#TMC15 Takeaways

This is the first year of TMC that I felt like part of the crowd and not a fangirl on the sidelines.

I still had to push myself out of my default setting of wanting to be alone. I hugged a bunch of people, hung out with my virtual-Kansas-math-department, and asked a friend to lunch that I really wanted to get to know better. But as soon as it was lunch time, I literally had to stop myself from running to my car and going to eat alone. And when people talked to me, I asked questions instead of just answering theirs and walking away. It was a stretch.

I went to Huntington Beach with Amy and her Kansas people but the other nights I spent alone on purpose. I have to have alone time to recharge. Also I love to shop and haven't found anyone who can hang with me yet. And I like to eat bad food and stay up late so I'm kind of strange like that.

This is also the first year of TMC that I left feeling like I had a lot of practical, low-risk, high impact changes I could make right away that didn't involve redoing my entire curriculum (although I still feel that way).

So this year my TMC post is not touchy-feel-warm-fuzzy (although I experienced many of those moments) but practical.

Here are some of things I plan to do this year:

  • High Fives- Glenn Waddell high-fived every student every day this past school year. He said it was one of the best years he's ever had and he attributed a lot of it to the high-fives; it built a culture of trust quickly by having fun and laughing together. How do you high-five someone and not smile? I need to work on my mood and attitude in the classroom and this is a great way to start.
  • Music Cues- Matt Vaudrey claims you can save 23 hours a year by using music cues for transitions in the classroom. I hate to say type this aloud but I'm not all obsessed with music like a lot of people are. I mean I like it and I listen to it some but I never listen to it in the car, or well I don't know when I do. But music is incredibly important to teenagers and using it for cues can save me time and voice while also connecting better with the students.
  • "Ask Me Questions!"- This comes from Rachel Kernodle and helps build the expectation that I WANT them to ask questions. Christopher Danielson had another suggestion of saying "What new questions can you ask?" Kate Nowak also used "Would you explain your knowledge of his/her solution?" All of these are replacements for the classic "Any questions?" which I vow to never utter again! Chris Shore also used brain stickers to reward students for good questions. Rachel challenged us to take note of two things: What's the best question *I* asked today and what's the best question a *student* asked today?
  • "That's Not a Choice"- From my #fawncrush, this is a way to set and enforce boundaries and structure that both I and my students crave. It's also way better than just saying no and helps to refocus students to what the choices actually are.It keeps me focused on the things that are within my control so that I never give up on taking action.
  • "Shut It Down!"- I just finished watching 30 Rock so this is a Liz Lemon classic that I have the perfect tone of voice and facial expression to deliver with enough fear to consider it a classroom management tool. (Along with 'What the what?', 'Blergh!', "High-fiving a million angels', 'I want to go to there', and 'Dealbreaker!')
  • Show Your Thinking- Students are so used to hearing 'Show your work' that they just tune that right out. Asking them to show their thinking makes me feel like that opens up more room for students to express their thinking other than calculations. Inspired by this tweet:
  • #onegoodthing blog- I'm challenging myself  to post one good thing every school day this year as another way to keep myself focused on positive things and being happy in the classroom. Last year a lot of weirdbadcrazy things happened and I'm attributing that to a "sixth year slump" and being proactive about making this year better.
  • 180blog- Megan wrote a helpful blog post about automatically importing Instagram photos with a certain hashtag to a blog post. I'd like to also post a photo a day for this year too. I know, I know, I'm probably over-committing myself but the worst that can happen is that I don't do it. 
  • Error Analysis- I am a big fan of Andrew Stadel and I used his estimation180.com once a week this whole year. He talked about presenting concepts by giving wrong answers (that are common misconceptions) and having students try to decide the correct answers. He used exponents as an example and it seemed so elegant. I'm really intrigued to try this with more concepts like multiplying polynomials, solving equations, and logarithms.
  • Which One Doesn't Belong?- I'm using these as a warm-up one day a week this year. They are so simply complex and easy to extend- give three examples and have students create the fourth, have students create their own, have students write a justification for why each doesn't belong. So rich! 
  • Showing Student Work- Now I can remember who I talked with about this (Sadie maybe?) but it never occurred to me to have students show their work to the class on the document camera. What a great skill- to present and defend your thinking. I just thought students would compare with people around them and that would be good enough. False! A simple change that I can easily implement.

Highlights of TMC:

  • Fawn and her telling me that I am one of the first blogs she started following *shock*
  • Being in a session with Andrew Stadel
  • The beach and Fred's with my Kansas people
  • Listening to Sadie speak
  • Watching Alex draw his perfect circle
  • Watching Lisa Henry be appreciated
  • Inside jokes that only us intronerds get
  • Lunch with Rachel
  • Two Twitter ladies recognizing me in the airport
  • Meeting and following new tweeps
  • Jonathan telling me how my questions helped him fine tune some activities
  • Being remembered by people!
  • Reading funny math t-shirts
  • This awesome #needaredstamp
  • The gorgeous California weather and the super polite people
  • IN-N-OUT!
  • Teresa telling me that she really liked my site and activities
  • This amazeballs new teacher bag I bought
  • My People!

  • Reuniting with my people, feeling accepted and supported, and knowing that feeling will continue through the year

See you next year!


#TMC15 Teacher Woman (aka #fawncrush)

Teacher Woman
Fawn Nguyen

Saturday Keynote
Claremont, CA

The Five F's


Building relationships trumps content, pedagogy, common core, testing

Rita Pierson Ted Talk- Every Kid Needs a Champion

Relationships with Administrators

  • realize that administrators care the same but show it differently -Glenn Waddell
  • respect the position
  • put things in writing
  • invite them in the classroom
  • never bad mouth admin

Relationships with Colleagues

  • be willing to share ALL the lessons
  • imagine YOUR kid in their class
  • take care of each other
  • speak well of them to students

Relationships with Parents

  • the parent is always right
  • parents are sending us their best
  • do not judge

Relationships with Students

  • be honest with them
  • guarantee a safe environment
  • respect them and get to know them, laugh with them

Fawn's Sayings

  • 'That makes me fart'
  • 'Figure it out and make it happen'
    • Be solution oriented
    • Be a risk taker
    • Be powerful
  • 'Nobody cares'
    • Focus on what matters
    • Giving kids time to talk and do math is more important than the pacing guide
    • Family time is more important than homework time
    • Focus on the positives
    • Focus on YOU, let's stop looking for affirmations
  • 'That's not a choice' (for students)
    • Defining boundaries
    • Teaching respect and tolerance
    • Empowering students
  • 'That's not a choice' (for educators)
    • Providing equal access
    • Giving students our best
It's ALWAYS about the students! 

(insert crying emjois x 100 here)

I've twitter-known Fawn for a while and definitely read her blog- and sometimes not read it just to shield myself from the awesomeness. I used visualpatterns.org once a week this entire school year. And Friday at TMC Fawn-IRL came up to me, knew me IRL name, hugged me, and said it was nice to meet ME! And I said "Nice to meet you.....awkward silence....I don't know what to say." Smooth. But I recovered and asked her about sessions. So I'm already super pumped. On the last day, I ran to get a fangirl picture with her when she tells me that *I* was one of the first blogs she followed. *gasp* So anytime you feel like no one is reading your posts or tweets, just remember, you never know when and where a Fawn might be lurking!

Her keynote was super hilarious. I will let these tweets tell the story:

And then it went so fast to emotional that I didn't even have time to think about Kleenex. It was so touching to see a teacher of over 27 years that is still moved to tears over how much she cares about her students. 

And in that moment, I saw myself in her. 

I will never be bitter or angry. I will never stop caring. I will never stop changing and growing. I will never stop getting better. I will never stop loving my students.

That's what a teacher woman does.

#TMC15 Math Mistakes and Error Analysis: Diamonds in the Rough

Math Mistakes and Error Analysis: Diamonds in the Rough
Andrew Stadel

Thursday 2:45-3:45
Claremont, CA

We need a large window into student thinking.

Turn problems into play by pointing out that making predictions means everyone will be wrong. Who's going to be the least wrong?

Imagine the anxiety you feel when the copier isn't working. How do we clear that jam with our students?

How can we make student mistakes drive instruction, curb student misconceptions, and strengthen formative assessments?

Polygraph by Desmos for teachers; use teacher dashboard to analyze student data. Why did it go well? Why did everyone miss this one? Give students a cheat sheet of vocab words to support them.

Andrew Stadel's Survey: Goo.gl/fOdZKQ

Start teaching exponents by giving eight problems that aren't incorrect and asking students what the answers should be.

Research shows that trying something and then learning about your mistakes increases retention.

We don't need textbooks to give us mistakes, we have students for that.

We can use WWDB to improve students ability to see things that are out of place.

Pause and predict- if we know we're looking for errors, pause and predict what 'should' come next so students aren't just passively watching a video.

What are some other concepts we can teach through error analysis?

#TMC15 Feedback Quizzes

Feedback Quizzes
Using detailed, written formative assessments to promote low-stress learning
Julie Wright

Thursday 4:00-4:30
Claremont, CA

It's better to execute a plan, any plan, than to wait and do nothing.

Quizzes are designed with space built in for feedback.

The purpose is to see their thinking and respond; scored for effort; can get EVERYTHING wrong and still get a perfect score; can impose time cutoffs

Alphabetize and scan to PDFs before grading (or have students take pictures of their work and email to you!), on Mac using Preview, you can annotate and add your feedback is text. Color code your feedback for your records even though students won't see it. Reuse your comments!

Give comments for correct answers so those students also have comments to process.  Spend a period revising. Students receive negative criticism better when points are not attached.

Removes shame of making mistakes and takes away the punishing relationship between teacher and student.

You can give hard problems without feeling guilty. 

When you've repeatedly shared all the feedback you can with students, it's on them to perform well on unit tests.

#TMC15 Planning an Assess-Respond-Instruct Cycle

Planning an Assess-Respond-Instruct Cycle
Michelle Naidu

Friday 4:00-5:00
Claremont, CA

Decide what content you are responsible for teaching for. Then specifically list the skills  needed to master the content you are responsible for. Next cluster your pre-skills in a way that makes sense.

Use Popplet!

Pre-assessments are one skill per question, one page or less, and organized.

What do we do if they don't know?

What do we do if they do?

A good structure for stations is to use tri-fold science fair boards with pockets. Fill the pockets, easily change content, and fold away for later.

It can pay off to go slow now so you can go fast later.

#TMC15 Growing Our Own Practice

Growing Our Own Practice
How math teachers can use social media to support ongoing improvement
Ilana Horn

Thursday Keynote
Claremont, CA

Great teachers, when discussing their practice:

  • Frame problems in an actionable way, they can do something about it
  • Include more student voice and perspective
  • Connect teaching, math, and student understanding

How can we use social media to develop teacher agency, empathic reasoning, and ecological thinking?

Grow your understanding of your own students and setting,

Develop a sense of the way students, math, and instruction interconnect.

This session was a lot of affirmation for me because I feel like a lot of my colleagues look at problems from a totally different frame. I feel helpless or embarrassed in some of our meetings because my perspective is so different. This encouraged me to keep looking at things and how I can affect things or solve problems.

#TMC15 Activity Based Teaching

Activity Based Teaching

Thursday-Saturday morning sessions
Claremont, CA

Presenters: Alex Overwijk and Mary Bourassa

Present picture of tree: write all the questions you have about this tree

Groups of three share questions and pick their best three; write each on separate papers with a reason why it's theirs best; rotate to read other groups and vote on their best and why; groups return and read feedback, then write their overall best question on the board and why they chose that.

Each group makes a poster of the criteria that makes a good question. Then groups do a gallery walk of the posters and as a class we decide what the criteria is for a good question.

Criteria for Good Questions
-generates discussion
-invokes curiosity
- unanticipated layers, extends, drives further questions
-element of surprise, a "wow" moment
-simply stated, concise wording
-low entry, accessible
-not straightforward calculation
-multiple perspectives
-gives choice to the person asking questions
-offers multiple pathways
-has closure
-does not feel contrived

This activity builds to the summative district assessment which gives students pictures where they have to asks questions and then answers them. Students have to ask quality questions in order to show the math they've learned.

Don't be afraid to revisits activities to see growth or extend to new content.

Co-create criteria for good questions, communication, and problem solving.

Alex unloads the course over the first six weeks by doing an activity that introduce the big ideas of the course. Direct instruction as needed. Some activities are designed toward specific skills.

Criteria for Good Math Activities
-low ceiling, high entry
-authentic questions
-evokes curiosity or questions,
-students do the heavy lifting
-promotes discussion

Classes are semester class of 75 minutes = full year

26 Squares Activity introduce linear relations, quadratic relations, triangle inequality theorem, four families of Pythagorean triples, Pythagorean theorem "sum of squares", similar triangles, right triangle trig,

Interleaving has better results even though teachers and students feel that it's messy and doesn't work and they prefer blocking.

Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve shows that forgetting and relearning material four times has the best retention.

Read 20 words and have students write as many as they can remember. Graph results in Desmos and do a quadratic regression (serial position curve). Desmos uses ~ in place of = to do regressions. What questions would students ask?

"What would flip this curve upside down? Why is the a-value so small? Would you expect a positive or negative b-value? What does the y-intercept represent? If we did it again, would the r-value be similar? Would students graph of the same activity resemble ours? What does the model say compared to what actually happened?"

We repeated the experiment but at the end Alex shouted "Oh no, I messed it up. I'm sorry, go ahead and write." That burned our short term memory and we shared strategies to remember so our results looked totally different than the first time.

If you're not ready to fully give up units and do activity based teaching you can still incorporate activities into your units.

bit.ly/MTBoSbank A searchable database of activities sorted by grade level and topic. Share your activity by submitting it at bit.ly/MTBoSactivity

And sometimes we just watch Alex, the circle drawing champion of the world, draw a perfect circle.

#TMC15 Better Questions: Ours/Our Students'

Better Questions: Ours/Our Students'
Rachel Kernodle

Friday 2:45-3:45
Claremont, CA

Do you have an intentional way of getting better at questioning in the heat of the moment?

It's hard to keep yourself accountable to asking good questions in the middle of a lesson when there is so much to accomplish.

It's hard to ask questions that YOU don't know the answer to.

It's hard to practice good questioning. There is no other forum like the classroom.

Resource: The Art of Questioning in Math Class, Gardner http://teachers.henrico.k12.va.us/math/Newsletter/The_Art_Of_Questioning.pdf

Using Questioning to Stimulate Mathematical Thinking

Kate Nowak's magical incantation: "Would you explain your understanding of their solution?"

Ashli Black's What's the Question https://mythagon.wordpress.com/2011/07/24/whats-the-question

Which One Doesn't Belong?

Create a culture of inquiry by writing good questions on the board.

"Learning is having new questions to ask. What new questions do you have?" -Christopher Danielson

Question Formulation Technique (QFT)
Give students time to talk about why the rules will be hard to follow.
Don't give students examples of questions. We want to cast an open net, we aren't looking for mimicry.
Change open-ended questions to closed and vice versa so students can see the power of their phrasing.
Don't put value on students questions with your reactions. Instead say "Thank you."

My #1TMCThing is commiting to no longer saying "Any Questions?" when I get done teaching and instead saying "Ask me questions!" as an expectations rather than a question. Or like above, "What new questions do you have?"

#TMC15 Swan Style Task Factory

Swan Style Task Factory Maker Faire
Elizabeth Stratmore

Saturday 2:45-3:45
Claremont, CA

The Shell Center has some great resources but it is a finite project. We can use textbooks, the Internet, and other resources to build our tasks to fit the needs of our classrooms. Swan's tasks can be broken down into 5 types.

5 Task Types

1. Card Sort
- getting students to notice and name properties

2. Matching (multiple representations)
-getting students to interpret and make connections rather than calculate

3. Always / Sometimes / Never
-getting students to generalize principles or properties

4. Create a new problem, trade, and solve
-getting students to think forward and backwards

5. Analyzing reasoning pathways
-getting students to generalize about pathways

*Each of the five have different collaboration goals.

Then we practiced by doing a card sort.

Here's my pretty poster!

And then here's the actual answer key.

And some resources:

If you only read one article on Swan's design principles, read this first one:

These two have additional information valuable information in getting started:

#TMC15 Math From The Heart, Not The Textbook

Math from the heart, not the textbook
Christopher Danielson

Friday Keynote
Claremont, CA

Find what you love. Do more of that. What do you love? How can you incorporate more of that in what you do? Not the first thing that comes to mind. What is the underlying principle that speaks to your mathematical soul, to your teacher's heart?

For Christopher, it's ambiguity.

Which One Doesn't Belong?

Kids notice corners and points before sides. They notice how shapes are built. The top right picture is the only one that can't be built from the top left triangle. Doing these activities brings out vocabulary, composing and decomposing shapes, and orientation.

Using spirals as shapes, we don't have vocabulary for the properties. We decide on what's important and then name it.

Kids notice things we don't and name it with the vocabulary they have. Zero belong because they can't be colored in (not closed polygons).

Top left doesn't belong because if it rained, it's the only the shape that would hold water.

Top right doesn't belong because both ends are not facing the same direction.

The bottom two look roughly the same length. Kids debate that the bottom right has further space from the end to the inner so it should be longer.

On this picture, there is debate about number of corners or vertices. Does the top left  have one or two? Does the top right have two or three? Does the bottom right have zero or eight?

 How far can the parabola tilt and still be a function?

Decide what you love and then explore it!

What's your niche?