# The Slow Reveal

This year my colleague Regina Payne and I tried something new as we visited classrooms across our district – numberless graphs. Similar to a numberless word problem, you present a graph with no numbers and proceed to have a rich mathematical discussion as you slowly reveal more and more information on the graph. Early in the school year, I shared a Halloween-themed numberless graph, and I also wrote a blog post about it.

We briefly touched on this work in our session at the 2017 NCTM annual conference, and it’s been exciting to see my #MTBoS colleagues taking the idea and running with it in their schools! In case you don’t follow them – which will hopefully change after reading this post! – I want to share their work so you don’t miss out on all the great stuff they’re doing.

### Kassia Wedekind

Kassia has written two wonderful blog posts about how she took our ideas and tinkered with them to create a data routine called Notice and Wonder Graphs. I like this name because it’s more inclusive than numberless graphs. When it comes to graphs, you might hide the numbers, but you could just as easily hide other parts of the graph first. It all depends on your goals and how you want the conversation to unfold. In Kassia’s first post, she shares this graph with students. Notice it has numbers, and little else.

Curious what it’s about? Then check out Kassia’s post. I’m betting you’ll be quite surprised when you reach the final reveal.

I love this routine for many of the reasons that I love Brian’s numberless word problems–it slows the thinking down and focuses on sense-making rather than answer-getting.

But I also love it because it brings out the storytelling aspect of data. So often in school (especially elementary school!) we analyze fake data. Or, perhaps worse, we create the same “What is your favorite ice cream flavor?” graph year after year after year for no apparent purpose.

I’ve decided to make it a goal to think more about data as storytelling, data as a way to investigate the world, and data as a tool for action. In my next two posts (YES, people! I’m firing the ole blog back up again!) I’m going to delve into the idea that we can use data to discuss social justice ideas and critical literacy at the elementary level. I’m just dipping my toe into this waters, but I’m really excited about it!

And Kassia did just that! So far she’s followed up with one post where her students noticed and wondered about a graph showing the percent of drivers pulled over by police in 2011, by race. I love how the graph sparked a curiosity that got her students to dive more deeply into the data. How often does a graph about favorite desserts or our birthday months spark much of any curiosity?

### Jenna Laib

Jenna shared a numberless graph that immediately got me curious! This is one she created to use with 6th grade students.

I can’t help but notice a bunch of dots grouped up at the beginning with a just few outliers streeetttcchhiiing across almost to the very end.

Once she included some numbers, my first instinct was that this graph is about ages. Apparently I wasn’t alone in that assumption!

And then there’s the final reveal.

So why did Jenna create and share this graph? What was her mathematical goal?

I especially loved this observation about how her students treated the dot at 55 before they had the full context about what the graph is really about.

### Chase Orton

Chase wrote a detailed post about how he worked with 2nd grade teachers to do a lesson study about interpreting graphs.

…there’s so many rich opportunities for meaningful student discourse about data.  That is, if it’s done right.  Most textbooks suck all the life out of the content.  Students need to understand that data tells a story; it has contextual meaning that is both cohesive and incomplete.  Students need to learn how to ask questions about data and to learn to identify information gaps.  In other words, students need to learn to be active mathematical agents rather than passive mathematical consumers.

Chase walks you through the lesson he and the teachers created and tried out in three different classrooms. I love how he details all of the steps and even shares the slides they used in case you want to use them in your own classroom.

He closes the post with a great list of noticings and wonderings about continuing this work going forward. Here are a couple of them about numberless graphs specifically:

• We need to give students more choice and voice about how they make meaning of problems and which problems they choose to solve.  Numberless Data problems like these can be be a tool for that.
• The missing information in the graph created more engagement.

A huge thank you to Kassia, Jenna, and Chase for trying out numberless graphs and sharing their experiences so we can all be inspired and learn from them. I can’t wait to see how this work continues to grow and develop next school year!

If you’re interested in reading more first-hand accounts of teachers using numberless word problems and graphs, be sure to check out the ever-growing blog post collection on my Numberless Word Problems page. I recently added a post by Kristen Acosta that I really like. I’m especially intrigued by a graphic organizer she created to help students record their thinking at various points during the numberless problem. Check it out!

# Revision

Free time. I wish I had more of it. Instead I have the amount I have and a wide variety of ways I’d like to fill it – going to the gym, paying bills, cleaning the house, spending time with my husband and daughter, blogging, reading comics. The list goes on. Lately I’ve been prioritizing time with my husband and daughter.

Except when that wasn’t an option. Back in August I went to Virginia for a few days to serve on a planning committee for the 2017 NCTM Innov8 conference. Our days were full of committee work, but my evenings were filled with hours of time to myself. It was a nice change of pace and the perfect opportunity to tackle a project I’ve been putting off time and again – revising our parent resource page on our district website.

The highlight of the revision work was creating curated collections of resources around the following topics:
* What Does It Mean to Teach and Learn Mathematics Today?
* Creating Positive Identities Toward Mathematics
* Talking Math With Your Kids
* Exploring Elementary Mathematics Topics
* Mathematics Games and Products
* Digital Mathematics Games and ProductsThe #MTBoS is a treasure trove of these kinds of resources, so I had a lot to pick from! I’m so happy to have the opportunity to share them with a wider audience. I’ve already had one of our instructional coaches share the link at her campus Back to School Night. She had over 75 parents ask for the link. Yay!

If you’d like to check out the resources, here’s a link to the page. And if you have ideas for other resources I should add to any of the resource collections, let me know in the comments.

# Math Rocks Redux Part 1

This time last year, @reginarocks and I kicked off our inaugural Math Rocks cohort. We spent two awesome days of PD together with a group of 30 elementary teachers which you can read about here and here.

And this time this year, we kicked off our second Math Rocks cohort which you can read about in this very post!

For those who want to stick to the present and not go back into last year’s posts, Math Rocks is our district cohort for elementary teachers to grow as math teachers. Our two focus goals for the year are building relationships around mathematics and fostering curiosity about mathematics. The cohort meets for two full days in July followed up by 9 after school sessions, September through January, and a final half day session together in February. It’s intense, but so rewarding to get to work with teachers for such an extended amount of time!

I want to write a post about this year’s Math Rocks cohort to give you some insight into what stayed the same and what changed. Now that we’ve gone through this once, we knew there were some things we wanted to tweak. Without further ado…

One thing that stayed the same was kicking off Math Rocks with a little Estimation 180! The purpose behind this was twofold. First, we did it as a getting-to-know-you activity. Once everyone was ready, we had them mingle and make friends while answering questions like:

• What is an estimate that is too LOW?
• What is an estimate that is too HIGH?
• Where’s the math? and
• Which grade levels could do this activity?

Second, throughout day 1 we snuck in a couple of activities like Estimation 180 that were created by members of the Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere (#MTBoS for short). Later in the day we introduced the cohort to the MTBoS, and it’s nice to be able to say, “Oh by the way, remember those Estimation 180 and Which One Doesn’t Belong? activities we did? Those are created by members of this community we’re introducing you to. Isn’t that awesome?!”

Last year we did a community circle after the Estimation 180 activity, but I scrapped it this year in order to streamline our day and add time for the biggest change to day 1, which I’ll talk about in a bit. Instead, we moved right into the ShadowCon15 talks from Tracy Zager and Kristin Gray that serve the purpose of setting up our two Math Rocks goals.

Just like last year, we had the participants reflect before Tracy’s video. They had to create three images that symbolized what math was like to them as a student. It’s fascinating (and concerning) to see how many images involve computation facts practice of some sort:

Even more fascinating (and sadly disturbing) was listening to participants’ horror stories about fact practice as a child. One person talked about the teacher hitting students on the back of the hand for getting problems wrong on timed tests. Another one said the teacher had everyone in class hiss at students who got problems wrong. Hiss! Can you believe that?!

We only made a slight change to this portion of the day. Last year we prefaced each video with a description we got from the ShadowCon site. This year I let the talks speak for themselves. It seemed more powerful to let Tracy and Kristin build their own arguments without priming the pump so much.

I mentioned earlier we left out the community circle in the morning to make room for the biggest change to day 1. Let me tell you about that. Introducing goal #2 leads us into one of the biggest components of Math Rocks, joining Twitter and creating a blog. In order to build relationships and foster curiosity, I want my teachers to experience being members of the MTBoS during their time in Math Rocks.

Last year I gave directions here and here on our Math Rocks blog. I shared the links to those two blog posts and set them loose to get started. To say we ran into problems is a vast understatement. I severely underestimated the support needed to get 30 teachers with widely varying comfort levels with technology connected to Twitter and blogging. No offense to them – they were great sports about it – but I definitely threw our first cohort in the deep end and I’m lucky (and thankful!) they all came back for day 2.

This year I slowed things down quite a bit, and together we walked through the process of creating a Twitter account and a blog. I ended up spending about an hour and fifteen minutes on each part. That’s how much I learned from last year’s experience! Slow and steady wins this race. For those who were comfortable getting started on their own, I gave them their tasks up front here and here so they didn’t have to sit and wait for the rest of us.

Oh, that reminds me of another behind-the-scenes change this year. Instead of using a blog to share missions, I decided to try Google Classroom. I made separate assignments of creating a Twitter account and creating a blog, and the documents I linked in the previous paragraph were linked to those assignments. I haven’t done much else with Google classroom yet, so I’m not sure if it’s going to be a better choice or not, but so far it’s working out okay.

Doing all of that pretty much took up the rest of day 1, with the exception of a little Which One Doesn’t Belong? to give us a break between introducing Twitter and blogging.

All in all, I’m happy we were able to keep so much of day 1 intact. I feel like the structure of it does a nice job of establishing our goals for the year and I’m happy I was able to find a way to get everyone connected to Twitter and blogging in a less stressful way.

Day 2, on the other hand, is completely different from last year, and I look forward to writing about that in my next post.

# My Favorite: Holidays at Target

Here we are in Week 2 of the ExploreMTBoS 2016 Blogging Initiative! This week’s challenge is to blog about one of my favorite things. During this school year, one of my favorite things has been visiting Target during the holidays. The holiday-themed merchandise is rich with mathematical possibilities! I already wrote three posts about a treasure trove of images from Halloween:

Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and I snapped some photos this evening to share with you. I’m going to cover a range of mathematical skills – mostly centered around estimation –  from Kinder through about Grade 6 to show you just how versatile this stuff is!

These first two images are good for estimating quantity. You can estimate the quantities individually. Don’t forget to ask students to estimate an answer that is TOO HIGH and one that is TOO LOW in addition to their actual estimate. Coming up with a reasonable range takes a lot of practice! You could also show students both images at the same time and ask, “Which package has more?”

I forgot to snap a picture of the answers, but I can tell you there are 15 bouncy balls and 24 eraser rings.

Here’s another one. How many Kisses are in the box?

I was kind of surprised that the answer wasn’t an even number like 10 or 12. This just seems oddly specific.

Students tend to estimate better when the quantities are smaller. Here’s a larger quantity package to up the challenge a bit. How many gumballs are in the bag?

I was kind of surprised to find out the answer myself.

This next one is tricky! How many truffles are in the box? Go ahead and make an estimate.

Now that you’ve made your estimate, I’d like to show you how deceptive product packaging can be. Would you like to revise your estimate?

And now for the reveal. How does your estimate compare to the actual amount?

The first few images dealt with disorganized quantities. Once we move into organization, the thinking can extend into multiplicative reasoning. The great thing is that it doesn’t have to! Students can find the total by counting by 1s, skip counting, and/or using multiplication.

There are several questions you can ask about these pictures. They’re of the same box. I just gave different perspective. I’d probably show the almost-front view first to see what kids think before showing the top-down view.

• How many boxes of chocolate were in the case when it was full?
• How many boxes of chocolate are left?
• How many boxes of chocolate are gone?

Here’s another package that could prove a bit tricky for some students. How many heart stickers are in this package?

Students might notice that the package says 2 sheets. If they don’t, you might show them the package from a different perspective.

And finally, you can reveal the total.

This next package can be shown one of two ways depending on how much challenge you want to provide the students. Even with some of the hearts covered, students can still reason about the total quantity.

This next one could simply be used to ask how many squares of chocolate are in the box, but what I’d really like to know is how many ounces/grams of chocolate are in the box.

After some estimating, you could show your students this and let them flex their decimal computation skills to find the total.

However, the reveal is likely to raise some eyebrows.

And finally, you can do some more decimal calculations with this final product. How much would it cost to buy all of the boxes shown?

And if you bought all 6 boxes, how many ounces of chocolate would you be getting?

Ten minutes in the holiday aisle and my iPhone are all it took to gather this wealth of math questions can now be shared with students. Even better, I didn’t have to purchase any of these products! Even better than that, I can go back for every major holiday to capture new images that will feel timely and relevant!

By the way, feel free to use any and all of these images with your own students. They’re fairly low quality so I don’t recommend printing them, but they should look just fine projected or shown on a screen.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

# A Day in the Life of a Curriculum Coordinator: Tuesday

Here are links to all of the posts I wrote this week:

## Tuesday

So in stark contrast to yesterday, today was quite the whirlwind! I started the morning at our office where I checked email, drank a cup of coffee, and chatted with Regina about our fraction PD sessions tomorrow.

Before I knew it, it was time to head out to the principals meeting to present about the upcoming STAAR math test. The principals meeting was being hosted at Dell this month instead of at our Admin office. When I arrived, a panel of Dell excecs was imparting leadership wisdom and answering the principals’ questions.

After the panel discussion ended, our elementary science coordinator spoke about the successes of implementing the Writing in Science program in our district over the past 4 years. It was really impressive to see photos and videos of the program in action, and it reaffirmed that the next chance I get, I need to attend one of her trainings to learn more about it! We have a couple of instructional coaches who are already looking at how to adapt and extend the components of Writing in Science to math, and they’re planning to share this during a summer PD session in July. I can’t wait!

After that inspiring presentation, I had my turn at the podium. The session went well and I got some good questions from the principals. One of them was if I’ll be repeating this session for the teachers. It got me thinking that I could probably do it as a webinar that teachers can attend live, but those who can’t attend could watch a recording of it after the fact. Now I just need to figure out the logistics and schedule a date!

On my way back to the office, I decided to stop for lunch at a local restaurant. It’s close enough to the office that I was able to call Regina to invite her to join me, and she convinced our elementary social studies coordinator to come along. That was my calm moment for the day. I enjoyed getting to eat and talk without worrying where I was off to next.

After lunch, I headed back to the office to answer emails before heading out to a meeting at one of our elementary campuses. While I was back in the office, I realized that we have more interest in our upcoming Developing Number Concepts session than I can accommodate in one day. Rather than turn people away, I’ve decided to add a second session a week later. This way we’ll be able to host almost 100 teachers, up from the original 60. I’m really excited that so many people want to attend this training!

Unfortunately I didn’t have enough time to email principals about the new session before I hopped back in the car and headed over to one of our elementary campuses. Since October, principals have been meeting in groups once a month to take various Heinemann online courses together. The elementary curriculum coordinators were each invited to join one of the groups.

My group is made up of about 6 principals, and we’re taking Steve Leinwand’s Making Math Far More Accessible to Our Students. It’s been a lot of fun! The material is great, and the discussion it prompts among us is so valuable. Today’s session was about the importance of using multiple representations and supporting students’ language development in mathematics. We had a great discussion at one point about strip diagrams, and I was clapping on the inside when one of the principals referenced the notice and wonder strategy as a way to make sense of them.

It was during this meeting that I realized I’m getting sick. Boo!

I have a full day of PD planned for tomorrow. I can’t be sick! Well, I can. If necessary, Regina can lead the sessions on her own. I just don’t want to do that to her. I’m crossing my fingers that I’ll feel better after a good night’s sleep, but I still went over the 4th grade presentation with her when I got back to the office just in case!

At 3:30, an instructional coach followed shortly by a team of 2nd grade teachers showed up to our K-2 open planning session. The 2nd grade team are our regulars. They come each time and plan the assessment for their upcoming unit. It’s awesome! Today I worked with them to create assessment items for a geometry unit. We also had a 1st grade teacher show up. She worked with the instructional coach to plan activities for an upcoming addition unit. So, not a huge turnout, but incredibly productive for those who were there!

At 5 o’clock, I helped Regina load up her car with the materials we need to take with us to the PD session tomorrow, and then I headed home. At this point it’s becoming clearer and clearer I’m under the weather, but I’m still holding out hope I’ll feel better in the morning.

# A Day in the Life of a Curriculum Coordinator: Monday

I’m always a sucker for a good blogging initiative. As luck would have it, my online PLC, #MTBoS is kicking off just such an initiative this week! If you’re interested in joining or if you just want to find out what the MathTwitterBlogosphere is all about, head on over to the ExploreMTBoS site.

We were given two options for blog post topics this week. The first is to write a post about one good thing. The other is to write about a day in the life. The assumption is that you’re a teacher and you’ll write about a day in the life of a teacher. However, I’m not a teacher currently. I’m the elementary math curriculum coordinator for my district. I don’t imagine many people know what I actually do – Dan Meyer had lunch with my secondary counterparts last week and was surprised to hear our jobs weren’t terminated once the scope and sequence was in place – so I thought this is a timely opportunity to share a sliver of what my job entails.

We’ll start with Monday. If all goes well, I’ll write a short post each day. If all does not go well, then you might just get Monday. At least I can guarantee one day in the life!

[UPDATE] – I did manage to write a post each day:

## Monday

In many ways today was not a typical day which is why I’m hoping to write a few posts this week. On the other hand, I’m not sure there is such a thing as a typical day in my job, so today’s post might be just as representative as any other day I could have chosen to write about.

The first hour of my day I spent reviewing, editing, and finalizing a presentation I’m giving to all of our elementary principals tomorrow. I have about 50 minutes to do an overview session about the state math test (STAAR) and give some tips and advice for how teachers and students should spend time between now and then.

SPOIILER ALERT! I’m going to tell them their teachers should stay the course. The year is only half over and there are still a lot of concepts to introduce. If anything, now is a great time to revisit how things are going and work together with grade level teams to ensure they are providing the best lessons and experiences they can during the upcoming units. Teachers can and should review concepts along the way, but massive test prep is not called for at this time.

While putting together the presentation, I got to try out Snap & Read, some new software our Special Education Department purchased, though it’s going to be available as a general instructional tool for all students. It’s a Chrome extension that allows users to highlight text and have it read out loud. I didn’t get to do a whole lot with it, but it was nice to discover how quick and easy it is to use. Students should be able to pick it up immediately!

The rest of the day I prepared for a PD session I’m leading on Wednesday. This year I received funding from our superintendent – a huge thanks to Dr. Flores! – to purchase multiple copies of the books Beyond Pizzas and Pies and Beyond Invert and Multiply for our intermediate elementary teachers. In addition, I also received funding to provide a full day of PD to one grade 3 teacher from every campus and one grade 4 teacher from every campus.

There’s a lot of information in the books, so my partner Regina and I opted to do two half-day sessions for each grade level. Back in December we facilitated part 1 for each grade and this Wednesday we’re facilitating part 2. We didn’t have enough money to bring grade 5 into the fold so we’re offering them a 2-hour session on an early release day in February.

Normally I have a lot of different tasks to jump between each day, but somehow I only managed to schedule PD prep today, and I sure needed the time! Regina is handling the grade 3 session which left me with the grade 4 session. I had to figure out what I was going to cover from the 3 chapters I chose for this session, make slides, plan out activities – specifically modifications I wanted to make to the activities shared in the book – and get copies made of all the materials teachers will use.

All in all I’m happy with how the session has shaped up, and I look forward to working with the teachers on Wednesday. Now I just have to hope we can get through everything I planned! That’s one area I’m still learning with regard to PD planning. I feel pretty good about the amount of content in my sessions, but I find that I always tend to put just one too many things in every session. Or two or three, but usually it feels like it’s just a bit too much.

I also did some odds and ends throughout the day whenever I needed a short break from PD planning:

• I shared a reminder about this week’s open planning sessions on our grade-level Google communities. Once a month, Regina and I host two open planning sessions after school – one for K-2 teachers and one for 3-5 teachers. All teachers from the district are invited to come and collaborate together on upcoming math units. Regina and I are there to help answer questions and take part in the process. This year is the first time we’ve offered this. The sessions aren’t attended by a ton of folks, but the teachers who do come let us know how valuable they think the time is. I actually just got an email this afternoon from an AP who shared some feedback a teacher gave her during a pre-observation conference: “Going to open planning was the best decision we’ve ever made. It helps us understand the TEKS and pace our unit.” Hooray! I think this also counts as my one good thing. 🙂
• I emailed a vendor to get a quote for some books I’m going to purchase for our K-2 teachers. For each campus we’re purchasing multiple copies of books 1-3 in the Developing Number Concepts series by Kathy Richardson. (Another thanks to our superintendent, Dr. Flores!) Regina and I will be leading a full day PD session on those for K-2 teachers in February.
• Speaking of, I emailed back and forth with a couple principals who are hoping to get a few more teachers signed up for the February PD session I just mentioned. Win!
• And finally, I watched an Ignite talk that one of our instructional coaches shared with me. Gradual release of responsibility has come up somewhat frequently recently and we’re still trying to wrap our heads around what it should/could mean in math. My fear is similar to what’s shown in the video, that it becomes all about what the teacher is thinking and getting students to merely reflect/parrot that.

There you have it. A day in the life of an elementary math curriculum coordinator. This was a fairly calm day, and I am so appreciative of that. Tomorrow is looking to be a bit more hectic. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to blog about that when it’s over.

# Go Big or Go Home: Math Rocks Day 1

My brain is full! I just finished two amazing days of PD with about 30 educators in my district. I promised I’d blog about it, and I need to because I just have so much going on in my head right now. Like I said, my brain is full!

This school year, I’m leading an advanced course with elementary teachers in my district. I didn’t really have any guidance beyond that, so it was left to me and my co-worker Regina to set some goals and make a plan. All we started with was a name: Math Rocks. And that’s only because our district already offers an advanced course called Reading Rocks.

Back in May, Regina and I put together an application and asked teachers to apply for this course that has never existed before. Amazingly enough, about 36 people took the time to apply. We read through their applications and selected 24 educators to be in our inaugural class. What I like about it is that we have a wide variety of folks – general education teachers K-5, a few instructional coaches, a TAG teacher, and a few interventionists. And within that group we have dual language teachers and inclusion teachers. They are so diverse; I’m excited about the varied perspectives they’ll bring to our work.

We kicked off the course yesterday and today. We’ll continue our work online for the next month before school starts. Once the school year begins, we’ll meet every other Thursday after school throughout the fall semester. We’ll continue into the spring semester with a final meeting in early February. It’s going to be awesome!

But let’s get back to the first two days. This is the most we’ll ever be together in one place: 12 intense hours across two days.

We opened the first day with a little estimation from Andrew Stadel’s Estimation 180. We of course did the task that started it all: How tall is Mr. Stadel?

After everyone made their estimates, we had them take a walk. Every time we asked a new question they had to find a new partner and introduce themselves. We went through the usual Estimation 180 questions:

• What is an estimate that is too LOW?
• What is an estimate that is too HIGH?

We also added some questions of our own:

• Where’s the math?
• Which grade levels could do this activity?
• Which process standards did you use?

This was a great way to get everyone up and moving at 8:30 in the morning, but it also started something they weren’t going to be aware of immediately. One thing I did very intentionally throughout the two days was embed FREE resources from my online PLC, the Math Twitter Blogosphere (MTBoS). Unbeknownst to everyone, one of my primary goals for the course is to connect them with this inspiring community. And what better way to entice them than by taking these two days to show off some of the rich resources this community creates and shares freely?

After our getting-to-know-you activity, we moved into a community circle. Regina set the tone by talking about why our district is excited about and invested in this course. Then everyone went around to introduce themselves to the group and talk a bit about why they chose to apply for the course. Their reasons varied, but there were some overriding themes. For many of us in the group, math is not a subject we loved as a kid. In fact, several folks went so far as to say they hated it growing up. On the bright side, these same folks want their students to have better experiences with math than they did. Everyone agreed that math is a rich subject, and they want their students to experience and appreciate that richness.

Their stories during the community circle provided a nice segue into our next activity. We asked the participants to reflect on their own experiences learning math. They had to choose three images that came to mind that symbolize what math was like to them as a student and sketch them on a blank sheet of paper. When everyone was finished, we did a gallery walk.

There were a few recurring themes here as well. Many pictures showed formulas with variables. People said that they remembered being told to use these formulas because they would “work” but they never understood what they meant or why they were using them. Many pictures also showed numerous worksheets, indicating that math was more about quantity of problems than quality of reasoning or understanding. For those that said they disliked math as a child, we talked about when that started happening, and the group was split over it being Algebra or Geometry.

By the way, I’m sharing a lot of the negative experiences, mostly because I felt like I was hearing those most, but I do have to say that there were some voices of folks who did like math as a kid or they grew to like it as they got into higher grades. So negative stories were definitely not universal, which was encouraging.

After debriefing these experiences, we watched Tracy Zager’s talk from Shadow Con 2015. This was basically a small teacher-led mini-conference in the “shadow” of NCTM Boston (hence the name). All of the talks given at Shadow Con are available on the website, along with a facilitator’s guide if you’re interested in utilizing any of the videos in your own PD. Two of the videos really struck a chord with me and ended up becoming the inspiration for our two course goals.

Tracy’s video is called Breaking the Cycle. Here’s a short synopsis. I could write a whole blog post about this video and my thoughts on it, but really you should take 15 minutes and watch it for yourself. It’s powerful stuff.

The majority of elementary school teachers had negative experiences as math students, and many continue to dislike or avoid mathematics as adults. We’ll look at how we can better understand and support our colleagues, so they can reframe their personal relationships with math and teach better than they were taught.

We watched the video, debriefed, and then I shared our first goal for Math Rocks: Relationships.

We want our participants to focus on building relationships this year with:

• their teammates,
• me and Regina,
• with their students, and
• with other educators.

We also want them to build their relationship and their students’ relationships with mathematics.

To help them start working on this goal, we took Tracy’s call to action from the end of the video. Each participant chose a word from a word cloud that shows how mathematician’s describe math. Over the course of the next month, as they attend PD and prepare for the start of the school year, their mission is to plan for math instruction with that word as an inspiration and guide. We’ll revisit how this went when we meet back in September.

And then it was time for lunch. Whew! We crammed a lot in that morning.

After lunch we did a little math courtesy of Mary Bourrassa’s Which One Doesn’t Belong? If you’re unfamiliar with this site, students are presented an image of four things. They have to answer one question, “Which one doesn’t belong?” The fun part is that you can justify a reason why each one doesn’t belong. Here’s the one we did as a group:

Everyone had to pick one picture that doesn’t belong and go stand in a corner with other people who chose the same picture. Once they were grouped, they discussed with one another to see if their justifications were the same, and then we shared out as a group. Here are some of their reasonings:

• The quarters don’t belong because they equal a whole dollar. The value of each of the other three pictures equals part of a dollar (4 cents, 5 cents, 40 cents).
• The quarters don’t belong because the word you say for their value (one dollar, one hundred cents) doesn’t start with “f” like in the other three pictures (four, five, and forty cents).
• The pennies don’t belong because they are not the same color as the other coins.
• The pennies don’t belong because they are the only coin where the heads face right instead of left.
• The nickel doesn’t belong because there is only one.
• The dimes don’t belong because they are the only one where the tails side is showing.
• The dimes don’t belong because the value of a dime has a 0 in the ones place. All the other coins have some number of ones in the ones place (5 ones in 25, 1 one in 1, 5 ones in 5).

Like Estimation 180, this activity was included intentionally because this is yet another FREE resource created by the MTBoS (pronounced “mit-boss”). It’s actually inspired by another FREE resource created by someone in the MTBoS, the Building Better Shapes Book by Christopher Danielson.

After talking about money, we prepared to watch Kristin Gray’s talk from Shadow Con. Hers is called Be Genuinely Curious, and you should take a few minutes to watch it for yourself:

When students enter our classroom, we ask them to be genuinely curious about the material they are learning each day: curious about numbers and their properties, about mathematical relationships, about why various patterns emerge, but do we, as teachers, bring that same curiosity to our classes? Through our own curiosities, we can gain a deeper understanding of our content and learn to follow the lead of our students in building productive, engaging and safe mathematical learning experiences. As teachers, if we are as genuinely curious about our work each day as we hope the students are about theirs, awesome things happen!

Again, we watched the video, debriefed, and then I shared our second goal for Math Rocks: Curiosity.

We want participants to use their time in this course to get curious about mathematics, about teaching, and about their students. We also want them to find ways to spark their students’ curiosity about mathematics.

When you’re curious about something, you need resources to help you resolve your curiosities. I didn’t want the folks in this course to feel like we were going to leave them hanging. That’s when I formally introduced the MTBoS.

I told them the story of how I joined the MTBoS back in August 2012. (On a side note, it’s hard to believe I’m approaching my third anniversary of being part of this amazing community of educators!) This is a community that prides itself on freely sharing and supporting one another. If the educators in Math Rocks really want to take their math teaching to the next level, getting connected to a network like the MTBoS is the way to go.

One of the amazing things the MTBoS has done to help new members join and get started is to create Explore MTBoS. Periodically, the group kicks off an initiative to help new members start blogs and Twitter accounts. Unfortunately, there isn’t an initiative starting up right when Math Rocks is starting, so I started one up myself. I created a blog where I tailored the existing missions from Explore MTBoS to guide our group as they become members of this online PLC. We did the first two missions to wrap up the first day of Math Rocks. Each person had to make a blog and create a Twitter account.

I’ll admit, I was super stoked about this, but I’ll be honest that I threw more than a few people way out of their comfort zone that afternoon. Despite that, they still made their accounts, wrote their first blog posts, and sent out their first tweets. I am so proud of them for taking these steps, and I am eager to see where it leads from here.

That wraps up Day 1, our first 6 hours together. I’ll share Day 2 in another post.