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.

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