Posts filed under ‘Uncategorized’

Getting the Most From Homework

Here is a blog I have cross-posted from my Elements of Game Design in Math Class blog:

I think it’s important to consider why we do homework, and to make sure our students understand that the goal is learning and understanding, not just accumulating points or doing busy work. Let me know what you think – George

Leveling Up, But Not Passing?

Now that the dust has settled from the first exam …

Between my 3 courses I had 63 students level up, and 55 of them (87%) passed the exam. But what about the 8 students who leveled up but did not pass? Obviously I understand that this can happen, but the goal is that if students are doing their homework with the goal of learning and understanding the material they should pass the exams. Of the 8 students, most were in the upper 50′s or 60′s. To me, that is close enough that they may have understood the material and had a bad day. It was their first test with me, and that can be an adjustment period.

In the past I have had a handful students who leveled up (90% or higher on all online homework, 70% or higher on all online quizzes), but score really low on the exam. In fact, the scores are so low that it’s hard to believe that the homework scores are true reflections of what the student knows. One problem is that many students have trained themselves to do the homework to accumulate points rather than knowledge. Using MyMathLab, students can over rely on learning aids such as “Help Me Solve This” or “Show An Example” and be tricked into thinking they are learning when they are not. They can have their resources available while working on their homework or quizzes, and may not realize that they can only solve the problems while using reference materials. Unfortunately these materials and the MyMathLab learning aids are not available during the in class exams.

Another problem could be the overuse/reliance on a personal tutor. I had a student who did the homework with a tutor, and I am fairly confident that the tutor was doing a lion’s share of the work. This will always show up on exam day.

At the beginning of the semester I make a big deal about the purpose of the homework. I use homework to allow my students to practice, to learn, to explore, to understand. Their goal should be to use the homework to gain a thorough understanding of the material, NOT to accumulate points. Since my students can only earn points by passing exams, they (for the most part) gain the correct perspective. I’m afraid that many students in our classes do homework because it’s something they are supposed to do, and have no idea about the goal of the homework.

In the past I have noticed that two things occur on the second exam. First, more people will level up because they understand how important that is. Second, the proportion of leveled up students who pass the exam increases, because they get the message that “understanding the math” is the goal and they make the necessary adjustments. Time will tell …

September 10, 2013 at 3:26 pm Leave a comment

The Blog Is Back

OK, I couldn’t stay away. I’m getting away from my “BlogSpot” blog and will get back to business here.

I have started a second blog that describes how I am incorporating elements of game design into my developmental math classes. I will document exactly what I do as the semester progresses as well as giving the rationale behind the system. You can see it here:

I’ll be in touch …


September 4, 2013 at 7:26 pm Leave a comment

Moving This Blog to a New Site

I have decided to move my blog to Blogger.

New Site:

Latest Blog on Sampling:

August 23, 2012 at 1:12 pm Leave a comment

Final Exam Review Videos

I have two sets of final exam review videos on YouTube.

The first playlist, for Elementary Algebra, can be found here:

The second playlist, for Intermediate Algebra, can be found here:

Please feel free to share with students and instructors who can use these.


December 5, 2011 at 5:40 pm 2 comments

Guest Blog – Game Development: Your work will make others play

Here’s a guest blog by Pritika Ghura, from on the career of game developers. Enjoy!


Can you imagine a 21st century child without a PlayStation? Your answer would be a NO, as you cannot envisage a childhood devoid of Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit 2010 or Battlefield Bad Company or Angry Bird. With advancement in technology and growing demand in the market, Game Development is one of the most sought after careers of today.

 Job Profile: Game developer is a specialised software developer and his work is to create and design the plan of the game which includes the theme, missions, the rules and the game play. They work in coordination with game designers to ensure the game is playable and fun.

The term ‘game developer’ is wide and includes a number of other job titles which we generally break down by discipline or field of study: art, programming, design and writing, production (producers), audio, quality assurance (game testers), and business. The most popular of these profile are that of an artist or animator, programmer or engineer (sometimes also called coder), and game designer.

Skills required: The three most important skills to become a successful game designer are creativity, communication skills, and dedication. You need the creativity to have a vision of what will make your game interesting for the player. You need communication skills to be able to convey your idea to your team and dedication to see your vision through, work your way through the disappointments and failures.

 Career Prospects: With the speed at which gaming industry is growing, the demand for gaming professionals will increase like never before. The worldwide video game industry is poised to reach $70.1 billion by 2015, thanks to the combined growth of console, portable, PC, and online video games. Some reputed companies that hire game developers are Microsoft Game Studios, Sony Computer Entertainment, Electronic Arts, Nintendo, etc.

 Universities offering Game Development Courses

Full Sail University

Academy of Interactive Entertainment


About the author: I am Pritika Ghura and am a Journalist by profession. I am currently working as Content Lead with Learnhub, Educomp Solutions and write on education, careers and students’ real-life experiences. You can reach me at


By the way, UC Santa Cruz has an outstanding Computer Science – Game Design major. If you are interested in writing a guest blog, just drop me a line. You can reach me through the Comtact Page on me web site – – George

September 12, 2011 at 1:12 pm Leave a comment

September 11th

So, I typically write about math. Teaching math. Helping students with math. Creating a community of learners in a math class. Recreational math. And I’ll start writing about math tomorrow. But today is different – the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Like many people, I remember where I was. I remember the confusion I felt when I saw the fire in the first tower. I remember the gut punch I felt when we saw Flight 175 fly into the South Tower. I remember hearing Jim Miklaszewski reporting that he felt something at the Pentagon. I remember watching both towers fall, and the clouds of smoke & dust. I remember watching people evacuating the White House and the Capitol. I remember hearing about Flight 93 crashing in western Pennsylvania. I remember trying not to cry, I didn’t want to scare my children. I remember being scared, and crying on the inside.

But when I think about September 11th, I will always think back to a warm August day in 2010. I was vacationing in New York City with my family, and we had spent the morning at Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. There are few places that one can feel more like an American than at those two places. We then made our way over to Ground Zero, and all the memories came floating back. The scarred earth. The first responders. We looked at the construction – hope rising from the rubble.

We had decided to visit the Tribute WTC Visitor Center. We saw a short movie, and walked through a gallery that displayed the timeline of that day. We saw objects pulled from the wreckage – stuffed animals, fire helmets, and posters searching for lost loved ones. Then I turned the corner into a gallery filled with photos of those people who lost their lives that day. An older woman was pointing with a laser pointer to individuals, telling their stories. She then pointed to a young policeman and said “And that was my son.” She said in matter-of-factly. I turned away in an attempt to hold back my tears. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to cry, but I didn’t want to cry in front of her. She had been through so much, I didn’t want to spark anything. After a few seconds I got it back together and listened to the story of her son’s day. Of his life. Of her life afterwards.

So today, that woman from the tribute center is on my mind. And her son. And that is what I will always think of first when I think of 9/11 – those two brave souls.

September 11, 2011 at 2:37 pm 2 comments

Using Tokens in Math Class

As I go through the process of attempting to gamify my class, I came up with an idea that I am pretty happy with. After the first test, I announced that students who earned all 3 points on the first test have earned a “magic token”. (To see how grading works in this class, see my previous blog entry here: .)

What is a token worth?

A student can cash in his or her token for a 1-day extension on a single homework assignment or quiz.

What if I don’t use the token this test?

If the student does not use the token, they can be saved up for a bigger reward. I didn’t mention what the reward would be to keep their interest and wonder, but I’m thinking it will be something like skipping a problem.

Impact on Students

I know that this has motivated many of the students who scored below 3 points on the first test. The students who already have tokens are looking forward to a chance to use them for something bigger and better.

Currently tokens are a digital currency, but I am planning on heading down to the local party store and getting real tokens to hand out. Should be fun!

– George

I am a math instructor at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, CA. If there’s a particular topic you’d like me to address, or if you have a question or a comment, please let me know. You can reach me through the contact page on my website –

September 6, 2011 at 1:44 pm Leave a comment

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