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Class Policies: The Flipped Classroom

My Background

I started my career as a systems engineer working on the Tomahawk Cruise Missile project for the Navy. As a young engineer, I constantly found myself working in teams to solve problems. I rarely encountered a problem that they taught me to solve in school. Almost everything I had to do had to be learned on the job from my team members. Then, I got involved in a small, manufacturing startup in which I was responsible for engineering, product testing, invoicing, accounts payable, accounts receivable, packaging, shipping, marketing and sales. I worked with a venture capitalist, a sales manager, warehouse staff and contracted numerous vendors for production. I've also spent a fair amount of time programming and doing web development. All of these things require mathematical thinking, but usually not formal algebra and certainly more rarely calculus. What all of these jobs have in common is that they required me to work as part of a team. I had to collaborate. I had to learn on the job. I had to use critical thinking and problem solving skills to solve new problems that I had never encountered before. In some cases, I was solving problems that no one had ever encountered before. You can't learn these skills by simply listening to a lecture. You learn these skills by doing. Yes, some academic knowledge is required, but what's most important is how you synthesize your academic knowledge. My hope is that in this class, I will press you, my students, to do far more than simply listen and repeat back to me what I told you to do. My number one hope for this class is that you, my students, learn how to learn. Because that is the most valuable skill that any worker or leader of the future can possess.

My Teaching Philosophy

In teaching, like any profession, there is no new tool or technique that will magically fix all of our problems or improve everything we do. However, I do believe that, in all professions, we should continually re-evaluate the way we do things and, if we believe there is a better way, then we should use it.
I believe that I am a good lecturer. I try to get my students involved in my lectures and I provide practice problems so that they can try techniques out for themselves. But there are so many students and I can't possibly appeal to everyone and each student has their own unique needs. Some students require more challenge and some students need to fill in the gaps. For years, I've read about a concept called Differentiated Instruction, but no one ever tells you how to do it in your classroom. Teachers try to differentiate, we come up with methods we think will work, we read, we go to conferences, but it's difficult for 1 teacher to differentiate for 30 to 40 students.
The flipped classroom with it's emphasis on watching videos at home (or reading the book) and taking notes then cooperative learning in class, provides some hope that more differentiated instruction can occur in the classroom. It's partially a time management thing and it's partially a control thing. For years, homework has been an issue with teachers, students, parents and the press. Traditionally, homework has been an issue of great debate. All sides can be argued including: students get too much homework, they get too little homework, they don't understand their homework, they don't have time to do their homework, etc. But, with the flipped classroom, students get a reasonable amount of homework that all students can accomplish (as long as they can watch the videos or read the book). Instead of doing a lot of thinking at home, they just need to take the notes. Here are more specific details:


Students watch videos or read at home and take notes. Students are expected to pause and rewind (or read the book or search the Internet) as necessary until they get the gist of the topic of the day. The goal of the time at home is not to actively solve problems, but to familiarize oneself with concepts and vocabulary. The notes are the proof that they spent the time studying at home. If a student can't watch the video, they must read their book and take notes from the book or search the Internet for examples- and there are plenty of those these days. Students are expected to copy down vocabulary words, copy diagrams, write down rules and formulas and copy examples (in great detail). If a student is taking notes from the book, the expectation is that they read and re-read a concept (and possibly try a few examples) to attempt to get a better understanding before class the next day. Students should come to class with any questions they have from the notes.
Students bring their notes to class and get credit for doing their homework (5 points per day). Students do get partial credit for partial notes- something is better than nothing. Students' homework and classwork grades, together, makeup 20% of their overall grade.


When students arrive in class, they are expected to be ready to work when the bell rings. That means pencil, paper and homework on desk and ready to work on warmup activity. Students will work in cooperative learning groups with 4 students in assigned groups. Students are assigned a set of problems from the textbook or workbooks- this would formerly be known as homework. Students are expected to stay focused on the problem assignment. I will move around the classroom and observe student activity. I will answer questions as they come up. I will provide supplemental lectures and worked out examples as necessary. Students are expected to be prepared to work right up until the bell that ends class.

These are my expectations for students:

  • Arrive on time 
  • Bring all necessary materials 
  • Submit the homework that is due that day 
  • Be prepared to work when the bell rings (paper and pencil out, copying problems list from board) 
  • Stay focused and attentive during whole-class discussion and instruction Start independent or group work promptly, and stay on task 
  • Keep working at the end of the lesson until told to pack up 
  • Remain in the classroom for the entire lesson (ie. no drink or bathroom breaks) 
  • If students finish their work early, there will be "sponge" tasks available for them to work on to maximize learning time 

Quizzes and Tests 

Most of my quizzes and tests will be multiple choice (just like most math teachers use for their midterms and finals and just like the exit exam, the STAR test, the ACT and the SAT). My hope is that this will help students because they will have an answer they are shooting for. I will still expect students to show their work and I will try my best to give students plenty of time on tests. I may or may not allow students to use calculators on tests. I understand that some students may have problems because they may make a mistake that matches one of the wrong answers. Also, some students might be upset that they don't get partial credit. However, there are benefits to the multiple choice tests that I believe outweigh the negatives. With multiple choice tests, my diagnostics can be more statistical. With less time grading tests, I can spend more time preparing videos, my web site and classroom exercises.

With multiple choice tests, it may be more tempting to cheat, so I will be making up multiple forms of the test. However, I will design tests in such a way that all students are taking a test with the same level of complexity. I design my tests by starting with the state standards and, after I design the test, I plan the daily activities to ensure that students have been prepared for their tests. 

For students that receive below 70% on a test, I offer the opportunity for a retake.   The retake will not be multiple choice and the maximum possible score is 70%.   Also, students must write out their answers to the retake study guide prior to taking the retake.  Only one retake is allowed per test.  I may or may not allow retakes during midterm or final week.


Students can make up work that they missed if they have an excused absence. Students must make up any classwork that they missed for full classwork credit in Q. They must also make up any homework or tests that they missed. Students are responsible for scheduling a time to makeup their test. Tests must be made up within 1 week of the absence. Occasionally, I may allow students to work together on a quiz or test in what I call a team test. Students that are absent the day of the test may not receive the same benefit. Also, if I "curve" a test score for the entire class, I reserve the right to NOT apply the curve to makeup tests.

If students miss the day before the test and then show up the day of the test, they are still expected to take the test. If students miss the day of the test and show up the next day, they are expected to take the test.

Multiple Choice Tests and Work and Academic Dishonesty 

I still expect students to show all work on multiple choice quizzes and tests. If I find that a student's work does not match up with their answers, I may deduct points from the test or ask the student to retake a different form of the test. If the test results are suspicious in any way, I reserve the right to ask the student to retake any test or a similar version of the test with or without multiple choice answers. If a student refuses this opportunity to prove their knowledge, then I will write up a referral, enter a score of zero and report the student for suspected academic dishonesty.

There will be one test for every chapter and that test will be scored out of 100 points. There will be a test every week or every other week. I may give daily quizzes occasionally. Quizzes and Tests will make up 60% of a student's overall grade.

Midterms and Final Exams 

These will be multiple choice. I will be giving students review packages more than one week in advance of the midterm and the final. We will have several days of in class review for the midterm and final exams. Students are allowed to use a reference card for both the midterm and finals. Students are allowed to use a calculator for the midterm and final exam. The midterm is the final exam for the first subterm of my classes. The final is the final exam for the second subterm of my classes. The midterm is worth 20% of a student's grade for the first subterm of class. The final is worth 20% of a student's grade for the second subterm of class.
So, quizzes, tests and finals make up 80% of a student's grade. Here are some thoughts on why I use this percentage.

Q (formerly Zangle) and Grades 

I post current student grades weekly- multiple choice tests help with that! Although the overall grade is important, it's the homework and classwork grades that are really important (because students that do not have good homework/classwork habits tend to do poorly on finals regardless of their chapter test grades). Parents and teachers can work together to motivate students to do better on homework and classwork, so we have some control there. We have less control over test grades.

Tutoring and Office Hours I am usually available before school, at lunch or after school if a student needs extra help. Also, I'm willing to answer questions that are emailed to me at

Students and Technology in the Classroom 

I will expect all students to abide by the district acceptable use policy for technology. I will provide a link to this policy when it is available online. In the meantime, you may contact the district office if you want specifics. For convenience, here are a few of the more important rules for my classroom:

Use technology in the classroom must not interfere with classwork for the student or classmates
Technology must not violate the rights of others students (particularly, no sexual harassment or bullying)
Inappropriate use of technology will not be accepted including: displaying videos or audio that depict violence or sexual activity (I reserve the right to determine what is appropriate)
Technology like cell phones, smartphones, music players, laptops and tablets should only be used when specifically authorized by the instructor

Calculator Use 

Coming soon...

Petitions for Honors Classes 

Over the years, I have had a number of students come to me after completing my Algebra 2 class to ask if I would sign their petition to go into Math Analysis Honors. I am happy to oblige a student who has accomplished the following things while in my class: received A's on almost every test, entered into one or more of the periodic math contests held on campus and comes in outside of class to show me that they care about the math.

Links related to the flipped classroom:

Entire high school flipped!
Teaching students to learn how to learn
What is flipped learning?
Why Americans stink at math
Overview of the Flipped Classroom
Are many people interested in flipped classrooms?
Vanderbilt University Center for Teaching: Does it work?
Kagan Cooperative Learning Case Study
More Flipped Classroom Info(FIZZ)
Flipped Classroom Case Studies
Five Easy Lessons: Strategies for Successful Physics Teaching (the chapter on Active Learning talks about studies regarding cooperative learning versus lecture)
Flipped Classroom Infographic
Khan Academy on Digital Learning (at 5 minutes and 30 seconds (5:30) into the video, Khan explains why students working in groups in class is better regardless of what students learn at home)
Research: What successful math teachers do, Grades 6-12. Research-Based Strategies for the Standards-Based Classroom. Strategy 9: Use classwide peer tutoring to help your students learn.
Kagan Cooperative Learning
Engaging Students in Math
National Council of Teachers of Mathematics Perspective on whether to flip the classroom or not
The Flipped Classroom Book
Wrath of Khan
Khan's TED Talk on Advantages of Khan Academy
Critique of Khan Academy (there are many more, just google)
Pitch on Learning at home, practicing in the classroom from Khan
Wired Magazine, thoughts on the flipped classroom
More on the Flipped Classroom from the folks that wrote the book
Thoughts on the Flipped Classroom from the Economist magazine

Brian Bennett How to do the flip