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.

2017-08-16 ReNew Learning and RTR

I love when I come to a new understanding about something that I had previously known, which happened this week. We had the blessing of having a consultant come to our campuses from the county office of education to help us with some work we are doing. Part of the work is to implement Rich Task Routines (RTR) in mathematics to help our students become stronger math students.

What is a RTR you may be wondering?

An RTR is an activity designed to help us (teachers) be purposeful in our delivery of content to give students access to deeper and more challenging learning targets. The idea flows from the 5 Practices made famous by NCTM book by the same name. The work and intentionality of what we put into, seeing the whole cycle with students, and reflecting on the process made for a great day of learning. I can’t wait to continue this journey.

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.

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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.