Monday, October 22, 2018

NWMC (Northwest Mathematics Conference) 2018 Recap

Blogging has been on my to do list for a while, but now that I'm at a conference, I'll try to record some thoughts and post something (I had a draft started at last year's NWMC, but never finished it.).

As a FORMER chair of this conference when it's in Portland, I'm thrilled to be here with very few responsibilities. My presentation is one I've given multiple times, so even that part is easy.

The drive up is beautiful! And the view from our hotel floor was amazing at sunset!

Ignite presentations are always fun and super quick. Presenters have 5 minutes to share 20 slides that auto-advance, ready or not! Anne Fetter (@MFAnnie) always motivates us to listen to kids - they are paying attention to what we care about. Chris Shore (@mathprojects) gave us guitar picks to remind us of the transformations we make in ourselves and our students through questions. Hearing some new igniters was fun - Deanna Brajcich (@deannabrajcich) made connections between the silent period for English Learners and a silent period for math traumatized students. We need to make speech safer than silence in math classrooms. And Judy Larsen (@judytalarsen) inspired us to have students make meaning of mathematics - not meaning made for them (which I think we do a lot).


Session Notes:

In all of the sessions I attended, there was an emphasis on student engagement through play, discourse, and sense making. I noticed different ways to improve questioning. Marian Small (@marian_small) inspired us to "get better - that's why they pay you." She emphasized that the questions are the game and we need to be more intentional with them. Dan Finkel (@mathforlove) modeled ways to have students make and break conjectures. I'm still working on improving my sketchnotes, but here they are.




Next year - the Northwest Mathematics Conference will be in Tacoma. The year after that will be back in Portland.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

I think ... doesn't belong because ...

Which One Doesn't Belong?

Last year, I worked with the English Learner TOSA (Teacher on Special Assignment) to create a session for our teachers that combined Building Academic Language strategies with instructional routines. We created a template for teachers to plan that includes anticipating student responses.

We shared this routine with teachers in all of the elementary buildings in our district at staff meetings and on professional development days. I then went to each building and offered to model it. About 80% of the classrooms invited me in. Some of them wanted to see Number Talks (explained in my Number Talks and #ObserveMe blog post), but many of them asked for a "Which One Doesn't Belong?" or "that math puzzle," as one called it.

We shared the link to the bank of math examples: This routine isn't just for math and we compiled ideas that could be used in other subjects, too: Google Doc.

For Dr. Seuss' birthday, I made one with book covers (Slideshow).

I'm looking forward to sharing this routine and our planning template with teachers at conferences this fall. Let me know what you think! How do you use this routine? What are your favorites?

Friday, April 28, 2017

My Favorite NCTM Annual Session

Math in Your Feet: Moving Bodies are Learning Bodies
Malke Rosenfeld (@mathinyourfeet)

At 8 am on Saturday morning, I chose a session that I thought would include some movement and where I could connect with a #MTBoS teacher that I hadn't met before. After lots of problem solving and emphasis on student talk, I was ready for something different. This session reminded me how important movement is for students and gave me something new to share with my teachers.

Malke is a Teacher Artist and works with students as a visiting artist. She asked us to consider the question: "How are dance and math connected?"
We shared our thoughts using the hashtag: #movingmath. Check it out on twitter - there's more there!

Some insights:
Math is more than memorization
The body is a powerful thinking tool
Using the whole body opens up new avenues for learning
Math and dance are anxiety producing for many adults
Both math and dance are human created activities

A question we considered:
What’s your definition of “dancing the same” as your partner?

Facilitator questions that helped us:
“Does anybody have a dissenting opinion?”
“What are the words that can help us describe this?” Points to word wall

Walking out from this session, I was energized and optimistic about helping teachers see math as more than just numbers and fact fluency. I also started wondering how dance could fit in Robert Kaplinsky's Depth Of Knowledge grid (one of his blog posts:

My initial thoughts:
DOK1: Repeat steps to a dance you are taught
DOK2: Analyze 2 dances - are they "dancing the same"
DOK3: Create a dance with constraints (8 counts, turn the greatest number of degrees)
DOK4: Convince others to include dance in math class, including example dances and how they include math

How do you think dance can climb the DOK ladder?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

My Favorite NCTM Annual Moment

NCTM Annual Conference
San Antonio, Texas
April 5-8, 2017

I enjoyed traveling with my conference buddy, Stephanie Blair (@welblair). Dinners on the River Walk, the boat tour, Mathalicious Happy Hour, Desmos Trivia, the MTBoS Booth, Tracy Zager signing my copy of her new book, Elham signing Chrissy's copy of her book, dancing at 8 am on Saturday morning, MTBoS game night - all great moments, but none of these were my favorite.

My favorite NCTM moment happened in the lobby of the Grand Hyatt between sessions. This moment furthered my belief that the most meaningful moments at conferences are between sessions and between attendees.

I often find myself in a place after a day or so of conference sessions where I wonder, "what are we doing?" We've had NCTM standards, including process standards since 1989. Why are so many teachers still teaching they way they were taught and focusing on procedures? I know it's easier to try to fill the "empty vessels" of your students' minds, but are they really learning? We've had access to so many opportunities to shift our mathematical (and teaching) mindsets: books, blogs, conferences, twitter chats, the #MTBoS. Why does it seem like we're banging our heads against a wall with so many teachers? We still have a society that allows people to say "I'm not a math person." As Mike Shaughnessy once said, "don't say that in public!" How can we really influence instructional change that impacts our society's view of mathematics?

So, here I was, kind of down, and I ran into Chris Shore (@mathprojects). I knew he would understand the issue. He did. Here is one thing he said that gave me hope:

"We can't teach them everything we know, but we can teach them to think the way we think."

I want all teachers to care about student thinking. I want them to wonder what students think and why. I want teachers to provide opportunities for students to solve math problems using their intuition and reasoning.

He also shared results of a Gallup Poll on Workplace Engagement. He said about 1/3 of US workers across all professions are engaged in their work and actively trying to improve. He reported that there are fewer disengaged teachers than in other professions, but there's still a big group that aren't engaged in their work.

I waited to write this post until I found the report:
And the State of America's Schools Report:

It's an interesting report. The 1/3 engaged seems steady, but about 50% look unengaged, and 15-20% disengaged. The number disengaged went down to 14% for "matrixed" positions where employees are on multiple teams that report to the same supervisor.

From the State of America's Schools Report (2014):

So, I have more questions. Instructional coaching often assumes that teachers want to improve. This research implies that only one third of them do. The rest don't necessarily want what we're selling. How do we help them see the need for instructional change? Teaching is so complex. There's always room to grow - for teachers, coaches, administrators - everyone!

How do you work with the unengaged teachers in your schools? I usually assume everyone wants to improve and just carry on... What do you do?

Next post will be on my favorite NCTM session - a much lighter (on your feet) experience!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Empower17 ASCD Conference Recap

ASCD Empower17 Notes
March 23-27, 2017

On Thursday night, we participated in a "live" twitter chat with @educationhall on his book Building Teacher Capacity for Success (#BTCFS). Converted a few more to the power of twitter for professional learning.

I attended a pre-conference session on educating Hispanic/Latino students and increased my cultural proficiency - something we can always do more.

Preconference (March 23-24)
Educating Hispanic/Latino Students
Jaime Castellano

Challenge of Poverty
Less than 20% of Hispanic/Latino students live with anyone with post-secondary education
Majority of Hispanic/Latino live in poverty
Challenge of Identity
How do we refer to our students?
My Name, My Identity: A National Campaign (
How can we connect to our students’ identities, interests, and experiences?
Achievement and Intelligence 
What impacts assessment of Hispanic/Latino students? Bias in curriculum/assessment, attendance, language challenges, poverty/trauma impacts and the ways we measure of intelligence
Educating the Whole Child: What does this mean for Hispanic/Latino Students?
How do we support “the whole child?” Health, safety, support, engagement, challenge
Movie: Underwater Dreams (
Programming for Success: Critical Considerations
Frequent flexible grouping based on data is important for meeting the needs of all students.
Administrators (and all staff) need cultural competency
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment: Implications for Hispanic/Latino Students
Bilingual programs - if you can speak English and Spanish, you can communicate with 80% of the planet!
Engagement and instructional strategies that foster interaction are important for all.
Baldo comics:
Equity, Access, Opportunity
“No saben la lucha” - don’t understand the struggles
Identification for gifted programs should produce proportional students by race
Collaborating with Parents and Families
Family Bill of Rights outlining expectations and rights to participate in education
Schools and districts need bilingual parent liaisons and parent resource centers
Professional Growth and Development: Multicultural Education and Cultural Competency
Review policies as they affect people of different backgrounds
How do we celebrate diversity in our classrooms and schools?
Cultural Proficiency Continuum: destructiveness, incapacity, blindness, pre-competence, competency, proficiency (responding appropriately to diversity)

Saturday, March 25

Teaching and Engaging with Poverty in Mind
Eric Jensen

Opened the session with music and standing up. He used lots of engagement strategies!

3 common differences between low/high SES:
Acute/Chronic Stress, Cognitive Capacity, Emotional/Social Skills
Teachers need to understand how brains respond to chronic or acute stress.
Give kids more control, more choice.
Stress - reduces size of hippocampus
“You stress you out” - own it
2 stress filters - is it relevant? Do we have control over it?
Increase control and stress goes down
Stop blaming students
Be an ally for students and teach how they can do better
Relationships lower stress and grow the hippocampus
“It’s easier to repeat behaviors than to change them”

IQ can change!

“Roll up your sleeves and let’s see how smart we can make them!”
Schools and teachers can make a difference!

Wavelength Performance
The opening keynote time entertained with funny education related skits.

Jay McTighe
Performance assessment
Think “photo album, not snapshot” for evidence of dissent learning aligned to standards/goals
Bring an assessment - guess standard/goals
Performance tasks should include application and explanation to show understanding.
Language rich tasks:
Core learning: assessing what matters most

Afternoon Keynote

Jahana Hayes, 2016 National Teacher of the Year

She shared how service learning transformed her students, teaching, and community.
"I believe in you & I just need you to believe in yourself" on Student success

Sunday, March 26

Robert Kaplinsky
Digging into Depth of Knowledge

Before using higher DOK problems, “I made an army of amazing math robots.”
We need x-ray vision to see what students really know. Open Middle problems provide this.
“We have a culture problem in math education”
In English, we write rough drafts and eventually make a final.
In math, if you don’t get it right the first time, you quit.
We need to adopt a rough draft mindset in math classrooms.
More problems:

Always so fun to see Robert and do math problems!

Garrett Reisman
Inspirational and interesting story! 104%

Eric Jensen
Transformational Leadership
Need to change the story from crap detection…
Do we have pathways or systems for change
Do we need to know more about the people, the drivers, the triggers, or a change to the story?

From Great to Greater Schools
Douglas Reeves
To get greater, schools need opportunities to be innovative, but also monitor cause and effect data.

Wearing the Coaching Hat
Jessica Johnson, Shira Leibowitz, and Kathy Perret

These three started the #educoach twitter chat - so helpful my first year as a coach! They started the chat 6 years ago. It’s at 6 PM (Pacific time) on Wednesdays.
They started the session with a padlet for introductions (current role, why you chose the session, and what you hope to gain today) - modeling a strategy to use in PD! Music playing, too!

What are the hats you wear?
Continuum of principal’s role: from Judge (evaluate) to Coach to Team Captain (friendly, supportive)
Coaching requires a delicate balance of feedback and support
Jim Knight Partnership Principles: equality, choice, dialogue, reflection, reciprocity, praxis, voice
ORID framework to support conversations with teachers:
What is coaching? It’s helping someone else achieve their goals.
Support teachers to focus goals - hard work when done well.
Types of feedback: I noticed…, I wonder.., what if..., how might…
“I have a concern” means supervision - not coaching
Non-judgemental feedback - simple and objective
Feedback is to prompt growth and reflection
Leadership Style Tracker: Authoritative, Affiliative, Democratic, Coaching
Interaction Tracker: coaching, management, evaluative, notes
Time management - prioritize the “big rocks” and use technology to manage time
Team coaching options: observing classes, peer mentoring, rounds, lesson study
Nudgemail - send future messages to yourself

Sunday night at Disneyland
We went to World of Color at Disney's California Adventure at 11:30 PM - worth staying up late!

Monday, March 27, 2017

Monica Neagoy
For so long (up through 2nd grade), students live in an “additive” world.
a/b - what does it mean?
She almost describes choral counting and clothesline math… almost.
“There’s nothing improper about 11/7, it’s just greater than 1.”
Manipulatives for fractions: pattern blocks, cuisenaire rods, tiles

“Our students of color need to see math and science flowing through them.”
What is my leadership identity, mission, purpose, and vision?

Carol Ann Tomlinson
How to Differentiate Instruction: Twenty Years and Counting
Sharing how her thinking has changed since 1995 book “How to differentiate instruction in mixed-ability classrooms”
Now on 3rd edition (new title - how to differentiate instruction in Academically Diverse classrooms)
Some people equate differentiation with chaos in the classroom - but it needs to be inviting, flexible, and organized
Seems that everybody lives everywhere - global world and classrooms; include a wider umbrella
Let’s get rid of “ability” labels in our schools!
Fan of Carol Dweck and growth mindset
“Little buzzards are hiding all sorts of strengths”
A smart kid is not smart in everything 24/7.
Grew up in deep south and worked in school early during integration
In our schools now, we still have segregation - not just by race
Choices: keep together and ignore needs, split by “ability,” or keep together and attend to needs.
Challenge - results in both versions of “keep together” depend so much on the teacher
Teaching Up - plan first for most advanced learners,then plan for everyone to have quality experiences with scaffolds (not water down)
Change from THE group (all students), to groups (advanced, who struggle, language, middle), to INDIVIDUALS
Recommended book: Wounded by School
Some of us talk about teachers this way - “the teachers need to learn…” Do all of them?
New guidance on addressing learning profile
Differentiate based on Readiness, Interests, Learning Profile
Learning profile is related to how we take in and process information, an umbrella term for learning style (environmental)/intelligence preference (brain wiring)/culture (patterns across cultures)/gender (boys prefer competitive and girls prefer collaboration), fluid
Learning profile ISN’T fixed, singular, or a synonym for learning style
Sociologists say - any time you label someone, there is a price to pay for the label.
Everyone agrees that we all learn differently, but some concern about learning style use.
Hints: low prep vs. high prep strategies and using two column (whole class/differentiated) lesson plans
“One kid at a time - try to be in the right ballpark for that kid.”

The Great Debate: Getting to the Core of College and Career Readiness
Thomas Dewing and Matthew Perini, facilitators
Participants stand in corners to strongly agree, agree, disagree, or strongly disagree with statements.
Claim: Implementation of college and career readiness standards should result in teachers completely redesigning instruction.

Overall - this was a great conference for considering aspects of leadership in education and how to engage in change!

Were you there? What were your takeaways and favorite sessions?

Friday, November 18, 2016

NSTA 16 Conference Recap

NSTA16 Portland, Oregon
November 10-12, 2016
Conference Recap

As the Math TOSA in our district, I've been included in planning for implementing NGSS. When I heard a national conference was coming to Portland, I figured I should go. I'm so glad I did!

This conference happened at the end of a weird election week and our town filled with protesters each evening. Welcome to Portland! I was able to drive in and out without much trouble, but I heard some horror stories from people from out of town.

I was able to attend lots of great sessions (sometimes more than one in a time slot...). Here are some highlights and links:

Donna Knoell
Consultant from Kansas
I was hoping to get a feeling for the progressions of NGSS at elementary from this session, but the focus was on more general shifts in science education and sharing resources. My favorite quote was "differentiation doesn't mean expect less, but that we expect different." She also emphasized that students what to know why and we need to give them experiences where they can think, talk, write, and DO. Another quote: "our questions can make people think, or NOT."
A bunch of books were recommended for engaging student interest in science (links to Amazon):
Neo Leo and Now and Ben
If: A Mind-bending Way of Looking at Big Ideas and Numbers

Michael DiSpezio (@mdispezio)
Substitute Keynote
We did an observation activity where we turned away from a partner and changed 5 things about our appearance and then had to notice what our partner changed. He then described how NGSS is a change from traditional teaching to students engaged in science and engineering practices, engineering design, and a project based learning approach. He said "this isn't as easy as me telling them what to do." He also shared a free tool: Google Earth Pro.

Lauren Brodsky
Amplify, Laurence Hall of Science
She shared ideas on using embedded assessment during science instruction. A model of evidence-centered design was shared. Questions were posed about feedback: at what grain size? for the individuals or the group? what's the threshold for full class action? is it aligned to student goals? Many of these ideas reminded me of Feedback by Jane Pollack. The best part of this session was the conversation when it ended with a special education teacher from Hawaii and a science teacher from Prineville. We talked about the election and how topics of equity can be addressed.

Karen Ostlund
Activity available for $4.65 on the presenter's web site. This was a fun activity for later in the afternoon. We watched videos (Russia and Weather Channel) of roofs blowing off of buildings and then tested different roofs and designed a solution to keep them on.

STEM in the Primary Classroom
Jen Gutierrez (Arizona Dept. of Education: Phoenix, AZ, @jengutierrez18), Jennifer Thompson (Harborview Elementary School: Juneau, AK, @jenjuneau)

I caught the end of this fun session on STEM in the Primary Classroom. The presenters share the NTSA position statement on science for young children (PDF). They talked about how important it is for science instruction to be based on inquiry, be place-based, and for students to DO the practices. Real experiences are motivating. They shared a link to They outlined Fundamentals of Learning from West Ed: Making Meaning, Collaborating, and Learning Characteristics. Did you know the engineering design process can be used for behavior management, too? They also recommended the Brookes STEM Toolkit as a resource.

Deena Pierott (@deenapierott)
Implicit Bias and Its Effect on Youth of Color
This was a timely session that started with reflections on the election. What are your areas of concern? What gives us hope - what can we influence? Deena founded a program called iUrbanTeen in multiple cities. More info at She talked about unconscious bias: "if you have a brain, you have bias." We need to be able to see racism without the racist and recognize that we all want to be heard. She shared resources for continuing our equity work: and Cracking the Codes included a great video of African American male students sharing their experiences in public schools. We are Human First.

Elementary NGSS 
A group of Oregon Science Leaders led this session. They led us through an activity to create "Comeback Machines." They also described STEM as a rope with multiple strands and needing all the strands to DO the work of solving problems (more at this blog post).  They also shared the NGSS Playbook that we worked on last year:

I was lucky to spot one of our 3rd grade teachers and work with her on the activity. We had lunch together after and shared ideas about how to move science education forward in our district. 

Flavio Mendez
NSTA Resources from NSTA Learning Center
This presenter had ice cream. He shared the different sites that NSTA provides: for Conference and Membership information for PD resources (some free content, more if you are a member) for NGSS resources
He described how we need to think about PD in Tsunami Mode - we need after shocks!
USDOE recommends blended learning for teachers. 

Phillip Bell (@philiplbell) and Shelley Stromholt from UW (you can sign up for email updates)
We analyzed assessments for representing the 3 dimensions of the science standards: Disciplinary Core Ideas, Science and Engineering Practices, and Cross Cutting Concepts. It was a nice activity that allowed good discussion. The also shared some great resources for writing assessments that address the practices. 

Holly Neill, Beaverton
This was another fun end of the day activity. We build straw rockets and launched them in the hall. Lots of opportunity for math connections in this activity. 

Randy Bell, Oregon State University
Scientific Modeling
I made it back early Saturday morning to learn more about scientific modeling. We use the word model in lots of disciplines and contexts. I knew it was different in science, but I needed more clarification. This session helped. 

Scientific Modeling is when STUDENTS create representations to predict or EXPLAIN phenomena.

This is different from pedagogical modeling, which is not a bad thing. It's the difference between recreation and creation of models. Pedagogical models help students learn scientific ideas, but don't allow them to experience the nature of science. We did a Mystery Tube activity that allowed us to create models. 

Ted Willard
We explored the Science and Engineering Practices:
What are the key elements? 
How do they support the Disciplinary Core Ideas? 
How do you make them happen in instruction/?

Goldilocks Unit
Jamerson School
This was a great activity to end the conference. Two teachers from Florida shared their STEM activity connected to Goldilocks and the Three Bears. The described school wide Engineering Expo activities. They shared the "unplugged" resources from at  The "Goldilocks an engineer?" article was published in an NCTM magazine.

This was a great conference for making connections with other teachers and diving deeper into science instruction. If only there had been free wifi... this blog post would have been written sooner.

Update - links from the exhibitors:
Roadtrip Challenge for iPad:
Fisheries Facts:
Minerals Education Coalition:
Rain measuring project:
CornellLab of Ornithology Resources for Educators:
Newton's Laws on Scooters:
The Martian Classroom Edition Teacher's Guide: email
UW Research and Practice Collaboratory: @rpcollaboratory
The Big Eclipse (8/21/17):
NASA Space Place:  @nasaspaceplace
Bright Schools Competition Submissions Due 2/6:
OSTA Conference October 13-14, 2017: #OSTA17
Gizmos and Reflex:
Vernier Thermal Analysis App:
STEM Solutions:
Digiscoping phone holder: