Becoming a connected Math Educator

Many times in blog posts, in facebook groups or at face to face conferences, people suggest Math teachers should jump on Twitter and check out the #MTBoS to find helpful people and info. I couldn’t love that idea more.  Creating a blog and joining Twitter have had the most impact on my teaching, my lesson planning and my reflection than anything else in my career.  That’s because of the people whose blogs I read and activities I used, who would respond to my questions and share their ideas freely. And because of the people who I followed and interacted with on Twitter by asking for help or feedback on something I needed.  You don’t have to have a blog to read others blogs and check out their activities and ideas.  You don’t have to have a Twitter account either because you can find information through the blogs as well; though I do highly recommend joining Twitter to connect with others and create your online PLC.

I started reading blogs in 2005 starting with @ELanghorst‘s US History blog (http://speakingofhistory.blogspot.com/) because I was teaching US History and wanted to find better resources.  Then I started finding and reading math blogs in 2007 (like http://www.teachforever.com and fell in love (stalker-ish style) with @misscalculate when she started blogging in 2009. As I started to read more blogs, I would find more blogs to read…recommendations and favorite blogs listed on the side on the blog I was reading lead me to so many amazing people and resources. I had a blog reader set up and would spend time reading blogs newspaper style at night. I have 145 blogs in my blog reader that I follow now and I have a bunch more to add of educators I just started connecting with. I would email myself links of blog posts that had activities I wanted to try or ideas I wanted to incorporate into my classroom. (I still do this today, but I am working on using Google Keep instead.)  I became the crazy math teacher at my school because I was always saying things like “oh on this blog they did this activity.” or “I found this online and it looks awesome.” or “Let me do a google search for a blog post I remember.” or “I just watched this presentation about this topic, let me send you the link.” I used google, blogs and online resources like crazy to transform my teaching. And then I wanted to participate more and give back, so I started a blog and joined Twitter and the rest is history. 🙂

Teaching can be a lonely career because we are in our classrooms all day and while we may connect with our teams of teachers in our buildings, it’s usually about scheduling or behavior so we don’t get a lot of time to share and connect during the day the way we need to about curriculum, lesson planning or building rich tasks and activities. Therefore teachers have to look for it in other ways, through meetings outside of the school day, reading books, math conferences and connecting online with other math teachers, etc. It’s through these connections that I have learned the most and I have made amazing friendships to boot.

I think the key to become a connected Math Educator is to look for people, resources and help outside of your school, your district, your state.  At first maybe you just read, save helpful links or activities and try them in your classroom, but over time you will find more and more resources and (I bet) you will eventually want to give back or explain how a lesson someone shared was used in your classroom.  My evaluation system uses Danielson, which focuses on teacher reflection, creating my blog helped me learn how to reflect before it was part of my evaluation. Through Twitter and blogging I came across Global Math Department, which is a weekly webinar about tons of amazing math teaching topics. It started in August of 2012 and has SO many informational presentations!  The past two years I was on the board and for many of the weekly meetings you will hear my voice as a host and I’ve even done a few presentations. 🙂 I try to make it in person so I can interact and ask questions as needed during the presentation, but if I can’t the best part is they are all archived for future reference and easy sharing with teachers via email! You can find them all archived here, https://www.bigmarker.com/communities/GlobalMathDept/conferences .

Here is a little more to explain many of the things that are out there online for Math Teachers to help you start your journey to becoming a connected educator.

  1. Check the graphic below for a great explanation of #MTBoS
    Capture
  2. Watch this video for even more info: https://youtu.be/AIZOGCuFuas
  3. Welcome to the MTBoS site was created to welcome teachers new to the #MTBoS. It gives them support, some guidance, as well as helps them find some good tweeps (Twitter peeps) to follow and get to know. http://mathtwitterblogosphere.weebly.com
  4. Find & connect with other Math teachers in your 2017-2018 subject area: https://goo.gl/6kt3VS
  5. The MTBoS Directory lists teachers who are self-identified as members of the #MTBoS. Want to join? Just submit your name. That is all it takes. It has a map of members to help you find local math teachers, as well as multiple ways to sort and select people. http://mtbos.org/directory/
  6. Exploring the MTBoS is a site created by math teachers to help organize, explain, and yes, explore the MTBoS. https://exploremtbos.wordpress.com/
  7. Have you ever wanted a lesson on XXX, but googled it and came up with a bunch of crap? This search engine searches only math teacher blogs, K-12, and will pull up lessons that are tried and tested. If the lesson sucked, the blog post will tell you that, and how to improve it. http://www.fishing4tech.com/mtbos.html
  8. Find blogs to read weekly by checking the list of bloggers from the link in #7.
  9. Check out Robert Kaplinsky’s Problem Based Lesson search engine:  http://robertkaplinsky.com/prbl-search-engine/
  10. Like the Facebook MTBoS page: Another way to connect with math educators – https://www.facebook.com/ExploreMTBoS/
  11. Use this Chat list of Educational Chats to find chats that interest you. They list themselves as “official” but of course there is no such thing. It is rather comprehensive, and although the chats change times each year, it is pretty complete and accurate. https://sites.google.com/site/twittereducationchats/education-chat-official-list 
  12. Check out some of the books that have been written: https://goo.gl/BQLXkA
  13. Check out Global Math Department weekly presentations:  https://www.bigmarker.com/communities/GlobalMathDept/conferences
  14. Check out Jo Boaler‘s site, youcubed.org, which is important to helping change your mindset and the mindset of your students in regards to learning math. The three week’s of Inspirational Math have some great videos and activities to share with your students.
  15. Find and join a facebook group that applies to you, I really like doing BreakoutEDU in class, so I find the Math teacher’s breakout group helpful: https://www.facebook.com/groups/breakoutedumath/
  16. And finally check out the Desmos Bank– a directory for Desmos activities http://mtbos.org/desmosbank/

Do you have suggestions or ways to help others become connected math educators? I am sure I missed some!  Toss them in the comments below!!!

Here’s to a great 2017-2018 year of being a connected Math Educator!

It’s July!!!! ????

Seriously, I can’t believe it’s after July 4th already.  Since my school year typically ends at the beginning of June and we start in the middle of August, July 4th is about the halfway point that starts the slippery slope to the school year.

This year I have SO much to look forward to…I am no longer the Math Specialist/Interventionist and will be teaching 7th grade this year with a fantastic team of teachers.  I have never taught 7th grade before, but I did co-teach it a few years ago, so the content isn’t foreign to me.  I took time the last few days of the school year to print new signs/posters for my classroom, get them laminated and cut so they are all ready to go for the new year. I then spent the first two days of my summer going through all my classroom stuff that was in my garage the last three years, tossing, keeping, donating and getting excited to start a new adventure in the fall.  (WHY do teachers keep SO MUCH STUFF?!?!)

I gave myself June to relax, travel, focus on my grad classes (getting my Administration degree/certification) and “think” about school…but to try and not take much action.  A lot of that was due to waiting patiently for the Illustrative Math Open Resources curriculum to come out…I am still waiting…but it will be out this month.  I didn’t want to plan a bunch of stuff and then see the IM stuff and want to redo it all, so I decided to wait. I spent a lot of June sending myself links, saving things to look at later, creating posters (that’s another post), reading all the edu books I have picked up in the last few months and enjoying the fact that it was summer.

But now…it’s July and it’s time for me to hunker down and start figuring out what kind of classroom I want to have, what kind of teacher I want to be and what kind of difference I want to make.  I love a new school year because it’s always a fresh start, I can change the things I didn’t like from previous years, try something new and raise the bar for my students. I think that’s something I love about being a teacher….I can always be better, do better and help my students be better…there isn’t an end to my learning and trying to be the best I can be for my students.  That’s also what I like about teaching middle school, by 3rd period my lesson for the day is solid and all the errors or issues made earlier in the day are worked out and noted for the next year.

I am already a little overwhelmed with where to start and how I want to kick off my school year because I don’t want to mess it up and I do want my students to know from day 1 that we think, do, create and challenge ourselves in my classroom.  I also want them to know I care and trust them to be good students.  I have done Jo Boaler’s iMath to help with growth mindset in the past, but our 6th grade teachers have used it before, so I am trying to avoid hearing “we did this before”.  There should be a new week of iMath out before the year starts, so that will be something I will definitely check out.

So I decided to take to Twitter, my favorite PLN, to find out how others start their school year.  The responses have been awesome and helpful.  Why do I forget about Sara VanDerWerf’s stuff??? I have now saved the links shared and will use it this year too.

The best part about Twitter is being able to ask a question and get helpful responses within minutes AND get helpful responses over the course of time because people see the tweet at different times and will respond on their own time.

So…it’s official…I have started planning for the school year and I couldn’t be more excited!

Day 5 – Readiness Assessment

After a nice long three day weekend, I wasn’t quite ready to get back into the swing of things, but it ended up being a great day!

There are so many things I want to do in this new position of mine, but it is hard to know what is okay and what isn’t.  There are times that I like the lack of direction, but others where the type A in me needs a little more organization to follow.  I want to put together a newsletter of sorts for the math teachers in my building sharing apps, programs, blogs, activities that I find online.  It’s easy for me to find it all, just need to compile it in a useful manner that will effectively reach three different grade levels.  I also want to make sure teachers know that I am there to help them and their students, I think when you start the school year you get into a mode and forget to reach out for assistance or even ask for it.  Some have been coming to me on their own, which is great, but I need to do a better job of being out there and approaching them too.

I started a blog for my classroom and I am hoping to write a reflective post each day, for myself and for parents & students.  It’s on the Blogger platform and I’ve figured out how to add a Google Presentation (where I keep my daily agenda), a gallery for my ISN pages and a page for my Remind Announcements.  It’s been fun to mess around and figure it all out.

Today in 7th grade the students were in the lab completing a readiness assessment for the first unit.  It covers the necessary skills from previous grades that will be called upon in the first unit. The program will automatically assign them intervention lessons based upon the questions they miss.  The teacher can then assign them to complete those lessons or they will be completed during their time with me once the year and unit gets underway.

In 8th grade we are starting to get into the first unit and started with a vocabulary activity.  In groups of 3-4 the students had to use multiple resources (BYOT (google) and two different textbooks) to compare the definitions and come to a consensus on the wording they wanted to use.  I was amazied for Irrational Number there were three “different” definitions, different to the students, but not really different in meaning.  Once said “Any real number that cannot be expressed as a ratio”, another said “Any real number that cannot be expressed as a quotient of two numbers” and the last said “Any real number that cannot be expressed as a fraction.” This opened up a great conversation between group members about which one would be best to use and why.  And why were they worded different any way?  It was a fun activity, but it was hard for the four of us adults to keep the students on task. This will be a rowdy group this year.

In my 6th grade class we started our Weekly Warm-ups with Tough Patterns Tuesday. The patterns come from Fawn Nguyen (@fawnpnguyen) and her amazing site, http://www.visualpatterns.org.   Surprisingly, they had ZERO clue how to solve a pattern…I think I may have forgotten they were 6th graders and not the gifted 8th grade students who I had last year. So we walked through the steps in solving the pattern and I made notes on what I want to change on my Weekly Warm-up sheet in order to assist them and make it more clear.  I secretly thought about how much easier it would be to do Estimation180 each day instead of a different warm-up focus each day, but then what am I really teaching them?  Obviously since they struggled with identifying and finding a pattern, they need to work on it.  I am thinking of rearranging the days again so Friday only includes the reflection of their week and one good thing from the week, instead of a warm-up AND the reflection.  I just really like the idea of writing about their week in math and overall and sharing one good thing.  That Friday reflection was one of my favorite things from last year.  I learned about my students in a different way and had fun commenting on their questions and reflections.

Today was their last “I Notice/I Wonder” of the beginning of the school year.  I only use it for the first three days they are with me. Here are some of their comments from today:

I Notice

We were kind of working with exponents (This was Pattern #1 for the warm-up and we identified counting the squares, so it was exponents.)
How forgetful I am being (Ah, the joys of being in 6th grade and trying to figure out how to organize everything.)
That I am so COLD. (Yep, when the computers aren’t being used in my classroom the air is cold. When they are being used throughout the day, it gets quite warm. Dress in layers is my suggestion!)
That there is a quote of the week (YES! My school is a CHAMP school and has a quarterly theme with words and quotes of the week.  It’s a great way to connect the school together!)
That this year will be a challenge (Not if we can all work together!)
It’s hard to find patterns (Next Tuesday I want to do a better job of walking them through to find patterns, any suggestions?)
That we will have warm-ups everyday, I like that (I am glad she likes it, I just want to make sure they are useful and fun.)
That you have a lot of posters (Surprisingly less than in the past, but I like things to be colorful!)

I Wonder 
If my day will get any worse (This was the same student as the forgetful comment, but this makes me sad. It’s 8th period out of 9 and he’s had a rough day. I hope he has a better day tomorrow and I hope to make sure he does!)
What I will get on the test (They took a pre-assessment today that isn’t for a grade. There were many students who wondered about their performance on the pre-assessment.)
Why it’s colder than Friday (It was chilly!)
What hard things we will be doing later in the year (I like that they are wondering, but want to change the mindset that it will be hard.)
Do you give us tough patterns on purpose? (Hmmm…maybe I need to change the name?)
If we will have worksheets (With the change to most homework on the computers, this is a good question.  If it is useful and serves a purpose, I have no problem with worksheets to accomplish a task)

After the warm-up and a conversation about the Readiness Assessment for their first unit, they got on the computers (it’s SO cool having a classroom in a lab) and plugged away.  I had three gentlemen in the back that couldn’t stop talking to each other.  In the future I think I will spread them out. I only have 16 students and 29 computers, I can spread them out A LOT! It is funny how the squirrely kiddos stick out when you only have 16.  I think back to last year having multiple classes of 38 and how I probably wouldn’t have noticed so much. 🙂

@chrisrime mentioned to me the other day that after reading my blog post and links to others about music in the classroom, he decided to try his hand at creating a Chrome Extension to make the music play at certain times.  While I love all things technology, creating something like that on my own…well that just isn’t going to happen.  Today Chris sent a tweet with the link to his extension for Chrome.  Think of all the things you can use it for…his way for passing periods and warm-ups or on parent night to indicate when parents should switch classes.  What about for a station rotation activity to indicate when students should move?  All of the things I do through an IOS app  can be done through his extension.  He did post it knowing it might be a little rough, so check it out and let him know what you think! I am pretty impressed and hope it will work in my school where Pandora is blocked.  https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/musical-timer/heaadgfcmokbmoiepokjcjpabjkhcogf

This interaction with Chris just reminds me of the vast depth of knowledge, friendliness and sharing that exists out there “in the internet”.  Asking for help will get you a tons of responses and suggestions, asking a question does the same…there is always someone there to help or who is willing to help.  Being a part of this online community has enriched my teaching, changed my views on many things and made me love what I do even more.