#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.

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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)!

 

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I Found the STEM Room at the Louvre!

So I recently got back from a trip to London and Paris. Every day was incredible. And I found the math and science room at the Louvre (world’s largest museum, in Paris)!

So I now have a week until I leave for PCMI and then I’ll have 2 weeks when I get back before school starts. Where has the summer gone? I still haven’t even looked at my results from my student end-of-the-year survey, and haven’t read any blogs in a while. So I hope to do those things and arrange my new classroom, along with plan for a wedding. 🙂

Il m’a demandé en mariage à la base du Tour Eiffel!

 

Candy Bucket Probability – Sometimes You Have to Be Silly

So all of my students think I’m the ultimate nerd and that I love teaching and math too much. And I like it that way. I frequently say things like “this is the coolest thing ever” about math stuff and I’m totally serious and just smile as the eye rolls go. I have students come to me with “why are you always so happy?” I guess teenagers just can’t fathom actually enjoying school…

So I was trying to think of a way to introduce my last unit in Math 2 – Probability. I know there are a million great games with probability, but in my searching I just wasn’t finding anything that was really doing it for me. The activities I found were either too long, requiring too many materials, or just not going to work with my classes. I didn’t really want it to lead to any discovery, but I wanted to spark a conversation about experimental vs. theoretical probability. So I decided to do a game similar to Sarah’s Mystery Box and kind of like Connected Math 6th Grade’s Gee Whiz game. I named my game “Candy Bucket”. Creative, I know.

I filled a bucket with various candies. There were Smarties, Starburst, Skittles, and Chocolates (3 Musketeers, Snickers, Twix). In every class the Smarties and Starburst had a lot in the bucket and the Skittles and Chocolates only had a few.

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So after I said to the class we were going to play a game called “Candy Bucket” I had the table in the front separate and count the candies. While they did that, I explained the rules:

  • Students from the front two tables will pick a candy out of the bucket
  • Students from the other tables will be randomly picked to guess what the front tables will pick out of the bucket
  • Students who guess correctly will get a prize (pencil)

We tallied how many there were of each candy and then started guessing. I made sure to be really enthusiastic as the game host. As the guessing went on, we tallied what had been picked. In the class below, they had decided they wanted to separate the chocolates and we ended up with 3 correct guessers out of 7.

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So that was a silly 5 minutes. But then what it did was led to a discussion about why only 3/7 guessed correctly. Statements were made like “even though the starburst had the most, those are small and weren’t picked as much” and “there really shouldn’t have been a milky way picked”. Then we were able to discuss theoretical vs. experimental probability and the factors that made our experiment differ from the theoretical situation.

Yay for context!

Disclaimer: If you do this game, you will have complaints about how you like the front tables more than the back tables. Luckily I do random grouping every week so I could chalk it up to those tables being lucky. Also, just keep smiling and they will smile. 🙂

J’aime bien être absurde avec mes étudiants.

ICTM Western Regional Presentation – Thinking Mathematically from Minute One

Here are my slides and documents from my presentation for the ICTM Western Regional Math Conference on 4/28/17. Please reach out to me if you have any questions or want to bounce ideas off me!

Thinking Mathematically from Minute One Slides

Downloads:
Handout: .docx (editable)       .pdf
Warm Up Sheet: .docx (editable)    .pdf

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Links:

Please share with me if you end up using any of the resources that were shared in this presentation. I love to hear how you make these things work in your classroom!

How I Sold #Plickers To My Admin

I realized recently that I didn’t have a post dedicated to how I use Plickers in my class. I had how I make sure each student has a card. I also have how they are used in my warm ups. Then, I mentioned that I plan out my Plickers questions when I’m unit planning. But I recently had a conversation with my admin about it and they were completely sold. This was basically what I talked about in the conversation:

So I have about a little over 100 students this semester, last semester I had 120. I know that to some of you that’s not a lot, but to me that was a lot a lot. I had been used to no more than 70 students because I had been teaching in a small school and/or on block scheduling. So I had been trying exit slips at the beginning of the year, like I had done in my previous schools, but it just wasn’t working. They became a chore, and plus with only 50 minutes I kept not being able to fit them in. So now I use Plickers as an exit slip. I also use it before practicing, and in the middle of practicing. So there are many days where I’ll use Plickers 3 or 4 times in a period.

The great thing about Plickers (besides that it’s 100% free), is that it’s immediate feedback, for me and the students. So when I put up a problem, sometimes I’m feeling pretty confident about how it was learned and I expect something like this:

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And instead I get this:

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Whoa…

What happened?

So now I can know that everything I thought was wrong, and I can go over it with the class! Or, I can now group up students and talk to them about what they did and how we could get the right answer. I actually do the second option a lot. I make sure I meet up with every single student, so sometimes I’m talking to a few of them at a time about how they worked out a problem and what they could do differently. I’ll also meet with the ones who got it correct and see if I can extend their knowledge in some way. It’s really cool that I get little meetings with every single student because of their Plickers response and it’s a regular part of the routine now.

Another thing I’ve started to do this quarter is add the “I don’t know” option to all my questions. I never use Plickers for a grade, so the “I don’t know” keeps some the students from lucky guessing. I really stress that I’d rather them be honest about not knowing than guessing for the problems I put up. I still have a couple that insist on guessing, anyway.

Also sometimes it’s important (to me) to have questions like this to gauge how the class is feeling.

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Sometimes my district’s pacing calendar doesn’t let me, but I try to do what my students need/want in terms of practice vs moving on.

And there you have it! #Plickersforever

Je peux parler de Plickers pour toujours.

My Unit Planning Process

This semester I’ve refined a unit planning process that has worked pretty well for me. I’m not particularly proud of it or anything. It’s not some monumental thing, but it’s helped me stay ahead enough that I don’t feel like I have to be working on planning 24/7. It also helps me see the whole unit and how the different sections relate (or don’t) so that I can teach the sections better.

A few things first: I am new to my school this year and I am not really in a place where I can make waves, like suggest making a change to the assessments or curriculum or even suggest analyzing assessment results. I was pretty down in the dumps about it at the beginning of the year but I’ve learned to deal with it. I’m kind of on my own little island (like I was last year when I was one of two math teachers in the school), but I get weekly rations of food that I don’t like but have to eat to survive. Anyway, I’m given the one quiz and test for each unit from the department chair and the assessments are all taken on Mastery Manager. The computer grades these assessments and there is no partial credit given. I am also given the tentative dates of these assessments and the sections in the textbook that go along with them. I didn’t even hand out the textbooks this semester, though.

So with this in mind, here’s what my unit planning looks like for my Math II class (my other class is pretty cookie cutter because it’s from the community college but the process is similar):

  1. Create my unit notes packet. This semester, 99% of what I am teaching are topics I’ve taught before! This meant I already had notes pages made and just had to refine them and put them together. These are really minimalist and have only a few examples for each topic. And say what you want about notes packets but it works for me. Maybe I’ll write more about them one day.
  2. Make an extra practice worksheet for each section that has answers included and scrambled (à la Meg’s NTMs). This is usually adapted from the textbook’s extra practice materials. They don’t always get used, but are nice to have. 
  3. Make Plickers questions for the unit. I take the questions usually from the ExamView Test Generator that comes with the textbook because they’re easier to find multiple choice questions. I make 2-4 questions per topic. I use these usually as exit slips and also as checks at the beginning of class and I try to spiral the content through the unit, too. A little more about how I use Plickers here. (Just now realizing I don’t have more about Plickers on my blog and that boggles my mind…will have to get on that…)
  4. Create a review Quizizz. My students have gotten used to the review Quizizz and I know that some go back to it for extra practice. A couple others in my department have also tried it and love it, too! More about how I use Quizizz here and here and here.
  5. Write worked out solutions and type an answer document for the review packet that comes with the test so that I can post them on my website.
  6. Search my saved Evernote links and the MTBoS Search Engine for great activities that I can do during the unit. Also find/make one or two review games I can do before the assessments. Revise packet if necessary (and if I haven’t made copies yet). More on the MTBoS Search Engine here.

I like the consistency of this semester. However, I have noticed that this semester has been so jam packed with topics to teach that I sometimes don’t get time to do enough of step 6, or use what I find in step 6. As I’m planning my last unit of the year (Probability), I’ll be making sure I incorporate more than just what I have from steps 1-5.

Je suis heureuse que j’ai un système maintenant qui fonctionne pour moi.

“Why do you have us do things that aren’t for a grade?”

This question was recently asked of me by a student when I was collecting warm up sheets for the week. I do not grade their warm up sheets, but I do respond to every Free-Write Friday and usually comment on another day’s warm up. I would never stop doing this because it has been amazing how much I have learned about my students through the warm up sheets. 

I don’t know if my response was a good one. All I could think of in the moment was, “These help you think more mathematically, and I collect them to know more about you and so you can get feedback from me.” I also could have talked about how their grade, in my opinion, should be a reflection of their math knowledge, so grading things like warm ups and practice for completion wouldn’t be good feedback in their grade.  

Sometimes I have a hard time motivating my students, especially the new ones, to do classwork when it’s not for a grade. Some of them say that I’m the only teacher they have that doesn’t put a grade on everything they do. I know that at least some of the other math teachers don’t grade everything because I’ve asked them, though. I think students sometimes feel that they need some sort of reward for their efforts. I say that their efforts will show when they take their assessment. I think some of them need some time to adjust to that. 

Do you grade everything? What would you have said to my student?

Une question difficile.