10 Takeaways from NCTM

In the process of reflecting/blogging on Days 2 and 3 of NCTM, but here are 10 takeaways from NCTM (in no particular order and horribly paraphrased):

  1. Mathematics is plural. Even if that takes away from the 140 character limit.
  2. The term “English Language Learners privileges” the dominant language (and let’s be real, English is pretty messed up). Give props to emergent bilinguals, trilinguals, quadrilinguals…
  3. How do I convince my kiddos that they belong in a math class? However you feel about Jo Boaler and Railside, that school’s alumni can reflect and expound on their mathematics experiences. That feeling of belonging and mathematics learning is real.
  4. How can I protect and nurture my kiddos’ brains? Especially in a city that is as divided and inequitable as San Francisco and with students arriving from the violence and malnutrition of countries like El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.
  5. Talk less. If a kiddo can say it or show it, I shouldn’t be saying it or showing it.

  6. If a kiddo can ask about it or argue about it, it is real enough.

  7. Ethnomathematics: How do I take the countries my kiddos come from (El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, China, Yemen, Russia, Palestine) and look for examples of math there?

  8. I lurk too much on Twitter. Just follow the people already.

  9. Reminder: I need to tell the story right. I need to look back at the standards.

  10. Reminder: There are more ways for families to support their kiddos than just homework support and back to school night.

Days 1, 2, 3 and 4: The One with the School Values, String Shapes, Patterns and the Selfish Shellfish Selfie

Survived Day One. Survived Days One through Four, in fact.

Photo One: Values (Day One)

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Since almost all of our students are newcomers, we spend the first two days of school in orientation, where teachers lead sessions on topics that help our students be successful in school. In talking to other teachers, I am thankful that our school values and takes the time to do this. One of the activities I taught in my class (on our four school values) involved sorting words into “good” and “bad” categories. Admittedly, “good” and “bad” are super polar (as some of our kiddos pointed out), but it’s a start. 

It´s interesting to see which words are tricky for our kiddos and why. Almost every class asked what “liar” and “caring” meant, but understood as soon as they heard them pronounced. Kiddos at various points thought “selfish” was “a type of fish” and “when you take a photo of yourself”. At any rate, they were generally able to make sense of what the words meant. 

Photo #2: School Values Posters (Day 2)

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Having talked about good and bad values, we transitioned into our four school values. The kiddos cut out photos from magazines that they thought represented (or didn’t represent) each school value. Note: I had first period draw their pictures. Giving them magazines was probably a better idea. They were super thoughtful about the pictures they found.

Photo #3: The String Shapes (Day 3)

Students making string shapes

Yesterday was the first “official” day of content. To reenforce groupwork norms, we had students work together to make 2D and 3D shapes out of string. It’s more challenging than it seems. It was interesting to see that groups that talked together while they were building tended to build more shapes. Success rate of groups that tried to plan out shapes before actually touching the string was mixed. Side note: students were very into having photos of the finished project taken. Perhaps a future motivational tool? I wish I’d gotten more photos of the process…(except for that whole “teaching thing”)

Photo #4: The Patterns (Day 4)

Students show how figures in a pattern change

In moving towards our first unit on linear relationships, we’re asking the kiddos to look at patterns (many teachers and the CPM curriculum refer to them as “pile patterns”, though this extra language is probably a bit much for our crowd) and then show the pattern, using colors, words, numbers and arrows. Note: I chose quite a few of these photos to showcase growth, either in students from last year or from students who were ready to give up at the beginning of class but with a little (lot?) of coaxing, were able to make progress. Not that you could really tell without knowing the students, but…

Photo #5: The Dot Talk(s) (Day 3)

Dot talks

One of the members of our teaching team has experience giving number talks, a strategy designed by Jo Boaler to develop number sense by asking students to think in many ways about seemingly easy problems involving basic computations or drawings that can be pulled apart and thought about in many ways. This was the first time that most of us gave a dot talk in front of students (I theoretically did this in grad school, which is a hazy shade of two summers ago). Students were able to share the different ways they saw dots in a picture. Lots of room for growth when we continue next week, though.

Photo #6: The Selfish Shellfish Selfie (Day 2)

When I wrote "selfie" on the board

Evidence that, in building language skills, we did talk about selfish versus shellfish versus selfie (and penguins, which were in one of the videos we watched). I just had to share (…because to do otherwise would be shellfish).