all the apps downloaded I launch each one to make sure it's ok. I have less than 10 apps on my student iPads.

AuthorJonathan Claydon
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There is a quantity of x iPads in your room. Maybe you have one yourself and have items you want to demo, or videos you want to show, or maybe you teach from it (it can be done). Or, maybe you're lucky enough to have some student ones. How do you show off work? A lot of the traditional methods involve a clunky save, attach to e-mail process. Or maybe you have a Dropbox and you have them save and upload it in there. Either way, a little clunky, and a little time consuming to determine if the students put the work in the right place. A solution for this sort of thing is AirServer. It piggy backs off of Apple's AirPlay technology that debuted with the AirPort Express in...2004 (originally called AirTunes). What, you thought it was the iPad? AppleTV? Nope. You know, before iPhones or iPads were a thing and iPod screens were black and white. It was a dark period.

Nowadays, wireless bandwidth is such that you can send video via AirPlay (officially you are only supposed to transmit to an AppleTV or AirPort Express or licensed AirPlay speaker) and it's not a gimmick or half-baked. It's pretty mind blowing to watch.

Anyway, the question of sharing work that's done on an iPad. The foolproof way is an iPad VGA adapter. That can be a little tricky if the projector in your classroom doesn't have multiple inputs or you aren't comfortable swapping out VGA cables, or aren't willing to figure out to integrate a KVM switch. You're also limited to the length of your cable and the cable on the iPad side of the equation likes to pop out in my experience.

AirServer offers a little more flexibility in this regard. You install the app on your main computer (there's a Mac and Windows version), and it shows up as an AirPlay source to the iPad:


The result is a perfect replica of the iPad screen on your desktop computer. It can be made full screen if you so choose:


If you don't have an iPad and perhaps just have an iPhone or iPod Touch, these devices will still work with AirServer. Regardless of device, the camera is in play and will stream video to the destination screen without issue (provided there's enough breathing room on your network). Earlier in the year, one particular group of students got into a heated battle of Inverse Trig War. I tied my iPhone to the computer and did a "live broadcast" from the table. Not sure how to describe how like "what the heck did I just do?" this experience was.


I haven't had much trouble with this when using it in the classroom. All the student iPads comply pretty well. Though I do have the VGA cable as a backup. My only tip if you're going to have AirServer running is to set a password (can be done within the Preference/Options of the app). Otherwise any iOS device can hop on if the connection is free. Three times I showed something via iPad, disconnected it, forgot I had AirServer running and at random some kid's music collection started to play. It was pretty funny once I figured out what happened (I suspect the culprit was in the room). But for the unitiated, it can be a bit unsettling.

AuthorJonathan Claydon

Burdened by YouTube filters? Or more specifically, denied access to YouTube because there's no way to authenticate yourself properly on the computer you like teaching on? Simple fix. Well, two simple fixes. Option 1 is snag yourself an iPad with some of that sweet sweet Verizon LTE, an iPad VGA adapter, and (optionally) a KVM Switch. Barring that, if you are the type that plans ahead, poke around and find one of many apps that will grab the source files from any YouTube video. One such app is MacTubes, available for free. It is modest, requires a version of OS X that was released in 2005, and yet can still yank down the most recently uploaded 1080p hotness from YouTube. We were discussing compound inequalities, so I introduced the lesson with the dual conditions on liquid water: its freezing point and boiling point. That lead to fun things like gallium spoons and that trick where you get water to boil at < 100C by inducing a vacuum. I snagged the source video with this app the night before and threw it in my Dropbox.


Useful next time you want to generate some inquiry about Korean satire. Or be honest, you just want to jam this in your room when the kids aren't around.

In the pipe:

Routines, iPad Training, Compound Inequalities through Phase Diagrams, and Four Years of Room Design.

AuthorJonathan Claydon

Graphs and Transformations take center stage in Algebra II. We spend most of the year discussing the major parent functions, looking at their graphs and noticing how parameter changes would affect that graph. Studying these pictures with a TI is a very low-res experience. They have activities available on their website that involve lots of button pushing and hand holding. I have found that better results are obtained when you can dynamically show the effects of a parameter change. There are some nice modules through Explore Learning that I have used (the conics ones are quite handy). The only problem I have with those is you get 5 minutes to play with a particular module per browser per day. You can sign up for a 30-day trial but the only other option is to get a site license for your school. Using them as inspiration, I stumbled upon Mathematica, a way overpowered tool that has a great feature that lets you build interactive models. I was able to crank out a few in not a lot of time:

The lag in the sliders is from the screen capture delay, the modules are quite responsive in practice. I have embedded the actual modules in my Algebra II and Pre-Cal curriculum sections. You can also download the CDF files and play with them offline. In both cases you'll need Wolfram's CDF player/plug-in (it's free). Have I mentioned that my curriculum sections are fully loaded now? Go look.

I'm still trying to fiddle with modules for conic sections, but plotting implicit equations is a little trickier, plus there's a giant CDF repository where others have come before me and accomplished good enough results.

AuthorJonathan Claydon

This fall I will be getting some iPads for my classroom. I have a few thoughts on how to work with them but those ideas aren't fleshed out yet. A brilliant idea that struck me though, was an app that could display functions and using sliders, students could fiddle with the parameters and watch as their quadratic (or whatever) translated left, right, got wider, narrower, etc. All the things TI has some 20-step "investigation" for that is incredibly boring. Sadly, no such app really exists and after inquiring about building it myself, the $50,000 price tag for a professional was unappealing.

Long story short, I randomly installed a trial of Mathematica 8. The last time I met Mathematica I was a senior in college and the professor was using it to demonstrate optimization examples. That was like 6 years and 3 versions of Mathematica ago. Needless to say when I fired up the trial I had no idea what to do. So I poked around their tutorial section. and in a few minutes I was able to make this:

Screen Shot 2012-05-22 at 6.27.09 PM.png

Mind. Freaking. Blown. And no, this is not the first time I'm considering bringing an intense software package in to serve the needs of high school students.

AuthorJonathan Claydon

When I started I had these binders. Big 3" numbers where in the pursuit of being organized I would group all of my materials based on the book chapters. After a while these things filled with paper with the thought being in future years I would just have to find what I was looking for in this binder and run off copies rather than make something from scratch or reprint it. Of course, as I got to working I found that in wanting to improve, this old stuff was of little use to me. Slowly I noticed I wasn't opening the binders, or even updating them with the latest tests. Once I got a scanner and a pen tablet, everything I used could be sourced from my Dropbox a lot faster. This lead me to the main item kept in those binders: answer keys. What good is an answer key from last year if I change the test? If the goal is to raise the difficulty or find new ways to ask old things, what good are these old answer keys? So, I went digital. My tests are stored as PDFs and a few minutes with PDFPen and my pen tablet, you arrive here:

AuthorJonathan Claydon

From time to time I need graphs for tests, or index cards, or to display on screen. In the past I used TI-InterActive! which is a Windows-only app that mimics a TI-84's graphing ability. The resolution and clarity is about the same too. I have discussed many other math tools out there, but I've got one that so far that nets the prettiest results.

OmniGraphSketcher is a $30 app that lets you freeform any kind of graph. The intent is generalized graphics for business presentations, but you can use them for math too. You define the points, determine whether they connect with straight or curved sections, and can adjust the points by hand if necessary. Tons of formatting options for pretty axes, large grid squares, labels, shading etc. The "Copy as Image" feature generates items good enough for printing. Though draw a graph much larger than you need, it's prettier to scale down than up. If anything it's also fabulous when you need a blank, easy to read grid for a test.

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AuthorJonathan Claydon

I enjoy investing in my classroom. People that know me are aware I have a tendency to get some pretty crazy toys. Like "I didn't know real people owned these" type toys. The podium is a nice example. In our district the lesson design program we subscribe to highly suggests that there should be an activity/problems/something on the board for the students to begin working on when they enter the room. While you take attendance and whatnot they (in theory) aren't running around like crazy. I coach on top of teaching with athletics first thing in the morning. When I arrive at school I need to be pretty efficient. Typically the time is spent figuring out a warm up and writing the days' objectives.

Doing this in the room is the fastest way because I can crank it out using pen input instead of having to type something up. But my pen input is in my classroom. So it's tough to do this ahead of time.

So imagine the '!' on my face when I caught wind of this gizmo.

My Wacom tablet is pretty boss, but this takes it up a notch. A magic brain that turns my doodles into something that can be loaded in the morning? Sold! It comes out in a couple weeks.

AuthorJonathan Claydon

So, thanks to some bond money, I have a very technology enabled classroom. There's a projector in the ceiling which broadcasts my computer screen for the class to see. Very nice for when an image or video is needed as part of the lesson or entertainment. But it doesn't remove that fundamental class problem of turning your back to the class and possibly blocking someone's view. Enter my podium. I have a keyboard, trackpad, display, and digitizer tablet that let's me do anything you normally do with the computer during a lesson without the need to block the large board or run over to the desk if I need to type something. How does it work? Where can I get one? Well, the display mirrors what gets shown on the projector, done through a 4-port VGA splitter (sends video to a monitor at my desk, the podium monitor, and the room projector). If you want to get really crazy, they sell 8-port splitters. A 50-ft VGA cable feeds the podium monitor. In hindsight, 50-feet is overkill. The digitizer tablet mirrors the interactive board mounted in my room. It gives me the same natural pen input as the pen provided with the board. The digitizer, keyboard, and trackpad are all wireless giving me some freedom in placement. As far as where to get one: work in the construction industry for 3 years, acquire some carpentry contracts then ask your old boss to call in a favor. The base and monitor stand were added after initial delivery. The hope is to find a sweet spot of podium placement and desk arrangement so I can interact with my board from here and cut down on the "can you please move?" We've been in school for one day, and I already got "why do you have so many computers?" from a student. Mission accomplished.

If you have any questions about anything I may not have mentioned about this project, jclaydon at infinitesums dot com

AuthorJonathan Claydon