So for those of you that don’t know, I’m at Twitter Math Camp. It’s a professional development conference designed by teachers for teachers. And it’s incredible. I’m meeting all of these incredible math teachers who have the same struggles I do, and building my professional network like whoa. But more importantly there is an energy here that I’ve never felt before. Everyone wants to do amazing things and everyone has a dozen unique resources that will help me next year and it’s just incredible (Note: I can be much more eloquent when I haven’t been drinking with other math teachers).
So, after talking to Chris, I think one of the best ways to assimilate all of the information I’ve learned today is to blog about it. And since I’ve decided to not go running tomorrow at 6 am, I can be up a bit later tonight to try to wrap my head around all of the amazing I’ve encountered today. I will state in advance that I’m probably too tired to find links to everyone’s blog tonight but I will do my best. Or at least Twitter, because that’s open and Feedly requires more energy than I have.
So, after a short introduction we started our morning sessions. After probably way too much debate (because all of the sessions sounded fucking incredible and there’s only one of me) I decided to go with Algebra 2 because while I have a better curriculum map for that subject, I feel the least prepared to teach it. It’s led by the amazing Glenn and Jonathan who in just the first two hours gave me so many ideas. Julie and I were taking ALL THE NOTES and can’t stop gushing about how much we’ve learned. Today Glenn kind of took the lead for a more traditional approach, and tomorrow Jonathan is taking the lead, and then the third day will be a lot of modeling.
Let me try to sum up today. One of the big problems with Algebra 2 is that it often seems like just a bunch of random topics thrown together. Quadratics and Cubics and Rationals and Logarithms and Trig. But in reality, it all ties together, so how do we do this? We brainstormed ideas that had succeeded in the past. I’d heard of family of functions before, but the way he tied them all together using the vertex (h, k) forms of different functions made so much sense it kind of blew me away: Instead of presenting all of the standard forms of different equations, present them all in vertex form, since they will all look similar. Give students all of the forms at the beginning of the year on the poster, and then throughout the year move your “You Are Here” marker. Students quickly realize that the only thing that changes between different forms is the shape of the equation. But h, k, a, and b all change these graphs in largely the same way (He showed us an awesome Desmos graph that has all the different forms and how they change with a, b, h, and k in the same ways. It’s crazy). This is not at all the way I was taught this stuff, but it makes so much fucking sense it’s crazy. It was all I could do to not curse loudly during the session. He also has students list a certain amount of information for any function he gives them. This includes asymptotes and symmetry, even for linear graphs. Yeah, they don’t exist (most of the time) but why don’t we introduce this vocabulary when it’s easy to explain, rather than when things get weird? My tired brain is doing a terrible job of articulating what I saw, but it was great.
In the afternoon, we had a keynote by the the very entertaining Steve Leinwand. His basic premise was that we lose so much by asking the students for specific answers instead of “How do you know?” Basically “Convince me…” should be the backbone of your argument. This ties incredibly well into what Chris does with his debate structures, as well as MP.3 and just general good math. What’s awesome about Math is that while there’s always almost always one right answer, there’s almost never only one way to find it. And part of the beauty of math is in all of those different ways to figure out HOW you get the answer. As educators we should spend more time trying to build the way that students describe their process rather than hammering home a very specific method for solving the problems. I can already think of the myriad ways this approach would have improved my last year, and I’m trying to figure out ways to make my awesome students at my new school think in this sort of way. Also, let it not be said that Steve is not an engaging speaker, because his talk was hilarious and energizing.
After the keynote, we had two shorter afternoon sessions. I first went to Sadie’s session on Counting Circles. The idea is that we create routines to improve numeracy and number sense among our students. This would have rocked my classroom last year, with students who struggled with 3 * 4. I really valued the idea of not only creating routines about how students talk to each other, but also reinforcing these skills. Going into my next year I’m not sure how much time I’ll have to implement all of it but it’s kind of amazing. I especially want to applaud Sadie’s declaration that “You will not graduate from my class if you can’t add, subtract, multiply, and divide”, and her poker face despite whatever her kids said to her.
The second afternoon session I attended was called Math Maintenance by Kathryn (Yay fellow Marylander!). She dedicates the first ten minutes of every class to spiraling in different content with the intent of reviewing old content, practicing current content, and previewing future content. Each week she chooses 5 topics (roughly two review, two practice, one preview) and creates a worksheet with 5 questions from each topic (one question per topic per day). So basically, on Monday students get a worksheet that has 5 columns for each day of the week, and they have to work their way down each column each day. I’m doing a terrible job of explaining what she does cause I’m running out of steam but it’s a really clever way of structuring a worksheet that I plan to borrow from heavily as I work on homework this year.
Ok, I’m rapidly becoming unintelligible. It’s time for bed so I can get up and learn even more tomorrow. I’m so remarkably glad I came to Oklahoma so far and I expect the hits to just keep coming! The #MTBoS rocks!