The First Annual #MfASummerThink 2017

Today is the last day of the very first MfA Summer Think conference. Over the course of two and a half days we’ve had three featured speakers, three short support sessions, and a Deep Dive session where we got to focus on one idea for over 5 hours. It’s been a really great experience to spend more devoted time with other MfA teachers that I usually just see in short bursts.

For my Deep Dive I chose to do the “Curriculum Reboot: Design Challenge as Assessment” by Vielca. The idea is you give students a specific task that they have to design a solution for. We started our session by taking 35 minutes to create a marble slide that has to have the longest time. I’d never met anyone in my group, but by the end of those 35 minutes we were working as a team and getting so involved. I really like this structure for getting students involved, but the whole time I was thinking that it’s really hard to come up with these sorts of challenges. Vielca then took time to address those concerns, and give us time to work in groups to come up with project ideas. By the end, I had created an idea for Algebra 2 that has students creating different pieces of a Mars rover using different functions. As ideas go it’s an OK start, but I’m not super in love with it. But this workshop was a great reminder for me to get out of my comfort zone a bit and try to do more project-based learning.

The coolest part about the Deep Dives, however, was the share-out at the end of the conference. When it was originally suggested that we have an “exposition” to share out everything we’d done, I was a little skeptical. Obviously not because I think it’s bad to share, but I wasn’t sure how it would logistically work. But the idea that I think Leah came up with to have tri-fold boards was fantastic. It was like a mini science fair, and we got to see so many great ideas that are shared. I think one of the biggest areas for improvement for MfA is resource sharing, and even something as simple as this share-out gave me ideas for the future which I really appreciated.

For the support sessions, I got to choose two because I was leading one myself. The first one I chose was about Opportunities for Productive Struggle, led by Heidi and Melanie. They gave us a ton of research on the value of productive struggle, and some example problems that they use in their own classrooms. It’s clear that both of them put a ton of work into their session, which was awesome. I think it’d be a really cool project to sit down and come up with specific banks of problems for each subject (Alg 1, Alg 2, Geo, etc) that are available online.

The second support session I got to choose was about Concrete Demonstrations for Abstract Ideas by Samantha. I loved her energy so much, and the presentation was a lot of fun. Her examples were more for Chem because that’s what she teaches, but it was a good reminder that so much of what we do is abstract and we need to find ways to make it more real for kids. I think even Desmos can be a good way to make the subject more tangible for kids, and I need to utilize it more this coming year.

The session I led was just about the MTBoS. Not to diminish how awesome I think the topic is, but I’ve done the presentation before so it wasn’t much new. But I think everyone got something significant out of it, which I’m always proud of. The more people I can get hooked on the #MTBoS, the stronger both MfA and MTBoS become. I love having a phenomenal community of educators that I can steal borrow from constantly.

All of the workshops aside, the most interesting thing I got out of the conference was planning it. Brian (who I knew from the MTBoS) had sent out a note on the MfA network to join a conference planning committee.  He had sent his TMC to Courtney Allison at MfA, which led to a conference planning committee. Given how much I get out of TMC every year I made it a point to attend, and I’m so glad I did. Working with Brian and Courtney G and Leah and Carl and Sony and Diana over the last six months has been educational and informative. I kind of pushed hard for the basic structure to mirror Twitter Math Camp (with deep dives and support sessions) and from the feedback I got from participants I’m glad that I did. And I’m excited to try this whole thing again next year. Hopefully it will be a lot less work since we already have a framework to build on. And hopefully more people will be eager to sign-up after hearing about all of the amazing work we did!




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