“Elicit” and Our Role as Illusionists

Question:  If someone asks you what “elicit” means, could you nail the definition?  Try it. How’d you do?

Confession: I was an English Literature major in college. I tutored college-level math and fell in love with teaching because of math. But back then, words and expression and theater were my jam. And in many ways they still are.

I was co-writing an article the other month about instructional routines that elicit student discourse in the math classroom. And at one point, the word-nerd in me paused to ponder, “What the does ‘elicit’ really mean? Is it an invitation? Is it a pulling or a pushing? What other words have the same root as elicit? Illicit? Were they opposites? Did they have related etymologies?”

I figured it was worth exploring and down the rabbit-hole I went. Once again.

Hector and Our Greatest Professional Dilemma

What do we do when the needs of our students conflict with the mandates of our profession?

I share this dilemma because I think it’s important that we do so as educators. Too often, we privatize our experiences in isolated silos, unwilling to expose our sense of conflict and turmoil as we navigate the messy dilemmas inherent in our work.

Failure seems safer when no one is watching. We need to have the courage to make failure cheap.

Clothesline Math and the Power of Discourse

I want to share with you a video that shows the raw power of using Clothesline Math in your classroom to promote student to student discourse.  I share this video because I want you to see how clothesline activities generate student to student discourse and promote student thinking and math development.  And I want you to feel empowered to use this tool in your classroom.  And I invite you to share what you learn in your elementary, middle, or high school classrooms.

Inspiring Stuff, November Edition

Welcome back Math Geeks!

In this week’s Global Math Department newsletter, I wrote about some stuff (activities, resources, writing, thinking) that I found useful, inspiring, and worth sharing.  I’d like to share a few of them with you here. There’s some Desmos stuff and some pondering about place value stuff. There’s some questioning stuff and student discourse stuff. There’s also other stuff and it’s all inspiring stuff. Let’s get started.

“We’re Gonna Need a Different Denominator”

Check out this compeling video from Andrew Stadel. What do you notice? What do you wonder? How can this be used to teach students about adding fractions?

I conducted a lesson study about fractions with some 5th grade teachers.  We used Andrew’s elegantly simple lesson called Black Box 2 to get students talking about adding fractions with unlike denominators.  This task is ideal for introducing the intellectual need for finding a common denominator before adding fractions procedurally.  Student discourse is rich and meaningful and lively.  Give it a read.  You won’t be disappointed.

Make Lesson Study Meaningful

I had the opportunity to give a talk at CMC-South earlier this month about my work conducting lesson studies.  About 40 inspiring educators showed up to geek out with me and learn about ways to generate teacher buy-in so that teacher learning made during lesson study leads to lasting professional growth.  This post contains a quick outline of part of my talk and the resources I shared with participants.  Please feel free to use the resources in your own work conducting lesson study.  I’d love to hear feedback.  Let’s get better together. 

Making Data and Stats Matter More in K-6, Part 2

Welcome back math geeks!

I love teaching young students about data and statistics.  And I enjoy finding ways to make data and statistics matter more to young students.  But I’m troubled by two curriculum practices about how we teach students to think about data and statistics, especially at the K-6 level.  This post is Part 2.  In my first post, I wrote about how data is often represented to students in heavily scaffolded textbook pages that rob students of the opportunity to purposely engage in thinking, wondering, and discourse…and a solution to this practice.  (If you missed Part 1, click here.)

In this post, I’ll outline another troubling practice and my attempt to help to teachers work around this obstacle.

Making Desmos Elementary: A 1st Grade Card Sort

Hello math geeks!  Welcome back!

I’ve been an advocate for using dot images and visuals as problems for number talks in the elementary classroom.  (You can find a great bank of visuals here.)  I’ve also been an advocate for using Desmos as an instructional tool for letting student thinking drive the classroom discourse.

Traditionally, Desmos has been used mostly by middle and secondary teachers as a teaching tool.  But recently they’ve introduced Card Sort as a way to make Desmos a useful instructional tool for elementary teachers and students as well.  I wrote a bit more about this on my post here.  Annie Forest made some brilliant screencast videos about how to use Desmos here.  Check them out!  She also has a bank of activities (small but growing!) here.

Here’s a link to my card sort activity. 

How Much Sugar in a Soda? A 3rd/4th Grade Division Problem

I conducted a lesson study with some elementary teachers.  We used Dan Meyer’s engaging lesson called Sugar Packets to get students talking about an interesting problem, sharing their thinking, showing what they know about division strategies.  Dan has the lesson listed as 6th grade ratio and proportional reasoning activity, but we found this problem to be suitable for both 3rd and 4th graders and possibly as a review for 5th graders.  There is a remainder in the solution.  And we found that this lesson works best if students haven’t had many opportunities to learn about remainders.  It’s a wonderful introduction to thinking about the contextual and mathematic meaning for the remainder.  (If you teach 3rd grade, I think you’ll find that your students will dig it!  Don’t let the remainder spook you off!)

This lesson addresses many of the Operation and Algebraic Thinking standards for 3rd and 4th grade.  It is also a rich opportunity for students to reason abstractly and quantitatively and to communicate their reasoning with each other.

So, give it a read and give it a go!  Let us know what you learn.  Let’s get better together.