Sunday, November 12, 2023

Creating a Connected Math Classroom - an NCTM Reflection

 In October, I had the opportunity to visit Washington, DC to attend the NCTM annual conference.  I'm blogging through some of the sessions I attended to help me process and reflect.

On Friday, I was excited to attend Rebecka Peterson's session.  I've known Rebecka for many years and I've had the chance to hear her speak before, but I think her NCTM talk was the best one I've heard yet!  Rebecka is a math teacher in my town and a dear friend... she also happens to be our National Teacher of the Year!  Rebecka's talk was on Creating a Connected Math Classroom and it fit so perfectly with Tim Kanold's session Teaching with Heart and Soul!  

Rebecka started her talk with a quote that always makes me think of her - "Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day."  (You can click here to read her daily classroom reflections on the One Good Thing blog.)  One of the things she mentioned that stuck was that the more time we take to notice the good, the more good we will notice.  This reminded me of the cognitive idea of "frequency bias", where once  you start looking for something, you see it everywhere.  

The big theme of Rebecka's talk was Connections.... Connecting to our students, to parents / guardians, to the community, to ourselves, and to others.  

With students, she looks for ways to get to know their stories.  A few years ago, Rebecka started scheduling individual time for students to come in and introduce themselves to her and tell their stories.  I admire her so much for this as that idea of scheduling 150 individual blocks seems so very daunting, but also so very powerful.

She also mentioned parent connections through daily emails home as part of her "daily good things".  I have done this in the past as well and it is super powerful.  I got away from it a bit over the past few years, but I need to get back to it.  In HS, parents don't always hear about the good stuff going on with their kiddos, so it's a great thing to be able to share that good news with them!

She also mentioned the impact of building community in your classroom - of students knowing how much they are loved and cared for.  Little things like recognizing a birthday or the end-of-year traditions can really help to build that culture of caring.

Some of these ideas I've borrowed from her over the years, such as the holiday ornament, but others I'm definitely stealing moving forward!  I love the idea of playing soft instrumental music and the thumbprint canvas - I really wish I had started that idea as a new teacher!  Another idea I want to steal... I've had parents ask me to sign a copy of the book "Oh, the Places You'll Go" at the end of the year, but I never thought about turning that around and having my OWN yearly copy for each student to sign!  What a brilliant idea!  (Are there any other book suggestions for this?)

She also talked about connecting students to themselves... having them reflect with things like their own One Good Thing journal or weekly exit tickets.  I used to be really good with those, but time and energy gets away from us... I need to get back to it!

One of the ideas I loved was her daily menu of activities, including the Tuesday Tips like sharing an easy cookie recipe or adulting tips like the gas tank arrow on your car.  

Rebecka also mentioned how important it was for us to connect to ourselves, which reminded me a LOT of Tim Kanold's Quadrant II time.  

One question she asked us was "What matters to you?", then ask ourselves how we can incorporate that into our weekly routine.  

This was definitely one of my favorite sessions of NCTM because it gave so many practical and doable suggestions for how to build community in your classroom.

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Using Manipulatives in Geometry - an NCTM Reflection

In October, I had the opportunity to visit Washington, DC to attend the NCTM annual conference.  I'm blogging through some of the sessions I attended to help me process and reflect.

One of my favorite sessions from the conference (and one of the few sessions where we actually DID math) was on Using Manipulatives in Geometry and was presented by Erin Schneider of CPM.  I have long been a fan of the CPM curriculum and I wish it was available in my state!

One of the first activities we did was using an 8 foot length of yarn that had been tied into a large loop.  Erin asked us to work with our team to use the yard to create the solids shown in the picture.  This was a great team-building exercise and a great activity for post-lunch time on the first full day as it got us out of our seats, talking / communicating with other people, and using spatial reasoning.  I jotted in my notes that this would be a fabulous first day of school activity (or first day of the SA/V unit) for my Honors Geometry kids, so please hold me accountable on this one!

From there, she moved to talking about a Kaleidoscope and its use in Geometry.  I remember LOVING my Kaleidoscope as a kid, but never thought about how I could use it in my classroom!  She started with a video for us to notice/wonder, then we used hinged mirrors to create our own to explore polygons.  (You can see her image at the bottom left of the collage.  When I got home, I immediately searched Amazon for cheap mirrors that I could use.  I found some plastic ones and when they arrived, I taped them together and started playing!  Every student that has noticed the hinged mirror has been fascinated with it!

In the workshop, she was using it to explore polygons and central angles, but it could also be used to explore rotational / reflectional symmetry as well as building the Area Formula for Regular Polygons.  

We were already running out of time, so she shared some quick ideas on various topics before moving on to using a pantograph for dilations.

You can use 2 identical rubber bands and tie them together as seen at the upper right here.  Draw a small pre-image (seen here as a small heart at the corner of the paper, then set the point of dilation (here, it was off the paper) with the knot of the rubber bands on top of the drawing.  With your pen on the paper, use the knot to trace the pre-image and your pen will be tracing the enlarged image.  Sadly, I've already done dilations in general, but this could be a fun way to introduce similar polygons, so I'm excited to try it!

As I said above, this was definitely one of my favorite sessions of the entire conference and I was able to walk away with ideas that I could easily implement, so I consider that a huge win!

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Teaching Math with Heart and Soul - an NCTM Reflection

Last week, I had the opportunity to visit Washington, DC to attend the NCTM annual conference.  I'm going to blog through some of the sessions I attended to help me process and reflect.

My first session at NCTM was the perfect start to the conference!  I had heard of Dr. Timothy Kanold multiple times and had read some of his work on PLCs, but this session focused mostly on his books Heart! and Soul!.  It also touched a bit on his book about Educator Wellness and all three books quickly went on my TBR list!  I have started reading Heart!, so I'm sure I'll be updating this with take-aways from that book as well.  (Anyone want to #eduread it with me?)

Dr. Kanold started his session talking about the importance of gratitude and shared about his family tradition of asking "What was the best part of today?" around the dinner table.  He asked us to send a text of gratitude to someone who made it possible for us to be at NCTM.  While he was talking about this, I thought of Rebecka Peterson, our National Teacher of the Year, and how she credits the One Good Thing blog for being such an instrumental part of her teaching journey.  Funny enough, Rebecka walked into the session a few minutes later, so obviously Dr. Kanold's session blurb resonated with her as well!

Here are some of my jotted notes from Dr. Kanold's session:

  • Can we fully give ourselves to our work and not get lost?  (Answer - Yes, but you do have to take care of yourself!)
  • Presenting ourselves in a high positive happiness state affects how well students learn in our classes
  • How can we embrace joy amidst the daily chaos?
  • Joyful people are hope providers
  • Compassion - caring / support / love... emotionally mourn the setbacks of others and cheer on their victories
  • What evidence can you show that your school has a compassionate culture?
  • Acts of compassion helps us sustain.
  • What acts of compassion would we see at your school?  
  • An antidote to burnout is self-compassion
  • Residue of self-compassion is joy
  • There is power in journaling over verbal processing... journaling dissipates the emotion
Then Dr. Kanold shared with us about the Energy States.  (The math teacher in me doesn't like how the quadrants are numbered, but anyway....)

In the classroom, we would like to be in Quadrant 1, but there is a natural drive to Quadrant 3.  He said that "Internal Balance is the key to well-being"

How do we achieve that internal balance?

KEY - Q2 time time is required daily!! 

Some more jottings about this idea:
  • Be intentional about time for solitude (referenced Sherry Turkle - purposeful solitude with an embraced silence)
  • Give your brain time to be quiet
  • Daily quietude required
(Side note - I LOVED this idea.... I need that quiet time, not just as an introvert, but now I know it helps me stay more balanced!)

Dr. Kanold ended his session with some tips on self care and the Wellness Framework, which had some really great tips, including Drink the Stupid Water.  I am the world's worst about drinking water, but I am making an renewed effort after his session.  

He also talked about the importance of movement and not comparing yourself to others because if you are moving, it counts.  His last tip was about the importance of sleep and gave us some suggestions on how to get the best rest.

My biggest take-aways:
  • Quiet time is required to keep us in a positive frame of mind.  Go for that walk, sit outside, read the book, meditate, whatever it is that gives you time to find peace every day.
  • Drink the Stupid Water - hydration is so important and if you get thirsty, it's already too late and your body is dehydrated.  Start your day with a bottle of water beside your bed.
  • You are harder on yourself than you should be and we are not as kind to ourselves as we are to others.  Give yourself grace
  • Find moments of joy and gratitude in every day

Monday, October 30, 2023

May I have a Library Card? (NCTM Day 2)

After a busy first day in DC and a fairly decent night of sleep, we woke up on Tuesday for another day of sightseeing, but what a day it ended up being!

Knowing how much I love to read, Cindy suggested we check out the Library of Congress.  Since I'm always happier when I'm surrounded by books, I quickly agreed and to be honest, this has to be one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever explored!

When we arrived, we found out that entrance was by ticket only, so Cindy quickly signed us up and we waited for about 15 minutes before getting in line.   

Once we were inside, I was just awe-struck by how gorgeous it was.  

While at the Library of Congress, we saw the Gutenberg Bible, walked through the Visitor Overlook over the Main Reading Room, and saw a few other exhibits, including Thomas Jefferson's personal library...

I thought this would be a pretty quick trip overall and we had plans to go to the National Air and Space Museum that afternoon, but our plans were definitely changed!

While we were in the Overlook, we noticed a sign that said "Anyone 16 and older can apply for a reader's card to use the Library's general collections here."  Are you kidding me??? I can have a library card for the LIBRARY OF CONGRESS?!?!?  Sign me up!!!

Once again, I was completed enthralled with the floors... I could do an entire geometry unit just on the floors of the Library of Congress!

Anyway, while I'm wandering around taking photos of the floors, we find some docents and ask them about obtaining a library card.  It took a while to get clear(ish) directions, but finally we were off to the basement to get a library card!

After we got our cards, we were standing at the entrance to the Main Reading Room, wondering what we could do with our newfound treasure, so we asked the security guard where the Math books would be located.  JUST as we asked him, one of the research librarians was walking by and stopped because she heard us mention "math".  Turns out, she was a former HS Math Teacher and she asked us if we would like to see her research... Umm YES!

Y'all - we got a BEHIND THE SCENES tour of the Library of Congress!  She took us to her office to show us some of her research, then took us down the stacks to see the LoC collection of math books!  

*Pinch me now*

Eventually she took us to the floor of the Main Reading Room (again, having an urge to watch the National Treasure movies when I saw the doorway in the central desk!)

I was totally in book heaven.... I could have easily stayed there for days and it will be a memory I will forever treasure and definitely the highlight of my DC trip!

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Welcome to Washington DC! (NCTM Day 1)

 Whew!  That 3am alarm was just a BIT too early for me!  This is Fall Break, y'all - why am I awake?!?!?

Off to the airport we go.... and several hours later, we're in DC!

Finding your way through a new airport is always a challenge, but thankfully Cindy met a nice local person that helped us navigate to the Metro Station at the airport.  After purchasing a $20 Metro Card, we were ready to go..

In my state, we really don't have a great public transit program, so this was my first subway type experience.  (Although I'm still not quite sure how to navigate it all - very thankful for Cindy!)

My first photo of DC is of the Washington Monument from the Metro window moments before we go underground...

After dropping our stuff off at the AirBnB, we were off to explore!  A quick hop back on the Metro and to the Archives we go!

I have never been a huge history buff, but the architecture of DC is just beautiful.  

I also had to snap a photo of the Capital as we crossed Pennsylvania Avenue... 

(Math side note - I really want to know the algorithm they use to calculate the pedestrian crossing times for each street.  There really didn't seem to be a pattern that I noticed.)

In the National Archives, we spent some time wandering through the Records of Rights exhibits, seeing the Magna Carta and a timeline of our nation's civil rights history.  It was an emotional roller coaster as I saw how far we've come and how far we still have to go.  

In the Archive Rotunda, we saw our nation's founding documents and I just can't even describe how it felt to be standing in front of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  

I will also admit, I had a huge desire to go home and watch National Treasure with Nicholas Cage after visiting the Archives, especially when I noticed they had a reproduction Resolute Desk in the gift shop!

From there, we went to the National Mall and walked down to the Gallery of Art for Cindy to look at an art installation she had discussed in one of her classes....  We were getting pretty hangry by this point since neither of us had eaten since 4am, so I'll admit I spent way too much time looking at the geometry in the floor pattern and not as much on the art around us...

What math do you see?  Here's what I saw...
- Parallel Lines cut by a transversal (which happens to be what we are learning in Geometry)
- a parallel based proof of the Triangle Sum Theorem (yup, already planning it!)
- Triangle Midsegments
- Congruent Triangles
- A Tessellation (of course!)
- A nice discussion of the rigid transformations

(I might have taken about a half dozen photos of the floor....)

From there, we headed on down the mall to find something to eat.  There were food trucks at every museum entrance, but they seemed to mostly be drinks and ice cream.

We popped into the Museum of Natural History and finally got something to eat at their coffee shop, then managed to make it over to the Museum of American History 30 minutes before closing time.  We did get to see the Star Spangled Flag exhibit, the pop culture exhibit, and the first ladies exhibit.  

I quickly went through the Presidential exhibit hoping they might have a copy of President Garfield's proof of the Pythagorean Theorem, but if they did, I didn't see it :(

However, I did get to see President Lincoln's top hat just as the docent told me it was time to leave.... 

Stay tuned for Day 2 - it was *amazing*

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Updated Puzzle Corner

 To say I'm ready for the upcoming 3-day weekend is an understatement!  We've been in school now for 3 weeks and while I'm doing better at getting ahead school-wise, other areas of my life have fallen behind.  I need a day just to catch up, work in my yard, and not feel like I'm a hamster on a wheel.

For many years, I've had a puzzle corner in my room.  With the exception of the pandemic in 2020 - 2021, this space has been a fun place for my students to play with math in a non-threatening way.

However, this year, I knew I needed a change because I would be having some kids that I had in class a couple of years ago, so over the summer, I started thinking about how I could change it.  For the past two years, it's had a math fun fact, a mathematician of the week, and a math quote.  This year, I wanted to incorporate some vertical / magnetic puzzles based as inspired by Sarah Carter (@mathequalslove) and to add some math-y toys to the mix.

My students haven't really engaged much with the vertical puzzles (yet) but they have really loved the basket of toys that I picked up at Target Dollar Spot!

One of my Labor Day goals is to work on my files for the Brain Teaser spot so I have a binder full of papers to swap out those each week.  This may be a work in progress over the year, but for now, it's on my to-do list.  Also on that list is to get my binder of Vertical Puzzles updated, cut out, and compiled.  

Saturday, August 19, 2023

First Days of School

 There are just not enough hours per day in August to get everything done!  I either need longer days or the ability to go with less sleep :)  

There are a lot of things I like about my school and a few things that I don't, and the Back to School week falls under both of those categories!  We report to school on Monday / Tuesday, off on Wednesday, and kids come on Thursday.  I love that day off to get things done (like a pedi with my mom), but with all of the required meetings, it feels like there is so much to do in a very condensed amount of time.

But Thursday came and so did the kids, whether I was ready or not...

On the first day, we do...

  • Posters around the room
  • Name Tents
  • And Math of course!
You can see some of the posters in the photo and on each table is a small container with some post-its.  They answer the 6 prompts and go around the room putting their answers on the board.  The 6 prompts are:
  • A goal I have this year is...
  • Our classroom should be ____ every day
  • I learn best when...
  • Mrs. __ can help me best by...
  • Math is important because...
  • To be successful in math this year, I need...
This activity infuses a bit of color as well as gets the kids up and moving around from day 1.  

After that, we work on their Name Tents, which has been written about quite a bit in the MTBoS, so my only change is that I don't print the form on the inside - I just have the kids draw a line down the crease and then two perpendicular to that to create 6 spaces for writing.  This was the first year (ever?) that everyone folded their name tent correctly!!!  (YAY!)

Finally, it's time to do Math!  This year, I tried a new-to-me activity using pentominos because I wanted to do something Geometric.  While I liked the activity, I found that it more challenging than I expected.  

The original task asked the students to use all of the pentominos to build a 10x6 rectangle, then to try again to build a 12x5, then again for a 15x4.  Next year, I think I'm going to work on some better scaffolding for this as the 10x6 was tricker than expected!

Thankfully, it did allow us to talk about Productive Struggle,  the importance of persevering, and why I like to use manipulatives a lot to test out theories.

So for next year, I think I would modify it using one of these two resources:

That pretty much ended Day 1, and I was happy to celebrate the day with a mini-bundtlet from Nothing Bundt Cakes that was delivered by our Student Leadership group!

Then, on to Day 2.  My goal with Day 2 was to introduce students to some of the structures we would be using this year...
  • Open Middle - Using the digits 1 to 9, find the sum of 3 digit numbers that comes closest to 1000.
  • Whiteboards - Using "The Answers Are" task from Building Thinking Classrooms
  • Setting our Group Norms (see previous post)
All in all, it was a GREAT couple of days of non-curricular tasks, but then it was on to an insanely busy weekend to prepare for Week 2. 

Sunday, August 13, 2023

Setting Class Norms

 Week 1 is done and oh my goodness, I have so much that I need to blog about!

During the first two days, I do a lot of non-curricular tasks where we focus on group work and setting our class norms.

I ask the students before each task to keep these two questions in mind while they are working:

- Think about what good Group Work looks like / sounds like...

- How do you know if you are being a good Group Member.

Toward the end of the day on Friday, after we had been working on the big whiteboards, I asked the students again to reflect on those two questions.  I told them that we needed to come up with a set of norms that we could all abide by in order to make sure our class works smoothly this year.  I asked them to think about the activities we had done (the Pentomino task above, an Open Middle problem, and a whiteboard problem for "The Answers Are").  I asked them to work with their tables to brainstorm ideas to fill in this chart, then to go back and decide the one or two most important things on each side and put a star by it.

As a class, we had a discussion about the things they had starred and came to a class consensus on the most important ideas.  Every class pretty much had the same big ideas listed and starred, but I brought all of the papers home to compile them.  (Note: I was really surprised how many mentioned that they didn't want arguing in our class) 

In the past, I've hand-written a poster board with their responses, but this time I decided to try something different!

After compiling the responses from all of the classes, I had a pretty hefty list, so I decided to type it up in Word.  I then saved it as a PDF and printed it as a poster that I can piece together to paste onto my poster board.  

I'm so pleased with how this idea turned out that I had to share! Hopefully I'll update this post tomorrow with the poster on my wall. :)

Thursday, August 3, 2023

Classroom Progress, maybe?

I just spent most of the day working in my classroom - thankfully the a/c was working today because this afternoon's high was 105!  

I honestly couldn't tell you what all I accomplished today - it feels like nothing major but I spent 6 hours up there.  I got a few organizational things done - new labels, etc.

One thing on my to-do list was to put up our Welcome board in the hallway.  For the past couple of years, we've had red bulletin board paper and I made the executive decision to change it out to red fabric.  If you've never used fabric on your bulletin boards, I encourage you to fix that now!  This is just a generic broadcloth, but fabric doesn't fade, stores easily for reuse, and doesn't show wear and tear.

Look at how bold the red fabric looks compared to the paper!  I also purchased some cute reversible border at Hobby Lobby with their 40% off classroom sale and you just can't go wrong with buffalo check.  I know the Cardinals part is crooked and normally that would bother me, but this board is at the end of the hallway and I probably won't see it again until it's time to change it in September!

Back in my classroom, I piddled with several small things that needed to be done and then tackled 2 bigger projects...

The first project I worked on was assembling this organizer from Amazon.  Last week, when I was working in my room, I started thinking about how I could better use some of my space to organize random supplies for students.  My previous use was a mishmash of boxes and locations and it just wasn't very cohesive.  I played around with some letter trays but nothing quite fit what I wanted.  

(Note:  I totally forgot to take a photo of this in my classroom - sorry about that!)  Once I had it assembled, I started to organize student supplies.  The bottom drawer is where students can get rolls of tape and glue sticks for their table buckets, the bottom shelf will be a place for scratch paper and the top shelf will hold my patty paper box.  The vertical storage space behind fits my graphing whiteboards perfectly since we don't use those very often.  For now, I have left off the pencil cup but it's magnetic and might end up on the whiteboard eventually.  

The other goal today was to change out my Puzzle Place area but that didn't quite work out the way I was expecting.  

The little woven bowl I found while cleaning at home did end up working perfectly for the fidget toys (fake Rubik type stuff from Target Dollar Spot), but then I had a whiteboard dilemma!  

Last week, I had decided I wanted to change out the Puzzle Place to something to encourage more interaction with the board.  I had used the same 4 quadrants for the past couple of years and the only one the kids really enjoyed was the Math Joke.  As a result, I decided to look for an inexpensive magnetic solution in order to do some vertical puzzles (inspired by Sarah at MathEqualsLove) and found this whiteboard at Hobby Lobby for $7.99.  (Note:  I was so impressed with the Hobby Lobby whiteboard that I went by there on my way home to get another one for the hallway (inspired by Sara Vanderwerf) but they were sold out.)

Once I go to school, I realized that I wasn't super sure which side of the board I wanted to put the whiteboard on!  

I plan to keep the Math Joke and the other one will probably end up either being the Math Fun Fact or will get changed to another brain teaser (like Set, 24, solvemoji, etc - something that is less manipulative than the typical puzzle table problem)

When I look around my classroom, I can't say that I can account very well for the 5 hours I worked, but at least it's done enough until I officially report on Monday!  

Tuesday, August 1, 2023

My Teacher Binder - 2023/24 Edition

Hey folks!  It's August 1 and that means that school is just around the corner.  I officially report next Monday and kids come next Thursday, but I am definitely not ready for summer to end this year!  I mean, if I'm being honest, I'm never really ready for summer to end.  I like the structure of school, but I don't like wearing shoes and having to people :)

This summer has been a summer of cleaning, organizing, and purging, which my house sorely needed!  We have one more load of stuff to take to the donation center and then my attention can fully shift to the new school year.  I did go up to my classroom last Thursday to get it mostly put together and to start working on my to-do list.  

One of the things on my to-do list was to put together this year's Teacher Binder and I realized last night that I never shared last year's binder - oops!  I have this year's made and printed, but I still need to assemble it.

Cover and Binding:

A few years ago, I ran across these pocket folders at Dollar Tree that were fairly heavy weight and with a customizable cover.  I haven't seen them in the stores this year, so it's possible they aren't carrying them this season, but I've only been to my Dollar Tree, which isn't in my favorite Top 10 stores if that tells you anything!  

For binding, I have been a huge fan of the DiscBound systems for many years - starting with the Arc system at Staples, but you can also find them with Happy Planner at various craft stores, TUL at Office Depot, etc.  I have found the 1 inch disc work the best for me, but the discs come in a variety of sizes. 

My cover and the dividers inside are all normal 3-hole systems, so I just cut the folder in half, then punch all of them (one at a time of course) using my disc bound punch.  I've used a variety of things for my dividers over the years, but this year, it's just a plain set of plastic pocket dividers that were on Prime Day sale :)  

Inside the Binder:
I typically have 6 or so dividers in use - The first 3 are for my calendars:

Monthly Calendar - this is a typical Monthly spread with a place to jot down reminders and notes under each Month.  This is where I tend to put long-term appointments and due dates.

Quarterly Calendar - This view only shows the first semester of Geometry, but these are just pacing type calendars for me to plan out the quarter.  I also put down holidays and breaks if they are known.

Weekly Calendar - This is my page with all of the day to day details.  On the left side is a place for me to put things for before / during / after the day, such as Lunch Duty, IEP Meetings, covering a class, etc.  Below each day is a checklist for daily habits like posting to Google Classroom, exercising, etc.  In the big empty space is a place for general notes and to-do lists and this space usually has a post-it note or two adhered :)

After the 3 sections of calendars come the sections for my gradebook and things like that, but since I don't have my class lists yet, those aren't ready for the binder!

What does your teacher binder look like?

Thursday, June 8, 2023

Shifting our Thinking

Ugh - how is it that another 6 months has gone by since I last posted?  Often, I will have an idea for a post, jot it down, then by the time I get home, the idea I had that I thought sounded good no longer has any appeal.

But, summer is here and it's a time to reflect, grow, and learn again!  

Last week, I was excited to be involved in a workshop in my area called Exponential Growth.  It is co-sponsored by one of our local universities and our regional STEM alliance.  They have several different workshops, but I was in one for instructional leaders (math coaches, etc).  The workshop was JUST what I needed to jump-start my summer planning and I'm excited to work with my cohort over the next year.

During the workshop, we looked at growth vs fixed mindset and looked at book Principles to Action with regard to what we would like to see in a math classroom and the Effective Teaching Practices.  We looked at productive and unproductive beliefs and sorted them into our ideal classroom and our less than ideal classroom.

We also looked at a variety of tasks and how many of them could be used across the grade level bands.  One of my favorites was this fish pond task...

Our instructor gave us a handful of these colored goldfish (found on Amazon, of course!) and several fish pond mats.  I didn't end up taking a photo until our last mat, which was a make your own problem.  As a result, it's kind of hard to see the point of the mats, so bear with me...

On the first mat, the little "bridges" between the ponds had numbers showing the total of the fishes between the two.  For example, the number 7 was between the purple / orange.  The number 9 was between the purple / blue, and the number 8 was between the orange / blue.  It was our job to figure out how many goldfish were in each pond.  As teachers, we all knew that we could do this with a system of equations or a matrix, but to start out, we just played with the fish and thought about what would happen if we took one of the purples away or added another orange.  Our group was given a variety of mats, from basic to more complex and finished with the one shown on making our own problem.  It was a great way to look at a system from a more concrete standpoint and would be a fabulous low-entry task for a variety of levels.  Our instructor mentioned that she would never teach systems again without starting with a task like this and move from the concrete to the abstract.

I was so inspired after the first day, that I decided to start my summer reading!  I quickly picked up this book from Cathy Seeley as my first summer #EduRead.  I had read one of Seeley's books before, but this book seemed to tie into the workshop perfectly as it was aimed more at admin / instructional coaches in building a great math team.  In the book, Seeley talks about the importance of carefully selected tasks and using a structure she called Upside Down Teaching.

This sent me down another rabbit trail on Upside Down Teaching, which Seeley also calls the "I-We-You" structure.  The idea is to start with a task for students to tackle first, then follow up with classroom discourse and the overall connections.  For me, this also ties in to my personal goal of engaging students with a task or activity that helps to make the entire process more "sticky" with regard to learning.  

What probably bothered me the most about this Upside Down Teaching model was the section in the article about choosing tasks.  I completely agree that choosing good tasks is key and I think many math teachers would agree about the difficulty of choosing just the right task for the lesson, but what floored me is that in Seeley's article, the description of what makes a worthwhile task is from 1991!!  For OVER 30 years, we have known about the importance of quality tasks, but we still don't see that displayed on a regular basis in many classrooms, including my own!  

What I appreciated most about this rabbit hole was that it allowed me to think about my goals for this next year and to make a commitment to bringing more quality tasks into my classroom and to explore this Upside Down model and how it would apply to my classroom.

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

What I read this month - January 2023

The end of January 2023 has arrived!

One of my goals this year was to join a couple of the reading challenges my friends were doing, so I want to start documenting my monthly reads and sharing them.  Over Winter Break, hubby and I finally got library cards so my Kindle and I have become great friends with the Libby app!

The book challenges we are doing are from the Book Girls Guide ( - feel free to join us!

Decades - Books set in the 1880s / 1890s
- The Address
I had never read any of Fiona Davis's books and this book was on the list. My friend Pam read it and highly recommended it, so I grabbed it on Libby and set down to read. It was such an enjoyable book, flipping back and forth from 1885 to 1985 with a hint of mystery in the middle. Highly recommend!

- The Children's Blizzard
This book caught my eye because it was based on a true story and the main characters were teachers in one-room school houses on the prairie. I was completely drawn in the storyline and felt a lot of empathy for these homesteaders trying to beat the elements.

- Destiny of the Republic
This book was a non-fiction read about the assassination of President Garfield. I'm honestly not much of a history buff, so I didn't know much about this topic but it was well written and I learned a lot!

Read Around the World - Books set in the Arctic / Antarctica
- The Arctic Fury
I liked the idea of this book better than the book itself. An arctic expedition of only women set in the 1850s plus some legal drama sounded really interesting. However, things quickly degraded from there. The last 25% of the book was really good, so I'm glad I finished it, but the middle 50% could have definitely been trimmed IMO.
- Northern Lights
After reading The Arctic Fury, I wanted something lighter and this book by Nora Roberts fit the bill. Part romance, part mystery, part drama, it was a quick read and I enjoyed getting to know the characters that live in Lunacy, Alaska.

Books Recommended by Students
- One of Us is Lying
As I was walking around my room a few weeks ago, I saw this YA book sitting on a student's desk. The cover was interesting and the summary sounded like Breakfast Club meets Christopher Pike (a YA author I enjoyed as a teen). I enjoyed the mystery aspect of the book and I look forward to chatting with my student about it.

- Outcast in Another Word Book 4
RPG-lit / fantasy is definitely NOT my genre, but a student last year highly recommended this book series, so I gave it a shot. It's not going on my must-read lists, but it is interesting enough that I've read all of the sequels just to find out what happens next...

Other Books I Read this Month
- Killers of the Flower Moon
As a native Oklahoman, this book has had a lot of press recently as the movie was being produced, so when I got my library card, I immediately added it to my TBR list. Parts of the book read more like a novel, while other parts were very detailed. There were times that I struggled to keep all of the characters straight in my head, so I will be really interested to see how the movie brings this story to life.

- The Silent Patient
To be honest, I expected more out of this book. It was interesting enough that I finished it, but I wasn't as enthralled as I wanted to be based on the hype.

Monday, January 2, 2023

#Made4Math - Daily Habit Tracker


Happy Monday, y'all!!

It's a new year and like many people, I'm wanting to work on better habits in 2023.  I was talking to hubby last night about keeping track of habits and having a better way to monitor how I'm doing.  I know there are a ton of habit tracker apps, but I wanted something simple.

Then, on my way to work this morning (yes - I had to report to work today!), I remembered that I had incorporated a Habit Tracker into my Teacher Planner several years ago, but then as the Teacher Planner evolved, the Habit Tracker went away for some reason.

Obviously, I didn't want to recreate the wheel and I certainly don't want to remake my Teacher Planner halfway through the year, so I decided on a half-sheet bookmark style habit tracker for my planner.  Since my planner is always open on my desk, I could easily see the month and since I use a disc-bound planner, I could move it from week to week easily.  

I gave myself 10 columns for tracking habits - everything from Exercise to Blogging to updating Google Classroom.  

What habits do you track?  What method works best for you?

If you want a copy of the PDF - click here!