Desmos PD

desmosIt’s no surprise that I’m completely obsessed with Desmos and want to share it with teachers everywhere. This past year, I was given a few opportunities to run Desmos professional development for the teachers in my district, and in a few surrounding Massachusetts towns. Several people have asked me for my PD plan, so here it is:

General Structure:
Let’s Learn!
Let’s Play!
Let’s Teach!
Let’s Build!

Let’s Learn!
In the intro, I share some Desmos logistics and explain/show the difference between the calculator and activities (briefly touch upon polygraph vs activity builder vs card sorts (future PD, yay!), etc). I demonstrate basic calculator moves such as sliders, tables and regressions. But mostly, during this phase, I direct participants to Learn Desmos by finding a tutorial they are interested in and trying it out. Depending on time, you can also share the Desmos Scavenger Hunts and let participants work through them.

Let’s Play!
I choose a couple activities appropriate for the grade level of the participants, and we play! I tell participants to put on their student hats and imagine I am their teacher. I briefly explain the activity directions, give out the class code, and let them go to town. I stop at selective checkpoints to showcase various graphs or student answers from the teacher dashboard, talk about key vocab that I see being used, or to address any misconceptions I see, etc. Some of my favorite activities to choose are Polygraph: Parabolas and Marbleslides: Lines. These activities are obviously super fun, but also a middle ground for a range of middle and high school teachers in the same room. It’s always a struggle to make them stop playing so we can learn something else.

Let’s Teach!
This phase goes hand in hand with “Let’s Play,” and often, they overlap during my PD sessions. After playing one activity, we stop and analyze the activity with our teacher hats on. We talk about teacher moves that I made, implementation strategies, possible implementation challenges, and really analyze the teacher dashboard. I bring up past activities from my Desmos history and show participants some student work. It’s also during this phase that I finally show them the search engine on the teacher site and ask them to look up a topic they are teaching within the next day or two and see what they can find. Every single teacher has always found something they could potentially use that week.

Let’s Build!
I show teachers how to bookmark activities they find using the search engine, and then how to copy/edit them so they have a starting point. When there’s time, I walk participants through the basics of building an activity, and hopefully provide time for them to try making one with a partner. Unfortunately, this is usually the phase that gets cut out due to time constraints. One hour or afternoon is simply not enough to learn all of Desmos, but it’s definitely a start!

Please feel free to use this structure if it works for you, but make sure to adapt for your own personality/time constraints, and most importantly, find out what your learners want/need to know!


#TMC16 – My Favorite

Get out your calendars and mark them now! Twitter Math Camp 2017 is being held from July 27th-30th at Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School in Atlanta, Georgia.

Having just returned from my 4th Twitter Math Camp (TMC) experience in Minneapolis, I feel the need even more to book my entire summer plans around this camp. I like to spend time in the summer with my family and friends; go to the beach; read a book for fun; nap; go to the drive-in, etc. But I also NEED to spend four days in person with my MTBoS family. The people and sessions at TMC invigorate my passions and spirit and convince me that I can conquer anything in the upcoming school year.

I can’t possibly recap everything I took away from TMC16, but here are some of my favorite takeaways. I hope they become some of your favorites too! Grab a drink, there are a lot 🙂

Favorite Pre-TMC Outing: After arrival, I adventured to the Minnehaha Falls with a small group. The weather wasn’t the best, but we had a fabulous time exploring the falls and walking to the confluence of the Mississippi River and Minnehaha Creek.

Favorite New Desmos Calculator Feature: Desmos now has audio capabilities for visually impaired and blind students. Use Command F5 for the voice option, and Option + T for the audio trace. Desmos will read the expression being typed, and then play a graph used a pitched audio representation. Kudos to Desmos for striving to be fully accessible to all users!

Favorite New Desmos Activity Builder Feature: Card sorts! Ask Desmos and you shall receive! By turning on the “Labs” option once you’re logged into Desmos, you now have the option to build card sorts within the activity builder platform. I made a cart sort for Quadratic Equations, and I can’t wait to make more and then also steal from the crowdsourced list. My group loved that we can input card sorts already created; ask students to sort in more than one way; narrow responses by asking for a specific number of cards in a pile; and ask students to analyze why someone else sorted the cards a different way. The possibilities are truly endless, and you can check out the card sort bank here.

card sort3

Favorite Passionate Educator Title: Chief Evangelist. In her keynote speech, Sara VanDerWerf challenged us to become “Chief Evangelists” for our passions in math education. Sara said, “Sharing your best with others who can benefit is a responsibility and opportunity that falls to everyone” and “To be good at evangelizing, you’re gonna have to practice.” You also need to prepare mini-elevator speeches for each of your passions so you’re ready to share, and tweak them depending on your audience (students, parents, teachers, leaders). I’m going to spend some time this summer narrowing down my list of math education passions to figure out what I want to advocate for.

Favorite Dorm Life: While not all aspects of Dorm Life at Augsberg College were glamorous (looking at you, shower stalls), I had a complete ball living with some TMC-ers for four days. Waking up and having morning bathroom chats about math ed, doing the wobble in common areas late at night, and watching the bachelorette with a huge crew were all completely memorable TMC experiences.

Favorite ELL Strategy: The snowball activity is a great way to get students writing, reading, and speaking in math class. Have students answer a prompt on paper, crumple up the paper, and throw it somewhere in the room. Each student then finds a new paper,IMG_0528
reads the response, and either 1) Adds a new idea 2) Contributes 3) Corrects something
written. After going through the cycle three times, ask students to share ideas out loud
from whatever paper is in front of them. It’s anonymous, non-threatening, and fun for students. And again, it provides them with an outlet for individual think time, following by writing, reading, and speaking. Priceless.

Favorite PD Strategy: To assess participant’s understanding during professional development, I highly recommend using the “Filling in Circles” strategy modeled by Michelle. Start by identifying the key concepts of the session, or in our case, the barriers to implementing responsive stations. Then, have participants continually reflect on the topics and fill in the circles as their learning and understanding grows. Facilitator is able to see what topics need to be discussed more, and participants are able to ask better questions about what they want/need to know. Very easy and very powerful.

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Favorite Mapping Tool: Popplet. Use it as a mind-mapping tool or to help students think/learn visually. We used it to map skills and identify gaps.

Favorite Restaurant: Pizza Luce! I had Baked Potato pizza both times we went there because it was just SO GOOD. They were also very accommodating of our large groups.

Favorite Shared Experience: Jonathan talked about how he created a shared
experience in his school by creating “Varsity Math” for his calculus and statistics

I'm on the team!

I’m on the team!

students. He branded them with shirts, stickers, and inspirational speeches; and the kids just LOVED it. They bought in. They felt like they were part of a special community… because they were. Jonathan even graciously invited all of TMC16 to join the team. How can we create shared experiences for the students in our own communities?

Favorite JLV Reminder: In Jose Vilson‘s keynote speech on “TMC16, Race, and What We’re Not Talking About,” he challenged us to lead hard conversations and be okay with feeling uncomfortable. He also reminded us that we have students who are much more capable of talking about this stuff than we are; often because they have less filters. He told us to “get out of their way” but provide an outlet to let it happen. This was a much needed reminder for me, because I often feel like I should/need to have all the answers, so when I don’t, I avoid the conversation. I know I need to work on this, and my students can probably help me. Watch Jose’s keynote here.

Favorite “Getting Triggy With It” Activity: Kristen led an excellent session on how to make trig and the unit circle not a mystery. Grab all her resources here! My favorite activity was using one triangle drawn on patty paper to construct the unit circle. Simple approach but nicely shows how all the key points are determined.

See Rachel’s tweet for pictures of activity in action:

Favorite Verb: Edmund Harris and Chris Shore reminded us that modeling is a verb. It’s something kids should be doing, not something given to them. Modeling is a: Creative. Active. Process.

Favorite Physical Activity: Sara graciously brought her Backwards Bike to camp, and let me ride it as much as I wanted. If you’re not familiar with backwards bikes, watch this video. Even though I came home with several bike battle wounds, I had an absolute blast trying to ride this thing. Even after just a few times, I felt like I was making progress and coming up with new strategies to try out. Now I’m off to find someone to make one for me.

Favorite Project: Sam shared a project he does with students called “Explore Math” so they can explore math outside of school and see its beauty. He wrote about the project on his blog and shared the website he asked students to explore. It’s a “low stakes, high reward” activity. Some kids will do the bare minimum, but others will take it to levels that Sam wasn’t even expecting. His recommendation is to keep it open, keep the mini explorations mini, and don’t compare projects.

Favorite Pre-Assessment: Don’t have one yet, need to make them! Michelle led us through an eye-opening morning session about identifying the gaps in students’ understanding and then usingtrifold responsive stations to address those gaps using differentiation. I’m excited to follow Michelle’s instructions to create appropriate pre-assessments. There should only be one skill per question and as short as possible. Focus on what pre-skills students need to know in order to be successful with new content, don’t worry about the would-be-nice-to-know. The goal of the pre-assessment is so you can figure out where students are at, and provide them with learning opportunities if they don’t know, and learning opportunities if they do know (enrichment). Elissa wrote a great recap of the entire three days.

Favorite Call to Action: Tracy Zager‘s keynote speech titled “What do we have to learn from each other?” was inspiring and community-driven. She stressed that we need to stop pitting content and pedagogy against each other; we need to stop pitting elementary and high school teachers against each other. Neither of these things is productive for our community. We all have an important role in building our students’ conceptual understanding, and we need to work together to get it done. Tracy’s call to action is to analyze whom you are following on Twitter, and make sure you have a variety of contacts you can reach out to for support and to ask questions. Watch Tracy’s keynote here.

Favorite Fraction Problems: After Tracy’s talk, I pushed myself to attend Brian Bushart‘s session on fractions: a place I knew I would feel out of my comfort zone as a high school teacher. One of the reasons Brian said fractions are so hard for students, is due to practices that simplify or mask the meaning of fractions.

By finding a common denominator, you aren’t comparing fractions anymore. You’re now only comparing the whole number numerators. Cross multiplying is an example of masking; you’re getting rid of the fractions and comparing whole numbers. This masks the fact that you’re still comparing two fractions. Neither of these strategies takes into account the size of the fractions and therefore rob students of sense making. Brian then shared a bunch of strategies for how to deal with this, and I will lead you directly to his documents to learn more.

Favorite Fraction Big Idea: Another huge idea that Brian threw at us is the difference in how whole numbers and fractions are treated as adjectives and nouns. Look at the slides below for comparison.

Whole Numbers:


I’ve never really thought about it this way before, so this was a *mind blown* moment for me, and others at my table. Many students don’t actually gain enough understanding about fractions to realize that fractions are actually numbers and can be represented on a number line. They get stuck at adjectives (1/2 a cake) instead of moving onto nouns. This is where we need to get!

Favorite “Make It Stick” Strategy: In her session, Anna talked about the various ways she uses strategies from Make It Stick in her classroom. My favorite strategy she discussed was Calibration. The goal is to “replace a subjective experience or feeling with an objective gauge outside ourselves.” It stems from the “Illusion of Knowing” in that we think we know something, but really we only have a familiarity with it. The book recommends providing more opportunities for students to test themselves, review again, and test again. Quizzes need to be low stakes. I chose this as my favorite, because it ties in nicely with my morning session theme of helping students to fill in gaps.

Favorite Dylan Kane Confession: Dylan Kane‘s keynote speech titled “More than Resources” was one of the most honest and open talks I’ve ever heard. Dylan’s confession that he thought he was doing a good job when he started, but then realized he could be doing much better, really stuck with me. His big lesson learned was: “My intuition isn’t very good, because we see what we want to see.” Dylan was stealing all the great resources from the MTBoS, but realized that great resources do not equal great teaching. He challenged us to think about what will specifically work with our own students; and deliberately practice what we want to get better at. I haven’t come across a video of Dylan’s keynote yet, but you can access his resources here.

Favorite Upcoming Books to Read:
Tracy Zager: Becoming The Math Teacher You Wish You’d Had [Expected: December 2016]
Denis Sheeran: Instant Relevance, Using Today’s Experiences in Tomorrow’s Lesson [Expected: August 2016]

Favorite Song: Greg answered a call from the twitterverse to write a song about the cubic formula. He answered with the most epic sister act version ever… enjoy:

Favorite Student Quote: I know what you’re thinking, there were no students at TMC16 mathematicianso how can I have a favorite student quote? Well, in Annie‘s flex session on “Mathematicians: More than just white dudes” she shared this student quote: “Are there any mathematicians like me?” This question led to her creation of the Mathematician’s Project, where she showcases one mathematician every Friday (as long as they aren’t an old, white, rich, dead man) in order to show her students that anyone can be a mathematician. She includes their name, date of birth, ethnicity, background biography, major accomplishments, and math specialty. She even polled her students to see the types of people they wanted to learn about, and had students write their own mathematician bios. The shift in her classroom culture was unmeasurable.

Favorite Icebreaker: Amy taught us an amazing new icebreaker that I can’t way to play with my students when school starts called “Go Ahead – Break the Ice.” Break students into small groups, and give them three minutes to collectively come up with a favorite book, movie and game. Then, have students list all the ways they came to the decisions they did. This leads into a great discussion on group norms and how to work with other people. Some of the decision-making strategies were: “strong arming, time pressure, majority rules, brainstorm, survey, throw out ideas until they stick, pickiest gets the choice, narrow the choices, help those who aren’t speaking up, make sure everyone has a voice, etc…” It was a really fun activity to get to know your group, and have time to talk about group dynamics.

Favorite Day of the Year: Hannah loves celebrating birthdays and she shared some great ideas for celebrating in the classroom. She does birthday shoutouts on the board and buys cheap birthday seat covers. She sees increased positivity in her classroom culture and her students love it. She also uses birthdays to talk about what is and is not a function:

Favorite My Favorite: I can’t really put into words out much Glenn means to me in this community. Watch his talk here, and be as thankful as I am that he didn’t turn around.

Thank you to everyone who helped make my experience at TMC16 an amazing one! Much MTBoS love ❤

And of course, the end of camp song and dance:

Big Dreams Small Steps

Last week I had the privilege of visiting High Tech High in San Diego as part of a 12 member team from my district. It was Exhilarating. Eye-opening. Invigorating. Rewarding. Productive. Positive. And because of that, I’m scared to go back to school tomorrow.

This string art is a representation of each member of this [High Tech High] team as well as you, the community. We are all capable of creating great changes.

This string art is a representation of each member of this [High Tech High] team as well as you, the community. We are all capable of creating great changes.

How do you accurately share these emotions with colleagues who didn’t make the trip? How do you turn all of these emotions into change? It was overwhelming to experience, and there were definitely moments of questioning: How are we going to do this at our school?

Our students are not electing to be here. Our teachers didn’t sign up for project-based learning. We don’t currently have technology for all. The list could go on and on, but these are complaints instead of solutions, and I’m not ready to hear them. They shouldn’t matter. They don’t matter.

I’m not naive. I know that we have to be realistic about our circumstances. But realism shouldn’t correlate with negativism. I love my district. We do many great things here. And we will continue to do great things. But we have to be willing to make changes along the way and admit that we always can and should be striving to get better every day.

photo 3

Sitting around the fire pit after touring HTH Chula Vista, we debriefed by sharing small, immediate changes that we know we can make. You have to start somewhere. My first change: making our projects have a more meaningful impact on our community. As our student tour guide stated, “Why would you even do a project if it doesn’t mean anything?” It was a theme heard constantly during our visit and one that will have a strong, positive impact on doing projects for our students.

“You need to have the courage to mess up,” shared one HTHCV Biology Teacher. Although a part of me is fearful for the work that lies ahead, I know that we can do it, and I know that we have to do it… Together.

#TMC14 – My Favorite

After attending Twitter Math Camp 2014 in Jenks, OK, I immediately flew to Hilton Head where I joined my family on vacation. While lounging by the pool, I had a lot of time to reflect on this year’s camp. It still ranks as the best professional development experience I have ever had, but I often struggle to find ways to articulate why TMC is so special. Prior to attending, whenever I told someone I was going to a Twitter Math Camp, the person laughed and made a joke about nerdy math teachers.

So I changed my story: “Me: I’m going to a math conference. Them: Oh cool, hope you learn a lot.” And I hated myself for those interactions. Why does everyone else think a math conference is acceptable to attend, even cool, when I (and I’m sure most TMC attendees would agree) that Twitter Math Camp is by far the coolest “conference” a math teacher will ever attend? But it’s because they don’t understand. I know that I shouldn’t take the easy way out by changing my story, and I’ve promised myself to never do that again. I want to help people (especially math teachers!) understand and appreciate what everyone in the MathTwitterBlogosphere (MTBoS) has created together. The comparison to an actual overnight summer camp might actually help the most. At TMC, you attend sessions of interest to you, listen to inspiring speakers, eat every single meal with your fellow campers, play games (some math some not) during free time, explore your surroundings, and stay up way past your bedtime. After four days, you are exhausted; you are inspired; you are passionate; you are reflecting; you are questioning; you are bonded. Luckily, the conversations that begin at TMC don’t have to end at TMC. Throughout the year, we will continue chatting on twitter, blog posts, text messages; so if you’re out there lurking, jump in and join the conversation, then join us at Harvey Mudd College next summer.

In the same spirit as last year, I will recap some of TMC as a series of “My Favorites” (in no particular order).

Favorite Airport Reading: Powerful Problem Solving by Max Ray. I wanted to read this book last summer but never got around to it. I’m now four chapters in and devouring it. Max writes about problem solving strategies directly connected with the standards for mathematical practice. He shares numerous activities you can do with your students tomorrow and shares actual samples of student work/classroom conversations.

Favorite Standard for Mathematical Practice: In Steve Leinwand’s keynote, Shifting Our Mindsets and Our Actions from Remembering HOW to Understanding WHY, he referred to SMP #3 as the “Trojan Horse” and the “Most important 9 words in the CCSS.” I would have to agree with Steve on this one. SMP #3 = Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others. Students must be able to communicate their findings and respond to the conclusions of others. This is a practice that must be taught explicitly and will be one of my goals for this school year. I plan on echoing Steve, and demanding that students “CONVINCE ME” of their conclusions.

Favorite Game: Andy Pethan introduced me to the game, Q-bitz, during Wednesday’s game night. There are three different challenges where you have to recreate patterns out of cubes faster than your competitors. As someone who loves math and wants to be on Survivor one day, this game is right up my ally.

Source: Amazon

Source: Amazon

Favorite Opening Day Activity: John Mahlstedt tells his students how awesome he is on the first day of school by sharing facts/pictures about himself. It’s a way for students to learn that you’re not only a teacher, but a human too, and a fun one. I usually have students try the matching activity below, but normally I simply share the answers at the end of class. This year, I’m going to enhance this activity with John’s suggestion of making a slideshow with pictures to show my students rather than just telling them about me.

Favorite Lunchtime Adventure: During lunch one day, a group of us found Gameday Popcorn on main street and had a great time testing all the flavors.

Favorite Morning Session: Writing Real World Lessons with Mathalicious. Karim and Matt led a fantastic session on the creation process of Mathalicious lessons: “The narrative determines the standards, not vice-versa.” This was so interesting to me because I feel that most of the time, when my colleagues and I are discussing an upcoming topic/unit, we are doing the vice-versa. Ex. Tomorrow we have to teach solving systems of equations by elimination… how should we do this? Mathalicious lessons are conversations about a really interesting topic that needs math to answer the question. That’s why the lessons are so authentic and engaging. Our group spent time proposing thought-provoking questions, discussing their authenticity, and attempting to write a sample lesson out of our ideas. The experience was extremely rewarding and although it’s time consuming, I hope to bring this practice back to my own planning time.

Favorite Cupcake Locale: Smallcakes. Delicious.

Favorite Formative Assessment Explanation: John Scammell shared more than 60 formative assessment strategies that you can easily implement in your classroom. He kindly shared all of them here, but it’s how he described formative assessment that actually stuck with me the most. John said that formative assessment must be risk free. If you put a grade on it, or enter it into an online grading system, it’s no longer risk free to a student or parent. Formative assessment should be all about providing feedback. One easy suggestion is to use a highlighter to mark the last spot a student’s work was right. Another is to mark a problem with a + (better than previous work), – (worse than previous work), or = (equal to previous work) sign. And my favorite method he shared, was to actually classify a student’s error. Many students get frustrated when something is marked wrong, and they immediately think they don’t understand anything. It’s important to differentiate between whether an error is a conceptual misunderstanding or calculation mistake.

Favorite Ice Breaker: Bob Lochel discussed Meaningful Adjacencies as related to the 9/11 Memorial in NY and how a similar connection activity with tv shows can be used in your classroom. He provides a very thorough explanation on his blog post.

Favorite Phone Holder: Glenn Waddell taught us an ingenious way to use a smartphone as a video camera in your classroom. 1) Make a vertical slit in the bottom of a paper coffee cup 2) Insert smartphone 3) Record

Favorite Dan Meyer Quote: “I want to profit off what you know.” – Dan Meyer
In Dan’s keynote address, he shared tons of data on tweeting and blogging math teachers. He’s interested because he knows that great ideas are being shared, but no one knows about them. He wants to know about them. And so do I. When you post/tweet your great ideas, my students get to benefit from them. It’s okay to be selfish here, because the more students that benefit, the better it is.

Favorite Dan Meyer Slide: Dan shared a graph comparing a blogger’s velocity (posts per week) to number of subscribers. He said he’s interested in the individuals in quadrant 2, those who post infrequently, but have many readers. After examining his data, it appears that my blog falls in quadrant 2. I post infrequently because I’m afraid and therefore selective. Afraid that what I’m offering won’t be as good as what other people are offering. So I’m choosy. I like to post activities after I’ve done them so I know if they worked or not, and so I can edit them before posting. I try to include any part of the activity that is downloadable, so you can take it and use it tomorrow. I post when I want more than the 100 students on my roster to benefit from something fun. Maybe this is why some of you are following my blog, if you have other insights, please let me know. But in the meantime, thank you for reading!

Favorite Desmos Update: In his keynote, Eli Luberoff assured us that Desmos would be free forever. This is incredible news. Desmos has created API partnerships and has financial security to ensure that we will never have to pay to use this online graphing calculator. All teachers and students can benefit from this resource, so if you haven’t played with it yet, stop reading and go to Desmos now. Also, be sure to check out this new digital math lesson from Dan Meyer, Christopher Danielson, and Desmos: Central Park (and the other four lessons on Teacher Desmos).

Favorite Roommate: Rachel and I bonded over being teachers at the high schools we went to, Algebra 1, True Detective, Richard Linklater films, quiet time, beer choices, traveling and so much more. Check out her blog here and let’s convince her to post more this year.

Favorite App: Pam Wilson introduced TMC to Plickers and our classrooms will never be the same. Each student responds to a multiple choice question by holding up a unique bar code. The teacher uses a smartphone to scan the room and the responses are graphed/recorded automatically. I see myself using this as a quick formative assessment at the end of class.

Source: @approx_normal

Source: @approx_normal

Favorite BBQ: Elmer’s with this fun crew. Thank you Jason for treating us!

Favorite 3D Printing Resources: John Stevens and I talked about using 3D printers in the math classroom. We are going to have several 3D printers at my school next year and I want to do something awesome with them. If you have any advice, please share with John and me!

Favorite Book Recommendation – Justin Lanier plugged the books How Children Learn and How Children Fail by John Holt. Justin’s takeaways: 1) Look Around 2) Teach Crazy 3) Trust Children.

I know there’s a lot of TMC awesome-ness that has been left out of this post, but I could never write about everything that I learned, because it would take forever. I owe a huge shout-out to all the TMC14 organizers for making this happen and providing us with this incredible experience. Thank you to everyone I met, and I hope to see you all again next year 🙂

Edcamp Boston 2014

Yesterday I attended my second Edcamp Boston unconference and it was just as great as the first! This year, a supervisor from my district joined me, and I really enjoyed having someone there to chat with about how the sessions we attended could impact our school. It was a day of information overload and I will be going through my notes carefully to unpack the goods.

Session 1: “Model Your Classroom as a Startup” led by Jeremy Angoff – @MyTakeOnIt
We took collaborative notes during the session and they can be found here. Of all the qualities of progressive classrooms we listed, my favorites were student voice and collaboration. We must give students options when possible, and provide them with explicit opportunities to collaborate with peers on tasks. My biggest takeaway from the session was individual reflection of what we’re already doing in the classroom at my school. For our interdisciplinary STEM projects, we give students a budget, and another team has students look for investors if they run out of money. We also invite community/business members to our student exhibitions so they can share ideas and receive feedback from individuals practicing in the field. An interesting TED talk shared in the session is “Start with Why” by Simon Sinek. Check it out.

Session 2: “My Teachers are Tech Disabled (A HS student perspective)” led by a HS student and moderated by @karenjan
A student shared with the crowd how using an iPad in the classroom helps him overcome several disabilities, while discussing the difficulties he has had with his school over this use of technology. Three of the main tools he uses are:

Session 3: “Building grit and resiliency; Social emotional learning; beyond bandaids” led by Steve Guditus (@sguditus) and Tracy Sockalosky (@tsocko)
I walked in late to this great conversation about how we can build grit and resiliency in our students. A few notes of mine, followed by the board at the end of the session:

  • We need to shift the focus back to the quality of a student’s work and the process they used rather than saying “What grade did you get?”
  • We need to model making mistakes and perseverance for our kids
  • The standards based grading chat on Wednesday nights has changed to standards based LEARNING chat
  • “If a question can be answered on google, it’s not a good question.”
  • At Malden High School (shared by @abbeydick), each month there is a “Grit” Lunch where teachers nominate students who are kicking butt and they get to eat with

Grit Pic

Session 4: “Google Docs in the Elementary Classroom” led by Rayna Freedman (@rlfreedm)
Even though I teach high school, I was hoping to learn a few tidbits that would be useful as our school begins to implement a 1:1 program and gives all students Google accounts. Here are some takeaways:

  • Use a google form for students to submit assignments. This makes the collection process fast and stores all the assignment links in one spreadsheet for easy access
  • Use Google Gooru for training resources – the staff at my school is going to find this extremely helpful!
  • Use QR codes and the Google URL code shortener to make it easier for students to access documents quickly
  • Goobric allows you to add a rubric to Google Drive resources and then send it directly to students for instant feedback!

Session 5: “Passion Beyond the Insanity” led by Steve Guditus (@sguditus) and Tracy Sockalosky (@tsocko)
With partners and then as a whole group, we discussed “What is passion? What are you passionate about? How can we bring passion to our schools and students?” See notes here, or just look at this awesome compilation by Steve:
Passion Pic

The session itself was my favorite of the day because I love when you can just feel the energy in a room, and everyone in this room was radiating passion.

Session 6: “Math Teachers Unite!” led by Me and Rik Rowe (@WHSRowe)
Going into Edcamp, I had no intention of leading a session, but Rik convinced me to throw a session onto the board, and I’m so glad I did. About 12 teachers came out to the last session to talk math. Session notes here. We talked about Desmos, Estimation 180, Dan Meyer’s Three Act Tasks, and Would You Rather. I love sharing these awesome resources with other teachers who haven’t come across them yet. Unfortunately the projector wasn’t working in the room we were in, so we couldn’t play around with them together. We talked about the PARCC pilot tests that some of our students have taken, and how challenging the implementation has been so far.

I brought up the Standards for Mathematical Practice and how I know I need to implement them more explicitly. We can have students write more in math class if they write about how they used the standards for a particular task (this also helps teachers in MA who are taking the RETELL course for English Language Learners). It was really nice to chat with other math teachers in the state and share what we’re doing in our classrooms.

My favorite idea from the session was “Tic-Tac-Toe” from Rik. Create a 9 box grid and input anything you want – equations, graphs, tables, stories. Then, have students connect a row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally, by connecting the information in the boxes. They have to defend their choices and explain how the topics in each box are related.

Smackdown! Session:
Individuals jumped up to share online resources in one minute or less. I talked about Desmos again because everyone needs to know about it! Full list of apps shared here. The one I am downloading ASAP is “OneTab” It’s a Google Chrome extension that lets you turn all open browser tabs into: ONE tab. It save space, and you can actually email a set of tabs to share with someone else. Super cool and I can’t believe I’ve never heard of this before.

Overall, it was a great time and I felt so inspired listening to such passionate educators talk all day. Thank you to all the Edcamp Boston Organizers! @dancallahan @tsocko @KarenJan @ldelia @sguditus @lizbdavis

MTBoS Professional Development

Steph Reilly generously shared the letter she sent to her principal regarding Twitter Math Camp and I liked it so much I knew I had to send one to my admin team too. I made some VERY minor changes and emailed this one. The biggest change I made was in the final paragraph, where I tell them I’m emailing because I want to run a PD session for all 6-12 math teachers in my district (approximately 30 teachers).

I’m very luck to work in an extremely supportive and collaborative environment, but I do wish more of my colleagues were involved in the Math Twitter BlogoSphere (MTBoS). A few of them follow some blogs and we occasionally pass around links, but for the most part, I know most of them aren’t aware of all the awesomeness this community has to offer. Therefore, I was psyched when my district’s Instructional Leadership Director and STEM Director agreed to meet with me to hear a recap of TMC 13 and discuss running a PD session. We had a great 1.5 hour conversation regarding everything I have learned from the MTBoS and the best ways to get more teachers involved. The end result: The loved it! They really loved it! I’ll be running a 2 hour session on an early release day in November. What follows below is the general outline for the session as of right now, obviously I’m hoping for some feedback to make this the best session it can possible be!


I’m going to make a brief online survey for participants to take prior to the actual PD session. I want/need to know who else reads blogs, writes blogs, tweets, and/or knows about some of these websites. It will not be anonymous, I want to be able to address these teachers and ask them to share their experiences.

Also, in the blurb for this session that teachers will read in the master PD grid sent by admin, I’m going to label this as TECH FRIENDLY. Participants will be encouraged to bring smart phones/laptops so they can explore during the presentation, but we’ll also be in the school library so they can hop on computers during play time.

Intro (5-10 minutes)
A very brief explanation of how I got started in the MTBoS and my experiences at TMC13. I’ll provide participants with a list of a few blogs to read and individuals to follow on Twitter to get started.

MTBoS Highlights (approx 5 minutes each)
The following bullets are all websites or ideas that I think everyone needs to know about it. I consider them to be “Things that will change your teacher life dramatically” and “Things that you can implement tomorrow.” I’ll project the websites and walk everyone through the basics. Some I have used, some I have not, but want to. I know there are so many more, but we do have a limited time. Please let me know though if you think I’m missing a biggie.

Time to Play and Debrief (30-40 minutes)
After running through everything above, I think it’s important to give participants time to explore these sites on their own, but in a guided format. I will encourage them to choose at least two sites to investigate and to think about how they could start using them in their classroom. Hopefully we’ll have some time to come back together and share the things we are most excited about.

Conclusion: My Favorites (3-5 minutes each)
The MTBoS is all about sharing. I know that my colleagues have so much they could teach me, so I’m very eager to see what they might present. I’ll start with a few TMC ideas, such as Jenn’s 4 to 1, The Teaching Channel’s My Favorite No, and Nicole’s Orangamallows. I’ll also line up a few presenters ahead of time by directly asking some of my colleagues to think of something to share. My hope is that everyone gets a sense of what it’s like to be a part of this community, always sharing, always passionate, always there for each other.

So, that’s my plan so far. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

#TMC13 – My Favorite

I learned about Twitter Math Camp (TMC) last summer when Sam and everyone else fortunate enough to attend #TMC12 wrote their recaps and started the new blogger initiation. I decided at that moment, that I would do absolutely anything to make sure I could attend this summer. And it was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

#TMC13 was an incredible experience, and quite frankly, difficult to put into words. It felt like freshmen year of college, but better. I didn’t know anyone IRL before attending and it didn’t matter. We talked a lot about math, about teaching, about teaching math, and about a lot of stuff that had absolutely nothing to do with any of those. One of the main reasons an individual would decide to attend TMC is to actually meet and make connections with tweeps they have been chatting with online. It’s not just about what you learn in the four days of camp, it’s the knowledge that when you go home, the conversations/sharing/friendships, are going to continue.

It would be impossible for me to share everything I learned over the past four days, but it seems easiest for me to share my new knowledge in terms of “My Favorites.” So here goes, some things I learned and/or experienced at math camp (in no particular order):

Favorite Trivia Team: We definitely didn’t win. We almost left before the final round. Then we went 10 for 10 in the audio round. And we had a blast. Yeah Team Pi! Max, Wendy, Lisa, Anthony
Trivia Team

Favorite Review Activity: Jenn’s “4 to 1” lesson. Jenn uses large whiteboards that are partitioned into the sections below. Project four problems on the board that each have a numerical answer. Problems can be differentiated for students by assigning each student a number to complete, and varying the levels of questions asked. Each student works on their own problem in their own corner. Then, all answers are added together and the total is recorded in the middle square. The teacher only checks the middle number, and if it’s wrong, all students have to check each other’s work to find the mistake.
4 to 1

Favorite Activity to Implement Tomorrow (or in September): Datelines by Mathalicious. Mathalicious provides fun, relevant, teacher-friendly, CCSS-aligned lessons that can be implemented in the classroom immediately. This particular lesson investigates the standard dating creepiness rule using systems of linear inequalities. The Mathalicious crew were campers themselves and also ran excellent sessions on their lesson writing process. I wish I had more time to plan they way they do, but feel so thankful that I am able use their incredible lessons.

Favorite Philly Food Truck: Insomnia Cookies

Favorite Breakfast Location: Cosi. This is where I discovered Squagels. Regular bagels will never be the same.

Favorite Interpretation of Student Questions: David Wees presented on the three types of questions students ask in the classroom 1) Stop Thinking Qs – Ss just want to be done and know if they’re right or not. 2) Proximity Qs – Ss ask question just because the teacher is close to them. 3) Start Thinking Qs – When Ss are curious and want to know more. David suggests that we stop answering the first two types and only answer the third.

Favorite Multiple Choice Assessment Layout: Kate provided us with many changes that can be made to assessments to make them more accessible to special education and struggling students. One recommendation is to provide a designated work space on multiple choice questions so that students remember they need to do work even though it’s multiple choice. I think this would be beneficial to ALL students.
Mult Choice Layout

Favorite Activity to Replace a Current Activity: Peg’s tissue paper folding activity to model exponential growth and decay. Last year I had students cut a piece of paper in half, layer the sheets, cut in half again, repeat repeat repeat. Peg has her students take a sheet of tissue paper and keep folding it. Her method is way better as the students don’t have to deal with scissors and will eventually be holding 1024 layers in their hand. She has them calculate area which is something I didn’t do.
Tissue Folding

Favorite Desmos Tool in the Works: Eli and his team at Desmos are developing an animation option for the slider tool. We got a sneak peek and there was audible swooning amongst the audience. Desmos has also reached #1 in google search options for graphing calculators. Everything about his presentation is a “My Favorite” because the site is just so awesome, so check it out if you haven’t already. It’s something we can all start using immediately.
Desmos is #1

Favorite Karaoke Performance: It’s a tie between Nathan’s Bad Romance and Michael’s 99 Problems

Favorite CCSS Tool: Shmoop. They’ve taken the standards, translated them into clear, understandable language, and provided examples. You can’t get any better than this.

Favorite Session That Is Making Me Analyze My Teaching: Dan Goldner ran an eye-opening presentation on “Problem-Based Class Designs.” We analyzed the decisions being made in six problem-based classroom structures and determined what are the values expressed by these choices. We didn’t have time to analyze our own classrooms, but it’s something that I know everyone in the room will be doing when they have time. Even if you aren’t running a problem-based classroom, you should constantly be thinking about every decision you make, as it directly reflects who you are as a teacher. I left the room wanting to make sure that the way I act accurately reflects what I value.

Favorite Piano Bar Performance: Another tie! This one between “Baby Got Back” and “Tweet Me, Maybe”
Piano BarFavorite Website I Didn’t Know About But Should Have: Math Munch. Each week they find and post great mathematics resources on the internet. The site is free, fun, and getting easier to use as the team is continuously trying to make it more teacher-friendly.

Favorite Quotes: These are things I heard during sessions that resonated with me/amused me so much I tweeted them out, or favorited when others tweeted them.

  • “Stop fixing everything. Shut up and just listen to your students.” – @sophgermain
  • “You might not know something, but you can always notice something” – @maxmathforum
  • “Everybody wants a shot at glory!” – @johnberray
  • “We’re going to talk about something that’s on all our minds… dating” – @karimkai
  • “He didn’t steal your idea, you both had the same one because it’s so important” – @maxmathforum
  • “I never thought I’d hear so many nerdgasms in the room.” – lmhenry9
  • “Sometimes I’m authentically unhelpful, because I don’t really know the answer.” – @jaz_math

Books I Now Have To Read:

  • How to Sharpen Pencils – David Rees (Thanks, @johnberray)
  • 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions – Margaret Smith and Mary Stein (Thanks, @trianglemancsd)
  • The Choice in Teaching and Education – The Arbinger Institute (Thanks, @misterdittmer)

Websites I Have To Check Out:

Math Munch
Google Ngrams
Math Forum Problems of the Week
I Wear Your Shirt

I attended a final flex session where planning for #TMC14 had begun. We talked a lot about cost, attendance numbers, and keeping TMC un-commercialized. I know there are so many decisions to be made in the next few months, but the most important one has already been made in my mind…. nothing is going to keep me from attending #TMC14. Nothing.

Thank you to the incredibly dedicated team of TMC planners and all my tweeps for four days that I’ll never forget! ❤


Summer To Do List


Our school year ended on Monday and everyone I bump into keeps asking me what I’m going to do all summer. A lot actually! I’ll definitely be enjoying some days at the beach, nights at the drive in, vacations to DisneyWorld, New Jersey, and Bermuda, but there will also be a lot of schoolwork happening…

Professional Development 

  • Data Coach Training – About 40 administrators and educators from my district elected to take part in this training sponsored by Research for Better Teaching (RBT) to learn how to “Unleash the Power of Collaborative Inquiry.” We will become data coaches and lead data teams this coming school year.
  • Twitter Math Camp ’13 – Woot woot!
  • Laying the Foundation Pre-Ap Training – I’ll be attending the Year 3 HS Math Training sponsored by the National Math and Science Initiative.
  • How to Learn Math – An online course from Stanford Math Ed Professor Jo Boaler

Books to Read

  • Teach Like A Pirate by Dave Burgess
  • Embedded Formative Assessment by Dylan William
  • Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager

Curriculum to Work On

  • STEM Stuff – My team is meeting for a few days to debrief the past year, set up new norms, and most importantly, decide what we liked about the projects we did and what we want to change. The majority of our time will be spent editing project guidelines/rubrics and making new ones.
  • Algebra 1 – I’m feeling pretty good about Algebra 1 since I’m teaching it for the 3rd year in a row; however, I’ve signed up for this morning session at TMC13 and know I’ll come back with lots of new ideas to work on! I’m also getting together with a group of teachers from my school in August to create common assessments for each of the eight Algebra 1 units we have.
  • Algebra 2 – I’m teaching two college prep sections next year, and haven’t taught it for two years. I need to spend some time organizing those materials to figure out what can be used again and what needs to be changed.

Other Stuff to Work On

  • Classroom Posters – I want to print some pretty, inspirational signs to add color and  pizzazz to my room. The only ones I’m keeping from this past year are: 1) Boston University Banner 2) Excellence Surfer Poster 3) Favorite Quote from Howard Thurman



  • Daily Warm Ups – My students do a warm up at the beginning of every class, and I’ve been awful at keeping track of them over the past three years. Some are in word docs, some powerpoint, some I make up 30 seconds before class starts and scribble on the white board. I want to put them all in one place.
  • Blogging – I have a lot of posts on my “To Write” list, and this will be forever expanding as I attend the aforementioned PD sessions and read the aforementioned books.

Edcamp Boston 2013

I have followed some of the Edcamp hash tags on twitter and read a few reviews online, so I was very excited to attend my first Edcamp in Boston yesterday. It definitely lived up to the high expectations I had built up for the day. Here is my recap of Edcamp Boston, and it’s pretty long because I didn’t want to leave anything out!

Arrival and Opening:
Walking into the conference on the 4th floor of the Microsoft building I knew I was in for a great day immediately. There was an array of breakfast foods and a large groups of educators milling around “The Schedule.” For those not familiar with how Edcamps work, the schedule starts out as an empty grid, and then educators fill it in when they arrive and start chatting with those around them. The atmosphere was loud and lively as ed chats were already beginning. At first I was surprised to see a bunch of kids with name tags walking around, until I remembered that Edcamp is open to everyone! It turned out that a group of 5th graders was there to present about their school’s 1:1 ipad initiative, but they spent the entire day participating in sessions. So. Cool. Here is the schedule right before we were ready to begin:
Edcamp Boston ScheduleOne of Edcamp Boston’s lead organizers, Dan Callahan, introduced the Star Wars theme and laid down the rules for the day. My favorite: Vote with Your Feet. If a session just isn’t working for you, get up and go somewhere else. At Edcamp, it’s not rude to walk in and out of sessions, rather encouraged. Imagine how different our school PD days would be if this were the case.

Session 1: “Sharing strategies to get kids globally connected” led by Sara Krakauer, @globetwisting. Sara shared some of her experiences traveling abroad and how she engaged her students globally. She believes in 5 levels of global connections:

Level 1: Clicking – Get them online
Level 2: Commenting – Get them talking
Level 3: Conversing – Get them in dialogue
Level 4: Creating – Get them making
Level 5: Connecting – Get them taking the work offline and beyond the classroom

We divided into groups to discuss the levels in more detail, and then regrouped to share our thoughts. A few sites to help share global resources: iEarn, ePals, schoology,, Mystery Skype, Skype an Author. English teachers should definitely check out Global Read Aloud and Skype an Author!

I attended this session hoping to discuss initiatives schools were taking to create “Going Global” certificates for their students to complete. So with about 15 minutes, I walked out. Confession: Even with the walk out rule in place, I felt so bad/guilty.

Session 2: “Getting Faculty to Innovate” led by @edtech2innovate
This session was packed! @edtech2innovate discussed ways she has tried to get her faculty on board with using new technologies: “When you reach every educator, you reach every student.” She designed customized poker chips for her district, and awarded them to educators as they participated in PD sessions and then actually implemented the ideas in their classrooms. Poker chips had a $1:2 ratio and could be used to purchase new technology from the district (Ex. This year they have awarded two ipad minis)

Other participants ideas:
-Create a “Techie Group” that meets at lunch to discuss technology use in the classroom
-Have an “Appy” Hour with colleagues. Yes, they meet at a bar, but actually discuss new technologies and implementation. Awesomeness.
-@shevtech tweeted me the idea to host “Brekkie with a Techie”
-Someone, (if you know who, please comment!) shared her district’s “21 Modules – 21 Minutes”. Each module takes 21 minutes to learn and can be done on your own or with a group. Ex. How to have a healthy computer, blogs, wikis, websites, video, audio, how to use an interactive whiteboard

General Theme: Must have food, must start out optional, must be brief

I was loving these ideas, but #badassteacher was popping up everywhere on #edcampbos and I just had to check out that session (led by Laura Thomas, @CriticalSkills1). I walked into a discussion about taking back the teacher’s lounge from the curmudgeon educators. Ideas included getting there early, claiming space, and then only speaking in positives. We talked about turning our schools into a culture where you “never say things about a student that you wouldn’t say it in front of them.” That we should have unconditional positive regard for all our students.

Laura mentioned the Circle of Concern and Influence, the middle of the venn diagram is the work we do, and the better we are at balancing the two, the more #badass we will be. I cannot remember the context, but someone shared that F.A.I.L. = First Attempt in Learning. No idea how I’ve never heard that before, but as it quickly showed up all over the twittersphere, I clearly wasn’t alone.

Session 3 – Mobile and Formative Assessment led by @ShawnCRubin

Somehow I’d also never heard about Bitly, which is used to shorten URLs. Again, how did I not know about this? Our discussion started around the question: How do you keep up with all the data and make it useful?

Discussion Points:

Dylan William – black box PDF (need to learn more about this)
-Two piles – got it vs. doesn’t have it
-Red, green, yellow cup on desk… change cup based on last night’s homework (web-based clicker tool)
Educreations – blank page to write/draw on, can have students create their own screengraph
Explain Everything
-Three Ring
And if you only have time to check out one of these sites, it should by Metryx. I need more time to explore, but this could be teacher-life-changing. It’s an app that lets you track, analyze, and differentiate your students. It’s getting updated with CCSS so you’ll be able choose a standard and then input your data. You can then quickly make groups based on how students performed on their formative assessment. It’s free, seriously, check it out.

Lunch Session:
I brought my lunch to the STEM20: Connecting Math and Science to the Real World session. The presenter was showing us some of the beta testing for his new site: STEM20. It’s not live yet but you can sign up to be a part of the test group. It’s going to be a free resource for mainly middle school science teacher to show real world demonstrations in their classrooms.

Session 4: Math MeetUp
We had an awesome math teacher meeting where we basically discussed anything that anyone wanted to about math education. We typed notes in a google doc that you can access here. The majority of our discussion centered around the mathtwitterblogosphere and how everyone who didn’t know about it needed to get on it, STAT.

Session 5:
Nothing on the schedule really jumped out at me for Session 5, but I ended up selecting “Defining the vision of what students should know today.” I walked in a few minutes late and felt like I couldn’t get caught up in the conversation. By this point, I felt like a pro at jumping between sessions and the loud noises from next door convinced me to skip over to “How do we balance creativity and standards?” I walked in right as Steve Guditus, @sguditus, was putting everyone into an inner/outer circle. The goal: introduce yourself to your partner and discuss: Can we teach creativity?

After meeting three people, we returned to a whole group discussion to share. By this point, my laptop had died and I was jotting notes into my iphone. They are pretty jumbled, and as you can see by this whiteboard, we discussed a lot of interesting topics:
Creativity vs. StandardsThe majority of us felt that we can teach creativity, but that we need to provide time and opportunities to do this with our students. We face challenges because 1) Teachers want to be in control and 2) Students don’t want to be wrong. As educators we need to be willing to try new ideas and create environments where creativity is encouraged.

Smackdown! Session:
Anyone that wanted to share was given two minutes to plug into the projector and share an idea/website/app they think is awesome. It was fun and inspiring to hear so many great ideas so quickly. Thankfully, @ldelia recorded all the ideas so we could just watch and listen.

Overview: I know I’ve used the word awesome a lot in this post, but it truly was the best PD I’ve ever experienced. I could go on and on, but this post is long enough already. The biggest difference for me was the encouragement to be connected/tweeting throughout the conference. Everyone was using a device, allowing us to check out new resources in the moment and ask immediate questions regarding them.

One day of Edcamp provides motivation for the 7 weeks of school remaining.