20191212 Wonder Dots

This entry is my celebration of some amazing educators that shared their greatness and utterly changed my pedagogy as an educator, learner, and parent.

Getting started, in Max Ray’s Ignite talk “2>4” I learned an important feature of empowering learners is to allow their voice to be heard.

Dan Meyer shares an aha about learning and the structure of mathematics problems.

The amazing Mr. Andrew Stadel took the ideas from Max Ray and Dan Meyer to come up with an awesome new twist.  So, Mr. Stadel put these inspirations into practice and formed an amazing learning experience, which he discusses in his post, here, regarding counting dots, listening to students, and celebrating mathematics.

Falling deeper into the rabbit hole, another amazing math star, Steve Wyborney, has published a series of posts on his blog, highlighting and extending these great ideas.

Starting with his entry on providing space for students to notice and showcase their knowledge.


Steve says, “That’s not enough!” How about 180 ways to make this magic happen with students with premade resources.


Now you’re thinking this can’t get any more amazing, and it does. Like Andrew (Stadel) in his post, Steve shows how to make 9 copies in 10 seconds.


You are now ready for the mic drop moment,  enjoy the ride “Power of Color.”


My celebration is that by sharing we all get a little better every time, and how these amazing educators, especially the work of Steve, transformed both my understanding and wonder of being an educator. I owe them all a huge thank you and I hope they know the impact they are having on math education.

So, please, go check these places out, get all the amazing resources, and let your students benefit.

20191202 Creation Sharing

Welcome Back!

After a few years and many struggles to find the time, the commitment, and the many barriers of attempting to get back to blogging I am happily returning to this mode for processing, sharing, and learning.

Onward, Upward

In the spirit of repackaging for usability, I want to share a collection of tools over the coming weeks to help make navigating resources a lot easier for those looking for specific resources.

Sharing is Caring!

Each image below is linked to a clickable PDF with highlighted resources available based on a graphical basis. Please share, enjoy, and help make this better.

2018-05-19 Simi Performance Task Clickable Resource

Math Resource - 3 Act Tasks

Math Resource - Fraction



20180221 17:30 Really really really rough draft on leadership

Ryan Smith. From Ryan the core message is to be an “angelic troublemaker” #relentless

Idea for blog is about recent journey understanding the meaning of leadership

If you would have asked me a year ago how important is leadership I would have thought it was important but I wouldn’t have thought it was as important as my journey shows me now.

Leadership is THE change that makes the difference. If you want to affect change you have to leverage leadership.

Simon Sinek helps me understand what a leader is and how it is connected to ones leadership needs to be connected to ones why.

Hamish Brewer helps me to realize that change is slow and challenging, but we must be #relentless. Developing a mentality that is like a gang. We need to be #allin. “How are you going to be better for students today? Tomorrow?”

Adam Welcome showed me how to be better for kids because they deserve our best everyday. #kidsdeserveit #noexcuses. Adam also showed and inspired me through his relentless running to not be afraid to #getyours.

Cori Orlando has taught me the power of being able to #failforward, to stretch and be sticky with your sharing of learning, and pushing yourself to be better despite being uncomfortable.

Jon Corippo has taught me how being tenaciously inspiring and leading through empowering others and challenging them others to step up and be the example.

There are many, many others that added pieces to this story. I know my brain often hurts from thinking about all this, it’s addicting like a challenging problem in nonlinear dynamics it’s hard to see a solution as you are seeing pieces to the puzzle and you know it will lead to something beautiful but the journey is long, hard, and ongoing.

20171218 The Power of Visual Models

A Twitter friend (I cannot recall at time of posting) posted this problem out for others to solve and/or showcase how to explain how to solve it for students.


As I love problem solving and those sorts of challenges, I jumped on this to make sense of the problem and to see if I could offer some assistance….well, I was trying my usually algebraic approach to solving this problem and I was getting answers that were either negative or didn’t follow the ratio rule embedded in the problem. So I know my answer was incorrect, but I was failing to see the problem.

Reading the problem, like actually reading the last sentence (I sound like our students) and describing what was being asked, I changed how I was thinking about the problem, and that unlocked a completely different way of seeing the problem. Being able to solve it in a few moves, it made me smile that my learnings should have pointed me this way, but I needed to attend to the reading of the problem and I was stuck in a loop and didn’t think about solving other ways….a good reminder that if we get stuck, doing the same thing and expecting different results is silly.


With Christmas break upon us, I have the opportunity to learn, explore, and reflect as we move forward into the new year.

20171211 #MyWhy

A moment of joy. I have found through this recent journey a way to make sense of my learnings and I am so excited because amazing people in my PLN that I care about are on their own similar journeys and I want to share their stories in parallel to my own.

100 words

A dear PLN and active #MathConceptions friend has been honored as a finalist for teacher of the year (TOTY) and created a challenge for other teachers to follow.

In 100 words, describe why you love teaching and this is my response.

I love teaching because it allows caring adults to positively interact through meaningful relationships to empower the next generation into being better humans by igniting curiosity, fostering empathy, and being mindful of others.

6 Word Sentence

An incredible individual that inspires me daily created this independently and concurrently, further evidence of the awesomeness. So here is my best attempt so far at my 6-word teaching sentence on my why.

Foster better relationships to ignite curiosity.


My own call to action is to share my personal truth through a graphic organizer that Simon Sinek coined the #GoldenCircle and I want to see like-minded individuals to take up the cause and make their own with #MyWhy.

My Why

2017-12-04 Learning

Recently, I have been growing and learning in many, many areas, while I was preparing for CMC North, I revisited some ideas and found a rabbit hole that is so very deep. The pathway within this rabbit hole led by Simon Sinek’s famous Ted Talk about starting with your why,  and connected to a variety of other things.

Here are my current learnings

  1. Numberless Word Problems (Brian Stockus)
  2. Clothesline Math (Chris Shore, Andrew Stadel, and Kristen Acosta)
  3. How does a wimpy, nice guy become an inspirational leader (Simon Sinek & others)
  4. #Relentless and #ALLIN and #NoExcuses #RunLAP (Hamish Brewer and Adam Welcome)
  5. Many other smaller avenues…

I am searching for how this all might fit together, the journey of understanding, of growing, of becoming, and realizing I just need to be a little better today than I was yesterday.

2017-11-27 CM-C You There

I am excited about being able to represent the amazing Cue organization at California Math Council CMC as I have been honored to be a speaker on mathematics and technology. My 90-minute session was selected too late to make it into the actual printed version, but I was on the app schedule.

Last year, I was able to present with three other amazing educators Lindsey Blass, Fawn Nguyen, and Ed Campos. Having to go solo was a different adventure, and I got to meet some amazing math people, many of whom I know from Twitter as part of my amazing PLN. Overall, it is such a bucket filler, being surrounded by math geeks doing math PD is amazing fun.

2017-11-20 Performance Anxiety

Although we started this journey to improve our district’s abysmal SBAC scores, we were really searching for ways students could learn. This is an abridged version of our story to this date.

I believe that we, the teachers, want what is best for kids and are trying our hardest to make that happen. Extra duties and other difficulties are thrown in our way that makes it very challenging.

I, as a math coordinator, never want to run a professional development that either adds more to teachers’ plates or worse, is a waste of their time. and that gives rise to this week’s full disclosure from the vantage point of several weeks hindsight. From the perspective of the teachers I serve, I have failed in this regard.

In the effort of full transparency, I am going to share all from this point forward, the uncomfortable, the successes and the failures, and I hope that like-minded folks will pull together to help us all get better together.

Here’s the situation: Our district scores on standardized testing have been in the toilet (no sugar coding) and I take full ownership as the leader of mathematics in my district.

The structure our team created through their hard work and vision was built out to look like the following:

  1. Give students a performance task cold, teachers record data to how students are doing across metrics we hope to inspire (think developing grit).
  2. We meet on our PLN time, share out trends we are noticing, and build instructional strategies to improve student learning.
  3. Teachers return to classrooms and instruct students using strategies to help students improve learning and develop grit.
  4. We are focusing on this idea of fostering productive struggle, as part of developing grit.
  5. After a few weeks, we come together to attend a couple of classrooms and observe what students do on the performance task, as we attempt to see if our work is giving students better access to the content.
  6. We collect data from observations to refine, redefine, and improve for next round.

These were the professional development moments that I shared to assist, support, and reinforce this structure

  1. The dry run of the performance task (first-time students see task) was the first week of September.
  2. We calibrated our learning a week later, most teachers picked CUBES as their strategy to teach students. (Our initial kickoff PD is here.)
  3. From mid-September until mid-October teachers taught CUBES when we met again. Bringing the game to the next level, we explored this article that Jon Corippo had recently reminded me of. I wanted teachers to use a research-based strategy, together with the article strategy, were the focus of this meeting. To help ensure teachers committed to implementation I also asked them to book a mentor teacher, or myself, to view their instruction of the strategy they chose. (This PD is here.)
  4. I failed to communicate the timing, so no teachers gave the second dry run.
  5. Enter Hamish Brewer and my journey changed, this video inspired me to want to change the conversations that are happening around us.
  6. So our third meeting, I went #ALLIN to become #RELENTLESS (Our PD is here.)
  7. The teachers asked at this point for a lesson on what productive struggle looks like in the classroom. So when we had our PD day on 11/20, I was asked to put up or shut up.
  8. The lesson I created for 7th graders is embedded in our PD slides from that same day, it is here.

The results from the day are shown in teachers reflections from our day. (For context, light yellow is <4, or unacceptable grade in my book.)

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 9.38.06 AM

And suggestions from the teachers

Screen Shot 2017-12-10 at 9.38.47 AM.png

There are some valid points here, and the teachers didn’t feel that I delivered on what they needed to see what productive struggle looks like in the classroom. In addition, the setup for how to plan in the afternoon did not meet their needs. In short, I had violated my biggest decree, that any PD I give is not a waste of teachers time, and I empower them with something better than before they arrived. This post is not a pity party, but a moment to reflect on mission statement, and role as a leader. I failed my team, I cannot accept that as a result.

What might I learn? How might I pick myself up and move forward? How might I inspire in them what I know that they are capable of (which is greater than what kids are currently getting)?

These are the questions that I am working on now, I can’t fail, like Hamish says, the mission of our students learning is too important, their futures…no, our futures depend on us being successful.

2017-11-13 A Perfect Instructional Storm

There are challenges in your life as an educator that let you know you have really grown. Recently I had an opportunity to really challenge myself, learn, and grow.

Let’s set the stage.

  1. Let’s start with 71 fifth graders eagerly awaiting me like a school of pirañas.
  2. Let me decide to teach this on a Friday afternoon, before a 3 day weekend.
  3. I’ll time it so students have been on a morning field trip for half the day.
  4. I’ll choose two of most challenging topics that has not been seen by students before this lesson.
  5. Having chosen two of the hardest learning targets for the grade level, now I’ll present them both simultaneously.
  6. Oh, this is fractions and word problems together, and did I mention they haven’t seen either yet.
  7. Now, let’s add in some classroom disruptions built into the mix, so half the students will leave and come back in at random times for a play tryouts.
  8. The lesson plan calls for 90 minutes, essentially the second half of the students day.
  9. Did I mention there are 71 sugar filled 5th graders on the Friday afternoon before their first 3 day weekend in over 2 months attempting to tackle difficult material they haven’t seen yet…ok.


Now the stage is set for the challenges before me and I am excited about the opportunity.  So what I have in my arsenal are three key weapons: 1. Notice Wonder 2. Numberless Word Problems 3. Relationships


My lesson starts out with a series of short animations (too fast in hindsight) showing the algorithm and a visual model for 5.NF.2. Students write a NoticeWonder statement, then pair share. Students will repeat this process four times, with the same videos (which is why I made them fast animations), each pass getting more specific with the content they are meant to pull out. I am testing if students can tell me how the algorithm works without me saying anything about it, and I am also testing if they can replicate the process with minimal instruction. I learned the animations were too fast to make this an accurate test, so I do not know yet.


Although I had a word problem to go through as well, as I was circulating and listening to student responses, I made decision to dive into their understanding of the algorithm. In general, we are attacking their understanding of fractional relationships with unlike denominators. Utilizing various visual models to aid this understanding, we had a great discussion about the various pieces, using pizza as an analogy because 100% of 5th graders love pizza.

Having students start with an agreement that two pizzas are identical, so this is our unit. Now the number of slices we cut the pizza into is our denominator, these are the equal sized groups. The numerator is how many slices we have left of the pizza. Students relate to this understanding because they have a context around it. The next question usually gets them, “Can we add these two pizzas with different sized slices together?”


After some discussion, the students agreed we could add them together, but we wouldn’t be able to fit them on the tray evenly since the slices were different sizes. Which brings context to why we need to find a common denominator, we’re just trying to make the pizza slices the same size. We can do this by cutting up the pizza slices from one size into as many slices as we made in the other and vice versa. For example, in our problem we had pizza A with 4 slices and pizza B with 7 slices, so each remaining slice of pizza A was cut into 7 equal sized slices and each remaining slices of pizza B was cut into 4 equal sized pieces.


We were at the point that around 65% of students were understanding the content of the above paragraph, and of that group 80% could tell us why the numerators also changed, and why the number was bigger. One student was rocking the denominator early, still had trouble with the numerator piece specifically, her strength is in the numerical understanding, not the visual model, so it’ll be interesting to bridge that gap with her. The great thing is you could see her making sense of the problem, and it bothered her it wasn’t clicking yet….I’ll be anxious to see what she uncovers.


Although, I didn’t get to the actual word problem, we had a wonderful conversation, and the students given the tremendous hurdles were highly engaged in the discussion. I was quite happy with the turnout, and I already know a couple of things that would make the lesson so much better. Five years ago, if you’d told me I was teaching a lesson with the setup mentioned, I’d thought you were crazy, but this is evidence of growth, maturing and understanding of how learners engage with content. All that to say, so much of this learning comes from being connected, both in my district and to my PLN, that make this a great learning experience.

P.S. My lesson in PDF format is here.

2017-11-06 Three Huge Tasks and a Lesson

The culmination of this past week has seen three huge events come to pass and a wonderful lesson series.

Event 1. The Central California Youth Summit.


Event 2. CVCue STEAM Learning Experience


Event 3. My 2nd Marathon of the Year (PR again)


And the lesson. Using personal experience with Numberless Word Problems, diamond paper, and Notice Wonder to make learning sticky.