#PCMISummer Reflection

I was so honored to be given the opportunity to attend the Park City Mathematics Institute Teacher Leadership Program this summer. I’ve been stalling on writing this reflection because there’s so much to say but I just don’t know what to say. It was all so amazing. I started this post about a week before I finished it so I apologize if it seems disjointed.

Skip this next paragraph if you don’t want to read personal stuff:

I’ll say right off the bat, this was kind of a crazy time for me. I had only been back a week and a half from my Europe trip where I found the STEM room at the Louvre, and I officially start school two weeks after I get back home. Before that, I need to have my new room ready for this Freshman thing that is a week earlier, and have a training six days after I get back. So that put me in a bit of a stressful place. But on top of that, I was stressing about the fact that I have very little time to find a wedding venue to get married in (hopefully) next summer, and had my masters to work on. My phone also decided to break as soon as I got to Park City and I had to figure out how to deal with that (right now it’s being held together with tape). So I will be the first to admit that I was not 100% focused on PCMI 100% of the time. But I am so thankful that I had amazing roommates that supported me and didn’t make me feel bad that I didn’t participate in all the extra fun things that were happening. Shout out to Kayleigh, Arundhati, and Julie! Also, thank you to the staff who I’m sure noticed that I had to get up to get some phone calls and had a few moments where I probably looked like I was gonna start crying because of the stress that I built up in my head. I feel so silly because these are small things in comparison to some of the actual things some people were going through during PCMI, but nonetheless I had some moments that were tough to handle.

And now I’ll get to the actual reflecting:

Morning Math:

It is such a thrill to be able to dive into new math. Bowen and Darryl did an amazing job at making the problem sets. The grouping every few days was also great. I just can’t put into words how energizing it was. That was how I knew that after attending the PCMI Outreach Weekend in Chicago in 2016, I had to apply. I was going home excited about the math again, and it made PCMI so worth it. And that’s just the first part of PCMI.

From morning math, I definitely learned some things about teaching math.

  • Everyone has different experiences with math and I need to make sure that everyone can have access to the math
  • I really like the structure of Opener, Important Stuff, Neat Stuff, and Tough Stuff.
  • Use students’ names in the problems
  • The margins are for jokes
  • It’s ok to go off and explore something instead of going on to the Neat Stuff. Exploring math is fun.
  • Completing the square/difference of squares will work for every factoring problem. Thank you Jim for sticking this in my brain on the second day of Morning Math.
  • The golden ratio is everywhere.

Reflecting on Practice (ROP):

I had remembered ROP from the weekend PCMI, but this was even better. Once again, the visible random grouping was awesome and we even had random grouping from those random groups to go to the whiteboards (vertical non-permanent surfaces). I will definitely be doing this in my classroom. I loved being able to go back to the original table groups and share what happened in the whiteboard groups.

Unit 1: Worthwhile Tasks

  • Tasks should engage students at the appropriate level of cognitive demand
  • Tasks should promote math discussion
  • Tasks should have a low floor and high ceiling
  • In designing tasks, take away some of the scaffolds. The scaffolds might not let the students explore and use multiple entries.
  • I don’t think it’s possible for me to do a rich task every single day. I hope to have a task at least once a month that can call upon several topics and not just the content I just taught the day before. My main concern is that the students figure out that if they just learned something, they probably use it in the problem. I don’t want that to be the case all the time.
  • Sometimes we can give the answer and ask for the question or situation.

Unit 2: Thinking Classroom Practices

  • You can get students in “Flow” by adding challenge (extensions) or adding what they’re able to do (hint)
  • Too much challenge without knowledge causes anxiety, too much knowledge without challenge causes boredom
  • There are some things I can’t control that block my students’ productive struggle (like I have to give all the same assessments as my colleagues and they all have to be on Mastery Manager – multiple choice or numerical answers that are graded automatically for the students), but I need to work to make sure they still have productive struggle (I am thinking I will still ask them to turn in work for me to grade and give feedback and I’m going to try my hardest to convince my chair to turn off the option of having them see their score at the end)
  • The only reasons to ask questions are to probe (Tell me more is my new favorite phrase) or push
  • Doing work at the VNPS, then having students discuss with each other what they notice about other work – that’s cool. I want to be able to have some Level 3 discussions this year

Unit 3: Students as Doers of Math

  • Round Robin is a good technique to have everyone participate
  • I need to work to make sure all my students have access to the math and activities
  • I already knew I needed to work on agency and identity of students, but I am still going to work on it
  • “Disagree with ideas, not people”
  • I want to enforce “No hands up, except to ask a question” better (meaning actually do it more than the first week). And this ties into Benjamin’s (@bwalkerq) idea about having students respond to cold calling with either a response or a clarifying question
  • I want to be deliberate on noticing students participating. I need to make sure each student is engaged. Thinking about a clipboard with seating chart for the week and I actually write notes on it for myself
  • Stop giving students the opportunities to hide
  • Planning EVERYTHING is really important (I have to keep reminding myself of this)

Working Group: Professional Development
I worked with Diana (@teachMcClean) and Natalie to design a professional development presentation. We were all interested in trying to find ways to engage ALL learners (including the ones who are typically disengaged or have always struggled in math). We landed on fun, mathy warm ups. And what do you know, I happen to be pretty into that…So we pretty much adapted my old presentation and made it way way way better. I can’t wait to present it somewhere soon!

I learned a lot about designing a presentation from this. There’s a lot more thought that needs to go into a good presentation. I am notorious for running out of time. We got feedback from two reviewers and one mentioned that anything you expect participants to do, you should allow for more time. It makes sense, because I do that with my lessons, too. But I have to remember that my participants, even though they will be adults, will be newbies at this. Also, one of our reviewers pointed out that Notice and Wonder® is trademarked! I’m sorry Annie, I didn’t know! I’m going to try to go back and catch it in my other blog posts but I don’t know if I’ll find it all. We also had to make a facilitator’s guide as if the person presenting was not familiar with the presentation. It seemed kind of pointless at first, but it made us really have to think through everything and we caught some things that we had to clear up. I like that format – even though it takes long and might seem like a waste for someone that really knows what the presentation is about, it makes everything more intentional and much better.

Other ideas I took home because of PCMI:

  • I really want to do a breakout activity à la Kate (@carterodactyl).
  • Cornell Notes don’t have to be so bad. My school wants us to do them for the AVID kids, and Gabie showed us how to actually do them.
  • It might be worth it to show students a video of a classroom and have them comment on what they see, what they liked, what they didn’t like. I’m not sure about this one 100%, but I’ll keep thinking about it. Interested to hear how it goes for Benjamin if he tries it.
  • Once again, an acknowledgement that there are non-old-white-dude mathematicians is important. I don’t think my new room has enough wall space for all of Mr. Corey’s (@mathmaTikZ) posters, but I do have an extra bulletin board that I might be able to use to rotate them. I don’t have a poster printer, but maybe I can do one sheet of paper for the person and one or two for the description. Then I can talk about them on Fridays like Annie (@Anniekperkins).
  • Vertical Non Permanent Surfaces – need to use more. I can just always have them up (somehow) and allow my students to go to them whenever, but I also need to deliberately have tasks that would make it better to use VNPS. Also, I need to put up little baskets to hold the markers and erasers next to them, like Tina (@TPalmer207) suggests.
  • I think I’ll check out more of Delta Math. Probably to use for extra practice. I don’t know if I’ll require it because I will have a good chunk of kids that don’t have computers or the internet at home. But then again we do have a daily morning enrichment where kids can come in and do homework/ask questions so that does give the kids a way to do it, and there are buses that get to my school in the morning. Still pondering this one.
  • I want to get involved more with the colleges near me and their math departments. I have two small colleges within 20 minutes of my school and another campus for a university – I need to look into if they have math departments. Maybe I can get them involved in starting a math circle. Not too optimistic on this one but it might be worth a shot. Math circles seem amazing and I’d love to participate/facilitate.
  • I might volunteer to be an NCTM article referee so I can get a better idea of the submissions. Eventually I’d like to write something again (was published with a professor in college).
  • I need to find a way to show Hidden Figures in my classroom. Or at least clips. So powerful.
  • An Estimathon is so so fun. I want to eventually make a math night for my community and this will definitely be a part of it (probably not to the same degree but it gives me ideas)
  • I want to co-create my class norms with my students (thanks Becky @BeckyNFTP!). Also, make a big(ger) deal about birthdays.
  • We is smarter than me. I need to check this resource frequently (and add to it if I find something): Particularly Awesome Resources
  • I’d love to do more with Robert Q. Berry III’s #blackkidsdomath but I’m not sure that I can do it justice without seeming, like Kate (@carterodactyl) said, a joke.
  • I can’t wait to use the Math Forum’s Problems of the Week!
  • I need to find a way to get back to Partner Quizzes and maybe Vicki’s Two-Stage Tests.
  • I will definitely be contacting Andrew about teaching students with disabilities. I have a co-taught class this year and still don’t know who the co-teacher is (class starts in a week)
  • Can’t wait to use Adobe Spark to make cool videos. Diana (@teachMcClean), I’m still waiting for you to tell me the catch for how it can be free.

Another fun thing we got to do was shout math chants at unsuspecting Park City residents for the 4th of July! I made a thing with a Zometool. It was random.

Photo Credit: Suzanne Alejandre http://mathforum.org/pcmi/hstp/sum2017/afternoon/parade/photo.html

I can’t express enough how much I enjoyed PCMI! I hope that some day it works out that I can do it again. I miss all the fun people that were there and hope to keep learning from them!

Je vais utiliser ces choses dans ma classe (j’espère)!


One thought on “#PCMISummer Reflection

  1. This was great to read. I’m so glad you are happy you went in spite of the breakneck pace of summer. You were a super roommate!

    I need to blog about PCMI also. I think I will split it into a few different posts so it doesn’t overwhelm me.

    I’ve started going back through the problem sets and was amazed that the Opener for Day 1 still had plenty for me to think about. It took me 24 hours to finally (in the shower!) have an “aha” moment about a recursive form for the series that is the sum of the Fibonacci terms… so fun!

    Liked by 1 person

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