Flipping the Mathematics Classroom – a letter to parents

pic1This article was written by a colleague of Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams, pioneers in the flipped class movement. The teacher’s name is Celeste Clemons from the Conley School in Tallahassee, Florida. She has flipped her Mathematics classroom. Here’s a copy of the letter she sent out to the parents of her students.

Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams are the keynote speakers at the FlipCon Australia 2015 conference to be held at Saint Stephens College, Gold Coast, QLD, on 22, 23 and 24 October 2015.

 “Dear Families,

This year, we will be “flipping” our math class using a method called the Flipped Classroom!

 What is the flipped classroom?

The flipped classroom switches around the traditional order of teaching with the purpose of creating a more in depth and supportive environment in the classroom when the teacher is present and able to help students. It allows for students to receive a more individualized education where my actual face-to-face time with them is being used effectively. This results in them understanding the content at a higher and deeper level than before. In addition, it challenges students to learn how to take charge of their learning and manage their time, becoming resourceful learners. Lastly, it provides time for more “higher order thinking” discussion and questioning during class time, helping students to become reflective communicators and to think more deeply about the content they are learning. The book written by Jon Bergmann and Aaron Sams is a great resource.

In the traditional math classroom the teacher spends most of the time presenting new content in a lecture format, students practice with the teacher, then, if time permits practice on their own. The students are assigned practice problems for homework and are expected to show their understanding of the content learned in class. The next day, homework is reviewed and new content presented, the cycle is repeated.

 Homework: In the flipped math classroom, the lecture is taken out of the classroom and presented to the students through media content. For homework, students will view an eight to ten minute video, one to three nights per week, on math content to probe their thinking and spark interest, practice examples, summarize, and question what they don’t understand.

 Classwork: Then in class the next day, in place of the lecture, students spend a specified amount of time responding to each other’s summaries and questions. The remainder of class time is spent in differentiated small groups to deepen understanding of content by having high achieving students move forward, or providing further review by using hands-on activities and manipulatives, or slowing down the lesson to meet the needs of struggling students through intervention. In this way I am able to make the best use of my face-to-face time with students. The students will be deeply rooted in the learning cycle emphasizing three stages: Exploration, Explanation and Application. I will facilitate this process as students engage in the content with one another.

The flipped class aligns with our mission statement and common core standards in that I will help to foster the development of all learners by building a classroom community where students persevere and are resilient, cooperative learners who are able to meet the challenges of a changing world through engaging curriculum supported through the uses of technology.

 How is technology used in the flipped classroom?

First and foremost, the standards drive instruction. The flipped classroom is not about the technology. The flipped classroom is more about effective teachers making the best use of class-time with students. However, I am fortunate to teach at a school with an abundance of technology, therefore will be using it often in one or more of the following ways:

  1. I will create math “homework” content for students to view online at home.
  2. Students will create technological content to explore math or show their understanding of math content through powerpoint/keynote, student created videos, student led video interviews, etc.
  3. Video content can be created through educreations, screen cast-o-matic, camtasia, etc.
  4. To teach students how to review, edit, and publish their content.
  5. To help students be reflective learners by posting their thoughts, discoveries, and ideas to a class blog or class reflective journal.
  6. To document and reflect on my experiences with the flipped classroom.

What if students don’t have access to technology/internet at home?

Technology should not hinder a student’s ability to participate and be successful in the flipped classroom. Therefore, it is up to the teacher to have a system in place for students that do not have technology/internet at home. Since I will be requiring students to access my class content for homework via internet, the following system is set up to meet the needs of all learners:

  1. Students can come to class before or after school to view content.
  2. Students with a working computer but no internet can bring in a thumb drive to upload the video content.
  3. Students that have an ipad/ipod/iphone but no internet can bring in their devices and have the content uploaded using the iTunesU app. This will allow them to access the content even without having internet at home.
  4. Students can request to view the videos through DVDs which can be played on a DVD player, Xbox game system, or play station game system.

 What does this mean for students?

  1. Students are expected to complete their homework and watch video content when assigned. (There will be nights where homework will look like “regular homework”).
  2. Students have the ability to watch video content at their own pace, re-watching, rewinding, and pausing when needed.
  3. Absent students will not miss out on instruction, they always have access to class content.
  4. Students should set aside time to complete homework while they are fully awake. Using headphones while watching video content will limit distractions.
  5. Students are not expected to have full mastery of homework assignments but are expected to come to class prepared and ready to participate in discussions, group assignments, and other assigned tasks.
  6. Students are expected to use their math journals for taking notes, practicing problems, and completing WSQs during any video content. WSQ-Watch, Summarize, Question
  7. Students are encouraged to bring any questions or concerns to my attention at any time.

 What does this mean for parents?

  1. Parents will receive a letter explaining the flipped classroom.
  2. Enables parents to be more involved in their child’s math education.
  3. Parents have access to video content and are able to see how lessons are taught.
  4. Parents are able to have meaningful content related discussions with their child.
  5. Parents can encourage their child to take their time while watching videos and remind them to re-watch, rewind, or pause when necessary to make sense of what is being taught.
  6. Parents can watch the videos with their child to help them review for tests.
  7. Parents are encouraged to bring any questions or concerns to my attention at any time.

How are students in a flipped classroom assessed?

Students will still be responsible for taking class quizzes and tests, as well as the district benchmark assessments throughout the year. Quizzes will be used as a formative assessment throughout the school year. Students have the opportunity to retake quizzes to improve their understanding of the content. I will use formative assessments to improve instructional methods and student feedback throughout the teaching and learning process. Likewise, students are able to monitor their progress as it relates to their levels of performance and personal learning goals. Summative assessments will also be administered. I will administer summative assessments at the conclusion of a chapter or unit. These assessments are used to evaluate student learning by comparing it against the standards. Data collected from both types of assessment will be used to evaluate the effectiveness of the instructional intent of the flipped classroom.

 Highlights of the flipped classroom

  • Flipped Learning transfers the ownership of the learning to the students.
  • Flipped Learning personalizes learning for all students.
  • Flipped Learning gives teachers time to explore deeper learning opportunities and pedagogies with their students.
  • Flipped Learning makes learning (not teaching) the center of the classroom.
  • Flipped Learning maximizes the face-to-face time in the classroom.
  • Flipped Learning is a place for active interaction not passive listening.
  • Flipped Learning has an intentional focus on higher level thinking, rather than rote memorization.
  • Flipped Learning uses technology to support instruction not drive it.
  • Flipped Learning provides students with multiple opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge in multiple ways.
  • Flipped Learning allows students to explore, take risks, question, and develop their own “need to know”.

I  I hope that I have adequately explained my intent in using the flipped classroom as a way to facilitate the learning environment for all students in my classroom. I would love to sit down and discuss any questions you may have and to bounce around some ideas on my vision for the flipped classroom.


Celeste Clemons”

FlipCon a conference which reflects on flipping the learning is coming to Australia in October 2015.

It is a National Conference embracing Flipped Learning for emerging and established flipped educators.

The conference will be held at Saint Stephen’s College, Upper Coomera, Gold Coast Queensland on Friday 23 and Saturday 24 October with optional Pre-conference Workshops and Boot Camp on Thursday 22 October 2015.

Attend the conference to understand:

  • All of the great reasons for flipping your classroom
  • The hurdles that will be in your way and must be overcome.

Flipping is a proven pedagogy, not a gimmick or just the latest buzz word.

To find out more about the conference and to register go to: ereg.me/flipconaus15

Use the ID code Wacom9 during registration to enter the draw to win a Wacom Intuos Pen and Touch Medium with wireless kit (valued at $351).

We look forward to seeing you in Queensland in October.

The FlipCon Australia 2015 Team


Phone: 1800 760 108

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