Friday, November 10, 2017

Problem Solving Night


Every year, we (the three math teachers in my department), offer two evenings to the families of our middle school community to work on fun and engaging math problems together.

The basics:

- Send out a communication to the community.  All are invited and parents/guardians are expected to stay and enjoy the math with their students.

-  Limit the evening to 1 hour.  We have found that any longer and students are not as engaged.

- Create a packet of engaging problems.  Something for every level.  Try to use problems that incorporate manipulatives of some sort and include problems that are not strictly math - maybe a word search, crossword, picture problem, etc.  We've also offered simpler brain teasers for siblings and coloring pages (mathematical of course) for all.

- Have the packet, sharpened pencils, and the manipulatives near the door for easy access.  We also have answer sheets that are offered at the end of the night.

- Offer cookies.  Our students love to eat and have an excuse to eat.  Our department buys cookies to have out for all to enjoy.

This is our 5th year and we've been honing our activities from year to year.  We have created 4 boxes of two packets(one fall/ one spring) each.  Therefore, students will never see the same problems in their 3 years in our middle school.  We find problems in logic books, on the internet and from the #MTBoS Community on Twitter.  This year, we included David Butler's Panda Square Activity  in one of the rooms.  Parents, students and even our principal loved playing with this puzzle!  Thank you to Sarah Carter for your gorgeous instruction sheet.







In prior years, we have led a group discussion of Bridges of Konigsberg, a problem about approximation of zero (none of us can remember the exact details-I'll try to find it later), and Dan Meyer's Bucky the Badger 3-Act.

Here's an example of a packet we have used in the past.  Many thank yous to all of the resources we've borrowed from.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Tweet Up Reflection - 12/5/15 San Francisco, CA

What an amazing group!  On Saturday a group from #MTBosBA met up at @Desmos Headquarters in the city - both @AnnaWeltman and @hpiccioutto presented.



Anna's presentation was a discussion of proof without words.  We were given various diagrams of proofs of the Pythagorean Theorem, discussed with partners and then discussed as a group.  @eluberoff shared this interesting link to a Desmos visual proof.  I'm hoping to use these proofs with my Algebra 1 students later this year.  Would love to see how they might interpret them.  As @ddmeyer says, "Give them a headache."  These problems will hopefully be cause for great discussion and argument.





After Anna presented, Henri led a discussion on reaching all students in a heterogeneously grouped class.  I need to look into his idea of lagging homework for next year - it sounds like it would greatly help many of my students.  I also found his idea of splitting related concepts - for example, do not teach linear equations and then go directly into arithmetic sequences.  Give students an opportunity to spend time with the linear equations before they are thrust into sequences as they depend on their understanding of the previous topic.  There was also discussion on the purpose and the methodology of note-taking in the math classroom.  This is something that I too have been struggling with.  Do I give students structured notes?  Do they use these notes to study?  What is my preferred outcome to giving notes?  So many questions!  Am hoping that there will be a follow up discussion to this topic at the next meeting of the #MTBoSBA.

While the two presentations were incredibly interesting and thought-provoking, what I appreciated the most about this Tweetup was the time spent with other, like-minded, math professionals.  The #MTBoS is one of the best PLCs a teacher could hope for.  Positive, motivational, supportive and nonjudgmental - this group makes me want to be a better teacher.  I truly appreciate the time spent with my Twitter buddies and am looking forward to our next meeting.

A big thank you to @Desmos for hosting us and another big thank you to @Borschtwithanna for organizing the entire day!  I'm looking forward to our next Tweetup!



Thursday, August 20, 2015

Reflecting on Jo Boaler's How to Learn Math for Teachers and Adults - @kathyhenderson

After reading What's Math Got to Do With It?, I was inspired to take @joboaler's online class.  With an audience of teachers and parents, the class was one of my professional development choices for the summer.  Consisting of 8 lessons, it took me at least 8-10 hours to finish the course.

To be completely honest, much of the material covered in the online course is also covered in the book.  What I really appreciated about the online course was seeing some of the ideas in action - teachers working with students on number talks, students working with dot cards and students' video reflections on some of the activities.  These videos helped me to imagine how some of the lessons might help my students and what they might look like in a classroom.

This class has inspired me to incorporate more lessons on mindset in my classroom.  All of the middle school students at my school took Jo Boaler's student course this summer.  I am hoping to create a survey for my students that asks them about their mindset before the course and whether it may have changed due to the course.  I also hope to ask the students about how they think we can incorporate growth mindset into our classes.

After watching the lesson on Algebra, I have decided not to directly jump into the curriculum the first week of school.  I am going to start with the survey I mentioned above and then begin Dan Meyer's/ Fawn Nguyen's/ Andrew Stadel's/ Sarah Hagan's Cup-Stacking lesson.  I will not bring up the idea of a variable and will allow the students to look for patterns, collaborate and then find a solution to the problem.  As Jo mentions, we need to allow students to generalize before variables are introduced so that they understand the meaning of a variable.  After cup-stacking, I am hoping to work on some of Fawn's visual patterns and get into problems that are not linear, such as this one from youcubed.com. From there, I may go into Elizabeth Stratmore's Barfing Monsters lesson and then Desmos' Central Park.  I am hoping that, by the end of this week or so, my students will have had the opportunity to generalize and think about patterns and variables without getting stuck in the textbook problems (which can be so boring!)  I also am hoping to incorporate some of Jo Boaler's Week of Inspirational Math into my 7th grade class and the 5th grade class that I work with once a week.

There was one lesson that really struck a cord with me, how leveling or tracking can be pigeon-holing (if that's a verb?) our students at a young age.  We currently level our students and, while I think we do a great job looking at various data points, I question if this is the right thing to do.  I know that traditionally, independent schools level and that the high schools that we feed into take into account whether a student has taken honors courses in the 7th and 8th grades, but I question if putting a student into a certain level at this point of developmental maturity, is the best thing for them.  It's something I struggle with and know that I do not have an answer to it.  I just wish that the high schools and society as a whole would not put such an emphasis on honors mathematics at such a young age.  I would love to meet with some of the high school math department chairs and ask them what they think.

This course was great.  While a bit redundant after reading the book, the course did inspire me to change some things in my classroom including making more mindset poster for our classrooms (I will blog about this soon - once our classrooms are clean enough to photograph!)  I would recommend the course for teachers of all levels.

 - @kathyhenderson

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Reflections on TMC15 - @kathyhenderson


Wow, where to start?  I just spent the past four days with the most amazing, supportive, creative and energetic people.  They inspired me to push myself - in my classroom, in a blog and on Twitter.  I needed this push.








My mind is still buzzing with everything that I've learned.  I am beyond excited to take what I experienced at TMC15 back to my school and start the year off enthusiastically.  I'm not a strong writer, so I'm thinking a top 10 list (yes 10, not 9 @fawnguyen) will be the best way for me to reflect on those 4 magical days.







My Top Ten from TMC15


1.  The reassurance that I'm doing the right thing. - This is my biggest takeaway from camp.  Alison and I worked diligently last year to incorporate activities in class to make our students think on a level higher than they've been pushed in the past.  With the support of our administration, we were able to incorporate over 60 activities in our 6th, 7th and 8th grade classes.  It was thrilling to see almost 200 educators who were wrestling with the same ideas and needs.  @washalison and I are doing the right thing by our students and we are being successful in doing so.  Our ideas and practices are what the forward thinkers are doing in math education!


2.  New Ideas for my Algebra 1 and 7th Grade classes -

  • Use Fawn's Visual Patterns site in class.
  • Use  WODB  as a warmup.
  • Make a Wordle at the beginning of the year to survey the students on their views of growth vs. fixed mindset.
  • Use more @Desmos.  Possibly have students create their own Polygraph.
  • Use Estimation180 as a warmup.
  • Check out and use Open Middle with my classes.
  • Use @MathDenisNJ's Unanswerable Question Chooser.
  • Look through, use and maybe even submit lessons to the MTBoS Activity Bank.
  • While we watched with our 7th graders Jimmy Fallon's Egg Roulette this year, I'd like to have them act out a simulation a la @bobloch.
  • Use @math8_teacher's idea to tweak math equations to make them more interesting and challenging.
  • Do math chats will all levels of students.  They need to learn number sense.

3.  New Ideas for Math Ex - 
Two years ago, my first year at the school, the administration decided to offer one extra class of mathematics a week to all 6th-8th graders.  This class's goal was to give students an opportunity to work on mathematical topics and interests that are not covered in their classes.  We decided to call the classes "Math Explorations" which the students quickly shortened to Math Ex.  In prior years, I have taught my 7th graders topics such as: The Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence, fractals, Fermi Estimates, and a STEM lesson on building a better cooler (did not go well ;)).

Things I would like to incorporate this year:

  • Order @Gelada's math coloring book and have the students enjoy a day of coloring.
  • Try my cookie cutter tessellation idea, as long as @heather_kohn will help me figure it out :)
  • Use @dandersod's idea of a My Favorite math chat with my students.  Allow them to pick from a list of exciting ideas and then do a two minute presentation. (Although my middle schoolers will not be given the Hairy Ball Theorem ;) )





4.  Ideas to bring back to colleagues -  @washalison and I have been asked to present to the rest of our faculty (PreK-8)a quick overview of our experiences at TMC15.  I cannot wait to show them WODB and Open Middle.  I feel that both sites are easily approachable for all grades and will give my colleagues another mathematics tool that is engaging and exciting.  I'm thinking that @washalison and I should use @Trianglemancsd's spiral question to start off our presentation.



5.  The need to blog as a reflection - Last December, during winter break, I had an epiphany one night at 2 am - Why is it that they always happen at that crazy time at night?  I decided that @washalison and I needed to blog about our stretch goal experiences.  I set up a blog site and "tried" to post something.  It's still there - our Starbucks Three-Act.  Not the prettiest or well thought out of posts, but I put something on the internet - so proud of myself!  I then proceeded to get wrapped up in the craziness of the school year and the blog fell to the bottom of my priority list.  After camp, @washalison and I agreed that we need to reflect more on our lessons - what worked, what didn't, what would we change for next year.  This blog would aid us in adapting already thought out lessons and enable us in crafting our own.  My "old school" method of reflecting on a lesson was to write a quick couple of Post-it Notes and stick them on the lesson, with the hope that I might read them in the year to come - not very helpful.  I'm hoping that this blog will allow us to strengthen our lessons in the class AND to keep us in contact with the innovative members of the MTBoS - we'd love your feedback on our thoughts and lessons.


6. How I want to change my teaching overall

  •  In the past, I made a virtual filing cabinet inspired by @samsjshah and @nathankraft1.  Here is my Algebra 1 attempt and my 7th grade attempt.  Both are aligned with the textbook series, Big Ideas.  Thanks to @btwnthenumbers, I am going to start using Evernote to keep track of amazing lesson ideas.
  • I need to get my students to reflect more.  Whether it is on their mindset or a lesson that they completed, I need to have them think about their learning processes.
  • Start using Google Classroom.  I need to check out @Borschtwithanna's blog posts regarding it.
  • Check out Deltamath.com after @stoodle recommended it.
  • Continue to play Kahoot but check out @jreulbach's list of MTBoS teachers who are sharing lessons.
  • Continue to use @Mathalicious lessons in class.  @karimkai's latest lessons look amazing.


7. I have a whole community for support - Walking into TMC15, I was excited to see many of the bloggers whose lessons we borrowed last year - just to name a few: @mr_stadel@fawnguyen@robertkaplinsky, and @johnberray.  While I had met a few of them at NCTM Boston, having the opportunity to chat with them in informal settings and bounce ideas off of them was priceless.  There were others, who I sat with at lunch and in sessions with, who were so supportive and positive: @cmmteach, @zimmerdiamonds, @MathPrincessC, @MathEnVee, and @DebbieHurtado to name a few :)  Thank you for allowing me into your world and being so supportive.  I need to remember, throughout the year, that I have a PLN that is the best of the best.  I need to remember to ask for help when needed. - Don't we all need a bit of help at some point of the year?

8.  I actually have some good ideas of my own!  Thank you @heather_kohn for encouraging me to tweet out my tessellation cookie cutter idea (blog post soon to follow - I promise.)  I can be quite unsure and insecure in my ideas sometimes and it was so wonderful to have someone assure me that I too can have creative, worthwhile classroom ideas.  I'm excited to work on some Three-Act ideas that @washalison and I were playing with last year (and we'll hopefully blog about them this year!)

9. I am truly lucky to work with the people I do. - I often heard at camp comments to the effect of "I only wish I could get my colleagues to buy in on this mindset of teaching."  I will be teaching this year with two amazing, innovative women who also buy into the TMC mindset:  @washalison , who attended TMC15 with me and @renohough, who attended NCTM Boston with me.  The three of us support, encourage and cheer each other on - there's no ego in our classrooms.  It's about collaboration and making our department stronger as a whole.  I am a lucky girl to be working with them.

10.  I need to be around these visionaries. - While TMC15 was exhausting (I don't know of one person who could argue against that), it was a positive exhaustion - the energy was contagious.  Everyone wanted to be there.  This wasn't your typical PD - this is the type of PD that makes you want to work, makes you want to improve your classroom, makes you want to tell EVERYONE that teaching math is an amazing job - a job that I adore.  I actually am looking forward to September 1st (not only because it's my birthday ;) ) but I'm looking forward to taking the amazing ideas I learned at TMC15 and sharing them with my students - I know that they will love new activities and hope to pass on the contagious energy of TMC15 to each and every one of them.  Thank you everyone at TMC15 for the encouragement and motivation to make my students' learning experiences better.  As @Trianglemancsd encouraged us all to do:


Thanks @_levi_ for the amazing picture!!




Monday, December 22, 2014

Starbucks

The week before winter break, I went into Starbucks one day before work and was greeted by this sign.  I began to wonder - how could we use this in class?  It's a great setup for a Three Act.


Act One:  Questions - what are you wondering?  I'm wondering how can I maximize the value of a win in this contest.  Here's the intro from the
contest.








Act Two:  What do we need to know?  How long is the contest - what is life?  Is there a maximum/ minimum number of items you can buy?

Here's what I found:





Act Three:  The Slate's take on how to make the most of the contest.

Where else can we go with this?  Would love feedback!