Welcome back math nerds!
This is my favorite time of year. Clean slate, clean classrooms, fresh ideas, and refreshing optimism. I also love this time of year because I love building classroom norms and setting the tone for the classroom culture that is necessary for productive and rich mathematical thinking and discourse.
Starting on the first day of school, I want my students to know these norms:
Learning mathematics is a collaborative effort. It’s something we do together; it’s not something that I do to you.
How you respond to the frustration of struggling reveals more about your talents and character than your ability to avoid struggling altogether.
But I don’t want to tell my students these norms; I want them to practice these norms and uncover them for themselves by reflecting on their experiences.
“Pair Drawings” is one of three activities I use in the classroom to build culture and outline norms at the beginning of the school year.
A friend and I were reflecting over a beer at Twitter Math Camp in July about how to get more elementary teachers to attend this amazing conference. (Click here to know more!)
He’s an inspirational colleague with a background in special education at the elementary and middle school level. We were talking about content knowledge. He said, “My ability to teach math has always been limited by my lack of content knowledge beyond middle school.” After pondering a beat, I replied, “Me too.” Knowing my teaching experience, he leaned back with a skeptical smirk and looked askance at me. I continued…
Imagine a football team operating like a faculty at a school site.
Players (teachers) gather at the beginning of the season (school year) for some team-building and some pep talk (fall PD) about goals and visions for improvement from their coach (principal).
The players then study a playbook (curriculum) and some plays (instructional strategies) and maybe they practice them. Maybe they don’t. Once the season starts, they hardly ever observe each other run drills (routines). They definitely don’t scrimmage together. The coach may walk around once or twice, check some boxes on a list, and give that feedback to a player, but rarely does the coach model techniques or facilitate collaboration and discussion between players.
The players practice all year for one single game (student testing) that they don’t even believe is worth playing but everyone makes them prepare for it anyway because how else could we measure our effectiveness except through standardized test data. The players won’t find out until 4 months later how they did and how they compared to other teams (schools) in the league (district). Except by then, the offseason has happened, players have shifted teams, new playbooks have been adopted, perhaps new coaching has been hired, and it’s time to start the whole process again.
The season concludes without any player ever watching another player play.
How stupid is that?
The clothesline is a simple low-tech visual and effective manipulative at fostering student engagement, using student arguments and reasoning to structure classroom discourse, exposing student misconceptions, and helping students attend to precision.
Clothesline math activities are fun for teachers and students! I encourage you to try them out for yourself. To help guide your thinking, I’m writing up what I’ve learned from my experiences using the clothesline as the backbone of some lesson inquiries I’ve conducted. This write-up is about my experiences in 4th grade classrooms using the clothesline to encourage students to develop strategies on how to plot and compare values of fractions on a number line (4.NF.1, 4.NF.2). However, this lesson particular pathway is appropriate for 4th-9th grade students depending on their learning needs.
I’m going to start a book study, and I’d like you to join me. Waitwaitwait!!!! Don’t go anywhere. I’m not asking for much. Because this is a book study where you don’t actually have to read the book.
I’m reading Tim Ferriss’s book Tools of Titans. I’ve found his incredibly enlightening podcast “The Tim Ferriss Show” to be filled with ideas that can relate to the professional development of teachers and to the creation of a productive learning culture in the math classroom. His book is no different.
Join the #TT4T conversation!
I was moved by Jamie Garner’s (@mavenofmath) recent post about her #mathconfession. I encourage you to read it here. Here are a few rambling thoughts and musings she’s sparked in my brain. I think most of use walk through this world with an unconscious fear that we will be exposed as a fraud…that we are not […]
Here’s a link to Think Like A Fitbit: Measure What We Value, my Ignite! talk from CMC South given November 4th, 2016 in Palm Springs.
Feel free to download and share with others. I’m particularly curious how you are able to use this video in your own PD sessions with teachers to further professional growth for all math educators. What conversations does it create? What cognitive conflict does it spark? What change and instructional shifts does it inspire?
Comments are encouraged; feedback welcomed. Let’s keep the dialogue going.
Welcome back math nerds! And if you’re new to Undercover Calculus, WELCOME! I gave an Ignite! talk at the California Math Council’s conference in Palm Springs. It was called “Think Like a Fitbit: Measure What We Value.” It was an honor to be asked to speak, and I was grateful for the opportunity.
It’s challenging to frame an inspiring argument with enough specific detail so that the call to action is, you know, actually actionable.
So, if you came to my talk and want to know more about these ideas, here are some resources. I hope they further your thinking as much as they’ve furthered mine. If you missed my talk, fear not! I’ve attached a recording of the slide show and attached the movie at the end of this post. Just scroll down. Or you can stream the video of my actual talk on Vimeo.
Welcome back math geeks! Dusting off the old blog to share some of what I’ve been thinking about. I spent the summer asking math teachers the following question: At the end of the school year, how do you want your students to feel about themselves as mathematical thinkers? In other words, imagine asking your students: […]