Sunday, June 24, 2018

Ten Weeks of Summer: Math Love! (Week 2)

Last week I took my daughter to freshmen college orientation and she signed up for classes.  I knew she was considering elementary education, but then she changed her mind.  Her newly declared major - middle school mathematics education!  (Of course I can't jump up and down physically beside her, that would be embarrassing.  But inside, I was doing a happy dance.) Of course this study by the Education Department's National Center for Education Statistics, says that about 1/3 of students change their major at least once.  If changing major is genetically linked, we may be ok.  Cassie's father was always a chemistry major from the first day of college and I was always a math major.  Neither of us changed our majors EVER.

Then, I got a tweet from a fellow AP Stat teacher saying that his first ever AP Stat class created a class shirt and my name was on it because they found my TI-84 videos so helpful.  I am glad to know that my work is being used by others.  I thanked the teacher and wished his students well on the AP scores that are set to come out next week.  Of course, I am keeping my fingers crossed that my students did well, too.

Starting tomorrow, I will be leading an four-day AP Summer Institute for seven AP Statistics teachers.  I spent two full days last week finalizing my plans for the workshop. I am definitely well prepared and hope it goes well.  Sharing teaching ideas and learning from other math teachers is what keeps me teaching.  It may seem strange that I get renewed energy in the summer by doing more teaching, but I do!  Sharing the math love in workshops, over twitter, on my YouTube channel and in this blog motivates me.  Plus I am always learning new ideas from my virtual math colleagues - shout out to #MTBOS, #iteachmath and Global Math Department folks!

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Ten Weeks of Summer: The AP Stat Reading (Week 1)

During the school year, I did a teach 180 blog and I will be spending some time next week reviewing my successes and failures of the previous school year.  If you are a new teacher and you are reading this, you may be thinking, "Wait. You have taught since 1992. You still fail in your teaching?" Fail, fall short, learn and succeed.  If I want to continue to be the best teacher I can be for my students, I will need to try new things to keep them engaged and help them learn.  I think I may have even said in a previous blog post that once I stop learning and growing as a teacher it will be time for me to leave teaching.  But I am nowhere near ready for that yet.

This summer I will be blogging once each week to reflect on things I am doing over the summer relative to teaching.  I might blog about something I learned from a participant at a workshop.  Or I might blog about one of my summer goals, learning the computational layer in Desmos.  Or I might blog about a book I am reading related to teaching.

Let's begin.  Week 1: The AP Statistics Reading.  Today is Day 7 - a.k.a. the last day of the AP Statistics Reading.  It is one of the best professional development experiences of the year and this is my 9th year as an AP Reader.  Each year I learn more about how to help my students become better statistical communicators and better statistical thinkers.  I pick up teaching ideas, book recommendations and share stories with old friends and new friends.  This year I was able to escape from my third Escape Room in Kansas City and a bunch of us tried ax throwing. (It's ok to throw axes in statistics, but you don't forget to label them.)

This year at Best Practices night I presented about a teaching technique called "Stand and Talk".  It was based off of Sara VanDerWerf's blog and talk that I saw at NCTM.  (My blog posts about this technique can be found at Day 150 and Day 151 in my blog from the 2017-2018 school year.)  I also picked up some ideas from other teachers at that session.  Specifically, I want to try Kelly M. Spoon's (@kellymspoon) Desmos card sort activities.  (As I was writing this blog, I tried to search for it and could not find it online.)  So, I sent her a tweet and will modify my blog with the link once she sends it to me.

Stay tuned for week 2 - prepping for some workshops and looking ahead to teaching at my new school.

Friday, June 8, 2018

Teach 180: The Last Day (Day 178)

Today was the last day for all faculty.  It was sad to think that this was my last time to be with this particular group of teachers and friends.  I took pictures of my empty classroom to remind me of where I have taught for the past 12 years.  I also took a picture of this one special frame I have hanging on my wall.

My classroom has no real windows and has served as "the detention room" for many years.  About a year or two after being at Moravian Academy, the photography teacher, Nancy, asked me "If you could look out a window, what would you see?" 

"A beach scene," I told her.  "It doesn't need to be tropical, but it needs to be a beach scene." 

It was right before spring break and many of her photo students would soon be spending their days relaxing at a beach.  So, Nancy held a contest for her students.  The winning photo would be enlarged and framed behind this window that had been salvaged from Illick (a building on campus).  Thank you Lauren Comes (class of 2009?) for giving me something beautiful and relaxing to look at each day.  Thank you colleagues and friends; I will miss you greatly.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Teach 180: 26 Boxes and a Gem (Days 174 & 175)

Yesterday I finished organizing some files and I am down to my final "To Do" list as I prepare to move from my job at Moravian Academy to a job at Kent Place School.  This afternoon I counted the number of boxes and bins in my basement and there was a whopping 26!  As I sorted through one box today, I found this gem from an NCTM Math session from 2006.

I would say that if you asked my students that it means to do mathematics they would say things like find examples, look for patterns and solve problems.  I am not so sure they would say the ones I have highlighted - "take chances, make mistakes", "discover more elegant solutions" and "explain, validate, convince".  Why would they not say these?  Here are my thoughts.

Take Chances, Make Mistakes  - Although I try to have a culture where mistakes are seen as part of the learning process, students often don't want to make mistakes for fear of "losing face" in front of their peers.  However, taking chances and making mistakes are a huge part of learning.  Desmos has helped my students to take chances, try things out, make mistakes, revise their answers.  Desmos gives feedback in a non-judgemental way.  It says your wrong, but without using the word "wrong".  I don't use the word "wrong", but what do I say specifically?  I try to say things like "Why do you think that?" and "Can you explain your thinking?"  Do I really value mistakes?  I'll need to be more cognizant of this next year.

Discover More Elegant Solutions - Rarely do we take the time to have students discover more solutions, let alone more elegant solutions.  This is especially true in the public school system.  At times this has also been true in my classroom.  To have more elegant solutions, you need to have problems that are interesting and can be solved by multiple perspectives.  As I look to next year, can I make this part of my classroom culture?  As I plan for my classes for the fall, my goal will be to find one or two problems per unit that lend themselves to discovering more elegant solutions.

Explain, Validate, Convince - This is something that should be happening in every classroom (not just math classrooms) daily.  "Convince us." and "How can you tell if your answer is right/reasonable?" needs to also happen more frequently in my classroom.  In the name of "covering" content, we often rush past this part of a lesson to do more examples.  The answer is "right" and for many teachers that are pressured by state testing, a "right" answer is all that matters.  However, I believe that explain, validate and convince will have a stronger and more lasting impact on understanding than drill and kill in the name of "right" answers.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Teach 180: Celebrating the End (Day 173)

Friday was the beginning of the end.  Although we still have underclass exams for three more school days and two days of teacher meetings, we celebrated the graduation of this year's senior class on Friday evening with a baccalaureate service.  It is especially bittersweet this year, because my own daughter is in the graduating class.  After the service, we were milling on the lawn outside of the church with many pictures being taken.  This one was taken of me and my first period AP Stat students.  I will especially miss this group.  Teaching them was a joy.  They asked questions, made me laugh and hopefully, they will think more critically about any statistics headlines they see in the news.  Congratulations to the class of 2018!