Day 134: The One Where the Diamonds and Rectangles Come Together


So interesting to be back today after basically 3 days away (“Mister, were you here yesterday?” *long pause* “No, Katrina…were you?”). We’re in the middle of teaching factoring quadratics, so it’s been interesting to see what kiddos have picked up and remembered and what they haven’t.

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I love a good group task, so it’s always interesting to see when individual practice goes over well. To be fair, we’ve been learning about how to factor quadratics based off of CPM‘s diamond and generic rectangle problems. So there are many parts and it is procedural and it is tricky to watch it all come together. That being said, it feels like students got a pretty solid idea of how the whole process works. We gave them an example that they had to explain to other students and then let them practice. We try to think a lot about scaffolding and not scaffolding, so it was great to see students adding back scaffolds that they found useful once we removed them.

Day 133: The One with the Professional Development Day

To be fair, I’ve actually had 3 professional development days over the last 4 days, but…

Our 4-person math department was fortunate enough to be able to take yesterday off to talk, plan and dream together. Our school is mostly grade-level based, so having the 4 math teachers in one room is a bit of a rarity. I’m also finding that other departments spend (or require) less time together, so we sometimes have to advocate a little harder for department time. (Much of our meeting time in prior years has been spent tinkering with the master schedule in order to figure out the most options we can offer students while paying attention to how we distribute students among cohorts, especially as we’ve dealt with detracking classes)

2016-03-23 22.15.03.jpgWe spent the first part of the morning doing a math problem together. This is a common practice in our District as it helps us see and appreciate other ways of thinking amongst colleagues (and potentially among students) and helps center our work in math. We also talked about how to best support our students in state testing (ugh) and some bigger picture visioning for what we hope for next year. It’s not yet been consensed upon whether a day of teaching or a day of productive meeting is more tiring.

Unrelated, my sub (who I know from grad skool and who is awesome) described the sole referral of the day as “Ronaldo was distracting and wouldn’t respond to redirection. After I sent him out on the referral, the class settled down and when he came back, he was more relaxed.” Which is Ronaldo in a nutshell.

Day 132: The One With the Diamonds and Rectangles


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Back in school after 2 days away. Our department has a work day tomorrow, so I’m actually out again tomorrow. I don’t think the kiddos believe I’m ever coming back.

In the journey of factoring quadratic functions, we started with diamonds and generic rectangles today. This is CPM’s way of helping students to see which numbers add or multiply together to get an equation and then using it in reverse to get to factored form.

We learned how to do diamond problems and students were into it (they were last year, too, possibly because it’s a procedure they can get comfortable with. That being said, it does help raise the concepts of adding and multiplying negative numbers, which are still an issue).

One issue we ran into is that the process is super procedural – students got stuck at first until they “just followed the process” and I worry that I didn’t aid much in the sense-making process. That being said, it’s a pretty procedural, um, process. So I need to think on that.

In other news, some years, your advisory is a dance advisory, some years, it’s not. This year’s advisory is definitely a dance advisory.

3 Knowles Spring Meeting Takeaways

In the process of flying back to California from our Knowles Science Teaching Foundation Spring Meeting.

3 takeaways:

  • Talk in the classroom: Most Fellows (self included) started off thinking that kiddos talk a lot in their classes. It’s tricky thinking about how to get a classroom of 20 English Language Learners to talk to each other in English (especially since about 20% of them have arrived since January). This meeting has been pushing me about how to come up with questions based on anticipated solutions based on the learning goal for the day. A lot to think about, especially with planning time (any time) being scarce. But important.2016-03-19 09.36.46
  • Rigor of tasks (and how I hinder and help that): On a related note, we also talked about how it important it is to maintain the rigor of tasks (in order to spur the aforementioned talk), but how often teachers undermine that with the types of questions they ask. Scaffolding and support is important, but I need to think about how to scaffold helpfully without taking away from students thinking and making sense of the math.2016-03-18 14.32.50
  • Using social media to document and connect: Despite having been on social media since forever and despite my documented inability to quit, I’m always on the fence about social media. That being said, I wanted to challenge myself to document this meeting while staying engaged and without being obtrusive. Check out the Twitter feed and this storify (which shows some other Fellows documenting the meeting). We also did some exploring with Vine (a 6 second video editing tool) and came up with a way to process our cohort norms¬†and a video about Newton’s 2nd Law that we shot and edited at 9pm in our hotel lobby. It took longer to edit the video than to shoot it.


It’s been a good meeting. I think I’m ready to start school again on Monday. We have a Professional Development Day for the math department on Tuesday and spring break is the week after.