Recap: NCTM 2017

San Antonio, CA , April 2017
I have summarized each session with some simple (•) bulleted notes, red underline to encapsulate my major take-aways, and occasionally a brief italicized commentary.

Math Task Makeover with Desmos Activity Builder — Michael Fenton (Desmos), Jed Butler (Heritage HS), Bob Lochel (Hatboro-Horsham High School)

• The Big Take-Away = Use Desmos activities to generate intellectual need to learn the lesson objective.”
• Generate need for Graph of a Linear Inequalities ….

• Generate need for Definition of Ellipses …

• Teacher facilitation is key.

I’ve got to starting using the overlay function!

Numberless Word Problems in the Elementary Grades — Brian Bushart & Regina Payne (Round Rock ISD)

• The Big Take-Away = Have students make sense of word problems prior to computation by removing the numbers.”
• The origin: Press kids to stop just circling numbers in word problems and applying random operation.
• Not all day every day. It is a tool for sense making.
• Focus on the relationship and the operation, formal language, and what the question would be, not the answer.
• #numberlesswp

This makes sense for secondary grades as well.

Rich Tasks as Landmarks for Students to Use in Navigating Their Mathematical Learning Journey — Peg Cagle (LAUSD)

• The Big Take-Away = Students’ work on Landmark Tasks throughout the year that should be visible in the classroom so that students can map their learning.”
• We don’t take advantage enough of narrative in math class.
• “Imagine shrinking down an entire map to the size of an index card. All the details get lost and the map becomes unreadable. What are the landmarks that will help students navigate the mathematical landscape”.
• Peg presented the criteria for a Landmark Task …

• … and presented us with a LandmarkTask …

Tied Up in Knots: In your groups, measure the length, in centimeters, of the piece of rope that you have. Then tie a single overhand knot and remeasure the length. Repeat the process several times. Create a data table, graph and equation relating the number of knots to the the length of the rope.

• … then she analyzed the task according to the criteria …

• … and showed how this landmark was made visible in her classroom.

• The Speech Bubbles were created by the students to make comments on other groups’ work.
1. This is the second year in a row at this conference that I have seen Peg give a year-long, big picture vision of using tasks in the classroom.
2. This is also the third presenter who has mentioned some variation of the Speech Bubbles. Time to use them in my classroom.
3. Peg made a statement that has me thinking deeply and that I have quoted several times already: “Students have ample amounts of robust evidence that they are not good in math.” We need to help them overcome that.

Changing Teacher Practices: Transforming Teaching 101 to PD 101 — Audrey Mendivil (San Diego County)

• The Big Take-Away = Shift from Professional Development to Professional Learning.”
• 5 Principles of Effective PD
1. On-Going
2. Support during implementation
3. Model new practices
4. Variety of approaches and active engagement
• Shift from Professional Development to Professional Learning

• How to Change:
1. Small Steps. Stick to only 2-3 short term goals.
2. Rethink Our Norms:

• Why PD often FailsHow can we set-up for success?
1) Top-Down Decisions: How can you include teachers in the decision making process?
2) Little or no support in transferring ideas to the classroom: What support is available?
3) Idea that teachers need to be fixed: How are you communicating your why?
4) Lack of variety in delivery modes: How can you differentiate for teachers?
• Essential Elements. Audrey took us through a terrific activity for those who create Professional Learning experiences. She gave a sets of cards that were color coded, and asked us to work together to sort them into 4-6 groups, and then name the groups.
She then shared how she grouped them (which is what the color scheme was for). The idea was to take ALL the things that we want teachers to know and do and rather than create a checklist for them, cluster these concepts into Themes or Essential Elements and have teachers learn that.

1. This was yet another session at NCTM that focused on Vision and the need to put the WHY in front of teachers.
2. The re-structuring of the norms resonated with me. I’m still thinking deeply on this one. The norms drive the culture of the meetings, so they offer great leverage.
3. In her call to keep the list of goals short, Audrey discussed the need to set short-term, intermediate and long-term goals. This falls in line with the concept of “leading and lagging indicators.” Student data may take awhile to improve (lagging) so what are the improvements in teacher moves that we can credit to our PD (leading)?
4. The objective of the card sort activity gets at the heart of what I see killing most PD in districts … too many short-lived initiatives. Keep the broader concepts in mind. Bigger, slower moving targets are easier to hit.

The Struggle is Real: Tasks, Academic Status, and Productive Problem Solving — Geoff Krall (New Tech Network)

• The Big Take-Away = Developing a culture of productive struggle requires holistic vigilance on the relationships between Quality Tasks, Effective Facilitation & Academic Safety.

• Protocols for Problem Solving
1) Make it visual
2) Estimate Before Solving
• Record what students know…
vs what they are assessed on.
• Promoting Access:
Example: Make the smallest (or largest) difference by filling in numbers 1-9 no more than one time each.

I am challenged by Geoff’s two graphs of the linear regression of student growth. My Claims-Based Grading needs a little more work in the area of reflecting cumulative knowledge rather than recent learning.

Logarithmic Earthquake Project: An Algebra 2 Project with Real Applications — Tanisha Fitzgerald-Williams & Beverly Heigre (Notre Dame High School)

• The Big Take-Away = Have students view videos of earthquake damage and do their own research on Richter Scale, before formal presentation of calculating Magnitude difference with Logarithms.”
• Step 1: Research

• Step 2: Calculations

• Step 3: Student Groups make Presentations
• Note: Tanisha & Beverly also have students offer possible humane response to victims of earthquake presented.
• There is a google drive folder available that contains materials for this projects: goo.gl/Y197YR

Clothesline: The Master Number Sense Maker — Chris Shore (Me)

• The Big Take-Away = Number sense and conceptual understanding of current content can be taught simultaneously with Clothesline Math.”
• I presented the power of the Clothesline to teach Algebra, Geometry and Statistics.
• clotheslinemath.com
• #clotheslinemath

There were at least 5 sessions at NCTM Annual in which the Clothesline was a part or the focus of the presentation.

Fun Sidenote: The ceiling rafters and the carpet print of the convention center had the same Geometric Pattern. I am sure there is lesson to be created out of this.

There are videos of keynotes, ShadowCon and Ignite
at NCTM’s Conference 2017 web page.

The city of San Antonio enhanced an already fantastic trip!

Recap: NCSM 2017

San Antonio, CA , April 2017

I have summarized each session with some simple (•) bulleted notes, red underline quotes to encapsulate my major take-aways, and occasionally a brief italicized commentary.

Knocking Down Barriers with Technology — Eli Lubroff (Desmos)

• The Big Take Away =  Differentiation should not mean different tasks for different students, but instead should offer different depths with same task.
• Technology can be used effectively to address Inequality, Disabilities and Differentiation.
• Marbleslides is an example of a high cognitive demand task that naturally differentiates.

• Our (math ed community) work of offering High Quality, Meaningful, and Relevant mathematics for ALL has never been more important. Non-routine Cognitive jobs are becoming a growing percentage of employment opportunities.

• Inequality:
1) 51% of American students are on free and reduced lunch, which equates to 25 million kids!
2) The two great equalizers: Mass Adoption of Technology and Public Education.
• Disabilities: For students with disabilities, technology opens doors that have always been closed. Desmos is currently working with a blind person to develop an audio feature that converts graphs to music and sound.
1. OK, OK already … I’ll finally start using Marbleslides!
2. I will also place more “extensions/challenge” problems on tasks to offer deeper differentiation.

Gut Instincts: Developing ALL Students’ Mathematical Intuition — Tracy Zager (Stenhouse Publishers)

• The Big Take Away: In mathematics, intuition is as important as logic, and like logic, needs be explicitly developed.
• “Intuitive experiences must be acquired by the student through his/her own activities – they cannot be learned through verbal instruction.” —  Erich Wittmann
• Following mathematical intuition needs to precede the logic. Logic then further encourages the intuition:

• Tracy had us practice this explicit development of intuition with a simple challenge and manipulative. “Can you try and discover the size of some of these other angles?” We were given the fact that the squares had 4 right angles, but no protractor. Go!”

• Intuition can also be developed through estimates before the algorithmic practice occurs.

Feeding the Brains’s (Affective and Cognitive) Subcommittees for Mathematics Learning   — David Dockterman (Harvard University)

The Big Take Away = The Brain Has 3 Learning Networks: The WHAT, the HOW and the WHY.”

1. The WHAT Network  = Different parts of the brain …
• Approximate Number System
All animals can picture quantity especially when comparing a lot vs a few. It gets harder as the ratio approaches 1:1
• Language Retrieval
Association between number and name (assigning “eight” to a collection of eight items). Math facts are retrieved in the language that they were learned.
• Symbol Procedure
Association between number and symbol (assigning “8” to a collection of eight items).
• Feeding the WHAT Networka) Connect the Visual, Symbolic & Linguistic parts of the brain through multiple representations
b) Make Sense through Coherence: What is learned today should be related to what was learned yesterday.

2. The HOW network = Executive Function

• Cognitive Flexibility
• Working Memory
• Concentration
• Emotional Control
• Feeding the HOW Networka) Incentives for inputs not output
b) Develop the Math Practices, focus on process, not results.
c) Notice: Define the desired learning behaviors and call them out during lesson. This video of the “Monkey Business Illusion” demonstrate how the human mind focuses intensely on what you want it to notice. What behaviors do you want students to focus on?
d) Nudge: Use Norms to encourage target behaviors. Compare past, less productive behaviors to current successful behaviors.

3. The WHY Network = The Affective State

• The 3 Mindsets of Why
-Purpose & Relevance
– Growth
– Belonging
• Feeding the WHY Network
a) Purpose & Relevance: It is more powerful connecting a cause (Self-Transcendance) than to a career, knowing math will help you make a difference in the world.
b) Growth: Give feedback like you are giving advice (vs judgement). Carole Dweck, “The brain is like a muscle. The harder it works, the stronger it gets.” This should be the norm. We have to believe in our students abilities before they will believe in themselves.
c) Belonging: Establish a culture where it is safe to learn (vs perform). We cheer each other’s growth.

Feeding the Entire Network Intentionally

• Manage teacher cognitive load – don’t look for everything all the time.
• Match the tasks to illuminating the beliefs, behaviors or knowledge and skills that you want to notice.
• Behaviors aren’t one-and-done; they need constant nurturing of the mindsets that drive them.
• Have the right food ready — anticipate, notice and respond.
• YOU and the adults have to believe.

In regards to praising inputs, not outputs. Dr. Dockterman shared a study on financial incentives. Monetary rewards for better grades showed no improvement; monetary rewards for the behaviors that leads to better grades (notes, homework, questions) showed significant improvement.

What Every Math Leader Needs to Know and Be Able to Model to Support the Classroom Development of Numerical Fluency —  Patsy Kanter & Steve Leinwand (AIR)

• The Big Take Away = Developing numerical fluency requires planning and active engagement. “

5 Steps to Implementing Numerical Fluency

1. Commitment: Fluency is more than speed. It takes ongoing, protected time and assessments to develop.
2. 10 Pivotal Understandings of Numerical Fluency:
1. All quantities are comprised of parts and wholes that can be put together and taken apart.
2. Numbers can be decomposed.
3. Storytelling is key, because vocabulary of the four operations is critcial.
4. Properties of Operations reduces memory load (like 29 x 25).
5. Requires discussion of alternate strategies.
6. 5 & 10 are cornerstones.
7. Understanding that 9 and (10-1) are the same quantity.
8. Groups or 2, 3, 5, & 10 are cornerstones of Multiplying.
9. Ideas of equality and equivalency are key.
10. Place value dominates fluency of large numbers.
3. Cement Number Fluency:
a) Concrete Representations
b) Verbal Representations
c) Pictorial Representations
d) Discussion & Justification
4. Calendarize: 10-15 minutes daily
For example …
Monday: Make it Number Sense Activity
Tuesday: Operational Practice
Wednesday: Word problems
Thursday: Making math connections
Friday: Counting patterns, Games, Puzzles (week 1) and Assessment (week 2)
5. Assess: Include Numerical Fluency (not speed) on assessments. For example, “Write everything you know about two.”
1+1=2
2 is even
2 is the only even prime number
2 is the square root of 4 ! 5-3=2
Multiplying by two doubles any number

Though the examples here were mostly elementary the 5 steps still apply to secondary, particularly to the planning of daily activities.

Knowing Your HEARTPRINT: Transforming the Way We Teach and Lead.  — Tim Kanold (HEARTPRINT)

• The Big Take Away: I define your heartprint as the distinctive impression and marked impact your heart leaves on others.”
• Happiness boosts our productivity and heightens our influence over peers.
• Engagement. From Gallup Poll:
31% are Engaged Teachers (seek ways to be better)
57% are Not-Engaged. (unlikely to devote discretionary effort)
12% are Actively Disengaged (intentionally sabotage)
• Alliances: Collaborate with other teachers.*
• Risk. Take chances towards the Clear Vision and using Clear Results (data) to guide journey for OUR students (vs my students).
• Thought. Are you a person of deep knowledge capacity and wisdom?

This was an inside peek at Tim’s recently published and highly acclaimed book, Heartprint. It was one of the most emotional, inspirational presentation I have ever witnessed. Tim really called us to focus on the core purpose of why we are teachers.
* I refer to Dr. Kanold as the ‘Prince of the PLC movement.” The ‘King’ was Rick Dufour, his friend and mentor. Tim dedicated this book to Rick who passed away this year.

10 Instructional Tweaks That Every Math Leader Needs to Advocate For and Be Able to Model — Steve Leinwand (AIR)

• The Big Take Away = Strengthen daily classroom instruction with collaborative structures and coaching, monitored with high-quality, well-analyzed common assessments.”
• Tweak 1: Cumulative Review
Most effective strategies for fostering mastery and retention of critical skills is daily, cumulative review at the beginning of every lesson.
• Tweak 2: Fewer Mindless Worksheets
Never more than 4 problems on new skill,
Annual reread of Jo Boaler‘s, Fluency without Fear
• Tweak 3: Change Homework Structure
2-4-2 Homework
2 Problems = New Skills
4 Problems = Cumulative Skill
2 Problems = High Order/Justification
• Tweak 4: Daily Exit Slips
with 5 minutes to go, every lesson:

– “Turn and tell you partner what you learned today”;
– “Individually, on a sticky note, complete this task”;
– Launch next lesson with “On the basis of yesterday’s exit slip”

• Tweak 5: Higher Order Questioning
Why? How do you know? Can you draw it? What do you notice? How are the same? etc
• Tweak 6: More Substantive Student Discourse
You = Struggle, Explore & Share
We = Justify Compare & Debrief
I = Consolidate
• Tweak 7: More Productive Struggle
We need more DOK 2 & 3 tasks, and weekly opportunity for rich and robust tasks
• Tweak 8: Greater Use of Technology
Docu-cams, Class twitter accounts, Desmos etc.
• Tweak 9: Effective Intervention
Most are ineffective, because they do not change the approach.
• Tweak 10: Effective Collaboration
PLC’s don’t magically make a difference. It is their content and follow up that do.

I have been sporadic with my use of reflections and exit tickets at the conclusion of the lessons. Steve & Patsy have challenged me to be more intentional and diligent in these practices.

Building Leadership Structure — Denise Porter & Kathryn Flores (University Chicago STEM Education)

• The Big Take Away = A Math Instruction Improvement Program needs a long term plan.
• The case study that was shared is a project in which the non-profit group provided funding and support of the University of Chicago STEM .
• Video recordings of exemplary teachers teaching a lesson that was requested by teachers through PD survey.

This speaks to the power of observations and particularly the use of video to model best practices. The question is how to find the time to record and edit lessons, without outside finding.

Conceptual Understanding and Exploration in Mathematics Via Desmos.  — Eric Milou (Rowan University)

• The Big Take Away = Use of technology tools can support both learning of math procedural skill as well as advanced math proficiencies, such as problem solving and justifying.”
• Desmos allows you to:
– Engage with dynamic motion
– Create with animation and art
– Monitor with instantaneous feedback

Ross Taylor Past Presidents Session.

• Hank Hepner: Have a shared vision and question the assumptions that lead to unproductive beliefs.
• Steve Leinwand: How can we help our colleagues envision more effective pedagogy? Get teachers to observe each other and debrief every other week:
– What was impressive, what would you different, a call action?
– Video recording of exemplar.
– Focus on only two things, you pick one and I pick one.

More talk of vision and modeling of exemplars.

Developing High School Mathematics Teahcer Leaders  — Mike Steele (University of Wisconsin Milwaukee)

• The Big Take Away = Prepare teacher leaders with hypothetical scenarios.
• Directions: Brainstorm how a leader would address the challenges connected to the sample scenario. There are a group of parents in your school who are very unhappy about the math curriculum. They think the program holds back their students. They want their sons and daughters to be challenged, to be successful (generally based on grades or tests scores), and to be able to move ahead in grade level or math courses. The parents indicate that mathematics is a discipline that is learned in steps. The steps need to be clearly defined and when the students succeed in accomplishing the steps, they are moved to the next level or the next course.

High Leverage Leadership Actions That Improve Teaching and Learning.  — Diane Briars (NCTM, Past President)

• The Big Take Away = There are no quick fixes, and me must act on two fronts: Teachers & Administrators.”
• High Leverage Practice #1: Shift emphasis from Answer Getting to Mathematical Understanding
Once kids know how to do something they don’t want to understand why… You can’t take it back. Understanding facilitates initial learning and retention.
• High Leverage Practice #2: Collective Professional Growth.
Support Collaborative Team Culture. All kids are our kids. The unit of change is the teacher team.
• High Leverage Practice #3: Implementing the 8 Effective Teaching Practices (Principles to Action).
… Then focus on Discourse. What do you do after the students do the task? DISCOURSE to advance the math learning of the whole class. It’s not about doing the task; it’s doing the task for a reason, so planning is key, and planning with someone else is even better. Facilitate the anticipation phase of the planning.
• High Leverage Practice #4: Awareness of the Micromessages about math and students.
Comments like, “It is immediately obvious that…,” Effort-based vs intelligent-based praise. Observe number of interactions and nature of questions teacher offer based on gender or race.

Shrinking the Equity Gap in Secondary Mathematics Coursework: Implications for College Coursework and Completion.  — Dr. Amy Wiseman  & Chritine Bailie (E3 Alliance)

• The Big Take Away = Acceleration Works!”

• 8th Grade Algebra is Key.
• Auto Enroll and allow parent “opt-outs” rather than “opt-in.”
• PD for teachers on supporting “Bubble Students” critical.

Thank you San Antonio for an Epic Trip!

The 10% Challenge

I’ve heard Steve Leinwand say that it is unprofessional to ask teachers to change more than 10% a year. It is also unprofessional to ask them to change less than 10% a year.

I love this thought that we need to always be growing as professionals, but that our growth needs to be realistic and sustainable. However, I’m also challenged by what 10% change looks like, especially if I present this idea to my fellow teachers.

How do you quantify professional growth?
How can you see this 10% change?

Then it struck me. 10% equals one-tenth, which is one out of every ten school days. That means Steve’s 10% is calling for us to try something new once every two weeks. That seems very doable for everyone. Imagine what a math department would like a year from now if every teacher tried something new and effective every two weeks. That would be a total of 18-20 days, or about a entire month of innovative instruction for each teacher. That sounds, realistic, sustainable and exciting.

Let’s all embrace Steve’s 10% Challenge.

Re-Cap: NCSM 2016

Oakland, CA , April 2016

I have summarized each session with some simple (•) bulleted notes, red underline quotes to encapsulate my major take-aways, and occasionally a brief italicized commentary.

Game-Based Learning: The Hype is Starting to Give Way to Some Surprising Substance  — Keith Devlin (Stanford)

• Big Take-Away = Start with the thinking (which is the more important), then follow with the notation.
• The “Symbolic Barrier”: Symbols are a terrific way to use mathematics, but a horrible way to learn them.
• The vast majority of our population is taught symbolic notation, yet most need mathematical thinking.
• Students using Dragon Box Algebra learn the Algebraic thinking needed for solving equations in 90 minutes. However, this ability did not transfer to paper/symbolic test, therefore, both are needed.
• We teach students to play music, before we teach them to read it. The same should be true of mathematics.

Personal note: I’ve had Dr. Devlin’s book, Goodbye Descartes, for almost 20 years; after his talk he signed it for me.

Developing Deeper Student Thinking  and Reflection — Patricia Rogers (Gilroy USD)

• Big Take-Away = Use “structured” student collaboration to enhance student reflection, and thus student thinking.
• Good collaboration needs to be: Regular, Brief, Prepared, Open-Minded.
• 3 Teacher Moves (Phil Daro)
• Student thinking made visible (to other students, not just the teacher)
• “Everyone Ready” (ALL students individually prepare themselves to share thinking.)
• “Make an Expert” (of a students who has viable strategy) then have the rest of the class “Turn and Talk” when productive struggle weakens in order to focus on targeted math topic.
• Classroom Discussions (Chaplin, O-Connor, Anderson)
• Wait Time
• Revoice (The teacher rephrases what the student just said.)
• Restate (Student(s) rephrase what a student just said.)
• Add-on (Student(s) extend or challenge another student’s conjecture.)
• Apply (Students apply their own reasoning to someone else’s reasoning …” just try it on.”)

I’ve seen the two techniques of revoicing & restating demonstrated a great deal lately and have now been challenged to bring these into my class more often.

The San Francisco USD Mathematics Teaching Toolkit: Changing the Practice Along with the Content — Glenn Kenyon & Kathy Bradley (SFUSD)

• Big Take-Away = Established Vision, Beliefs and Goals before building district curriculum

Vision
“All students will make sense of rigorous mathematics in ways that are creative, interactive, and relevant in heterogeneous classrooms.”

Beliefs
1. All students can and should develop a belief that mathematics is sensible, worthwhile, and doable.
2. All students are capable of making sense of mathematics in ways that are creative, interactive, and relevant.
3. All students can and should engage in rigorous mathematics through rich, challenging tasks.
4. Students’ academic success in mathematics must not be predictable on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, socioeconomic status, language, religion, sexual orientation, cultural affiliation, or special needs.”

3 Goals
1. Help students express, expand and clarify their own thinking. 2. Help students to listen carefully to one another and negotiate meaning.
3. Help students deepen their reasoning.

“The teaching strategies in the SFUSD Math Teaching Toolkit are designed to support an inquiry-based approached to learning mathematics, with an emphasis on classroom discourse. This approach reflects the shifts of pedagogy required to promote the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice.”

• Unit Design Structure to incorporate tasks

1) Math Talks
(SMP#3. “Math Talks”, instead of Number Talks, so discussion can broaden {e.g. strategies for computing area})

(Model for close reading of complex math text)
This only runs 10-12 minutes. Take away the question to create a rich task.

3) Participation (Group) Quiz A technique to give public feedback on group work. Lists ways a student can contribute (“You can help your group if you can…. create a table, draw a diagram, listen to people’s ideas and ask questions, etc) Also publicly list teacher expectations (e.g. How groups … us shared space? ask question? explain thinking? etc)

• Video Exemplars & PD modules are available on district web site.
1. SFUSD has a PHENOMENAL math web site chalked full of resources for supporting teachers implement the vision and the curriculum. Check it out!
2. The description of their Group Quiz speaks to the need to explicitly teach students how to productively collaborate.
3. This was the first of three sessions that spoke about the importance of vision. It will be the predominant point that I take home with me from this conference.

Beyond Relevance and Real World: Talking with Teachers About Engagement in Mathematics? — Dan Meyer

• Big Take-Away = ‘Real World’ does not have to be real, just accessible and engaging.
• 62% of teachers surveyed : Greatest challenge is “unmotivated” students. Interesting that they didn’t say motivating students was the challenge.
• Question: Why don’t teachers spend more time developing good questions?
Teacher Response: “Because we don’t have the time.” (True that.)
Real Issue: “Lack of creativity. Giving the answers does not require creativity.” (True that, also, but ouch!)
• A stronger option than the typical “engaging images or context” in a textbook: Redefine Real World. A situation is in the process of becoming real to you if you are able to …

High School Coaching Model: Building Bridges Between Coaching and PLC Culture — Kris Cunningham & Jeanette Scott (Phoenix UHSD)

• Big Take-Away = Roll out PD through PLC teams.
• New initiatives first unveiled during PLC team meetings.
• Most powerful change agent was a lesson study. (1st day by 1 teacher, next day by all teachers)
• Most teachers took 3-4 years to show change; 4 of 5 teachers showed significant change within 5 years.
• There exists a Common Lesson Plan format for lessons studies and co-planning.
• Professional Development certificates tied to evaluations. (i.e. Professional Growth affects evaluation outcome.)

The fact that teachers took 3-4 years to show change aligns with Maggie McGatha’s research shared at last year’s NCSM conference

Practicing the Five Practices: Coaching Teachers to Use Student Work in Planning  — Max Ray-Riek (Math Forum)

• Big Take-Away = Walk teachers through the 5 Practices of Discourse with student work samples.
• Max shared with us the Teddy Bear’s Banquet pattern problem. He had us determine the Math Goal for the lesson, and then Anticipate the student responses.
• Max then offered 16 samples of true student responses (Monitor) and then had us Select and Sequence some of the responses for classroom discourse and share why. We were then asked to Connect the responses to the Math Goal.

This is a great training tool that can be brought into any PLC structure.

I also witnessed Max slyly counting on his fingers. This was his way of giving is all wait time on his prompts.

Smarter Balance – Making Connections: Eliciting to Acting on Evidence —  Judy Hickman (Director of Mathematics, SBAC)

• Big Take-Away = When the scoring focus is on Reasoning, students can still score full credit with a minor calculation error, if they show understanding.
• Do NOT put too much emphasis on Interim Assessments. As “snapshots” they will give you good information, but it will be an incomplete assessment.
• The authors of the exams were shocked that students answered so few questions correctly.

Four Keys to Effective Mathematics Leadership — Mona Toncheff & Bill Barnes  (Activating the Vision)

• Big Take-Away = Vision needs to be created by ALL stakeholders
• The Four Keys:

1. Establish a Clear Vision for Mathematics Teaching & Learning
2. Support Visionary Professional Learning for Teachers and Teacher Leaders
3. Develop Systems for Activating the Vision
4. Empower the Vision of Family and Community Engagement

This was the second of three sessions that spoke about the importance of vision. This one stressed the need to have all stakeholders (admin, teachers, classified staff, parents and the business community) in on the creation of the vision. Mona & Bill then asked, “If you were ask 10 people on your campus, ‘What is our vision,’ how many answers would you get?”

The Secret to Leading Sustainable Change: Vision, Focus, Feedback, and Action! — Dr. Tim Kanold (Turning Vision into Action )

• Big Take-Away = Set the Vision, Help people advance the Vision,  Celebrate Evidence that the people are advancing the Vision, and take Action on the feedback towards the Vision.
• Sustainable change requires evidence that the change is bigger than their opinions.
• Is the work you are doing formative? Meaningful feedback must be followed with results in action by the teacher or teacher team.
• Meaningful Feedback = F.A.S.T. Action: Fair, Accurate, Specific, Timely. Action from your feedback is required.
• Mary Beth call. Dr. Kanold told a story of when he was Superintendent of Stevenson HSD. He called a secretary at one of the schools, restated that ‘engagement’ was part their district vision, and asked “What does engagement look like in your job.” That’s keeping the vision in front of the people!
• The Popeye Moment: Change happens when the moment of moral courage vocalizes what Popeye often said, “That’s all I can stands, cuz I can’t stands n’more!

This was the third of three sessions that spoke about the importance of vision. The story of calling the secretary is tattooed on my brain. Dr. Kanold stressed that the vision should be posted visibly during every PLC meeting, and that any unproductive dialogue can be redirected with the simple statement, “How does this conversation advance this vision?”

A Math Coaching Package — Donna Lione, Rebecca Williams & Chris Shore (Me) (Temecula Valley USD )

My colleagues and I presented the framework for developing a comprehensive math program. The details of each of the 8 components will be posted as separate posts.

• Vision
• Relationships
• Humility
• Influence
• Passion
• Faith
• Focus
• A Plan

Recap: NCTM 2015, Boston

I had the wonderful opportunity of spending a week in Boston for the 2015 NCTM & NCSM conference. I am recapping the NCTM sessions here, and the NCSM sessions in another post.

Since there was so much information, I have summarized each session with some simple (•) bulleted notes and quotes to encapsulate my major take-aways, and occassional a brief italicized commentary.

This was an enormously worthwhile trip. I highly recommend that you get yourself to San Francisco in April 2016, if you can.

NCTM President’s Address: Five Years of Common Core State Mathematics Standards — Diane Briars

• “College and Career Readiness” in math calls for Statistics, Discrete Math & Modeling.”
• Standards are not equal to a curriculum.
We need to pay more attention to the tasks & activities through which the students experience the content, rather than simply focusing on the content itself.
• 75% of teachers support Common Core, but only 33% of parents support it, and 33% of parents don’t know anything about it.
So we have to get the word out.

What Decisions — Phil Daro (1 of 3 writers of CCSSM)

• “Don’t teach to a standard; teach to the mathematics.”
This was the most challenging statement of the conference for me, mostly because I’m still struggling to wrap my mind around it. I get what he means, but I have been so trained to state an objective on the board and bring closure to that lesson. He shared that Japanese lesson plans are simply descriptions of the math concepts of the unit rather than the typical American model of objective, examples and practice sets.

The Practices in Practice — Bill McCallum (1 of 3 writers of CCSSM)

• Students understanding what WILL happen without doing the calculations is an example of Using Structure.
I took this back to my classroom and immediately applied it in the students’ graphing of quadratic functions. One of the more practical things I took from the conference.
• “A student cannot show perseverance in 20 minutes. It is done day after day.”
• Noticing & Wondering applies to teachers looking at student work as well.
Dr. McCallum was referencing an instructional practice made well-known by Annie Fetter of the Math Forum through which students are asked to closely analyze mathematical situations. He was calling on teachers to focus on and analyze student thinking (not simply answers) just as closely.

Five Essential Instructional Shifts — Juli Dixon

• Shift 1: Students provide strategies rather than learning from the teacher.
• Shift 2: Teacher provides strategies “as if” from student. “When students don’t come up with a strategy, the teacher can “lie” and say “I saw a student do …”
• Shift 3: Students create the context (Student Generated Word Problems)
• Shift 4: Students do the sense making. “Start with the book closed.”
• Shift 5: Students talk to students. “Say Whoohoo when you see a wrong answer, because we have something to talk about.”
I felt that I do all of these, but that I have been ignoring Sgift #3 this semester. Dr. Dixon compelled me to give this more attention again.

Getting Students Invested in the Process of Problem-Solving — Annie Fetter & Debbie Wile

• Teachers must stop focusing on answer getting before the students will.
• Honors Students are used to a certain speed and type of outcome, so they need a different type of scaffolding when it comes to problem solving.
• “If you are focused on the pacing guide rather than the math, you are not going to teach much.”
This was one of several comments, including Dr. Daro’s, that bagged on the habit of being too married to a pacing guide of standards.

Motivating Our Students with Real-World Problem-Based Lessons — Robert Kaplinksy

• To students: “I will only give you information that you ask me for.”
• Chunking tasks (Teacher talks — Students Think/Pair/Share — Repeat) was demonstrated to allow student conjectures, critiquing reasoning and high engagement.
Robert modeled his “In-n-Out” lesson. I have seen this several times, but I never get tired of it, because it is awesome. Every time I have witnessed this lesson, teachers cheer when the answer to the cost of a 100 x 100 Burger is revealed. I have never heard this from someone looking up an answer in the back of a textbook. Also, Robert expertly demonstrated how a lesson like this should be facilitated in class by chunking and by getting the students to think of what they need to know.

Getting Students to Argue in Class with Number Sense Activities — Andrew Stadel

• “As the teacher, I feel left out if I don’t know what my students are thinking and discussing.”
• Discussion techniques
Andrew is known as Mr. Estimation 180.” In this session, he showed how to bring SMP #3 into a number sense activity. The new one that I learned from Andrew here was having students stand up … those that choose A face left, B face right, C face forward. Then find someone near you who agrees and discuss. Find someone who disagrees and discuss. That’s Bomb!
• Calling for Touch Time with the Tools
In other words, let’s get the kids measuring with rulers, constructing with compasses, building with blocks, graphing with calculators.
• Chunking tasks to allow student conjectures, critiquing reasoning and high engagement, as I saw with Kaplinksy.

Using Mathematical Practices to Develop Productive Disposition — Duane Graysay

• Duane and other educators of Penn State created a 5-week course with the intent of developing a productive disposition in mathematical problem solving.
There were a lot of data showing the effectiveness of this program which focused on teaching the 8 Math Practices. The most amazing and provocative result was shown by this slide in which student felt that the math was actually harder than they thought before the course, but that they felt more competent.

(SA = Strong Agree, etc)

Shadow Con — A Teacher Led Mini-Conference

• There were six worthy educators from the Math Twitter Blogosphere (#MTBoS) that each offered up a brief 10-minute presentation. The uniquely cool aspect of these talks is the Call to Action at the end of each. In other words, you have to do something with what you learned.
• Michael Pershan’s talk: Be less vague, and less improvisational with HINTS during a lesson. Instead, plan your hints for the lesson in advance.
This one resonated most with me, because I once heard that Japanese teachers have a small deck of cards with hints written on them. To draw a hint card, students have to first show effort and progress, then they may draw a hint card. They must use each hint before they may draw another. I accept Michael’s call to action.

Ignite — Math Forum

• These were a series of 5 minute/20-slides mini-presentations that were more inspirational than informational. Apparently they are part of a larger movement (Ignite Show), but the folks at Math Forum have been organizing these at large conferences for a few years.
If want to get fired up about teaching math, these sessions definitely live up to their name.

Can’t wait for next year!

TMC13 Session Recaps

In my last post, I summarized the overall experience of Twitter Math Camp 2013 at Drexel University. Following is my recap of the sessions that I attended. This conference was unique in that I learned something significant in each session.

Geometry Break-Out #1, Megan Hayes-Golding @mgolding, GA & Tina Cardone @crstn85, MA

After the opening greeting, the first morning session was a choice of break-outs according to course (Algebra 1, Geometry, Stats etc). These were intended to be open-ended discussion/work sessions. In the Geometry session, there was an overwhelming need by the group to wrap their heads around the Common Core Geometry Standards. Megan & Tina wisely went with the flow, and had us jigsaw the standards in pairs and share out. It was enormously helpful for everyone. I was already very familiar with the standards, but I still learned something about the CC standards on constructions. Specifically, the standards not only call for the four basic constructions plus those involving parallel and perpendicular lines, but the students are expected to construct a square, equilateral triangle, and hexagon as well. This was time well spent, with the bonus of getting to know Edmund Harriss @Gelada, Jessica @algebrainiac1 and StephReilly @reilly1041.

Through out the weekend, I had extended conversations with Edmund from which I learned a great deal. Mostly because Edmund is a math professor and as he spoke of his work with the mathematics of tiling patterns, I felt my IQ rise just by listening to him. Much of our discussions centered around the American education, though. Edmund had an interesting perspective, because while he teaches at the University of Arkansas and also leads special math programs for gifted children, Edmund is British. From that experience, he had a great deal to share about “how to run standards based education correctly.” I hope he blogs about that soon.

“I Notice & I Wonder,” Max Ray @maxmathforum, PA

Max Ray is the “Professional Collaboration Facilitator” at the Math Forum at Drexel. In essence, he teaches teachers how to teach problem-solving. I had heard before of starting lessons with “What do you notice? What do you wonder?” This phrase, which was originated by Annie Fetter @MFAnnie, is intended to initiate student thinking on a rich and robust task. That seemed pretty simple, so I wasn’t anticipating much new learning here … Boy, was I wrong! Max started with a picture of 3 glasses and the phrase “What do you notice? What do you wonder?”

We were asked to ponder for a moment, then share our thoughts with our neighbors. (Think-Pair-Share).  “I notice they have different shapes. I wonder if they have the same volume. What kind of drinks go in each one?” Then he posted the picture of 4 graphs, and again posed the same questions: “What do you notice? What do you wonder?” The ensuing discussion resulted in everything from “I notice the graphs are different colors” to “I wonder if the graphs correlate with the filling of the glasses.” The thing that I noticed about this whole activity is that Max let us mull this over without offering a single number or formula. Nor did he offer a single answer to any of our wonderings. Two pictures and two questions occupied us for 15 minutes. In the era of rushing through content it was wonderful to be reminded that mathematics starts with an observation and a question. Speaking of questions, my group wondered what glass shape would correlate to the fourth graph… while Max stood at the front of room silently smiling.

“Practicing the 5 Practices,” Christopher Danielson @Trianglemancsd, MN

Christopher Danielson is a professor of mathematics at Normandale Community College and also teaches methods courses for elementary school teachers. He shared the research published in Five Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions. In summary, the 5 Practices are:

Anticipating, during planning, student responses to the lesson prompt
Monitoring students repsonses during the lesson activity
Selecting which student responses are to be discussed publicly
Sequencing those student responses chosen
Connecting the responses to each other and to the mathematical ideas

Chris emphasized that the first and last of these are the two most troublesome for teachers. Chris modeled all these principles by conducting a math lesson on fractions. He knew what the issues would be with the context. He called us specifically by name to present our responses in an order that allowed the discussion to develop from simple ideas to more complex. I was particularly impressed on how he asked us to compare and contrast the various strategies. This is where I personally saw that I needed to bolster my own efforts on connecting ideas in own my class discussions. I walked away with the understanding that while any class discussion is better than none, there truly is an art form to doing class discussion right.

“5 Ways to Boost Engagement,” John Berray, @johnberray, CA

I have to say that the number one way to boost engagement is to teach like John Berray. The joy that he has for the material and for his students was just bursting out of him. With that said, John had 5 other ideas on increasing engagement:

1) Turn the Mundane on its ear
2) Jump on the timely
3) Bring in the outside world
4) Unlikely objects arouse wonder
5) Spill some paint

Translation: 1) Make it fun, 2)Tie math to current events, 3) Use the internet, particularly video, 4) Be goofy, 5) Connect the material to kid’s lives.

Geometry Break-Out #2

Our group reconvened with a few new people joining in. It was especially nice to See Peg Cagle @pegcagle after so many years. While the first day was a working session, this day was all about discussion. The group really wanted to talk about how to teach all the standards we listed in the previous sessions, while instilling the CCSS Practices. Teachers shared their various ideas, experiences and techniques. There was also a question on grading practices that revealed the dark side of the MathTwitterBlogosphere … We can be a very opinionated bunch. The hot topic for us was standards based grading. This turned out to be a benefit to the new teachers in the room or to old teachers with open minds, because quite a variety of ideas and positions were shared. It was an engrossing conversation, because no matter the positions taken, they were all shared with a passion for teaching students rich mathematics. The end of session came way to soon.

“Still Keeping it Real,” Karim Kai Ani & Team Mathalicious, @Mathalicious, VA

Mathalicious offers engaging, innovative math lessons with a focus on “real-world” applications. Karim @karimkai led us through two Mathalicious lessons that were solidly based in mathematics and loads of fun. The first, Datelines, tied the age of potential dates to systems of inequalities. The age gap on a date becomes less of an issue as people get older. For example, a 24-year old dating a 20-year old is less awkward than the 20-year old dating a 16-year old. This is an engaging topic for teenagers that Mathalicious sets to a graph and poses critical questions according to a given rule on dating ages. Like I said … solid. The second lesson, Prisn, used Venn diagrams to analyze the probability of being wrongfully flagged by the governments PRISM program for mining data. This lesson was about as relevant as any can get. It allowed for rich non-partisan conversation on how much error the public will accept. As I told Karim, these lessons are sexy, but have a lot of substance. At the conclusion, he generously gave the TMC participants a free trial subscription to Mathalicious. I intend on checking out more of their work.

“Getting Students to Think Mathematically in Cooperative Groups,” Lani horn, @tchmathculture, TN

This one was very special for me, because Dr. Ilana Horn was such an influence on the teacher collaboration model that we have implemented at my high school for the last 9 years. Back in 2004, I was about to be the Math Department Chair for a new high school and was speaking with Jo Boaler about collab models for teachers. She told me that the person to contact was Lani Horn at the University of Washington (She is now at Vanderbilt in Tennessee). A week later, I happened to be vacationing in Seattle, and Lani was kind enough to give up time to a stranger and talk about her doctoral research. She was gracious as well as knowledgeable.

So I was excited to see her again and share how her information helped lead my crew back home to be one of the highest performing schools in the county. She was pleased to hear the news. Her session this time was on student rather than teacher collaboration. The specific model she shared is known as Complex Instruction (CI), in which students are grouped heterogeneously, with intentional methods to have all students participate. The focus of Lani’s session was on how academic status affects student engagement during group work. She was very intentional in telling us that participation is hindered by this perceived status about smartness, which is too often defined in math class as “quick and accurate.” To help make it safe for everyone to participate, the teacher needs to redefine smartness by acknowledging and rewarding “good questions, making connections, representing ideas clearly, explaining logically, or extending an idea.” Lani shared a video of a group of students working on a math problem, and asked us our thoughts regarding each students level of participation. She also asked us to analyze the teachers interaction and prompted us for alternative responses. This analysis of the work done by each student debunked the conventional wisdom that non-participatory children are lazy, stupid or shy. I had learned as much from Lani Horn on this day as I did in our first encounter.

Due to another engagement, I had to fly home early from the conference so I did not get a chance to attend the last session on Friday or any on Saturday. I heard I missed some great stuff,  which I don’t doubt.

If I traveled across the country to see someone whom I met online, you might think I was nuts. So what would you think if I traveled across the country to meet 115 people that I met online? Well I did just that. I flew to Philadelphia to attend Twitter Math Camp 2013.

TMC is a unique conference for math teachers. Yes, it has your standard general session with smaller breakout sessions to choose from. What set this conference apart was that for the most part all the presenters, participants, and organizers (shout out to @lmhenry9 and @maxmathforum and company) knew each other … through Twitter. We all have been tweeting for various lengths of time. There was everyone from veteran tweeters to newbs. For me, it has been about a year. I am a moderate tweeter; I tweet some and I read some. For the most part, I still consider myself a novice Tweeter, but a veteran teacher (25 years). So did I why go out of my way to attend this particular math conference?

Because I suspected that this was a very special group of educators. I found that I was right. I spent two days with a large group of extremely intelligent, creative, sincere, committed math teachers. Actually, we were math ed geeks in the fondest sense. Between sessions and over meals and, of course, through tweets, we conversed about how “not to be sucky teachers.” I have never been around a group of people so hyper-focused on being nothing less than amazing at their craft, with the critical understanding that no one is.

What also drew us together was the desire to know the person behind the avatar and the handle, to make eye contact and have a conversation longer than 144 characters, and to party together in a basement bar in Philly (which is material for a post in and of itself). We were genuinely excited to meet those whom we follow, and follow those whom we met. The name on the presentation was as important as the name of the presentation. We wanted to learn about each other as well as from each other. And we did. And it was awesome.

I will recap the sessions that I attended in a subsequent post. For now, I want to impart a couple of thoughts.

1)  If you are not on Twitter, I strongly suggest you do so immediately. Just sign up and figure the rest out later. You can start by following me, @MathProjects, and then connect with the rest of the TMC community.

2) If are on Twitter and aren’t sure whether TMC14 will be worth your time, let me answer the question for you… It definitely will be. I was skeptical until the first breakfast when I sat with a dozen fellow tweeps, and only became more convinced as the conference went on.

3) If you wanted to go this year, but couldn’t, I hope to see you at the next camp.

4) If I spent any kind of time with you in Philly, thank you for sharing your passions, ideas and friendship with me. I am already looking forward to next summer. In the meantime, may we all teach amazingly this school year.

3 Cool Sites That I Discovered

I have used three web sites for the first time at school over the last couple of weeks.

The premise here is very interesting: Students acquire number sense better by making mental estimations, than from direct instruction. Since I teach an Algebra class to a large group of high-needs students, who have proven to lack number sense, I thought I would give this one a go. While the name of the site implies estimations for 180 days of the school year, we entered at day 75. The students were hooked right away.

The process that Mr Stadel offers is even more useful than the pictures that drive the site. I have my classes participate in the following manner. My students each record their own estimates, then pair up and record on a lapboard, and then as they hold up their boards, I announce the minimum and maximum values that I see. On the Estimation 180 site, I record either the median of these values or the mode if there is preponderance of one value. Depending on the spread, I decide the level of confidence (1-5), and then submit our collective response under “Great Oak” (our high school). This committment raises the level of engagement of the students, who really want to see how close we get to the actual answer.

The site offers a handout for students to record their estimates, and their margins of error for 20 days on each side of the sheet. The students are to average this margin of error at the end each page. This serves two great purposes: 1) Students must add and divide positive and negative numbers as well as practice calculating a mean, and 2) as students progress through the year, they can see if their estimations are getting anymore accurate (average margin of error getting smaller?).  In only three weeks, I have already seen my students posing more accurate numbers.

I have other processes that I also use as warm-ups, so I won’t be using all 180 days, but the mathematical gains and enthusiasm that I am seeing in my students will encourage me to use this site as often as possible. (Chris Shore’s 180Blog)

Graphing Stories, Dan Meyer & Buzz Math

The premise of this site is that students will develop understanding of graphing through visual contexts, in this case, through 15 second video vignettes. The genius of the site is the consistency of its structure.

Every coordinate plane is a one-quadrant grid with time as the domain, from 0-15 seconds. The range and its scale is left to be defined for each video. Each video is shown with a clock tracking the 15 seconds, then the video and clock are replayed at half speed. The answer is revealed by superimposing the grid over the video. The graph is drawn in real-time as the video plays out. There is a variety of the types of functions offered, as well as various degrees of difficulty.

In my class I used this as remediation for the most commonly missed question on the semester final, graphing from a verbal context. So I used only about 7 of the 24 videos offered, over the course of a few days. On the next quiz, students showed a drastic improvement in their ability to, graph both from verbal context as well as from given equations. (Chris Shore’s 180Blog)

Math Mistakes, Michael Persan

This site is intended for teacher use, rather than student use. Its purpose reflects the hyper-focus of its author: self-improvement. I used this site in my most recent math department meeting. I posed two entries from the site. One sample dealt with fractions, the other with graphing. The discussion ensued around two questions: 1) Why might the students be making these mistakes, and 2) How should we as teachers respond if this were occurring in our classes?

The conversation was brief, but very rich. I used it to encourage our PLC meetings to focus more on instructional decisions. It was very well received by my teachers.