Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Day 1: Working Together to Find Patterns

[Disclaimer:  I make no promises that I will be able to keep up a #180blog this year.  The time commitments with my children make that quite unreasonable.  I will, however, make the effort to post a #180teach on my class Instagram account if you are following there.]

Even after 18 years of teaching, I still get nervous about the first day of school.  All of the new faces and personalities...worrying that I may not be up to the challenge of harnessing all of their energy and channeling it into productive conversations and growth. There is always a sigh of relief at the end of the day that I've survived.  By next week, we will be into a routine and those nerves will take a back seat.

My groups today were a bit rowdier than might be typical for a first day, but in the end...it was a good day.

Sixth Grade Math

There are inevitably some procedural things to review on the first day, but I try to break those up over the course of a week.  Today, we discussed our weekly homework, how we get supplies, what materials we need, etc.  We also set up the SMP foldable that serves as the first page of our Interactive Notebook.  We did not take any notes in it yet; we will be completing those throughout the week.

We then worked on Sara VanDerWerf's 1-100 Activity.  The kids loved it and were incredibly engaged.  We used it as a great opportunity to drive home the idea that "Math is not about numbers...it is about patterns and relationships."  Unfortunately, my afternoon classes were not able to work on this task because the delays in returning from lunch and fine arts cut those classes short.  One of the first big challenges I am going to face this year is finding a way to make sure that time is used effectively so that these students do not miss out on opportunities that the morning classes have.

Students hard at work on the 1-100 Activity.

Afternoon Homeroom Time

In the next week, my team and I will begin to work with our Support for Personalized Learning classes were we can provide targeted instruction.  For this first week, however, we are using this time as extra time with our homerooms.  I wanted to use this time to get to know my students a bit better.  We started with Kristen Fouss' version of Name Tents and I have enjoyed reading and responding to their prompt regarding what they believe makes a quality teacher.  We also used Sarah Carter's Getting to Know You Quiz.  I spent the evening at the soccer field taking the quizzes that they wrote for me.  They were excited to learn that they will get to "grade me" for a change.  :)

It was a fun day.  I have seen a few red flags of areas where I am going to have to trouble shoot, but I am pressing forward because there is a lot of exciting things coming up in the weeks ahead.

Off to Global Math Department!


Sunday, August 6, 2017

My 17 Favorites from TMC17

I wasn't going to blog about this year's Twitter Math Camp.  Others have covered the territory pretty thoroughly and I jumped right into planning when I got home, leaving little time for reflection.  Last night, however, I decided to jot down my 17 Favorite Things about TMC 17 so that I can reflect nostalgically in years to come.  So here you go...

  1. Play With Your Math - I loved this presentation by Joey Kelly (@joeykelly89) about the problems they posted at their school to engage students with mathematical play. The problems are engaging and the posters his team created are appealing. I am looking forward to sharing this resource with my school team to see how we might utilize it.
  2. Waffle House With My TMC Bestie - A greasy spoon right in the hotel parking lot?  Catching up with Cortni Muir (@CortniJ)? Yes, please! It wasn't the same not having her with us in Minneapolis so it was wonderful to have her return. I never quite made it over for the waffle ice cream sandwich inspired by Sean Sweeney (@SweenWSweens), but...it is important to have goals for the future.
  3. Chris Shore and Clothesline Math - I cherish any opportunity I have to learn from Chris Shore (@MathProjects), but his session on Clothesline this year was particularly powerful. I'd been endeavoring to use clothesline style activities in my classroom for the past few years. And while I had found them to be a very worthwhile endeavor, I suspected I was only scratching the surface. Watching Chris model the activity brought it to life. What a powerful visual model for everything from rational numbers to algebra and more...!  I can't wait to play some more this year!
  4. Mullet Ratio and Barbie Zipline - The decision of a morning session is always grueling.  Every session at TMC is so rich, but the time commitment involved in morning sessions make it even more high stakes. This year, I chose to attend Classroom Chef with John Stevens (@Jstevens009) and Matt Vaudrey (@MrVaudrey).  They used the opportunity to model many of the activities discussed in their book and on their website.  Many of the "appetizers" they covered were things I was already using pretty regularly in class, but their teacher moves gave me a good deal of insight into ways I could tweak my implementation. But the two "Main Courses" were worth the price of admission (even if admission hadn't been free).  I was messaging my 8th grade colleague all through Barbie Zipline about how awesome it was and how excited I was for us to use it when I move to 8th grade in a year.  I missed the first half of Mullet Ratio, but the second half was cool enough to have me googling mullet wigs before I left. I am looking forward to trying it out in the class this year...making it my #1TMCthing.  
  5. My Wonderful Roommate - Every year since TMC12, I have had a different roommate. I love the opportunity to get to know one of my fellow #MTBoS folks a little bit better than rushed lunches and chaotic trivia nights allow. Carol (@chieffoullis) was a delightful roommate who I really enjoyed getting to know a bit more. She shared my need to pull back for some downtime amidst all of the socializing. She shared her Interactive Notebooks with me, which gave me some ideas for tweaking mine this year. And she was kind enough to not complain when my son crashed our hotel room with all of his teenage mess and angst.  
  6. Dipping Into Calculus - This was a venture I had not quite anticipated.  I had removed both Jonathan (@rawrdimus) and Chase's (@mathgeek76) sessions from my options before I'd ever set foot in Atlanta. I've never taken a Calculus course and my work in middle school and special education has allowed me to successfully avoid it. After hearing them talk about what they planned to cover with such passion and enthusiasm, I had to change courses and check out both their sessions (Chase's session materials are here). They did not disappoint. While I clearly have a lot to learn, I feel like I have a good understanding now about what Calculus is and why it is worth learning. I very much appreciated the insight they gave me and I am confident that my Calculus learning is just beginning.
  7. Crocheting - Even though I have admired her work for many years, I have rarely had the opportunity to spend much quality time with Tina Cardone (@crstn85). At TMC16 in Minneapolis, we were part of a group that hiked to the Minnehaha Falls together where I got to talk with her a bit more. I enjoyed it immensely, so when she put the call out for #TMC17 to get together and learn to crochet I was on board. I have never crocheted and I am always up for learning something new. She was quite occupied with teaching everyone in the lobby about her passion, so Jedidiah (@MathButler) filled in as my tutor and was fantastic! He was incredibly patient and kept me calm, even though my own struggles with Fixed Mindset often make me want to quit when I don't pick something up right away. The entire endeavor was a perfectly relaxing way to spend time with some of my #MTBoS family without all of the social pressure to be witty. :)
  8. Heather's Pre-Conference Tour of Atlanta - Every year at Twitter Math Camp, I try to find the balance between the desire to spend time with each and every person there and the need for time to myself or in small groups of company. The pre-conference touring days that Heather (@heather_kohn) and Megan (@mgolding) organized for this year were a perfect way to ease into the waters. Plus, driving into Atlanta was the perfect chance to catch up with Lydia (@lydiakirkman) and Anya (@anyaostapczuk) who were my Jucy Lucy buddies in Minneapolis. The group evolved a bit throughout the day, but there were around 12 of us. We visited the Center for Civil Rights, the Coca Cola Museum, and the Georgia Aquarium. Combined with my stop to the CNN building the day before with my son, it was a wonderful few days of playing tourist. We have all started lobbying Heather already to organize a trip to Cedar Point for TMC18. 
  9. The Center for Civil Rights - The highlight of the Tuesday touring was definitely the visit to the Center for Civil Rights. If you have not been there, it is worth a visit to Atlanta all on its own. I have been searching teacher workshops/seminars ever since with an overwhelming since of Social Studies Teacher Envy. I wish that I could describe the Lunch Counter Exhibit to you but I do not have any illusions about ability to do it justice. It is simply something you have to experience.  I left there with a renewed since of awe for the work done by those at the height of the Civil Rights era as well as being inspired to honor that legacy in a world where there remains so much work to be done. 
  10. Brazilian Barbecue - On Friday night before Trivia, a group of us decided to splurge and indulge ourselves in the meats. We headed to Fogo de Chao where the staff immediately pounced upon our table delivering an array of yummy deliciousness. The food was excellent, the company was even better. I am a happy woman anytime I get to bask in the glow of some Glenn Waddell (@gwaddellnvhs), who I am convinced must be wearing his modesty as a ruse. He can't possibly not know how amazing he is. It was a chance to catch up with some old friends and get to know a new one. After talking with Bob Batty (@batty314), I may never use the expression "reduce" again with fractions. So, thank you for that little insight that I can't believe I've overlooked. 
  11. Student Presentations as a Review Strategy - So, two totally different presentations that both struck a cord with me were Jennifer Fairbank's (@hhsmath) Google Slides and Matt Baker/Kat Glass' Session (@stoodle and @glasymptote) on Student Expos. While very different in their approaches, they shared the outcome of shifting responsibility for assessment review to students. In Jennifer's My Favorite, she talked about how she set up a shared Google Slide with students where there was one problem per page. Each student is assigned a problem that they have to record themselves solving and explaining. The resulting videos are placed on the Google Slide which becomes a collaborative working review document complete with a Table of Contents. In contrast, Matt and Kat's session talked about the initiative within their department (and the Latin Department as well) for groups of students to do presentations of problem solutions to their class. It is a structured, formalized process where students must cover the problem thoroughly (including typical misconceptions). Students are assessed on their presentation skills as well as their mathematics using a fairly thorough rubric. I am not at the place of implementing either of these strategies...YET. But I've mentally bookmarked both of them as a possible addition to my class when I move to 8th grade in a year.
  12. Registration Table - It is silly that manning the registration table would be one of my favorite things but it unequivocally is. No matter how crazy the week gets, I know that I had at least a few moments to interact with every attendee at camp. That is priceless. Add in the enthusiasm of sharing Sam's (@samjshah) First Timers Pin with an extra dose of welcoming to those new to TMC...and it was simply fun. Plus, a bit of time with Sam is a bonus. He remains to me one of the friendliest and most welcoming members of the entire MTBoS. Grateful to know him.
  13. Superhero Design Thinking - I have written entirely too much and this is taking forever so...Candace Bell (@CBellATL) walked us through a wonderful Design Thinking Project that she did with her kids where they made capes for members of their school community (Everyday Heroes) involving note only technical skills (measurement, sewing, etc.) but also interpersonal skills (emailing, interviews).  I loved it!
  14. Weekly Marble Slide Challenges - Sean Sweeney let us loose on a Marble Challenge and then showed us how he has turned them into a weekly exercise for kids, posting the results on a scoreboard where bonus points are given for creative submissions. My 13 year old was begrudingly sitting with me through this closing session and was thoroughly entranced, using his pre-Algebra skills to solve the challenge Sean had given us with only linear functions. Sean has a series of challenges on his blog and is working on creating more.
    My son was pretty determined. <3 td="">
  15. Fairy Bread - On Saturday, we were treated to some fairy bread by the much beloved David Butler (@DavidKButlerUoA). David insisted that this combination of bread, butter and candy sprinkles was a common treat at children's parties in Australia. I was skeptical but had to admit...the whole was greater than the sum of its parts. I won't be craving it any time soon, but I will probably make some for my own kids at some point. 
  16. Desmos for Assessments - For the past two years, Desmos has offered a one-day preconference where we get to discover new tools and learn more classroom applications and strategies for using Desmos (my notes from the day are here). I attended a breakout session on using Desmos in assessments where Julie Reulbach kicked things off by talking about how she uses Desmos Activity Builder as either a companion to assessments or as a calculator replacement.  Bob Lochel built on her ideas by showing us how he uses it formatively, including a getting to know you pretest for incoming Freshmen. Annie Scholl shared how she uses one class code for the entire year on a single sheet exit slip. The approaches varied but all gave me plenty of food for thought for how I might utilize Desmos in ways I hadn't considered before.
  17. The TMC Song - Every year (with the exception of 2014) a team of creative attendees give up some of their time to create a parody song performance that encapsulates the spirit of that year's Twitter Math Camp.  It is always a highlight of the camp and this year's was no exception.  No list of my favorite memories of TMC would be complete without their performance:   

And as always...thank you to this amazing crew for letting me be a part of the work that you do. Much love to all of you! <3 p="">

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

#SundayFunday: Goals for the Year

So...one of the impediments to me blogging more is that even when I have the time to sit down and flesh out my ideas in writing, I don't always have the time to make it pretty.  So, I apologize at the outset that this may be just a rambling set of ideas.  But I have decided to overcome that barrier and #pushsend.

I also know that it is wise to limit myself to one or two goals, but that isn't how I tend to roll.  But I do think that this is a largely doable list so I am going to give it a go.  I like a challenge. ;)


My 2016-2017 school year was actually the best year of my career.  I had a wonderful group of students, an incredibly supportive administration, a ton of instructional autonomy, and a routine that I feel like has me in the structure/play balance that I find most comfortable.  So, I am not looking to make a ton of changes this year.  There are some subtle differences I am going to make to my opening routine and the structure of my Interactive Notebooks, but mostly I am just planning to incorporate a few new projects/practices into my curricular map.
  • Mullet Ratio - This is an easy one...and my most obvious #1TMCthing from Twitter Math Camp this year.  I am always looking for engaging ways to have my students use the math that we are learning.  This activity from Matt Vaudrey totally fits with the type of tasks I like to use in my classroom.  He and John Stevens write about the lesson in their book, Classroom Chef, but you can also find a ton of information on Matt's Website.  Students work to calculate the ratio of a mullet ("Business in the front, party in the back") to determine the hairstyle which is the most mullety (party:business).  I love the way Matt brings the lesson to life by dressing the part.  He has even developed an appropriate musical playlist to accompany the lesson.  I can't quite imagine wearing the mullet wig because that feels like a limitation on me as a female since that was largely a male style (erroneous perception?), but I am happy to have some select students help me out there.  I still need to determine whether I want to flesh it out to a five day lesson as Matt does on his website or limit it a bit.  I don't cover ratios until close to November so I will have plenty of time to think through my implementation. 
  • Gingerbread House Project - This lesson idea came from Cathy Craddock, a West Virginia educator with whom I worked on an Instructional Materials Review project.  I am almost certain she said that it originated with NCTM but I can't seem to find the link that I looked at when we talked.  There seems to be something similar here.  Thankfully, Cathy shared with me all of the materials she uses including the strategies she takes to differentiate the tasks for various students within the classroom.  Students are each given the opportunity to build a gingerbread house after first determining the total surface area using the net.  I love the way this lesson focuses so much on working from the nets of the houses, which is a different approach than I used last year with Elissa's Tin Foil Robots (an activity the kids loved).  I have a few obstacles for implementation on Gingerbread Activity that I haven't quite figured out yet. 
    • Wilton Pre-Baked Gingerbread Mini Village Kit 31 oz
    • Obstacle #1 (Cost) - The Gingerbread Village Kit can be purchased through Walmart for around $9 and includes four miniature houses.  To accommodate my students, I would need to purchase around 30 kits.  $270 is a bit outside of my budget and I'm not sure exactly how to work around that.  I had considered asking kids for a $3 donation to help offset the costs or setting up a Go Fund Me page and directing any parents who wish to contribute to it, but I'm not sure I'm entirely comfortable with either of those options.  My grade level team said we could do a fundraiser, but we are already going to be doing fundraising if we take our kids to DC again this year so I'm not thrilled with that option either.  So, I am still deciding what might be the best approach.  
    • Obstacles #2 (Timing) - I don't cover my Geometry standards until around April.  Obviously I could rearrange a bit, but I think my sequence is working well for me.  Cathy said she basically pauses her curriculum map during the Thanksgiving/Christmas window and inserts this activity.  She still teaches Geometry toward the end of the year and said that frontloading them with this activity helps that later unit to go more smoothly.  I like this idea, but I'm not sure that I can accommodate a several week pause in my mapping without cutting something else out somewhere.  The other option would be to forego the holiday connection altogether and go with a Hansel and Gretel theme in April.  Still debating.  Thoughts?  
  • New Unit 2: Rational Numbers - As I've said, I was pretty happy with most of the year as a whole.  My second unit of the year, however, was a definite weakness.  This was exasperated by the fact that my SMART Board went down and I was operating without any technology in my room at that point, but my dissatisfaction was bigger than that.  I had originally designed this unit to be about decimal computation.  My standards include developing fluency with calculation.  After a conversation with a colleague at our partner middle school, I have decided to start addressing that standard exclusively through my opening routine, utilizing My Favorite Mistake (which I already use) or various other approaches.  This frees up my Unit 2 period of time to address a noted weakness in my students basic number sense - Rational Numbers.  Their understanding of fractions and decimals, as well as the relationship between fractions and decimals is incredibly weak (as I assume is routinely the case with this age group), so I am going to spend a unit trying to develop some strong number sense for Rationals.  I am going to try to this through deliberately building off of our work in the Integers Unit (my first unit of the year) and by incorporating frequent visits to the Clothesline, which leads me to my next goal...

  • Up My Clothesline Game - This is my other #1TMCthing and I am super excited about the opportunity to build my skill set here.  If you are not familiar with Clothesline Math, please do yourself a favor and get acquainted.  I love the work that Chris Shore does and soak up every opportunity I get to learn from him.  I have utilized a clothesline for interactive number line work in my Integers unit, but seeing Chris model activities at #TMC17 gave me a whole new set of ideas for how to approach it.  I also plan to take that Integer work further and thread more opportunities to use Clothesline throughout my Unit 2 (rational numbers) and my Units 5-6 (Algebra).  My mind is toying now with how to sequence progress activities both on a macro level (order of lessons) and a micro level (questions within a specific days activities), so that I might optimize the activities in relation with whatever other tasks we explore throughout October.  Hopefully, I can flesh out my thinking in a follow-up post.
  • Fraction Splats! - Our SPL (Support for Personalized Learning) may be one of my favorite periods of the day simply because I usually have the most instructional autonomy here.  We made the move last year to "untrack" our students at the sixth grade level and I couldn't have been more thrilled about it.  We still have to keep our special education students somewhat clustered due to scheduling services, but the groups are largely heterogenous with regard to ability now.  [This is incredibly important for me not only because it allows for richer classroom conversations and activities, but because it is also an issue of equity and access.  I am tired of seeing our students from low socio-economic classes tracked into situations where the instruction is watered down and critical thinking shortchanged in exchange for drill and kill.]  There is one period of the day where this is not the case.  Students are ability grouped based on assessment results with our team having the flexibility to redistribute students periodically.  We use this extra class period as a chance to provide remediation and enrichment.  Our team plans to repeat last year's routine where we spend 9 weeks working with the low math students (while high reading students receive ELA enrichment) and then 9 weeks working with low ELA students (while high math students receive enrichment).  I can work outside of my curriculum map during this period giving me a ton of freedom and flexibility.  I have often used this period to work on a variety of rich activities including Visual Patterns, MARS Tasks, and Mathalicious lessons.  This past year, I discovered a new resource around which I plan to structure much of my first remediation group instruction.  Steve Wyborney has developed a progressive set of interactive fraction images that allow students to use a SmudgedMath type of approach to building fraction sense.  I took some time in the spring and downloaded everything he has to offer.  I am hoping to supplement this work with some Desmos Activities and Fraction Talks but I am very excited to try these images out in the classroom and let the kids loose.    

  • EdCampBrooke - I have long wondered how to bring the passion and creativity that I find at Twitter Math Camp to my local community.  In 2013, I started attending EdCampPGH and have found it to be full of people passionate about education.  While it lacks the math focus that creates the tight community around which the #MTBoS thrives, it still gave me a model for a participant-driven gathering of teachers and education stakeholders eager to learn and work outside of the box to improve education.  I've daydreamed about bringing it to my local community ever since. My Superintendent has been incredibly supportive of that vision and gave a team of local educators the go ahead to start planning.  I am a bit nervous because I really want this inaugural event to go well and perhaps become the foundation for future events but there are a ton of variables I can't control so it is a gamble. But you have to bet big to win big so we are going for it.  Our event is scheduled for October 7th at Brooke High School.  To find out more, you can follow our Twitter.  If you are in the WV/Ohio/PA tri-state area, we would love to have you join us! 
  • Engineering Design Club - This past June, I was lucky enough to
    be selected by Honeywell to attend the Honeywell Educators Space Academy in at the U.S. Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama.  I have no idea why I didn't blog about this incredible experience. I met so many fantastic educators from around the world and gained a ton of ideas for creating more STEM based activities in my school. One of the activities we did involved an X-Prize Challenge where we had to construct a Lunar Lander and a Rover with a limited selection of supplies that we had to purchase within an alloted budget.  There were several constraints involved and it utilized both the Engineering Design Process and precision with measurement.  On our last day, we had the opportunity to gather some resources from their Education Resource Center, most (all?) of which are available online for free on NASA's Website.  I grabbed a text from their BEST (Beginning Engineering, Science, and Technology Guides) series which I am hoping to use as the foundation for my ninth period club this year by adapting them into the X-Prize structure.  It will mean gathering a ton of recycled materials to create an Innovation Station in my classroom so that students have resources to use for the monthly challenges that I adapt from the text.  I have started gathering some stuff and hope to publicize a request on our PTA Facebook page as well as visit the Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse to gather more.  
  • 3-D Printing Shark Tank - Last year, some colleagues and I started an after-school STEM Club at our school.  We participated in the WVU Pumpkin Drop Competition, did some computer coding on Hour of Code and Tynker, built and launched rockets, and a few other hodge podge activities throughout the year.  It is year two so it is time to up our game.  Our school has recently acquired a 3-D Printer and our STEM Team spent some time with at a training through Marshall University where learned a bit about the role of Simulated Work Environments in a STEM School. A colleague had some great ideas about how we could incorporate some work place skills into a year-long project with the 3-D Printer, so I will be working on implementing her plan:
    • Phase One: Spend time learning Tynkercad and having the kids work in teams to develop a product they intend to print and sell as a fundraiser.  Create a prototype.
    • Phase Two: Bring in local business people for mini-lessons on marketing, budgeting, and sales pitches to help students develop presentations for their product.  
    • Phase Three:  Have local business people return for Shark Tank style presentations from each group.
    • Phase Four: "Hire" all club members into various positions in the winning team's company and execute the plan to print and sell the selected product.
          The plan is a bit ambitious for teachers who have never used 3-d printers before but we are
          hoping to journey through the experience with the kids and make it work.


My final goal is to try to engage in #MTBoS community more.  I have a tendency to stay away during the school year because the sheer volume of ideas can be overwhelming while I'm trying to focus on my classroom.  I'm not going to talk about any of these further because they speak for themselves a bit and I am tired of writing.
  • Monitor #MTBoS for people new to the community. 
  • Present again at state conference about the resources that the community has to offer (Desmos Activities for Newcomers, Powerful Opening Activities).
  • Blog more often.
  • Participate more in #wvedchat, #msmathchat, or #elemmathchat.
  • Prepare a presentation for #tmc18.