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Summer School Part 2: We give every task a try.

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*For Part 1 of this summer school blog series, go here!

Norm 2: We give every task a try.

In May, I attended YouCubed's Teaching Mindset Mathematics workshop at Stanford with some colleagues with the plan to implement their summer school curriculum for our summer school program. Having a curriculum with a focus on developing positive attitudes towards math, collaboration and openness felt like a nice fit for a four-week program that wasn't focused on credit recovery. The tasks we did at the workshop gave us a chance to get messy with math, put our heads together with thoughtful group members, and made us giddy imagining how the students we'd be teaching would fall in love with math done "this way". How naive of us! As you can imagine, not every task landed exactly how we had imagined. It turns out, it's not enough to open tasks.

There's always a lot of buzz about the nature of the tasks we put in front of students, with a tendency towards (suggesting) that …

Summer School Part 1: We do math together.

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On June 4, I walked into a classroom that was mine, if only for a short-term, for the first time in four years. I had spent hours planning activities, lessons, tasks, and experiences for the 40 rising 7th graders I'd have in my two 2-hour periods of summer school math. These students attend a local middle school in the lowest performing district in our county, and some were "invited" to summer school based on demonstrated academic need, while others had opted in for something to do on the 100+ degree days of June. I knew it was going to be hard. A combination of my short-term tenure (2 weeks) and the lack of any real incentive for students to attend or engage (no credit recovery for 7th graders) in their courses set me up with pretty low expectations, not of the students, but of the impact I'd be able to make for them. In addition to being the teacher of record for two weeks, part of my role was also to support observing teachers from this school. The idea was that t…

#TMC18 Reflection

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I just returned from #TMC18 in Cleveland. My head and my heart are full, and I’m so tired I can barely function, but I’m also strangely energized. Friends who had encouraged me to attend kept telling me how “different” TMC is than other conferences. I couldn’t imagine that it’d feel that different, and I honestly don’t dislike the big conference feel, but I had high hopes for #TMC18. It wasn’t until Saturday that I really started processing how TMC is “different”. Sure, there are the surface level differences – the varying session structures, (6 hour sessions over 3 mornings, hour and half-hour long talks, My Favorites and flex sessions), or the venue (a school campus, with amazing hosts), or the visible cell phone presence (it is “Twitter” Math Camp, after all). But there were some more significant differences that I don’t think I was prepared for that have me counting down the days until #TMC19 (In my neck of the woods! Woohoo!)

Never before have I attended a conference where I was…

CMC North 2017: Mathematical Language Routines

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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

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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

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"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

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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.

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