2017-10-02 Improvement Science & Mathematics

The past two weeks have been an intense dive into the work we started over a year ago, and the feeling that we’re finally digging into something will set in.

We will find a process by which we can triple the scores on the state standardized testing in mathematics at the fifth-grade level. If we are successful, or not, we are learning a lot about our system, and we will be sharing that out at the termination of our process.

To determine if we are successful, we have utilized the power of Improvement Science. Although I have been learning the process of Improvement Science for 1.5 years, I feel comfortable discussing all of what I don’t know when it comes to this complex set of machinery.

I am working on putting all Improvement Science into a visual, comprehensible approach and it gave me the opportunity to work on my creative graphic designs. The series of several images and video are a result of that time and learning.

Students learning, students engaged in the growth mindset, and all this great stuff is just so exhilarating to be apart of this unfolding story. As the journey continues, I’m excited about the learning that will continue to grow from this process. One simple example is the productive analysis of learning when teachers from different sites come together to plan, watch, listen, and grow better together.

Here is my first repetition of making Improvement Science a visual learning experience.

Or you make click below at the PDF as well.

Improvement Science

2017-09-25 Visual Multiplication of Fractions with Reducing

Recently, I was on a Sunday run when I received a compelling question I couldn’t wait to dive into. The question asked how would I teach the multiplication of fractions with reducing.

The teacher provided some background information to frame the situation. The students had been instructed on how multiply fractions and reduce. When the lessons were over, the students all showed they were competent in both skills on their formative assessments; however, when this teacher gave them a summative assessment, the shock of students’ performances afforded me this opportunity.

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To get started, I didn’t quite know if I understood what the teacher had tried to explain. Luckily the teacher shared images of the student work to shed some light on the situation. Being curious about the student work, without making any inferences was my first order of business.

Next, I thought if this was my student, what would I try with them, given where they are at?

The student’s work made me think a visual model might illuminate the concept, inferring from the student work might be one of the missing concepts.

If I’m going to a visual model, how might I represent this such as the student will tell me their #NoticeWonder statements?

The #NoticeWonder strategy is my go to when trying any learning experience with students. My mentor once said, “Never tell a student something they can tell you….” and creating opportunities for your students to tell you something about their learning is very powerful. I also created a video explanation of the visual strategy and an animation of the visual strategy that the students #NoticeWonder about.

Using the progressions for mathematics and comparing to the California frameworks, I wanted a visual representation that is both flexible and powerful that goes across multiple grade levels. Although, the use of the area model is a strategy students should be familiar with by the time they are done with second grade, the full power of this model may not be fully understood until much later. Utilizing it for how to decompose and multiply fractions seems a natural fit to build upon.

I am always curious when creating a lesson how it will go over with actual students, not just the idealized math lovers we all have hidden inside us. Presenting this lesson with some enthusiasm and, as Dave Burgess says, some sort of hook. I have a steak here that can be prepared so well, but when it’s cooked it gets ruined, so I’m thinking about how to hit that sweet spot of a juicy medium rare in terms of proper delivery. 

What are your thoughts? Would you try it with your students and let me know what changes you made to make it better?

Thanks for helping us all get better together.

2017-05-18 – Day 8 – Rich Task Routines & Fraction Splats

One of the charges my district has taken on requires that we work toward improving math instruction at the 5th-grade level – this grade level has been identified as a severe turning point in the performance and mindset of learners toward mathematics. We are working on ways that will improve instruction and learning experiences so students feel differently about mathematics and themselves.

One of our approaches is incorporating rich tasks for our students to access. The Rich Tasks provide both a better math experience and promote a growth mindset in mathematics.


The process I am testing is trying to tease out if the students can make connections between their thinking and others. In addition to sharing their thinking and being able to perform some complex mental arithmetic with everyones’ favorite F-word, fractions. I was gifted with two extraordinary teachers that let me try this approach with the amazing Steve Wyborney’s Fraction Splats. I have had huge success in grades 3 through 12 with the fraction splits, so I knew that wouldn’t be an issue, but the questioning and format may be a challenge. The results shown in the video below show the comparison of previous Rich Task Routines with the new version. What do you #NoticeWonder?

Overall, the day felt very successful, the students seemed highly engaged in their learning, and sharing out their thinking. The valuable conversations and having students point to and demonstrate their thinking is huge. The connecting to other people’s thinking may need some direct instruction on, and multiple reps before students are reliably able to tackle this piece.