A journey from last year that I really enjoyed doing was creating a monthly newsletter that indicated the successes we were having as a district mathematically speaking. While I enjoyed creating the newsletter, I was never happy with the design, and always thinking about how I could make it better. Well I went from using pages to Google slide decks (because I love, love, love slides) and still ran into a similar issue…actually I think the Pages version was way better which makes it worse….well new journey this week, I am excited to be working with a teacher and their coding and design clubs, as I am going to pose as a customer to order a new newsletter and they are going to design it for me. I am going to “hire” them and they will design it for me.

I will give them a list of specs and a “budget” to work from, they are posing as a small startup company and this is one of their first jobs. I am super excited to see how this will go and I hope I get a sweet newsletter out of it too!

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.

With the sounds of a sharp, repeating, and blaring noise the herds of young bodies began their almost zombie like motions to their assigned classrooms. Those who were new to the school, looked anxious, schedules out and a mixture of puzzled and nervous expressions. The contrast of the mindless shuffle to class to the anxious, confused, and fresh faced ones as they avoided being trampled by the zombie herds was almost laughable. Oh to be 12-years-old again….never mind, I’m good.

Although I was there to set up the Breakout EDU game, I couldn’t help to enjoy the nervous energy of the first day of school. The timeless roles of adolescents playing its course in all of their lives and the social aspects of this age are always fun to watch and enjoy. The end of the summer felt too soon, and the beginning of this school year didn’t feel like it was upon us….but ready or not, it was shown time.

The wonderful joy of having such a fantastic middle school staff is their openness to experience, and a few days before the start of school I was asked by two eighth grade math teachers to help facilitate a Breakout EDU game for the students’ first day. It was on!

Together we came up with a plan with the two boxes we had, one in each room, one class would do odd periods, the other class would hit even periods. I would jump back and forth, facilitate one, then let them facilitate the next. We worked out how the game was set up and what needed to be done so students wouldn’t inadvertently see how to break the game.

So here we are, first period of the first day of school, and it’s show time!

The magic that is Breakout EDU took hold, slow at first, as students had to break down that first day awkwardness. As different students found and placed together the various clues, the class wasn’t going to make it, so I asked the teacher and he wanted to make sure it was successful, so I aided in small ways, and they were able to do so.

(Update 2017-09-11: The students haven’t experienced the game since the first day, and six weeks into school they are begging their teacher for another game…so I guess they did love it)

Wow, the day is almost over and the grading is done with all my finals. I always forget how much I dislike grading, especially when looking at student thinking. Today, we had our last of the finals, with one week to go!

Something that stood out today that I am so proud about with respect to my students. My HS students had two hard finals that challenged them, and I saw many using their devices to find out information on how to solve, examples to attack the problems. I saw students problem solving their finals, that was awesome. I also saw lots of great, long, and dedicated study today among all the students.

In my final period, I was worried about the 8th graders, they have had 3 finals at that point all day long, and math is last…they were in for surprise because it was probably as difficult as the HS for them. I heard students excited when they realized half of their final is on Quizizz (my students love this) and the other was more traditional. My 8th graders were solid for the entire time working to get through the challenge, and I was so impressed.

What I was also excited to see was lots of writing when students didn’t understand a problem. I saw #NoticeWonder on problems which made my heart all warm and fuzzy. I learned a lot today about my students and I am going to miss these classes in a week. Well, grading is done, the week is quickly wrapping up, and I have a 3-hour long run tomorrow.

State testing finished two weeks ago, warming weather, and multiple field trips all indicate the sun is setting on the 2016-17 school year. The looming giant of finals is the final hurdle many of our students are left with in ending this school year, and here we sit investigating this idea.

Getting students the opportunity to do the work, we covered examples yesterday, and today we are doing a combination of 360 Math (thanks, @edcamposjr) for the inspiration there and karaoke presentations when we are finished.

In Math 3, students used Flippity (thanks again to Ed for that tip) to form our groups. Each group was given 90 seconds to capture the 7 problems on paper 360-style around the room, students used mobile phones to take pictures of the problems, and then shared the with their group. Students broke up the problems, some students would solve 2 problems, others would solve 1 problem, in the 15 minutes.

When time was finished, random selection for each group assigned the problem they would build the solution to the poster. Their goal is to write a solution clear enough that anyone could present it, which is the next phase with the presentation karaoke.

The Math 3 students hit some of the road blocks I was anticipating, but this process uncovered a couple more as well. The students did not get to the point they were going to present, we will capture those tomorrow. Students did see me solve all 7 problems in 3 minutes, not emphasizing the quickness of solving, but the efficiency of ease of these problems the concept of multiple iterations of inverse operations. I do feel I needed to give them more opportunities, and I should have started with this approach on Monday, then used it to set the stage for any clarifications or additional input the students would need from me, not the other way around.

In Math 8, we followed a similar format as in Math 3, the students opened up with a Quizizz review, getting a single shot of the year. Next, we chose 7 problems posted on the walls, viz a vie 360 Math. The 7 problems were taken from review problems previously covered, with small alterations, each team was assigned a problem and given 10 minutes to solve. Their goal is to write a solution clear enough that another group could present their solution viz a vie Presentation Karaoke.

Getting students to present would go smoother is more reps, this is our first time trying this Presentation Karaoke. While herding cats is challenging, it is worth the effort in that students are really engaging in their learning.

One of my students stayed after to tell me that another student explained what “simplifying” means in a way that he now understands it. When students stay after to share about their learning you know something went well.

Our special guest today, Mr. Steve Wyborney, delivered a fun and interactive learning experience for my Integrated Math 3 course. The students got to experience a variety of wonderful questioning strategies, they were enabled to challenge their teacher and integrated deep mathematical thinking into the whole process.

Mr. Wyborney’s incredible sense of creating engaging and powerful learning experiences was on display today, challenging the students to think differently and to understand things in a variety of ways.

The learning was deep, the conversations were rich, and the time flew by, a perfect ending to a rather long week. On that note, I am also learning to use SnapChap to capture the learning, which is why I’m continuing this video sequence. I like that every 10 seconds you have to finish your thoughts, forcing you to be more concise and embeds the idea of practice perfect. I also like the idea of the silly filters, as it helps me get past the weirdness I feel when taping myself. Combining this with my desire to blog more, I’ve created a snowball of learning experiences for myself, and with Day 2 in the bag, I’m excited that I just might make it.

As I publish this reflection, I fear that this moment may turn into something along the lines of another famous moment….

I am very honored to have met #IRL (in real life) the person that inspired this learning goal for me this school year: Having students produce a weekly learnings podcast for public consumption. Joe Young is an incredible TOSA for math and education and he shared this idea a long time ago, and when I had the pleasure of teaching two courses this year, I wanted to challenge myself and use this as one way students would show what they know.

Finally, this week, I found the magic recipe to making this happen, I assigned two students, one in each class to get the job done. Friday marked the turning point for me in doing some of the things I wanted to get done and continue to build on. Friday was also our first Mystery Skype with another group of students. While the connections prevented less opportunities for conversation, it was an entertaining and fun sort of thing.

While doing the Mystery Skype, we also produced our weekly podcasts for both classes. I loved the idea of having students interact with other students around mathematics and this public display showed a proof of concept.

All in all, I was very excited to have been able to edit, publish, upload, host, and publish to iTunes. I am currently waiting on a review of my two podcasts to be approved, and if that works they’ll be in iTunes. The Mystery Skype provided the opportunities for students to strategize their thinking and be able to try to problem solve.