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 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!!


  1. Kathy,

    I am so glad that you are setting a goal of blogging. I just started this spring, but it is totally worth it! It can be hard at first when you aren't sure if many people are even reading your stuff, so I wanted to leave you a comment that let you know someone HAD!

    I am excited to see what else you write about but I am already going to use your Virtual Filing Cabinet to help me plan for teaching Pre-Algebra for the first time next year.

    Thanks for taking the time to write. Please keep at it!

    Tyler | @mathfireworks

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Tyler, Thank you for the kind words and for letting me know that people are actually reading this stuff! Best - Kathy

  2. Kathy,
    I love the idea of this collective blog that you and your teaching team have put together! Looking forward to collaborating and staying in touch :)
    Take care,

    1. Neethi,
      We all have to meet up and keep the energy going! It was so wonderful to meet you!