2017-09-18 Published 1st Article

Near the end of July, I received a random email message from someone associated with Edutopia….I thought to myself that either this is one of my friends playing a practical joke on me or this email was sent to me by accident. The email asked if I would be willing to write an article on Visible Mathematics for the educational resource, and it wasn’t a hoax.

My reaction was skeptical at first, I had a hard time believing that the amazing resource of Edutopia would want something from me. You have to understand three major problems with this: 1) I am a physics, math, and technology nerd….writing is a huge challenge for me and I don’t think I write very well; 2) Like Dave Burgess says, being creative is hard work (it’s like being good at anything, it requires a lot of hard work); and 3) The article is going to be very public!

The challenge to overcome these huge obstacles was almost enough for me to choose not to pursue writing an article about mathematics. I have a fixed mindset regarding my writing, but I am working on it, so I tried to write the article.

In my first attempt, I wrote a narrative, with myself removed from center stage. Recreating a time when visuals in mathematics made an impact on students learning. I spent a week of writing, revising, and seeking feedback, before, I sent it to the kind folks at Edutopia. Their response was gentle, kind, but let me know that was not what quite the idea they wanted to capture. Although this type of feedback normally shuts me down, I am working on a growth mindset in my writing and I wanted to persevere.

In my second attempt, I focused on a personal story. In my story, I learned something so powerful I will never forget it and use it instructionally whenever I can. I won’t spoil your read of the article, but the learning was powerful and changed me as an educator. The second story flowed out and I was happy with it, so I tried one more time sending it back to the great folks at Edutopia.

Eureka! They were almost there, the tough job for them was on. The editors had to figure out how to display it, clean up my horrible grammar, and get it ready for publication. With ease the process seemed seamless as the folks at Edutopia put it all together.

The night before it was to be published, I felt like a kid on Christmas Eve, the anticipation was killing me.

When I woke up the next morning, I saw it was published, and I let out a squeal. I awoke my wife by jumping on the bed, singing, “Do you know what today is…” Well she didn’t appreciate that at all! After the morning fog wore off, she was very happy for me, and I learned my excitement could at least wait until the sun had risen.

I also find it amazing that writing is a process that shows us how unorganized our thinking is, and it always feels so good when a well written piece is produced. I am so so grateful for the experience and for the great folks at Edutopia for working with me, despite the number of revisions. As I continue my growth journey in my writing, this was a story that I am excited to tell. Happy Monday and have a week worth writing about!

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.

2017-05-19 – Day 9 – Announcing Summer Book Study for #TWOTCW and #Mathconceptions & CVNiC Work

With the school year winding down, let’s  begin refilling ourselves, building our personal learning network, and improving our practice. Steve Wyborney‘s The Writing On The Classroom Walls #TWOTCW is a powerful teaching tool and bucket filler we will use in our first #Mathconceptions Book Study of the summer. Shane Ferguson (@MrFergusonMJHS) and I are super excited to have Steve lead us through our slow chat, highlighting key components of learning from point of view of misconceptions. Our chat will begin in June, with a pre-chat conversation starting on May 22nd. 

The year ends in more ways than one, we had our final get together of our CVNiC group today and we shared a lot of learning, reflecting, and guiding our path for the next school year and beyond. Although I could only be there for half the day, I used my new favorite tool for capturing learning (SnapChat and thanks to Ann Kozma @annkozma723) to capture that learning. The video below highlights my learning from this morning.

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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