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Thursday, October 11, 2012

NCTM Dallas Regional Presentation

This is a quick post to share the slides from my presentation today on Common Core Standards for Mathematics Practice at the NCTM Regional Conference in Dallas.  I'll update later with more details...

The presentation slides are at this link.

Update (12:45 PM 10/11/12)
The session was well-attended with about 100 folks in the room.  I invited them to enter my Socrative Teacher classroom by installing the Socrative Student Clicker app before we got started.  Over 30 participants did so and were able to provide input in addition to those who spoke out verbally during the session.

I was impressed with the turnout and the participation. My intent was to provide food for thought about the Common Core Standards for Mathematical Practice as well as what it means, in general, to think about teaching 21st century learners.  I hope the attendees found it to be 60 minutes well-spent!

One slide I didn't have as much time to comment on as I had planned is titled "Flipping Out" and features a link to a Kahn Academy video.  The point I was going to make is that if "flipping" one's classroom is simply a matter of moving lectures to homework and doing homework in class, we're not addressing the real need to transform what teaching and learning are all about.  It's more than rearranging the same traditional lessons that focus primarily on skills and procedures.  We need to be looking for ways to shift teaching and learning to place students' reasoning and sense making at the center of all that takes place.  Two recent columns discuss this quite well (better than I am able to do!), so I encourage you to check these out:

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Teachers Who Focus on Student Thinking

One of my Master's students (a first-year math teacher) recently mentioned how daunting it is to think about shifting one's classroom away from teacher-led lecture and rule/procedure following to an approach that promotes and builds on student thinking generated through inquiry and problem solving. One of her concerns is that only a minority of teachers seems to be working toward such a shift so it would be hard to find folks with whom to collaborate. In addition to connecting her with some local teachers I know who are doing such work, I decided to search for blogs that offer examples of teachers sharing their successes and challenges as they make such shift as a way to encourage my student (and others) to jump in. Here is a sampling of what's out there. If you find the ideas useful, be sure to engage with the bloggers/teachers to let them know and make a connection.  You're definitely not alone in this transition!
  • The Pi Crust blog offers ideas and insights from an experienced middle school math teacher, Ms. Krasnow. She's got a ton of great activities and strategies that engage students in reasoning and developing understanding.
  • Middle school math teacher Fawn Nguyen's Finding Ways to Nguyen Students Over blog offers an awesome set of tasks, perspectives, and good humor for teachers wanting to share ideas for engaging students in meaningful learning.
  • An official blogger for Key Curriculum Press, Karen Greenhaus shares links to videos and other resources that support teachers in eliciting and valuing student thinking. The "What do we 'no'?" video is worth watching and reflecting on!
  • The Teaching Tweaks blog is created by a former middle school math teacher and current UCLA doctoral student Belinda Thompson.  Her "say this not that" set of entries provide food for thought.
  • 6th grade math teacher Kirsten Silverman has started her Numbers blog to share her work toward making her classroom a place where students engage in reasoning and sense-making.  Several good ideas already posted as well as honest commentary on the challenges encountered along the way.
  • High school math teacher Amy Gruen's Square Root of Negative One blog has great ideas for supporting students in taking ownership of their (collective) learning.  Her entries on having students make up word problems and efforts to train students to be "coaches" for each other are fabulous.
  • John Golden, a math professor at Grand Valley State University, has the Math Hombre blog where he shares ideas for classroom activities as well as teacher professional development.  His entry on the use of cognitive coaching between colleagues as a way to improve teacher practice is outstanding and worth you taking some time to read and watch. Also, don't miss his Geogebra activity links!
  • Joe Ochiltree's Brain Open Now blog has some great algebraic reasoning activities and insights into how to set these up.
  • The Inquiry Blog was started by two teachers, one Australian and one from the United States, who wanted to create a space for teachers working to create an inquiry-based learning environment could share ideas.  Interesting, honest, informative.
  • Finally, certainly not to be missed, former high school math teacher Dan Meyer's blog is always full of ideas that challenge traditional notions of teaching mathematics.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Strategies for Engaging Students in Mathematics Learning

This presentation was created through a collaboration with a middle school teacher, Ms. Jenny Kim, who works with 7th graders in Norwalk, CA.  Though we put this together in 2010, I think the ideas are still quite relevant and powerful to consider.  Note that Ms. Kim's students made HUGE gains in their mathematics achievement in the span of one academic year in her classroom with 2/3 moving from below proficiency to at or above proficiency.  Hope you find in this some ideas for your own classroom!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Apps for Math Learning

As we see more students having access to web-enabled handheld devices such as tablets it is important that we (the adults in their lives) help them to use these devices productively.  Recent research has revealed a new "digital divide" though not in access to devices but in knowing how to use the devices to support learning.  (Read Warschauer and Matuchiniak's detailed summary of this research to learn more).  Of course, this requires us as educators to know a bit more about such tools!  With this in mind, here are some places to begin.

A growing number of apps support meaningful mathematics learning. By this I mean these engage users in more than factual recall or procedural drills (which are okay if that is your objective - for example Concentration and Pick-a-Path are great!).  A few of my favorites are:

Also note that while the apps shared here are for mobile devices, there is a treasure-trove of web-based applets that support conceptual learning of mathematics on NCTM's Illuminations site!  If you've not been there for a while, check out what's new.

Update 9/28/12 Edutopia released today a free (with registration) guide, Mobile Devices for Learning:What You Need to Know

Friday, August 31, 2012

Social Bookmarking for Teachers

I've recently learned about Diigo, a social bookmarking tool with some cool features that include highlighting pages and pasting sticky notes.  These get saved to your Diigo account so that no matter what computer or device you're using, once you login to Diigo your bookmarks, highlights, and comments are there.  Even better is the ease with which you can share web pages with others, Diigo users and non-users alike.  In addition to linking to your Facebook, Twitter, or Google+ account, you can also send a simple URL to folks like this:

If you're a teacher, Diigo is offering a free upgrade to an educator account that allows you to form groups and "enroll" students with their own accounts.  Anything that any of the students bookmarks is then shared with the entire group.  This is a great way to tap into students' inclination toward social media.

And, to top it off, as a Diigo Educator, you'll get a cool badge to put on your site or blog!!

diigo education pioneer

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Sessions at NCTM's Annual Meeting

If you weren't able to attend NCTM's Annual Meeting this year in Philadelphia, you can catch the highlights and get speaker handouts online!  My own session, Eliciting Mathematical Reasoning with Digital Tools: Engaging Students and Teachers, was part of the Learn-Reflect strand focusing on the use of technology in mathematics education. (Note the slides I uploaded to share don't have the embedded multimedia that I used live to keep the file size reasonable). One of the more exciting parts of my session (at least for me) was being able to use the Socrative Teacher and Socrative Student Clicker apps (free on Android and iOS) to allow participants to send in responses.  I had about 1/3 of the folks there who could install the app and join in.  With a large group, it was a nice way to get feedback from more than just the handful of folks who might speak up orally.  This can be really rich to use in your own classroom to promote sharing ideas in a very non-threatening way. You can set it up to accept multiple choice or open text responses.

You can search the entire conference program here to look for handouts from other sessions that might be of interest.  And don't miss the Opening Session keynote by Diane Ravitch that NCTM has webcast on its site.  She was inspiring and basically issued a call to action for us to work even harder to take back our profession from what she termed the "corporate reform" of public education that is narrowing the curriculum and limiting our role as educators to make decisions about what is best educationally for the students and communities we serve.