PowToon Empowerment

I was preparing to teach rationalizing the denominator to my 9th grade students when the key concept took a life of its own in my head. I could see this party animal radical in the denominator playing mad riffs on his electric guitar. I could see the mathematical mastermind set the trap with the identity property of multiplication luring him in with one of his own kind. Dancing radicals due to mutual attraction, convergence, and then poof the disappearance of the radical in the denominator — problem solved (or should I say simplified).

What? Variables and numbers don’t dance for you? Frankly, the last nine years of teaching this particular topic, they didn’t dance for me either. This time, though, there was definite dancing.
My kids were going to love it, or so I thought.

Thanks Breann & Stephanie!

Thanks Breann & Stephanie!

I asked that student whose math notes look more like works of art than mathematical theorems to draw a “Radical 3” on the Smart board. She recruited a friend for help. Teenage girls move in pairs you know. The result ☛

The students already understood the mathematical procedure.
Story Time! The kids were all for it as I had in the past, with crude Smart Board drawings and poor acting, pulled off other great stories (the party story, Rio Grande story, bee story — all very mathematical). However, despite my best effort, the magic of the math in my head just wasn’t bursting forth. Epic Fail.

PowToon to the rescue!
This was going to take a little more effort than usual. Could PowToon get across the magic?
Let’s see what you think (Click on the picture to see the presentation in a new window. Sound is critical.):
PowToon Rationalize the Denominator
Okay, okay — it’s the first PowToon I’ve ever done. I admit there’s room for improvement. However, when I showed this to my students on Day 2, they got it. (Perhaps I showed it more than once since it happens so fast.)

What is PowToon? A PowerPoint alternative? Did you catch the line “Loading Awesomeness” as the presentation downloaded? Perhaps awesomeness is the most appropriate descriptor for PowToon. One PowToon under my belt definitely doesn’t make me an expert, but here’s what I do know:

  • It’s free.
  • It was easy enough to use that I didn’t need to attend any special workshop or presentation.
  • Did I mention it was free?

How did I do it:   Breann & Stephanie’s radical 3 was saved as a .png file straight from the SmartBoard (along with other mathematical symbols).  Other text, hearts, moving hands are all compliments of the PowToon dashboard.  I had a little learning curve with manipulating the timing of objects.  Once I realized the similarities to Movie Maker, I was home free.  While PowToon has free audio clips that you can use, this sound file is actually one that I first mixed in Audacity with my voice and free sound clips from FreeSound and then uploaded to PowToon. My only disappoint: I can’t get my 3’s to wiggle as much as I would like. But that’s the power of imagination, isn’t it?

What animated content do you have locked in your head? Maybe PowToon can help it out.


AlgebraSimplifiedIconDawn is a secondary Algebra teacher in Maryland with a B.S. in Secondary Mathematics Education and a Masters in Information Science and Learning Technologies.
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