Author Archives: Aleksandra Kaplon-Schilis

Alek’s Project Ideas

PROPOSAL #1: Common Core Activities iBook for K-5 Teachers


When working with in-service and pre-service elementary teachers, I have noticed that most of them are struggling with both learning and teaching Mathematics. I start each semester by giving teacher candidates a Math Content Knowledge test and asking them to write a Math autobiography paper describing their story (experience, struggle, success, etc.) with Math during their school years, college years and working experiences. While grading tests and reading the autobiographies I have learned that most of my elementary teachers are struggling with math, they are not excited about learning or teaching it, they are scared of introducing new math concepts to their students. When the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) replaced the old standards (and old way of teaching them) two years ago, most elementary teachers felt unprepared and scared to present this subject in a new way. New approaches to arithmetic make math concepts even more confusing for new teachers. The idea behind CCSS is to teach understanding of the concept not only for being able to perform the procedural skills.

I would like to create an interactive iBook that would provide new and old teachers with ideas and activities that they could use to introduce and to teach the CCSS topics to their students. This iBook would also help integrate technology in elementary classroom practice.


Amie: Amie is currently studying to become an elementary teacher. She does not have the best experience with mathematics. She feels that not knowing the subject well is what’s keeping her from becoming a teacher. She believes that she has enough knowledge to teach elementary level Math, but is anxious about the new Common Core State Standards, and the new way of teaching. Amie doesn’t know where to look for additional teaching resources and would like some help finding lessons and activities explained in a simple way, and also ready to use in her future classrooms.

Ben: Ben is an elementary teacher. He has been working in the public school system for over five years. He feels confident about teaching Math (especially at the elementary level) and is not too worried about changes in the state curriculum. He is however, very overwhelmed with the amount of preparation he has to do to create fun, interactive lessons to introduce new Math ideas to his students and would gladly welcome ready-to-use activities that are already aligned with the standards.

Celina: Celina is a Math coach for a few elementary schools. She has been teaching Math for over twenty years, and feels really confident about subject matter. Unfortunately, she has not been keeping up with new technologies, and does not really know how to implement technology based activities into the new curriculum. She has some training on basic usage of technology in elementary Math, but does not know how to develop activities that are aligned to the new standards. Since she is training new teachers and helping the older ones with developing creative lesson plans, she would love to have access to existing strategies, and activities that she could try with her coworkers.

Use Case Scenario

Teachers are searching through an overwhelming mountain of information labeled “Common Core” to find materials and activities that will be helpful in implementing the standards with their students. Google “teaching resources” and you will get over 26,000,000 hits. Just browsing through resources can be endless. New teachers are having even more difficult time finding activities that are appropriate for their students’ level of development. The iBook would consists of simple, short and focused interactive demonstrations and explorations that are designed to help students master the important concepts of a single standard. This iBook would provide additional resources to teach students. Teachers could use these activities to implement them in their lessons or for their understanding of the topic. Both teachers and students will enjoy the interactive format of the activities.

The iBook can be available for download with iBooks on any Mac or iPad, and with iTunes on any computer. Since this iBook comes with interactive features, it will work best on an iPad. It will also be available on the Euclid’s Muse website for educators (

I would present it to pre-service and in-service teachers that are taking Math Methods courses (grad and undergrad) in the College of Staten Island as a supplemental textbook for these courses. If the iBook is met with enthusiasm I would try to present it in any of the conferences that focus on Math, Education, and Technology.

The Application in Practice

Full Version:

In the full version the iBook would consist of at least 20 interactive activities that focus on different CCSS ready to download or used by the teachers (in- and pre-service) in their elementary classrooms. The iBook would ideally include lesson plans with objectives, assessments (practice quiz, questions that students would be able to answer after exploring the activity), links to relevant videos, and other material that is relevant to the new curriculum. Teachers would be able to add personalized notes to the text or iBook.

Software used to create iBook would include:

  • Saltire Software – Geometry Expressions Software that can create three different types of apps from any math model, without any programming (JavaScript/HTML5 app, OS X Dashboard Widgets, and Lua apps). Geometry Expression Software costs $99, I have a free access to the software at my work computer. I would use this software to create interactive math activities – with explorations and movable parts. Apps can be used both for demonstration and for evaluation. Browser apps are single html pages with no external dependencies. They can be emailed or posted on a website.
  • iBook Author – free Mac app that allows users to compose and publish iBooks optimized for iPad. I would use this software to make my iBook more appealing to the teachers.
  • would allow me to create interactive custom widgets, quizzes, flash cards, interactive plots and charts.
  • Bookry ( – would allow me to include tools like a YouTube video player, quizzes with multiple questions, etc.

Full Version Time Line and Inputs

Studying Common Core State Standards and developing interactive activities that are aligned with the standards would take some time. It is also time consuming to come up with the mathematical formulas and constraints when building interactive activities using Geometry Expression software. After all the activities are created (ideally I would like to have up to 20 different activities), I would need to add visuals, descriptions, questions (for both teachers and students) and make each page appealing. I believe it is doable in one semester: searching and developing activities 2 months, building interactive activities 1 month, finishing touches 1 month.

I have a basic training in how to use Geometry Expression software, but still need practice to apply different mathematical formulas to build interactive activities. The software comes with the website and a team of developers and mathematicians who are available to provide help in building specific interactive activities.

Using the widgets and features provided by Bookry, and iBook Author is self-explanatory and does not require any experience in programming.

Short Version:

In the reduced version I would start with a few activities (5) without worrying about making each page appealing. I would survey elementary teachers and use their input to develop the full version. Are they finding these activities useful or simple enough to use in their elementary classes? What else would they like to see in the full version of the iBook?

In the short version I would only use Geometry Expression software to create interactive activities.

Short Version Time Line and Inputs

I could work on that version during the summer, and send out activities at the end of August to receive feedback from my colleagues.

PROPOSAL #2: Integrated Algebra Regents Test Practice Mobile App


I have worked with underprivileged high-school students in a high-need school for over five years. During that time it has always been a struggle to keep these students excited about math. They consistently seem to have a hard time relating to the material or having any interest in the material as it is provided through their textbook. In order to prepare them for their annual standardized test I have consistently had to get creative in my approach to teach the students the required material. On top of everything, even when students are learning in class, they spend almost no time at home (or anywhere else) practicing new learned topics. Reading a math book seems to my students like a “crazy idea”, and doing a drill-worksheet is just “boring”.

I propose creating an app (mobile or iPad) to help students prepare for the New York State Integrated Algebra Regents exam. Everything students need to get ready for the Algebra Regents exam would be on that app.


Albert: Albert is a senior student in one of the higher needs New York City public high schools. In order to graduate, he needs to pass the Integrated Algebra Regents. Albert has been struggling with Mathematics his whole life. He has already taken the Algebra class several times, and does not believe that he can pass the test. He feels discouraged, annoyed and does not know the connection between this class/test and his real life with all of its problems and challenges. He knows that he is not going to go to college and just does not see any sense in even trying to pass this Regents Exam.

Dana: Dana is a student that is currently enrolled in her Integrated Algebra Class. She is taking the Regents test next semester. She is not too worried about passing the test, but she knows that in order to avoid taking the Math Placement Test at CUNY she needs to score over an 85 on it. She does not like to study and finds practicing drill-math questions boring and a waste of time. She enjoys playing games on her Smartphone. She likes texting and socializing with her friends using different social networks. The idea of playing Math games, and working on Regents prep on her phone with her friends seems interesting to her. She is looking forward to being able to have an app that will allow her to get more practice in a fun, and engaging way.

Use Case Scenario

It has been my observation over the years that many of my high-school students spend a large amount of time on their daily commuting to and from school. This is time that has been lost to study in favor of smart-phone activities like Facebook or Youtube. Creating an app that would be easy enough to use while on a bus or subway, would give students an easy alternative to these time consuming activities.

The App would be available for any Smartphone or tablet and would serve as an effective means by which to get students interested in course content and to become motivated learners.

The Application in Practice

Full Version:

The full version operates as an application for a smart phone, and would include a pool of questions, quizzes, and explanation of the content.

The full version of this app would provide a rigorous regiment of exercises that would prepare students for the Algebra Regents exam. The app would give students access to a vast number of multiple choice questions that would allow students to get acquainted with the format of the Regents by practicing questions exactly as they appear on the exam. Students would have an option to read and review the material of the questions they struggle with. The ability of playing vocabulary and formula matching games would allow students to be familiar with necessary material in a fun and engaging way. A feature of the app would include a push alert system reminding the user/student of what activity they need to complete for the day, the time remaining until their exam and a gauge of their progress with the material as a whole.

To create this app so far I found:

  • Adobe Captivate 7 software – for creating the math content. Unfortunately the standalone version for educators is $300. There’s cloud access $20 a month for students (would not work for my students, unless the school is going to pay for that)
  • Adobe DPS (Digital Publishing Suite for education) – however single edition is $395 for ONE app. I do not know how Captivate and DPS work together though.
  • Geometry Expression software (mentioned in the proposal #1) – doesn’t have the option of putting the multiple choice questions.

Full Version Time Line and Inputs

I still need some training on how to create a mobile app, how to include videos in the mobile app (if this is even possible. I have found two other Regents prep mobile apps created by high-school teachers, and was thinking of contacting them for some ideas. Their apps only provide practice questions and I would like to expand mine with the explanation of the content.

I would start by creating an Ipad App – using iBook Author free software with widgets -Bookry, and would dedicate this summer to learn how to create an actual mobile app.

Once I know how to create a mobile app, I believe that creating this app is doable in one semester. Creating sample test questions – 1 month, creating instructional videos to each topic (1 – 2 months), description, vocabulary, finding and providing links to instruments that students can use (ex. Graphing calculator, etc.), making it appealing to students – 1 month.

Short Version:

The Short version would only consist of the sample test questions and would not provide explanations. I would create an iPad app using free iBook Author software with Bookry widgets.

Short Version Time Line and Inputs

I could use old Integrated Algebra Regents Tests (available for free on the website) and modify them to create sample test questions. This would probably take me 1 – 2 months to create few sets of questions for each topic and submit them on the App.

Do-It-Yourself Education

Education is about sharing knowledge, social networking for teaching and learning and for accreditation and assessment. Technology today can indeed make it easier to make education more accessible and affordable for all people. A student today has the ability to sit in on a class via the Internet from MIT and in the very next hour shift to another class from Stanford, and so on. This opens up the world of possibilities for certain learners who would never have had such opportunities. However, I could not help but ask myself who is this really benefitting? Is the average person, who struggling for a job and has no time or money for a traditional education going to be truly motivated to go on a quest to seek out knowledge from these institutions, however prestigious they may be, without the prospect of any reward or monetary incentives down the road. Are the types of learners that this system (of free learning, free access) claims to potentially help through the attainment of knowledge even prepared to benefit from such a system? How can students who can barely able to finish high school be expected to thrive as self-learner in an online environment?

Organizations like the KhanAcademy are indeed attempting to bridge the gap between the rich and underprivileged students by offering now free instructional videos, practice for various topics and interactive test prep, services which underprivileged students were traditionally lock out of. In 2015 in partnership with the College Board they are planning free test prep software to help all students get ready for the SAT test.

Another angle to consider are the online learning institutions that accept all students for a price. They wave around the prospect of the degree no matter what your background is in a short amount of time at a very high cost. They calculatingly even provide their version of financial aid, which equates usually to loans for their high price tuition.  and in the environment of these online schools, it is pay to play where you pay first and play at your own will. The problem with this is that many of the accepted applicants are by no means prepared for the rigors of the coursework they are faced with and inevitably discontinue their enrollment and are simply left with staggering debt. Is this what we mean by accessible education for all?

Teach Now (my personal “favorite”) offers 9 months long course to get Master’s degree and teacher certification all for only $23,800. According to their website their program prepares teachers “to think digital who can create ways to educate with smartphones instead of taking them away””

University of Phoenix – offers hundreds different degrees with an average 4 year degree cost of $66,340…

Alek’s 1-Paragraph Project Descriptions

Idea #1: Directory website for Secondary Math Teachers in New York City

Over the years working as an educator I have come to realize that there is no centralized location on the Internet or otherwise where educators can go to find all the resources they need to teach secondary math in New York City. The teachers that I am currently teaching as well as my colleagues all seem to have a common struggle and complaint when it comes to easily finding resources to aid them in their teaching. I propose creating a centralized website, a database, which can serve as a guide for all New York City educators that are teaching secondary math. The guide would provide links to different resources such as: ideas for lesson plans, free games and interactive activities, ideas for field trips in the NYC area that would directly relate to the curriculum with the explanation on how it relates and feedback from other educators on set locations. Furthermore it would also provide links to professional development opportunities for teachers, along with updated policy documents that directly effect and relate to education in NYC. The website would be fluid with the ability to grow and possibly expand.

Idea #2: Interactive Textbook (IBook)

I have worked with underprivileged high-school students in a high-need school for over five years. During that time it has always been a struggle to keep these students excited about math. They consistently seem to have a hard time relating to the material or having any interest in the material as it is provided through their textbook.  In order to overcome this to prepare them for their annual standardized test I have consistently had to get creative in my approach to teach them the material. This is why I propose to create an interactive I-Book to diversify the types of materials and activities my students would use on a day-to-day basis to prepare them for the annual standardized test as well as make them proficient in the material from the curriculum. Features of the IBook would include: the ability to add personalized notes to the existing material and highlight anything in the IBook. Ibook would include interactive activities, practice quizzes and tests, that would provide instant feedback for the students, links to relevant instructional videos and other material that is relevant to the curriculum

Idea #3:  Math-Test-Prep App

It has been my observation over the years that many of my high-school students spend a large amount of time on their daily commuting to and from school. This is time that has been lost to study in favor of smart-phone activities like Facebook or Youtube. I propose creating an app, which would give them an easy alternative to these time consuming activities, yet still be easy enough to use while on a bus or subway. This app would provide a rigorous regiment of exercises that would prepare them for standardize test. A feature of the app would be a push alert system reminding the user/student of what activity they need to complete for the day, the time remaining until their exam and a gauge of their progress with the material.

Taking online classes: sweet dream or terrible nightmare?

Has anyone ever taken an online class? I did. And my teacher was definitely not Bill Pelz. The class was on using Geometry Sketchpad Software to teach Trigonometry and Calculus courses. Some of the rules introduced by Pelz applied to that course – we (the students) did most of the work and we had to find and discuss web resources.  I however, felt like I could have completed the course by reading a book and following the steps of using the software myself. Every week we had to complete a project using sketchpad software, and write a reflection on how we could use the activity in our class (teaching high-school or college) and what were the advantages of using that particular activity – focusing on pedagogy rather than content. The class discussion felt forced, and the comments seemed like they were taken straight from a math textbook – teacher edition. After two weeks, when people noticed that the professor’s only involvement in the class discussion was writing a one- or two-word comment, like “great”, “good” or “interesting idea”, the discussion got even more artificial and useless. Spending a lot of time completing the software assignments, no one felt like discussing the supposed future advantages of using them. Reading Pelz I was wondering what could have been done differently that would improve that course. At the end of the day, the goal of the course was to learn how to use the Software – so maybe we could have had discussions based on our difficulties with working with the Sketchpad, or even discussing any other possibilities of using it, and trying it for something else. The course was offered at Berkley and if it wasn’t online I could not have done it for obvious reasons.  I received credits for taking it that I could add to my professional development requirements. Other than that I considered this course a waste of time, but I get that the course was bad was not because it was on online course, but because the instructor did not use effective online pedagogy.

On a different note, I loved Pelz’s principles (I use some of them in my F2F classes). But the one I would like to try (maybe next semester, or maybe we should try something similar in our ITP2 class?) would be the idea on collaborating the research paper. Using each other for resources, ideas and constructive criticism is what learning should be all about.

Talking about differences and advantages over one style of learning (or teaching) over the other (F2F vs DL) we all are aware of the obvious ones: saving time on a commute vs contact with real people, etc. What I found interesting was what Ugoretz said about asynchronous discussion. Being able to pause the conversation to go and look for other resources, formulate better arguments and to create new ideas without worrying about running out of class time is definitely one of the biggest advantages of online learning.