2017-10-16 What a Week

Returning from Northern California this past weekend, I was thinking about all the challenges that we had to accomplish this week with a mixture of dread and excitement.

Monday

The week began with the implementation of my newest game created around the 4.MD.3 standard. The game also involves six other standards interlaced within the clues students must solve to unlock the locks. I planned the game for 30 minutes for the fourth graders. The two 4th grade classes that would attempt the game were new to this learning experience. Normally I don’t like to give the first rep of a game to include grade level content, but this was a challenge I had to meet. The energy in the room from the two reps taught me a lot about the quality of the game, and some interesting facilitation pieces that make the game a lot more accessible for all learners.

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The students did a great job of working together, though not fully to the point of genuine collaboration, which is wonderful since students pointed that fact out in the debrief. The biggest change idea we implemented from class to class was students working in groups from the start of the game. While this isn’t new for me, it was new for doing it for the first time at this grade level. I usually like to let students go without too many structures for a first rep and let the chaos become a need for roles. Starting out with groups forces them to slow down, and focuses them on solving the problems, not playing with the locks…something that I hadn’t predicted…I am more a believer in structured learning from this point forward.

Tuesday

Although we introduced the lesson last week in this amazing special education class, I wanted to remind the students of the work we had done to get to this point. Starting with my approach to Numberless Word Problems, students went through a sequence of four NoticeWonder questions as the story grew in complexity showcasing the learning goal. The students would then write a question from their wonderings, and then come to a consensus on the question they were going to ask for the whole class. In our case, we helped facilitate this part, to give the language of the task we were attempting to solve. Background information about this group of students: The students love, love, love Youtube. So our lesson was built around trying to figure out the best deal if Youtube were to offer you two choices for a contract to make films for their channel.

Each group was given a different representation, that is each group had a different contract offering. The students had to sequence both the amount of views and the value per views, with some of the numbers not filled out. Since every tent was not filled out, students would have to make sense of the pattern and fill in the missing pieces, i.e. the part of the standard students were meant to cover. Each student had a job

  1. Two students hold the two ropes (turned into just one rope for us)
  2. One student sorts and sequences the money tents
  3. One student sorts and sequences the view tents
  4. All students contribute to sequencing through discussing their NoticeWonder pieces

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The end result is to get the groups to come back together and decide which is the better deal and why. The use of the Numberless Word Problem approach to introduce the context gave the students a powerful intuition to come up with a question (which is guided by careful questions), and then using clothesline math to explore the learning made for two powerful hits. I will be following this approach in third grade next week (on Wednesday and next week), as we go through a sequence to solve 3.OA.4 through 3.OA.7, and students will create a book afterwords.

We also launched a dream of mine that has been in the making for the past five years, and really come into focus the past two years. We started a Breakout EDU Academy with eight teachers covering third grade through sophomores in high school. This initial group will become Jedi masters by December. Once January comes, they will adopt a padawon, and together, they will create a training from our district offerings and turn it into a game. The padawons become masters in May, and will adopt a new class for Fall, the Jedi Masters will become the Jedi council and oversee the operation from this point.

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Wednesday

I had the opportunity to introduce the 3rd graders to the NoticeWonder component of the Numberless Word Problem that starts our journey on becoming mathematics authors. The students had a variety of great observations, but the 30 minutes was not enough time to have the students go beyond.

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Another big task on Wednesday was a collaboration for the next day’s training. Our team of secondary math teachers are fostering student grit through a football theme. One of the learnings is focused on an article titled, “17 Reasons Football is Better Than HS.” We are utilizing the PDSA cycles to implement changes and looking if we can find a change idea(s) that will help our students gather grit.

Thursday

Our plan was to have two repetitions of collecting data around the strategy we had implemented in this classroom as the students tried the performance task. Using the data we would see what adjustments we could make for future implementations.

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Our day took a few turns and the students were amazing in their flexibility of tackling the task and answering questions. We tried a new change idea in the second observation as we were more pointed and went about a little bit of teaching the students how to take a performance task, like breaking it down using the strategies the teacher had taught them, and sequencing through the performance task.

The day was really interesting and quite surprising in many ways, one of which I will share here. The teachers were asked to provide me with feedback on how the day went. I am always looking to improve, and these are some of those results. For your information, the scale is 1= unacceptable 2= poor 3= satisfactory 4= good 5=very good. 

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I am curious what your take aways are from this, I am still processing the thinking. That being said, their comments were illuminating on a variety of pieces to make this both more meaningful and impactful for them and their students.

Friday

The week ended with an all day event for many fourth graders in our district (and neighboring districts) as they learn about life in the time of the pioneers (California history). The entire Zalud Park in Porterville is taken over as 1,200 fourth graders go through a series of stations, each with a learning experience about the times.

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The students get to find out what life was like through first hand experiences of that time and get to be outdoors and share friendships with school mates. Just an aside, at lunch watching students laughing, rolling down hills, and just being happy kids while at school is what makes being in education worthwhile. Days like this day are a great reminder we are in the people business, not the test getting, show me the best score you can get business, but I digress.

Saturday

In mountains near Yosemite National Park, a group of different math teachers met to listen to Dr. Timothy Kanold, author of Heart!. The surprise was complete when I see several of my old teaching colleagues are seated at the back table, so I asked if I could join them. Immediately I was seeing a lot of fantastic familiar faces, which going up solo and not knowing what to expect this was a huge surprise.

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The most incredible thing happened when I ran into an #eduhero, Duane Habecker, who was also in attendance. We have established a learning connection, we will be able to meet up face-to-face soon to get better together. And the learning from the day was phenomenal. I am enacting these five things moving forward, and I do not doubt it will make our learning better and impact students directly. My five learnings are:

  1. Creating an agreed upon VISION for the group is fundamental
  2. Every decision (or action) needs to be research based
  3. Every decision (or action) needs to move the VISION forward
  4. Always celebrate the small wins excessively, and push for the long term goal
  5. Always start with an Essential Question tied to your VISION

So, all that to say, I was righteously anxious driving home last weekend, but I am always so glad for so many wonderful learning opportunities and how impactful those things are.

PS I didn’t link the lessons I am referring to in this entry. If you’d like me to share, please leave a comment, or otherwise connect with me, and I’ll gladly do so. I would love to hear your feedback, I am a little nervous publishing my feedback, but I need to be transparent and grow. I am wishing you all the best in your learning journey and hope we can grow better together.

2017-09-04 Numberless Word Problems

There are two things that I learned about toward the end of last school year that got me so excited I couldn’t wait to try them, Numberless Word Problems was one of them. One of my #eduheroes, Brian Bushart (@bstockus on Twitter), created this idea some time ago, and I was just learning about them. So, I wanted to get a couple reps in ASAP, and I was able to get a couple of reps in before the end of the year, and it confirmed my initial excitement.

With this school underway, I want to jump in early and often to get everyone on board with this idea, exposing all students to this opportunity and making it an ever growing area of powerful learning. On this journey last year, I was able to modify this into a sequence of learning events, where we start with a #NoticeWonder activity that builds the Numberless Word Problem the students create. Since students create the word problem, whether or not there are numbers is there choice, and it is so interesting what they come up with. The students smash their questions together to make a new question, and then they answer their question (or switch with another group and answer theirs) four ways.

Once the students have shared their answers and we’re all on board with the questions and answers, we compare our information to the state standards example(s). Students are always surprised that their questions are much harder than the state examples and think the state question is easy. Compared to previous times when given the state question, they typically shut down because it’s “too hard,” I’d say this is an amazing outcome.

Anyway, it’s still a work in progress and I’m super excited about it. Thanks Brian for sharing and making us all a little better.

2017-08-28 PDs

This week was the week of Professional Developments (PDs) with my creation and delivery of Interactive Math That’s Meaningful (Horrible Title, I know) and 3 Powerful Math Routines. Each one has some amazing pieces to it that I am very proud of, and both have some areas I do not feel meet my goals. Time and reps will let me know if my feelings are accurate, and it will reveal where other holes are and where great stuff is as well. It’s pretty hectic this week, so this is just short note to remind me to breath.

2017-05-17 – Day 7 – Clothesline Math & Goodbyes

Yesterday we spent time making sense of the ideas of Clotheslines Math, and we were able to get a few quick reps in. Today, we dove straight in, students were broken up into groups of four, each person was assigned a job, and the students were tasked with placing the trig functions in their appropriate sequence on their number line. Students were given 15 minutes to make this magic happen

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I had one group finish early, which was perfect, they became the “experts” and I shipped them out across the “country” to troubleshoot groups where the sequence was stalled. Once the 15 minutes were up, groups verified their sequences with others, and with their “experts” were given another 2 minutes to confirm their sequence. Each group would use their device to take a picture of their successfully completed sequence, and then we tried this process whole class, randomly chosen people were given a tent, two students were holding our much longer class sized chord, and we tried to place the tents in a proper sequence.

So a couple of things that I loved about this process: 1) Students understanding of how to construct a viable number line is sorely lacking from establishing benchmarks to proper scale and this is a powerful way to build it; 2) The multivalued aspect of the trig functions were highlighted in context, so some students made this connection; 3) The periodicity of the trig functions were brought to light when we connected all of our group together, and what did they notice and wonder.

We were able to get to try this in 8th grade today, as well, but with different algebraic based tents. Students in 8th grade were much more accepting and understanding of the process (tents were integers) but struggled with the tents that were given as variables. Students had no problem placing m, 2m, and m/3 in a variety of orders. So we will be addressing this misconception in the next period. I am thinking of having students draw a distance, then draw twice that distance, and a third of that distance. Then we place the tents m, 2m, and m/3 on their number line and see where the conversation goes.

On another note, today was the last day of a content specific course in mathematics for new teachers and I wanted to highlight some of these pieces in our last class together. So we started with a warm up on the sheet placing various terms in order. Our random groups were given an envelope with 3 linear equations, highlighting various slopes and y-intercepts and three fractions and asked to place in the correct sequence.

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The teachers seemed truly engaged in the process, and the attending to precision (MP6) evident everywhere. After teachers shared their thinking and we compared, we talked about how this might be used in their content areas. I do not know if I facilitated bringing to light the flexibility of this strategy, but I think the teachers found some value in it as another tool in the trade. The evening was our last class together, as half of them will be graduating with their preliminary credential in a few weeks, and half will be doing so for another year but will be graduating to summer soon, so our theme of the night was graduation.

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As per our traditional sequence, we like to have a group photo to commemorate the evening by, and this one was no different. In the spirit of the class, I showcased a family fail photo, to prompt our discussion and as a reminder for myself, and we tried to take an awkward family photo together, and I think we nailed that result.

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It was an epic end to a great sequence of classes and I hope the new teachers were able to get as much from this as they gave my partner in this class. I hate to end this amazing post on a down note, but I felt the night went well, we did spend too much time on the “speed dating” portion discussing our use of a strategy from Teaching Reading in Mathematics (TRIM) with a problem from Fostering Algebraic Thinking (FAT) book. We didn’t debrief their assignment as well as I would have liked, and I don’t think I facilitated the connects between all the classes well. In the sequence of the night, time moved too quickly and trying to do too many things got the best of me. The part that really gets me is that it felt like we had put our hearts into this class, each night had a theme, we tried to make every moment purposeful, connected, meaningful and engaging, the teachers seemed to indicate they were picking up what we were putting down, but their feedback indicates more to the contrary than I would have expected. This is to say that no matter how well you dress something up if the content isn’t good, people will notice and will not connect to it. I am going to have to do a lot of reflection on this class and use these failures as opportunities to grow, learn, and question.

2017-05-16 – Day 6 – Clothesline Math

Over the weekend I created my first tent series for Clothesline Math. In my Integrated Math 3, I want students to explore the input/output of trig functions and their values from the unit circle. Ideally, students would be interacting to make sense of the relationship between the input/output of trig functions and the connections to the various values of the unit circle.

(Dramatic music cue) The answer seemed obvious once I understood how I foresaw students working with the content: Clothesline Math.

I built my first series of tents for the clothesline math, I went to the store and bought eight $1 jump ropes for my groups to use as a clothesline, and created the tents. On Monday, we tried it…

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Dreaming of all the ways to utilize this idea, we had so much fun. The HS students were a little hesitant at first, but once they got into it, they were enjoying it. Our next step is to take their individual groups and make it whole class, this is where the learning will make the most impact, I am anticipating. I also am waiting for the moment when students realize there are two sets of infinite answers (periodic functions) for each of the cards, with a few exceptions like the cosine and sine obtain their max and min values at only one set of infinite answers.

All in all, I am so in love with clothesline math and will be utilizing it in a much more poignant way next year. If interested in using this same structure, or if you want to talk about ideas, I have a series of resources from many of my math heroes like Matt Vaudrey and Andrew Stadel.

2017-05-13 – Day 3 – Practice Now – End of the year practice for a better run next school year

The end of the school year is rapidly approaching which brings a mixed bag of emotions to me every year. On the one hand, I am excited about sleeping in, long summer days, and more leisure time with family. On the other hand, I will miss the relationships, connections, and goofy things my students seem to do. My one consolidation this time of year is being able to experiment with instructional methods.

The use of an actual clothesline to model a number line is one idea I have had on my mind all year but just started diving into this past week. I started with these tents from the Clothesline Math.

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I tried the same format and same numbers in both my HS and MS classes, the contrasts were interesting, as this process clearly indicated where gaps in understanding and evaluating numbers came in.  I was not surprised by the placement of the term -3^2 term, and this provided a natural landscape to discuss this misconception.

In my trial run of Clothesline Math, I fell in love with it immediately, the learning and conversations that it promotes, the physical explanation of numbers relative to one another, and the kinesthetic components are all so impactful in the learning experience. I am looking forward as I build my very first trigonometry set, I have finished the first round of tents, and will work on more at a later time. I also see how logarithms could be used with this, and I want to use this with my MS students for solving linear equations, a la Mr. Matt “Yes, it is. And now you know why.” Vaudrey.

The other new endeavor, now in its fifth week is the creation and manifestation of a co-created Twitter chat. I never thought I would actually start one, but with the persistence of my right coast math dancing partner, Shane Ferguson (@MrFergusonMJHS), we are moving along quite strongly as we grow our weekly chat. The idea we wanted for the chat had to be centered around mathematics, but we didn’t want to cover what other chats already hit upon, when the idea struck we should talk about the many, many misconceptions there are in the world of education, especially related to mathematics education. I also am a huge fan of having the word ‘math’ show up in the title, a la @mathkaveli, which is how we ended up with #MathConceptions. Our 30-minute weekly chat is every Monday at 6:30 PM PST, and it’s a great group of people and powerful discussions. We also have a growing weekly chat in our Voxer group for #MathConceptions. 

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