Untitled design
(Cox, 2016)

The Context for My Lesson

This lesson will be part of a unit about exponents meant to be taught in a standard math class for 8th grade students. It is designed for a class of diverse young adolescents who are working at or close to grade-level proficiency. The students are from a rural university town and have a range of different backgrounds and home enviroments. Some students have specific learning interventions, and some students have learned or are learning English as their second language. The classroom is 1-to-1 which means that each student has access to an individual computer, and inclusive which means that some of the students need accommodations for learning differences.

Technology and media are a regular part of instruction in this class and so students are accustomed to watching videos, doing research online, using online manipulatives and games, and having collaborative discussions via technology. TED-Ed will be used in this lesson as well as lessons on other topics to create student-centered rather than teacher-centered learning. Prior to the TED-Ed lesson on scientific notation, the students would have reviewed the meaning of and basic operations with expressions containing integer exponents and learned new skills manipulating and simplifying expressions with exponents and operations like addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. The video used in the lesson gives students the opportunity to progress at their own pace, to work to overcome learning obstacles independently, and to use the internet to make individualized connections to the content based on their own interests and questions.

The Standard this Lesson Meets

This lesson is an introductory activity for Standard Course of Study for Mathematics standard 8.EE.4: “Perform operations with numbers expressed in scientific notation, including problems where both decimal and scientific notation are used. Use scientific notation and choose units of appropriate size for measurements of very large or very small quantities (e.g., use millimeters per year for seafloor spreading). Interpret scientific notation that has been generated by technology” (2016, p. 22). Prior to working on this 8th grade standard, the students learned about and performed operations with exponents in 6th grade. Since some time has passed since they first learned about exponents, a review of definition, syntax, and operations is required before learning the new content.

The standard requires that students have a deep understanding of scientific notation including its connection to units of measurement and to cross-disciplinary concepts connected to science. The standard dictates that students learn to perform operations with the numbers expressed in either scientific notation or decimal notation, and to do that they must first understand the basic idea and become fluent in translating numbers into and out of scientific notation. The TED-Ed lesson addresses the foundation of the standard: the basic understanding, ability to write large and small numbers in decimal and scientific notation form, and the cross-disciplinary connections. The students will go on to master the standard more thoroughly in later lessons after having mastered the basic concepts through this lesson.

The Media or Technology I am Integrating

TedEd Screenshot
Screenshot of the TED-ED Lesson

Scientific Notation TED-ED Lesson

TED-Ed is a platform that integrates a video, practice questions, discussion, and opportunities to explore further into a single website that students can complete independently. For the lesson that I created on scientific notation, I used a video that was available on YouTube.com that combines explanation, examples, and real-world connections for scientific notation that worked well as an introduction to the standard. After watching the video, the students then complete basic practice questions at their own pace and if they get any of the questions wrong the TED-Ed program points them to the place in the video in which that skill was explained. The students are then asked to read an article about really big and really small numbers in science that makes the connection between the math concept and the science application. For the discussion, students are asked to research and find two example numbers of large or small things that they are interested in or curious about. Then they post them to the class discussion and engage with the posts by translating the scientific notation numbers posted by another student into decimal form. After completing the lesson, students are asked to brainstorm how to use what they learned to do operations such as addition and multiplication with numbers written in scientific notation. This TED-Ed lesson engages the students in the basic skills for the standard and then guides them to a question and brainstorm that will lead them into the completion of the lesson standard in a later instructional period with the class and teacher.

The Rationale for Integrating the Media or Technology into this Lesson

Each aspect of the TED-Ed lesson offers an element of instruction that is beneficial to students, especially young adolescent ones. The format of TED-Ed allows for greater student engagement in their learning through use of an interesting video, interactive questions that give immediate feedback, further exploration that creates cross-disciplinary connections, the opportunity for students to research a concept according to their individual interests, and collaboration with other students. I choose the multiple-choice option for the “Think” section of the TED-Ed lesson because it gives the option for selecting a part of the video that the students can use for help if they get an answer wrong. The “Dig Deeper” section has an article that gives real-world context to the use of scientific notation, and the “Discussion” question asks students to research and find real-world examples on their own.

The intention behind the lesson is for students to learn to use scientific notation while at the same time learning about the real-world context for what they are learning. In addition, the use of the technological platform helps instruct students in a way that is more interesting to them. In their article describing the use of YouTube in an 8th grade classroom, Lin and Polaniecki (2008) offer a case study that demonstrates the importance of visual literacy skill and how videos can be a powerful educational tool. They assert that “…the younger generation intuitively embraces the expanse of media culture and actively responds to the changing media landscape.” (p. 93) Because technology is a tool that students enthusiastically use outside of school, leveraging it inside school is a way to increase student engagement.

In addition, fluency with technology is an essential skill for the 21st century. Technology is changing fast, and students must learn to be flexible, creative, and confident in using it. In her article outlining different ways to integrate TED Talks into the classroom, Lisa Rubenstein (2012) also discusses how videos can be a way to adapt learning to an ever-changing digital world. “As technology and information continue to grow at an exponential pace, we need to adjust the way we look at content to ensure it honors the world we live in and the students we teach, is transferable to multiple areas of study, and is beneficial to the individual as well as the community.” (Rubenstein, 2012, p. 261) The TED-Ed lesson I created utilizes an up-to-date video and current technology that students will learn both math skills and technology skills by using.

I integrated student choice and research into the last portion of the TED-Ed lesson to help engage students and to connect to their own individual interests and experiences. Candace Walkington (2013) discusses research on the use of technology to adapt learning to individual 9th grade students. Walkington’s research found that students that were given problems customized specifically for them were better able to interpret complex stories and translate them into symbolic equations. She states that “interest-based connections may allow for abstract ideas to become perceptually grounded in students’ experiences such that they become easier to grasp. Adaptive learning technologies that utilize interest may be a powerful way to support learners in gaining fluency with abstract representational systems.” (p. 1-2) Access to the internet while completing the online lesson enables students to explore and make meaningful connections to their learning.

The Integration of the Media or Technology Into the Lesson

The TED-Ed lesson is used as a part of a larger lesson about scientific notation that fits into a unit about exponents. It is used towards the beginning of a class period, after a warm up but at the beginning of instruction. The following are the steps for the whole lesson that integrates TED-Ed into an introductory lesson that teaches the standard mentioned above:

  1. Warm Up – A written warm up reviewing previously learned concepts about multiplying by powers of 10. For example, 3.47 x 100 and 67.4 x 0.0001
  2. TED-ED Lesson – Students work independently to complete the lessons. Some students will be finished earlier than others and the students that finish first will be given the opportunity to help other students who need extra help.
  3. Class Brainstorming and Direct Instruction -The teacher will facilitate a class discussion about the question posed at the end of the TED-Ed video, with other examples and questions. The teacher will demonstrate how to add, subtract, multiply, and divide numbers written in scientific notation, and how to understand scientific notation as expressed on a calculator.
  4. Practice – Students will work in pairs to solve example written problems about performing operations with numbers written in scientific notation and decimal notation, including word problems that are connected to real-world and science examples, and problems that require the use of a calculator. Different levels of written practice problems will be given to students who require accommodations for learning differences.
  5. Independent Practice and Homework – All students will be given independent written practice that reviews both the basic and more advanced concepts learned during the lesson. Any practice not completed in class will be finished at home for homework.
  6. Exit Ticket – As a brief formative assessment at the end of class, students will be asked to complete one word problem that requires an operation with scientific notation to be solved, along with a brief self-assessment of their mastery of the concept.

My Evaluation of the Media or Technology Integration

In my experience, scientific notation is a concept that students struggle to understand, forget quickly, and do not find engaging or interesting. Yet it is an essential skill to have when they study science, especially at the secondary level. I used the TED-Ed lesson to introduce this concept so that students could engage with the material in a way that is more interesting, engaging, and personal in the hopes that they will have a deeper, more authentic understanding of scientific notation that they will retain and be able to use later in their education.

This method of integrating TED-Ed will work because it allows students to rewind the video to revisit any concepts that they did not understand the first time. The multiple choice prompts them to view the exact part of the video that will help them correct mistakes that they may make. It allows for independent exploration of something that they are interested in through the discussion prompt. In general, it will be effective because it uses technology that students will find more engaging than teacher-centered instruction in a traditional classroom.

One way that it may not work is for students who need specific accommodations for learning differences, or practice problems at different levels. Though the speed at which they progress through the lesson is variable, the platform limits the integration of different levels of practice problems. The teacher may need to offer support and extra explanation as students attempt independent research to find their examples. The discussion section will need to be closely monitored by the teacher to make sure the students understand the instructions and have completed the posts thoroughly enough for their classmates to be able to respond to. In addition, the lesson would only work in a classroom that has a 1-to-1 ratio of computers to students.


Cox, Victoria. (2016). Image of planets and stars.

Lin, Ching Chiu, and Polaniecki Sherri. (2008). From media consumption to media production: Applications of YouTube in an eighth-grade video documentary project. Journal of Visual Literacy 28no. 1: 92-107.

MyWhyU. (2011, July 29). Pre-algebra 23 – scientific notation. Retrieved August 01, 2016, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hmw0wJVud0k

Public Schools of North Carolina. Standard course of study for mathematics. Retrieved from: http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/curriculum/mathematics/scos/k-12%20Standards.pdf. 22-24

Rubenstein, L. D. (2012). Using TED talk to inspire thoughtful practice. The teacher educator, 47 (4), 261-267. Retrieved from: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/08878730.2012.713303

TED-Ed. (n.d.). Retrieved August 01, 2016, from http://ed.ted.com/

Walkington, C. A. (2013). Using adaptive learning technologies to personalize instruction to student interests: The impact of relevant contexts on performance and learning outcomes. Journal Of Educational Psychology, 105(4), 932-945.


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