Monday, March 26, 2018

Using CPM - Getting My Head Around It (Part One)

I started using CPM materials in both Geometry and Statistics this year. And all the Hurricane Maria craziness aside, it has been such an interesting and challenging change.

First off, I am not in a frantic search for / creation of lesson ideas to support the objectives for each day. Each year, I was determined to improve my lessons, so I was always on the lookout for better lesson ideas.  This huge amount of creation/searching/adaptation has been the bulk of my preparation time for the last 30 years, ergo the bulk of my teaching time. (It was made easier by all the generous #mtbos shares!) I have faith that the lessons/activities, as presented, are going to be great. Now that faith didn't come easily but Hurricane Maria (and Irma before her) actually helped. I didn't have time (between the curfew and lack of electricity and internet) to actually do something else. I had to use those materials.

By the time the lights came back on, I was hooked. I see familiar problems/activities embedded into the lessons in thoughtful ways. I see how things are connected. I'm addicted to the spiraled review I see built into the problems.  I love the homework help option that students can access - not the answers but real hints to help them solve on their own. I'm a huge fan of those team strategies and have a reminder on my desk: Monitor and Adjust. My job has changed - no longer the collator of materials but the angel of facilitation.

I could not have built this on my own. This was clearly developed with the input of many creative teachers, determined to develop mathematicians. To give you an idea of how great these lessons are, we did the Week of Inspirational Math again this year. Previously, the problems were so out of the ordinary that students really got an amazing kick out of it. This year? One student commented, "This is how our math class always is." Hooray!

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

She Doesn't Teach

This is a quote (Dan Meyer) about explaining why he has problems with online math video presentations:

...because these video presentations communicate to students the message that math is something you can’t make sense of unless some adult explains it to you, that learning is something you do by yourself, and that your peers have nothing to offer your understanding of that new information.

The idea that math or science is something students require teachers to explain is one that seems so deeply ingrained in my students that I don't know how to begin to help them see this differently. They wouldn't be satisfied in a language arts class if all they could do was read other people's writing or a choral class where they only observed the teacher singing. They wouldn't accept getting ready for a sports competition by watching videos of athletes.

And yet. A significant number of my students claim that I don't teach. They are in my classroom, solving problems, discussing methods, finding counterexamples, addressing precision. I frequently sit off to the side in these discussions so that they are rarely tempted to even look to me. I've promised to intervene if they've gone off the rails but that does not seem to satisfy their need for an adult authority in the room.

I know I need to change the culture and build a new one but I need to do this better.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Developing a Classroom Team

I am teaching a wonderful group of physics students. Eleven students, all willing to work hard. We are using the Modeling Physics Curriculum and students are struggling. They are good students and associate struggle with not understanding. I've discussed why understanding comes through the struggle but they are very fond of the teacher-at-the-board model.

I'm thinking of ways to celebrate the struggle - how ideas get clarified as we work through problems. I think emphasizing the team idea - we are all struggling together - might help them. We're willing to struggle harder when we're doing it as part of a group. Or at least I really think so.

I'm thinking Physics t-shirts. We'll design a logo, I'll get it on t-shirts for us all. Group identity.

And I have a brand-new pair of pink Chuck Taylor's. I'm thinking of having them decorate the shoes with physics stuff and their initials.

Symbolic stuff, I know, but groups are forged with symbols. (Right, cheeseheads and parrotheads?) These are things I could make into traditions.

Lastly, not so symbolic, I'm thinking of using more of the CPM team strategies with this group. We do work in teams but it has been fairly unstructured.

Something like:
  • Carousel: Around the World
    • Write a different problem/topic/question on large poster sheets hung on the walls or on each table.
    • Each team is given a different colored marker.
    • Each team goes to a different poster, discusses the topic and decides what to write.
    • Teams rotate to all of the posters, adding to what was written by previous teams (have a time limit).
    • When done, each team does a “gallery walk.”
    • A large class discussion/debrief can then be held.
I'd love to hear suggestions! Any ideas on how to help them appreciate a different classroom model? 

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Inverting Correspondence

I'm trying out Kate Nowak's "Inverting the Lesson" as we begin triangle correspondence.

Students will start with a triangle congruence statement and a table of corresponding sides and angles. Then they are given a polygon congruence statement and asked to find the corresponding parts. Then the order of the letters in the congruence statement are examined to find the correspondence revealed in the order of the letters. Link to document

I'll use the "You, Y'all, We" model for the lesson. 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Starting with Why

I watched the Ted Talk on Start with Why and it got me thinking about why I teach (and love to teach) the subjects I do. I'm working on fairly succinct reasons to use in course descriptions for students.

Physics - The universe is no open book. Physics is our attempt to peek behind the curtain of nature and see how it really is.

Geometry - The mathematics of the perfect. Studying a circle is the (perfect) example. The set of points all perfectly the same distance from one single point.

Statistics - Data is messy and there's so much of it. Statistics gives us the tools to clean it up and tease some valid meaning from it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

I Made a Mistake

I've been reading Jo Boaler's book Mathematical Mindsets and been thinking so much about it. The section on making mistakes is singing to me right now because


Not a small mistake, a huge mistake. I told my students that the forces were balanced for an object moving around in a circle. Of course, they aren't. I'm not even sure where that idea came from that it emerged from my mouth.

What I'm trying to do is model what to do when you've made a mistake. I owned the mistake, admitted to be embarrassed about it and why I shouldn't be and corrected it with my students. I've said over and over, "I'd rather be corrected than wrong, " and accept corrections to my work with good grace. I'm pretty glad I caught this and not a student, though.

I love the activity - Make a Mistake (from Kelly O'Shea) for students who are solving problems. It must be an error of thinking, not arithmetic or rounding or units.

But I've heard how they talk about teachers making mistakes. It ain't pretty. And I've read what they've written about how they feel making mistakes. Even less pretty.

How do you set up a culture of mistakes?

Saturday, January 30, 2016

What an Interesting Question!

I was listening to NPR when I realized how often a host or guest said that to a caller. I realized I wanted to be one of those callers and have my question recognized! I began using the same technique in my classes. There are so many varieties of that response - "I love that question.", "Do you know why I love her question?" (answering a question with a question, my fav), "You guys come up with the best questions.", "Question of the day, that one is."

So this week I've been thinking about questions because of this prompt. I started to write a post...Got stuck. But yesterday, after one of my geometry classes, I made a horrifying discovery about my teaching.

I answer too many questions.

We're working on similarity and yesterday were looking at proportions of perimeters and areas in similar figures. A student asked, "Does the order matter?" and I began an answer. (The answer did start with, "What an interesting question", but answer I did.) I stopped mid-sentence. I asked him to ask the class. I asked him to clarify what he meant by order mattering. It was a save but I had already given HINTS to the answer. Dammit.

It wasn't the only time yesterday. "Do the units matter?" The science teacher in me didn't even acknowledge the goodness of that question. (DO UNITS MATTER?!?!) What a truly great question to throw back at them to chew on. And I had reflexively started to answer.

In the next section of the class, I did throw out a question, "What do you notice about the units in this proportion?" But I know I answered at least one question in that section. It's like finding out that you've been picking your nose in front of them, all unaware. I'm disgusted with myself.