2017-09-11 Coding a Newsletter Template

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!

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.

2017-08-10 Breakout EDU Middle School Math

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)

Mission Accomplished

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.

The podcasts are linked:  Math 8    &/or     IM3

Well looking forward to another great week. Hope your week is as magical and moving you forward to meet your new goals.

Technology Enhanced in Math Lesson

What an exciting time to be a teacher, a student, and a learner!

I have a tentative understanding, at best, of human nature, but I do believe that most people find change uncomfortable and difficult to deal with both emotionally and intellectually. I am not immune to these feelings, but I like change. I like to embrace the unknown, I thrive off of dreaming about the possibilities that could be.

One of the most exciting things about the change of standards to the Common Core State Standards in Mathematics is the depth to which students are expecting to dive in their understanding. With this in mind, the fun of being a teacher is to create learning opportunities that facilitate students’ thinking and facilitate opportunities to dive deeper in their thinking.

The original idea for this lesson is hard to nail down, but I do know a large part of it came from the wonderful book Fostering Algebraic Thinking. The results are shown below:

I tried the lesson with sixth and seventh graders, and the biggest thing I realized is that there is a bunch of background knowledge with respect to the technology that students need to be familiar with to take advantage of the lesson. On the other hand, this seems like a natural way to introduce the use of technology in a lesson which has its own advantages.

What would you do differently? What would make this lesson better?