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Videos + individual help = better geometry grades
PHS geometry class flips the usual order of instruction
Hefty in class
... doing homework in class, where teacher Cheryl Hefty (in green) can provide individual help.

Most adult readers of this newspaper probably remember, and perhaps not fondly, high school geometry class, in this order of a typical day:

Day: Teacher teaches that day’s lesson at blackboard.

Night: Student does homework at home.

From the perspective of Platteville High School geometry teacher Cheryl Hefty, the problem with that schedule is that if a student has questions doing his or her homework, those questions won’t get answered until the next day, after homework is due.

Hefty figured that out from the classroom experience of one of her geometry students — her son.

“The running joke was my husband wouldn’t tolerate 100 people on our countertop at night,” she said. “My own children had the benefit of getting help on their math homework whenever they needed it, and I wanted all students to have the benefit of getting help.”

Hefty’s answer was to flip the usual order. The lectures are now 15-minute YouTube videos, which the students watch at home at night. The students then come to school the next day and do the homework in class, with Hefty there to answer questions.

“Now students can watch the instruction online during a study hall or at home, and during class they are working in teams or with a partner to solve problems that traditionally were done at home alone,” said Hefty. “Students can work at their own pace. Students can re-watch videos to catch the information that they missed. Students can get help on the concepts they struggle with during class.”

The Flipped Classroom model started in Woodland, Colo., in 2007. Besides Hefty’s class, high schools in Verona, Sun Prairie and Wausau are using the Flipped Classroom approach.

The class still covers the same amount of material, “but for them I think they’re actually learning the material,” she said. “When they’re coming in here, they have to be working.”

Since using the Flipped Classroom model in the 2011–12 school year, 90 percent of Hefty’s geometry students have scored at the 70th percentile or better, and “I don’t hardly have any students below the 70th percentile. I wasn’t anticipating that at all. I’m pleasantly surprised.”

The 2012–13 school year was the second year Hefty taught with the Flipped Classroom model.

“Last year their grades went up,” she said. “Usually as you progress through the year grades start to decrease. For all the students, their level is being raised, because if the questions aren’t being answered, they can’t go to a new level.”

One downside of the lecture-today/homework-tonight model is that model teaches to the middle-level student.

“Some kids sat there and knew the answers and were bored,” said Hefty. “Now they move ahead.”
Hefty said students who need extra help are able to get it during the class. Those who complete their work early can watch the next day’s video on a laptop or at home.

This isn’t the first time Hefty has taken math into multimedia. Five years ago, Hefty shot a series of Algebra 2 homework help videos.

Since adopting the Flipped Classrooom, Hefty has become a state authority on the model. She did a presentation at the Green Lake Mathematics Conference in May, and later that month five teachers from Fond du Lac visited her classroom.

The videos, which are recorded on Hefty’s smartboard, can be seen on YouTube under the user name of Cheryl Hefty.

The Flipped Classroom model began in a chemistry class.

“I think at times it would work in other classrooms when you want students to have base knowledge before a discussion,” said Hefty.