Monday, August 10, 2015

Summer Math Camp for Teachers a.k.a. CPM's Academy of Best Practices

I was one of the lucky 32 teachers from around the nation to enjoy five full days at Seattle Pacific University for the CPM Academy of Best Practices presented by Mark Cote, Karen Wooton and Sharon Rendon. Not only was a stipend provided, but three CEU’s from the college, a year membership to NCTM, flight, board, food, and plenty of lasting ideas, discussions, and relationships.



On day one we considered a ratio problem in NCTM’s Principles of Action, our nightly reading assignment. It was about creating a bigger jar of jawbreakers and jollyranchers with the same ratio. We worked it ourselves and came up with alternative solutions, and looked at how a teacher anticipated all of the possible solutions, wrote down the names of students in groups that had different strategies, and sequenced those students to present their work in order of sophistication and allow students to ask questions. It is important for the teacher to relate the different vocabulary and methods in each strategy and relate them back to the original learning goals you set.

For homework we also read a passage from “Success from the Start” and the “Talking about Math” article (authors of Intentional Talk). I learned that myself and many other teachers use the IRE method of discourse. I is the teacher INITIATING the question, R is a student RESPONDING by raising their hand, and E is the teacher EVALUATING what the student said. This limits students opportunities to learn and tells the teacher little about what the students know and can do.

Some of the alternatives to IRE are turn and talk (think pair share), write your answer first on paper or whiteboard, and/or cold call (randomly pick a student after a turn and talk). We talked about elevating the status of students that don’t usually raise their hand in class by selecting them to share their group's work.

There are four productive talk moves: Revoicing a student’s response for others to hear with possible academic language added, repeating is asking the class if anyone can repeat what a person said, applying one's reasoning to another (do you agree with that person’s explanation?), and finally adding on (prompting students to add on or share additional insights). Get students to practice these moves. Have a student lead the class discussion. Ask the class, “what do others think?”

An example in the text and in my own practice of a teacher move is when a student is stuck on solving a linear equation. You want to offer hints. Unfortunately, you start funneling the student towards the answer, peppering them with questions towards the correct solution. I/we need to stop funneling a student towards the correct answer. This results in little learning. Instead, focus the student so you can ask them what they know and observe so they can use their intuition to learn a strategy from the conversation.

On Day 2 a conversation I had with Traci about subtracting integers from something she called “Integer Soup.” She shared that positive is hot and negative is cold. So, if you add cold (ice), your drink gets colder. If you take away cold (ice), it gets warmer. If you take ice cubes out of a warm drink, it gets warmer. In class we also used the Study Team Strategy “Pairs Check” when working with tiles. Basically, you can build an equation and have student A writing while student B is telling them what to write, coaching the person. When finished, Student B will write the next problem and student A will tell them what to write. Then they will check those two problems with another pair of students. During the session we analyzed the probability game Color-Rama and discussed how it told a story. We can connect with our students if the lesson is sequenced properly and evokes emotions from our students.

Fishbowl study team strategy


For homework we read from NCTM Principles of Action again. I learned that students learn through doing mathematics that have a high cognitive demand and have multiple entry points that are usually non-routine problems. Low-level procedural problems do not help extend a student’s thinking. Some questions I had about the text: Can they provide more evidence of how a high cognitive demand task can be lowered by a teacher, and what actions lower the demand? What can I do to scaffold without lowering the demand?

On day three we spent a lot of time with Baylor PHD student Aaron Brakoniecki talking about cognitive demand and rating tasks on a level between 1 and 4. I learned that not all talks must be rated a 4, and the lower demand tasks can be used to assess the level of a student’s basic knowledge of a skill. I also learned that a delivery of a task must have the qualities of a story evoking emotions like joy and suspense. We also talked about the sequencing of a task can scaffold for students or frustrate them so they want to learn how to do it. We also learned some math brain breaks like points of contact. How many people in the room? How many points of contact How do you get one and a half times that many points of contact? We also played math shoot. It’s similar to rock paper scissors except on the 1, 2, shoot, you put out a number between 0 and 5 and the first person to add the two numbers wins. Then you play a round where you multiply instead of add. Finally, a group of 4 can add to get 11. You can extend it. Another cool brain break that Mark Cote did, besides telling his math jokes at the end of each day, was getting general and unique information from each person in the cohort. He would say, “Sit down if you were not born on the west coast.” He would continue saying this until he got down to the story the person shared that makes them unique and that other people don’t know about them. It’s a great team building activity for a positive culture that can get students to know each other much better.




For homework, we continued reading and learned from an example of two fifth grade teachers teaching a fraction problem. After the students struggle and give up, the first teacher sets up the problem for them resulting in no learning. The second teacher responds instead by asking her class for strategies to start and gets a student's idea to guess and check with $50 and the other suggests to  set up a tape diagram marked off in 1/5 increments. She tells them to consider these ideas and continue their work. The first teacher’s students know that if the students say they can’t get it, their teacher will set up the problem for them, doing all the work. The second teacher won’t give the solution, but will facilitate the ideas of students moving the students in the right direction. Once again, an example of funneling opposed to focusing, respectively. We also read about how tracking students in homogenous groups puts low students in low classes with low expectations creating a vicious cycle. Page 68 of the reading offered a structured Math intervention model for high school freshman that can be used for middle school.




On Day 4 we worked with former president of the NCSM Valerie Mills. In the morning we discussed growth versus fixed mindset with videos and situations that we responded to with post-its on the back in the Carousel study team strategy. We need to praise students on their process and effort. Listen for our fixed mindset voice and reply with our growth mindset voice. Add the word, yet. “I can’t do it...yet.” We also watched the Teaching Channel’s “My Favorite No” where student responses are sorted into yes or no piles and the teacher selects their favorite no and asks the students what’s right about it first. Then they discuss what’s wrong and how they can improve their original answer.

Harrison modeling his awesome Des-man!


An important concept I learned from Val was the difference between equality and equity. She presented a diagram with equality being students with different heights on the same sized box trying to reach their goal, the apples in the tree. Some can’t reach. Equity is all students reaching their goal with different sized boxes and amounts of support. Equality is qualitatively unfair and quantitatively fair. Equity is fair and is coincidentally the name of my equity sticks used to randomly pick a student to share their ideas. We also read the five equity based practices from the article “Impact of Identity in K-8 Mathematics.”




 We also discussed descriptive effective feedback. Avoid writing great job. Instead, point out where the student clearly showed their understanding on a method and how they can extend their thinking to another strategy. All of this leads to a bigger idea, that we didn’t fully discuss, which is wanting social justice for all students. To end the week we learned a ton about Desmos from the creator, Eli Luberoff. We got a crash course, used Polygraph: Hexagons, the new Activity Builder, and heard about the new 6th grade activity called Pile of Tiles. The main principle is to be successful at describing hexagons and differentiating them, a need for vocabulary arises. This is what would motivate students to understand the difference between convex and concave. We also stood in a circle for an Elevator Talk and gave a 30 second reflection on what we took away from the week. Every teacher left with an Action Plan with one or two goals of how and when we will implement what we learned from this week at math camp.


Elevator talk panorama
Update: CPM posted the video overview, I've linked it below:


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