Takeaways from Twitter Math Camp

Back from a few days in Minneapolis at Twitter Math Camp and thinking about getting ready for next year. Twitter Math Camp is a grassroots conference organized by mathematics teachers and draws a pretty neat group of teachers from across the country (apparently, it was supposed to be a cruise at first).

Here’s what I’m thinking about now:

1. Addressing knowledge gaps through differentiation: I attended a morning session that ran over 3 days run by Park Star about how to address gaps in students’ existing mathematics knowledge. My big takeaway was that I need to figure out exactly what my goals are for my kiddos. Once those are established, I need to go back and figure out what they should have learned beforehand in order to access that content. Rather than pre-assessing the material we’re going to teach (but, um, haven’t), we should pre-assess the material kiddos should have learned and then differentiate support before the unit begins so that all students have access to what we’re learning. This feels especially relevant since so many of our kiddos come to us with gaps and different understandings from their home countries. Park Star also did a great job setting up the session – there were a ton of interactive strategies that also gave people think time. Probably stealing most of them for my class.

2. Mathematics identities: I went to a session by Nicole Bridge about students’ mathematical identities, which is something I’ve been finding myself pondering lately.

Big takeaways:

  1. Identity is COMPLEX (sorry, but not really, for the all caps).

2. One can have multiple identities at once.

3. A mathematics identity comes from what a person thinks of their ability to do mathematics as well as how others perceive and treat them

(*these are largely paraphrases of a quote from Danny Martin, link to citation, albeit not to actual paper here). I’m still mulling 0ver how to talk about this with my students, but I think even talking about these 3 ideas could be both new and productive to them.

3. How do we  revise the Common Core State Standards?: I attended a session with Henri Picciotto about changes to the Common Core. Something I’m taking away from other conferences I’ve attended is to think about the Common Core State Standards and how they progress from kindergarten to 12 grade (this also ties in nicely to Tracy Johnston Zager’s keynote about elementary and secondary teachers collaborating). I’m planning to think more about which standards to focus on (we rarely get through all of them). Henri points out that we don’t currently have a plan to revise the standards (Henri’s thoughts are here, which seem like a great starting point). They are a great starting point, but, like all things, they can be better. There seems to be consensus that the standards need to be revised (although this is an assumption, perhaps a big one), but by who, when, and how all seem to be more nebulous. Wondering if anyone else has any ideas or insights here…

4. Social Justice and Mathematics have similar themes. I loved Jose Vilson’s keynote, which pointed out that many of the expectations that mathematics teachers have for their students are similar. We ask our students to solve complicated, real world problems that don’t have one single clear answer. Why can’t we do the same when tackling difficult issues?

There’s some good conversations still happening on Twitter now (look for #TMC16 and #1TMCthing). And, like all conferences, even if you weren’t there, you can still catch videos of quite a few of the keynotes and My Favorites presentations where teachers share their favorite aspect of their classroom (Go to #3 on I Speak Math‘s blog). There’s also a lot of good stuff on the Twitter Math Camp wiki.

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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.

Summer Meeting Recap: Read It Again (and Again) and Shared Experiences

Every summer, I spend three days meeting with other beginning math and science teachers from across the country (through the Knowles Science Teaching Fellowship…which also includes math teachers). That’s a lot of math and science teachers – 5 cohorts worth of about 30 teachers each. Some takeaways from this year:

3 Read Protocol: I went to a workshop on the 3 Read Protocol. (and yes, this links back to something from my own district, though I’ve never used it before. Oops.) The idea is to take a relatively dense word problem. You as the teacher read it aloud once. You ask students to summarize the main idea. You (or a student) reads it aloud a second time, this time asking students to look for the math – numbers and quantities in the problem. You (or a student) reads the problem aloud a third time and students come up with a list of questions they can answer.

This feels like a great exercise to try with English Language Learners and feels like a good structure to help students strategically make sense of problems. It also dovetails nicely with norms we’ve been establishing about “read the question (many times) before you ask for help.” Huzzah student persistence!

Course Narrative: I went to another workshop on establishing coherence and narrative throughout a course. The workshop was designed for biology teachers and our course narrative (or, uh, lack thereof) feels choppy for many reasons. That being said, thinking about how one unit motivates another is something I haven’t done (But feel like we should engage further. Maybe next time we teach this course). We’re going to try using guiding questions for each unit to try and help students make sense of how the content in each unit is connected. We’ll see.

Talk: Our cohort, which is mostly second and third year teachers (and two fourth year teachers) is focusing on “talk” in our classes – how our students talk and how this helps them learn. Up until this point, I’ve mostly tried to get students to talk to each other for the sake of talk and speaking English (because: English Language Learners). So I’m excited to think about this and get more into details and figure out why I’m asking my kiddos to talk. This also dovetails nicely with a book that Mr. Williams recommended on Intentional Talk. Geared to elementary schools, but that’s not such a bad thing.

Teacher Leadership: Everyone at Summer Meeting read Jose Vilson’s “This is Not a Test”. One of the many themes that emerged was the idea of teacher leadership and teacher voice. How do teachers communicate the work that we do? How do we advocate for ourselves and our students? No easy answers here, but I’m excited to see the conversation grow and continue.

Restorative Practices: Another theme based on “This is Not a Test” is the idea of restorative practices. Our school (and district) has done some work with restorative practices, but there is still so much to learn. I still struggle to clearly define restorative practices, but I would describe them as building positive relationships early and trying to include all voices and thinking about how to include students in discipline processes. So interesting to see the tension between implementing restorative practices as an individual teacher versus as a full school (in hindsight, I feel extremely fortunate that our school has been working together to try and implement restorative practices)

Norms and Shared Experiences: Our cohort of 30 teachers spends lots of time together. We have a meeting in the fall and a meeting in the spring. We do Google Hangouts every other week. We’ve gone through a year of teaching (for some, the first year). So we’re close. Similarly, other cohorts are very close. It’s really interesting and tricky to see what happens when these different cohorts with different experiences and expectations come together. Often times, they don’t. One of my biggest takeaways is thinking about how to bridge those gaps and talk to people with different experiences and expectations.