Math Noticing #2

I was reading through the NCTM newsfeed this morning, and I noticed a topic near and dear to my heart:   Nixing the “butterfly method” when dealing with fractions.   Over and over, teachers and math coaches aired their concerns over teaching this trick, because it does not lead to deeper understanding of the underlying math concepts.

I could not agree more!   I have had teachers tell me that they fall back on the butterfly trick when either they are feeling pressed for time, and they just want to give their students something that works, or that they are not really confident about the concept themselves.

In the Math-Twitter-Blog-o-Sphere (MTBoS), Tina Cordone wrote a book and created a website called “Nix the Tricks”.   This website is well worth a visit.

If you have struggled with not wanting to teach a trick, but didn’t know what else to do, or that was the way you were taught, and you want to deepen your own understanding, visit this site!

You can download a FREE pdf of her book Nix the Tricks.   It is full of all the math “tricks” and alternate ways of teaching so that students have understanding instead of tricks that hold no meaning for them.

Tina Cordone explains it best:

If students do not understand, they are not doing math. Do not push
students too far, too fast (adolescent brains need time to develop before they
can truly comprehend abstraction), but do not sell your students short either.
The world does not need more robots; asking children to mindlessly follow an
algorithm is not teaching them anything more than how to follow instructions. (page 2)

I really enjoyed perusing the list of tricks, in between cringes, and look forward to a deeper read.

More to come!

#TinaCordone    #MTBoS              #NixtheTricks

Awesome math noticings #1

My district (Round Rock ISD, Texas) has an advanced elementary math course called “Math Rocks”.   It is to help teachers deepen their understanding about mathematics, build curiosity about math, and build relationships between other teachers in the district to bring math instruction into the 21st century.

As we began our meeting yesterday, our last of the calendar year, we asked the teachers to reflect how their math instruction is going, and how it has changed from the beginning of the year.  I had the opportunity to just sit and listen how teachers shared that they are now eagerly looking forward to teaching math every day!   Math time has become fun!

One of the common ideas shared throughout was the impact of number talks in their classroom.   (I am going to need to do another post on that one!)  Teachers shared how their students are learning to talk to each other, politely disagree with each other, and justify their answers.

When a student asks “Is this right?”, the answer is “I don’t know.  How could we find out?”

Students are talking about  concepts deeply and teachers are noticing a huge difference in the ability of students to reason about their number sense and their math problem solving.

They still struggle with students retaining concepts, but they know it requires patience, and constant repetition before these concepts become understandings.

The common theme throughout is that it is worth the investment of 5-10 minutes per day of the math block for number talks, Estimation 180, and open middle problems and other rich tasks.  It makes a difference and supports the work of problem solving and learning during the core part of the math lesson.

Math really does rock!!!!

#MathRocks    #RRISD   #NumberTalks




My first Ed-Camp Experience!

I had never been to an Ed-Camp before.   It was like taking what I knew about PD and turning it inside out.  Gone were the HOURS of prep.  Instead, I joined a community of about 120 people at Region 13.  As we arrived, we were fed breakfast, and we started making connections with people.  We were also asked to use one color sticky for something we would like to learn about, and another color sticky to indicate something we could share information about.


I ended up facilitating rich discussions on innovative math strategies.  I just shared my favorites, all blogged about here before, Splat!, Estimation 180, open middle problems, and numberless word problems.  Then, others shared their ideas.  In this session, I ended up doing a lot more talking than I thought I would, but there was still a great deal of sharing going on.

In the second session I facilitated, I really only got the group discussion on supporting ELLs started.  The session took off and there was such rich discussion from teachers and educational leaders (coaches, curriculum folks, and administrators) I just sat and absorbed it all like a sponge.  I got some great ideas, and shared a few, too.  I shared about my favorite book, Talk Read Talk Write by Nancy Motley.  The tip I took fits right in where we are going with our ELL PLC this year.  We will be asking observers to look for specific supports such as posted vocabulary and sentence stems.  The suggestion was to add asking observers look for collaboration strategies, too!  So simple, yet so powerful!  It adds purpose to what we do every day!

I also attended a session on how to do Hyper-docs, which may be one of those life-changing things…..but the BEST session of the day, was the very first session I attended by Margret Daniels.  She teaches at the Boys Preparatory School in Austin.  She is an amazing teacher and human being.  Her session was fun and informative!   At the end of Ed-Camp while they were drawing door prizes, Margaret and I sat together and chatted.  I learned so much from her.   I also felt like I had a new BFF/colleague in education.  This is what Ed-Camp is really about.  Making connections to people and collaborating about common issues.

I will be looking for addition Ed-Camps to attend!  I can’t wait!!!

#EdCamp    #Region13       #collaboration          #newfriends          #MargaretDanielsRocks!!

Number Talks:  This is the second in a series on number talks.

Planning:  You’ll need to think about where you will conduct the number talk, how you will record student thinking, whether you want to record on paper or on a white board.  You’ll want to record on paper if your purpose to save the student thinking for reference.  For example, if you are trying to get students to count on to subtract, having a reference chart will be helpful for students outside of number talks.  When they can see that Oscar counted on by 100, then 20, then 3 to find the difference 464-342, they may try this as they are solving problems elsewhere in math block.  On the other hand, if you are planning a number string, you could record student thinking on a whiteboard, then take a picture of it before you erase it.  

When planning for number talks, you must start with your purpose.   Is there a skill you want your students to try out?  The books “Number Talks” by Sherry Parrish, and “Making Number Talks Matter” by Cathy Humphreys and Ruth Parker have number talks sorted or grouped by strategies.  For example, if you want students to thinking about counting on in subtraction, you will find many suggested strings or problems to try.  This will give you an idea of the types of problems that will work well for eliciting specific student thinking so you can create your own, too.  Establish the purpose for the number talks as you plan, then look for talks that will support your purpose.  The embedded purpose will always be there:  To give your students and opportunity to practice and develop flexibility, fluency and accuracy in their computations.