Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Algebra for All, Google Certification, 100 Day Challenge & MfA

Here we are, in the thick of summer break (even though the past two days have felt more like Fall).  As we approach the half way point of summer break, I wanted to take some time to reflect on Algebra for All, and my own mathematical learning, so here it goes...

Algebra for All
Last week we wrapped up week 1 of Algebra for All.  Some of my big takeaways were how can I be strategic during the summarize part of my lessons, using the 5 Practices for Orchestrating Mathematical Discussions.  I am confident in my ability to anticipate, monitor, and connect student work, but need to be more strategic in the selecting and sequencing.  Although I have gotten better and selecting which student work I want my classes to share and discuss, there are still times I simply open up my summary to any student that wants to share.  So a goal of mine next year is to be more mindful of that.  I also want to incorporate more Three Act Tasks into my classes.  

This week we started our first round of electives.  Yesterday and today I had Routines for Building an Algebraic Learning Culture for Struggling Learners with Metamorphisis TLC, and tomorrow and Thursday I have Conceptual Approaches to Algebra in Secondary Mathematics with Bill Jacob.  Next week I have my last two electives, Problem Solving with SVMI and Developing the Habits of Algebraic Thinking and Problem Solving with CUNY Collaborative.  My big takeaways from my first elective is how can I promote mathematical habits of mind and the CCSS MP through math thinking routines?  I already use a notice/wonder routine with my students, so I would like to continue to use that.  I love the "What could the question be?" routine, where you present students with an image or scenario without a question, and they have to come up with what the question could be.  I love this idea and cannot wait to bring this routine into my classes next year.  We also explored the "Which one doesn't belong?" routine, which I enjoyed and think I may even use it on day one in September.  All of these made me think of how can I support my students in making their thinking visible and how can I support their understanding of mathematical structure?  Overall I reflected on the constructivist-transmissionist spectrum and where do I fall, and more importantly, do my actions in my classroom, align with my beliefs?

Google Certification
Finally finished all the units in the Google Educator Level 1 training and signed up to take the certification exam within the next seven days.  After wanting to get certified for the last year, I hope I will finally be able to cross this off my to-do list.

100 Day Challenge
I am finally all caught up in Brilliant.org's 100 Day Summer Challenge and I am still loving it!

Lastly, it is kind of important for me to be able to post this this week.  One year ago tomorrow, I found out I didn't get into Math for America and I was super bummed about it.  Looking back, it really put a damper on my whole summer.  I think it's important to recognize that (temporary) failure.  It's nice to be able to look back at that experience and see how far I've come, getting into MfA this year and growing both as a math teacher and math student.  Man, does it feel good.     

Monday, July 17, 2017

Algebra for All, 100 Problems in 100 Days and Edgy Summer Reading

Algebra for All
Today was the first day of the Algebra for All Summer Professional Learning.  I am excited to be a part of the second cohort of math teachers in NYC who are committed to improving math instruction.  The goal of this institute is to have every student complete algebra no later than then end of 9th grade and to provide every 8th grade student access to an algebra 1 class.  As a middle school math teacher, who teaches 8th grade Algebra 1, this is a core part of my teaching life.  The institute consists of twelve days during the summer, five days during the next school year, and five days next summer, and focuses not just on pedagogy, but our own content knowledge.

Today we explored the Handshake Problem and Border Problem, both of which I have used with my students this past year.  Part of this first week will also involve a book study of 5 Practices for Orchestrating Productive Mathematics Discussions, which I've been wanting to read, and goes nicely with the other book I am reading this summer, Fostering Algebraic Thinking.  In fact, we even discussed Driscoll's Algebraic Habits of Mind.  Jo Boaler's work on the importance of visual mathematics also came up today.

100 Problems in 100 Days
This summer I am also doing Brilliant.org's 100 Day Challenge.  I started last week, and am up to day 35.  I am really enjoying spending some time to work through these problems.  I especially enjoyed working through day 3, day 28day 32 and day 34.  Exploring these problems is allowing me to challenge my own mathematical thinking, and be comfortable with my own disequilibrium.  Some of them have been fun, and some have gotten me frustrated, but I am grateful for the opportunity to do math as a practitioner, and not just the teacher.  Exploring these problems has also made me think of the importance of doing math problems, just for fun.  When I am choosing problems for my students to explore, it is always with a content goal in mind, for example, we would explore the handshake problem during our unit on quadratics because it can be represented by a quadratic function.  There is a specific goal I have in mind... a specific place I want my students to get to.  But does it have to be that way?  Why can't we just explore a problem because it's fun and interesting and not a traditional problem from on exam?  Don't get me wrong, as teachers we have limited time and resources and we must be purposeful with what we bring into our classes, but exploring problems like these just for the sake of stretching our mathematical brains and problem solving and thinking logically and having fun (dare I say it... without a specific, content-driven learning objective on the board) has a tremendous value.  A part of me of me is both terrified and beyond thrilled to try this next year.  How awesome would that be?

The Rebellious Teacher's Edgy Summer Reading List for 2017
Speaking of being rebellious, a colleague of mine posted this list a couple of weeks ago, and since I am always looking for a good book to read (and ways to incorporate social justice into my curriculum), I decided to check it out.  Turns out I had just finished Homegoing, so I decided to read The Hate U Give.  I loved both, and both hit on some petty big, and important issues about race and identity.  I think my next summer read will be lighter, but will try to also squeeze in The Handmaid's Tale before the end of the summer.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

MfA, Student Surveys, Summer Math PL & the 100 Day Summer Challenge

I can't believe that it is already July 11th!  Where has the summer been going?  Even though we are on summer break till the day after Labor Day, one of my goals was to keep writing on here (I only blogger three times last summer) so here I am with my first post of summer break 2017:

Math for America
After packing and cleaning up my classroom for the year and saying goodbye to students for the summer, I got some pretty awesome news... I am a Math for America Master Teacher!  Yes, after applying and not getting in last year, I applied again this year, and earned a Master Teacher Fellowship, which I was super happy about.  Even better, the Living Environment teacher at my school also got in, so now our school is lucky enough to have not one, but two MfA Master Teachers, which means great things will happen over the next four years!  Too bad it happened after we had said goodbye to students because I had shared my experience applying to MfA the past two years with them.  I already signed up for orientation in September, and cannot wait to take in all the new learning and experiences to come from other MfA Master Teachers!  I worked hard for this, and man does it feel good to have finally earned this.  One thing I am a little jealous of is that since I just got in, I am missing out on the first MfA Summer Think going on this week. I have been following along on Twitter, and even though I can't participate this summer, seeing everything going on only makes me more proud thatI am finally a part of this amazing group of STEM educators!

EOY Student Surveys
Before the school year ended, my students took their EOY surveys for me.  Unfortunately only 81% of my students responded, but I did get responses from all five classes I taught this year.  I hope to spend some time in my next post really reflecting on what they said and how I can improve for next year.

Summer Math Professional Learning 
I had the first of three math PLs that I am going to this summer yesterday, on Enhancing the Math Classroom: Using Authentic Tasks to Support Conceptual Understanding (6 - 12) and next week starts Algebra for All for 12 days, which I couldn't go to last year because I was getting my Gifted Certification at Hunter College.  I was inspired to start the next year with a Dan Meyer 3 Act Task.  I did at least one with my 7th graders last year, and a couple with my 8th graders.  I think it will be a rich way to kick off the new school year.

I also signed up for The Art of Origami in Your Math & ELA Classroom at the Japan Society next month, which sounds fun.  I also hope to participate in the CAMI summer book club, which starts today.  We are reading Fostering Algebraic Thinking: A Guide for Teachers, Grades 6 - 10 by Mark Driscoll.  Lastly, I want to continue (and hopefully finish) becoming a Google Certified Educator this summer.  It was another one of those things that I started last summer, but never followed through.

100 Day Summer Challenge
Finally, this summer  Brilliant.org is hosting the 100 Day Summer Challenge, and even though I am slow to start (I was still teaching until June 28th), I finally got into this week, and I am loving it!  Every day from June 1st - September 8th they post a math problem or puzzle.  Like, I said I am behind, but currently up to day 5 and am on a 4 day streak.  I love this idea and wonder how I can do something like this in my classroom?  I already use the Math Counts Problem of the Week in my class, but find that it's always the same students who try it and would love to get more invested.  Since I am 36 days behind where they currently are, I am going to try and do at least 5 a day, which would bring me up to date by next week (yes, I had to do some math there).  I really do think that a essential part of being a good math teacher, is always being a math learner, and this challenge (as well as my MfA presentation last month) force me to push my own mathematical thinking, which is pretty neat.