Recap Twitter Math Camp ’15

What happens at Twitter Math Camp never stays at Twitter Math Camp! 

TMC logoHow can it? We all met through Twitter, speak through blogs, ride a communal wave of a passion, ache to change the world through math education, and respond to the annual call of Lisa Henry (@lmhenry9) to gather each summer for the most exhilarating, unique and educational professional development event that any of us have ever experienced. Collectively, we form the universe know as the Math Twitter Blogosphere (#MTBoS). With this kind of excited learning and a vehicle to share it loudly with the world, there is no way to keep TMC a secret. 

So in this passionate, collaborative, spirit, here is my Re-Cap of TMC15

{Note: All videos shown here were recorded by Richard Villanueva}

Jed Butler (@MathButler), Michael Fenton (@mjfenton), Glenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs), Bob Lochel (@BobLoch)

Desmos Team

The “Morning Sessions” of the Camp consisted of 2-hour sessions that ran each of the first three days. Each 3-morning session was based on a topic. I attended the one on Desmos, the premier, free, online, graphing calculator. This was an enormously productive time that inspired me to SCHEDULE in advance, where and when to use Desmos in my curriculum this year. Here’s what I learned about Desmos ….

  1. Tours: These are built-in tutorials that walk you through the Desmos basics of Graphing Equations, Creating Tables, Lines of Regression, and Restrictions (domain & range). Just click the question mark in the upper-right corner.
    Pic Tours
  2. Desmos Bank: A communal site where teachers can share Desmos ideas and activities.
  3. Activity Builder: Eli Luberoff (@eluberoff), the founder and CEO of Desmos made a guest appearance at our session to announce the launch of the Activity Builder. In essence, this allows teachers to create lessons, constructed of a sequence of Desmos activities. Trust me, YOU WANT TO CHECK THIS OUT.
  4. Student Accounts: If students have a Google account (which all of mine do), they can log into Desmos through Google, which allows them to save their work and send their products to the teacher. That’s going to happen in my class this year.

GEOMETRY, Not an IslandJasmine
Jasmine Walker, (@jaz_math), Burlington, Vermont

Jasmine started her session with a statement that I very much agreed with: “Even if your school or district has not adopted an integrated curriculum, you should still teach geometry as if it has. Geometry is not an island; we should not leave algebra behind.”

She then posed the question, “How do you start the year in Geometry?” for which the room had a very uniform answer … with vocabulary. This led the conversation on how to start the year with rich math tasks that link algebra to geometry. There was not a great deal of time for solutions, but the conversation brought me back to the Desmos activity builder. Geometry, Algebra & Vocabulary can all be brought together with a Desmos activity in which students need to generate geometric shapes on a coordinate plane, with restricted equations.

WHAT DO YOU THINK AND WHY? Supporting Students in Sharing their Ideas
Dr. Ilana Horn (@tchmathculture)

Dr. Horn spurred a terrific conversation among a large audience about how we, the various teachers in the room, support students in the sharing of their thinking in math class. The class had some wonderful ideas, however, what struck me most was not anyone idea, but the fact that so many ideas existed in a collective body of teachers. It truly is not a matter of knowledge, but a matter of will in getting students to work together and discuss their ideas. I was also impressed in Dr. Horn’s use of Polls Everywhere. I saw the power of the simulataneous viewing of the classes’ thoughts. I have been contemplating the use of Pear Deck (a similar platform) in my class.

TMC Poll

Teaching the 8 Practices
Me! (@MathProjects)

I taught a session on teaching the 8 Standards of Mathematical Practice, in which I shared my SMP Posters, their corresponding Wordles, and the explicit teaching of the practices through “Dual Targets.” (my blog post forthcoming)  Meg Craig (@mathymeg07) posted about the implementation of #SMPTargets in her own classroom.

SMP Posters MPJ 1_Page_7

Growing Our Practice  (Keynote #1)
Dr. Ilana Horn (@tchmathculture)
(video Part 1, Part 2)

Lani PicDr. Horn is well known for studies on teacher collaboration as well as student collaboration, therefore, she often talks about how teachers think about teaching. She once again delivered on that point through the lens of how teachers’ perspectives affect their professional growth, parsing out the difference between good teachers and great teachers into three key qualities:

  • Problem Frames
  • Representations of Practice
  • Interpretive Principles

The great teachers have …

  • Problem Frames that are actionable,
  • Representations of Practice that include more student voice and perspective, and
  • Interpretive Principles that focus on connections among teaching, mathematics and student understanding

In other words, great teachers do not spend a lot of time and energy discussing things they have no control over; rather, they ponder how students think about and interact with mathematics, and what how the lessons and activities affect their learning. So Dr. Horn called for …

  • Teacher Agency
  • Empathic Reasoning
  • Ecological Thinking

This resonated throughout a room full of people bent on “growing their practice.”

Math From the Heart, Not the Textbook (Keynote #2)
Christopher Danielson (@Trianglemancsd)
(video Part 1, Part 2)

Christopher laid down the inspirational challenge: “Find what you love. Do more of that.” He shared with us how he loves ambiguity and, therefore, was OK with playing the game of Which One Doesn’t Belong? For example, what students would choose and why in the set of four figures below, will offer up multiple answers.
TMC which oneChristopher is also the author of Common Core Math for Parents for Dummies. A much needed resource in responding to the darkside of social media.

“Find what you love. Do more of that.” — Christopher Danielson

Screen Shot 2015-07-24 at 3.05.23 PMTeacher Woman  (Keynote #3)
Fawn Nguyen, (@fawnpnguyen)
(video Part 1, Part 2)

Fawn did here what Fawn does best: She made us all feel wonderful about being teachers. She humorously poked fun at the tweets that many of us sent her, but also seriously shared her personal trimphs and tragedies. In the end, our diminutive twiter celebrity grew huge with inspiration. She tearfully read a complimentary letter from a grateful student, and then told us of her sister who is an engineer. An emotional Fawn, claimed “She makes more money than me,  but she doesn’t have that letter!”

“She makes more money than me, but she doesn’t have that letter!” — Fawn Nguyen

My Favorites
Several times throughout the Camp, there is time given for people to share a 5-10 minute presentation of a technique, activity or routine that they love. There were nearly two dozen amazing ideas.

Two of them I have already implemented in my class …

High 5’sGlenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs): Glenn was right. Offering the High 5’s at the door does more for my mood and mental preparation for the class than it did for the kids.

Music Cues, Matt Vaudry (@MrVaudrey): Playing Mission Impossible at the beginning of class and the Benny Hill Theme song at the end has drastically improved the time spent retrieving and cleaning up materials.

and two others I intend to use in the future …

Egg Roulette, Bob Lochel (@BobLoch): This looks to be a very engaging activity on probability and on making and critiquing conjectures.

Student Videos, Princess Choi, (@MathPrincessC): Having students make videos on math concepts, and then post them to a place where they may “like” and “comment” on each others is cutting edge.

I presented two of my own Favorites …

Neuron Stickers, Brain Surgeons & Wrinkle Sprinkles:  These are vehicles that that I used to cultivate a Growth Mindset in my students last year. (my blog post forthcoming) @mathymeg07 blogged about Strengthening a Dendrite and how to get inexpensive posters made.

Rally for Roatan: A pitch for the altruistic effort to bring textbooks and instructional supplies to the school district of Roatan, Honduras, and the roll-out of my new web page to support it.

Chris Shore (@MathProjects), John Stevens (@Jstevens009), Chris Harris (@CHarrisMath), Hedge (@approx_normal), Jennifer Bell (@jkjohnsonbell), Nanette Johnson (@Math_m_Addicts), Robert Kaplinsky (@robertkaplinsky), Shelley Carranza (@stcarranza)

We eight math coaches had a wonderfully transparent roundtable discussion of what was working and not working at our sites. I was helpful to hear about so many successes, and to know that we shared many of the same issues. Listed below are the bulleted notes from that exchange.

“How do I move teachers along the WHY train?” — Nanette Johnson


  • 100% Handshake Introduction
    (Introduce self to every math teacher with a handshake)
  • Modeled Number Talks in 150 classes in 2 months
  • Acceptance of math coach at 16 schools
  • Teacher input (What do you think?)
  • Liaison/Advocate for teachers with District
  • Teacher invitation and openness
  • Self-Growth
  • Started Math Coach Network
  • Led Textbook adoption
  • Model Lessons (Geogebra, Desmos)
  • Teacher understanding of Common Core as teaching students to “Think & Communicate”


  • #educoach: Wed 7pm Pacific
  • #k12mathcoach: 2nd & 4th Wed 6pm Pacific
    (starting in August 2015)
  • #elemmathchat: Thurs 6pm Pacific


  • Dismal lack of content knowledge in some cases
  • Missing teaching in the classroom
  • Coaching is more about psychology than math.
  • Drinking from a firehose, but only able to spit it back out
  • How do we collect data on effectiveness
    (Woodruff scale: 10 things)

Burning Questions:

  • How do I move teachers along the WHY train?
  • How do I use Behavior Economics to nudge change?
  • How do you measure effectiveness of PD?
  • What data do we have to show that we are effective?
  • How do I support myself at my getting better at my job?

The Side Talks
I had several conversations throughout the Camp, but two that stood out were with …

Dr HornLani Horn (@tchmathculture): We finally had our long overdue conversation about the structure of collaborative student groups. Dr. Horn wrote THE book on this topic, Strength in Numbers. I have always used a great deal of group work, and recently Lani’s emphasis on “status” in the class has influenced my thinking a great deal. We had the controversial discussion regarding grouping homogeneously, heterogeneously or randomly which finally settled the issue in my mind. I will share the results of that dialogue in a future post. #cliffhanger

Edmund PicEdmund Harris (@Gelada): Edmund and I love comparing American & British education systems. (Dr. Harris is originally from Britain and now teaches at the University of Arkansas). This year, he was very hot on the treatment of homework in both countries. He insists that rather than it being either the traditional, boring rote or the new, mind-crushing, “common core” problems that end up on haters’ Facebook pages, that math homework should be a “joyful meditation.” I love this thought; now comes the challenge of making it happen for my students.

Edmund also is the Illustrator of a new book coming out, Patterns of the Universe, A Coloring Adventure in Math and Beauty. He is my go-to expert for anything that deals with Geometry, so I cannot wait until this book comes out. The preview below of his illustrations will get you just as excited.

“Homework should be joyful, meditation.” — Dr. Edmund Harris

TMC15 was a phenomenal four days at Harvey Mudd College in Claremont, California. TMC16 will be at Augsberg College in Minneapolis,MN, July 16 – 19. I can’t wait to reconvene with this crew, so that, as one participant shouted …

“My brain will explode with awesomeness!”

TMC Group

And just for kicks …



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