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.

2017-09-11 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.

2017-06-02 – Day 23 – Last Day

The combination of working on so many things, being pulled in so many directions meant the beginning of summer was especially important to pull back and refill. The last day of school with students, while I would miss our good times together, I have to admit, I was all like….


Especially considering we have an epic road trip planned to return us to the great northern reaches of this continent that I haven’t been to in over 16 years. So this summer….


….epic road trip is going to be amazing! I wish everyone a happy summer, I will be off the grid for most of that time, and be all like…



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.