My #1TMCThing, and the two that spoke to me

I need to write this out as a blog post because if I don’t it will become way too easy to not be accountable.

One of the sessions I went to this year was Rachel’s session on Questioning.  I already mentioned it in my blog post from TMC15 Friday, but she did a great job of setting up the whole session and got us really thinking about how we question. But my favorite part was when she had us all tweet ONE thing from the session that we were going to commit to working on this year. For the record, here is mine:

betterqs

I loved this idea because Twitter Math Camp is three days of amazing ideas, and it leads to overload.  Basically I want to do ALL the things.

My Quintessential TMC Picture

My Quintessential TMC Picture

But that’s insane. I’m going into my third year of teaching and there are so many basic things I have to work on that I can’t do literally every great idea I find at TMC (It was even more insane to try last year). It’s obviously good to take risks, but goals need to be Actionable and Reasonable and whatever other words spell SMART.

So I wrote to Lisa Henry and said “Yo Lisa, sup gurl? Howz ’bout we do the same thing for #TMC15?”  Thus the hashtag #1TMCThing was born. There was some grumbling that “How do I pick just one thing out of all of these great ideas?!” but the whole point was to keep it manageable. Sure, you can do a #2TMCThing* and a #3TMCThing** but you commit to at least one and work from there.

The feed is so inspiring to read through. I attempted to post a link below, but we’ll see how that works.


//
Of course this means I have to put my money where my mouth is. I went to a bunch of amazing sessions, and went back and forth with my idea, but finally I decided on:

1tmcthing

It’s kind of crazy because I didn’t even hear Alex talk about his “Vertical Non-Permanent Surfaces” (which, for the record, I still think is a silly name for them, but moving on). But I did see tweets from several people about the data Alex found (inserted below)  To decipher this, the top 3 lines are the amount of time, on average, kids spent. on things.  The bottom half of the grid is a scale, from 1 to 3, of basically how awesome it was. The difference between non-permanent (white boards) and permanent (notebooks) was crazy. I’m not sure if I can get Vertical Boards set-up this year, especially since I don’t know what rooms I’m going to be in, but I definitely want to at least get large whiteboards to go on the tables for kids. For more information, check out Alex’s blog post: http://slamdunkmath.blogspot.com/2014/08/vertical-non-permanent-surfaces-and.html?m=1 (h/t to Chris R for finding that for me).

data highlighted

To make it even better James gave me the awesome idea to have kids do a bunch of practice problems on the whiteboard, and then choose one to put in their notebooks as an example. Part of my concern had been “If the work is on the whiteboard, how do they study from it?” but this alleviated that issue, and gave the students a chance to reflect on what the best problem is and why they should write it down.  I love everything about this idea and I’ve had it in the back of my head for a while, and this is the year I will finally commit to it.

But wait, there’s more!  Lisa recognized that just saying “This is a thing that I’m going to do!” isn’t actually the best accountability system. She told all of us to look through the #1TMCThing tweets and find 1 or 2 that spoke to us. Then, six months later on October 26th, we would reach out and follow up with those people and see how it was going. This is a great way to keep us connected and accountable, and also I always listen to whatever Lisa tells me to do, so here are the things that spoke to me:

If it was possible to be too focused on accountable talk, that would describe our school culture. We are always trying to get kids to talk more to each other about content. That’s why I’ve found Elizabeth’s material on Talking Points to be very intriguing. But I’ve never tried it and I really want to know how it works with actual math content. I know some of the #MTBoS did it last year but I wasn’t in a place to really assimilate all of that. This year I want to follow-up with Heather using it in her Algebra 1 class so I can think about how to apply it to to my IB SL and IB Studies classes (Also Heather is awesome and I’ll look for any chance to talk to her).

I don’t think I spoke to Nate the entire TMC15, but I love this idea. I think the idea of moving away from strict units and just having Math presented in novel ways would be so powerful for kids. The trick is it scares the crap out of me to try it. I’m not afraid to take certain leaps, but I’m still new and with two new preps I’m not at all sure how to just jump in headfirst. I’m really curious to see how Nate pulls this off in both big and small ways. Plus hey, new twitter friend.

Honorable Mention:

So Lisa said pick one or two, but Deb posted this a few days later and I loved it because I plan on doing it too, especially for my IB Studies kids. Last year we had a couple estimation challenges that I put together for the school, and the kids did TERRIBLY. So I wanted to put in Estimation 180, but not limit it to only that. This is an idea I first saw from Mary and I think would be super easy to implement but very powerful.

So those three people can expect a tweet from me on or around October 26th, but I look forward to how everyone’s year is going.

* My #2TMCThing is to have at least one activity based lesson this year. I’ve already talked it over with my coplanner so this may happen!

** My #3TMCThing is to give everyone a high-five at the door on their way in to get them excited about class.

#TMC15 Day 4 – Family Reunions

TMC2015-solidThis post is in two parts: first being a day 4 recap, second being an overall reflection.

TMC15 Day 4

The last day is always just a short My Favorites session. Fair warning, this recap will be crap because I felt like crap. I was so tired and so mentally and emotionally drained that I was there more in body than in mind. First up was Andy talking about simulating an Ultimate Frisbee tournament using Excel and modeling a draft. It looked like a really awesome way to show students how stats can influence things. Then Daryl Yong gave a short pitch for the Math for America LA Fellowships. I know that without my MfA NYC fellowship I wouldn’t be able to do half of this crazy stuff, so it’s definitely worth looking in to. Heather and Dylan gave a quick plug for the Global Math Department. I gave a short My Favorite presentation last year on it and it’s a fantastic resource that I need to get better about joining (if for no other reason than I get to chat with everyone again).  If you want the newsletter go to bit.ly/GMDnewsletter and if you have a suggestion go to bit.ly/GMDsuggestion.  Then we moved to a room that had working tech and Stephanie spoke a bit about her Desmos art projects. This is something I’d seen various other teachers do over the year and it’s definitely something I want to try this year. It would be a super simple way of getting kids familiar with Desmos and with graphing, which I already think is a really big weakness for our students.  Matt spoke briefly about using Music cues to get students do what he wants (which let’s be honest, is basically brainwashing kids, but that’s not a deal-breaker for me). I think it streamlines things if you can get the songs to play quickly, but I can see me struggling mightily with that. Also @rawrdimus brought up the brilliant point that these kids will hear “Stuck Like Glue” in 15 years and suddenly need to glue ALL THE THINGS. I really liked his presentation though.  Princess came up and gave a very amusing short talk about videos in the classroom, and I realized I was missing out during the whole conference by not hanging out with her more. I also like the idea of making students make videos of things as a project. Maybe as an extra credit project if I’m unhappy with their performance. Or maybe as a review assignment at the beginning of the year.  Amy did what I think was a really cool folding activity, but at this point I was in no sort of analytical mathematical mind so I think I missed a few steps.

(Basically at this point I’m admitting to the public that I’m a terrible audience member and by the transitive property kind of a crappy person.)

John G came up and did a short talk about his Math Tumblr. I’m already an avid Tumblr user, but it’s mainly sci fi memes and snark from Tyler Oakley and the occasional shirtless guy so I’m really glad to have more math in my life.  If anyone is curious, http://trigonometry-is-my-bitch.tumblr.com/ has some really cool gifs and proofs too. Then John M came up to share some of the things they did in their morning session, which was basically like “How can we use a Zombie Apocalypse to teach Math?”  Their focus was on Middle School so I had opted for a different session, but I love the idea of doing something so crazy. What if every unit this year in Studies tied in into some crazy theme? Clearly Studies is the class I’m most struggling with. But all the activities that people tweeted about from these morning sessions looked ridiculous in the best way.

The last “Favorite” was the TMC15 Song!!  Some of it is “You Had to Be There” but overall this is amazing. I’ve watched it several times today and get more emotional each time.

Finally we had Lisa’s closing remarks. I won’t try to add to them, she nailed it. Then finally put us out of our misery and announced that we will all be spend July 16th – 19th next summer in Minneapolis, MN at Augsburg College for Twitter Math Camp 2016. Then we foolishly didn’t follow Sam’s advice to Irish Exit and had lots of emotional goodbyes with everyone.

What can I say about Twitter Math Camp?

I think sometimes when I talk to people about Twitter Math Camp they think that I’m crazy. I can’t mention those three words together without a smile breaking out across my face and getting incredibly animated and extolling the virtues of the Math Twitter Blogosphere and these four days that we spend all together in some random corner of the country. I want every math teacher I know to join because you can’t help but love everything about this.  Basically, it sounds like a cult.

Sam is the one in the middle.

Sam is the one in the middle, if the one in the middle had two pairs of glasses.

But the truth is that I can’t help myself. It’s four days of the most engaging, heartfelt, intelligent conversations about math education. We get there on Wednesday night to play games and chat, but it’s all about our teaching year and new activities we like. Every meal is at least partially if not completely devoted to talking about life in the classroom and different ways of reaching students. Our sessions end and everyone keeps the conversation going over drinks at the local bar or even just in a random corner of the courtyard.

This year was even better for me because I had come last year and already knew so many amazing people. When we checked in Chris was trying to get his reservation straightened out and I was hopping around like a puppy that had to pee because I wanted to run in to the room and see Julie and Sam and Elizabeth and Lisa and everyone else. And as soon as we walked in Julie came running up to hug me. So many people remembered me or just knew of me and it was amazing. I’m so energized and so … overwhelmed.  But in a great way. In the way that I know no matter what new subject I’m struggling, at least 10 tweeps will have my back. In the way that if I need something new to try, people will have a plethora of ideas. Hell, my #1TMCThing is Vertical Non-Permanent Whiteboards and I didn’t even attend a session on that, I just saw some research that someone tweeted from Alex and felt inspired (And we all know we have at least six #1TMCthing ideas we want to put out there).

Through some random happenstance two people that I know in my face-to-face life came to their first TMC this year. One of the other members of my MfA cohort, Sahar, came because she is active with tweeting, and she sent the following to my cohort Facebook group:

Name removed for her privacy, obviously.

Every time I saw her over the four days she was like “Wow, you were so right about this.” There were a number of tweets and conversations from others something along the lines of “I’m going to get everyone I know to come to this, it’s incredible.”

But I think the most gratifying bit for me this year was that my co-worker Kat made the trek. When she arrived on Wednesday night she didn’t even have a twitter handle. I made her create one before bed. Now she’s got numerous followers and is following even more of these amazing people. The first night she looks at me and says “I understand you so much better now. I get why you saw this curriculum and cringed.” And every night she would come back to the room and want to talk about this year and all the amazing things she wants to do. On the last morning I woke up and she had left me the following letter:

letter

And it reminded me that the MTBoS really is a big extended family. Everyone is welcoming, everyone is happy. Unlike some families, everyone is smart and helpful. And we make each other better. I wouldn’t be half the teacher I am today without Chris or Sam or Julie or Elizabeth or Lisa or Bob or Mary or Fawn or Anna or Meg or Jim or Megan or Teresa or Mark or Dylan or John or Heather or Glenn or Jonathan or Kate or anyone else I’ve ever tweeted with ever (I follow 208 people, I can’t name you all, and I’ve probably already named too many). My heart and my brain are full.

So for everyone I met and spoke with over the last four days, I thank you and I love you and I can’t wait to see you all again next year. I’ll start organizing the Mall of America trip. Sam’s already found the Piano bar. And if 12 months is too long, New York is a pretty amazing city to visit. Plus we have a Math museum.

Stay awesome everyone.

#TMC15 Day 3 – When 23 hours of PD just isn’t enough

I’m currently sitting on my couch trying desperately to stay cool.  I’m also trying desperately to think and recap the last two days of TMC15 without being overwhelmed by the whole experience that is Twitter Math Camp.  If I start talking about the experience as a whole I will never get to my recap, so let me do that first.

In an effort to prove just how ridiculous we all are, we got to Harvey Mudd early so that Andrew could give us a short talk on Pear Deck.  It’s an interactive classroom software that you can use to set-up interactive activities using technology, kind of similar to teacher.desmos.com but you have a lot more freedom with it. Only downside is that some of the cooler features require a subscription.  Julie also mentioned nearpod which is a similar platform that’s free, but doesn’t have all of the features.   How awesome (and ridiculous) is it that the 23 hours of normally scheduled PD isn’t enough time for us, so we schedule additional sessions later on.

Saturday officially started out with a short My Favorites session.  Dan started us off with the idea of having kids do a “My Favorite” just like we were doing. He told his kids to pick their favorite math topic and do a short presentation on it. Just the breadth of topics his students were presenting on is crazy awesome (especially everyone’s favorite, the Hairy Ball Theorem).  Then Denis came up to talk about his “Unanswerable Questions” Warm-up. Unfortunately I was typing furiously trying to finish my Day 2 recap blog post so I didn’t quite hear how he implements it, but my take-away is that he googles certain things and finds mathematical-adjacent questions that students have to answer. Basically the idea is to get students thinking mathematically without actually doing some specific math skill.  I’m really interested in mathematical mindsets so I might try this when I need a quick math warm-up.  Brian Miller talked a bit about real-world math, which he defines as “Math someone needed to do their job.” He inspired me to have more conversations with my non-teacher friends about math they use on a daily basis and find ways to bring that into my classroom. Especially since he suggested having these conversations over beer.  Finaly Levi asked just to take a group picture of us, which you can find below.  I sprinted across the room just so I could sit next to Fawn.

These are my people.

These are my people.

Then it was back for our final Morning Session with Alex and Mary! Again, I was typing furiously to get my Day 2 reflection done (teachers really do make the worst students) so I was off-task, but I did get Mary’s excellent point that you don’t have to throw out EVERYTHING and just start over with a new idea. She has slowly been introducing more and more activities each year, but still does some more traditional material in her classes. While I have a tremendous amount of respect for everyone that’s just thrown it all out and started over, I’m not sure I have the guts for that yet, at least not in my third year. But then our session did what the MTBoS always manages to do, which is being completely amazing and helpful and proactive. We created an activity bank!! Mary started it, but then the incomparable John Stevens made it all fancy!  The bank can be found here: bit.ly/MTBoSbank.  If you have an idea for an activity, you can submit them at bit.ly/MTBoSactivity.  This will save me SO MUCH TIME as I try to put more activities into my classroom. (Full disclosure, doing one activity a term was going to be my #1TMCthing, but I chickened out and chose something else, which I’ll talk about in a second). I don’t know of any good activities since we don’t really use them, but I’m so excited to throw some in, especially in my Studies class.

For lunch I had asked Lisa Henry for some moments of her time because I hadn’t really gotten a chance to interact with her. If there are those of you who don’t know, Lisa is basically in charge of Twitter Math Camp and does the lion’s share of the work with planning everything and making it go off without a hitch.  I will always remember her taking a spare moment during Twitter Math Camp 2014 to check in with me, see how I was doing, and keep things in perspective. It was great to eat with her and Chris and Elizabeth and Dave, just to catch up.

Back from lunch we had a short My Favorites. Bob had an awesome statistics simulation similar to Jimmy Fallon’s Egg Roulette (except with plastic Easter eggs and pom-poms instead of real eggs). It was funny to watch Matt Vaudrey and Hedge pull out the eggs, but it also has a ton of room for statistics and probability questions.  Then I gave a favorite!  Well, two in fact.  First was for First Like Third, the project I’m trying to start to help teachers new to a subject anticipate certain misconceptions. I’m still doing a terrible job of selling it though, so I need to reevaluate.  The second thing was DeltaMath I feel like anyone in New York knows about it because of MfA and Zach, but if you don’t it’s a pretty awesome problem and assignment generator. It’s definitely more for rote skills than creative activities, but it helps. save you having to dig through 15 textbooks just to find enough problems.  I was so freaking nervous but I thought it went well. Julie gave a short presentation on Kahoot as an assessment tool. I think this is one of those things my kids would absolutely LOVE to play, I just have to figure out how to manage devices so that they don’t become a distraction.  Finally Karim gave his “two minute” presentation on Mathalicious.

The keynote for Saturday was Fawn Nguyen talking about her teaching career and why she is still in the classroom 25

Knowing Fawn, there's probably an F-word missing...

Knowing Fawn, there’s probably an F-word missing…

years later.  I’m going to vote right now that Fawn gives a keynote every TMC. It was equal parts hilarious and moving, reminding us that #nobodycares and relationships matter. If my kids ever think I care about them 1 tenth as much as Fawn cares about her students then I have done my job as a teacher. She struck the right tone and inspired me to be the kind of teacher that cares so much about her kids. My favorite line was when she was looking at a note that a student had given her, and she said something like the following: “My sister is in the private sector, and a few years ago she got a Christmas bonus check that was as much as my whole salary. But she’ll never get a letter like that.” This year I did Friday Letters, and the letters that the kids wrote to me on the last day are something I will always keep  with me to remind me of why I do this.  I could keep babbling meaninglessly about how wonderful the talk was but I’d rather just find a video of it. As soon as I have that I’ll post it somewhere.

Then we had two short afternoon sessions with the misfortune of following Fawn. The first was Bob’s talk on tricky concepts in Statistics. I thought he did a fantastic job talking about the ideas, and it’s very obvious that he knows a lot about Stats. The problem is A) I was completely braindead after two days, and B) I don’t know a damn thing about Stats. Somehow I was just never forced to take Statistics so I never did, and I don’t actually know anything about it. So basically I put a big honking star in my notes that I will need to talk to him when I get closer to the material because I really think he’ll be a fantastic resource.

The last afternoon session is always a flex session that allows gives everyone time to fit in a session that didn’t occur to them until we got to the conference or an official time to continue talking about something we started earlier. I went to the one Rachel held about starting over at a new school since I just did that last year. One of the things that came up was having a document for new teachers that could lay out a lot of the logistical questions, and I really want to help create that for my school. I remember when I had my new teacher orientation we had four days on school culture, which was awesome, but I was distracted the whole time because I just wanted to know where the damn copier was.  If you’re a teacher that has changed schools.

At this point I was so wiped that I just wanted to have a quiet dinner where I got a chance to talk with people I had missed previously.  Apparently I wasn’t the only one that had the idea, as the patio was packed with other math teachers all

The courtyard at the DoubleTree at like 9pm

The courtyard at the DoubleTree at like 9pm

clamoring to talk with new people and continue talking about some of the ideas we had heard throughout the weekend. I finally got to sit down with Anna and see this years versions of her Interactive Notebooks, which as always are freaking insane (in literally the best way).  I also got to speak with Anna about Google Classroom, and she answered some of the questions I had.  And obviously I had a ton of other conversations as I was there for like 5 hours, but I can’t for the life of me remember them. The one downside to having a piano bar across the parking lot from your hotel is that there are a number of late nights, and I am of an age where those late nights catch up with me very quickly so my tiredness throws off my ability to remember things. I know I spoke briefly with Lisa B and with Dylan and Glenn and with Deb and with a bunch of other people. Next year I need to carry a freaking GoPro with me. The night ended with one last trip to the Piano Bar, where the guy at the door said “Welcome Back folks!” So that was a thing that happened.

I was going to include a bit about Day 4, but this is already almost 1800 words so I’ll do Day 4 and an overall recap in one post later.

#TMC15 Day 2 – In which I learned how to better format my blog post

First things first: Having a dueling piano bar in the parking lot of the hotel is a dangerous thing for getting enough sleep at Twitter Math Camp.  Especially when Julie is around, because we will absolutely stay till closing. And there are some pictures floating around out there that are not the most … professional.  The morning was a little rough, but the memories were totally worth it.

Venn-Diagram with 7 Sets

Venn-Diagram with 7 Sets

The morning Favorites were fantastic.  First we got to see John Stevens’ fantastic MTBoS Search Engine at bit.ly/MTBOSS.  It looks through all of the MTBoS blogs for topics, making it so freaking easy to draw from all the wonderful ideas that these amazing people have done.  All of these superlatives are absolutely necessary, because it consolidates everything and saves so much time.  Next up was Edmund Harris talking about his new math coloring book.  I’m really too lazy to find pictures, but I have some on my twitter (Actually lies, the venn diagram with 7 sets was just too cool not to find). All of the designs just look like so much fun and I’ll be ordering a copy.

desmos house

3D Desmos House!!

Tina then showed us a clever way to have personal whiteboards using little plastic sheets, and Peg Cagle suggested “Shop Ticket Holders” on Amazon as a cheap alternative.  Glenn talked about how he has to remember that rather than teach math, he teaches people the subject of math (Yay problem frames!), and made an effort to engage with students more by something as simple as high-fiving them every day.  I really like these super simple but super effective changes we can make cause they’re so easy.  Finally Heather showed us some super awesome stuff she does with Desmos and 3D printing. A kid made a freaking house!  SO COOL to see.

Then it was back to our activities morning session. We started with Alex doing a quick memory activity with us where we had to memorize 20 words, then write down all the ones we could remember. We then counted how many people remembered each word and plotted it those numbers on a graph, and the result had a quadratic regression.  It was such a cool way of getting at quadratic regression that requires literally no work. Then we repeated the process except he wiped our short-term memory by surprising us at spiralingthe end of the list, and you could see in real time how the regression changed.  Then he talked about how he spirals in content.  The top squares are the traditional units, each topic is isolated.  The bottom half of the page is a list of each of his activities and the standards that those activities hit on. His activities hit so many different content standards all at once, and he hits them repeatedly throughout the year so kids are always spiraling. It’s crazy awesome to see, but also kind of intimidating with how much he’s got going on.  This structure works great with Standards Based Grading (more on that in a second). I really admire Alex for just jumping in with both feet and seeing how it went, and I think it’s awesome how much success he’s had. We have to always remember as educators that we shouldn’t be beholden to “How it’s done” if it’s not working. Don’t be afraid to throw it all out and start over if necessary.

That said, it’s definitely intimidating to start over.  I did maybe one activity this year. How do I switch to doing only activities, and how do I get those great activities to touch on so many things?  To help, Mary blogged about all of her classroom activities for the last two years at her blog, http://marybourassa.blogspot.com/.  She has all these posts that describe both her success and her failures, and it’s awesome. Bonus, check out how she does her warm-ups. I love them and want to implement them into my Studies class this year.

Lunch was a ridiculously large Pastrami sandwich from The Hat.

First afternoon favorite was Anna talking about Google Classroom.  This looks like it would work so much better than me awkwardly forgetting to update my website every week, and it would be great for announcements for kids.  I definitely have to look into it when I get home.  Then the amazing Eli came to share some of his amazing @Desmos magic.  I can’t talk about it, but it will add some great functionality to activities (and ties into my morning session now that I’m thinking about it).  Every time he shows up the entire room swoons.  Finally Mary shared the fantastic “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” It is so freaking awesome and useful, and if you’re into classroom debate they fit together very, very well.

The afternoon keynote was Christopher Danielson talked about teaching math from the heart, not from the textbook. He said to figure out what we love and bring that to the classroom. He talked a lot about his new children’s shape book which is similar to “Which One Doesn’t Belong?” and leads to some great conversations with kids.

Then I went to Rachel’s session on questioning, which was fantastic. She talked about what’s necessary for good questions, but also gave us resources and practice in how to help kids make better questions.  She did such a great job of leading the session and sounding calm and knowledgeable and I really felt energized to work on my questioning.  This year I really want to focus on Wait Time when I ask questions. I do OK at asking “What questions do you have?” instead of “Any questions?” but I tend to move too quickly.

Finally I went to the Standards Based Grading session led by Dave, Anna, and Lisa.  They all have so many resources and gave a great presentation, but the concept is so freaking overwhelming to me. My biggest concern is how you grade questions that target more than one standard, especially since I’m already a really nervous grader. The rubrics add to that nervousness because holistic grading makes me uncomfortable. I like being able to specifically point to things and say like “You lost this negative sign here, so you lost one point”, as opposed to “You lost this negative sign here, so you’re not excellent, but you’re still competent” (I butchered all of the terminology there but you get the idea).  I will definitely get to SBG, but I think I need a few more years under my belt.

I’m giving a My Favorites session in about 5 minutes so I have to finally wrap this up. Except a Day 3 post sometime soon!

#TMC15 Day 1 – In which I realized how bad I am at public speaking

It’s that time again!  Twitter Math Camp 2015 is off and running. At the social hours last night I realized just how many people I met from last year and how many I know from online. It’s so great to see everyone again and be like “HEY! How was your year? What are you doing now?” There are so many brilliant people here and just being around them makes me want to be a better teacher.

For future reference as I go through this, the program is here.

For the morning session, I chose the “Activity-Based Teaching” workshop run by Al Overwijk and Mary Bourassa.  They started the session by showing a picture of a giant tree and just asked “What questions do you have?”

Can you spot the four climbers?

Can you spot the four climbers?

Then they randomly split us up into groups of three and had us choose three questions that we liked the most, and give reasons as to why.  We wrote our three questions on three separate sheets of paper and then did a sort of gallery walk to see what other groups had done. After looking at the other groups we had to pick one of the three questions for each group and give reasons, then return to our own questions and see which of our questions most people chose.  It was really fascinating to see both what questions were very common and what questions were very distinct.  “How tall is the tree?” was very common, but then there were also questions like “How is this tree different from other trees?” and “What do you see and what do you not see about the tree?”  After we made a final choice on the best question and put it on the board, we spent a few minutes just doing math. We could answer any question we wanted, and it was again super interesting to see the different directions everyone took.  A group of us tried to estimate the height of the tree using the little man at the bottom as a reference. Turns out we grossly overestimated the total height, but I blame some of that on weird picture composition.

But the best part was that working through these questions started an hour long conversation about what makes a good question and what makes a good math activity.  Just hearing a room full of quality educators talk about what makes a good question was so invigorating. I think we can all recognize a great question, but trying to come up with those questions is difficult. One thing Al and Mary mentioned that they did was to do this same activity with their classes to help get better questions out of the kids.  As Mary said, if the question doesn’t force you to show me what math you know, it’s not a good question.  Alex was telling us about how he only has activities in his classroom,and I’m super curious to hear more about how he gets that to work, and what effect that has on things like test prep.  I’m seriously thinking of having a very activities-heavy curriculum for my IB Studies class to help engage those students that haven’t traditionally loved Math but I need a lot more information about it.

Lunch was from the Fry Fry food truck. No lie, carne asada fries are delicious.

After lunch we had a short my favorites, with two dissertations, Chris Shore talking about some classroom engagement practices, and Jonathan Claydon talking about Varsity Math.  A rather entertaining little session, and now I know a new dirty term.

Then we had Lani Horn’s keynote talk about the mindset of good teachers and all the things that the #MTBoS can help us with.  I found the idea of Problem framing to be really powerful, because it can be really easy to asy “Ugh, these kids are so difficult” instead of “I’m having trouble engaging these kids, what’s something that could hook them?”  The differentiation between what good teachers do and what Great teachers do is going to be super important to keep in mind in November and February when I’m exhausted. If someone wants to make a poster for the wall behind my desk…

I then went to a short session by Matt Lane on the effectiveness in Video Games in the classroom.  I was expecting a session more like “These are some great video games you can use in the classroom” but it was more “Here are some video games, how can you apply math to them.” I think this is brilliant, but I also think it might be slightly more brilliant than me.  I had a hard time connecting to it, but I think a large part of my problem was that I had a session on right after and I was freaking out about it.

It’s difficult for me to write about my session on Socratic Seminars because I’m so hard on myself, and every stray blank stare makes me think the entire group hates it.  I also shot myself in the foot because, in an effort to have 100% participation, I committed a TMC faux pas and said “NO TWEETING”. The unintended side effect is that then no one tweeted about the session, which was an eerie silence. However a couple people have come up and said “I heard really good things about your session” so that’s good. I’m definitely glad I had them try a short seminar first because it put a lot more things into context. And I got some great ideas about other structures to try. For example, we could do a “Which one doesn’t belong?” seminar. I hope I can start collaborating with some of the participants so we can really get Math Seminars working in our school.

I forgot what a huge rush this conference is.  There’s so much information and so much excitement and collaboration. We go to dinner and half the conversation is the best way to teach proofs in Geometry. You get drinks at the bar and have conversations about some new activity that your teacher friend in Alabama just started.  My co-worker Kat came with me this year and even after only one day she said “I feel like I understand you and your teaching so much better.”  We’ve had a number of conversations about why these people aren’t the ones in charge of math education, and why more PDs aren’t like this. Twitter Math Camp is just an amazing experience and I’m so glad I came.

I have to stop now so I can pay proper attention to the My Favorites.  I just saw a venn-diagram with 7 sets and it blew my mind.  More to come later today, with constant updates on twitter.

Tweet yo’ self: MTBoS Mission #2

I’ve been on twitter for years now, joining back when it first appeared. I have a habit of joining whatever the new thing is (although I’m not on Vine yet because I can’t be bothered, and my Instragram is really only used to follow the exploits of attractive male actors). I just passed the 8,000 tweet mark. I tweet a lot.

Until this year my feed was almost exclusively TV critics. I’m a TV junkie so that’s how I kept up on what was happening on Homeland and Mad Men and whatnot. But Sam introduced me to the MTBoS and so I started following all the teachers he recommended. My feed is now 50-50 TV updates and Teaching updates (which is only confusing sometimes). And I have to say it’s the most amazing resource I’ve found so far. Blog posts are wordy and I get behind on them really, really quickly. But quick links on Twitter appeal to my 30-second attention span. It’s also great to see experienced teachers post a quick update about what’s going on in their classrooms that wouldn’t necessarily warrant a whole blog post. Something simple like “Students did better on the test than I expected, whew!” helps give a sense of community that is very much needed after some of my long days. And as a first year teacher I take some degree of relief in seeing experienced teachers go “Well that was a shit-show”.  It’s also incredibly helpful to have quick conversations about things. I’m not sure how to post the exchange, but I just had a quick conversation with @justinAion about bathroom policies. Nothing world-shaking, but interesting nonetheless.  

I had a post about this earlier, but to reiterate, my twitter handle is @stoodle.  My tweets are usually protected. I’ve debated a lot about this with myself and bounce back and forth between protected and not. My biggest problem is, unlike my website, my twitter handle is pretty well tied into the rest of my digital footprint, and I’m not sure I’m comfortable with someone being able to see everything about me. Especially when I’m bitching about school. Or just bitching about life.  But I’ve decided that for the duration of this mission I will unprotect my tweets, and maybe pick up a few hundred new friends. If you’re reading this feel free to give my feed a perusal. And I will try to do the same. 

Currently I’m super-behind on the Comments section of these missions, I hope to rectify that within the next few days. But at the moment I’ve got 60 projects to grade and three lessons to plan while also compiling a mock regents, all before bed!