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I've been teaching high school math for over 20 years. I write about my experiences here and also share activities that I have done with my classes that have been successful (and some that have been not so successful).

Using QR Codes For Self Checking Activities

Teachers are busy. After I graduated college, I got my first teaching job and have never had any other type of job, so I cannot compare what's it's like to be a teacher versus what it's like to have another career. But I do know that teachers are very busy.

A former principal of mine once said that teaching was like a marathon. You start in August and don't stop running until May. Yep, that sounds about right.

I once heard that a typical teacher makes over 1000 decisions in one day.  Teachers have to plan multiple lessons every day. In addition to planning for their classes, teachers also have to grade papers, make photocopies, update their website, teach their classes, serve hall/lunch duty, and more. Sometimes several hours go by, and we realize we haven't gone to the bathroom in a long while!

Teachers love self-checking activities

When we teachers find a resource that saves us time by allowing students to self-check their work, we are delighted. There are a few ways to have activities self-checking. You could use a website like DeltaMath.com (read more about my obsession with DeltaMath here), you could make a Google Form, a circuit, a maze, or you could use a QR code.

I love using QR codes because it gives the students a reason to use their smartphones, and students are always looking for reasons to use their smartphones in class!

What is a QR code

A QR code is a type of matrix barcode that is machine-readable. (source)

A user holds their smartphone up to the QR code and either uses the built-in camera or a QR code reader app to read the code. After the code is read, the smartphone will either show text or attempt to show text, open a website or a pdf or whatever the QR code is linked to. (Scroll to the bottom of this post to see the difference in using the camera app or a QR code reader app.)

How to create a QR code

Creating a QR code is simple. I use a free website called qr-code-generator.com, but there are several websites available.

The QR code can be sent to text, an image, a website, a pdf, and more. Since I use only the website's free version, I always link to either text or a url.

If the answers you want your students to see are text, it's pretty easy to send a QR code to text; type the text into the QR code generator, and it will automatically generate a QR code that you can snip and paste into your activity.

Sending a QR code to an image

If I want to send the students to a mathematical expression such as 
then I do the following
  1. create the expression in PowerPoint, 
  2. save the expression as an image in a google drive folder, 
  3. change the share settings so that the image is visible to anyone with the link,  
  4. "copy the link to clipboard," 
  5. paste the link into the QR code generator site, then 
  6. snip the QR code and paste it into my activity. 
If that sounds like a lot of steps, you're right. That's why I encourage you to check out my collection of Precalculus and Calculus resources that use QR codes where I have already done all the work.

Ideas for using QR codes

Now that you know how to create a QR code, here are some ideas for ways to use them in your math classroom:
  • get a hint how on how to solve a problem (like on my Verifying Trig Identities Practice)
  • get the answer to a question from a worksheet (like on my Relative Extrema Practice or Inflection Points and Concavity Practice)
  • get the answer to a question from a task card
  • get a pdf of the answer key for the entire document (share the url of the pdf, which is stored on google drive)
  • get a link to a video on youtube explaining the topic
  • get the sum of the answers to several problems (like in my Sum It Up activities)
  • get a clue for a scavenger hunt or treasure hunt
  • identify the type of function (like my Polar Graphs Card Sort)
  • you can even put QR codes into a Google Form if you need to make your entire activity digital!

Some of my favorite resources that use QR codes:

Fundamental Theorem of Calculus Sum It Up

Inflection Points and Concavity Practice

Verifying Trig Identities Practice

Polar Graphs Card Sort




What other ideas do you have for how to use QR codes in the classroom? Comment below, or let's continue the conversation in my free Facebook group for Algebra 2, Precalculus, and Calculus teachers.

Opening the QR code: camera app vs. a QR code reader app

I encourage my students to get a free QR code reader app on their phone instead of using the built-in camera app. (I use this free app, but there are a lot available.)

If your QR code is sending the students to an image or website, it likely won't make a difference, but if you're sending your students to simple text, they might get confused. 

For example, I created a QR code that sends the user to text that says, "25." 

Below on the left, you can see what the student sees when they scan the QR code with the camera app on an iPhone (I was not able to test on an Android).  

On the right, you can see what the student sees when they scan the QR code with a QR code reader app. 

I had several students tell me the QR code didn't work when they used the camera because of that search message at the top of the screen.

What the student sees if they use the camera app on an iPhone

What the student sees if they use a QR code reader app

Do you have any tips for using QR codes? Join me in my free Facebook group for Algebra 2, Precalculus, and Calculus teachers so we can continue the conversation.