Posted in classroomaction on May 5th, 2016 2 Comments »

**Annie Forest** gives you ten ideas for your last week of class:

Here is my criteria for what makes a good mathy activities for the end of the school year: no/low tech; still incorporate math or problem solving in some way; fun and engaging.

Hey I’ll pitch one in! Here’s an eight-year-old blog post of mine. Every student starts with a 2D paper circle and by the end they’ve collaborated to construct a 3D icosahedron!

**Marissa Walczak** started carrying around a whiteboard as she helps students with their classwork:

If I wanted to show something to students I would always have to ask if I could write on their paper (which I really don’t ever want to do), or I’d have to say “wait for one sec” and then I’d go grab a piece of scratch paper, or I’d draw something on the board and then it’s far away from the group and then everyone sees it even though I don’t want everyone to see it.

**Christine Redemske’s** class takes Popcorn Picker to the literal limit, making cylinders that are shorter and shorter and wider and wider.

**Tina Cardone** gets a lot of mileage out of a very simply-stated arithmetic problem:

In the next question students needed to decide what half of 2^50 would look like. All around the room students wrote 2^25. But children! We just talked about that! And then I realized that 1) it’s far from intuitive, that’s why they included more questions in the book to solidify this idea and 2) the language changed.

Let’s close out 2015. In this remainders edition:

- Eight new blog subscriptions from November & December.
- Five essential 2015 posts from this blog.
- Three bloggers I envy.
- Seventeen Great Classroom Action posts I never got around to posting.

**Blogging**

- We successfully goaded Brett Gilland into tweeting and blogging. His writing features art, wit, and insight for days. Best follow of my fall quarter.
- Jason D’Arcangelo is an elementary math coach, making him rare company online.
- Kendra Lomax does interesting work in elementary math education also, most recently with the University of Washington’s Teacher Education by Design project.
- Damian Watson just came off a two-year blogging hiatus with a post featuring Malcolm Swan, Andrew Stadel, and cognitive conflict, which pushes all three of my buttons.
- Meryl Polak likewise came off a maternity leave to post about her experience designing and implementing a 3 Act Math task.
- Geoff Wake was one of my colleagues at the Shell Centre when I set up a tent in their offices several years ago. Great guy. Interesting thinker. I’m excited to see him maintaining a blog.
- Jenn Vadnais does consistently interesting work with the Desmos Activity Builder. I’m tuned in, hoping to learn how she works.
- Glen Lewis blogs thoughtfully about technology, learning, and engagement in math education.

These blogs are each low volume, producing maybe one post per month. There is zero risk of getting overwhelmed here. Just toss them in Feedly or some other RSS reader and enjoy their insight whenever they find the time to share it.

**Honorable Mentions**

I don’t have a lot of envy in me for other Internet math ed types – their followers, retweets, subscribers, etc. Just keep working. What *does* turn me green, what I *do* covet, though, is another blogger’s ability to stir up conversation, to mobilize and collect the intellect of his or her readers. In 2015, that was Dylan Kane, the blogger whose posts invariably had me clicking through to the comments to see what he managed to provoke from his readers, then scratching my head trying to figure out how he did it.

If your heart belongs to *elementary* math education, the best moderators I have found there are Tracy Zager and Joe Schwartz.

**My Year in Review**

If you’ve come to this blog only recently, here are five posts that received a lot of traffic and commentary this year:

Looking for favorites from the wider online math education community? Check out the #MTBOS2015 hashtag. If I had to award my own MVP, it’d be Elizabeth Statmore’s “How People Learn” and how people learn where she turns essential research into manageable practice.

**Great Classroom Action**

And now, shamefully presented without commentary, seventeen posts I read in 2015 that had me check myself and think, “That classroom action is *great*!” I haven’t shared these yet and it’s time to clean the cabinet.

- Perplexity and Figuring It Out,
*Evan Weinberg*
- Kicking Some Serious Triangle Booty,
*Kate Nowak*
- Extra Time,
*Jonathan Claydon*
- Statistics Arts and Crafts,
*Bob Lochel*
- Trying out “I Have…Who Has?” for the First Time,
*Sarah Hagan*
- Water Parks, Periodic Functions, and Mathematical Modeling,
*John Pelesko*
- Dice bias. A statistics activity,
*Scott Hills*
- Breaking Bad…Definitions,
*Jessica Murk*
- Rumor has it…,
*Kaleb Allinson*
- Day 160: Parentheses,
*Dan Burf*
- “The Best Discussion I’ve Ever Had”,
*Thom Gibson*
- Z-Score & Parent Ages,
*Dianna Hazelton*
- The Math Modeling Cycle in Action,
*EPSmith*
- Intro to Statistics (Unit 1),
*Pam Rawson*
- Intro to Statistics (Unit 2),
*Pam Rawson*
- odds + ends,
*Rachel Kernodle*
- Collaborative learning with Canvas discussions,
*Mary Dooms*

Posted in classroomaction on December 8th, 2015 4 Comments »

**Scott Keltner** sent a drone up in the sky while his students plotted *themselves* down below. I emailed Scott and asked for his lesson plan and he sent back something involving playing cards and, frankly, none of it made any sense to me and I seriously don’t understand how the downside of cost, time, and effort could possibly outweigh the upside of drones (!) but I’m *so curious*. Bug Scott via Twitter to write up what he did here.

**Julie Reulbach** used zombies to create a need for logarithms. Zombies are, obviously, catnip for some students, but that isn’t what caught my eye here. Julie understood that logarithms are a *shortcut* for inverting an exponential equation. And if you’d like to create a need for a *shortcut* it’s helpful for students to experience the *longcut*, however briefly. Watch her work.

**Ollie Lovell** used one of my unposted tasks with a group of students in Myanmar who spoke very limited English and whose classroom had no electricity. Imagine how your favorite lessons would *have* to change under those constraints and then read how Ollie changed his. I learned a lot.

**Sarah Hagan** shares a game from S T called Greed, which helped turn her students’ perception of box-and-whisker plots from useless to useful. Crucially, the game exploits the *need* for box-and-whisker plots, which is *comparison between multiple sets*. Creating a box-and-whisker plot for a single set of data *will* feel pointless, same as teaching someone to use a carrot peeler by using it to paint a house. That’s not what it’s *for*!

Classkick allows you to give your students written feedback on work you assign on iPads. Crucially, that student work can be handwritten, which is (potentially) more valuable for feedback than multiple choice work. I thought it looked promising and I wrote about some of its promise last September.

Ruth Eichholtz didn’t find it as useful *in class* (where it’s hard to focus on a dashboard) as she did *out of class*, when she took a personal day:

I had my iPad at home and had iPads brought to the students at the beginning of the lesson. They were monitored at the start by a substitute teacher, who made sure they were present and that they received my email instructions. **And then they joined my lesson on Classkick and worked, for 75 minutes, with me.** As the students worked through each review problem, I could see their progress. I could make comments on their solution methods, correct their mistakes, and praise their successes. A few times, I tried to tell them they could use pencil & paper and just resort to Classkick when they needed help, but every single one chose to work on the iPad for the entire lesson!

I’m *pessimistic* about any vision of math education that has a robot grading the work of millions of students. These robots just aren’t good enough yet.

I’m *intrigued*, however, by this vision of math education that has one expert human analyzing and responding to the handwritten mathematical thinking of many more students than could fit in the same room at the same time. Let’s push ahead a little farther on that path.

**Featured Comment**

Jesus:

The first thing I thought about after seeing the tutorial was that I could start a mini Saturday school lesson for those students that need or want the help. Also, some of my students have a lot of after school activities, I have meetings and trainings, so I could see setting a time where we could review some work.

Posted in classroomaction on October 19th, 2015 2 Comments »

This goes beyond “great classroom action.” These are great moments that go great lengths towards defining the culture of a classroom.

Nathaniel Highstein offers a full week of activities:

The start of the school year is one of the most important moments for my classes. Setting the right tone and attitude right from the beginning can mean buy-in from students right away – and conversely, a bad start can be really tough to recover from. I had a pretty good start this year in my Algebra 1 and Algebra 2 classes. I wanted to share some things that worked for me in case someone else might benefit, and to document the week, as I may repeat much of this work next year.

You can find lots of posters that describe the practices of a mathematician, the elements of a growth mindset, etc. Sam Shinde went a different direction, turning *student work* into a poster, and annotating it with mathematical practices.

Nora Oswald uses a viral YouTube video to illustrate the mathematical practice of perseverance:

After we watch this, I like to make the connection to the classroom.

“Do you ever feel like you’re driving around in circles?”

“Do YOU ever feel like you look like a fool and others are laughing at you?”

“Did this woman give up even though she may have looked foolish and stupid?”

“At what point do you ask for help?”

As best as I can tell, Jonathan Claydon has constructed a positive and productive classroom culture entirely out of gags like this.

**Featured Comment**

Mr. Corey Math:

I use my document camera for students to come up and “sacrifice their mistakes to the math gods”. The class usually makes eating sounds and says “yum”.