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!

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Day in the Life of Ms. Kohn Take 3

For Week 1 of the Exploring MTBoS blogging initiative I decided to document one day of my life. Although I’m just posting about it right now, this day occurred last Thursday (1/14/16).

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5:11 am Alarm goes off. Hit snooze.

5:20 am More snoozing.

5:29 am Get up and get ready. Orange juice is my morning power beverage. Check email/facebook/twitter while eating my cereal. Forgot to pick out an outfit the night before so I waste a good ten minutes staring at my closet. No food in fridge for lunch, that means I’m buying today.

6:20 am Put out trash and leave for work.

6:28 am Arrive at school. Check mailbox and help a substitute teacher find her way.

6:32 am Arrive in classroom. I am amped up for today! We are doing one of my favorite lessons and following it up with a Desmos Activity Builder lesson that I can’t wait to try. I make some last minute edits to the activity, and queue up all the browser tabs I’m going to need for the day.

6:50 am Students start entering the building and my classroom. I immediately get bombarded with demands to know how many jelly beans are in the container. I refuse to tell them.
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They know the winner is going to be announced today, but not until 7:25 am I say. Last minute guesses are welcome. Students hang out in homeroom, play board games, and experiment with my Eno board which is now up and running.

7:20 am Homeroom officially begins. Take attendance. Two students absent. They’re going to be sorry they miss today’s lesson.

7:25 am The bell rings to go to first period, and without speaking, I simply go up to the white board and write down the correct number of jelly beans: 1472. Students from the other two homerooms next door come in to see the answer. There is yelling; they are excited! They still don’t know why we are playing guessing games.

7:29 am This is the 1st of 5 times I am going to do this lesson today. I teach five sections of STEM Honors Algebra 1 to 9th graders. It will get better as the day goes on, as I observe and adapt to how my early students respond to it. Today is the first day of our unit on Absolute Value Functions. The beginning of the lesson can be found here, minus the project part (they’ll get this later). After we dissect the jelly bean situation, I show them this Estimation 180 problem, and we guess again. I take predictions for the shape of the graph and this time they think they have it all figured it out. The shape will be a V, but skinnier! No, wider! No, a check mark! Because there are fewer under-guessing options! We are on to something:
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At this point, they are ready to explore and play around in Desmos on their own/with a partner. This was my first attempt at duplicating someone else’s Activity Builder and using it in my room. Overall, I was pleased with how it went, but would definitely make adjustments for the future. Some students finished early. I wish there were more challenges, such as what happens when you throw in negative signs. I tried to throw this question in as the day went on, but it didn’t work because I had already made a class code. I also wish I had a question about the absolute value vertex form equation with h and k. So that students could be more specific when they described how the function transforms. Here are some of their descriptions:

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We ran out of time at the end of class to debrief (my fault), and we don’t have class again until Wednesday (1/20), so to be continued!

8:17 am Period A ends. 4 minutes passing time. Run to bathroom. Head to STEM colleague’s room for our common planning period. Our big Winter STEM Expo is tomorrow, so we are doing last minute prep work. Edit presentation rubrics and chat with 10th grade team about last minute details.

9:12 am Period C begins. Algebra 1 take 2.

10:05 am Period D begins. Algebra 1 take 3. Four students actually leap out of their seats when the number of sweethearts in revealed.

10:53 am Lunch! Rush to teacher’s cafeteria and order my turkey wrap. Ask for cookies too. Get a slight look of disapproval when I reject the offers for pickles, apples or carrots as an additional side. No, just cookies please. I already have lettuce and tomato in my wrap. Eat lunch with math colleagues. Discuss our losing the powerball last night.

11:22 am Period E begins. Algebra 1 take 4. By this time of the day, we have some cheaters. Students from earlier have given away the answer, but I weasle out some confessions and we move on with the activity.

12:21 pm Period F begins. Algebra 1 take 5.

1:08 pm Period G begins. My prep. Finally. It’s been a great day but I’m exhausted. Today’s lesson was a high energy one. I always try to show the same enthusiasm with my last class as the first, but sometimes it can be difficult. Check personal email. Finish editing STEM rubrics. Take care of emails. Chat with STEM Director.

1:55 pm School day ends. Go to advisor meeting about upcoming school-wide dance. Return to classroom. Approximately 40 students have elected to stay after school to make trifold posters and last-minute changes to their STEM projects. My coworker has been supervising all of them while I was at the meeting. Spend afternoon giving advice on projects and printing, printing, printing for them.

3:55 pm Write passes for the late bus and start kicking kids out. They are nervous but ready for tomorrow. Here’s a video released after the Expo!

4:15 pm Say good-bye to final students. Clean classroom.

4:30 pm Pack up and head out. Run errands. Sit on couch. Breathe. Check email/facebook/twitter. Make dinner. Have plenty of time to write this blog post… but don’t do it. Take the night off. Watch an episode of the Blacklist (okay, okay, three episodes).

10:00 pm Bedtime.

If you want to read about other past days, check out these posts:
Take 1 – November 15th, 2012
Take 2 – November 18th, 2013

NCTM Regionals Nashville – My Favorite

After a whirlwind trip to Nashville attending the NCTM Regional Conference, I was able to check two items off my bucket list: 1) Go to Nashville 2) Present at an NCTM Conference. I had a great time presenting on strategies for teaching English Language Learners in math class, and will be posting more about that later. However, I want to first share my favorite moments and takeaways from the rest of the conference.

Favorite Airport Art: The Dancing Sound Wave
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Favorite Robert Kaplinsky Quote:
It’s actually impossible to pick just one. I’ve been following Robert’s work for years, and I was very excited to finally get a chance to see him in action. Robert’s session was “Motivating Our Students with Real-World Problem-Based Lessons” and we worked our way through the famous In-N-Out Burger problem. I did this activity with my students a few weeks ago, and they are still talking about it. It was so rewarding to see Robert lead us through the activity, and explain all aspects of the lesson. He stressed that you need to start with application (the burger), and then marry the context with the math content. My favorite quotes:

  • “Convince me that you’re right or convince me that I’m wrong.” – Math Practice 3
  • “You should be spending most of your time figuring out how to implement your lessons rather than what the lesson is going to be.” – So true. Robert stressed the need to anticipate what the students are going to do and think so that you are ready to react and respond.
  • “My goal in life is to be the least helpful teacher ever.” – This is something I know I need to work on. Students need to struggle, and I need to let them. It’s a necessary reminder to focus on the hints we can give our students (because we’ve planned for the lesson implementation) that are just enough to keep students going, but not enough to deny them of how they’ll feel after successfully solving a tough problem.

Favorite Teacher Move:
Robert demonstrated how he gives enough wait time after asking a question. He physically counts down five seconds by putting his hand in the air and then bending one finger down at a time. Wait time is so important; this move is easy to implement and it makes you accountable for all five seconds.

Favorite Meal: Brunch at The Pancake Pantry

Several people, (and Taylor Swift!), highly encouraged me to visit the Pancake Pantry. I was told I would need to wait in line, but that it would be worth it. I waited for one hour, and then treated myself to Banana Nut Muffin and Caribbean pancakes. Very worth it.

Favorite Card Sort:
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Kimberley Williams presented a session titled, “Are We There Yet? Increasing Rigor in the Math Classroom.” She discussed Webb’s Depth of Knowledge (DOK) and explained how you could increase the rigor of a task depending on the type of question you ask, using the DOK chart. We looked at several examples of how one topic could be portrayed at each level:
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But the most helpful part to me, was when each group was handed a set of cards and asked to sort them among the different levels. It can be difficult to differentiate between them, so it was helpful to discuss with my table. I could see this activity being done with staff members at school to help everyone figure out the levels.

Here is the card sort:

Favorite Non-Session Activity:
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I loved volunteering at the Math Twitter Blog-o-sphere booth and helping newbies learn about all the awesomeness the MTBoS has to offer. Check out the Exploring MTBoS website here!

Favorite Task Progression:
Brian Shay ran an excellent session titled, “How to be a Super Model-ing Teacher.” He led the crowd through this Illustrative Mathematics Task:

The session reminded me to check out several great sites for modeling tasks that I don’t often check: Illustrative Mathematics, Mathematics Vision Project, and NRICH.

Favorite HonkyTonk:
Line Dancing at the Wild Horse and practicing the Texas A&M Yell Chant with some fellow MTBoS-ers!

Favorite Estimation Activity:
How old is Athena, the goddess of wisdom? How old is Nike, the goddess of victory, perched in Athena’s right hand?


Found at the Parthenon

Favorite Session: Kate Nowak’s “Plan a Killer Lesson Today”
Kate started off the session by asking everyone to think of a topic we dread, and I immediately thought of Radicals. Simplifying them, adding them, everything. I dread it. And she said her goal was to find ways to adapt lessons we already have, so that we’re not throwing out all our “standard” lessons and just starting over. Kate’s suggestion is to invert the lesson: You do, Y’all do, We do.

Her strategies for inversion:
-Ask about a pre-requisites
-Ask the question backwards first
-Give sample items with the question
-Engage in MP8

I have seen and used some of Kate’s work before, but I’ve never really thought of the lessons as strategies that I could use in my classroom… until now. I really needed to hear her thought process and think about how this could work in my classroom. I’m going to re-write my lessons on radicals so that I start by asking the question backwards first. I am going to give students a set of radical statements that are true, and ask students to see if they can fill in some blanks to create more true statements. Stay tuned for a future blog write-up.

Favorite Grand Ole Opry at the Ryman Singer:
Again, impossible to pick just one. I was lucky enough to attend on a night when five (5!) Hall of Famers were performing, and they were honoring Jean Shepard for her 60th anniversary as a member. The show was simply magical.
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Favorite Guideline for Increasing Task Rigor:
During their session on the “Impact of Task Design on Students’ Attitudes about Mathematics”, Ziv Feldman and Jeneva Moseley recommended several guidelines for increasing task rigor:
-Ask students to provide multiple solution strategies
-Ask students to provide mathematical justifications
-Ask students to create their own examples and non-examples

Although I use these strategies often, it was how they asked students to provide another strategy that really stood out to me. See part c below:
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I love how simple the phrasing is, yet it creates the need for a second method.

Favorite Design Principle to Develop a Problem Based Learning Classroom:
Geoff Krall shared five design principles for developing a problem based learning classroom, and it was the 5th one that really got me: “Don’t go it alone.” He said partner up, select 2-3 tasks that will produce rich student thinking artifacts, implement, and debrief. You need to have an “accountability buddy.” So rarely do we actually have time to debrief a lesson on our own, let alone do it with a colleague. It was another useful reminder to focus on lesson implementation, and the value of teamwork.

Thanks to NCTM and all the presenters for a great conference that completely reinvigorated me as we head into the winter season!

#TMC15 – My Favorite

Although I just returned “home” from a California adventure that included visits to Santa Cruz, Big Sur, Anaheim, Los Angeles and Claremont… I actually felt like I was home while attending this year’s Twitter Math Camp (TMC). It has become my must-attend event of the summer, and I plan the rest of my break around it. Doing math and talking about math with such passionate and inspiring educators propels me into the new school year on high speed. Next year’s camp will be held at Augsburg College in Minneapolis from July 16-19, 2016 and you can bet I’ll do anything in my power to attend.

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It always take a bit of time to wind down from TMC; it’s information overload in the best way possible. But it’s unreasonable to think that I will return to my classroom in 5 weeks and implement everything I learned. These are my largest takeaways from TMC, and “my favorite” memories/quotes/highlights, that I wish to carry with me during the year.

Favorite Disney Picture(s): Pre-TMC, I spent a whirlwind 16 hours at Disneyland and California Adventure Park with Casey, Connie, Nicole, and Meg. We mapped our course through the parks to maximize the number of rides/attractions we could see in one day. And of course, when we weren’t tweeting while waiting in line, we talked about teaching math.

Favorite Price is Right Group: It’s a very long process of signing waivers, getting nametags, and being interviewed by producers for a potential spot on the show, but in the end it was worth it to check this item off my bucket list. We cheered and yelled prices at the contestants, and you can watch how it all played out on November 2nd!
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Favorite Morning Session: I made the decision to attend Elizabeth and Chris‘ morning session on “Creating a Culture of Exploratory Talk” and it was the perfect decision for me. I have been attempting to hold better classroom discussions, but this session provided me with specific strategies/structures to use with my students to get them to have richer conversations. I have selected Elizabeth’s Talking Points Activity as my #1TMCthing, so I will be writing another blog post about that in the next couple weeks. In the meantime, here is our morning session wiki page, and here is one of Elizabeth’s posts about Talking Points.

Favorite Debating Activity: Table Debates. During the exploratory talk session, Chris shared his numerous activities for bringing debate into the math classroom. He shares many of his strategies on his website. An argument is comprised of two parts: a claim and a warrant. You can turn almost any statement into a debateable question by adding words such as: best/worst, always/sometimes/never, most, weirdest, biggest/smallest, etc. When students are table debating, they are given a problem or situtation, and two possible opinions on the topic. They must state their argument for the opinion on their side of the table. This is my favorite strategy because students might not always agree with the opinion they are given. However, they need to figure out a strong argument to support that opinion. I feel like many of my questions can be easily rewritten in this format, so it shouldn’t be too difficult to implement this activity this year.

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Favorite Must-Watch TED Talk: In Fawn’s keynote, she shared a quote from Rita Pierson’s TED Talk: “Kids don’t learn from people they don’t like.” I’ve come across this TED talk before, but never actually watched it… until now. The quote nicely highlights Fawn’s recommendations for good teaching: fast (in terms of returning emails, feedback, etc); fair, friendly, firm, and funny.

Favorite SMP Posters: During his talking on Teaching the 8 Practices, Chris shared his SMP posters and had us analyze them. Chris boils down all the CCSS into two words: Thinking and Communicating. The posters all have the same format and are designed specifically for our students. My favorite part of each poster are the questions in the bottom left corner. These are questions that not only can our students ask themselves to determine which practice they are doing, but we as teachers can ask them as we develop lessons and tasks.

Favorite Jumping Picture: Taking jumping pictures while traveling is kind of my thing, and I found a jumping partner in Connie. She shared my general enthusiasm for just having the best time ever no matter where we were, and it resulted in epic pictures like this one (the burgers were great too!)

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Favorite Math Mistakes Activity: Andrew’s session on Math Mistakes and Error Analysis provided me with a great opportunity to analyze the value of mistakes and how we can use them to help our students learn. My favorite activity of Andrew’s is when he gives students a handout like this:
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Every problem has a mistake. Every problem. Students must analyze the structure of the problem to build their conceptual understanding, based on what is currently incorrect. Students must fix the mistakes once identified and justify their reasoning. Read more about this activity on Andrew’s blog.

Favorite Good Teacher vs. Great Teacher Distinguishing Feature: Ilana Horn’s keynote titled “Growing Our Own Practice” was inspiring and informative. Among sharing many discoveries found during her studies, she shared three key features that differentiate between the good teachers and great teachers she observed: Teacher Agency, Empathetic Reasoning, and Ecological Thinking. My favorite among these is Teacher Agency. Ilana emphasized that great teachers state their problems as actionable items. The example she shared is how a teacher views the problem of a student finishing his/her work early. A great teacher does not discuss this problem as having fast vs. slow kids. A great teacher discusses this “problem” in terms of the task itself, and the value of finding group-worthy tasks that engage all levels of learners and include extension possibilities. As I start a new school year with another new principal, I want to remember this mindset: how can we take a problem and turn it into an action item?

Favorite New Desmos Activity: This is actually a trick. I can’t tell you about my new favorite Desmos activity because it hasn’t been released yet. But Eli gave the TMC crowd a sneak peek, and let me tell you, it’s amazing. It will change your teaching life. Stay tuned, it should be released sometime next week.

Favorite Data Table: In his session on Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces, Alex shared this data table from Peter Liljedahl’s research:
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Hopefully this convinces you to head to your nearest home improvement store and purchase some shower board panels if you haven’t already!

Favorite Debriefing Partner: At the end of every day, Rachel and I would meet up for the walk/drive back to the hotel, and immediately begin sharing everything that happened during the day. It was one of the times of each day that I treasured most. We needed that time together to gather our thoughts and really process everything we learned/experienced. Since we didn’t end up attending a single session together, we were able to double our information intake. Thank you for being the perfect roommate, Rachel!
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Favorite Piano Bar Song: Sweet Caroline. John requested it, someone else vetoed it, more money was thrown into the pot, and then we had an epic singing contest between both sides of the room. We owe a huge number of thanks to PianoPiano in Claremont for entertaining us each night.
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My Favorite My Favorite: Matt shared his strategy of using music cues to help students “become self-directed learners.” I won’t go too in depth because Matt graciously wrote a very extensive blog post about it. Within his post, you can find a google folder with all the music he uses, and a list of the cues in which he uses music. I would like to try implementing 2 or 3 of these this year, but I am definitely overwhelmed trying to figure out the technology to make this happen in my classroom easily. If I can get it working, I know I want a music cue for: “Take out your chromebook, go to student desmos, type in the class code.”

Favorite Quotes:

  • “Find what you love. Do more of that.” –Christopher Danielson
  • “Bad teaching is not knowing that what you’re doing could be better.” –Fawn Nguyen
  • “Build connections so we’re not surviving in the classroom, we’re thriving.” -Fawn
  • “De-front your classroom.” –Alex Overwijk
  • “Don’t stress so much about how to make things debatable. Just throw the word ‘best’ in there and let it go.” –Chris Luzniak
  • “Strive for a Process Reward System, instead of an ‘Answer’ reward system.” –Chris Shore 

Thank you to the TMC volunteer planning committee! This special conference would not exist without all your hard work, and we are all better teachers because of it!

My Take On Desman

One of my favorite course projects is the Graphic Art Project. Students will design an image on graph paper, write all the equations for it, and type them into Desmos. To intro this assignment, I have students complete my own version of the amazing Desmos Des-man activity.

Instead of having students create their own Des-man, I ask them all to recreate this picture:
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The main reason I start by having all students create the same face is because this is a review activity for us. At this point in the year, students have learned to write equations for linear, absolute value, and quadratic equations. They have also studied domain and range restrictions. I want them to practice these skills, and not just guess/play with the sliders/numbers to see how the equations transform. Each student is given this sheet to show any work they did to find the equations:

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The Teacher Desmos interface allows me to see very quickly who gets it and who needs help (see above). Some students will play around and choose their own colors, or add additional inequalities. When they are all done, we move on to Part 2, and I let them create their own designs. This year we are trying something special for the final product and it is still in the works… so, to be continued!

#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.
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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.
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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.
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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
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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.
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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!
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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 RecommendationJustin 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 🙂