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

2017-09-18 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!

2017-05-26 – Day 16 – Finals Day

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.

2017-05-23 – Day 13 – BreakoutEDU

An amazing teacher was inquiring about the use of BreakoutEDU having heard about it at some point. A “little birdie” in the form of one our equally amazing technology TOSAs let her know I have some of the boxes and am willing to demonstrate.

She reached out to see if I’d be available to showcase it, and we set up a time a few weeks out. Today, was the day we chose and the time, so we set it up and got it ready to go.

On a fun note, I am incorporating more of the digital locks, and using SnapChat to create more of the clues, like the one below, adds a lot more personalized fun.

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One of the things that I absolutely love about BreakoutEDU is how it engages students to challenge themselves and work through difficult mathematics without feeling like it. Although I have run many games multiple times, I love that every game is unique. Running the same game, with the same class, minutes apart still produces a different experience and that is so fun.

On this day, with this group of scholars, we found that the teamwork was good, the communication worked, and the breakdown of connecting the ideas of individuals to the whole created opportunity for students to find their First Attempt In Learning (FAIL). We debriefed what went well, and what could have gone differently, we then planned what we might do better this next time and we ran the same game, picking up where we left off.

Students were more determined the second time and knowing the majority of the game, they went back at it for 20 minutes (they had 25 minutes the first time).

With time running down, they were still a little behind, and the teacher was sure she wanted them to experience success (which is usually a good default, especially the first time, I would be less likely to be flexible again). So we paused the time to clarify questions a couple of times and provide guidance to help students be successful.

Pulling together in the final few moments, the students were really good at working together to breakout of the game.

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