CMC North 2017: Mathematical Language Routines

I still have sand in my shoes from CMC North this past weekend, and along with a major math hangover, that’s not a bad thing. I mean, check out this view:

I got the chance to try out a new session with a fantastic group of participants ranging from 3rd grade to high school teachers. Together we explored and experienced Mathematical Language Routines (MLR) from a powerful document that came out of UL/SCALE at Stanford this year. I first heard of MLRs when I was training to become a Master Coach for Illustrative Mathematics.  Their new 6-8 open source curriculum uses MRLs as supports for English Learners in a way that amplifies, not simplifies, the language of the mathematics. In addition to providing scaffolds for students to access the language, the 8 MLRs provide opportunities and structures for students to develop and communicate their own language. Here’s a cheat sheet:

In my session we looked at a few of my favorite routines: Which One Doesn’t Belong? AKA WODB (an example of a Co…

Fact Fluency with Question Stacks

One of my favorite things about being part of the #MTBoS is the opportunity to learn from amazing math teachers in both elementary and secondary math. This week, I was inspired by Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove) and her Question Stacks activity that she created for her Algebra 1 class. Question stacks is a practice structure that is engaging and self checking (if you get to the end and the last answer isn't the one on the back of the stack, go back and try again!). Sarah explains it perfectly here (<--- read this if you want to understand how it works)

I'm currently working with about twenty 3rd-5th grade teachers on building their content understanding and instructional strategy tool belts in the area of multiplication and division. Supporting students in building fluency has been a huge felt need for these teachers, and I'm looking forward to really exploring it more when I see them again in a couple weeks. One of things we will talk about is the definition of fluency …

#iteachmath... but not like you do

"So, what do you do?"

It seems like a simple question. When I was in the classroom, "I'm a teacher" covered it, and sometimes, that's still my answer. My official title in my role at the county office of education is "Mathematics Project Coordinator." Other titles that get thrown around are "Math Consultant", "Math Specialist", "Math Lady"... my daughter describes me as a "teacher teacher" which is probably the most accurate. From time to time, someone will refer to me as a "Math Expert" which simultaneously makes me feel super important and totally inadequate. Being called an expert implies that I have some sort of overarching authoritative knowledge of this world of elementary mathematics, but I'm as much a learner as I am an expert... the two seem mutually exclusive.

With the introduction of the #iteachmath hashtag in the last few weeks, I have been reflecting more than usual on my role and …

Rules vs. Norms

As I reflect on teaching a week of summer school, I've been thinking about the difference between classroom rules and classroom norms. Before planning this week of instruction, I had never thought intentionally about the difference. In fact, I'm pretty sure I treated them like the same thing when I had my own classroom or at least thought that if I had rules, I didn't need norms and vice-versa. My last year in the classroom, I shifted to starting the year with "norms" instead of rules, but in retrospect, they were actually still rules... called norms.

While rules and norms do have some things in common, they are are truly two different things that have effects on different dimensions of our classrooms. The intent of rules is to establish a safe and efficient learning environment and maintain some order to prevent chaos, while norms are about collectively deciding as a community how learning will happen - it seems to me that both are needed in all classrooms.


Mathematical Tools

It's so interesting to me when micro-themes start to emerge from my Twitter feed. Most recently, I've noticed many of my tweeps grappling with the use of mathematical tools, both the ones we would consider more traditional like hands-on manipulatives, and the high tech devices, apps, and programs that are more recently showing up in math classrooms. This morning, Malke Rosenfeld posted this question:
This seems like a simple question, but it's an incredibly important one to consider. I think about the word "tool" and how it's really the name of a category of objects we use in certain ways to achieve certain outcomes and not a precise description of any one object. When it comes to math, what makes an object (or representation, or strategy) fit into the category of "math tool"? My simplest answer is that if we are able to use something to support our mathematical thinking in a way that wasn't possible without it or in a way that makes a strategy …

Reflections from a teacher educator, Part 1

Tonight was officially the last class of the semester teaching my first math methods course. I have lots of feelings about this... a sense of accomplishment and relief among them. It was a hard semester, y'all. I poured my heart and soul into these 34 (34!!!) men and women who are on their way to becoming teachers, and I am so proud of *most* of how it all played out.  Overall, I feel really positive about how I organized and implemented the course, but like many professionals, I tend to have some symptoms of imposter syndrome alongside the feelings of pride and excitement. The first time one of my students called me Professor I almost ugly-laughed right in his face - me!? A professor?! Surely I'm not important enough to be called that. But as I consider the reflections my students shared with me this afternoon in a finals week fro-yo shop office hours session, my feelings of inadequacy are slowly subsiding as they are replaced with a bit of disappointment... not in myself or …

Precision Over Perfection: My First Ignite Talk!

I had the amazing honor of being asked to do an Ignite Talk at the NCSM Annual Conference this year in San Antonio. If you're unfamiliar with the format of Ignite, here's a crash course: 10 speakers, each get 5 minutes and 20 auto-advancing slides. Terrifying? Yes. Exhilarating? That too.

Ignite speakers are asked to speak about something they're passionate about - something that "ignites" them. I chose to speak about privileging precision over perfection as we listen to and support students' mathematical ideas. Here's what I wanted to say (and here's the video link where you can watch what I actually said under pressure - ha!)

My mom tells a story about me when I was 3 years old. I was drawing her a picture with what she describes as “meticulousness”, drawing each band of the rainbow carefully, precisely, with the colors in the “correct” order, whatever that is. All of a sudden, she saw me grab a black crayon and scribble all over the whole thing in f…